Friday, November 30, 2007

My Lost Chipmunks Article-1989

THE CHIPMUNK SONG was the # 1 record in the US on the day I was born in January of 1959. It had been released just prior to the holiday in the just ended year and become more a phenomenon than a hit. Eventually Alvin and his cartoon crew would enjoy fame in records, television, toy merchandising and even now a brand-new, long anticipated/dreaded CGI feature film with Jason Lee as David Seville.
Here, however, reproduced from the original typewritten pages, is a 1989 aricle I pitched to the local newspapers during the holiday season. The one reply I got questioned why it might be considered newsworthy and added that even if it was, they have their own staff writers to write these filler pieces. Sigh. The article itself was actually excerpted ( at least in part) from the longer piece on Ross Bagdasarian I had written for my legendarily unfinished and unpublished book, CARTOON CHARACTER ACTORS-THE MEN AND WOMEN BEHIND YOUR FAVORITE ANIMATED STARS.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Jack Benny and George Burns Reminisce-1974

Here's an interesting Bob Thomas article/interview from not long before Jack became ill. If I recall correctly, this clipping came from TBG's BEAUTIFUL BALLOONS column. That title, by the way, is carried on by its co-founder even today at Beautiful Balloons with Maggie Thompson. If you're a Jack Benny fan, click on the newly added Bear Manor Media link to the right to order the new Benny book, WELL! REFLECTIONS ON THE LIFE AND CAREER OF JACK BENNY (featuring myself and a bunch of other excellent writers).

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Badly Costumed Superhero of the Week

This badly costumed superhero from the UK in 1949 was not only equally badly named but appeared in a badly named comic book, too! RAY SPEDE-THE ROCKET MAN appears here in BOB COMIC BOOK looking like nothing less than a composite version of Marvel's RED RAVEN ( the sixties revival version) and DC's infamous B'WANA BEAST!

Rare Linda Blair Poster

Although it opened in late 1973, I didn't even see THE EXORCIST until well into 1974. By that time, however, I was already enamored of its star and tried to catch her every television interview. There's nothing like a teenage geek when it comes to obsessing. I would haunt the mag stands for everything from SEVENTEEN to PARIS MATCH if it had Linda on the cover. I even joined her supposedly official fan club and seen here is the free poster you got for joining. In fact, it was the ONLY thing I ever got for joining! While the front offers a nice, wholesome, little-seen image of the then-fourteen year old actress (my age at the time, also!), the back is a silly mish-mash of a few badly cropped stills from THE EXORCIST and a bunch of apparently random images, mostly from older, unrelated horror films! In retrospect, I'm thinking the "official" club--which I think I contacted through an ad in RONA BARRETT'S HOLLYWOOD--probably wasn't!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

1988 Dick Tracy Calendar Ad

The other day I saw volume two of THE COMPLETE DICK TRACY in a store and was reminded that, strangely enough, the 1980's were a golden age for DICK TRACY fans! This was due, in large part, to San Diego Con founder Shel Dorf who edited Blackthorne's DICK TRACY reprint comics. My dad had been a huge Tracy fan since the 1930's and he devoured these during the eighties in all of their various formats! Blackthorne had risen from the ashes of Pacific Comics, one of the first major independent comics companies. In their new incarnation, their product was sadly not always of the best quality. They did, however, offer a number of classic newspaper strip reprints at a time when few companies were doing so. Mr. Dorf oversaw the Tracys and they were not complete but edited so as to eliminate the repetitive panels that often filled daily story/adventure strips. The completist in me hated that aspect but at the same time, it was smartly done to make the stories much more readable. And what garish stories they were! EC had nothing on Chester Gould at his peak! Toward the end of the decade, with books coming out on the strip and other companies reprinting different eras, the venerable strip (still being written by Max Collins and drawn by Dick Locher at that point) had reached a surprising new peak in popularity. Dorf began making plans for a new Dick Tracy fan club and invited folks to write and be put on a mailing list for when it finally appeared. Then one day, this ad arrived instead. The club had to be put on hold (did it ever surface?) due to Warren Beatty's then still to be made feature film. Instead, though, we were offered this nifty looking 1988 calendar! For some reason, I never got one but even now, as we approach calendar-buying season again twenty years later, I WANT ONE!!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Real "Western" Sets

Now this ad from, I believe, the early fifties is interesting for any number of reasons. First of all, what's with all the quotation marks? Second--dig the almost Freudian ad copy used to sell the Repeating Rifle: "It's big, it's powerful, it's like real!" and "...feel the thrill as the 'jet balls' come poppin' out of the shiny aluminum muzzle." "Jet balls." Uhhhh-huh.
What really makes me wonder though is why we have Gene Autry this, Gene Autry that and Dale Evans this and that. Somebody's conspicuous in their absence. Hmmm...Did Roy know about this or did Gene and Dale have this little get-rich quick scheme going on the side?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Marvel Presents the Rolling Stones!

In 1977 Marvel Comics gave us the notorious blood and ink KISS comic magazine. In 1978, Marvel offered a colorful but rather simplified BEATLES bio-comic mag. Did you know, however, that in 1979 Marvel was going to offer a similar SUPER-SPECIAL history of THE ROLLING STONES? To the best of my knowledge it never appeared in either the US or foreign markets. To be drawn (or lightboxed from the look of it) by Tom Yeates (who went on to, amongst other things, an unjustly forgotten run on the pre-Alan Moore SWAMP THING), the announcement and this art appeared in the mid-1979 issue of Jim Steranko's MEDIASCENE tabloid. The brief mention of the upcoming book indicated that former Kubert school student Yeates had originally been signed for a 12 page back-up but that his art was so good he was given the whole book.

The announcement of the Stones comic is followed by an announcement that Marvel was planning something even bigger the following year--developing--in conjunction with Casablanca records-- a REAL rock group that would actually be on the charts and appearing in the comics at the same time. This project eventually coalesced into not a GROUP but...THE DAZZLER! To quote Wikipedia's entry on that character: Dazzler was originally developed as a cross-promotional, multi-media creation between Casablanca Records, Filmworks, and Marvel Comics until the tie-ins were dropped in 1980.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Fearless Fosdick Ad

Well, even after I got my car fixed and back and everything else cleared up, I came down with a fever and flu-like symptoms last night and had to cancel my long-awaited trip to Mid-Ohio Con. Sigh. "Best laid plans" and all that. Anyway, as I've been vegging out here at home today, I found Mike Sterling's Progressive Ruin talking about Al Capp's always over the top DICK TRACY parody FEARLESS FOSDICK. Between naps, I thought I'd share a mid-fifties ad for Wildroot Cream Oil featuring Ol'Fearless.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Timing Issues

I am blessed with a great appreciation for timing and yet cursed with my own. This has caused a number of issues over the years but perhaps most ironically today. As I've been kicking myself over the last 24 hours about the timing of my car's breakdown yesterday, just before the first time in two decades that I've been able to get off the weekend of the Mid-Ohio Con off work, now we find the problem. The mechanic just called. It's the TIMING belt!!!! Sadly, reparing it takes up pretty much my whole paycheck that was direct deposited this morning!! And that's assuming they don't find something else as they work on it! On top of that, they still aren't sure they can have it done by tomorrow!!! A friend stayed with us last night for the holiday and she lives in Columbus. She's offered to drive us but I don't know. Let's see how today plays out!
UPDATE-11AM-Assuming that the nice folks at Car-X are correct in their diagnosis and estimate, a generous relative has agreed to cover the repair bill! A million thanks to her and to those of you who tippewd the blog over the last day. Now if they can just get it done today maybe we can get back to some pop culturey goodness around here instead of me whining! My stomach would appreciate that, also!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Car Troubles

Well, I had planned on getting an oil change tomorrow before driving to Columbus for Mid-Ohio Con this weekend BUT...on my way in to work this morning my car died! Going 60 on the interstate and it suddenly felt like a large wind hit it, then I started losing speed. It continued for nearly a mile before stopping cold going uphill on an exit ramp. Have no idea what it was as of yet since it happens to be Thanksgiving and the garage where I had to have it towed (for $110.00!) was, of course, closed. Sigh. I keep telling myself it would have been worse if this had happened halfway between here and Columbus on Saturday! As it is, I won't know until tomorrow how this affects our plans to attend Mid-Ohio Con but I'm hoping for the best. Payment for all of this, however, is coming out of my weekend gas and food money as well as the late bills money! Double sigh!

If you like what we publish here at Booksteve's Library, I'm thinkin' that now would be an excellent time to drop a couple of bucks into the ol' PayPal tipbox to the right. As always, tips are greatly appreciated and downright helpful!

Badly Costumed Super Hero of the Week

Here's a little extra turkey for you today. This gentleman is Fireball as I'm sure you could surmise by his appropriate costume. What is it with all of the bare legs? I love MLJ heroes from the forties. I really do and yet they all seemed to do business with a really bad tailor! This page is from Fireball's mercifully brief revival in the legendarily kitschy 1966 MIGHTY CRUSADERS story "Too Many Super Heroes" .

Kids' Letters to President Kennedy

Happy Thanksgiving to those of you in the US. Today is also, however, the anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy 44 years ago. As a child, my mother said that Kennedy was my favorite TV star with the Nixon-Kennedy debates an early favorite show.

Kennedy was the young peoples' president and writer Bill Adler picked up on that early on. His book, KIDS' LETTERS TO PRESIDENT KENNEDY, came out in 1961 and featured a potpourri of actual old fashioned snail mail letters from kids to their new leader. The book is disarmingly cute in the beginning as it presents page after page of letters requesting autographs, pictures or visits. There's a section of folks offereing JFK kittens and puppies, too. Toward the end, however, the tone changes and there are a number of missives about war and the Russians and bombs.

Although the book itself offers no responses from the president, it notes that Kennedy instructed his mailroom clerks to make sure that out of the thousands recieved, he personally saw every fiftieth letter daily.

For his part, compiler Adler made a career out of the concept, packaging kids' letters from camp and to other celebs including Santa Claus. Many of these, like the Kennedy book, actually hit the bestseller lists! More recently, credited to Bill Adler Jr, there was a collection of letters to Harry Potter.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pogo Christmas Card

The coming of Thanksgiving tomorrow marks the beginning of the holiday season and I wanted to be the first to send you all a holiday card this year! Here we have a card featuring Walt Kelly's POGO cast. As this is signed by Doyle and Sternecky of the delightful revival of the strip, I believe this dates from the late eighties'early nineties.

As a child, my mother dutifully read me POGO every single day in the CINCINNATI POST along with THE RYATTS, FRECKLES and PEANUTS. I didn't "get" POGO, though. The mid-sixties was a time when Kelly was being perhaps overly political in the strip and it all went right over my head. In fact, it wasn't until Chuck Jones 1970POGO SPECIAL BIRTHDAY SPECIAL that I could even tell you the characters' names! I re-discovered the strip in the late seventies as paperback reprints abounded and the fan movement was building. Suddenly it became my favorite thing in the world! I totally adored the short-lived revival! Nowadays, my son and I read the old comic book POGO stories out dialect! This weekend, Walt Kelly's daughter Carolyn is to be a guest at Mid-Ohio Con. I can't wait! 'Tis the season. May we all be decked with Boston Charlie.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Don Rosa's Omnicon Brochure

In anticipation of this weekend's Mid-Ohio Con, I've been waxing nostalgic around the house about past conventions I've attended. I was disappointed to learn that Don Rosa, one of my absolute all-time favorite comics storytellers, will not be in attendance in Columbus. I did, however, attend Don's con back in '76. We've written about Omnicon before here at the Library and even run the cool Frank Brunner cover from its program book. Here, though, we present the original program schedule brochure from the weekend of the con itself, complete with rare artwork from Don, himself.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Mid-Ohio Con Next Weekend

Finally! After literally decades of not being able to attend the Mid-Ohio Con in spite of the fact that for all intents and purposes, I live in Southern Ohio, we're going! Logistically, working in retail, I've never been able to get off on the busiest shopping weekend of the year. Last year I was finally allowed off only to be financially incapable of attending. This year, there were hoops to jump through but with the help of my delightful assistant, Cassandra, I was able to secure the dates...only to have money become an issue yet again. Throwing caution to the wind, we decided to go for it anyway. Today, I purchased tickets online. Current plans call for us to drive up and back each day (about 2 hours) so a good oil change, gas and food should be our only expenses. May not be able to buy anything but with all of the great guests and panels (see here:Mid-Ohio-Con - Serving Comic Book & Pop Culture FUN Since 1980!) that shouldn't be much of an issue. This will be the first Con I've attended in about 9 years and the first big one since the early nineties! I'm looking forward to seeing Net friends like Tony Isabella and Mark Evanier, meeting Maggie Thompson and David Mack and my son can't wait to meet Keno Don Rosa! If any of you who regularly stop by the Library here are going to be there, please let me know. I'd really like to thank you all in person for your continued support of this blog. (Speaking of which, if anyone wants to chip in for gas money, please click on the PayPal tip button to the right).

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Three Guys in Coonskin Caps-1955

It's hard for those of us who weren't alive at the time to realize just how popular Disney's DAVY CROCKETT really was with kids. Consider, for instance, this 1955 DC house ad advertising not one, not two but THREE guys in coonskin caps! You see, the cap made you cool! Thus Dan'l Boone, Davy himself and the completely fictional TOMAHAWK were all given said topper by over at National! In the pre-dawn hours of the silver age, this was what DC was pushing! Oddly perhaps, TOMAHAWK would last another fifteen years!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Random Panels of Comic Book Weirdness #14

Not known for his sense of humor, here's J'onn J'onzz the Martian Manhunter from a mid sixties story finding a momentary laugh in a moment of adversity.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Movies That Fell Through the Cracks # 32

HEROWORK came out in 1977. It's a low budget film where the absolute only actor I'd ever even heard of by name is an obscure character actor named Milt Kogan! Many of the others appearing have familiar faces (ncluding the guy who played "Rooster" on BARETTA) but never heard of 'em. Rod Browning (who apparently went on to be a screenwriter) is top-billed as a good guy who, along with an incongruously masked sidekick, sets out to solve a series of murders where the killer leaves behind chocolate on his victims as a trademark. Written, produced and directed by one Michael Adrian--for whom this was his only listed IMDB credit--HEROWORK compared its main characters to Batman, Robin Hood and the Lone Ranger but the whole thing plays like a Burt Reynolds dramady of the period without Burt's charisma.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Badly Costumed Super Hero of the Week

Here's another superguywith a bad fashion sense from some forgotten forties comic.

Undoubtedly his garish costume came in handy swinging through the city at night. Not like it made him a target or anything. Hmmm....Maybe that's why he's forgotten. Oh and that landing doesn't look all that graceful. Did he not read his own narration?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Well! Reflections on the Life and Career of Jack Benny

My second book is finally out! MY book, I say. Well, eight pages of it are mine. That beats the seven pages in my first book! Mike Leannah’s WELL! REFLECTIONS ON THE LIFE AND CARRER OF JACK BENNY is from Ben Ohmart’s Bear Manor and offers a look at legendary comedian Jack Benny from a number of different angles—some rather obtuse—by a number of different writers.
Why Jack Benny? Jack Benny taken by himself wasn’t really all that funny and I say that as one of his biggest fans. Jack Benny taken in context, however, was one of the most brilliant comedians and performers who ever lived! THE JACK BENNY SHOW in all of its various forms and formats was in actuality the world’s longest running gag. Jack Benny in 1950 or in 1967 or even in 1974 could get laughs simply because the audiences came pre-loaded with the facts that he was vain, miserly, a bad violin player, walked funny, had familiar expressions, was perpetually 39 years old and had made a notoriously bad (supposedly) movie in 1946. Jack was still getting people asking him about the long-missing gas man in the seventies! It didn’t even matter that this was the CHARACTER Jack Benny and not the real man. The line had long since blurred for most people. It was the facets of Jack’s career that made him funny.
WELL! offers a look at Jack’s career through a number of these facets. While the book could easily have been twice as big, what’s here is a choice selection of articles, ads and rare photos. Even my 1933 Benny Show autograph cards showcased previously here at the Library appear.
Amongst the authors are Frank Bresee, himself a bit of a radio legend, and our own ace researcher Derek Tague who, in collaboration with DRAGNET expert Michael Hayde offers up a nifty piece on Benny’s appearances and caricatures in cartoons throughout the decades. Wouldn’t you know that my own humble contribution would have to follow them! My own piece takes a look at Jack’s reappearance in Batton Lash’s wonderful WOLFF AND BYRD—COUNSELORS OF THE MACABRE.
Other contributors discuss the comic stylings of Mary Livingstone, the genius of Mel Blanc, Jack’s feud with Fred Allen, his friendship with Johnny Carson, classic bloopers, Vaudeville, Hollywood and even his hometown of Waukegan, Illinois. There are even a couple of reprinted articles credited to Benny himself! I say "credited" because they were just as likely ghostwritten by one or more of his regular writers as Bob Hope’s bylined pieces usually were. On the other hand, Groucho is known to have written his own so…
If there’s a flaw to WELL! (other than the fact that it isn’t twice as thick with more pieces on Rochester, George Burns, Jack’s TV specials and his late period violin concerts, etc, etc) it would be the lack of a section telling the reader just who its writers are and how we came to be so affected by a comedian who died more than thirty years ago now. Also, the lack of pieces by Laura Leff, Karen Hughes and even Jack and Mary’s daughter, Joan. Otherwise, from its absolutely perfect cover shot to its list of recommended reading, this book is a treat for Jack Benny fans old and new if I do say so myself! You can order it from Amazon or directly from the publisher at:BearManor Media. I'm going to go send a freebie to Batton Lash for allowing me to interview him and the book to reprint bits from his story. A very public "thank you," sir! Your book is (or soon will be) in the mail.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Seventies Ripley's Ad

This is an ad for Gold Key's RIPLEY'S BELIEVE IT OR NOT which was quite frankly often indistinguishable from theuir Boris Karloff and TWILIGHT ZONE titles. This, however, is a most atypical ad and that in and of itself makes this, as they say, one for Ripley!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Terry For Veterans Day

For Veterans Day, here is perhaps the most famous of the late, great Milton Caniff's TERRY & THE PIRATES strips in which Flip Corkin offers a pep talk to Terry. This is reproduced from AMERICAN COMIC CLASSICS, a special book put out by the US Postal Service for 1995's 100th anniversery of the comic strip.
One would have to be a fool to like war but wars happen. And one should be respected for one's efforts at winning the wars. A big thank you from Booksteve to all of our guys in the military--past and present! You ARE appreciated!

Quintessence 22

QUINTESSENCE 22 was a true amateur comics fanzine at a time when more and more prozines like INFINITY, HOT STUF’ and SQUA TRONT were wowing the fan market. I mailordered it from an ad in TBG after seeing the topless SUPERGIRL below. It was 1973 and this issue was put together by Editor John Achziger and artist Richard Enloe piecemeal from leftover bits from their and others’ previous stillborn efforts. As fanzines go, it was pretty good with early spot illos from Klaus Janson as well as "good luck" art from Dick Giordano and John Romita. There was a portfolio of topless superheroines by the soon to go pro Denis Fujitake and an article on German pulp spaceman Perry Rhodan by fandom’s most respected writer at the time, Dwight Decker. There was even an old (dated 1969. Previously unpublished?) MR. A page by Ditko. The magazine’s main feature however is a violent CONAN THE BARBARIAN rip-off comic strip called RONTHUR by Achziger and Richard Enloe. While some of Enloe’s artwork show’s promise, this piece is an amateur effort from the word "Go." Much of it looks just incredibly rushed. We’re all very close here so I will tell you, though, that this piece had a profound effect on me for one very specific reason…pubic hair! At the risk of TMI, several panels in this –let’s face it badly drawn-- strip showed me for the very first time at age fourteen that women have hair down there! WHO KNEW!!?? Even PLAYBOY wasn’t showing it at the time and…Ahem! Anyway…

I never saw another issue offered for sale. A quick check of the Net shows that Mr. Achziger has long been a dealer in comics and other collectibles while Mr. Enloe seems to have been exhibiting his art at cons in the Northwest as recently as a year or two ago. If you see this, "Hi, guys!" and thanks for the memories…and the education!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Song of the South

Here’s something that hasn’t been seen in awhile—a newspaper ad for Walt Disney’s SONG OF THE SOUTH…in a theater!!! As you probably know, Disney has (at least in the US) vilified and distanced itself from this film, leaving those who’ve never seen it to presume some sort of major racist issue on the part of the Mouse. If, however, you HAVE had the pleasure of seeing this delightful 1946 combination of live-action and classic animation, you know that it’s no more racist than GONE WITH THE WIND or other period pictures set in the early South. In fact, many contemporary 1940’s films depict African-Americans in much more derogatory ways than this one—usually for supposed comic effect.
The story itself is a mild family story about a boy who gets moved to a family plantation and tries to fit in. As played marvelously by the ultimately tragic Bobby Driscoll (Can you discuss Bobby at all without using the word "tragic?") who was also the voice of PETER PAN, the film is genuinely heartwarming. On this post-Civil War plantation, the boy meets Old Uncle Remus who tells him magical (animated) stories about Br’er Rabbit and Br’er Bear and Br’er Fox. Throughout the whole thing are some good songs including the legendary "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah."
Some years ago, I picked up the Japanese VHS edition in English but with Japanese subtitles. Apparently, Disney has no qualms about releasing SONG OF THE SOUTH everywhere else in the world. The next day at work, I was humming "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" all day. I asked just about every person of color who came into my store that day if they’d ever seen the film and if they were, in fact, offended by it. Upon hearing the question, many started singing "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" themselves. Three women offered me money to dub them off copies! The suggestion has been made that Disney release the picture with one of Leonard Maltin’s patented "historical context" apologies as seen on the LOONEY TUNES and POPEYE collections. This would certainly cover their Mousy butts. Let’s hope that enough folks at Disney actually watch the picture and see that it’s nowhere near as bad as they think it is. Every once in awhile, a rumored release is mentioned. Here’s a site with more info AND a way that you can help bring about such a release:Song of the South - Frequently Asked Questions

Friday, November 09, 2007


There's been speculation all over the Net these past few days about who's playing Mr. Spock's father, Sarek, in the new STAR TREK film. Well, whomever it turns out to be (if anyone), he'll have a tough time matching the perfect combination of dignity, strength, aloofness and passive arrogance brought to the role by the late Mark Lenard on TV and in the early movies. Lenard often played the heavy, probably most notably in ABC's HERE COME THE BRIDES (itself later metamorphosed into a STAR TREK novel by Barbara Hambly that we wrote about earlier), but with Sarek, he turned a one-shot guest role into a memorable character and earned himself a place in Trek fandom. This picture here, signed to my lovely bride (may she live long and prosper) was obtained by her Trekkie Ex at a 1988 Indiana convention.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Christa Helm-The Website!

Just because you haven't read much here about Christa Helm lately does not mean that work has not dilligently continued on my Christa Helm Projects with author John O'Dowd and Christa's daughter, Nicole. In fact, when you consider that my involvement in this began when attempting to find info on an obscure movie that I never even saw, we've made a considerable amount of progress in the last two years! One result is the website whose header is seen here and which features an article format piece we wrote on Christa awhile back. The goal of the website is to generate more online publicity and interest and hopefully get more and more information about this continually fascinating woman, her tragic demise and her "lost" (more on that soon) movie, LET'S GO FOR BROKE. The site is still being tweaked but check it out and feel free to comment on it here. You can find it as a spin-off of John's Barbara Payton site here: The Unsolved Murder of 1970's Hollywood Starlet Christa Helm - Page 1 of 5

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Jimmy Olsen Ad

In case you ever doubted that the reason that Superman's pal, Jimmy Olsen (as well as Lois Lane later on) got their own mags was because of the success of George Reeves' ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, here's the original DC ad for Jimmy's new book. Note the wording: "You've seen Jimmy on television..." Nuff Said! (OOPS! Sorry, Stan).Add Image

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Badly Costumed Super Hero of the Week

This blonde gentleman is The Rocket! Now, let's not be rude and speculate as to how he got that name. The point is he's wearing only a tad more clothing than last week's Shark and yet he's running around in outer space "Flashing" (Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink) everyone while fighting Retlek the Mercil...errr...I mean, the Terrible ...with the help of some hawkmen and, of course, a scantily clad space babe (or six). Any of this sound familiar, Alex Raymond fans? The Rocket and the Queen of Diamonds come from Archie's hometown, PEP COMICS!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Movies That Fell Through the Cracks # 31

1972’s THE RED, RED DRAGON was Australia’s first feature-length animated cartoon and by all accounts was an enjoyable, energetic musical fantasy. It apparently played kiddie matinees throughout the US but it never played around here. While it looks like the kind of film you see in the dollar bins at WalMart, IMDB says that the picture (also known as MARCO POLO JUNIOR VS THE RED DRAGON) has not been released on video in any form due to a major need for restoration.
US pop singer Bobby Rydell, whose career was fairly non-existent by that point, is the young hero and TV’s voice of TOP CAT, the great Arnold Stang, is the title dragon! The only other recognizable voice name is that of Arthur Anderson, the old-time radio actor best known as the voice of Lucky in the original Lucky Charms commercials. Whether or not it’s the same guy, I’m not certain as the name is a fairly common one. Since producer/director Eric Porter was previously known for his commercials, there certainly could be a connection there.
Now the REALLY interesting thing about this animated feature is that it was written by Sheldon Moldoff! Yes, THE Sheldon Moldoff who drew DC’s BLACK PIRATE and HAWKMAN for many years in an ersatz Alex Raymond style and who has since been revealed to have ghosted Bob Kane for many years on BATMAN! THE Sheldon Moldoff who is now given credit for suggesting to Bill Gaines that EC might start doing horror stories! THE Sheldon Moldoff who has been a mainstay at comic book conventions in recent years! Shelly also was listed as Executive Producer. His only other IMDB credit is for 2001’s animated feature, MARCO POLO: RETURN TO XANADU which, I believe, is actually a remake for which Moldoff is credited for his original story.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Stefanie Powers

Stefanie Powers became a favorite actress of mine when she played April Dancer, the title GIRL FROM U.N.C.L.E. onm NBC in the sixties. Prior to that she was a fairly successful small part actress in films but it was only with the campy U.N.C.L.E. that her comic talents were allowed to blossom. In later years, her most memorable performances, including her long run in HART TO HART, would captalize on her breezy ability to balance light drama with humor.
In July of 1973, Stefanie appeared in summer stock in Dayton, Ohio (don’t ask me the show) and I took a chance by mailing my very first celebrity fan letter to her in care of the theater where she was appearing. A week later, I received the response seen here, rather obviously written on motel stationary. Although Dayton is only an hour or so from here, when I was fourteen it seemed so much further and it was inconceivable that I might actually see her so I had written a brief letter. In order to facilitate a response, I asked her the following questions to which you can see her answers:
1-I keep seeing your name spelled with an "f" and a "ph." Which is correct?
2-I’ve read where you’re married to Gary Lockwood. When did you get married?
3-Where were you born?
4-How many movies have you appeared in?
5-My favorite actor is Roddy McDowell and I’ve seen you in several things with him. Do you like working with him?
6-Will you be appearing in any TV shows in the new TV season?
Several things to note:
She and Lockwood were already divorced nearly a year at the time but I had no way of knowing that.
Both Ms. Powers and I misspelled the name of my FAVORITE actor, Roddy McDowall.
She writes in all caps except for the occasional lapse. Weird.
I removed the address she gave me to write her although I’m certain it’s no longer valid. I did write but never again received a response.
Her spelling may be with an "f" but it wasn’t originally "Stefanie" but "Stefania." Stefania Zofya Federkiewicz to be exact and while she may well have been born in Hollywood, I’m betting her parents weren’t.

Obviously she dashed off this letter hurriedly but it meant a lot to me that she took the time at all so let me thank you publicly, Stefanie Powers, for being the highlight of my year that year and a wonderful memory ever since!

Star Trek-The NEW Motion Picture

28 years ago, all of us fanboys were anxiously awaiting the arrival of this-STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE. It was probably called that rather obvious title so that there would be no one who could confuse the upcoming release with TV episodes edited together for the big screen. This was a fairly standard practice in those days, often for overseas markets, and had been done with THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., THE GREEN HORNET and various other cult programs. Most of us, though, were well aware that this was something new. This was something that we had literally spent the seventies building toward.

When STAR TREK was cancelled in 1969, its vast cult audience simply couldn't let it go the way the mainstream audience had done. When it popped up in syndication it caught on even bigger than before. Bumper stickers and posters saying "Star Trek Lives!" or "I grok Spock!" started turning up like Kilroy cartoons in WWII! Some fans organized a convention and invited other fans. The other fans organized their own conventions back home and then someone got the idea of inviting the actors. William Shatner had avoided being typecast as Kirk by taking on any and every role he was offered from Promise margarine commercials to nude scenes in BIG BAD MAMA and gimmicky TV series like THE BARBARY COAST. In spite of going directly into MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE as Paris (ironically replacing Martin Landau who had reportedly been the original choice for Spock), Leonard Nimoy had it tougher and ultimately cashed in on the "voice of authority" given him by his Vulcan character to become a sought-after narrator! Although beloved by the fans, the other actors fared less well in Hollywood after STAR TREK and jumped at the ego boosting guest slots at the cons. Nearly all of them returned for STAR TREK-THE ANIMATED SERIES, a well-written but badly animated (and over-orchestrated) TV cartoon that ran a season and a half. By mid-decade, there were STAR TREK magazines, books like David Gerrold's THE WORLD OF STAR TREK and the early stages of what has grown into a huge franchise of STAR TREK novels! Rumors abounded that a TV series revival was eminent. Creator Gene Roddenberry put out a record album of one of his lectures in which he toured the country showing the then unseen version of the original pilot, THE CAGE. As Paramount began to eye creating a 4th TV network, they looked at the cult popularity of STAR TREK as just what they needed for a flagship show and work actually began on a series tentatively entitled STAR TREK II! In the meantime, nearly all of the major cast were photographed as their characters were recreated at a wax museum or when the initial NASA prototype Space Shuttle was named Enterprise. Nimoy was to be the holdout (as would often prove the case!) and his Vulcan character was replaced by a Lt. Xon. Then STAR WARS hit...BIG! Paramount rethought their TV network idea and decided that there were gazillions of repeat dollars to be made from a big-screen STAR TREK movie! Roddenberry tabled his season full of scripts and began work on a feature film screenplay. Even Nimoy agreed to some back for that! The studio released haughty press releases indicating that the special effects were to be done in an all new process that would make STAR WARS look old-fashioned! Then the months began to drag on with only little hints. A bald alien crewmember? Problems with the spfx? Eventually, Douglas Trumball, who had done the realistic special effects for 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and SILENT RUNNING, was brought on to "supplement" the work being done on the film. Soon enough, he was replacing much of the highly touted but not so good new system's already completed scenes with his own.

Finally, right at the end of the Trek Decade, these (slightly truncated here) ads appeared in Sunday newspapers throughout the US. Note the tagline, "There is no comparison!" Green was not your best color, Paramount! The second ad clearly shows exactly who the marketing department saw as the star of the picture--the USS Enterprise! The film opened to a collective sense of awe and vindication amongst us fans. Initial reviews were good but director Robert Wise's picture was, quite frankly, long, talky and pseudo-intellectual, ie: not really designed for that all-important repeat business. What fans wanted was the intelligence tempered with character comeraderie and space age melodrama. That appeared in the series with STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN and continued on through various other entries,later generations and spin-offs. STAR TREK was back for good!

Now we have a new STAR TREK film planned with an all-new cast telling the story of a younger Enterprise crew. In comics terms, let's call it STAR TREK-YEAR ONE. The inevitable complaints and controversies are being heard about recasting but let's face it, McCoy and Scotty are dead, Jim! We got what we wanted--a series of new adventures with our old heroes. Even Shakespeare gets redone with new actors in the classic roles. And hey, Sylar as Spock? Simon Pegg as Scotty!!! Sounds like a good start to me. I'm not familiar with the rest of the actors cast but I find myself looking forward to the new STAR TREK motion picture almost as much as I was the original. Why, even Leonard Nimoy, the perpetual holdout, will be present to, in some way, bring the piece full circle. Can't wait!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Personal Comic Albums

I will admit to a bit of shame as I admit to you, dear reader, that, as a child, I regularly destroyed my comic books,tearing off covers, ripping out stories, punching holes in them and collecting them in big ol' 3 ring binders! At one point I had ten thick binders full of comics! Later on, I went to a more compact format with the smaller paper notebook binders. 33 of these eventually. I still have three of the notebooks and about eight of the later series--all filled with odds and ends from my misspent youth. Sigh. If only I had had these personal comic albums from a couple decades earlier! Wonder how many of these things--filled--are still around?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Badly Costumed Superhero of the Week

...or should we say "barely" costumed for this one? The Shark!

This guy--seen here proudly displaying his own logo--had the nerve to run in AMAZING MAN COMICS circa 1940 where the book's title character was sometimes being drawn by the Sub-Mariner's papa, Bill Everett! Yes, Ol' Sharky was a bargain basement clone of Subby without any of the angst or one lick of backstory. Just as Namor has his quirky feet and ears, however, our hero here had...for no apparent reason mind you...webbed feet and hands. He also insisted on wearing a big blue mask...and little else.