Monday, June 30, 2008

Movies That Fell Through the Cracks Index


On the occasion of my 40th installment of MOVIES THAT FELL THROUGH THE CRACKS, I felt it time to do a little index of same, complete with links! The thing is, when doing so, I came to the realization that I, uhhh...neglected to post a number 24...or a number 14...or...hehe...even a number 6! And nobody noticed apparently. Does anybody read these? So anyway, on the occasion of my...ummm...37th installment, herewith--the index!
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2008/06/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-40.html-SHADOWMAN
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2008/06/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-39.html-DIRTY KNIGHT’S WORK
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2008/05/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-38.html –TWISTED NERVE
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2008/05/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-37.html –LAST EMBRACE
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2008/03/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-36.html –HEARTBEEPS
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2008/01/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-35.html –CRACKING UP
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2008/01/movies-that-fell-through-cacks-34.htm –O’HARA’S WIFE
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2007/12/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-33.html –FLY ME
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2007/11/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-32.html –HEROWORK
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2007/11/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-31.html –THE RED, RED DRAGON
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2007/10/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-30.html –THE LADY VANISHES (1979)
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2007/10/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-29.html –GOLDEN NEEDLES
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2007/09/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-28.html –VOLERE VOLARE
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2007/08/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-27.html –THE SPECIALIST
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2007/07/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-26.html –THE AMAZING DOBERMANS
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2007/06/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-25.html –KILL, KILL, KILL
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2007/05/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-23.html –THE VILLAIN
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2007/02/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-22.html –LAW AND DISORDER
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2007/01/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-21.html –BLACKENSTEIN
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2006/10/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-20.html –FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2006/09/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-19.html –SWASHBUCKLER
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2006/08/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-18.html –STANLEY
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2006/08/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-17.html –THE RIP-OFF
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2006/08/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-16.html –WATCH OUT, WE’RE MAD
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2006/07/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-15.html –THE LOVES AND TIMES OF SCARAMOUCHE
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2006/07/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-13.html –SON OF DRACULA
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2006/06/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-12.html –FEAR IS THE KEY
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2006/06/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-11.html –HOUSE OF THE LONE SHADOWS
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2006/06/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-10.html –SOME LIKE IT COOL
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2006/06/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-9.htm –ALABAMA’S GHOST
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2006/06/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-8.html- DIRTY TRICKS
(see also http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2006/06/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-8_08.html )
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2006/05/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-7.html THE DYNAMITE BROTHERS
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2006/05/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-5-and.html –LOVERS AND LIARS
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2006/05/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-4.html –BATTLE OF THE AMAZONS
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2006/05/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-3.html –SUNDAY LOVERS
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2006/05/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-2.html SODOM AND GOMORRAH-THE LAST SEVEN DAYS
http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/2006/05/movies-that-fell-through-cracks-1.html –LET’S GO FOR BROKE

Batman and Superman on Sesame Street



The other day Mark Evanier mentioned that Frank Oz, the muppeteer who handled Cookie Monster, Grover, Yoda and Miss Piggy) had retired awhile back. Also in the news this past week was the passing of the man who designed Big Bird’s suit. All of this put me in mind of SESAME STREET. It’s ubiquitous now, of course, and whole generations have grown up with the show but the very first time I ever heard of it was from this ad right here.
I’m not sure the Man from Alphabet made the final cut. Don’t remember him at all. There’s no mention made of Susan, Gordon, Bert, Ernie, Big Bird, Bob, Grover or Cookie Monster, all of whom were there right from the beginning as I recall. Rather obviously—this WAS in a DC comic after all—strong emphasis is placed on the appearances of Superman and Batman. Now here’s the thing. I was 11 years old at that point but I watched SESAME STREET pretty regularly when it started. I enjoyed the infectious songs (particularly Bob McGrath’s Dennis Day vibe), the Muppets comedy and the little semi-psychedelic shorts starring Jim Henson but I never saw the superheroes. In fact, it was more than a year into the series when I finally saw a really short bit of animation with Superman counting and that was it! Was there some sort of problem or did their prominently advertised appearances go the way of the Man from Alphabet due to behind-the-scenes decisions? If they ever did turn up and I just missed them then why can't I find it all on Youtube now? Everything's on Youtube!

Somewhere here we have a marvelous book on the making of SESAME STREET but I don’t recall anything on the subject in it (and I’m not awake enough to go looking for it at the moment). Years later I met Gordon but it was Gordon number three (Roscoe Orman) who wasn’t there himself for a few years so I didn’t ask ‘cause I didn’t think he’d know. Besides, I had caught him sneaking a cigarette out by the trash dumpster at the mall where I was working and he was doing a three times a day "One of these things is not like the other" show. Timing seemed off, y’know.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Movies That Fell Through the Cracks # 40




There was a time in the late sixties-early seventies when I thought Gayle Hunnicutt was a big movie star. This probably had to do with the fact that one of the very first movies I saw in a theater without my parents was EYE OF THE CAT, a pretty darn scary 1969 feature that also starred Michael Sarrazin. Turns out she made a pretty steady go of it but never quite made it all that big, bookending her career with TV guest roles. In the mid-seventies, however, she was working a lot in Europe and in 1975 this curious import turned up at a local theater.
Along with the lovely Ms. H, the ’74 French superthief caper film SHADOWMAN offers Charlie Chaplin’s (other) daughter, Josephine, Gert (GOLDFINGER) Froebe (as a policeman!) and Jacques Champreux as the title character. I remember that the film had something to do with a secret treasure of the Knights Templar (some thirty years before that became a trendy plot device!) but that it all seemed very muddled. I assumed at the time that it had lost something in the translation but consulting IMDB, I note that the whole thing was compressed from an 8 episode TV series so no wonder it made no sense!
Jacques Champreux is also listed as the writer but as an actor it appears to be his final appearance. Interestingly, one of my wife’s favorite authors, Henry Lincoln (HOLY BLOOD, HOLY GRAIL) is credited with appearing as a Templar expert (naturally). Even more interestingly, backtracking Lincoln’s career I see that he wrote a DOCTOR WHO serial with Troughton’s second Doctor in the late sixties!
All of this makes me want to see L'HOMME SANS VISAGE, the series this was based on. I may not recall too much about it but, paired with an "Anthony Steffen" spaghetti western, I remember SHADOWMAN being a fairly enjoyable Saturday afternoon for my 16 year old self…and Gayle Hunnicutt didn’t hurt my eyes at all.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Wonder Woman Short-1970




Anyone out there know the story behind this one? This is a two-page featurette from WONDER WOMAN 188 (1970). According to the Grand Comics Database, the uncredited writing and art is by Mike Sekowsky, at the time the guru behind the controversial "new" Wonder Woman. The inking is rather obviously by Dick Giordano who, imho, did the absolute best version of the Diana Rig...err...Diana Prince Wonder Woman. What's fascinating about this otherwise throwaway piece is that the villain is revealed to be one "Creepy Canigah." That's "Canigah," presumably pronounced as "Kanigher" as in WW's former editor/writer, Robert Kanigher (discussed here yesterday!).

Okay, so was this Sekowsky actually commenting on Kanigher who had reputation for being egotistical and not well-liked? Was he attempting to say he was literally or perhaps metaphorically (by writing WONDER WOMAN) a transvestite or was it all just a good-natured rib at a fellow creator? Anyone?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

To the Nth Degree



It's funny how one remembers trivial things for literally decades sometimes. Still reading me some Silver Age, I came across a story in FLASH # 197 entitled "To the Nth Degree" and I remembered very clearly that my original reading of that story back in 1970 was the very first time I had heard that term--"Nth degree." Confused the hell out of my eleven year old self! Did they mean "Ninth" degree? Was it a temperature reference? WTF?
Reading it today, it is a truly bad short story in which Barry Allen is accidentally sent an experimental telescope and uses it to "flash" across the universe to an exploding planet he sees 1800 trillion miles away. They say he's an amateur astronomer but he apparently doesn't realize that anything he's seeing now from that far away happened centuries ago! Also never occurs to him to maybe signal his JLA pals--can you say Superman?--he just somehow knows he can zap himself to this planet and does so. And what do you know--IT'S STILL THERE!! Upon arrival, he automatically figures out that his blood will boil in exactly one minute so he has to hurry in his goal to super-cool the planet (which is inhabited by Human Torch lookalikes). Of course he succeeds by simply using his speed to make really cold air and chilling out the exploding core. After that he has only milliseconds to find the beam he rode in on (which wife Iris was supposed to be maintaining through the telescope but apparently let slip) so he tosses grains of sand in the air and uses them as stepping stones to the beam which now mysteriously stops in mid-air. After an Adam Strange-like trip home, the telescope accidentally gets destroyed.

The really sad part here is that FLASH (and Julie Schwartz-edited comics in general) had always had a reputation for offering little scientific nuggets along the way. I was a science wiz in school myself all because of Gardner Fox's little asides in the early to mid-sixties FLASH stories. THIS story, though, was written by Robert Kanigher. No stranger to the series (he wrote the character's debut!) but also no Gardner Fox, Kanigher never let facts, logic or continuity get in the way of a good story...or any story for that matter. This little back pages wonder was just filler after the issue's main story (in which the whole of the plot consisted of Flash performing all of the roles in a stage presentation of HAMLET) didn't take up the required number of pages. The classic years of FLASH were over by this point and, in fact, I only stuck with the book for another issue or two myself and was gone by issue 200. The art here is a pleasant but rushed-looking collaboration between Gil Kane and the much-maligned Vince Colletta. Here, Kane's always sharp, wonderful layouts are given a soft coating by Colletta's inks and the whole visual look of the book is very comfortable.

Oh and by the way, the "to the Nth degree" term means "to the ultimate point, as far as one can go." Thought I'd tell you as it never is explained in the story. Damn you, Kanigher!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Eureka-1970

When I was a teenager in the early 1970’s, the folks at the Ohio Book Store in downtown Cincinnati were kind enough to take my name and call me whenever they got some Golden Age comics in stock. I would usually be able to get one or two even though they were horribly overpriced at about five dollars each! I don't get downtown very often anymore but when I do it’s always a pleasure to see that in spite of all the changes in the city, the same folks are still running the same store in the same location. They don’t get Golden Age comics anymore either but I can still find cool stuff there. Today a recently transplanted friend asked me to show her downtown and we walked across the bridge—my first time in about twenty years! Of course one of the places I showed her was…the Ohio Book Store. As usual, I found something to buy and, in spite of money being tight (again) I had to get it! The rule is, "If you’ve never seen it before get it now or you’ll never see it again." I got it.

What I got was EUREKA, a 1970 Italian comics annual ( actually dated October of 1969) tying in to the recent moon landings by reprinting American and English sci-fi comic strips! Unfortunately for me I don’t speak Italian so unless I type the whole thing into BabelFish, all I can do is enjoy the great artwork on some rarely reprinted strips. What we have here is Frank Bellamy’s classic GARTH (albeit here by someone called Steve Dowling), a couple of the Wally Wood/Will Eisner OUTER SPACE SPIRIT sections, George Tuska’s 1963 version of BUCK ROGERS, BRICK BRADFORD by Paul Norris and DRIFT MARLOW (a neatly drawn 1964 strip by Tom Cooke that I confess to being totally unfamiliar with until today). There’s even a few MR. MUM strips, another silent strip apparently called PERKINS and an Italian language article on Neil Armstrong and Apollo 11. About all that's missing is JEFF HAWKE and FLASH GORDON! What's here is a great collection, however, that's easy to enjoy in any language...especially for $3.25 American nearly forty years later!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Schlomo Raven


The late Byron Preiss (bless him) was always trying to find new ways to package and repackage comics, pulps and other pop related phenomena. In 1976, around the same time he was bringing out his WEIRD HEROES new pulps, Preiss also unleashed FICTION ILLUSTRATED, a brief but memorable series of near-comics done as digest-sized (at first anyway) full color graphic novels. Unfortunately, the audience wasn’t there for these one-off wonders at the time. If one remembers them at all, it’s only for Steranko’s CHANDLER, repackaged a couple of times over the years. Quite frankly though, in spite of the most new artwork we’d seen from Jim in several years at that point, I never actually cared for CHANDLER. Nor was I all that thrilled with Ralph Reese’s SON OF SHERLOCK HOLMES or Stephen Fabian’s badly reproduced STARFAWN. No, for me the winner in FICTION ILLUSTRATED’s brief run was right at the beginning—SCHLOMO RAVEN.
If there’s any doubt right from the beginning that writer Preiss and illustrator Tom Sutton were doing an "homage" to early MAD comics and Kurtzman and Elder in particular, the fact that Harvey contributed an introduction drives that home. The book is even dedicated to both of them along with their fellow EC cohorts Jack Davis, Wally Wood, John Severin and the man now termed the father of the American graphic novel, Will Eisner.
Our hero is a tiny and rather obviously Elder-esque parody of the typical tough-guy Hollywood private eye. In a series of short stories under the umbrella title, THE SHOW-BIZ JOBS, we get a Marx Brothers parody, a Karloff and Lugosi parody, a Carmen Miranda parody, a Bogart parody and finally a most delightful Orson Welles parody that plays on the actor’s radio role of the Shadow. Preiss’s skill was not really as a writer so much of the non-visual humor falls flat. For Sutton, though, this was one of his finest hours. Known for his humor work for NOT BRAND ECHH, the early VAMPIRELLA stories and a long run of sci-fi stories for Charlton, Tom Sutton was rarely given a showcase better than this and his pleasure shows in the MAD-ish gags he stuffs into the pages a’la Elder’s "chicken fat."
For me the most annoying thing about the book is the lettering, looking amateurish and sometimes hard to read in spite of being done by Kenneth Smith, known at the time for his fanzine, PHANTASMAGORIA and his amazing color work. Smith also colors SCHLOMO RAVEN but for the most part the colors are so dull and muted you’d never know it.
The miniature format (smaller than a READER’S DIGEST but wider than a mass market paperback) was hard for stores to display so many simply chose not to do so. The anthology format was not necessarily conducive to bringing in repeat readers every month and quite frankly, the material was probably a little too experimental. With CHANDLER an oversized trade paperback edition was also offered and, if I recall correctly, that was the ONLY format for the final, Sherlock volume.
As the industry slowly caught up with his visions, Byron Preiss spent the rest of his life being new and innovative (if rarely really successful) and his untimely death a few years back brought a host of tributes from friends and co-workers.

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin-R.I.P.

A couple of years ago, we let our then nine year old son start reading George Carlin books. We decided there was a lot of truth in those books that made it worth it for him to get through the dirty parts. I stand by that. Couched in humor in a way his idol Lenny Bruce never really did, Carlin held up a mirror to the stupidity in our world. Thank you, sir. Your legacy is a lot more than those seven words.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Sh-Boom, Sh-Boom



Here’s the other issue of SH-BOOM I mentioned the other day. I love that cover. Always enjoyed Pat Boone as an actor when I was growing up (not that his film career was any great shakes) and it’s great that this staunchly religious man has maintained such a great sense of humor about himself and his own reputation.
This issue starkly contrasts Pat’s (arguably correct) view that his bowdlerized versions of somewhat raunchy Little Richard songs saved rock ‘n’ roll with the reminiscences of Richard’s drummer about partying that makes that legendary shark story look tame!
Also in this ish, interviews with Julie Newmar (the REAL Catwoman) and the great Frank Zappa (during his voice of reason) phase. Feature pieces on NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, Bo Diddley, Sun Records and 21 black musical pioneers round out the issue along with brief appearances from Don Adams, Kirk Alyn, Sheb (PURPLE PEOPLE EATER) Wooley, and Patty Duke!
Great stuff! Anybody got any other issues?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Rodney Allen Rippy



The other night on the TV LAND AWARDS, I heard someone invoke the name of Rodney Allen Rippy. This prompted me to search out this TV magazine cover from 1975 featuring the cutest, most natural child star of all time (with apologies to Scotty Beckett). This then prompted me to wonder what happened to him. I think the last time I had heard of him at all was when he appeared on MTV’s REMOTE CONTROL in the eighties.Well, the Internet being what it is, I was immediately able to find Mr. Rippy’s own site. If you’ve ever wondered what happened to him also, check it out here: Rodney Allen Rippy, Rodney Allen Rippy Radio Show, talk radio Los Angeles, Rodney Allen Rippy talk radio, Los Angeles radio s...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Random Panels of Comic Book Weirdness # 33


Wow. Batman really is prepared for everything! Magnetic cape,eh? Hmmm... Come to think of it, that could be an issue if he's ever fighting (which he used to do all the time) robots or guys in suits of armor...or even that guy with the forks from the movie MYSTERY MEN for that matter. Mike Sekowsky's Caped Crusdaer is from JLA # 40.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sh-Boom




Here we have yet another "off the shelf" item chosen more or less at random. This is the premiere issue of SH-BOOM, a late eighties- early nineties pop culture nostalgia magazine aimed squarely at baby boomers.
Informative and obviously written by people who care about their subjects, this issue offers a major article/interview on Annette Funicello (before she got sick), a rare late interview with Groucho’s YOU BET YOUR LIFE sidekick George Fenneman, some classic TV bits, some old time rock’n’ roll reviews, Dr. Demento on "dirty" rock classics and an Elvis centerfold featuring this image of what I’m sure is an uncredited Teri Garr. There’s also Dick Clark, Buddy Holly, a history of Jukeboxes, the late (great) Johnny Ace and, perhaps amazingly, the wonderful cult actress Mary Woronov!
I know I have more issue of SH-BOOM around somewhere (including one in which Pat Boone addresses the claim that he ruined Little Richard’s songs by homogenizing them) but I’m not certain how long it ran. One thing’s for sure, though. As with much of the baby boom era itself, it sure was fun while it lasted.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Good Guys Wear Black


Came across this in the archives today. This is an ad for GOOD GUYS WEAR BLACK, an early (1978), atypical Chuck Norris flick in which our hero is much more the cool sophisticated type than the good-ol'-boy John Wayne-style hero he became. Here he's John T. Booker, a former soldier whose men are all being killed off mysteriously...and he's next. Not much of a budget and yet well directed by veteran Ted Post who had also helmed BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES, THE HARRAD EXPERIMENT and a gazillion TV episodes. Along with classic film noir star Dana Andrews, the supporting cast includes more TV veterans such as James Franciscus(LONGSTREET), Lloyd Haines (ROOM 222) and Jim (MISTER MAGOO) Backus. The female lead is the lovely Anne Archer, rumored at the time to have been originally cast as Lois Lane in the then still upcoming SUPERMAN-THE MOVIE.


Previously, way back in December of '05, we ran the more familiar ad from this film which features Chuck doing a flying kick through a car windshield. It was during a tour to promote GOOD GUYS WEAR BLACK that I got to meet Mister Norris which you can read about here:http://booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com/search?q=good+guys+wear+black


GOOD GUYS WEAR BLACK sure looked at the time like the beginning of a franchise but as far as I know, John T. Booker (similar to John Wayne's John B. Books in his last film, THE SHOOTIST)was never seen again.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Rare Adam West Batman Appearance---Sorta

This is from Bob Shreve's PAST PRIME PLAYHOUSE in Cincinnati from either the mid-seventies or early eighties. Adam seems to be plugging an appearance at a car show in town (with his Batmobile...or rather a velvet covered version when I saw it.)and he appeared there at least a couple of times. I used to see stills and brief clips from this appearance from time to time and could never figure out why "Batman" was out of costume. Now we know. For more on Bob Shreve, check out Bob Shreve's Past Prime Playhouse.

Wacky Packages


Thanks to friend and ace researcher DEREK for bringing the new WACKY PACKAGES book to my attention. WACKY PACKAGES were, for awhile, a favored obsession of the young Booksteve. 1967 through '69 were my years of interest in this subversive MAD-style look at advertising. Originally, they were done in die-cut baseball card-like cards that you would trade with your friends. In the early seventies and off and on ever since, they were reissued as stickers. It's the 1973-74 versions that are celebrated in this cool little book.


The book itself is nicely designed with the dustcover being on a kind of rice paper that evokes the wrappers of the original cards. The actual covers of the book even depict a piece of that hard gum that used to come with all of these things (cracked on the back cover). Nobody I knew would ever dare to actually chew that gum!


Bookending the single page depictions of the stickers themselves are interesting and informative pieces by former underground cartoonists (and now respected artists) Art Spiegelman and Jay Lynch, both of whom worked at Topps during the WACKY years. WACKY PACKAGES is a quick read, a nostalgic half hour and it even elicited a few real chuckles but on balance, I'd have to agree with Spiegelman's intro that concludes it all works best when you are (or in my case were in 1967) 8 years old.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Vince Fago and Dracula



Time for another book off the shelf. Vince Fago was a Golden Age comic book artist/editor best known for his work in the funny animal field. In the 1970's, however, he also spearheaded a line of comics-style adaptations of classic literature intended for schools. The only one of these that ever fell into my hands was DRACULA. Contemporary to Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan's Marvel version of the Count, this is as straightforward an adaptation of Bram Stoker's original novel as you can get (when you consider that the original was actually a series of letters and journal entries).


The art was by Nestor Redondo, an excellent Filipino comics illustrator who had 20 years of experience and success outside the US before he ended up becoming known for his seventies suspense (and some SWAMP THING) stories for DC.


If the ubiquitous 80's/'90's children's hardcover classics with art mostly by the Pablo Marcos studio were analogous to Big Little Books then these Now Age Illustrated Classics from Pendulum were certainly a modern version of CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED. The one I have is a paperback but I have seen hardbacks. The whole series was also repackaged a number of times over the years in different formats.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Back in a Flash






Meanwhile, back at THE FLASH…when we last left our hero (in 1968’s issue 180) he’d been captured by Japanese war criminal Baron Katana and his army of flying robot samauroids. Writer Frank Robbins continues to play fast and loose with continuity, common sense and humor here in the final chapter. By now the "ranguage" joke had long since run its measly course but it was back in full force as Capt. Hashi and his "Brack Berets" prepare to invade the baron’s island. Note that even when he’s not talking to anyone except other Japanese, they are still BRACK Berets and not BLACK Berets! This in spite of the caption indicating that it only seems characters are speaking good English when they’re actually speaking translated Japanese! Ugh! Note also the bad puns in the seemingly serious situation which finds the Scarlet Speedster ("Red Suit") suspended by a torture device. To add insult to injury, when the bad guy IS finally defeated, the caption states that he runs nearly as fast as Flash! Oh, really!!?? Then we have another breaking the fourth wall reference and even a reprise of the previous issue’s stupid "ue" joke! Oh, and did I mention that Iris rather casually gave away her husband’s valued secret identity to a girl she had only just met in order to protect it and save the Flash? Or that as the story ended, Barry let her keep this knowledge and even smiled about it??? Why, Superman would spend the whole next issue trying to figure out a semi-humane way to make her forget but then she’d suddenly catch a deadly disease and die anyway, keeping his secret safe. That’s the difference between the Silver Age Clark and the Silver Age Barry—Barry just laughs!
Oh and the issue is rounded out with a full page introducing the reader to the man who had just perpetrated two months of weirdness on them…complete with even MORE politically incorrect Japanese "ranguage" jokes!! AAAAAARRRRGGGHHHH!!!!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Oddball Flash of 1968



Does Scott Shaw! of Oddball Comics know about THIS oddball comic? FLASH #180 from 1968 has just GOT to be one of the most politically incorrect mainstream comic books of all time! The new artist team of Ross Andru and Mike Esposito pumped new life into the Scarlet Speedster following the nearly impossible act of Carmine Infantino in this first of two parts but oh, that writing! Frank Robbins, here making his DC debut, was already a veteran comic STRIP writer/artist (of the Caniff school) best known for his many years of JOHNNY HAZARD. Inventive and action-packed, his airplane themed continuities (reprinted by Ken Pierce years later) were quite enjoyable. He would later write some of the era’s best BATMAN stories. His art by that stage, unfortunately, always seemed to me to be quite frankly just horrid! On BATMAN, THE SHADOW and Marvel’s INVADERS I just wanted to scream at his bizarre anatomy or outlandish (and anachronistic) hairdos! Even his later HAZARDs as seen in THE MENOMONEE FALLS GAZETTE look like they were done by a highly stylized amateur. AAAARRRRGGHHH!!!
None of which prepares one for this outrageous FLASH story in which police scientist Barry Allen and his wife Iris, on vacation in the Far East, stop off to ask an old Japanese police friend about a still-at-large war criminal as a favor to "the Chief". Since the Chief of the Central City police probably doesn't care that much about him, my guess is that Barry's talking about the Doom Patrol's Chief! Makes sense! Anyway, the friend, Capt. Hash, has the stereotypical Japanese difficulty in pronouncing certain letters…so of course this is milked throughout the book for humiliating laughs at his expense! Even the villain is later revealed to have the same problem. Not so the hero’s girlfriend, however, who is said to have graduated from UCLA.
Barry and Iris also meet up with an Akira Kurosawa-like film director (known for his Samurai pictures) who knew Barry back at UCLA. (Him too?) The director refers to Barry as "Flash" only to have our hero whisper to his wife that this had been his nickname on some unspecified sports team back in school! Hmmm…Isn’t Central City supposed to be Chicago? Why was Barry Allen at UCLA? And wasn’t he a science geek known for being slow? Was the "Flash" moniker some sort of dig? And say, why didn’t Iris know about this nickname?
While the director is flirting shamelessly with Iris, Barry’s "Flash senses" kick in. WHAT TH…!??? Hey, Frank, just cuz Peter Parker has a Spider-sense doesn’t mean Barry Allen gets a "Flash-sense!" I’m serious.
A dead samauri is found and Hash demonstrates just how impervious to harm his armor is by firing into it with a .357 Magnum…point blank in a tiny room. Wonder where those bullets went?
Flash ends up fighting flying robot Samauris and a master swordsman before being taken prisoner until the following issue.
When Flash finally confronts the villain’s swordsman sidekick, though, the caption mentions that he is left with egg on his face. Somehow or other, Flasher SEES or hears that comment because…HE FREAKIN’ ANSWERS IT!!!!!! " No appetite for eggs now," he says.
Finally, check out the two seemingly random footnotes in the story’s final couple of panels. Welcome to DC Frank. Tomorrow we’ll have a few panels from part two of this story which, for eighteen years, was used at our house by my parents to keep a broken window jammed shut.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Rare Fred Hembeck



Since the recent publication of Fred Hembeck's book, THE NEARLY COMPLETE ESSENTIAL HEMBECK ARCHIVES OMNIBUS (review forthcoming!), it seems to have become a bit of a badge of honor to find forgotten Hembeck art that didn't make the telephone book sized volume. Well, here's my contribution-from the controversial 1978 fanzine AFTA, here are 4 spot illustrations from Fred that I do NOT find in the book. A full page from the smae 'zine featuring the Charlton heroes DOES appear in the new book but apparently these cute l'il drawings were passed by...until now. Spider-Man, obviously, Red Sonja and a couple of PLOP-like people.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Challenging Letters


Perhaps surprisingly, I never was much of a comics letterhack. Oh, I wrote my first letter to GREEN LANTERN in 1966 when I still had to have my mother write out what I wanted to say for me. My first published LOC was in ADVENTURE in '68. Unless I'm misremembering at the moment (and I've been over all this before here at the Library so feel free to check yourself) my only other published letters were in LOIS LANE and (under a pseudonym) in VAMPIRELLA circa 1972. Both of those latter two were rewritten in-house to give whoever responded the chance to plug something that I never even mentioned in my original. I was disillusioned and probably gave up after that. Still it's always fun to read through old letters pages and find familiar names!
I regularly bought CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN, a Kirby-created title that was, for years, churned out with entertaining but unspectacular stories and art by Arnold Drake and Bob Brown. Drake's plots were good if not always original and his dialogue (especially during the "camp" phase that all comics seemed to go through thanks to the BATMAN TV series) was often an unhip person's version of "hip." Brown--who would later become known for SUPERBOY and a good run on the pre-Miller DAREDEVIL--was a dependable if decidedly unflashy craftsman. (One of the two pieces of original art I actually posess is by Bob Brown...with Wally Wood inks but still!)
Anyway, there is a good chance that I MIGHT have written to CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN but if I did, nothing was published. Here, however, on this letters page from 1968's issue 61, we find not one but TWO familiar names to us bloggers! Mark Evanier and Tony Isabella! Interestingly enough, at the bottom of the page is also a letter from a Ronnie Wilson. Anybody know if this could be RON Wilson who would become known as a definitive seventies/eighties artist on THE THING? Throw in Irene Vartanoff (I used to think that name was fake for some reason!) who was published in just about EVERY DC mag of the day and who would, herself, go on to work there behind the scenes a decade later and this one is just chock-full of future talent!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Movies That Fell Through the Cracks # 39


DIRTY KNIGHT'S WORK (AKA TRIAL BY COMBAT) was barely released in 1976. Produced by Fred Weintraub and Paul Heller, the folks who had brought you Bruce Lee's ENTER THE DRAGON just three years earlier it proved to be yet another strong hint that they might be one trick ponies. It's an interesting premise. A society of medievel recreationists enforce their own system of justice in present day England. When they kill off old Peter Cushing (right around the time he would have been making STAR WARS) though, his American nephew comes to investigate. Familiar TV face David Birney is the nephew and while he was never a major presence, he certainly always was a pleasure to see in anything. The great supporting cast includes Donald (HALLOWEEN) Pleasance, Sir John (father of Hayley and Juliet) Mills and British mainstay Margaret Leighton in her final film--she died that same year. The film's director was Kevin Conner, a journeyman who started out doing cheap horror films like the cheesy MOTEL HELL and the wonderful Amicus anthology FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE ( also with Leighton and Cushing) and more recently has become a dependable TV movie helmer. As far as the ad itself which was for a preview, I can't help but notice a seeming attempt at Pythonesque humor. HOLY GRAIL was also released in 1976.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Cult Movie Stars


It's been awhile since we just grabbed a book off the shelves here at the Library to write about so let's remedy that today. Okay, let me close my eyes and spin around...then reach out and grab...CULT MOVIE STARS by Danny Peary! Whatever happened to Danny Peary, author of a number of minutely detailed books on classic movies, cult films and baseball? Anyway, this volume came as a bit of a disappointment to me when published in 1991. After three incredible and amazing volumes of CULT MOVIES, this one seemed a natural. The problem is that it is NOT as detailed as his other books, preferring instead to use its 600 plus pages to offer capsule summaries of a decidedly mixed bag of actors ranging from silent films to contemporary porn films. Thus, Marilyn Chambers ends up with nearly equal coverage to that of both Eddie Deezen and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr! Deezen, of course, is the type of star who really deserves coverage in a book like this because he was unlikely to get it anywhere else. Other true cult figures covered include Joy Bang, Michael Berryman, Bud Cort, Linnea Quigley, Laird Cregar, Sid James, Uschi Digart, Bruce Dern, Jacques Tati, Steve Reeves, Caroline Munro and yes, Linda Blair! Although they certainly fit a broader definition of the word "cult," it seems a little wasteful to me to include Brando, Nicholson, John Wayne and Marilyn Monroe. And while it's nice to see a reference on the "classic" era adult stars like Sharon Mitchell, Shauna Grant, Lisa De Leeuw and John Holmes, they still seem somehow out of place here. A fascinating read but it probably works better overall as a bathroom book than a useful reference.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Dubble Bubble


I don't chew gum. Haven't in about 40 years now. My mother loved Juicy Fruit Gum and when I was young I liked Fruit Stripe Gum. What I never ever liked though was Bazooka Bubble Gum. The reason, I believe, was that I first discovered Fleer's Dubble Bubble! Bazooka had the eyepatched bazooka Joe as its mascot but Dubble Bubble had the unfortunately named "Pud." Pud is seen here looking like a younger, plumper version of Waldo in a 1950's comic strip ad for Dubble Bubble.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Hello Dali



One of my favorite things about living with my late mother-in-law (which my wife and I did about 15 years ago) was admiring the two Salvador Dali prints she had. As longtime readers might recall, she passed on nearly a year ago and as we began to clean out her things, the Dalis were nowhere to be found. It was presumed that she sold them as she sunk deeper into illness in recent years. Then, this weekend, as I was digging through the back of a downstairs closet trying to finish the long drawn out cleaning process for a pending sale I found a large sealed box and in the box...the Dalis!
The pictures seen here are from the Net, not scans (they're too big for my scanner)but this is them! EL CID is from a 1968 unlimited series of etchings. Although signed only in etching it is a fascinating piece--part of a selection of 4 heroes by Dali--and I used to admire it for long minutes at a time.
The second is my favorite though. PARIS AND HELEN OF TROY, done in multiple colors and highlighting several of the artist's surrealistic trademarks, is signed and numbered. Number 237 out of only 1000 prints made. Although signed in pencil in the lower right hand corner, it's interesting to note that in latter days, Dali apparently decided it would be quite surreal to have someone other than Dali himself sign his prints! Thus there may be no way to tell if this was actually signed by him even though it IS an official print!!!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Starlet-the New Christa Helm Website


STARLET is a site created by reader Erin who has become fascinated by all aspects of Christa Helm's life and career and wants to help her achieve some measure of the fame she coveted so much in life. It went online today at Starlet - Christa Helm - Christa Helm website. The main attraction of the site is that it will attempt to correlate all of the material from various sources (including last month's 48 HOURS MYSTERY as well as John's and my published research) and present Christa to folks who otherwise might never have heard of her. Good luck, Erin!