Thursday, July 31, 2008

1956 Election Preview-The Democrats




I really don’t know how this nifty little political booklet came to be in our collection but its 30 pages (sponsored by a brand of Kentucky whisky!) pack a wealth of trivia and information regarding the US and its presidents as well the then current conventions.
The pages seen here include the names of those deemed most likely at the time to become the presidential or vice-presidential candidates. You can click on the pages and read their bios up through mid-1956 but with the benefit of hindsight, let’s take a look at what happened to these one-time headline-making players.
First up:
THE DEMOCRATS
WILLIAM AVERELL HARRIMAN-a highly respected politician and statesman, Harriman was considered too left wing for the small town world of the mid fifties. His presidential aspirations dashed, he lost the governership of New York to Nelson Rockefeller in ’58. He went on to serve in various capacities in democratic administrations and died in 1986 at the age of 94.
LYNDON B. JOHNSON-LBJ didn’t get the nod in ’56 but in ’60 he would, of course, become the allegedly less than thrilled veep candidate under JFK. Succeeding Kennedy upon his assassination, Johnson’s administration would see civil rights reforms and the escalation of the Vietnam War. The latter would cause him to give up any thoughts of reelection in 1968. He retired to his Texas ranch where he grew his hair out a little and looked silly before his death in 1973.
ESTES KEFAUVER-To comic book fans, Kefauver and his committees were as bad as Joe McCarthy! He was, however, a popular liberal chosen to run as vice-presidential candidate in ’56. After losing, he was looked at as a shoe-in for the 1960 nomination but declined to seek it. He had a massive heart attack on the Senate floor in 1962 and died a couple of days later.
FRANK J. LAUSCHE-a two term governor of Ohio, he went on to be elected to the Senate in 1956 where he stayed for more than a decade. A bit too conservative, he lost out in 1969. He died in 1990.
RICHARD BREVARD RUSSELL- A Senator for parts of 5 decades, he was one of several mentors to LBJ. He remained in the Senate until his death in 1971.
ADLAI STEVENSON-The thinking man’s politician. Dull but smarter than the average Bush, he was a perennial candidate but never quite got to the White House. In 1960 he did not seek the nomination but rather publicly hoped to be drafted. When JFK won the nomination, however, he was all for him, hoping to be named Secretary of State. Passed over for even that position, he became UN Ambassador until his 1965 death.
STUART SYMINGTON-He ran again in 1960 where he might well have been Kennedy’s choice for number two man if not for the fact that he refused to speak before segregated audiences in the South. He continued his public service in various and occasionally controversial roles. He died in 1988.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Movies That Fell Through the Cracks # 41


Yes, I'm sticking with the numbering, okay? Deal. Anyway, with Brendan Fraser dealing with mummies again this summer, I find myself reminded of this barely remembered 1980 nonsense starring the late NRA poster boy, Chuck Heston. THE AWAKENING sorta snuck into theaters as I recall with little publicity. Based on a story by DRACULA author Bram Stoker, Moses' return to Egypt some 25 years later proved to be a fairly dull affair. Billed and marketed as a traditional mummy movie with the great ad seen here, it's more a tale of reincarnation and/or posession as Heston's daughter (the wonderful but never has quite caught on to this day Stephanie Zimbalist) becomes one with an ancient evil queen. Long, dull stretches and soap opera level performances abound but few thrills and fewer chills. Maybe it's because of THE AWAKENING that it took another 19 years before mummies caught on again in pictures!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Return of the Pink Panther Ads



Was at the grocery last night with a young friend and she saw some cheap DVD's. Noting that they were bound two in a pckage for $5.00 each, she exclaimed something along the lines of , "Oooo! Look! Pink Panther! You like the Pink Panther, don't you?" Answering in the affirmative, I then attempted to explain to her that I could not buy that package at any price because of the bizarre pairing of the very early Clouseu film, A SHOT IN THE DARK with the very late Clouseu film, THE PINK PANTHER STRIKES AGAIN. She didn't get it. Another friend didn't get it awhile back when I explained that I could never buy the "definitive" box set that had come out because it didn't even include RETURN OF THE PINK PANTHER! How definitive is it if it leaves out the very film that re-launched Peter Sellers' career after years of ego-fueled stumbling through ridiculously inappropriate vehicles!?
In spite of the casting of suave Christopher Plummer in the role created by the equally suave (but in a totally different way) David Niven, RETURN was arguably the best of all the sequels by virtue of having more actual plot and less silliness just for the sake of silliness. Don't get me wrong! I love all the Panther pictures made while Peter the Great was alive. I just prefer RETURN OF THE PINK PANTHER.
Here are a few of the newspaper teaser ads that ran leading up to the film's original 1975 debut. This practice was repeated with subsequent Panther movies, often with regional tie-ins. We'll run more in the future.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Virgil Finlay Comics



I scanned these awhile back but I can't recall now which issue of SHOWCASE they were in. Doesn't really matter, I guess, because I'm pretty sure they were reprints there from REAL FACT COMICS ten-fifteen years earlier. Either way, it's two color pages by Virgil Finlay, one of the great pulp and sci-fi illustrators (and a favorite of at least a couple of my readers!). Finlay died in 1971 just as his work was being rediscovered so he probably didn't know just how revered he was by fans even then.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Return of Captain Tootsie


Normally these comic strip candy ads that were omnipresent for a decade from the mid-forties on were done by CAPTAIN MARVEL artists C.C. Beck and/or Pete Costanza. Here's a slightly different take from cartoonist Bill Schrieber for your weekend enjoyment.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Gravedigger and Coffin Ed


Far from fallen through the cracks but unjustly ignored for DVD release, here are two enjoyable seventies films from the Library’s collection—COTTON COMES TO HARLEM and COME BACK CHARLESTON BLUE. Made in 1970 and 1972 respectively, they aren’t exactly "blaxploitation" films and yet "Cotton" is often credited with starting that very genre. What they are, in fact, are two gritty, in your face old-fashioned crime pictures that just happen to have a Harlem setting. Oh, and did I mention that they’re also very funny?
Based on the hard-boiled detective stories of author Chester Himes that date back to the 1930’s, both films feature his characters Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson. Now here’s the strange part. We learn little or nothing ABOUT these two—just their names and their general dispositions. As played by actor comedian Godfrey Cambridge and the tough but classy Raymond St. Jacques, though, the "Digger" and Ed have great on-screen chemistry.
The first film was written and directed by the late, great Ossie Davis (JFK in BUBBA HO-TEP!) and features the very charismatic Calvin Lockhart as a Harlem preacher collecting money from the locals that then disappears in a hail of gunfire. A bale of cotton falls from the getaway truck and becomes the mcguffin in the plot. Everyone is after it but local junk dealer Redd Foxx (presaging his SANFORD AND SON role in what is essentially his first film role) finds it only to disappear himself.
Judy Pace gives a solid performance that starts out as a sexy romp and ends up multi-layered with her as a abused woman. Other good seventies character actors appearing include Cleavon Little (BLAZING SADDLES), Eugene Roche (the dishwasher guy in commercials) and J.D. Cannon (McCLOUD’s "Chief"). Stage actor Dick Sabol is hilarious as a doofus white cop who gets tricked by just about everyone.
Add a perfect, surprisingly understated score and a marvelous and unexpected ending and COTTON COMES TO HARLEM comes up a winner all around. And to my way of thinking, COME BACK CHARLESTON BLUE is even better!
Made a couple years later and, with its drug theme, a bit edgier, this sequel deals with the rumored return of a legendary deceased gangster and how various characters in Harlem deal with the news. Wonderful Percy Rodrigues is added as the new police chief (since he always reminded me of St. Jacques, it’s strange to see them together!) and Minnie Gentry is lovely as "Her Majesty." Sabol and a few other supporting actors return making this look like a later episode of a POLICE STORY-style TV series.
Missing Davis’s sure direction, replacement Mark Warren (TV’s TURN ON!!!) does a good job, especially with the character scenes. Music here is by the ill-fated Donny Hathaway as supervised by the great Quincy Jones.
Both films focus on contemporary African-American issues but still make for compelling and fun viewing for those of any race. Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson turn up surprisingly halfway through the 1980’s movie A RAGE IN HARLEM also but played by lesser actors (Cambridge died in ‘75) and not offered as the major characters they are really rather superfluous. The shot locally film does, however, give the viewer at least an inkling of what they would be like set in the earlier decades of the ‘30’s, ‘40’s and ‘50’s as in the books rather then being transplanted whole into the ‘70’s as in Cotton and Charlston.
Finally, I’m on record elsewhere as saying that a good snow scene can make a movie. COME BACK CHARLESTON BLUE has a really nice snow scene!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Viking Prince Ad


If you've been following the comments, you'll all know that we solved the riddle of the paperback cover mysyery for Robby Reed and Chris Noel (thanks for the shoutout, Chris!). Turned out not to be a sword and sorcery cover at all but a Viking cover! WEST WITH THE VIKINGS to be exact. Sometimes it's hard to remember that Vikings were as popular as elephant jokes back in the day! In movies like THE VIKINGS and VIKING WOMEN VERSUS THE SEA SERPENT but also in comics! That brings us to this full page ad for DC's BRAVE AND THE BOLD strip, THE VIKING PRINCE! The cover looks a tad wonkyin the ad because it was one of those nifty Idon'tknowwhatchacallem fancied up semi-realistic covers that DC slapped on SEA DEVILS, GREEN LANTERN and a few others around that time. VIKING PRINCE was given a valiant try and a number of nostalgic revivals but never really caught on before the Viking trend faded into the background to make room for the Beatniks, spies, Japanese monsters, surfing and the British Invasion.

The Return of Ambush Bug


Well, I wasn't able to blog on Tuesday because I had to go straight from my Aunt's funeral to work. I had every intention of blogging last evening as soon as I returned from same but MY FREAKING CAR BROKE DOWN AGAIN!!!!!! Didn't get in 'til well after Midnight and the car is now back in the shop for the fourth...fifth? time since Thanksgiving! The one bright spot in recent hours that's really made me smile has been the new AMBUSH BUG comic! That's right. After all these years, someone has let the original Bug-team of Keith Giffen and Robert Loren Fleming out of their cages for some of the sharpest comics commentary this side of Fred Hembeck! Not to mention the arcane and obscure silver age references and bizarre "revelations" such as the fact that the original Bat-Girl was the love child of Sue Dibny and the Phantom Stranger!!! Me, I just want to read a whole line of comics set on Earth 6 where it's always the swingin' sixties! (Love those go-go checks!) DC silver age fans who don't mind a bit of learned deconstruction need to go buy this comic now!

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Dark Knight Reviewed



As I’ve mentioned here before, if I don’t see a movie within about a week of its debut, I probably won’t see it until it hits cable or DVD. Thus, with all of the attendant hype, I made a strong effort to see THE DARK KNIGHT and thanks to Pres. Bush’s belated stimulus check I was able to do so yesterday…and it was good!
Is it the greatest comic book movie ever? Well, not a clear winner anyway. Maybe if I thought awhile on that one… What it is, however, is a dark, loud, brassy, sassy crime thriller that just happens to have a couple of insane men circling each other at its center. The obvious thing that sets THE DARK KNIGHT apart from most superhero films is the acting. One could make a case that Gary Oldman is one of our greatest living film actors and here he shows it with an uncharacteristically quiet, nuanced performance as Lt (and later Commisioner Gordon). This is a man who literally became Sid Vicious, Count Dracula, Beethoven and even Harry Potter’s Sirius Black! You couldn’t tell it from his classy performance here. Given more to do than in the last picture, he excels wonderfully but never steals a single scene!
Aaron Eckhart, an actor with whom I was previously unfamiliar, is a handsome, charismatic, scene-stealing (he’s the one!) Harvey Dent…and we all knew where THAT was going, didn’t we? My young companion was a tad slow to the revelation but at one point, she whispered a sotto voce "Two-Face!" In any other film, Eckhart might have walked away with the picture. As everyone is sadly all too aware, however, THE DARK KNIGHT is not just any film.
Heath Ledger. He’s dead. I was sad. I wasn’t a huge fan. In fact, just a night or two before his death, I had caught 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU on cable and that was probably the first thing I had ever seen him in. I was, however, immediately impressed. Knowing full well that he had already portrayed the Joker in this then-yet-to-be-released film, I became hopeful for a wild ride. In spite of the hype, I was not disappointed.
Heath Ledger is honestly way too good for this picture! His anarchistic Joker is never really given a solid backstory; he just exists as if bringing the chaos back to Gotham City’s order was his karmic duty. The actor imbues the role with quirks and ticks and a bizarre sense of not fitting in. If you notice, he remains remarkably calm in nearly every scene where all hell is breaking loose around him and maniacally wired only when everyone else seems still.
His voice is creepy, his look is genuinely scary and the things he does are so violently nonsensical that one literally has no idea what he’s likely to do next! That said, it is far from the expected over-the-top performance seen from his predecessors, Cesar Romero and Jack Nicholson. It is clearly well-thought out and designed for maximum effect and yet not overplayed. Does he deserve an Oscar nod? Don’t know. Again, I think the main reason he stands out is because he’s too good for the room.
Another reason Ledger’s performance resonates is that it plays off of Christian Bale’s Batman and he’s the weak spot of the movie! Seriously, he’s perfectly fine in the dual lead role but overshown even by the legendary Michael Caine effortlessly giving depth to Alfred the butler—a character not exactly known for his depth! Given a serious script and a realistic-looking batsuit, Bale is a credible Caped Crusader and an intelligent, civic-minded Bruce Wayne. Even the love triangle with Aaron Eckhart and Maggie Gylenhaal is smoothly played.
While there are some amusing moments, there are no outright laughs in THE DARK KNIGHT, just thrills, chills and a complicated crime story eventually overshadowed by the philosophical forces of order and chaos as represented by Batman and the Joker in their age-old struggle. With sharp writing and impressive direction, it is an excellent superhero movie. Go see it! (I’ll wait)
Seen here is me in the Joker T-shirt from sometime in the 1990’s that I dug out of mothballs for the occasion. Let’s face it, if I didn’t wear it to see this movie, what COULD I wear it to??

Saturday, July 19, 2008

What's Up With Me


Sorry for the lack of more substantial postings lately. Don't you hate it when real life gets in the way of blogging? I mean seriously...! Thought I'd offer a brief update of what's going on in my life these days.


First of all, yesterday we lost my 104 year old Aunt (and beloved grandmother of Rick from the blog On My Mind ). While that obviously will lead to an emotional week upcoming, my wife and I are also hoping the week plays out as planned and we are finally able to complete closing on the house we're selling this next Friday after two postponements. This should lead to our personal financial picture being stabilized for the first time in a decade! With my personal blood pressure and stress issues, this would definitely help!

I haven't seen THE DARK KNIGHT (or any other summer movies except IRON MAN) but this past week that darn stimulus check finally showed and I hope to use part of that to see it (and the rest for gas!).

On television, I'm watching absolutely nothing currently. On the 'Net, I try to keep up with old WKRP IN CINCINNATI episodes at Something Old, Nothing New, WHAT'S MY LINE clips on YOUTUBE and the odd TV rarities such as Woody Allen interviewing Billy Graham in 1969.

The Christa Helm piece is temporarily on hold but most definitely not dead. Within the past week alone, I have spoken to a couple of folks in connection with the project.
What am I reading currently? Well, I'm still wading through the massive but wondrous collection that is--for short--HEMBECK. Full review to come. I'm also finishing up THE ESSENTIAL IRON MAN vol. 3 with its wonderful George Tuska/Johnny Craig art and wondering now if tge pages are re-creations as has come out recently on the Web. Sigh. This week, I also started David Kaufman's no holds barred but still admiring new biography of DORIS DAY, ironically (someone went for the joke!) published by Virgin Publishing!

Add to all of that continued work stress, family issues and the fact that I've spent the past two weeks cat-sitting for two different friends and learning how to play YAHTZEE in 90 degree heat and you'll see I'm spreading myself a tad thin.

Oh, one more thing! Precious, our nearly ten year old dog that thinks he's still a pup, continues to survive and thrive after his cancer scare earlier this year.Here's a pic I literally just now snapped! Thanks again, MW!
Hope all of you are doing well out there. Stay tuned for much more pop goodness!

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told/ Stacked Deck

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. I admit that I don’t pay too much attention to these things any more so for all I know this has just been reissued and you all have copies on your laps even as we speak.
What we have here is 1988’s THE GREATEST JOKER STORIES EVER TOLD in its original DC edition along with STACKED DECK, the expanded 1990 leather bound edition done exclusively for Waldenbooks by their publishing imprint, Longmeadow Press.
Kyle Baker (with whom I share mutual Facebook friends!) did the colorful original cover and Dean Motter the atmospheric remix. Denny O’Neil, longtime keeper of the Bat-flame (and novelizer of the current DARK KNIGHT) has an introduction in the fancy edition. Both copies feature the same intelligent overview by Mike Gold but the original has choicer illustrations.
As to the stories, both volumes offer a splendid mix from Golden Age to the (then) present, running the gamut from the genuinely evil early appearances through the silly-ass Joker of the mid-forties, the clownish, ineffectual nuisance of the fifties and early sixties to the downright scary serial killer as redefined by O'Neil and Neal Adams and Steve Englehart and Marshal Rogers.
Amongst a few other additions, the collectors’ version adds a story by the splendid team of Mike Barr/Alan Davis/Paul Neary/John Workman from a truly nifty run in DETECTIVE in which the Joker comes across decidedly gay on top of everything else, perhaps shading his long hatred of the Caped Crusader in ways never really dealt with before or since.
Finally, the big book has an afterword by Dick Giordano and both end a nicely written piece filling in the character's blanks by the very knowledgeable Mark Waid (who could be called the modern E. Nelson Bridwell).
Strangely, the upscale volume was remaindered and I picked it up for $2.99 around 1993! Longmeadow did a similar job with THE GREATEST BATMAN STORIES EVER TOLD, itself featuring some prime Joker appearances, too!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Comedian Caricatures in Batman


Here's a panel from an early 1940's BATMAN mystery in DETECTIVE COMICS in which the storyline features thinly disguised versions of famous movie and radio comedians being menaced by an unknown stalker! From left to right the REAL folks would be Eddie (Banjo Eyes) Cantor, W. C. Fields, Jack Benny, Fred Allen and...hmmm...Buster Keaton?


More substantial posts return in a few days so stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bob Hope Ad


Just finishing up a Bob Hope movie on TCM that I'd never seen before--RHYTHM ROMANCE. Long since retitled on television from its original SOME LIKE IT HOT ( for obvious reasons). It's short, fast-paced, funny and with a bunch of swell familiar character actors like Rufe Davis and hometown girl Una Merkel. For some reason, though, it reminded me of THE ADVENTURES OF BOB HOPE comic book that DC published for nearly two decades. That brought to mind this mid-sixties ad for same and made me wonder if they had to pay Bob extra for having his cartoon doppelganger plug the comic in the ad! Although it wouldn't surprise me to find out he'd never read a single issue, Hope reportedly kept a mint condition set!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Missing William Shatner

Not much to say about today’s book-off-the shelf mainly because it’s in German and I don’t read German. As a big STAR TREK fan, however, whose early internet excursions were often to TREK sites, I couldn’t let this 1997 guidebook pass.
It also, however, serves to illustrate the story of my near-miss of meeting William Shatner this past week. Yep, while I was off work last Tuesday and up way too early watching THE DOOMSDAY MACHINE on a Classic TREK rerun, little did I realize that Captain Kirk was boldly going to turn up at my job that day.
Sad to say, reports are that "the Shat" lived up to his reputation. Through the magic of security cams, I was able to see his brief "visit" in which he seemed to stay only until he was recognized. One employee followed him out and asked if she could ask him for his autograph and he reportedly replied, "If you must." He reluctantly signed after requesting the employee to block him so others wouldn’t see. A second employee came out and he refused to sign any more…politely, I’m told.
On the security cam, he was seen to be wearing an outrageously loud Hawaiian type shirt with a matching floppy hat—not exactly the kind of thing you wear if you don’t want to be noticed.
I had one friend who once told me that Shatner was amazingly nice to her and showed me a twenty minute video of her encounter as shot by her sister. I pointed out that of course he WOULD be nice to her cuz’ she was getting it all on tape!!!!
Over the decades I’ve met George Takai, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, DeForrest Kelly, James Doohan, and most of the STTNG cast and every one of them has been just wonderful.
In recent months, some of the celebs who’ve wandered through my store include Mary Matalin (very nice), Tony Shaloub (very tired but friendly), Ron Jeremy (impressive as all get out), Nick Lachey (extremely friendly) and Vanessa Manillo (a little curt but very pretty!) so I can’t complain that I’m never there when the famous folk wander through. Still, I know William Shatner’s not into all the fan worship so I doubt I would’ve expected anything else. Would have been nice to have seen one of my long-time heroes, though, if only for a second.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Jerry Lewis and the Price of Gas


$19.50 for 50 gallons!!?? WOW!! But then...you had to put up with nebbishes like that guy at so-called "service" stations. Still, I paid $33.00 for gas the other day and it barely got my tank half full. Low prices might be worth the nebbish cost. Nostalgia...as they say...isn't what it used to be.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Trailers


Trailers. Sometimes all the nostalgia you need is in the movie trailers. You don’t really need to see the whole film. Just the preview. Maybe that’s why I so enjoyed the eighties trend of taking old movie trailers (many of which no one bothered to copyright) and doing VHS compilations on certain themes. They were cheap and often poorly recorded but they were fun damn it! As I say, they were often even more fun than sitting down and watching hours and hours of the movies themeselves!
Seen here are JERRY LEWIS AT THE MOVIES, DRACULA IN THE MOVIES, ABBOTT AND COSTELLO IN THE MOVIES and MONSTER MANIA. Also in the collection here are trailer compilations from James Bond films, Bowery Boys films, the CARRY ON series, Godzilla films (in the original Japanese!) and a surprisingly dull collection from late sixties/early seventies adult films. For the most part these were usually under-the-radar bargain bin items that you were lucky to find at all but they usually were actual releases, not just somebody’s mail order dubs.
I recently saw a couple of new grindhouse trailer compilations on DVD in stores so maybe the trend is coming back! I’d love to see MGM musicals, Doris Day films, Hitchcock pictures, spaghetti westerns, Cary Grant films, Bob Hope comedies and Disney trailers! Wow! The possibilities are endless and the entertainment value high. Not only that, if you work it right these collections could still be used to sell the actual pictures themselves on disc!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Sword and Sorcery Mystery!


Mark Evanier always says that whenever he has a question all he has to do is post about it on his site and the answers pour in immediately. Well, I don't have his readership but I know I can count on you guys! Loyal reader (I'm not worthy!) Robby Reed of DIAL B for BLOG - THE WORLD'S GREATEST COMIC BLOGAZINE, is looking to identify the book cover for which this picture was shot as reference. If you know right off the top of your head, please post the answer. If not, please feel free to repost on your own blogs until we find someone who does!
Here's what we know:
The girl is Chris Noel, a 1960's starlet and later a favorite with our boys overseas. IMDB says she was born in 1941. By the mid-'60's she was working steadily in film and TV so that would seem to date this to the early part of the decade. Hard to tell as she played one for so long but she could still be a real teenager here.
The man is Steve Holland, TV's FLASH GORDON in the early fifties and later a successful male model for many years known best as James Bama's model for DOC SAVAGE in the sixties/seventies ( and even eighties by other artists) reprints. Holland continued modeling for romances, westerns and sci-fi covers until not long before his 1997 death and always looked good but here he looks like he probably would have in the late fifties/early sixties.
Obviously, it has a sword and sorcery feel but outside of CONAN, the real heyday of that type of paperback was in the early seventies. This definitely looks to predate that by at least a decade. Note, though, that it could concievably be for a romance cover!
I've scoured through old MEDIASCENES, sci-fi histories and mass market paperback cover collections as well as sites on Holland, S & S and various cover artists to no avail. I've got a bad toothache and I have to return to work at 4:30 AM so I thought I'd throw the ball to you guys! Have fun!

Would You Believe...?



As GET SMART—in spite of lukewarm reviews—proves itself a comedy hit this summer, let’s revisit the era of the original TV series (as we often do around here). Just how popular was GET SMART in the mid-sixties? Well, it may not have been as popular as BATMAN but it was enough to spawn this undoubtedly unofficial spin-off—"Would You Believe…? Cards." Exploiting one of Max’s (and Don Adams’) signature bits, here we have someone attempting to make a quick buck off of GET SMART without having to license a darn thing! Of course, nowadays, Don could have probably sued for intellectual property theft.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Human Torch Portrait


Hey, found this on the 'Net today. It's an obvious companion piece to the CAPTAIN AMERICA portrait we ran the other day!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Random Panels of Comic Book Weirdness # 35


From a late 1962 issue of SUPERBOY, here we have the delightful image of Jonathan and Martha Kent mistaking a hand grenade exploding in Superbaby's tummy for Supergas! Excuse me, indeed!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam




All I have to say is how the HELL did THIS get published in today's comics market??!! That said, why are you still sitting there? GO! BUY IT NOW! This is my new favorite thing! And go visit creator Mike Kunkel's art blog at The Astonish Factory's Center for Babbling and Scribbles.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Mutual Radio Theater



Barney Beck, the great radio sound effects man, once told me that I’d missed my calling and had I been born a few decades earlier, I could have been big in radio. While this was undeniably a great compliment, it also serves to play up the fact that radio…even dramatic radio, is not what it used to be!
Every time some well-meaning folks have decided to try dramatic radio since the early sixties, it hasn’t quite worked. It’s hard to put your finger on why but in spite of the enthusiasm and occasional technical expertise that far surpassed that of the "golden age," modern age radio dramas and comedies just seem to be missing that magic.
THEATER FIVE in 1965 came close with Fred Foy announcing and lots of veterans on air and behind the scenes but it still—starting with its oh-so-sixties theme music—missed the mark. Himan Brown’s mid-seventies CBS RADIO MYSTERY THEATER hosted by EG Marshall was enjoyable and I often put it on late at night as I was discovering OTR but it still seemed slow and often dull by comparison. BRADBURY 13 was wonderful but still seems kind of sterile. The same with Carl Amari’s recent radio TWILIGHT ZONE. The Canadian NIGHTFALL was adult, gory fun and may be the best of the lot but even it can be slow going at times.
Various one-off productions over the years have made the same mistakes, taking months sometimes to write, produce and perform a dull one hour radio play that forty years earlier would have gone from concept to air in less than a week and been better paced and more enjoyable. Even Canada and the BBC, where the concept of dramatic radio never really died off, often turn out the most boring pieces! Have you ever tried to listen to one of the BBC’s interminable DOCTOR WHO radio serials of recent years? How do you make DOCTOR WHO seem dull?
Then we come to the MUTUAL RADIO THEATER. The most potential and yet one of the biggest offenders of all. Like most of the latter-day attempts, MRT was an anthology series but this five day a week series offered a different genre and a different celebrity host for every night of the week.
Monday was Western night hosted by BONANZA’s Lorne Greene (himself a veteran of Canadian radio). Tuesday was Comedy night presented by Andy Griffith. On Wednesday, Vincent Price—a radio man from way back—offered Mystery. Thursday featured Cicely Tyson with Romance and Friday perhaps incongruously offered Leonard (I AM NOT SPOCK) Nimoy with Adventure night.
An immediate inherent fault in this format was the fact that if you liked mysteries and adventures, you would only listen on Wednesdays and Fridays. If you only wanted a few laughs, you’d only tune in on Tuesday. Since listening to radio in the evenings was hardly a regular habit for most folks by 1980, more than likely you wouldn’t even remember from week to week.
It might have helped if the series had gotten listings, reviews or other publicity in newspapers but quite frankly if the MUTUAL RADIO THEATER even played in the Cincinnati market I was never aware of it.
Seen here is a box of LPs I picked up used in the mid-eighties and this was the first I had even heard of the series! As you can see by the notes that came with the box, the entire set was supposed to have been contractually destroyed "to avoid accidental rebroadcast" but somebody at some station chose to just sell them… at least for the week of April 21, 1980.
To say I was excited was putting it mildly but I have rarely been so disappointed. Take a look at the episode listings and you see the names of the legendary Arch Oboler, the great Elliot Lewis and one of the great radio writers, Fletcher Markle. Sigh. Maybe it’s just that "you can’t go home again" thing but even these great radio creators prove to be…here’s that word again…dull!
Add to that performances from folks such as Toni Tennille who just don’t have the right "vibe" for radio and each of these episodes comes across as a pointless attempt to recapture lightning in a bottle. The hosts, the truly big name celebrities, probably recorded all of their intros at once to be edited in as they often seem not to have even heard the episodes. Seriously, I’d bet Cicely Tyson in particular was a little too busy during that period to run to a Mutual studio once a week for just a few minutes work. Maybe Vinnie could squeeze it in between HOLLYWOOD SQUARES episodes but…
THE MUTUAL RADIO THEATER didn’t last very long. I hate to sound so cynical as I dearly love the amazing power of radio at its best and maybe it’s just me pining for what might have been but…sigh. I keep listening whenever there’s a new radio production but it’s hard to convince folks in this fast-paced world that this art form is actually one of the best because it all takes place in your own head. As I once wrote elsewhere, I’d hate to see dramatic radio go the way of Sanskrit to be studied only by scholars in dusty listening rooms.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Captain America For Independence day


Here, from the early 1940's, is a more traditional and yet rarely seen look at the Star-Spangled Avenger and his trusty sidekick.

Random Panels of Comic Book Weirdness # 34


What would July 4th be here in the Us of A without baseball, hot dogs and...CAPTAIN AMERICA? Here, in art credited to Carl Burgos and Al Gabriele in GCD, is Cap from 1948's MARVEL MYSTERY COMICS #88. The girl with him is Bucky's little-known replacement (seriously!) Golden Girl (AKA the patriotically named Betsy Ross). Sometimes, as in this particular case, the panel may not have been all that weird in its original context but becomes weirder due to then-future events. In this case, Cap was searching for a missing soldier but...due to events of a decade later...seems now to be anxiously looking for his favorite singer--CHUCK BERRY!!!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Super Socks


Just spent a couple hours helping a young lady friend clean her room and was amazed at just how many socks she had! Socks with skulls, socks with kitties, socks with candy canes, socks with glow-in-the-dark stars...still, she didn't have THESE!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Rare Strip by Bobby London and Ralph Reese-ADULTS ONLY!




Here's a rare two page color comic strip from, I believe (I had ripped it out so I'm not certain), PLAYBOY, circa 1978-80. Its light bondage joke really isn't all that funny but the strip itself is notable because it's written by former underground cartoonist Bobby London whose somewhat surrealist DIRTY DUCK and later POPEYE comic strips were memorable in their day. Art is from former Wally Wood assistant (Sigh-Guess they'll all be referred to that way forever more.) Ralph Reese. Unlike most of Woody's assistant's, Reese's own style was very different and always showed through. Here, his fun illustrations far outshine London's stretched out premise all the way to its anticlimactic (pun intended) punchline.