Thursday, June 30, 2011
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Monday, June 27, 2011
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Although not a big disco fan, I did always like this song by past and future porn star Andrea True from 1976. I didn't know it at the time, of course, but Ms, True starred in the movie, ILLUSIONS OF A LADY, said to have been co-written by actress Christa Helm, in a role no doubt intended for Helm herself. Producer Jonas Middleton turned the R-rated script into an X-rated, hardcore one and Christa walked. Her name appears nowhere in the credits.
Ms. True, whose slight voice was enhanced and sweetened much in the modern manner, toured in promotion of MORE, MORE, MORE. I recall watching her on a local Cincinnati talk show whose audience consisted largely of little-old ladies with blue hair. When the obviously clueless host asked her on live television what she had been doing before her big breakthrough hit record, she opted to take the high road and said simply that she had been working around the edges of the entertainment industry in various capacities. Eventually Andrea True was forced to give up singing for health reasons. The song MORE, MORE, MORE has been covered and sampled by many over the years including a notable remake by Bananarama.
Here we have a great but little known interview by William F. Buckley, Jr with the much-maligned Dr Fredric Wertham, whose ill-thought out book SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT was, fifteen years or so earlier, the catalyst behind the collapse of the comics industry at that time. In retrospect, I think that the good Doctor meant well and that the abolition of the more violent, exploitative comic books lead to the much more creative era we now know as the Silver Age of Comics. Although this clip is incomplete, Wertham still gets in a jab at "crime comics" in spite of the fact that, as an actual genre, they had not existed for more than a decade.
Friday, June 24, 2011
Gene Colan was one of the first comic book artists whose work I instantly recognized. Even more so than Jack Kirby! At Marvel, everyone was apparently instructed to draw like Jack so my young Silver Age eyes in 1966 were not as discerning as they became later. Colan, if he had ever been given that rule, happily never followed it. His more realistic, illustrative style, weaned on romance and war comics, felt at times out of place on superhero comics. It lacked the bombast of sixties Marvel while somehow managing to infuse a grace that simply wasn't there with anyone else's art.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Harold Robbins’s sexy potboilers can certainly be described as “graphic” novels but they definitely are not “graphic novels.” A working definition of a graphic novel might be: a hardbound or paperbound book featuring a story told entirely by the integration of words and pictures. As I see it, it is also the next step on the evolutionary ladder for the lowly comic book.
The concept of the true graphic novel has long been discussed, possibly inspired by the widespread acceptance in Japan and parts of Europe of comics bound and marketed in a more permanent form.
In America, other than a few earlier experimental pieces, the late seventies brought the earliest attempts at true graphic novels—THE KING OF THE WORLD, SABRE and A CONTRACT WITH GOD, all of which debuted in 1978.
THE KING OF THE WORLD by Wallace Wood was originally self-published in black and white in hardcover. Based on a longtime pet project of the legendary comics artist, it offered a clever Tolkienesque quest saga beautifully drawn and told with humor and more than a dash of sexuality. It was followed by a lesser sequel, ODKIN—SON OF ODKIN. Due to its creator’s untimely illness and later suicide, a planned third volume remained unfinished and unreleased.
SABRE was an exquisitely drawn sci-fi tale by writer Don McGregor and artist Paul Gulacy with a decided philosophical bent. It was also released originally in black and white.
Will Eisner, creator of THE SPIRIT before World War II, had been a vocal proponent of the graphic novel concept for some time. His A CONTRACT WITH GOD AND OTHER TENEMENT STORIES was in a more traditional book size than the other two. Also black and white, it dealt with a number of Jewish families in 1930’s New York. No elves, no post-apocalyptic warriors. It had sex but it wasn’t sexy, it had violence but it was realistic and non-judgmental. Eisner’s was a truly “adult” graphic novel. A young reader would have little to no interest in it at all.
Eventually, Marvel Comics, the kings of the comic industry, committed itself to a regular series of color graphic novels. After a fairly impressive beginning, the series settled into what often seemed like little more than a priced up version of the company’s regular comic books. Only the occasional title was worthy of the new format.
Rival DC Comics took even more tentative steps, their first graphic novels being, in fact, adaptations of previously published science-fiction and fantasy stories. Then DC stumbled onto a variation in the format that worked—repackagings. Their revisionist version of Batman by Frank Miller entitled THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS was originally published as a 4-issue mini-series. It was then repackaged as a phenomenally successful hardcover and softcover book.
Since Dickens, Conan Doyle and many other now-classic authors originally had their work serialized in magazines prior to having them collected in more permanent book format, the concept is not new. It was, however, a revelation to comics publishers. Currently RONIN (originally a 6-issue series) and WATCHMEN (originally a 12-issue series) are both in release. Both are titles that tell one single, cohesive story and prime examples of comics that work even better as graphic novels.
WATCHMEN especially, although already optioned for a film, has been called the single best use of the comics format to date, integrating as it does words, pictures, imagery and analogy as no simple monthly comic book has done before or since.
While the mainstream comics publishers were flirting with the graphic novel concept, other, non-comics publishers were getting involved. Donning Press has repackaged ELFQUEST, the phenomenally successful black and white independent fantasy comic book, in four big-selling trade paperbacks and actually has gotten them carried in real world bookstores. Donning has since gone on to publish original graphic novels as well as more repackaging of independent titles.
Many actual independent comics publishers have come out with their own graphic novels, too. Eclipse has THE ROCKETEER, First has TIME SQUARED and Comico has GRENDEL.
More recently Simon and Schuster, one of THE biggest mainstream publishers, has gotten into the act with their original graphic novel entitled PINK FLAMINGOS, a full-color story of an all-girl rock band. Prominently labeled on its cover, “A Simon and Schuster Graphic Novel,” PINK FLAMINGOS sadly isn’t very good but it shows that the company has liked what it’s seen and is willing to support the format. Others among the major book publishers are expected to follow quickly.
At this moment in time, the issue seems to be with the bookstores themselves. The bookstores simply do not know what to make of graphic novels. If they choose to carry any at all, they’re usually shelved automatically in the Humor or Science-Fiction sections, no matter what their content. With the market expanding and the public acceptance of the format, I honestly think it’s not too far down the line when bookstores may actually have to offer an actual graphic novel section!
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Monday, June 20, 2011
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Here's another winner from Marie Severin. "Gaudioso" is still listed as inker but this doesn't look like his style to me. In fact, that red thingie at lower right reminds me much of former inker Dan Adkins' style.
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Here's every girl's dream! A chance to hang with superstar Pat Boone at 21 and the Copa! Wait a sec...Pat Boone? I can't see him hanging out at the trendy places like that. Mr. Squeaky Clean? In fact, if every girl's dream included cozying up to Pat whilst you're alone together, I think they'd be disappointed there, also. Don't get me wrong. I like Pat Boone. I like his singing and I think he has great presence as an actor in many of his early films! And certainly a great sense of humor. But Pat was never the Playboy type. If anything, he may have been, even then, just a little to the right of Dale Evans when it came to Christian political correctness. Oh, well...at least the winner got a thousand bucks and probably did get to at least MEET Pat!
Friday, June 17, 2011
One of the great lost comics from the late Silver Age, here's the only comic book appearance of Dan Adkins' STARHAWK, seen here in the next issue ad from MARVEL SUPERHEROES # 20 in 1969. When the issue arrived, it instead featured all reprints...as did every issue from that point with no explanation. The only other official appearance of STARHAWK was in an issue of MARVELMANIA where the few completed pages appeared and, quite frankly, didn't look as good as fans had hoped. An Adkins cover of STARHAWK, perhaps intended to have been the cover on MSH # 21, turned up on THE BUYERS GUIDE FOR COMICS FANDOM in the early seventies.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
My friend Dee Sutter is a most enjoyable and entertaining conversationalist--absolutely the best I have ever met. I could, and have, stayed up half the night talking with her and I have never once been bored or disappointed. She is colorful, creative, opinionated, smart as a whip, has a fascinating personal history and is interested in just about everything!
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
The "ME DECADE" wasn't called that by accident. Around here, as a teenager, it seemed pretty normal to me but in grown-up circles all across the land, the seventies were most certainly crazy, hedonistic times.
Artist/designer/cartoonist and underground comix pioneer Skip Williamson has written a memoir of surviving the decade where excess was expected and applauded in spite of its inherent dangers. Not for the faint-hearted and most definitely NSFW in these more conservative times, FLESH follows Skip out of the undergrounds and into big business, working at GALLERY, HUSTLER and, most importantly, PLAYBOY. There's no build-up, no back-story and no preparation. We take whatever our preconceived notions of the protagonist might be--if any--and then get to know the real Skip as we read along.
We see Skip working at GALLERY, originally a note-for-note rip-off of PLAYBOY. We follow the folks behind GALLERY through some shady Chicago shenanigans. These end up with strip club owner Larry Flynt being brought in to save the mag but ending up creating his own skin-mag, HUSTLER, instead…and taking Skip to be HUSTLER's first Art Director…briefly. All along the way, there are more and more shady characters, perhaps perpetuating the myth that everyone in Chicago business or politics has mob connections…or perhaps proving it not to be a myth after all!
And there are drugs. Lots of mind-altering substances of one sort or another. And sex. To read this, one might think that it was almost expected that men and women would just casually sleep with one another in the seventies. Well, in some circles, it kind of was! Again, hedonism was the order of the day--Disco, Cocaine and casual sex was everywhere--not just in New York and Hollywood! When reading about the seventies, one should never be judgmental. It might have looked more like today than the sixties--in spite of the leisure suits---but it was very much a different world.
Women play a major role in Skip's story and, in some cases, his descriptions are quite creatively pornographic. There's also unvarnished reports of startling violence, a somewhat bitter rant on the worthlessness of people and a uniquely insider view of the workings of PLAYBOY in that weird time between its biggest success and its later attempts at a comeback.
Speaking of PLAYBOY, Hef is one of the few characters, Skip himself included, who comes across relatively unscathed in FLESH. Among the other cast members of Skip's life in the seventies who put in appearances are Harvey Kurtzman, Robert Crumb, Jay Lynch, Grass Green, Bette Midler, Barry Manilow, Stiv Bators and Deborah Harry. Not a one of them is as interesting as some of our hero's lesser-known but often more-screwed-up pals and co-workers.
FLESH is only available as an E-book for Kindle but at only $2.99. There are unfortunately a lot of typos and misspellings in some areas along with some repetition that a good editor would have caught. It's a quick read, though, and well worth the price. The flaws actually add to it in a way, making you feel like you're just sitting around with the man who brought the world Snappy Sammy Smoot while he regales you with sordid but true tales of debauchery and survival as only a truly good storyteller can relate them.
What's that you say? You don't have Kindle? Neither did I but Amazon has FREE Kindle apps that one can download for Mac, PC, IPhone, Blackberry or other forums! That's FREE! And the books are inexpensive. If E-books are truly the wave of the future, may I suggest you try them out with Skip Williamson's FLESH!
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Longtime readers will recall that the very first celebrity I ever wrote a fan letter to and heard back from was Stefanie Powers. That was in 1972. I had enjoyed her on THE GIRL FROM U.N.C.L.E. in the sixties and then followed her as she guest-starred in just about every TV series I enjoyed during the period immediately after that.
Monday, June 13, 2011
Sunday, June 12, 2011
It's almost halfway through the month and it occurs to me that I've yet to point out some highlights from the June update at BOOKSTEVE'S RARITIES.
Stars Robert Culp, Gig Young and Majel Barrett. Renowned criminologist and occult investigator William Sebastian recruits his old friend, Dr. Hamilton, to aid him in his current case. The sister of a prominent British businessman, believes her brother is dabbling in the black arts. Rare made-for-TV movie.
MR. LUCKY: The Television Series
This seven-disc box set does not offer every episode (we’re missing two), but it‘s as close as we can get to offering you the complete TV series. Created by Blake Edwards, with Henry Mancini’s music, the same men responsible for PETER GUNN, it will come as no surprise that this was also a spin-off of a character that was featured in a former PETER GUNN episode. We now offer 32 of the 34 episodes ever produced! $35
1953 FORD ANNIVERSAY SPECIAL
On June 15, 1953, the Ford Motor Company celebrated their 50th Anniversary with a television special. A wide variety of musical and comedy performers include Mary Martin, Ethel Merman, Kukla, Fran and Ollie, and Marian Anderson. This program aired on CBS and NBC, marking how special and spectacular the automobile firm wanted this to be!
THE TAXI BOYS: The Complete Series
All ten classic film shorts from the Hal Roach film studio. Masters of slapstick, Ben Blue and Billy Gilbert, star in a series of comedies from 1932 to 1933, which are just as hilarious (if not funnier) than Laurel and Hardy and The Little Rascals. This two-disc set contains all ten shorts.
What Price Taxi? (1932)
Strange Interlude (1932)
Hot Spot (1932)
Taxi For Two (1932)
Bring ‘em Back A Wife (1932)
Wreckety Wrecks (1933)
Taxi Barons (1933)
Call Her Sausage (1933)
The Rummy (1933)
Thundering Taxis (1933)
ELMER, THE GREAT (1933)
One of the few Joe E. Brown films not yet on DVD. Elmer does not want to leave Gentryville, because Nellie is the one that he loves. Even when Mr. Wade of the Chicago Cubs comes to get him, it is only because Nellie spurns him that he goes. As always, Elmer is the king of batters and he wins game after game. When gamblers get into the picture, and the World Series begins, the comic situations get more comical. This was Gale Gordon’s first film, and watch out for a young Jane Wyman, also un-credited, as a game spectator. This was her second film.
DOG EAT DOG (1963)
This Yugoslavia movie features Jayne Mansfield (yes, it’s English dubbed). Three thieves rip off a shipment of used money being sent back to the U.S. As they are escaping the robbery, after having taken a hostage, they wind up on an island in a hotel with an apparently crazed manager and a building full of demented residents. Mansfield was four months pregnant with her daughter Mariska Hargitay at the time this movie was made.
Saturday, June 11, 2011
Friday, June 10, 2011
I had this. There was a James Bond spy case which seemed like a real briefcase and then there was SECRET SAM which was more obviously plastic but which came with a REAL camera--my first ever real camera!! Take pictures through the case? Hah! I couldn't take pictures without cutting people's heads off whether it was in the case or out.
Although largely unnoticed in the US, I loved this TV series in the eighties and I'm currently watching the episodes again. The actors, Michael Brandon and Glynis Barber, developed a real-life relationship which lead to their getting married when the series ended. In spite of some rough patches, they're still together and open to the concept of a DEMPSEY & MAKEPEACE reunion!
This theme, on the other hand, is perhaps the most generic cop show theme of all time!
Suzi Quatro was a proto-punk/glam rocker in the seventies who became a familiar TV face for her guest appearances as "Leather Tuscadero" on HAPPY DAYS. Was watching her this morning as a crazy person on an eighties episode of DEMPSEY & MAKEPEACE and remembered this video!