Monday, April 29, 2013

Booksteve Reviews--Seduction of the Innocent

It’s probably been 20 years since I read a novel by Max Allan Collins if for no other reason than that I rarely read much fiction at all any more. I had been looking forward to his newest, however, SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT, because of its comic book theme. For those who don’t know, the author himself has a long career in comics and comics journalism. His best-known works in the comics field are probably MS. TREE, a long stint as Chester Gould’s replacement on DICK TRACY and a short but highly touted run writing BATMAN. Far better known are his many hard-boiled and often award-nominated mystery novels.

SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT, as any comics fan can surmise from the title, deals with the 1950s crackdown on violence, crime, horror and sex in comics as spearheaded by an overzealous psychiatrist with a manipulative book by that title. In fact, the good doctor has been in the news just recently as it’s been proven that his “facts” were actually not quite as factual as he wanted readers to believe.

The Collins book of that name takes some of the more colorful characters of the day and tells their stories—all pretty accurately, historically speaking, right down to quotes. You meet Dr. Fredric Wertham and his pervy compatriot, Gershom Legman, EC’s  (and MAD’s)William M. Gaines and Al Feldstein, Lev Gleason’s Charles Biro and Bob Wood (creators of CRIME DOES NOT PAY), all under fake but recognizable
names but all giving as accurate a portrait as anyone familiar with comics history will immediately recognize them along with the other various artists and such who appear. That’s my problem with SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT. In spite of the altered names and a couple of totally fictional POV characters, seemingly written in a vague homage to Nero Wolfe and his legman Archie, more than half of the book is taken up being so historically accurate that it’s like reading a non-fiction story you’ve read a dozen times before. Or at least it was to me with my background in comics history. Perhaps someone unfamiliar with all the kerfuffle of the Kefauver Hearings and the death of EC might read it all very differently.

That said, we’re more than halfway through the book before there’s a murder in this murder mystery. And yes (Spoiler?), as one might expect, it’s the Wertham stand-in.

That’s when the book really got good for me! Jack Starr is a lightly sketched lead in the traditional hard-boiled mode, a noir-hero a la a youngish Dick Powell. He’s working for his stepmother, an only slightly older Gypsy Rose Lee type who inherited a major syndicate from her late husband, loosely inspired by pulp writer and DC Comics founder Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson. In succession and in the classic tradition, Jack enjoys the favors of sexy broads, punches out the drunken tough guy and gets taken for a ride by the Mob, all leading to an ending that I felt was ever so slightly telegraphed but nonetheless well carried off.

All of this is augmented wonderfully by between chapters EC-style illustrations from Collins’ longtime associate (and my own Facebook pal), Terry Beatty. An art mimic of some renown, Terry’s work has intentional echoes of Johnny Craig, Wally Wood and Jack Kamen. He even turns up with a double page Ellery Queen-type bit just before the concluding chapter, reminding the reader of all the suspects!

After all is said and done, Max Allan Collins offers a comparison between his fictional characters and their real-life counterparts. Interesting but, again, nothing really new to me. In fact there were two of the suspects who I knew couldn’t POSSIBLY have committed the murder because of what I remembered about their real-life stories.

If you’re a knowledgeable comics fan, it’s definitely a fun read. If you aren’t really into comics but just like a good murder mystery, I’m betting it’s even better! SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT. Make sure you get the one by Max Allan Collins, NOT the one by Fredric Wertham.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

1957 A.A.P. Cartoons

From Wikipedia: The cartoon library included every color Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies short released prior to August 1, 1948, and all of the Merrie Melodies produced by Harman-Ising Pictures from 1931 to 1933, exceptLady, Play Your Mandolin! (1931). The remaining black-and-white Merrie Melodies were not part of this package, and the black-and-white Looney Tunes (along with the Schlesinger-produced B&W Merrie Melodies) were already sold to Sunset Productions.  Former Warner cartoon director Bob Clampett was hired to catalog the Warner cartoon library. 
a.a.p. also purchased the Popeye cartoons from Paramount Pictures, which had been produced by Fleischer Studios and Famous Studios. This purchase and the Warner Bros. cartoon package combined gave a.a.p. a library of over 568 theatrical cartoon shorts, which would be staples of children's television for decades.
For the Warner Bros. productions, a.a.p. simply inserted their logo at the beginning of the film (the logo used specifically for the cartoons featured various WB characters arranged around the company name).
For the Popeye cartoons, a.a.p. removed all logos and mentions of Paramount from the Popeye prints they distributed, since Paramount did not want to be associated with television at the time (the original copyright line remained, as Paramount held theatrical rights until 1967 - at which point they reverted to UA, who, unlike Paramount, never actually reissued Popeye cartoons theatrically).

Friday, April 26, 2013

Chawlie of Dogland-1919

A few years back, the first book I worked with Craig Yoe on was THE GREAT ANTI-WAR CARTOONS, writing many of the capsule bios of the various artists from Internet research. One artist whose bio I wrote was one Eugene Zimmerman, AKA "Zim," born in 1862. I had never heard of Zim but he had enjoyed a long and successful career in PUCK and JUDGE, the humor magazines of his day, retiring in 1912 according to Wikipedia. A bit later on, Craig asked me to take over the MAKIN' LINKS column at his I.T.C.H. site and the logo for that column was by Zim!

One hundred years ago, Charlie Chaplin was starting on his way to becoming the most well-known and popular man in the world. By 1919, nearly every issue of FILM FUN magazine featured a Chaplin cover!  

Here. from those 1919 issues of FILM FUN, are a few samples of the clever CHAWLIE OF DOGLAND, or what if Charlie Chaplin were a canine, by, of all people,  ZIM! AS one can see from the ad above, the strip was popular enough that there was at least some effort at making it into a cartoon series. No idea as of this writing of that ever occurred. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Peanuts by Al Plastino

Charles Schulz always bragged quite accurately that he never used assistants and that he was the only one who had ever drawn PEANUTS or ever would. Ignoring the fact that the early comic book versions were often brilliantly drawn by others, as far as Schulz knew he was telling the truth. Seen here, though, originally printed in ALTER EGO, are a few unpublished PEANUTS strips by Superman artist Al Plastino.  It seems that at one point when Schulz was undergoing surgery, unbeknownst to him, Plastino was contracted to do up a few weeks of the strip just in case the creator's expected recovery proved problematic. It did not and Plastino's potential contributions to PEANUTS history were locked away and forgotten until he mentioned them in a couple of interviews in later years. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

George Carlson Rarities

Here, from a 1916 issue of FILM FUN found in an online archive, we have a pair of rare comic strips
from George Carlson. An illustrator for more than half a century, best known for his cover to the original GONE WITH THE WIND hardcover dust jacket, Carlson gained whole new fans a decade or so past his 1962 death when Harlan Ellison championed his obscure "Pie-Faced Prince of Pretzelburg" comics character in ALL IN COLOR FOR A DIME.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Laurel and Hardy in Four Languages

Film buffs--and certainly Laurel and Hardy buffs--are no doubt aware of the once-prevalant early talkie practice of reshooting entire movies for foreign markets using the same sets but usually a different director and often entirely different actors! In the case of Stan and Ollie, though, since they were, in fact, what sold the picture, they couldn't be replaced. Thus, they made their way through various foreign scripts phonetically, redoing their dialogue in German, French and Spanish...languages they did NOT speak! Here's an interesting 1930 article on exactly that. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The World's Finest Blog

With the new IMac coming quickly up to speed thanks to so many of you, and DAYS OF ADVENTURE at an end this past week, it's time for another new blog! In answer to my own inclinations and various requests, today we debut THE WORLD'S FINEST BLOG!

Friday, April 19, 2013

There Will Be a Brief Delay

We have the new computer and I'm in the process of setting it up and transferring files so there will be a slight delay in posts. Also because of this weekend's marathon Steven's Point Trivia Contest!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

We Made It!

Thanks to all of you so much! We have now achieved enough donations over the past two weeks to get the updated computer! I'll need to consolidate all of the contributions over the next few days after all the various WePay, PayPal and GoFundMe fees are taken out but we SHOULD be up and running barring any glitches (and at these kinds of prices, there had better NOT be any!) by the weekend! Again, thanks to all who contributed and/or spread the word!

Amanda Palmer-The Art of Asking

If you haven't seen it, this rather remarkable and entertaining video from Amanda Palmer that was going around a month or so back is what inspired our campaign drive for the new computer. Click to full screen or you'll miss the edge.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Splashing Joke # 2

More Joker-oriented splash pages from December of 1941 through November of 1942.