Sunday, March 17, 2019

R.I.P. Erica Hagen

Sad news coming from my friend Kathy Coleman who reports finding out today that her memorable LAND OF THE LOST co-star Erica Hagen died this past September. So happy that I talked Kathy into getting Erica to write the Foreword to LOST GIRL/RUN HOLLY RUN. They were able--see below--to get together one last time.

Erica Hagen also appeared in several movies including SOYLENT GREEN and THUNDERBOLT & LIGHTFOOT, as well as many TV series in the '70s. See the clippings below to find out why she left acting. 

Kathy writes: She was a beauty on the outside and even more gorgeous on the inside. When I got together with her to write my book intro, I told her the profound effect she had on me as a child. She said " Me?, I had no idea". She then giggled. I could tell that that made her happy. More beauty for the heavens!

Don Deitesfeld, Collector

Anyone know whatever happened to this guy? I know he was Art Editor of his school paper or mag at Bowling Green in the late 1940s and that at least some of his collection has ended up in the Library of Congress.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Review: Wally Wood Dare-Devil Aces

Have I mentioned that it’s a good time to be a Wally Wood fan? There have been so many great books covering Wood’s life, art, and career in one or more capacities in recent years that a fan could easily fill a bookcase with nothing but wonderful Woodwork!

The latest of these books is Vanguard’s cleverly titled DARE-DEVIL ACES, subtitled “Commandos and Other Sagas of War.” As you might suspect from that title, this is a collection of Wood’s war-related comics stories. Well, most of them anyway. Avoiding repetition, the already widely printed EC’s and the separately published BLAZING COMBAT pieces are instead covered herein via informative text pieces and some original art pages.  

The meat of this volume consists of lesser-known material originally published by Charlton, Harvey, Avon, Tower, and even DC Comics. Military comic books flourished throughout the 1950s and into the ‘60s until ant-Vietnam sentiment began driving many of them out of business. Sgt. Rock and Sgt. Fury managed to hang on a bit longer, as did a few under-the-radar Charlton titles, but the boom had ended. 

While the boom lasted, though, Woody contributed some typically attractively drawn pieces, some concurrent to his amazing MAD years, and those often uncredited—but easily recognizable—stories are to be found here.

Storywise, most are lacking in comparison to Harvey Kurtzman’s highly researched war/anti-war EC’s but that doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of Wood’s art, which is really why you’re here. In fact, most of these stories, originally printed on cheap pulp paper (REALLY cheap pulp paper in the case of the Charltons!) have never looked better. The decision to reproduce from the original comics on slick paper goes a long way toward covering up many of the printing flaws of the original comics.

And make no mistake! While some of the examples here might be considered lesser Wood, we’re also treated to The Lone Tiger and Dollar Bill Cash from 1966, considered by many to be some of the artist’s very best work of that decade. And Cannon! Wood’s own paramilitary strip superspy character that ran in the Overseas Weekly for years is represented here by the stories from both issues of Heroes, Inc., done with the great Steve Ditko! Dan Adkins, Maurice Whitman, and Russ Jones are also credited as working with Wood on a number of the pieces at hand. 

Available in multiple editions, Dare-Devil Aces is a particularly attractive book and yet another choice addition to that Wallace Wood bookcase from Vanguard Publishing. With more to come, Wood fans might want to start shopping for bigger bookcases!

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Doc Savage on the Air-1934

As far as I know, there are no circulating episodes of this particular DOC SAVAGE series of 15 minute episodes from 1934. Or of his 1940s series for that matter! The whole series of 1980s episodes can be found online, though.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Peter Tork--R.I.P.

I never got to see the Monkees perform in person--not even any individual Monkee or combination thereof. That never stopped me from enjoying their TV series and their music. One of the first LPs I ever bought was THE MONKEES' GREATEST HITS. As recently as last week, I was watching a 1967 MONKEES episode on Youtube and as recently as last month I was listening to Monkees classics in my car. The 2018 Monkees Christmas CD is on a shelf right behind me as I write this.

So to say Peter Tork was like family that I never actually met is not much of an exaggeration.

Peter was always the odd man out. He didn't sing lead on many songs, he played banjo better than bass, they couldn't even get his name right on the show's opening, and he was the first to quit the group.

That said, he was an integral part of the group and forever after a Monkee even during the times he would have preferred NOT to be. He had problems over the years--legal, medical, etc. but he remained loved and admired by fans and was by all accounts a favorite in the many live concerts he performed in with various combinations of the other three Monkees.

Rest in Peace, Peter.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

An Update on the Man Who Wasn't Superman

In 1973, newspaper articles started turning up around the country about a Boston area man named Mayo Kaan. Kaan was an aging bodybuilder and, according to him, had been the model for Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's original Superman concept. In fact, he went on, he had also gone to Hollywood as the first big screen Superman in not just one but TWO Superman movies made around 1937. He even had photos of himself in his Superman costume from back then and he looked, well...SUPER!

As the stories continued over the course of the next year or two, Kaan hit the talk shows and even a game show, all identifying himself as the very first Superman actor! A later news photo ran in the National Enquirer featuring the chubby, modern day Kaan wearing what he said was his original super suit! It still fit!

The problem, of course, lay in the fact that not one reporter who spoke with him or wrote about him ever bothered to check his story.

Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were teenagers in Cleveland who created Superman years before Kaan claims they spotted him working out in a Boston gym and asked him to model for their new hero. Neither Siegel nor Shuster had ever been to Boston.

Even given that he might have been misremembering years, there simply were no Superman movies prior to the late 1940s Kirk Alyn serials from Columbia. There was almost an early '40s serial from RKO but it was canceled. Superman's unquestionably only big screen appearances prior to Alyn were the Fleischer  studio's top notch animated cartoons.

While he certainly looked the part of the Kryptonian hero, his costume looked homemade and had no boots or shoes. Certainly that would never have been used in any professional Superman appearance.

Oh, and also, one of the buildings seen in Kaan's supposed 1930s photos wasn't built until 1940.

Kaan was denounced by those in the know as a liar and a conman. DC disavowed any knowledge of him, as did Jerry and Joe when his story was brought to their attention. The fan press attacked him and made fun of the media for just blindly accepting his tall tale.

Mark Evanier wrote in 2002, "Kaan's claim upset Siegel and Shuster, and some of us did some phoning-of press services and reporters and pretty well debunked the whole story."  He quietly slipped back into the woodwork...for a while.

Well, not locally it looks like. Here he's promoted in this 1980 Boston-area notice as "The Original Superman."

About two decades later, Kaan emerged selling colorized prints of himself in Superman garb and once again reiterating his claim as the original Man of Steel! His daughter (a former teenage ventriloquist who later married a scandal-ridden real estate investor) was said to possibly be behind the renewed push.

Again, DC issued denials but the story didn't go away this time and the Kaans undoubtedly made quite a bit of money from less knowledgable Superman fans. A newspaper article about Kaan's daughter some time after her father's death noted that even she had a large photo of her Superman dad displayed in her home.

It's easy to write the man off as a con artist but if that were the case, how did he come to have pictures of himself looking like an early Superman cosplayer? Some writers speculated that perhaps he was confused over time and was actually spotted by someone associated with the Fleischer studio when the Superman cartoons were being animated. The Fleischers famously used the rotoscope process, which required live action footage be shot to be animated over. At least one other of their models was known but maybe there were more than one. If Kaan simply shot live footage to be animated, that would explain why his Superman costume wasn't quite complete, or even quite all there. The rest would have been added in the ink and paint department.

But just as it looked like no one would ever fully know one way or another, the longtime Superman tribute site, THE ADVENTURES CONTINUE posted an update on the story the other day, with a new piece of the puzzle--a 1942 article about Kaan as Superman! In this one, there's no mention of being the inspiration for Siegel and Shuster, and the only talk of Hollywood is a claim that several major studios wanted to talk to him. Instead, he is described as a lifeguard, a physical instructor and a Vaudevillian who, because of his resemblance to Superman, was helping sell war bonds locally. His being a lifeguard even explains why there are all the kids around him in swimsuits in the one photo.

Armed with that info and a longtime subscription to Newspapers. com, I was able to come up with a couple more 1942 articles, including another Superman photo that apparently has never been on the web until now. Again, he's described as just a local guy doing his part for the war effort.

One Internet poster a few years back said he knew Kaan as a chiropractor at one point and he bragged to him on more than one occasion that he had posed for Superman in war bond ads, not for comics or movies. Apparently, somewhere along the way even that story--possibly alluding to photos like the above-- changed. 

I also found a 1964 article headlined, "Former Superman Keeps Bodies Fit" which just casually described its subject as "the movies' first Superman." Was it the reporter's mistake or did Kaan tell him this?

Interestingly, I did find some info on where Kaan was as of 1938 and 1939, and it wasn't in Hollywood.

A 1965 article on another of Mayo's daughters, a hypnotist, mentions her father by name and yet doesn't tie him to Superman in any way. Years later, in the 1990s, Mayo Kaan would be advertising himself in the classifieds as a hypnotist.

And so it seems like the mystery of Mayo Kaan may at last be solved. He was a bodybuilder and former artist's model, a lifeguard, and a one-time Vaudevillian, who made a homemade Superman suit in order to promote war bond sales to young people in and around his home town in Massachusetts for a while in 1942 before joining the Navy. Then about 20 years on, a reporter--accidentally or on purpose--referred to him as the original Superman and the story built from there. Whether or not he set out to bilk the public or just decided to take advantage of a once in a lifetime situation, he got his 15 minutes of fame...stretched out over a few decades, and either he or his family made sure we'd all remember him. 

Oh, and while Kaan's appearance on WHAT'S MY LINE? is not available his daughter's appearance is on YouTube. In case you're wondering, the family name is pronounced "KAHN" as in, The Wrath of...  

Friday, February 15, 2019

Brittany Rose, LMT

Some of you who have been around for a while may remember the photography blog I had about 10 years back with my great friend Brittany Rose. Every few weeks, she and i would head out to the river, to parks, or just walking around town, and do digital photo shoots, the best results of which would get posted on our blog.

Well, at the time, Brittany was also attending school here to become a Licensed Massage Therapist, which in time she did! 

Currently based in Frankfort, KY, Brittany now has years of experience in the medical massage field beyond what she had when she was using my family as guinea pigs for her lessons. And I can attest that she was quite good even then!

In these trying times, it's tough NOT to find yourself stressed! If you're in or near the Frankfort, KY area, please consider checking out Brittany's business. Rates, contact info, etc. can be found on her website:

Tell her Booksteve sent you. Who knows? She might give you a discount! 
(Probably not but it couldn't hurt to try!)