Friday, February 29, 2008

Justice League-The New Frontier

Just watched a loaner copy of the new DVD, JUSTICE LEAGUE-THE NEW FRONTIER. Based on Darwyn Cooke's acclaimed mini-series/graphic novel from a couple of years back, this animated straight-to-video movie is...well...just okay. For one thing, it is, right out of the gate, too explicitly violent. In an ultimately optimistic movie about the early days of super heroes in the DCU, I don't care how "adult" you want it to be, the violence can be implied. Same with the language. Maybe this one was for older kids and us grups but you know as well as I do that the kids who are currently enjoying the various JLA cartoons still running on cable will want to see it and most parents will automatically assume it to be kid-friendly. Eleven year old Bookdave chose to leave the room after watching Hal Jordan rather explicitly shoot some guy in the head in the opening minutes! I stuck it out myself and in spite of a few good scenes and characterizations, I have to say they tried to cram way too much (and too many characters) into just a little over an hour. Many of the scenes go on too long leaving little time for other important moments to just whiz by.
As far as the high-voltage voice cast, Miguel Ferrer as J'onn J'onzz, Jeremy Sisto as Batman and Neil Patrick Harris as Flash come across best in their roles. ( Oddly, Ferrer once fought against David Ogden Stiers as J'onn in the unsold live-action JLA pilot of a decade or so back.) While Lucy Lawless seems ideal for Wonder Woman, in practice I'm sorry to say she brings nothing special to the role. David Boreanez is Hal Jordan (who only belatedly becomes Green Lantern) and is essentially the main character. Sadly again, anyone could have voiced him just as well. Brooke Shields, Kyra Sedgewick and Kyle Machlaclan also appear.
The Martian Manhunter is essentially the second leading character and we see his arrival, his integration into our society and culture, his imprisonment by the government and his public redemption. All of this is played with humor and pathos both in the writing and the performance.
Cameo appearances from the Blackhawks, Adam Strange, the Challengers of the Unknown and other silver age characters are nice touches but once again there's no real time for them to do anything other than just appear.
As far as the animation itself, it seems more an off-kilter variant on the Paul Dini/Bruce Timm themes rather than Cooke's highly stylized work. It also seems pretty static in spots with little of the pizzazz one might expect from a presumably bigger-budget than television film. Maybe the money all went into the stunt casting.

Cooke's original story (itself inspired by a late seventies Steve Englehart JLA story??) was given the time to pace itself as needed, a luxury that this limited animation version just doesn't have. Parts of it are just fine and nicely handled but as a whole, I'd have to say JUSTICE LEAGUE-THE NEW FRONTIER doesn't quiiiiite work for me.

Superman Skycaps

Okay, let's get real, people. Skycaps? These are Pogs! POGS!! Was there ever a fad that was so universally hated by anyone with taste and intelligence...even a small amount of it? I found these remnants of that (thankfully) short-lived craze in the bottom of a comic box here at the Library. They are the only Pog-related items I ever had. My memory, as has been noted, is not as reliable on anything that's happened after 1990 but I believe these were given away with one of the post-DEATH OF SUPERMAN issues just prior to all of these ersatz Men of Steel showing up in the comics themselves.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Random Panels of Comic Book Weirdness # 23

For those of you who think "relevence" in late sixties/early seventies DC comics began and emded with GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW, here's a bizarre scene from the February, 1970 issue of WORLD'S FINEST. SUPERMAN has--for reasons that need not be explained to appreciate this panel--taken BATMAN back in time to Krypton before it exploded (how the heck many times did he make that trip anyway!? Kinda weird if you ask me!) and they run into a sixties-style student protest!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Vintage JLA Ad

They just don't make 'em like this anymore. After several appearances in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD, here, from WORLD'S FINEST # 113, is a memorable DC house ad for THE JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA in their own magazine!

Monday, February 25, 2008

The 22nd Annual Cincinnati Old-Time Radio and Nostalgia Convention

Every year there are rumors that this great convention may have had its day but every year brings yet another one. Here's the flyer for this year's con. Unlike any other convention you've ever been to before, THE CINCINNATI OLD-TIME RADIO AND NOSTALGIA CONVENTION is more like an annual family reunion. So many of us have been attending for decades (including the celebrity guests!) that everyone just hangs out and talks. There's a dealers' room and, of course, the old-time radio re-creations but in essence it's all an excuse to get together and catch up with friends old and new. So come join us this year! You never know. It may actually be the last one at some point!

The Black Cat

Here's an interesting piece that originally appeared on the back cover of a 1983 issue of THE COMIC READER. Featuring the pioneering Harvey Comics superheroine, THE BLACK CAT, at first glance it would seem to have been drawn by that feature's longtime artist, Lee Elias. Something about it didn't quite seem right, though, so I check inside the issue and see that it's credited to our own longtime reader/commenter Sam Kujava in the style of Elias! Hmmm... Then I start speculating on what it was done for originally and I recall that Sam attended the Kubert school around this time. Then I recall that Lee Elias was teaching at said school around the same time! Could this have benn done as an exercise for a class at the school? Only Sam can tell us! No matter what its origins, it is quite the nice pin-up!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Badly Costumed Super Hero of the Week

After missing last week due to lack of 'Net access, we're back with another BAREly costumed super hero, 1942's SAMSON. Interestingly enough, this guy is currently being revived in the colorful PROJECT SUPERPOWERS series along with a gaggle of other now public domain heroes!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Battle Beyond the Stars

BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS was Roger Corman’s typically low-budget attempt at ripping off a currently popular trend—in this case STAR WARS from three years earlier. The plot is yet another take on the venerable SEVEN SAMURAI/MAGNIFICENT SEVEN story in which a band of mercenaries are hired to protect a place from bad guys. Robert Vaughn, one of the original American Seven, was even brought in to cinch that connection for anyone who might have missed it.
It’s my recollection that this was a mildly enjoyable way to spend a Sunday afternoon matinee at Cincinnati’s Skywalk Cinemas back in 1980. Beyond that basic feeling I have to admit that little else about this film was memorable to me. What makes it fascinating, though, is the interesting group of folks both in front of and behind the camera.
Richard Thomas from THE WALTONS, quite an underrated actor in my opinion, toplines with, besides Vaughn, A-TEAM’s George Peppard, ENTER THE DRAGON’s John Saxon, Amazonian Sybil Danning (known for lusting after a naked Linda Blair in CHAINED HEAT), an ancient Sam Jaffe (GUNGA DIN) and legendary acting teacher and blacklistee, Jeff Corey!
Producer Roger Corman, as has often been the case, surrounded himself with young talent and veterans. TITANIC’s James Cameron served as Art Director and general visual effects kibitzer. Composer James Horner, whose scores have been most recently heard in THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES and Mel Gibson’s APOCALYPTO, wrote the music. Director Jimmy Murakami was an animator who had worked on Marlo Thomas’s FREE TO BE…YOU AND ME and the classic WHEN THE WIND BLOWS. Finally, the whole thing was written by John Sayles, then on the brink of his breakout independent film, THE RETURN OF THE SECAUCUS SEVEN.
This neat but kind of dull, full color, full page ad came from QUESTAR, a short-lived attempt by former fan publisher Bill Wilson (THE COLLECTOR) to do a high class STARLOG-style newsstand mag.

I wouldn’t mind seeing BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS again for a re-evaluation but I’m thinking it would still look like an impressive film school project which, if you think about it, turned out to be exactly what it was.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Glow in the Dark Movie Monsters

Here, from the early 1970's, we have Aurora's glow-in-the-dark MOVIE MONSTERS series. These were essentially the same plastic models the company had been distributing for years but now molded at least partially in material that really did glow for awhile after being exposed to light. In retrospect, it seems kind of pointless...but I DID buy the Wolfman one.
Oh, and I love the adline--Make something beautiful for yourself!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Film Flashes-1941

Here, from a 1941 issue of BIG SHOT COMICS is a kind of Ripley's-style page of film trivia drawn (if not written by) artist Fred Guardineer. Interesting to note considering they're pointing out his status as # 1 star that Mickey Rooney's name is misspelled! Dick Powell and sassy Joan Blondell made a cute couple in lots of early Warner Brothers pictures, both musical and non-musical. Apparently both, however, had their infidelities and the marriage did not last. Based on Bruce Cabot's reputation as a hard-drinking brawler, I'd be honestly surprised if he hadn't knocked out more than one boss over the years, both before and after this page was published!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Remembering Christa Helm

During the period I was unavoidably offline, we missed the 31st anniversary of the tragic and still unsolved murder of actress Christa Helm. Didn't want to let it pass without a mention however. Now, more than ever, people are learning about this fascinating woman and her fate. Now, 31 years after her death, Christa Helm is remembered not only by friends and family but by a growing body of people who have been made aware of her incredible, almost surreal life and her failed attempt at success in show business. Now, more than ever, Christa Helm is finally, belatedly gaining the fane she craved in life.
Here's a link to my article (with John O'Dowd) on Christa- The Unsolved Murder of 1970's Hollywood Starlet Christa Helm - Page 1 of 5and a link to her family's MySpace page honoring - Christa Helm

Random Panels of Comic Book Weirdness # 22

From the first appearance of Red Sonja in Marvel's CONAN THE BARBARIAN # 24 way back in late 1972, here's a panel of some background characters discussing a fight Conan has started ostensibly to protect Sonja's "honor." Their dialogue--especially when you consider that artist Barry (Windsor-)Smith is British--seems a bit questionable as to how it got past the Comics Code. By the way, the guy in the lower right hand corner of the panel looks quite a bit like Smith looked at the time!

1978 Will Elder Ad-Three On a Date

Will Elder has spent much of the past six decades in the shadow of his longtime collaborator, Harvey Kurtzman. The fact is, though, that Elder has done a considerable amount of work on his own during that same period, all of which is a cut above that of 90 percent of the other so-called humor artists of any era! Here we have a funny, signed (initialed anyway) TV GUIDE ad from 1978 for a failed TV pilot entitled THREE ON A DATE.
THREE ON A DATE, directed by Bill Bixby, was typical of the LOVE BOAT/FANTASY ISLAND school in which folks find themselves in certain situations and then learn some sort of lesson by the end. In this case, the situation was to follow contest winners from a DATING GAME type show on their "dream dates." The folks involved were an eclectic cast of old-time stars, then-current TV stars and familiar faces all around. In Elder's ad, even though all are not mentioned by name, you have great caricatures of Gary Crosby, June Allyson, Ray Bolger, Meredith MacRae, Patrick Wayne, John Byner and an Annie Fannyesque Loni Anderson.
Others in the cast included the great Richard Libertini, game show host Geoff Edwards, Carol Lawrence, Didi Conn, Danny Thomas, Rick Nelson, Bob Cummings and soap opera star Tracy Bregman. Character actor James Hampton also appears. Coincidentally, Hampton's other credits include his appearances in several of Harvey Kurtzman's HELP magazine fumetti. Will Elder, of course, was also a regular in HELP.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Major Mars for Popsicle

Here's a 1953 comic book ad featuring a character called MAJOR MARS. The problem comes from the fact that Major Mars doesn't advertise Mars Bars. No, that would be logical. Major Mars advertises Popsicles! Note that even the fine print gets confused when it points out that Popsicle Pete is a registered trademark. Pete, the former (and future?) Popsicle spokesperson, does not even appear in this ad! No TM for Major Mars, though. Sigh. How was a 1953 kid supposed to keep track? Not sure who the artist is but it could be Lee Elias. I seem to spot more than a bit of his style in some panels. I do know it was better drawn than some of teh actual stories in the comic itself!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Another Fearless Fosdick Wildroot Ad

Here is L'IL ABNER's "ideel," Fearless Fosdick, once again shilling for Wildroot Cream Oil hair tonic, a job he took over from Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade after Hammett got caught up in the communist witch hunts of the late forties/early fifties. Nice art here by Al Capp...and/or somebody else most likely. (Bob Kane, perhaps??) (Kidding on that last comment by the way).

Happy Jack Benny's Birthday!

Resisting the temptation to say the legendary comedian and star of stage, screen, radio and television would be 39 today, I present this delightful caricature (by Carl Rose) from Bennett Cerf's 1948 book, SHAKE WELL BEFORE USING. Here we have the cast of Jack's show riding on his back--a visual interpretation, perhaps, of the fact that so many of them achieved individual success through the Benny show. L-R we have Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, Phil Harris, Mary Livingstone, Don Wilson, Dennis Day and the Lucky Strike tobacco auctioneer with his LS-MFT banner. Jack's writers almost always gave the best lines to the cast and Jack reportedly took delight in the fact that no matter who said the most memorable lines, the next day people would be asking, "Say, didja hear JACK BENNY last night?" Happy Birthday, Jack!

Captain Marvel Sweaters

Well, it's been cold where I'm at with lots of ice on the ground at the moment. I wish I could just say "SHAZAM!" and have my official Captain Marvel Sweater materialize! "Flame on!," maybe? "Honey Flash!?"

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Missing Steve Gerber

Aww, MAN! I turn my back on the blogosphere for a week or so and I come back to find one of my all-time favorite writers (whose own blog I had only recently discovered!) has died. I had planned on writing Steve Gerber a fawning email but just never got around to it. Suddenly, all the memories come flooding back.

Steve Gerber was the very first comic book creator that I ever met. Along with "Pesky" Marty Pasko and Gerber’s own writing partner, Mary Skrenes, it was at a comic book convention in Cincinnati that was held right around the time that HOWARD THE DUCK # 1 hit the stands and OMEGA THE UNKNOWN was eagerly anticipated. When I say "hit the stands," many of you might recall that HOWARD THE DUCK # 1 was actually hard to find in those days of few comic shops as it became one of the first titles collectors hoarded. I had actually gotten mine at a local comics shop a week or so earlier which is good as there was nary a copy to be had at the Con.

The guests were in a small room at the downtown hotel and in my recollection much of the discussion of the day was regarding a new comics creators union that was either being proposed or a done deal at the time. Most of the rest seemed related to just how radical the concept of Gerber and Skrenes’ brand new character, Omega, was in the Marvel Universe.

Further back, I recall sitting on the floor at my friend Terry’s house reading Gerber’s early MAN-THING stories and coming to the realization that his mind didn’t work like the minds of other comics writers! THE KID’S NIGHT OUT in GIANT-SIZE MAN-THING # 4 has been widely praised in the wake of Gerber’s passing and I must add that it had a significant impact on my teenage self as well. It was also probably the first time that I could honestly think of comic book as real literature—and GOOD literature at that!

Steve’s work on THE DEFENDERS, a book that incongruously attempted to team DOCTOR STRANGE, THE HULK and THE SUB-MARINER month after month, transformed it from standard super-hero fare to surrealist genius. For example, there was the bizarre running "gag" of a little elf who would show up at random for months and months and just kill characters!

HOWARD THE DUCK became Gerber’s alter ego, his philosophical voice and later, in endless creator disputes with Marvel, his curse. The character’s era of success was short-lived and he became all but a joke after George Lucas’ multi-million dollar flop feature film (which really isn’t THAT bad! Some great lines!) but it is still Gerber’s legacy and, like MAN-THING and DEFENDERS, has been preserved in Marvel’s current ESSENTIAL volumes.

I never met him again and I’m sad to say I never followed his later work regularly. His early works, however, made enough of an impact that I still count him as a favorite. His adult style seemed quirky and out of place in the seventies but clearly set the stage for many modern creators, perhaps particularly Grant Morrison. Steve Gerber’s legacy is a solid one and he will be missed.

Here we see Howard the an "unofficial" poster done at the time by Gerber's collaborator on the regular title, Frank Brunner. I bought it the day I met Steve Gerber.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Temporarily Out of Service

Watch for postings to resume by February 15th. Service is currently down for lack of payment and no money will be in until then. This post is being sent to Blogger via thought transmission!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

More Cissy

I notice a lot of folks have been dropping by the Library lately looking for Cissy Colpitts (AKA Cisse Cameron) so thought I'd share a couple more shots of her from our archives, these provided by a generous reader awhile back. If you don't know who she is, here's here resume at IMDB: Cisse Cameron

The Magic Land of Mother Goose

THE MAGIC LAND OF MOTHER GOOSE was the movie I saw on my second date in 1970. Well, I called it a date. We ended up having to drag my ten year old date's little sister and little brother along with us but, hey, it WAS a kiddie matinee after all. For those of you who never experienced one, a kiddie matinee was like a grindhouse for pre-pubescents. The feature was an innocuous, often foreign film thatmight or might not have it's reels projected in the right order. There were also usually cartoons (sometimes TV cartoons like GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE even!) and perhaps a short subject. On special ocassions such as this one live actors would actually walk through the theater as if they had just stepped off the screen. None of this mattered however as the kiddie matinee was all about the socialization--shooting spitballs at the screen (or the girl that sat in front of you at school), crawling on the greasy floor, throwing popcorn up in the air and just generally whooping it up! I said...was my second date at age eleven. (No wonder I was 23 before my third date!)

As for the movie, incredibly enough it was made in 1967 by Herschell Gordon Lewis, the legendary maverick filmmaker who brought you BLOOD FEAST, THE WIZARD OF GORE and 2000 MANIACS! According to IMDB it was essentially a badly filmed version of a badly acted stage play in which Old King Cole, Merlin the Magician and a probably out of copyright Raggedy Ann do who remembers what?Like I wasn't about the movie.
UPDATE: Found this site, SANTA VISITS THE MAGIC LAND OF MOTHER GOOSE (1967, U.S.), which gives the whole story with dozens of photos!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Batman's Phone Call

Well, we didn't get too many responses to this but we got more than we did to last year's golden age "Draw captain America" page. Here are the entries we received--the "hot line" one is from FANDOM CONFIDENTIAL's Gentleman Jim Engel and the other three are all from from On My Mind's Rick Phillips.

Sunday, February 03, 2008


Thanks much to those who've dropped a tip in the ol' PayPal box over the last few days (particularly you, Alan! Thanks, buddy!). Wanted to let you know that we may still end up without Internet service within the next few days which, as you might suspect, will put a damper on postings for awhile. Sigh. We've got some stuff to try to sell locally this week so we may yet be able to salvage it. I value every one of you who stops by regularly and wanted to let you know that if postings stop for a week or so we are okay...just terminally broke it seems. I suppose it goes without saying but tips are still welcome at the PayPal box to your right.

Badly Costumed Super Hero of the Week

This week's badly costumed hero is one of several known over the decades as the UNKNOWN SOLDIER. This one came from the 1940's and, yes, yet again has BARE LEGS!!!! Don't ask, don't tell indeed.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Elephant Jokes

When I was very young, everyone was telling elephant jokes and I didn't GET them! They weren't funny, simply absurd and I was still a few years away from knowing what that word even meant! It was a huge fad that burned briefly and thankfully has never been revived. Here from the pages of the February, 1964 issue of Harvey Kurtzman's HELP! (Associate Editor Terry Gilliam), we present a selection of "classic" elephant jokes. For further reading on this particular craze, we refer you to Elephant joke - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Let's Rap With Superman-1970

Here's a two page quiz that appeared in DC comics of 1970. Apparently, the powers that be at the new DC (or at least their marketing department) were actually trying to keep up with the times. "Let's rap," says Supes. "Do your own thing," adds the Dark Knight on page two. Most of the questions are typical of this type of thing but I like the one that asks you to list things you like to read about--national problems, black people, astrology...Ooookay, then. Note also the attempt tpo show DC's diversity by showing Jerry Lewis, Binky, etc along with Sgt. Rock and the superheroes (which, of course, include the newly-hip Green Arrow).
Unfortunately, most of their responses were probably from casual comics readers. Even the lure of great prizes like those offered couldn't get real collectors like my eleven year old self to cut up the comic and at fifteen freakin' cents I sure as heck couldn't afford to buy a duplicate! Jeez! What were they thinking?

Friday, February 01, 2008

Hope, Fibber & Molly Welcome Amos 'n' Andy

Here's a cool vintage radio sitcom ad!