Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Linda Blair Wallpaper

Here's a few screenshots of the ever-popular Linda Blair from her 1975 TV movie SWEET HOSTAGE with Martin Sheen. Since we still get about twenty folks a day here at the Library looking for Linda, I thought I'd share and mention that these make good wallpaper for your PC! SWEET HOSTAGE was arguably her best acting performance as she plays a backwoods teen abducted by a mental patient with delusions of grandeur. The film was based on a novel called WELCOME TO XANADU by Nathaniel Benchley. Benchley was the son of the great actor, author and all-around dry wit, Robert Benchley. Nathaniel's own son, Peter Benchley, would take the family tradition down a few notches with less literary--but even more popular--novels such as JAWS! If you haven't noticed the recently added (unpaid) permanent photo-link to Linda's World Heart Foundation on the lower right, please check it out.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Random Panels of Comic Book Weirdness # 58

From one of the 1983 TEEN TITANS drug awareness public service comics, here's a ridiculous panel by veteran artists Ross Andru and Joe Giella who should have both known better! The character, not that you can tell it, is THE PROTECTOR, the blue-suited Robin clone who appears only in these three specials and is prone to making long-winded speeches espousing the anti-drug rhetoric of the moment (as these specially distributed comics were endorsed by Nancy Reagan). Don't get me wrong. He presents a lot of valid information in his rants. It's just that I'd be willing to bet that these were presented to the writers and told to insert "as is" into the storylines. Still, you'd think two talented artists could come up with some layout that didn't require this panel--the middle panel of three very wordy panels by the way--to not only be overwhelmed with dialogue but also to just plain give UP on attempting to even draw the character above his always open mouth! This looks more like what the kids might see on a bad trip!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Supremes and the Andrews Sisters

Sammy Davis, Jr introduces the greatest girl group of the forties to the greatest girl group of the sixties and then has them sing each others' greatest hits...surprisingly well.

J. Edgar Hoover Comics

Actually, it's HEADLINE COMICS but note how ol' J. Edgar is drawn as such a he-man that he's willing to tackle the big gangsters bare-handed! Built like a burly, two-fisted football player, this version of the top G-Man seems to have little in common with the short, round, thin-haired guy with the scrunched in bulldog face that Hoover was in real life...to say nothing of the paranoid drag queen he apparently turned out to be.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Movies That Fell Through the Cracks # 51

RAVAGERS, from 1979, was an early entry into the post-apocalyptic sub-genre of sci-fi films. The fact that you've probably never heard of it is testament to its lack of importance to the genre...or to anything else. There seemed to be a theory in the 1970's that a big-name cast could make up for lack of plot, script or direction. There also seemed to be some dispute as to exactly what constituted a big name cast. RAVAGERS offers up Oscar nominee Richard Harris in the waning days of his above-the-title billing, former Oscar winners Ernest Borgnine and Art Carney, Harris' then-wife Ann Turkel and Alana Stewart (perhaps best-known as the ex-wife of both George Hamilton and Rod Stewart and in the news just this week as a close friend of the last Farrah Fawcett). What passes for a plot, from IMDB-- "In a post-apocalyptic world divided between two groups called the Flockers and the Ravagers, an adventurer and his "pleasure girl" try to find their way to a rumored safe haven called the Land of Genesis." Off the top of my head it reminds me of everything from LOGAN'S RUN to A BOY AND HIS DOG. I'm sure there are others. The date this story is said to have taken place in, by the way, was the far-off year of 1991!

Barely a blip on anyone's radar, Harris' career continued going downhill for another decade or so but by the early 1990's he was a much-wanted character actor. Before his death in 2002, he became well-known to a whole new generation as Dumbledore in the first Harry Potter films. He had divorced Turkel in 1982 but she continued working steadily if not particularly memorably through the late 1990's. Borgnine, now in his 90's, has had several recent critically acclaimed performances. Art Carney never again rose to Oscar-level performances but remained for many years a familiar face and a beloved legend for his TV work of the 1950's. Character actor Anthony James retired from acting in the '90's to become a successful painter. Other supporting actors included the near-legendary Woody Strode and the prolific Seymour Cassel. The latter, although now in his 70's, lists no less than 10 performances this year alone on IMDB! RAVAGERS was directed by Richard Compton who had hit it big with MACON COUNTY LINE and RETURN TO MACON COUNTY. In the decades since, he was best known as a TV director whose work included lots of genre shows from BABYLON 5 and X-FILES to M.A.N.T.I.S. and SLIDERS. He died in 2007.

Ginger Snap by Bob Kane (Probably)

Friday, June 26, 2009

DC For Me, See

After the pop culture earthquakes of yesterday, let's settle today for this lovely little DC/AA house ad from the 1940's, shall we?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson and Me

In the early eighties I was working as a Waldenbooks assistant manager in the strangest mall you would have ever seen. Crestview Hills Mall in Northern Kentucky had been planned as early as the late 1960's and was finally built a decade later right at the crossroads of the bypass circle Interstate and the main highway through the state. Despite its seemingly ideal location, reports are that one of the main anchor stores pulled out before the mall opened. There was room for 95 stores and by 1980 about 16 or so had moved in including one generic department store on one end and the Waldenbooks pretty much on its lonesome down at the other. Repeated attempts at luring another anchor store failed because no one wanted to build from scratch and only a big swampy area existed down at the other end of the huge and almost always completely empty parking lot. Over the years many of the stores that HAD moved in closed and toward the end of the mall's existence about five years ago, only a half dozen stores remained open.

Back in the eighties, however, my manager and I determined to make our unique little store successful so we looked for every opportunity to TELL the customer what they wanted. We really had no traffic to speak of...ever...so we had to think outside the box.

While all of this was going on, Michael Jackson had resurrected his floundering career with a couple of medium range solo hits including "Rock With You." Then he released THRILLER and suddenly everyone wanted to cash in on his renewed fame. When teenage girls started giggling and practically wetting their pants over every new issue of TIGER BEAT with the newly gloved one's picture, I got the idea to keep a list. Every time we got something new with Michael on it we would go through and call all of these teen girls (and one guy. Don't ask.) and more often than not, they would come right in, often relying on their parents to drive them over--parents who would often themselves end up buying something! We had a full page of yellow legal pad with names and numbers. At first it was magazines. Then the books started. Seen here is one of the first. Each new book had pretty much the same photos and the same rewritten press agent bios but every single one of these kids ate 'em up like candy and gushed over us providing the service that we did for them! One 12 year old girl, Lauren, came in once to introduce her friend to me. She said, "Steven this is my best friend, Stephanie." I responded with, "Hi, Stephanie. I'm Lauren's bookseller." Little by little, as these things do, the craze blew over. As Michael's startling and at times grotesque metamorphosis continued, the girls fell off the list and the list itself went away. This was around 1985. Cut to about 15 years later. Michael was in the early stages of his biggest scandal and had long since transformed from a handsome young African-American lad to something akin to an alien. One day a woman came into my new store in a real mall and I recognized the unusual last name on her credit card. "Do you have a daughter named Lauren?" I asked casually. "Why, yes. How do you know Lauren?" I rattled off the tale of Michael Jackson and her daughter's obsession. She smiled and laughed in all of the right places and informed me that Lauren was now an attorney. Two days later, Lauren came into the store and I saw her for the first time since she had grown up. She was friendly and polite but whispered that she would really, REALLY appreciate it if I never again mentioned her prepubescent Michael Jackson obsession to anyone! Lauren, if you're reading this, I'm sorry but it was too good a story not to tell one more time in memory of Michael.

RIP-Michael Jackson

Really, really bad day for pop culture icons. Makes you want to scream!

RIP-Farrah Fawcett

She may have had seeming mental issues later on but it was hard to find a teenage boy in the mid-seventies for whom Farrah Fawcett was not a rite of passage. The day I convinced my mother to let me put THAT poster up on my wall (with its oh-so-prominent nipples) was a proud day indeed. I even joined the Official Farrah Fawcett Fan Club. I had actually been a fan of that amazing hair and that glowing smile and that sexy Texas drawl since first noticing her in TV movies and commercials. I enjoyed her running role in David Janssen's HARRY O and thought she looked fantastic on the big screen in LOGAN'S RUN. She became Farrah Fawcett-Majors when she married Lee (SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN) Majors and the two became the king and queen of TV when CHARLIE'S ANGELS hit big right out of the gate. Farrah's logical attempts at big-screen stardom resulted in less-than-perfect but still enjoyable vehicles such as SOMEBODY KILLED HER HUSBAND, SUNBURN and Stanley (SINGIN' IN THE RAIN) Donan's bizarre R-rated sci-fi thriller, SATURN THREE (in which all of us fanboys couldn't help note that the aforementioned nipples made their own screen debut!) Her decline was long and very public, starting with her marriage, then her career and eventually her health. After a long period where we all questioned her sanity, she rebounded a bit. As much as possible, she retained and regained some dignity. I look at Farrah at her passing like an old lover--I haven't seen her in ages but we shared something special and I'll miss just knowing that she was still out there somewhere. Rest in peace, Angel.

Crumb on Terrytoons

As much as he is an anarchist, Robert Crumb is also a traditionalist and always has been. As such, here, from the back cover of the first issue of MR. NATURAL, is Crumb's amusingly wistful "Whatever happened to...?" tribute to the Terrytoons cartoon and comic book animals, Gandy Goose and Sourpuss. In the cartoons, Gandy spoke in a voice copied from Radio's Fire Chief Ed Wynn while his feline antagonist replicated Jimmy Durante (as H-B's later Doggie Daddy would also).

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lily For President-1982

TV specials are an interesting phenomenon in that they are often built up with expectations that they can never meet and yet after they air they disappear, never to be rerun and with a growing legend of how great they were. Here's a good example. LILY FOR PRESIDENT was a 1982 Emmy nominated (for Best Editing but, hey...) TV special featuring the wonderful Lily Tomlin...well...running for president. I wouldn't be surprised to find it had actually been sitting on a shelf for a couple years as 1982 wasn't even an election year! As in all of her TV specials, Lily portrays many characters. As in all of Lily's TV specials, they never seem as funny as you know they should. Look at that cast, though! Where else can you find Scott Baio in the same cast list as Jane Fonda and good old Howard (radio's SAM SPADE) Duff? Further down in the cast one can even find Paul (Pee Wee!) Ruebens. The problem, of course, is that these are all little more than cameos as Lily overindulges her at that point socially conscious but not particularly amusing character schtick. One sees these things, though, in old TV GUIDES and thinks how great it must have been. LILY FOR PRESIDENT was actually released on VHS about a decade past its original running and those of us who saw it were reminded of its essential mediocrity and, except for rabid Lily Tomlin fans, those who hadn't found little other than a mild nostalgia for its once-in-a-lifetime (if mostly wasted) cast.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Funnies!-April 17th, 1945

Franklin Delano Roosevelt died on April 12th, 1945. As America's only 4 term president his funeral was, as expected, huge! Someone in Detroit decided to save a copy of their local paper on Tuesday, the 17th of April to commemorate the President's passing. Somehow, said newspaper, in all of its rotting pulp paper glory, ended up in a used bookstore in Cincinnati where I found it 30 years later in 1975. The historical stuff was all well and good but 16 year old me (seen above in an early incarnation of the Library) just couldn't resist clipping out a bunch of the comics! Thus, for no reason other than the fact that I was ignorant enough to deface this historical, collectible newspaper (which I still have but which crumbles more every time I touch it these days), we present a selection of the funnies from April 17th, 1945. BATMAN, THE LONE RANGER, JOHNNY HAZARD, DONALD DUCK, BUZ SAWYER, BARNEY GOOGLE (which was pretty much SNUFFY SMITH by that point in all but name), TILLIE THE TOILER, BLONDIE, BRINGING UP FATHER and THIMBLE THEATER (with Popeye!). BLONDIE and SNUFFY still survive. Does POPEYE?
For the record, apparently the popularity of Maggie and Jiggs and Dagwood and Blondie merited larger publication as the original printings were notably a size or two up from the rest of the strips seen here.

Simonson Ramhunter

I have no recollection as to why this lovely MANHUNTER drawing by Walt Simonson has a ram's head. Anybody? Coming from the man who brought us Beta Ray Bill, I guess it shouldn't surprise me, though. Clipped from CBG back in '78 or '79 (the art is dated '78), it is a nice piece no matter how horny the guy looks!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bionic Ads

At one point in the seventies, everything in pop culture went bionic! At least it seemed like it had. THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN was freakin' HUGE. Since bionic jokes and twists and characters were turning up everywhere, it made since for the production company to cash in themselves with the proverbial spin-off, in this case, THE BIONIC WOMAN. Looking at the two series today, they seem a tad dull. Lee Majors was a good lookin' fella and all but he was about as exciting as watching ink dry (and I say that with all love and respect as he's my wife's fourth cousin!). Even the slo-mo usage of "Steve Austin's" bionic powers (with accompanying music cues) seems to draaaaag in these quick cut post-MTV days. While the same could be said of Lindsay Wagner's "Jaime Sommers," at least it was obvious that she was an actress of some skills. Although not really a part of the seventies "T 'n' A TV that begat CHARLIE'S ANGELS, WONDER WOMAN and THREE'S COMPANY, she was naturally sexy and had a deft way with a funny line when she got one.

In the comics, Charlton, of all people, published the exploits of the characters in a packaged series that included art by fan favorite Neal Adams and his studio. Here, totally seperate from any of that, are three ads for some TV tie-in toys from the height of Bionic-mania!

Peter Cushing and the Exorcist

Here's a 1974 article on the late great horror star Peter Cushing's feelings toward the biggest horror film of its day, THE EXORCIST. Guess he wasn't a big Linda Blair fan. There was a REASON they call him "Saint" Peter!

Movies That Fell Through the Cracks # 50

CHU CHU AND THE PHILLY FLASH was a 1981 comedy that took itself a tad too seriously...or was it a drama that just seemed a bit too silly? Don't know. Didn't last long in my neck of the woods for me to see it and, as I stated last week, after FIRE SALE the mere presence of Alan Arkin did not automatically guarantee that I would see a movie the way it earlier had.

In this case, the picture seems to have been a family affair. Co-written by Arkin's then-spouse, Barbara Dana, and featuring a number of other "Arkins" (Adam included) as you zip down through the cast. And oh, what a cast! The wonderful Carol Burnett in one of her several less than satisfying attempts at big screen success (THE FOUR SEASONS and ANNIE were others) aside, there are some amazingly enjoyable character actors listed for this one--Jack Warden, Vincent Schiavelli, Danny Aiello, Lou Jacobi, Vito Scotti, Dabbs Greer, Danny Glover (in only his second feature!), Steve McQueen's ex Neile Adams McQueen and SID F-ing HAIG!!

Directed by David Lowell Rich who had done some passable TV work for years but seemed stymied by transitioning to the big screen, the movie tells the story of a former big league baseball star turned homeless alcoholic as he's given the chance to try out for a minor league team if he can come up with the money for the trip. Local music teacher and street performer "Chu Chu" finds a briefcase with documents she's convinced will get him that money only to have the briefcase's owners attempt to take it back the hard way. Along the way, Chu Chu and the former Philly Flash fall in love.

Doesn't sound THAT bad and with all those great actors...still, would depend very much on the tone. Have you ever seen it? Apparently it was out there on cheap VHS at one point but I don't know if it's been on DVD. I'd be willing to bet that the most rabid fans of Arkin and Burnett have not seen this one.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

DC Golden Age Ad

It's Father's Day and the last few days have been a little rough so I'm taking the day off. Here, drool over this truly nifty Golden Age DC ad whilst I'm gone!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Dracula, Prince of Terror

If you enjoyed yesterday's post on DRACULA A.D. 1972, here's a brief behind-the-scenes promo short. There was a time when these things popped up like nice little surprises before the main feature in theaters. Now we get full half hour versions of them on Showtime which, while well done and interesting, somehow still don't have the charm that these little half-reel wonders did.

R. Crumb's Cheap Thrills

A brief and relatively recent-looking clip of Robert Crumb discussing the story behind his famous album cover for Janis Joplin and why he did NOT do one for the Rolling Stones.

Jack Kirby Introduced by Harlan Ellison

Always fun to listen to Kirby talk and this clip, introduced by Harlan Ellison, is no exception. YouTube says this is from a long out-of-print documentary entitled MASTERS OF COMIC BOOK ART.

Harry the Hat

Before NIGHT COURT, Harry Anderson was a fast talking con man/magician in night clubs, on variety shows and a few episodes of CHEERS. Here, from an HBO special of the early eighties, is a version of his crowd-pleasing "geek trick," the Needle Through the Arm Gag. I prefer the SNL version I have on tape somewhere but couldn't find it online. Should you wish to destroy the illusion, there are also several YouTube videos by others detailing how the trick is done!

Roky Erickson

A couple years back, I discovered the Pretty Things and couldn't figure out how I had never heard their music before. Recently, it happened again with the Texas band, the 13th Floor Elevators. The Elevators can best be described as a proto-punk/surf/garage/psychedelic group with a lead singer who had one of the most amazing voices of the day! Roky Erickson was described somewhere as a Twilight Zone Buddy Holly and I can see that! The group was a major proponent of the creative powers of LSD and, like Syd Barrett, it exasperated what may have been an already present tendency toward mental illness in Roky. Unlike Syd, Roky received many years of treatment and, while still struggling with issues today, has continued to make music. Here's a video of him in 1985, 16 years after the 13th Floor Elevators disintegrated.

Friday, June 19, 2009

East Meets West--When Legends Gather, 1978

The last issue of Marvel's FOOM fan magazine came out in 1978 and was put together by David Anthony Kraft (who would many years later have me interviewed for his COMICS INTERVIEW) and Jim Salicrup (who is now one of my Facebook friends!). Buried within its pages for those still reading it was an interesting interview with a man named Gene Pelc who worked in marketing and licensing in Japan for Marvel's then-parent company, Cadence. Within the article, there were several rather murky reproductions of photos which now, all these years later, seem to take on slightly more significance. The photos are of Marvel's own Stan "the Man" Lee being introduced by Gene to a couple of Japanese manga cartoonists on a seventies visit to the Far East. The first here is Stan meeting the young artist Go Nagai (not "Nagai Go" as printed) whose most popular creation remains CUTIE HONEY. The other shows Stan being introduced to the legendary Dr. Osama Tezuka himself, the father of Japanese Manga and creator, to American audiences of the day, of ASTRO BOY!


Okay, so me and my friend Terry, see, we'd been seeing all these TV ads for the new Christopher Lee Dracula movie back in '72, okay? All of the ads say that the audience will ACTUALLY PARTICIPATE in something called a "Horroritual!" COOL! We were all about the scary stuff at age thirteen, y'know? Hammer films, SCREAM IN on TV with the Cool Ghoul as host, FM, CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN. Alla that! And THIS particular Drac film was gonna update the series to our own modern world!! DRACULA A. D. 1972!! What a groovy idea! It just. Made. SENSE!

So anyway, we get to the theater, the RKO ALBEE in downtown Cincy. It was either opening day for the film or day two. Not sure. Now, the Albee had seen better days. Once the prestigious showplace of Cincinnati's Fountain Square, it had been just slightly up from a grindhouse for the last several years showing a mix of first run B movies, second run A pictures and blacksploitation flicks. It was kinda grungy looking by that point but with a nearly overwhelming air of lost grandeur.

VIDEO WATCHDOG's Tim Lucas informs me that his future wife Donna was most likely the person working the outside ticket booth that day. I wouldn't meet Donna officially for another two decades so we'll never know for sure. Inside the vast lobby behind the ticket booth, however, there was a coffin with a sign promoting the Horroritual! Next to it was a table with a mock newspaper promoting the picture and the Horroritual! We each eagerly grabbed one of THOSE babies as a collectors item! We were psyched, buddy! We had arrived way early and the auditorium was empty so we simply sat and rapped and read some of the stacks of comics we had both just bought on the next block at King's News. 20 cents! Jeez! Couldn't get nearly as many as we did just a couple years back for 12 or 15 cents! Maaaan!

Neither of us had a watch and eventually we had our bags and sweaters and all of our "stuff" just sprawled out across several of the hard, uncomfortable Albee chairs. No one else came in...ever. Well, that's not true--there were a couple old guys toward the back who seemed to have fallen asleep or somethin'. ANYhow, we knew time was getting close. We didn't know what the Horroritual would be but we were READY!

Then the lights dimmed....NO! As often happened in those days, then the picture started! It would be a few more minutes before the lights dimmed! The picture started...CRESCENDO! Awww, maaan! The second feature was on first! It was an okay suspenser with my favorite actress, Stefanie Powers and a creepy actor named James Olson ("Jimmy Olsen! Hahahahahhaha! We thought THAT was funny!). Awright, now...90 minutes later. That's out of the way! Bring on the Horroritual!

DRACULA, A. D. 1972! Wow! What an openin! All dark and gothic and creepy lighting with Van Helsing and Dracula tussling on a coach! One of the best scenes EVER in a Dracula picture! But then... Airplanes! Swinging London! Hippies! Just like real life in 1972! Hey, where's Chris Lee? We felt we knew him well enough to call him "Chris." Okay, THERE he is again...finally! What'd he do, just work, like, two days on this thing? Lots of distracting boobage, though. Good, good! Waitin' for the horroritual here. When's it happen?

After awhile, Drac gets killed...again...as expected. The lights come up aaaaaaaaaaand...nothin'! HUH??!! That must have BEEN the Horroritual, we thought...What a rip. What a cheezy way to sell a movie! Awww, maaaaan!

Cut to nearly twenty years later when I buy a cheap GoodTimes VHS of Zacherly introducing and just plain messing with a bunch of PD horror clips and trailers and what do I find hidden in this little gem? THE HORRORITUAL!!!! Well, at least the best parts of it.

The actual Horroritual which apparently the Albee projectionist simply decided not to run that day as there were only a handful of conscious people in the audience, is a short film made in conjunction with Dr. Donald A Reed's Count Dracula Society as away to cross-promote the film as well as the society. On-screen we see Barry Atwater (the vampire in that same year's TV-movie THE NIGHT STALKER) camping it up as a more traditional mittel-European-style vamp and he asks you to take the Oath to become...one of THEM!

In fact, as you probably already noticed, above is that very clip from that Zacherly tape--the Horroritual itself! The scans above are from the newspaper/flyer we picked up that day. Actor Atwater died 6 year's later. Donna and Tim Lucas got married and lived happily ever after. I haven't seen Terry since about 1990 now. Zach is in his nineties now and will probably live forever...assuming he was ever really alive at all! DRACULA A.D. 1972 is now rightly considered (except for that still awesome opening scene) one of the WORST and most dated Hammer films of them all and just last week, Chris...Ahem! Christopher Lee became SIR Christopher Lee! How time flies.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Terror Tales from the Crypt

Okay, here's another guessing game for you! Here's a cool-looking fake EC-style comic book cover in a scene from a movie! I know I want to read it! The question is...what movie is this scene from? It wasn't a huge hit but it wasn't a flop either. I will tell you that it's from the 1960's and you know what they say--If you remember being there, you weren't really there! Another clue tomorrow if no one gets it!

UPDATE-6-19-Not even one guess? Good heavens people! If this were a real comic book the buyers and sellers would be all over it! Okay, fine. That's two clues. You tell me!
UPDATE- Fine! See if I have any more contests for you guys then! First clue above was "If you remember being there..." In this case, BEING THERE, the Peter Sellers classic from 1979. That was to tell you this was from one of Peter's fims--albeit obviously a black and white one--and send you scrambling back through his career with guesses. Second clue was "Good heavens..." and final clue was "... buyers and sellers." The comic is taken away from a young church parishoner in the 1963 Peter Sellers film HEAVENS ABOVE!, a religious and socilological satire that plays it straight pretty much, makes a number of valid, amusing points and finally veers off into a ridiculous, thoroughly inappropriate ending that undermines the strength of the rest of the picture.

So there! Now go! Go back to whatever it is you were doing before! No more contests here! Grumble, grumble, grumble...see if I care!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Clayface and the 1966 Batman

Clearly the classic opening to the campy BATMAN TV series of my favorite year, 1966, was created prior to the series airing. This is obvious because it appears on the first episode and then on every subsequent episode without variation until the Batgirl bit is added in season three. The opening presents a montage of villains, most of whom are generic but some of whom were clearly taken from the comics as likely villains to appear on the series. Thus you see the obvious images of the Penguin, the Joker and a rather different looking Catwoman. With Julie Newmar not appearing until episode 19, it's safe to presume the role had not been cast or clearly defined when this animation would've been done sometime in 1965. But wait! Who's that moving by in the second row so fast you can barely see him? Why...it's Clayface! Clayface had been a major Batman villain in the comics for about 7 years at that point so it was logical to consider that he might be likely to appear in an upcoming script. With his protoplasmic-like changing powers though and the nature of TV special effects at the time, it was probably deemed to be too expensive to do the character in live-action. Thus, according to Wikipedia, Clayface first appeared outside the comics in the 1970's animated series that had Adam West and Burt Ward reprising the voices of the Caped Crusaders. Hah! Obviously, someone wasn't paying particularly close attention back in '66!
A tip o' the Thompson topper to son bookdave for catching this recently!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Frank Thorne, Wendy Pini and Me

Over at THE BRONZE AGE OF BLOGS today, we are reminded that it is the birthday of Frank Thorne, the great "dirty old man" of comics. Happy birthday, Frank! Once a Kubert clone who toiled unheralded on Gold Key horror comics and DC war comics, Thorne reinvented himself as "the Wizard" when drawing Roy Thomas's sexy barbarian title, RED SONJA in the mid seventies and has gone on to become quite a cult figure on his own. Eccentric to the max, he even took his show on the road with a series of Red Sonja Lookalike Contests at various conventions for a couple of years. These were often strictly fan service events with a number of nubile young ladies in chainmail bikinis waving swords, spouting Robert E Howardesque prose and tossing silver coins to an almost exclusively male audience as they competed for the role of best lookalike. Mr. Thorne dutifuly presided over all in his wizard costume and hat.

I got to see Frank, Angelique and the two Wendys at a Seuling Con Sonja Contest in '77. That was the year they had to move the New York Con to Philadelphia for reasons I don't recall at the moment. In spite of the appearances of Berni(e) Wrightson, Barry Windsor-Smith, Jeff Jones and a ton of NYC pros, the only autographs I got that weekend were from Frank (who did a little sketch!) and Wendy Pini (whose chainmail was quite intimidating to 18 year old me). I think that's her husband and future ELFQUEST co-creator, Richard in the pic I snapped. I have a pic of Mr Thorne somewhere but it's AWOL at the moment. He was quite nice and rather soft-spoken but with a mischievous grin even during the brief moment we spoke. The only other surviving pic from the trip other than some Philadelphia monuments) is this not particularly good snapshot of my parents standing under the hotel marquee advertising the Con!

Check out http://bronzeageofblogs.blogspot.com/2009/06/frank-thorne.html for more details on Frank and a Thorne-drawn recollection of the Sonja shows!

Galexo and Batman

In 1966, National Periodical Publications teamed with the Ledger Syndicate to revive the BATMAN newspaper comic strip to take advantage of that year's Batmania. Heavily promoted but ultimately disappointing, this incarnation was most definitely the camp TV version of the Caped Crusaders, right down to Chief O'Hara who had never really appeared in the comic books. Although most papers dropped it much sooner, the strip actually limped on until 1974 during which time it took some fascinating turns! Not the least of these was giving up Batman and Robin a year or so before the end but retaining Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson in support of a new hero called GALEXO! As this strip has never been reprinted save for a brief continuity in THE AMAZING WORLD OF DC (featuring Green Arrow), its very scarcity has made it intriguing to fans.

Very few examples can be found even on the 'Net and those that are tend to be poorly scanned (as seen in most of the examples here). Although signed by "Bob Kane" long after his famously overcompensating agreement with DC on the comic books had ended, art was by familiar hands including Sheldon Moldoff, Nick Cardy, Joe Giella and later Al Plastino. The final credited artist on the strip was Fran Matera, a longtime newspaper strip artist whose strips included NERO WOLFE, INDIANA JONES and THE LEGEND OF BRUCE LEE. Matera would thus have been the artist on the Galexo-era strips.

Has anyone seen Galexo? Does anyone have a picture or even a memory of this character? Was he an alien? A traditional superhero? What the hell did he have to do with Batman and Robin and why did they stop being Batman and Robin? Was the strip still called BATMAN? How many newspapers even carried it towards the end? Okay, troops. You have your assignment! Find me a strip with Galexo and we'll run it here!

Here are a couple of links to recent coverage of the BATMAN strip's 1966 debut in my own local paper, the CINCINNATI ENQUIRER--http://matttauber.blogspot.com/2009/05/sunday-funnies-1966-batman-and-robin.html

Monday, June 15, 2009

Random Panels of Comic Book Weirdness # 57

Okay, but what's your REAL motivation?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

L'iL Abner's Father's Day Suggestion

Al Capp, for all of his much vaunted political satire (from both left and right depending on the year) was all about the crass commercialism that is "selling out." Thus we have Abner and Daisy Mae appearing in ads of all kinds over the years (along with, of course, Fearless Fosdick!) Here, for example, is a timely look at L'il Abner and family for Father's Day. Seriously, what could be a better Father's Day gift than Abner's underwear? While we're here, let's throw in yet another L'il Abner ad, this one for tasty Orange Crush. Forget all about that Kickapoo Joy Juice stuff. Orange Crush is the "offishul" drink o' Dogpatch! MMMM-MMMM Good!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Skeeter Davis and Me

One of my Facebook friends posted a Skeeter Davis video the other day and it got me reminiscing. I think the first time I ever heard of Skeeter Davis was on one of those oldies record commercials around 1971. Along with a whole bunch of songs I knew from having my transistor radio with me 24-7 (Yes, I slept with it!), there was one song I had never heard before--THE END OF THE WORLD by someone called Skeeter Davis. The brief clip of her they showed on the commercial depicted a quiet young woman with one of the most beautiful voices I had ever heard singing a sad and lovely song. I was intrigued. The Carpenters did a version of THE END OF THE WORLD not long afterwards and perhaps because of that, I began finally noticing the original version on the radio. In those heady days of Grand Funk, Jethro Tull and Shocking Blue on AM, the quiet beauty of this downer song was always kind of a a treat. I could detect a bit of a Southern accent in Skeeter's doubletracked harmonies but I still knew nothing about her.

Around that same time and completely unbeknownst to 12 year old rock and pop fan me, Skeeter Davis was continuing her long success on the country music charts with an autobiographical song entitled BUS FARE TO KENTUCKY. By 1973, she was having her own issues with the Grand Ole Opry. When she made a political statement onstage in Nashville in 1973, she was kicked out of the Opry. Unapologetic, it would be fifteen months later before she got enough support from longtime Opry members to be re-instated. Although it was the mid-seventies by that point, Skeeter considered her a hippie and a free-spirited flower child.

Originally, I would find out much later, she had been raised not that far from me here in Northern Kentucky. In the mid-1940's, the young Mary Frances Penick teamed up with her friend Betty Jack Davis and they began a successful radio singing career as The Davis Sisters (with Mary Frances using her childhood nicknname and adopting Betty Jack's last name). Signed and recorded by RCA in 1953, their biggest hit was entitled I FORGOT MORE THAN YOU'LL EVER KNOW. It took the two young girls on a whirlwind tour and up the charts. Fate being what it is, however, the pair were involved in an early morning collision with a sleepy driver in Cincinnati and Betty Jack was killed. There followed a complicated and complex series of family issues that left Skeeter doubting her sanity.

With other acts such as The Everly Brothers (also from Kentucky) successfully emulating the Davis Sisters' harmonies, legendary producer (and guitar god) Chet Atkins adapted or perhaps invented the concept of double-track voice recording in order to allow Skeeter to return to the charts with the trademark Davis Sisters harmonies intact by having her harmonize with herself. Skeeter Davis then began a long string of solo country successes with a couple of years of pop chart crossovers beginning with THE END OF THE WORLD in 1963.

In the early 1990's, her ex-husband, Ralph Emery, had written an autobiography in which he was vicious to Skeeter. When he did a booksigning at a Cincinnati area store (that I would actually take over years later), his negative comments on local girl Skeeter made the news with lots of yucks and nudges. I joked at the time that I wished Skeeter would write her own autobiography so WE could do a signing with her and hear HER side! At that time, she was already working on exactly that.

BUS FARE TO KENTUCKY by Skeeter Davis came out in late 1993 and at that time I was assistant manager at the Waldenbooks in Florence, Kentucky. As I was trying to track down (in those still pre-Net days for me) a way to get hold of her with my idea, her publicist called me! Seems Skeeter wanted to do a signing at the closest mall to where her relatives lived so they could all come by to visit as well as pick up a copy of her book. I ran with it. Her publicist, Leigh, was probably the easiest publicist I have ever worked with in any capacity and we quickly had chosen a date for a signing. She sent me posters, publicity material (some of which is seen here) and told me anecdotes about Skeeter on the phone. This was wonderful because, as anyone knows who's ever managed retail, we had virtually NO budget for that type of thing.

Then one day, she called to say that Skeeter was wondering if it would be okay to bring her guitar along and maybe strum a few songs. As you can imagine, I was all in favor of it but I told her I had best check with the mall manager and make sure it would be okay. Now here's where it gets interesting. Seems the mall manager not only HAD a budget but was a big country music fan. I put him in touch with Skeeter's people and within a short time, it was determined that Skeeter Davis would not only bring her guitar but her whole backing band, hot off a tour of American military bases in Germany and South Korea. The mall had already expected a big crowd that weekend for a planned car show and on extremely short notice, it was arranged for a mini-concert in center court...which was right outside my store!

By that point, though, it was less than a week away and there was very little time to publicize her appearance for anything other than the autographing. That's when I realized that the local oldies rock radio station was having their annual live concert in downtown Cincinnati the day prior to our event. I called them up and after a little bit of trouble convincing them that I was on the level, it was arranged for Skeeter to come in the night before and do a walk-on at their concert to promote our event. In exchange, what they wanted was the opportunity to display their banners at the store and at the mall and have two of their dj's do live cut-ins throughout the afternoon. Ummm...yeah. That worked for me.

On the day of the event, we had hundreds of copies of BUS FARE TO KENTUCKY but my boss was understandably worried that the whole thing had gotten out of hand. We opened on Sundays at noon. Nearly our full staff was scheduled that day and my wife, Rene, had even agreed to work as auxilary and handle photographing the event (both in color and in black and white for the press). The radio folks from WGRR had shown up early and immmediately set up shop at our storefront. They hung their banner over the autographing table and got their equipment going. About once every fifteen minutes, they did a live cut-in telling all of their listeners to come to the mall to see Skeeter for free!

Leigh arrived at the already crowded store about 12:30 PM and said that Skeeter and the band were wherever malls put such people before a mall show. At about 1 PM, the mall suddenly rocked with music when Skeeter took the stage just outside our store and stormed into an unexpectedly raucous version of SILVER THREADS AND GOLDEN NEEDLES. I was on the clock but felt justified in going out to get a close look while my wife was running up and down stairs snapping two rolls of pictures. The smooth voiced young lady I had first heard of some 22 years earlier had developed into a seasoned performer who could really rock! The audience ate it up! In the store, people started buying the book and lining up at the table for after the concert. I was called back in but made it out a few more times, particularly to see her perform a beautiful version of THE END OF THE WORLD as if it were the very first time she'd ever sung it.

The concert crowds built and we could hear her announce the signing between songs. Over the next couple of hours(!) she ran through a surprisingly diverse selection of pop standards, country hits, and some light rock! My boss kept askin me when she was going to be through as by that point we had a long line outside our store blocking the other stores down the mall. The managers of the other stores were not happy and we kept assuring them that we'd do something about it. We didn't. We secretly loved the crowd and the notoriety we were getting with the other stores.

Then I heard Skeeter say the darndest thing. From the stage, she asked, "Hey, where's Steve? Steve!" I stepped outside and someone pointed me out to her. She asked, "How long are we supposed to sing? Have we sung enough?" I was flabbergasted. Apparently I was in charge and no one had informed me! The gathered crowd cheered for more but it was by then after 3 PM so I nodded that they had done enough and gestured for her to come on over to the store.

The crowds were pleased to see her and, as she had hoped, there were a lot of relatives there. The cash registers were ringing constantly and the dj's began recording an interview between signings. My wife showed up with only a few pictures left to take and then she and I hung out with Leigh. Leigh's the woman with glasses next to Skeeter in the black and white photo seen here. Leigh was also hanging on to Skeeter's purse and after a short while, a very sleepy white dog popped his yawning head up out of said purse! Jack was the dog's name and we were told he'd been listless and hadn't eaten in days. Animal lover that she is, Rene went to the food court and got some fried chicken that she managed to get the dog to eat in the back room after tearing off the skin. Leigh was impressed and ran to tell Skeeter. Suddenly, my wife was Skeeter's favorite person! Leigh told us that Skeeter had apparently had a succession of similar dogs, some of whom appeared with her on album covers and all of whom were named Jack.

The sales, the reminiscing, the emotional reunions and the complaints from other stores continued for three hours until it was time for the mall to close at 6! The day didn't end there, however. Late in the day, two more disc jockeys from WGRR's sister station in texas arrived and it was arranged for them to interview Skeeter in the store's back room after closing! Some of the employees went home but my manager, Brenda, sat with Rene and I and just listened as the extremely animated star went on for another hour about dating Elvis, having Paul McCartney tell her her harmonies influenced the early Beatles, being fired from the Opry, getting cancer, marrying the much younger Joey Spampinato (from the always hip band, NRBQ) and, as expected, dissing Ralph Emery. After that she was anxious to actually spend a little time asking about US. She flipped through a photo album from her purse for us: "There's my Uncle! Oh, look, that's me and mama!" She flipped another one. "Oh, that's just Joey and Paul," she said, quickly moving on to, "Awww! There's my dog, Jack!" For the record, the "Joey" she glossed over was her husband who had just auditioned for touring bass player for the Rolling Stones (this was just after Bill Wyman's departure) and "Paul" was Mr. McCartney himself! Just a snapshot she had taken herself of the pair.

It had to be nearly 9 PM by the time we finally left. At the end, she invited us all to come to Nashville and stay with her some upcoming weekend. We presumed she was simply being polite in her folksy way so we all demurred. Leigh informed us that, no, Skeeter had been serious. She had often invited folks to stay for awhile...some of whom had stolen whatever they could get away with!

I went out and bought all of the Skeeter Davis albums I could find and got a few more (including her double act with NRBQ) at the Public Library. The store had Skeeter back five years later when she published a children's book but by then I had been promoted to another location. Her breast cancer resurfaced in 2001 and she died in 2004. In their obit, THE CINCINNATI ENQUIRER stated that she had not performed in this area for decades. I didn't have many of the pictures anymore (we had sent some to Waldenbooks' home office and some to Skeeter) but I was able to correct them in a letter published a few days later detailing the day in 1993 when Kentucky's own Skeeter Davis, on very short notice, took Florence Mall by storm!