Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Random Panels of Comic Book Weirdness # 96

If you've missed the frequency of these panels here, please note that we've got several photo albums full of them on Facebook. You can access the latest, RANDOM PANELS MAKIN' MERRY LIKE IT WAS CHRISTMAS at the following public link. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Happy Hembeck Day!

A birthday shoutout to Fred Hembeck, he of the swirly knees. I first discovered Fred way back in the seventies in fanzines and followed his cartoon self through a long series of completely drawn and hand-lettered "columns" in TBG/CBG and on into mainstream acceptance with various specials and strips at Marvel and DC.

Fred was one of my earliest supporters when I started this blog and my wife and son and I got to hang out briefly with Mr. H and his lovely wife Lynn (herself a longtime cartoon character in Fred's strips!) a couple of years back at Mid-Ohio Con.

Check out his multi-faceted site here: http://www.hembeck.com/index2.htm

You can order a copy of his telephone book sized strip collection from 2008 at the link below.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Here We Go Again...

Skipping Sub-Mariner Saturdays with the need to come to our readers yet again with a special request for donations if you like our blogs.

At this point, if I can hold out until the last paperwork arrives that I can do our taxes we should be able to get caught up on things pretty quickly.

That's if we don't lose our Internet connection and phone completely come February 1st and right now that's looking like a very real possibility.

So head over to BOOKSTEVE'S BOOKSTORE PLUS and see if there's anything you'd like to purchase or, if not, please consider a small donation to keep us bringing you my 1974 Journal, the Wally Wood and Gray Morrow blogs, the history of ADVENTURE COMICS, reprinted comics at Four Color Shadows and all the great pop stuff from 1966!

Any and all proceeeds received over the next few days go to keep us bringing you the most entertaining and informative blogs possible.

Many thanks to all who have donated or purchased from us in the past and thanks to any and all who choose to do so now. You ARE appreciated. The DONATIONS button is at top right. The Bookstore link is above.

The above cat, btw, is Magellan Thompson, now known as Jelly or Jellybaby (as in DR WHO). We still think of him as a kitten as he's only 9 months old but he has turned into a big ol' CAT!

UPDATE: Thanks to those who have purchased or donated over the weekend! As of Monday morning, we have achieved our goal! Wow! You guys are great.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Wally Wood's Strange Worlds

To celebrate today's 700th post at HOORAY FOR WALLY WOOD, we're "simulcasting" my review of Vanguard Publishing's new collection of Woody's early sci-fi comics. Thanks to J. David Spurlock, the Keeper of the Wood Flame, for a review copy!

From out of deepest space and via time warp from the far-flung fifties comes STRANGE WORLDS, the ultimate collection of Wallace Wood’s early, non-EC science fiction and fantasy stories.

This is not a book to introduce one’s self to Wood, arguably the greatest sci-fi illustrator of the 20th Century. No, STRANGE WORLDS is a book for Wood fans who want the big picture. What we have here is the chance to watch the artist’s astonishingly rapid development from almost crude beginnings to his fabled mastery of storytelling, composition and shadows, all in just the few short years featured herein. Between black and white reprints and online scans, the true connoisseur has seen most of this work before but oh, to have it now in such a nice chronological presentation with lovingly restored color from the original issues of SPACE DETECTIVE, CAPTAIN SCIENCE, AMAZING ADVENTURES and other long-forgotten four-color treasures! Words fail.

To be honest, the stories themselves aren’t much, many being clich├ęd space opera of the most antiquated sort. But this isn’t a book about stories. It’s a book about art. Wood’s early collaborations with Joe Orlando are present as well as work done with Al Williamson, Frank Frazetta and even Jack Kirby. And every one is a revelation to Wood fans, showing off his enthusiasm for outer space stories and his experimentations as he became the genius he would so quickly become.

So exactly what is in STRANGE WORLDS? To start with, there’s THE FLYING SAUCERS, a fairly serious full-length tale exploiting UFO’s when they were in the news almost daily. Then there’s AN EARTHMAN ON VENUS, inexplicably appearing in black and white. There are a number of series entries with characters including  the aforementioned Captain Science and Space Detective as well as Kenton of the Star Patrol and Rocky X of the Rocketeers. Dotted around these are one-off stories from various publishers with the book finishing up with a post-EC tale from Atlas and some beautifully colored continuity from the SKY MASTERS OF THE SPACE FORCE  newspaper strip in which Wood inked Jack Kirby in what many have called the best work of either artist! In between many of the stories are original art panels and pages from some of the artist’s best-known EC classics which can be used to compare his development.

All of this is wrapped up in David Spurlock’s beautiful packaging. The front cover of the regular edition is a “new” piece of Wally Wood art produced by the great designer and artist, Jim Steranko, utilizing bits and pieces from various Wood illustrations. In this manner, Jim has created Woodwork that highlights Wood’s trademark spaceman, a sexy woman and a sleek rocket all amidst a screen-laden planetscape.

In case anyone hasn’t been paying attention, let me say it plainly—This is a gorgeous volume!

The limited slipcase edition flops the new cover to the back and spotlights on its front the amazing Wood/Adkins cover for a 1964 record album of H.G. Wells’ WAR OF THE WORLDS. It also offers an additional portfolio of the little-seen inside front cover art that Wood did for many of the Avon titles on which he worked in the 1950’s.
Wallace Wood took his own life in 1981, more than 30 years ago now. And yet 2012 looks to be Wood’s best year ever with forthcoming Wood projects from Fantagraphics and IDW (and a couple more rumored but as yet officially unannounced!). It all starts, just like Woody did, with Vanguard’s STRANGE WORLDS. You should start there, too!

The hardcover and the limited edition are out now and the softcover is coming soon. You can order your copy today at:  http://www.vanguardproductions.net/Wood3/index

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Men Who Make Stanley and His Monster

A late sixties bio-page for writer Arnold Drake and artist Bob Oksner.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Movies That Fell Though the Cracks # 72

THE MANCHU EAGLE CAPER MURDER MYSTERY, if remembered at all, is remembered solely as a footnoted trivia question in the history of The Dead End Kids.

This 1975 surreal picture surprisingly offers the only starring film role for the wonderful character actor Gabriel Dell, originally T. B. in Broadway and Hollywood's DEAD END KIDS and a fixture of the series films that followed right up through the early Bowery Boys pictures. Gabe remained friends with the gang even after he left the films, in fact doing a double act with Huntz Hall for awhile. Thus, the appearance of Hall here, uncharacteristically as a sadistic deputy, makes this of interest to fans of the old gang.

But this is about as far from a Bowery Boys film as one can get. There's not even a nod to the old days. Dell had gone on to a successful career as a comic (on the STEVE ALLEN SHOW) and a dramatic actor, often appearing as a villain. When he made this picture he had just come off a short run as the star of a sitcom entitled THE CORNER BAR, sort of an early version of CHEERS.

MANCHU is neither fish nor fowl. On the one hand, it's a straightforward mystery with some intense scenes. On the other, it's an often surreal black comedy. The problem is that the two hands never quite come together.

Gabe is good as always, particularly in his earnest, Chandleresque narration. In an earlier time with a less-hip "look," he could have played a fine Marlowe given the chance. Only this is no rain-drenched city film. It's set in the country with baby chicks and milkmen and such. In fact, Dick Gautier appears briefly as the murdered milkman whose killing our mail-order detective hero has to solve.

The rest of the great cast each get some individual set pieces--Joyce Van Patten, Anjanette Comer, Sorrell Booke, Jackie Coogan, an absolutely delightful but suicidal Barbara Harris, Vincent Gardenia and the surprisingly sexy Nita Talbot! As a lecherous doctor, THE WALTONS' Will Geer walks away with the show, however, in a scene that almost seems like it could have come from the NAKED GUN films.

By the odd ending, I was left scratching my head. I had enjoyed the performances by old familiar faces and laughed quite a bit but I really couldn't tell you what the heck it was all about!

The man behind the whole thing was Dean Hargrove who, as producer of NBC's mystery series including COLUMBO and McCLOUD and later MATLOCK and DIAGNOSIS MURDER, certainly knew his way around lighthearted mysteries. Not sure what accounts for this misstep.

Gabe Dell and Huntz Hall promoted the movie when they appeared on Tom Snyder's TOMORROW SHOW but were much more fun talking about the old days with Leo Gorcey and the gang than they were here in THE MANCHU EAGLE CAPER MURDER MYSTERY.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Happy Anniversary Secret Agent X-9

SECRET AGENT X-9 was a long-running (Jan. 22nd, 1932-1996) comic strip created by Dashiell Hammett who also created THE MALTESE FALCON's Sam Spade and THE THIN MAN's Nick Charles. Art chores went to the extremely influential Alex Raymond who would soon go on to create FLASH GORDON.

Hammett's actual involvement with the strip is apparently questionable but eventually Leslie Charteris, creator of THE SAINT, took it over. The strip coasted for a while after Raymond's death before being taken over in the sixties by one of his biggest disciples, EC great, Al Williamson, and renamed SECRET AGENT CORRIGAN. Legendary comics writer Archie Goodwin teamed with Williamson for many years on it. In the end, another EC vet, George Evans was the final artist.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Saturday Bronze Age Sub-Mariner Splash Pages # 48

Here we have another "eh" splash, fronting a convoluted chapter in the ongoing team-up of Subby and Doc Doom. Art is again by Colan and Esposito and we have the main image neatly framed again only this time it's framed by far too many expository word balloons!

Color-wise, it's dark--very dark. This makes the title box jump out at the reader more than it otherwise might. This distracts only briefly, however, from the fact that this is quite frankly, a dull scene to have started off the issue.

Not seen here is the nifty cover by Namor's creator Bill Everett inking Gil Kane.

Friday, January 20, 2012