Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Creativity of Ditko

OK, this is not a review. This is yet another blatant plug. How could I be expected to impartially review a book that's dedicated to me? Yes, me! I was surprised as all get out when I proofread this for author Craig Yoe some months back as I hadn't expected that in the slightest. Especially since I actually had less to do with this particular book than with most of Craig's recent volumes until that point! Wow. I am humbled and honored. The eternal seven year old me remembers sitting on my Aunt's stairs seeing Ditko's Spider-Man lift that enormous piece of wet machinery and being affected by that imagery for life. And now to have a book about that man dedicated to me. Just...wow. Thanks, Craig.

But there's more to THE CREATIVITY OF DITKO than the dedication! If you're a Ditko fan, you know that he's on record as wanting his work to represent him. And here it does. From Paul Levitz's deferential intro we go through many of Ditko's lesser-known short sci-fi and horror tales of the fifties and sixties, interspersed with original art pages from the likes of BEWARE THE CREEPER and T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS.

There's a long and wonderful DOCTOR GRAVES story here that compares favorably to the artist's best DOCTOR STRANGE work.

A highlight of the book is a remembrance from the daughter of Steve Ditko's one-time studio-mate, Eric Stanton, accompanied by some collaborative naughty artwork as well as some hitherto private photos of the pair taken more than fifty years ago, thus raising the number of known photos of the reclusive artist considerably!

Topping off the volume is a lovely appreciation by blogger Mykal Banta and some previously unpublished art from a later unrealized Ditko project! Jack C. Harris discusses the latter.

As always with this type of collection, and as Steve himself would want it, it's about the art, not the stories. One can pore over the nuances of this great, eccentric master of the comic art form for hours here. The fact that many of the stories are pretty good, too, is a bonus.

Craig's classy cover design makes this a must-add to the shelves of Ditko fans everywhere where it will fit comfortably beside his earlier THE ART OF DITKO and Blake Bell's wholly separate series of Ditko reprints!  

Fibber in '72

The other day we ran some vintage images of FIBBER McGEE AND MOLLY. Well here's a much later shot of Fibber, still shilling for longtime sponsor Johnson's Wax in 1972!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Four Color Shadows Album

As we approach 1000 posts on our Rondo-nominated sister blog, FOUR-COLOR SHADOWS, I've created a Facebook album spotlighting 200 of the best, wackiest and most creative splash pages and panels. You can go here to see it whether you're on Facebook or not: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151961880075076.881126.859435075&type=1&l=444509a9ff 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Early Rarities Update for August

As always, go here to order. We guarantee the best quality available, excellent prices and first rate service!

Lots of cool things you haven't seen much or didn't even know existed here this month!

Eleven classic episodes from original 16 and 35mm masters. Stars Julie Newmar and Bob Cummings. This multi-disc set also includes an interview with Julie Newmar, alternate opening credits, a documentary and sponsor commercials. Episodes include: "Boy Meets Girl," "Rhoda's First Date," "The Beauty Contest," "Love Machine," The Uninvited Guest," "I'll Leave It To You," "The Pool Shark," "The Kleptomaniac," "The Witness," "My Robot, the Warden," and "Something Borrowed, Something Blew."  $20

After undersea explosions near a Caribbean island, prehistoric creatures are unleashed on the unsuspecting population. Freed from his watery tomb, as well, is a very friendly Neanderthal man who proceeds to befriend a local orphan boy. The boy, Neanderthal and irritated dinosaur make for an interesting dramatic climax. Great stop-motion animation. 

ROAD HOUSE  (1948)
A great film noir classic with Ida Lupino, Cornel Wilde, the just deceased Celeste Holm and Richard Widmark. Lupino does her own singing in one scene. A nightclub owner becomes infatuated with a torch singer and frames his best friend/manager for embezzlement when the chanteuse falls in love with him. Jefty, owner of a roadhouse in a backwoods town, hires sultry, tough-talking torch singer Lily Stevens against the advice of his manager Pete Morgan. Jefty is smitten with Lily, who in turn exerts her charms on the more resistant Pete. When Pete finally falls for her and she turns down Jefty's marriage proposal, they must face Jefty's murderous jealousy and his twisted plots to "punish" the two.

FLIGHT  (1929)
Frank Capra takes to the air in this rip off of William Wellman's silent Wings (27) but it never gets off the ground. Capra displays the height of arrogance as he is ill equipped to deal with aviation the way WW 1 pilot Wellman is and it shows early on. Footballer Lefty Phelps makes headlines when he runs the wrong way (ala Roy "Wrong Way" Rigel's Rose Bowl gaffe) in the big game. Shamed beyond belief he joins the Marines after meeting the admirable Panama Williams who offers sympathy and advice. Phelps ends up training to be a pilot under Williams command but he washes out. He stays on in a non-pilot capacity and begins to romance Panama's desire Nurse Murray. Friction ensues between the two but there's a rebellion to fight in Central America and this enables Lefty to redeem himself. One of the few Frank Capra movies never released to DVD yet!

Documentary from 1970 about Cecil B. DeMille and his Hollywood career. Features exclusive interviews with Gloria Swanson, Agnes DeMille, Charlton Heston, Jess Lasky Jr., Anthony Quinn and Henry Wilcoxon.

Two rarely-seen Westerns, unaltered, unedited and logo free (unlike the one version that just came out on DVD). WHITE OAK (1921) concerns a gambler named Oak Miller who seeks revenge on the man who misused his sister, Rose. In SAND (1920), a railroad station agent is fired from his job by his rival in love, Joseph Garber. Believed false by the girl he loves, the agent must prove himself by unmasking a gang of bandits preying on the trains.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Perils of Peary

Kay Kyser

One of my favorite musical acts of the swing era was Kay Kyser. Kay spoke with a soft, melodic Southern accent as he led his band through hot songs, sweet songs and novelty songs. He became a household word when he hit it big on radio with his KOLLEGE OF MUSICAL KNOWLEDGE quiz show. 

Merwyn Bogue--aka Ish Kabibble--he of the pre-Beatle haircut, handled most of the comedy that Kay himself didn't take.

Beautiful and popular, Ginny Simms was Kay's best known female vocalist although he had several (his own future wife included) over the years.

Harry Babbit and Sully Mason rounded out Kay's vocalists.

 Kay and his band and singers starred in a brief series of amiable musical comedies starting in the late thirties.

I discovered Kay in 1980. I was with a local comedy troupe and we had pre-recorded comedy inserts to appear on the weekly all-night movie show on Saturday night. One of that night's films turned out to be THAT'S RIGHT, YOU'RE WRONG, named after one of Kay's several catch-phrases. As I stayed up all night to tape my first TV appearance, I watched the movie and enjoyed it much!

Probably their best known vehicle was PLAYMATES, unfortunately remembered as the horribly bad swan song of the great actor John Barrymore, playing himself as a drunken, washed up actor. 

 YOU'LL FIND OUT is also remembered in some circles because of its featuring of Karloff, Lugosi and Peter Lorre in supporting roles.

Kay Kyser very suddenly retired from performing in 1950 and devoted the rest of his life to Christian Science. To the best of my knowledge, he only once more appeared in public for any other reason and that was a rare appearance on the DINAH SHORE program in the early eighties, looking much the same and discussing his show biz career with fondness.

Seen below is one of a couple of books that have come out on Kay Kyser in recent years. I can't recommend it as I can't afford it (or the other one) but they both sound great.


Friday, July 27, 2012

Fibber McGee and Company

One of my all-time favorite radio comedies is FIBBER McGEE AND MOLLY, now in something like its 33rd year of re-running in the Cincinnati radio market every Thursday at 11:30 AM. I heard it yesterday. Here are some lovely publicity pics from the forties. Click to see them full-size.