Friday, September 18, 2020

Booksteve Reviews: The History of EC Comics by Grant Geissman



There are comics fans and then there are EC Comics fans. To say one is a comic book fan does not necessarily mean they like EC Comics. Conversely, to say one is an EC Comics fan may well mean that person is almost exclusively a fan of EC Comics. 

For the most part, EC Comics fans are and always have been some of the most organized, knowledgeable, creative, and downright nicest people I have ever run across in comics fandom. You know, pretty much the opposite of what was predicted by the late Dr. Wertham and those he so misguidedly stirred up back in the 1950s. 

 

If you aren’t familiar with EC Comics, the 1950s publisher was known for its particularly grisly horror comics, its sleek, thought-provoking science fiction, its social justice tales, its anti-war stories, and, finally, its astonishingly influential humor comics.

 

For the first few years I collected comic books, I was completely ignorant of EC except for Mad and, as an elementary school student, I only occasionally saw an issue of that and had no idea of the folks behind it. I first saw the three ghoulunatics—The Old Witch, the Crypt Keeper, and the Vault Keeper, when they appeared for a few panels in an issue of Marvel’s Not Brand Echh in 1968. Had no idea who they were. I picked up a few of the later editions of the first Mad paperbacks, too, but had no idea exactly what I had. 

 

Then I spotted the ads for Woody Gelman’s Horror Comics of the 1950s, forever revered by hardcore EC fans today as “The Big Book.” Only once did I ever see a copy in stores, though, and the dust jacket was badly torn so I didn’t buy it. 

 

My real introduction to EC Comics came when I discovered comics fandom. Alan Light’s Flashback was first, with several Wallace Wood science fiction stories reproduced in murky black and white scans from the original comics. Then I mailordered a copy of the program book for the one and only EC Convention because it had a fun and naughty cover, also by Wallace Wood, an artist whose work I already knew from Marvel, DC, and Tower Comics. The con book also had a well-chosen selection of reprints in the back. From there, things moved rapidly, as the Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Horror movies came out and articles about EC popped up with regularity in fandom and even in “real” newspapers. I learned of Dr. Fredric Wertham and his long-standing anti-comics movement. I even read a copy of Seduction of the Innocent via inter-library loan. (Didn’t believe a word of it!) I was a charter subscriber to the short-lived East Coast Comix project, which reprinted vintage EC issues in full and in color but with new text pages. Other EC-related fan projects were everywhere by the late 1970s, many of them from Russ Cochran via his direct line to EC Publisher William M. Gaines. There was even a hardcover biography of Gaines himself that briefly flirted with the bestseller lists!

 

It was Cochran, though, who truly resurrected EC Comics, spending several decades in contextually reprinting every single horror, science fiction, humor, etc. story that EC had ever published in quality, annotated, slipcased hardcovers from Gaines’ preserved collection of all the original art. 

 

All of which is a long-winded way of bringing us to today’s offering—an EC Comics fan’s wet dream—The History of EC Comics by Grant Geissman. Grant Geissman, you say? Sounds familiar. “Isn’t he a highly respected jazz guitarist?” Why, yes. Yes, he is. But he’s also highly respected as an EC Comics historian, having previously written or co-written more than a half dozen other books on EC and Mad, all from major publishers. 

 

This one is from Taschen, the German publisher that delights in putting out those amazing oversized art books dedicated to people, places, and things once thought not to deserve an amazing oversized art book. As with all Taschen books, this one offers beautiful design work. Comics being a visual medium, the entire book—about 600 pages—is perfectly designed to emphasize the colorful, visual history of EC Comics.

 

But the text isn’t lacking, either. Beginning well before the days of EC proper, Geissman walks us through the history of both M.C. Gaines and his son William M. Gaines, two people who had some major issues with each other but each of whom played several important parts in the overall history of comic books. 

 

We learn about All-American Comics and its connections to both DC and EC comics; we get the lowdown on Educational Comics and how it became Entertaining Comics; we revisit the infamous Congressional hearings on juvenile delinquency; we witness Mad becoming a cultural icon far and above its four-color beginnings. 

 

It’s all here. One could argue that some sections could have used more detail but that, of course, would make this huge book even bigger. The story of Mad could undoubtedly fill a volume this thick all on its own. No, Grant wisely gives us the big picture without getting bogged down in the smaller details. All the necessary points are there and all the major players are present and accounted for: Gaines, Feldstein, Kurtzman, Craig, Wood, Orlando, Evans, Ingels, Kamen, Krigstein, Davis, the Severins, Elder, Williamson, Torres, Krenkel, Frazetta, Ray Bradbury, and even the ever-fascinating Lyle Stuart. (There’s a man who deserves a book just about him. Is there one?)  

 

There’s not a naked page to be found. Every single one here is adorned with art, photos, or rare letters and documents, a large number of which were completely new to me, and all of which are annotated. Many well-known EC covers are printed in giant size, along with lots of original art, all with some of the best reproduction I’ve ever encountered. (The famous splash for “Food for Thought” by Williamson and Krenkel and friends looks astonishing!) A few seminal stories are reprinted in full including the quite literally legendary “Master Race” by Feldstein and Krigstein and “My World,” by Feldstein and Wood.



 

One of my favorite sections is the 75-page section at the back that shows the cover of every single comic book that could be called an original EC, in order by title and then number. Even the magazine version of Mad is covered up through issue 35. (Yes, I know the Grand Comics Database has all that, too, but here there’s no having to bounce between web pages and the images are much bigger!)

 

Sounds too good to be true, you say? Well, inevitably, any book of this size will contain errors. In this particular case, I found two. Choke! Gasp! Exactly two. Just…two. There may or may not be a few others but nothing else jumped out at me. That there were only two relatively minor errors that made it into a book this size is actually quite remarkable. And neither were really about EC. When it comes to the EC stuff, the man really knows what he’s talking about!  

What were those errors? Nope. I’m not gonna be that guy who reads hundreds of pages of greatness and then dwells on two errors. I’m here to celebrate this book! Ultimately, it comes across like the biggest and best darn EC fanzine ever! In the end, there wasn’t much information in it that I didn’t already know but to have it all in the same place like this, to view it all in perspective and in order, felt just amazing.  

If you’re a newcomer to EC, it goes without saying that this would be an excellent, if cost-prohibitive, jumping on point. If you’re one of those organized, knowledgeable, creative, and nice EC collectors I mentioned above, what are you waiting for? Sell your lesser-grade duplicates of Panic and Saddle Romances on eBay so you can afford to buy a copy of Grant Geissman’s The History of EC Comics.  

EC for me, see!

 

Booksteve recommends! 

Monday, September 07, 2020

Plan Nine From Outer Space--Coming Soon

 This piece from a 1959 monster mag actually manages to make the film often said to be the worst film ever made (although it isn't) sound like something worth looking forward to as its initial release neared.  


Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Dr. Rock and Mr. Roll-1965

Another fascinating movie that never was.

 

Monday, August 31, 2020

The Someday Funnies

I skipped this book, THE SOMEDAY FUNNIES, when it came out a few years back but only because I couldn't afford its $50 price. Ordered it last week, though, for FOUR BUCKS on Amazon! I assumed it was a used copy but it arrived today and it's a fresh, new, still sealed copy! I can't imagine why this didn't get more coverage when it was first published as it's quite the significant book! The stories were all done in the early 1970s ABOUT the 1960s...sort of. You get a never before published SPIRIT story by Will Eisner, Conan meets Shazam and Sherlock Holmes by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith, a new Asterix story by Goscinny and Uderzo, Captain Marvel by Denny, Beck and Don Newton, Barbarella by Forest, and new works by scores and scores of others, both familiar and unfamiliar--Trina, Ralph Reese, Justin Green, Jeffery Catherine Jones, Vaughn Bode, Wallace Wood, Jack Kirby, Russ Heath, Gray Morrow, Guido Crepax, Shary Flenniken, Kim Deitch, Alan Kupperberg, and what may be one of the weirdest combos ever--Stan Goldberg and Dick Giordano illustrating a piece by Doug Kenney. Obviously, I haven't had time to read it yet but just looking through it, I'd have to say the results are mixed at best, but undeniably a major, fascinating project. And yet for some reason, it pretty much died on release. The new book smell alone is worth the four bucks. If you're a serious comics aficionado and think you know all the works by these guys, guess again.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Mitzi in Cincinnati-1932



 
I never went to the Lookout House or the Beverly Hills Supper Club, both the sites of tragic fires in the end, but as a teen, I went to movies at Cincinnati's then down-on-its-luck RKO Albee a lot. As a singer, Mitzi Green would bring her act to both those other clubs over the years but back in its day, the RKO Albee was considered a major national showplace and thus was chosen to be the first stop on a promotional vaudeville tour for America's favorite child star of 1932.






Thursday, August 06, 2020

My First Beatles Songs


Mark Twain famously said that everything came to Cincinnati ten years after it had already hit everywhere else. Thus, Beatlemania to me was in the 1970s and Disco in the ‘80s. My first Beatle record was their last single, THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD. I had been only five years old when the Fabs first appeared on ED SULLIVAN. We watched THE SCARECROW OF ROMNEY MARSH on WALT DISNEY’S WONDERFUL WORLD OF COLOR that evening. I wasn’t completely oblivious to the Beatles music in the Swingin’ ‘60s, though. I simply never heard much of it then nor ascribed much importance to it when I did.

Here, in what I believe to be the correct order, were my first Beatles songs:

1)   HELP: I remember hearing it for the first time in 1975 on my Uncle Jim’s car radio as we drove to Virginia Beach. I thought it was great and it got me interested enough to watch the movie when it premiered on TV a couple years later.
2)   RUN FOR YOUR LIFE: Never a single but I remember hearing it on the radio in a corner grocery store down the street from where we were living in 1966. I didn’t pay any attention to the creepy words. I just liked the sound.
3)   TICKET TO RIDE: I have always loved a good snow scene and this song is in the snow scene in HELP, which became my favorite scene when I caught it on TV.
4)   WE CAN WORK IT OUT: My mother didn’t listen to Top 40 radio stations but I remember hearing and really liking this one on one of her more conservative stations early one morning before school, probably in ’67 or ’68. 
5)   PAPERBACK WRITER: Heard this one on the radio a few times in 1968 and it became a constant earworm, even though I couldn’t understand many of the lyrics.  
6)   YELLOW SUBMARINE: Has anyone ever heard this song and NOT liked it. I was a pushover for the marketing blitz when the YS movie came out and it became the first movie I ever saw without my parents, age 9. Went with my pal, Terry, and we had to stand in line that stretched down the block to Woolworth! Convinced my mom to go with me to see it again a week later! Bought the comic book, too!
7)   COME TOGETHER: I didn’t know what it meant (still don’t) but I particularly liked John’s multi-tracked vocal on the title words and I invested a lot of dimes (Three plays for a quarter) in the fall of 1969 playing this on the jukebox at Liberty Chili. 
8)   HEY, JUDE: It was early 1970 when I somewhere, somehow discovered this one and it became an absolute favorite. Not long after I bought my first Beatles single in April of 1970, my first Beatles LP was THE BEATLES AGAIN aka HEY JUDE, a then-new collection of singles and B sides that had never been on an album before.


Sunday, August 02, 2020

Help! I'm NOT Terry Gilliam


The other day I was digging through a box upstairs and ran across my actual physical copy of the issue of Harvey Kurtzman's HELP! seen here. It was one of the final issues, from when the young cartoonist Terry Gilliam had replaced Gloria Steinem as Assistant Editor. This issue is of particular interest as it contains a photo comic (fumetti) that stars a young British comic actor named John Cleese. Cleese was in the US on tour with other comedians from Cambridge and was asked to appear. Famously, this was when he first met Gilliam, which formed one of the seed that would eventually grow into Monty Python. And so call that Cleese was in the only issue that featured Terry Gilliam himself on the cover!

Only that's NOT Terry Gilliam.

I always thought it was Terry Gilliam. Looks like Terry Gilliam. The consensus on the Internet is that it's Terry Gilliam. But it's not. When someone posted a signed (by Terry Gilliam) copy in a Facebook group recently, it was pointed out that many people often mistakenly believe that Terry Gilliam is on the cover but that there's actually a photo inside of Terry with the cover model.

Having just found my own copy, I went and checked. Whaddaya know? There is! But, hey, you can't really see "Terry's" face in the photo and his name is listed first, as though he's on the left, where the cover guy is. Plus isn't the guy in the wet suit much thinner there than on the cover? Could Gilliam have replaced him as the model?

But then I found this post from a while back on Facebook, from the son of model John Massey, Sr.



As much as it seems like that should be Terry Gilliam on that cover, that's John Massey, Sr.
                                                         
                                                       Not Terry Gilliam.


Wednesday, July 22, 2020

WC Fields Vs. Charlie McCarthy by Sam Viviano



MAD artist Sam Viviano here illustrates moments from the legendary radio feud between the great WC Fields and ventriloquist Edgar Bergen's wooden boy, Charlie McCarthy. I like little Candy's cameo. It's surprising that the artist, known for his caricatures, didn't even seem to try with Bergen, in spite of his decades of TV and personal appearances making his likeness very well-known.












Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Pop with Davy Jones

In July of 1972, Davy Jones headlined a Saturday afternoon TV special called POP that served as a pilot for a show to rival Dick Clark's AMERICAN BANDSTAND for teens. I never heard of it because locally it was pre-empted by a football game.

POP also featured, among others, The Osmond Brothers and the Mike Curb Congregation (pre-Kathy Coleman). Here's some info I found on the show. Maybe YOU saw it?
















Sunday, July 19, 2020

Review: Shame of the Jungle 1975/1981

Here's another review I just found that I wrote in 1981, this for a dirty feature length Franco-Belgian Tarzan cartoon comedy. I had seen ads for it when it played locally in 1975 and read a little about some controversy that led the character's name to be changed from "Tarzoon" but that was all I knew when I rented it on Beta in 1981. 

A strange little film, this feature-length European cartoon plops an irreverent version of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan into a sci-fi tale of strange creatures and a would-be world conqueror. That plot takes a back seat to the film’s basic lunacy and satire, adapted into English by SNL’s Anne Beatts and Michael O’Donoghue. There are more than enough scenes f sex and violence to earn this picture’s original X rating. A bald woman with 14 breasts wants a hair transplant form Tarzan’s wife so June (not “Jane” here) is kidnapped by the woman’s penis-shaped minions. There follows a long chase scene in which our hero (whose name is consistently blacked out on the animation) finds and rescues his mate. The voices are provided mainly by SNL cast members, some uncredited. The best parts are the throwaway gags, both verbal and visual, such as John Belushi’s perfect voice for a 13-year-old slob who considers himself a Zen master and travels on a flying carpet carried aloft by birds. Much of the scatological humor gets old really quickly, leaving the voice acting to carry whatever’s left. Although the English-dubbed voice credits are woefully incomplete, Bill Murray is recognizably in there and classic Tarzan actor Johnny Weissmuller’s son, Johnny, Jr, is credited, presumably as the main character. SHAME OF THE JUNGLE is done in an original, although not particularly fluid, animation style and while there’s really not much here, it should be enjoyable to Tarzan fans, animation fans, or SNL fans who aren’t easily offended…because this movie IS offensive!

SHAME OF THE JUNGLE is now is on YouTube and has its own Wikipedia page detailing the credits and the film's history at length. Even Christopher Guest, aka Christopher Haden-Guest, Fifth Baron Haden-Guest--you know, that guy from THIS IS SPINAL TAP and BEST IN SHOW--voices several characters. And if you listen closely, you'll hear Judy Graubert, who played Jungle Judy on the kids' show, THE ELECTRIC COMPANY. 

Friday, July 17, 2020

Lum and Abner--Art and Makeup


LUM AND ABNER was a long running rural comedy on radio that also spawned a series of movies and books and even today a comic strip! It was a favorite of my father, who told me all about it for years before I ever ran across an episode of it. I'm not a huge fan but I quite enjoy it and will listen to it every once in a while. This vintage article gives some insight into the show and its characters.




Saturday, July 11, 2020

2010 Review: Batman vs the 3 Villains of Doom, 1966

BATMAN VS THREE VILLAINS OF DOOM, Winston Lyons

Ten years and three months ago, a book blog entitled Pattinase invited me to write a guest review for their "Forgotten Books" column. This is the book I chose and the review I wrote in 2010.   

I’m known for an interest in old television and comics so I chose for my review a novel that combines the two…literally. Batman Vs. Three Villains of Doom by the pseudonymous “Winston Lyon” was originally published in the year of Batmania, 1966. To the best of my knowledge, it was the very first prose appearance of Batman and Robin and it isn’t at all bad. It is, however, rather an odd bird in and of itself.

Although ostensibly a tie-in to the then-new and phenomenally hot Batman TV series, Batman Vs. Three Villains of Doom is in actuality a bizarre hybrid of parts of that series and the more serious (by comic book hero standards at least) 1950’s DC comics stories of the Dynamic Duo.

The author seems to have been given at least some access to the TV series or perhaps simply early scripts as we have the familiar bust of Shakespeare opening the Batcave entrance, Alfred (who was deceased at that time in the comics!) protecting the characters’ secret identities from Aunt Harriet and over the top scenes such as Bruce Wayne reading and memorizing every story from a score of daily newspapers.

On the other hand, we also have the Batcave entrance being in the Wayne Manor living room as opposed to the private study, the batsignal displayed on the side of the tallest building in Gotham and we are introduced to “Inspector” O’Hara, the Irish cop.

As for this book itself, there’s a natural tendency to presume that it might be the source material for the Batman feature film that was made and released before the end of the year but it was not. There are three of the same four villains from the movie, there’s a yacht and there’s a scene where the Caped Crusader has to get rid of a bomb but the similarities end there. “Lyon” would, himself, go on to also novelize the Batman movie, but that’s another book and another story.

At 128 pages, this is a short novel but nicely laid out. In the beginning we are shown a conference of criminals in which the Joker, the Penguin and the Catwoman are all introduced as competitors for crimedom’s “Tommy Award,” a gold-plated tommy gun, to be presented for killing Batman. Tellingly, the characters are all described as they looked in the old comics instead of their television incarnations, with the Joker being tall and thin (a description that would never have fit Cesar Romero!) and the Catwoman having a “smoothly furred leotard” and a long green cloak.

Batman and Robin have already gotten wind of this confab, however, and arrive to break it up, capturing Catwoman in the process but being themselves bested by the Penguin. We then see Penguin take his shot at winning the award with a long, realistically paced chase scene and a genuinely thrilling blimp crime.

When the Tuxedoed Terror inevitably fails in his ultimate quest, the Joker takes his turn. It is pointed out that this is the truly insane Clown Prince of Crime from the early comics or as he returned in the 1970’s. The Joker is genuinely scary in some of his scenes, both to the other characters and the reader as well.

Finally, just when you think it should be over, an escaped Catwoman returns to the plot with the deadliest trap yet for the Caped Crusaders.

“Deadly” is a good word for the criminals’ intentions here, by the way. On the series, the serious consequences of the villains’ attempts at “getting rid of” Batman and Robin were always downplayed and even sugarcoated. Here, that is most definitely not the case. For example, the Joker tricks Robin into leaping at a dummy and then immediately opens a trap door beneath them so that Robin will fall directly into corrosive acid a mere five feet below him! How he survives that very realistic and scary trap is the biggest stretch of credibility that the reader is asked to buy in the entire novel.

Which brings us to the biggest fault of Batman Vs. Three Villains of Doom—it can’t make up its mind as to how serious it wants to be! The parts of the book that play like a straightforward crime story are the best with the author giving almost noir-ish descriptions of settings and fight scenes. On the other hand, the concept of “camp” as popularized by the TV series seemed to completely throw him and he instead relied on a vague Mad-style (or maybe Cracked-style) parody feel in the book’s few attempts at actually treading that fine line.

“Winston Lyon,” by the way, was the pen name for former comic book writer William Woolfolk. Woolfolk had worked on many comic heroes beginning in the 1940’s including Blackhawk and the original Captain Marvel. He even claimed to have coined the latter’s “Holey Moley!” catchphrase. Two heroes he had not worked on before, though, were Batman and Robin.

By the early 1960’s, Woolfolk won praise as one of the main writers for the long-running television legal drama, the Defenders. He became a successful novelist both as Winston Lyon and under his own name, eventually even hitting the bestseller list, a feat his daughter, Donna Woolfolk Cross, would repeat many years later with her 1996 novel, Pope Joan.

Batman fans all have their own idea of how the character “should” be so this unusual and unique combination of serious and silly versions may not appeal to everyone but taken as a product of its time I found it immensely entertaining and, for the most part, very well written by an author who seemed to have quite a good feel for the characters. I wish he had written more Batman stories!

Batman Vs. Three Villains of Doom, with its Adam West cover, was originally published in April of 1966 and is long out of print. If you’re intrigued, however, you can generally find inexpensive copies through EBay, Amazon, Abebooks and all of the usual Internet sources.

PATTINASE is still posting great book reviews at:http://pattinase.blogspot.com

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Booksteve Reviews: Rich Little and Suzanne Somers, April 1980

Today, I ran across the review I wrote of the Suzanne Somers/Rich Little matinee show I saw with my mother at Cincinnati’s Palace Theater in April of 1980. I was 21 years old. This was just a couple of months before my mother was diagnosed with cancer. My dad was still recovering from his accident. This was the last event she and I attended together, just the two of us. When I got home, I wrote the following review. There was no Internet then so it’s remained unpublished until now, 40 years and nearly three months later. Here’s what I wrote:

The show began promptly at three, with the announcement coming from large speakers on each side of the stage. Out from the wings, attired all in silver, came Suzanne Somers. During the course of her act, she sang many songs including a Ted Lewis song, a slow dance number, and a medley of TV themes including THE JEFFERSONS, GOOD TIMES, ONE DAY AT A TIME, CHICO & THE MAN, MAUDE, ALL IN THE FAMILY, and, of course, she ended with parts of the THREE’S COMPANY theme. “They’re playing my song!”
 
Joined by two male singer/dancers for much of the show, she sang a tribute to Chrissy, her TV character, dressed in a pink Chrissy blouse and with the side ponytail. This tribute included some Chrissy jokes:

            Chrissy: I’m taking singing lessons.
            Man: Are they teaching you how to use your diaphragm?
            Chrissy: They don’t have to. I’m on the Pill!

A spoof of TV commercials featured Suzanne in a feathered chicken outfit shuffling across the stage singing the Lipton Chicken Noodle Soup jingle. The Q & A session that followed saw her asked her age, weight, and measurements (“Thirtysomething, twentysomething, thirtysomething.”) and, “Is John Ritter really gay?” “I can tell you from personal experience,” she said, “that John Ritter is the horniest heterosexual in the world!”

A short reel of THREE’S COMPANY bloopers followed and featured John supposedly nude under a box but holding the box high enough to accidentally reveal his brief briefs. Suzanne and Dick Sargent were seen continually breaking  glasses and breaking up during a  toast and then Suzanne was seen messing up and the clipboard man going “Take Two, “Take Three,” etc., eventually shouting, “With all due respect, Take FIVE,” followed by Suzanne’s quiet aside on film, “Wise-ass.”

She then performed a medley of “Your” songs—“This One’s For You,” “Your Song,” etc., finally closing with “Razzle Dazzle,” a real show-stopper. Or rather, that SHOULD have been her closing number. The fact that she then went right into a badly timed “American Traditional” medley probably cost her a standing ovation. Several costume changes—two or three literally onstage—left her in a glittering dress. She said that now she’s a star of “Stage, Screen, TV, and PLAYBOY. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable, professional show with a few dull moments.

After a 20-minute intermission, the curtain lifted again and Rich Little, shrouded in dimly lit blackness, stood above the orchestra and sang an introductory song for himself before leaping onto the stage to begin his act. 
 
Filled with political humor, risqué jokes, and some serious film star tributes, he offered a good selection of his famous impressions including Paul Lynde selling an album of “1000 Golden Stinkies” by John Wayne (“My Horse is Queer”), Boris Karloff, Johnny Carson’s Carnak, and others. The beginning of his act had Rich commenting on the cold weather and someone in the audience yelling as if on cue, “How cold IS it?” which prompted Rich to crack up and say, “This audience is really on the ball!”

Later, in Groucho makeup, Rich ran through the audience, tossing off one liners like, “Do you know the difference between making love and making a salad?” only to get the answer, “Yes,” from an audience member who said he had read the reviews of the show. Everyone cracked up, once again including Rich. 

George Burns and the late Jack Benny had a discussion on modern politics next. Rich himself called the Ayatollah, “Rip Van Winkle.”

An MGM tribute was the highlight of the show with Rich channeling Durante, Kelly, Satchmo, Bing, Louis Jourdan, Howard Keel, and, the show’s best moment, Clark Gable. To a film tribute to Gable—scenes from throughout his career—Rich, in character, sang “It Was a Very Good Year” very poignantly, even somehow managing to LOOK like the King of Hollywood. 

Tough to top that but he moved on into a political debate with Cronkite, Brinkley, and Reasoner asking questions of Ford, Nixon, Kennedy, and Carter. At one point during this section, Rich had trouble with a Chinese joke and instead talked about Chinese people who were in the audience at one of his shows in Vegas.

A few other of the many voices the man did were Bogart, Walter Brennan, and Maurice Chevalier. He finished up with singing impressions that included Neil Diamond, Perry Como (his best!), Frank Sinatra, Anthony Newley, Tom Jones, and Robert “Ghoulie” as he called him. 

Afterwards, he came off stage and walked through the audience as the orchestra played, shaking hands with everyone all around, including me! 

A fine, funny show from two very talented people!

 

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Voting Is Your Super Power!


Here's a very important new book that both Rene and I worked on a while back. Take a look and, if you are able, support its Indiegogo campaign, please. 

"Of the estimated 25,000 different promotional/giveaway comics of the ’50s and early ’60s, a little more than a handful were devoted to the subject of voting. Sadly, these comics are the most relevant of all the mid-century titles in today’s world. The comics reprinted in Voting Is Your Superpower that were done first in the Cold War period and then in the Civil Rights era contain essential messages for today’s public."

"And this exciting  buzz-worthy book is hosted by a new super hero for our times... General Election! In her first appearance General Election is ablaze with voting power on our special cover by Eisner nominee Sanford Greene the fan-favorite artist of Bitter Root."

"In this 104 page book are rare, cool, vintage, comics collection, you will find a timeless and compelling message of inspiration, motivation, and duty to exercise your right to cast your vote for progressive action so badly needed today. And when you finish and put down this book you will not only have been entertained and enlightened, but you will have realized voting IS your superpower, more formidable than a bat-a-rang, x-ray vision, spider-sense, and a magic-lasso assembled together!"

"Ironically Voting is Your Super Power is introduced by Julie Newmar, infamously known as a super-villain! Here the Tony-winning star of stage and screen known for her role as Catwoman now heroically roars to get out the vote!" 

Best of all, it contains the first ever reprinting of a rare Silver Age Marvel comic book!


http://www.cloverindiegogo.com/?fbclid=IwAR3TiTg8wO0f0Do10UAgrUJfsMBlg3oLsT185cOsHrdTSFFG4hPV8WLbRBE

Sunday, June 28, 2020

The Return of Johnny Dynamite



Been reading this new JOHNNY DYNAMITE book this week. MAN, these old 1950s stories really are hard-boiled!! The sex scenes are off-stage but described in such a way that you feel like you need to go wash up after you read 'em. Drugs are all over the place, "call girls" are a fixture, and the violence is cold, gory, plentiful, and unforgiving! And yet all done up nicely in PAM's smooth and stylish photo-referenced art! It really is like watching a noir film on paper or reading a Mickey Spillane novel with pictures. The stories are terrible...but in a weirdly GOOD way!

Monday, June 22, 2020

The Lon Chaney Murder

 

 I had never heard of this. The trial was in 1929. 
 
 

Friday, June 19, 2020

My Father's Accident-1978

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This is not a tragic story. A sad story, yes, but not tragic. My father, Frank Thompson, was a working class laborer for most of my life. In my first 10 years, my dad worked in factories, foundries, he was a security guard, an insurance collector, and a liquor store clerk (for one day-long story). When I was about 10 years old, an upstairs neighbor pulled some strings and got him a civil service job as a janitor at the main Cincinnati post office. It may not sound like much but it paid better than he had ever been paid before and had excellent benefits. Best of all, he enjoyed the job! 

 

Thus, all during my teenage years, he had steady work for the first time in my life. When I was 14, he even took on a second janitorial job for the Social Security office building right next door to our apartment house. My mother and I helped him with that one. For a few hours each night, we would go next door and clean. My mother would wash down all the tables and desks and vacuum the carpeted areas. I would empty all 50 trashcans and probably twice that many ashtrays and clean the restrooms, while my dad would mop and buff the entire floor. Most of the time, the employees were all gone so I could crank up music or, later, Sally Jessy Raphael, while I worked.

 

In 1977, at age 18, I graduated high school near the top of my class. No one at the school had ever discussed college with me so I had no idea what to do next. At one point, at the last minute, I was offered a full ride to NKU but I turned it down because I was ignorant and confused and felt I had been abandoned by the system. I didn’t even realize what that meant and it was never explained to me.

 

So that’s where we were a year later in 1978. I was living at home and had taken over most of the office building janitorial position next door as my job. My mother was still working in a factory as she had done since the 1930s, and my dad was still at the post office. 

 

On December 28thof that year, age 68, he walked uptown for a quick trip to the bank one day and was going to bring me home some coney islands from Covington Chili. It should have been a half hour trip, tops. He never arrived home. 

 

I was home alone. I considered going out looking for him but was afraid I’d miss him if he DID show up back home. I called my mom at work. She was frantic and told me she was coming straight home. We had only one car, though, and my other didn’t drive so she had to take the bus and that took about an hour. Just before she got home, I got a telephone call from the hospital, which was literally just a block and a half away from our apartment! He was there. He’d been hit by a car but he was okay. A broken shoulder, a lot of bruises, something wrong with one leg, and everything fractured. We had had to get an unlisted phone number after a series of harassing phone calls the year before so they had to wait until they could get him to give the number before they could call me. 

 

I waited until my mother arrived, explained the situation to her, and off we hurried on over to the hospital. He looked bad. Real bad. I don’t recall for sure but I believe they kept him for a night or two. 

 

The next day, we saw he had made the front page of both newspapers! What a weird feeling! First of all, why was “Man Gets Hit by Car” front page news? Second, why did both papers send a photographer? And why did each photographer snap such odd pics—one with the passerby just staring down at him and the other with the cop’s rear end dominating the shot? Oh, well. Being the archivist I was even then I dutifully clipped them out. Later, when he saw them, he was amused. 

 

The woman in the one picture is the woman who hit him. It was a cold, sunny afternoon, and by all accounts both she and he had the sun blinding them. He was crossing the street at the crosswalk next to the Public Library, just three blocks from our house, and she was turning from the side street. He supposedly told first responders to take the coney islands home to me so they could tell me what was going on.    

 

When he finally came home, he had his arm in a leather brace covering a fleece lined pad. They said he was to never take it off, even in the shower. Since we didn’t even have a shower, that part was easy. He started walking with a cane. The physical bruises slowly healed but he just seemed very depressed all the time.




 

The insurance rep for the woman who hit him contacted us. She was a young black woman. As I’ve written before, my dad was typical of many old school prejudiced white people. He disliked every black person he NEVER met! Once he met them, he rarely had a problem with them. In this case, both he and the insurance agent bonded over one thing. Both of them were put out that the driver never came to see him at the hospital nor contacted him in any way to see how he was doing after he got out. Ultimately, the insurance agent arranged a $10,000 settlement. 

 

A lot of money, yes, but things changed from that point. He couldn’t work anymore. Since he was already past the age of retirement by several years, he officially retired, taking his generous pension and social security, and thankful that his civil service years had put him in such a good position. As for the next-door janitor position, I took it over completely. It became my job. 

 

He couldn’t drive anymore. Or at least he chose not to. Neither my mother nor I could drive, either, so our car sat in front of the house for the following year. Finally, someone complained and my dad was given a ticket. He drove it once around the block, then paid a neighbor to drive it out to his brother’s house in the country, where it sat until he sold it a while later. Since we lived just a block or two away from then main bus route, as well as within walking distance of downtown Covington AND downtown Cincinnati, we could still get to most places easily.

 

Although both my mother and I had convinced ourselves that this was the beginning of the end for my dad, we were both proven wrong. In the months that followed, his sense of humor slowly returned. His interests came back. He had had to give up horseshoes after years as a champion on several state levels. But he tried it again, brace and all. 

 

The brace…stunk. When they said not to take it off, they meant NEVER. I checked. So it stunk. Always. After a while, he was set up with physical therapy and I would go with him on the bus to that. I would also accompany him to his monthly doctor checkups. Since the doctor was in Florence, we would come out and then take the bus further out to nearby Florence Mall where we would have lunch at his favorite barbecue place in the food court.

 

Once, the doctor said his shoulder wasn’t setting right and he needed to re-set it there in the office. He gave my dad some heavy painkillers and then essentially rebroke his shoulder in front of me so he could reset it. As he was doing it, my drugged-up father was moaning something awful but afterwards the doctor asked him how it felt and he replied calmly, “Didn’t feel it at all.” Against my better judgement, we went on out for our regular barbecue and, naturally, that’s when the anesthetic wore off!

 

Months went by and he got slowly better. He FELT slowly better! He started going places on his own again, walking uptown via the same route he had taken the day he had been hit. Sometimes, he even helped me at the office next door again. 

 

After another solid year, he was allowed to take off the leather arm brace for good! He made a big deal of tossing the smelly old thing but the fleece pad was washed and stuck up in a closet for some reason. 

 

By 1980, things were back to what felt like mostly normal, except we had no car anymore. I didn’t drive because I had motion sickness issues, and I was feeling tremendous pressure, not from my parents but from other relatives, to now learn. I started looking again at moving out, getting a better-paying job and my own apartment. I had even found one I liked and later taken my parents to see it.

 

Then one day, my mother said her co-workers were commenting that she looked a little jaundiced. A diagnosis of pancreatic cancer followed along with an emergency operation. My dad had been declared diabetic some years earlier. He was so nervous about my mother’s  operation that he dropped his controls and ended up in the hospital himself that day in a coma. Worst day of my life, with BOTH parents in the hospital. First time in 21 years I was home completely alone overnight.

 

My dad bounced back quickly, again, though, and for a while it seemed my mother would, too. Six months of chemotherapy took their toll, and she said later if she had to do it again, she would choose to pass on the treatments. But by mid-year of 1981 she was looking good again and preparing to return to work. My dad and I were both pleased and once again I considered moving out on my own. But then the cancer returned and she went downhill rapidly. She passed just before Christmas.

 

My dad was devastated. In some ways, he never got over her passing. More than once, I caught him placing my mother’s photograph on her side of the bed and lying down next to it. I felt lost, myself, too, and decided once again NOT to move out as we needed to take care of each other.

 

But in other ways, the 1980s would prove to be surprisingly active and exciting for him. Having rarely flown before, he decided to join a travel group. They saw plays and attended festivals. He flew or took the bus to all sorts of destinations, including Las Vegas! He even flew out with me to San Diego and went twice with me to Chicago for comic book conventions.

 

I gave up the night janitor position and began my long bookstore career. We remained in the same apartment I had lived in since I was 7 years old and yet so much had changed. We were now roomies as much as father and son and the new dynamic allowed for us to get to know each other differently than when I was growing up.

 

I had always loved my father but now I liked him quite a bit, too, and his eternal resilience set the example for me, showing me that one can choose to just give up or one can choose to bounce back from almost anything, no matter how life-threatening, no matter how devastating. 

 

Even when he was hit by a massive stroke in 1990, he bounced back more than expected, and survived another 16 months before leaving us for good not when the doctor said but when HE was ready to go, when he was sure he had taught me all he could teach me. One of the last things he said that we could understand, after Rene and I were married, was that now he wanted grandkids. 

 

On this Father’s Day weekend, in this time of uncertainty, I hope I have learned the lessons. I hope I have passed them on to his grandkid. 

 

Oh, and that fleece pad that got stuffed up in the closet? Years later, when we got our first cat, Chauncey, we dug it out of storage as a cheap toy for Chaunce. He took to it like I’ve never seen a cat with a toy! He carried it everywhere, he spoke to it, he wrestled it, he padded it, he slept with it. When Chauncey passed, 17 years later, we had it cremated with him. We weren’t allowed pets in our building when I grew up but my dad was a cat person. I think he would appreciate the legacy of that accident all those years later.