Thursday, May 26, 2016

Shows That Go Creak In The Night!

It's entirely possible this post is just an excuse to stare at the vivacious Elvira. The Scream Queen Elvira first popped out in the early 80's as yet one more horror show hostess, but there was something about this dark beauty, something many others lack...charm. Aside from her obvious attractions, Cassandra Peterson imbued her portrayal of Elvira with wit and self-deprecating humor and actual comic timing. She was great to watch and entertaining to listen to. She quickly became an 80's icon.

In both the 80's and the 90's she'd get her own comic, like Elvira herself, more thoroughly entertaining packages than you might at first imagine. Elvira projects always seemed to not stop at exploitation but go on to be actually rather decent otherwise.

But there are exceptions. CHiPs is one of those late 70's early 80's TV shows that today looks downright bizarre, and I look at it and wonder how I was ever entertained by it. Now truth told, I don't ever remember seeing the episode I'm about to discuss, so maybe I wasn't as entertained as I imagine. (There was never a CHiPs comic book as far as I can remember, and frankly there should have been given the juice of the show at the start.) I caught this episode on METV the other day while in the waiting room of a local doctor. (That's how bored I have to be to watch CHiPs, but I'm glad I caught this one.)

"Things that Go Bump In the Night" was the next to last episode of CHiPs and aired in 1983. The show was on its way out the TV door, and apparently the producers were grabbing at anything to knock up a ratings point here and there. They chanced upon Elvira who had appeared in the previous year in a Halloween episode. That's not the show I'm talking about.

This one has a young girl running from some unknown threat which appears to be a sea monster clutching in her hand a galley proof of a comic book cover titled "Sea Thing". (You can see why this got my attention.) She is rescued but the investigation takes Ponch  (Erik Estrada) and his partner to Elvira's comic shop where she gives them valuable clues about the piece of art. The comics on the racks in this shop seem right for the era and I could make out clearly a Thor and a Ghost Rider comic. The clues take them to an eccentric and possibly dangerous magician played weirdly by Rich Little (this show is like an 80's time capsule for gosh sakes) and eventually they find out what it's all about. There are holograms, life-size ventriloquist dummies, and more in this bizzaro show. For a more thorough review of this show check this out.

I love shows that feature comics, at least from this era since it happened relatively rarely. And trying to identify the comics is always fun, as almost always the comics are not appropriate to the time and place. This time however they seemed to be and that was neat.

As for Elvira, I never get tired of looking at her.

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Moonstone Monsters!

I picked this collection up on Free Comic Book Day. There was nothing else calling my name and I've been mildly curious to see what was going on here. I'm a fan of Moonstone, though admittedly their stuff doesn't always trip my trigger. These old monster stories promised variety if not consistent quality, so I took a tumble and will have it on hand when I'm feeling monstery.

Here are the covers of the issues contained in this volume.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Ghost Of Dragstrip Hollow!

I don't know what made me watch Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow -- really I don't. Maybe it's the oddball blending of hotrods and haunted houses and I had a lame curiosity to see how this shambles might unfold. It was a shambles and it did unfold, but weirdly it was fascinating to watch.

The reason is simple - Paul Blaisdell. Paul Blaisdell was a monster maker on the cheap who worked for Roger Corman, the meister of many a low-budget bonanza. Contracted to develop weird creatures of all stripes for movies which offered only really exposure Blaisdell managed somehow to make the absurd fall into place. If the phrase "suspension of disbelief" ever meant anything, it's what happens when you behold a Blaisdell monster amble onto the screen.

This movie begins as a hotrod movie, dedicated to teen car culture of the late 50's. Hipster lingo and beach music dominate a story of a hot-rod gang trying to go legit and find success of sorts in the adult world which looks down upon their hobby. The movie works mightily to make hot-rodding seem like a normal teen activity and suggests that it can be pursued with relative safety and order if the adults would only see their way clear to give the kids a chance. There are glimmers of rumbles as rival hotrodders show up and make some noise but any action, apart from a race at the very beginning of the movie is off-screen.

The movie gins up finally to its main point when the hot-rodders looking for a new hangout try out an old haunted house. Despite all manner of noises, groans, moans, and visitations they remain committed to the joint and hold a ghost ball which serves as good cover for the monster to slither out among them unnoticed. That monster is quite recognizably the "She-Creature" from the movie of the same name, the creation of Paul Blaisdell.

As the movie winds up, the monster is unmasked and it turns out to be the monster-designer Blaisdell himself who proclaims that he's done with the business. As it turns out, he was and went off to work as a carpenter and on the fringes of the movie business until his untimely death.

This ain't a good movie by any stretch, but it does hold your attention somehow, like a car wreck designed by Dali. See for yourself.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Future Quest Begins!

The debut issue of Future Quest was just about what I expected, and that's a good thing. The story was intriguing with key character moments spread out among what appears to be a large cast with some tasty and appropriate artwork. There's an easy assumption built into the story that all of the Hanna-Barbera heroes co-exist in the same universe and that as this story unfolds we will meet most if not all of them.


The premise is that from time to time holes appear around the world and particularly on Palm Key which provide glimpses of other times and places throughout the universe, and that potent material will sometimes be deposited. Something wants to get to Earth and is pushing its way in making these ruptures. That something is suggested to be quite dangerous and was the object of a deadly attack by a powerful outer space force in the story's prologue (which might be another origin for Space Ghost). This weird activity has drawn the interest of F.E.A.R. who have enlisted Dr.Zin to help acquire the materials which come through the gaps. (In the gaps Jonny and Hadji see outlines of Shazzan, the Galaxy Trio, the Heruloids, and more) To combat that potential Inter-Nation Security sends two of its agents (one of whom is Birdman) to consult with Dr. Benton Quest and Race Bannon. Among the things which fall from the sky are Tundro of the Herculoids and as the story's last page shows -- Space Ghost himself.


One of the surprises for me were eight or so pages of the comic drawn by Steve Rude. These pages frankly look like they might could be lifted out of the main story with little effect, but then you'd lose the fantastic splash page above and that would be a shame indeed. Eric Shaner's artwork overall is delightful, grace and precise and he offers up convincing translations of the classic characters.

The late Darwyn Cooke apparently did much of the redesign of some of the key characters and his contribution is felt throughout.

The book landed with a cavalcade of handsome alternate covers, which I will wait for the trade to collect (hopefully). Here they are.

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Monday, May 23, 2016

George Wildman R.I.P.

The passing of George Wildman is a profoundly sad day for all Charlton Comics fans. After the heyday of the "Action Heroes" and the departure of Dick Giordano and much of the talent which defined that era Charlton fell into some quiet years, producing comics but making little impact in the industry while focusing on licensed titles from King Features and Hanna-Barbera.

George Wildman became an assistant editor during this time and eventually became editor of the whole line. The transition is notable as the vintage "Big Red C" was replaced by what was dubbed "The Charlton Bullseye", which Wildman himself designed.

George Wildman was an accomplished and talented cartoonist with a distinctive and bold line, and plied his trade most notably on Popeye. His work on that title made me a Popeye fan, the zany pages contrasted dramatically with the rather droll comic strip which was being produced at the time. Popeye I knew from the old cartoons, but Wildman awakened my understanding of the Sailor Man as a lively and distinctive comic book character.

But it was Wildman's nurture and encouragement of new talent which really made Charlton a hub of interest in the 70's. He had as his assistant editor Nicola Cuti, a savvy writer and artist and between them they brought in such stellar talents as Joe Staton, John Byrne, Mike Zeck, Wayne Howard, Don Newton, Rich Larsen, and others to work with established talents such as Joe Gill, Steve Ditko and Pat Boyette. New titles which erupted under the Wildman regime were E-Man, Doomsday +1, Scary Tales, Yang, and many others, alongside licensed titles like Korg 70,000 B.C., Space:1999, and the Six-Million Dollar Man.

(George holding the painted wooden emblem he pitched to Charlton.)
Wildman had a long association with Popeye and went right on working in illustration and cartoons. He worked for many other publishers after leaving Charlton in the mid 80's, including Marvel, DC, Gold Key (Whitman), and others.

I love this cover for a charming issue of Mike Ambrose's Charlton Spotlight from several years ago. Wildman looks here as I always imagined he must, full of life and energy and eager to get drawing.

Rest in peace Mr. Wildman, from a life-long fan who truly and sincerely appreciates what you gave to me. I will never forget it.

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Off The Reservation!

Recently Hillary Clinton got into trouble for saying that some men have from time to time "gone off the reservation" when it comes to women's rights and the long task of finding equality for women in the workplace and beyond. In her efforts to stand up and speak for women she accidentally insulted Native Americans. I did not know that the phrase "off the reservation" was deemed offensive, but I can see the argument, though since it deals with specific behavior in specific context, it strikes me as something which one has to work hard to dredge up much animus about. Here is an article with a bit of context on the phrase.

I'm not interested in litigating whether Native Americans have had a tough time in the greatest country on the planet; that's not a debatable point, nor even the subject of this conversation. They were subjected to no less than genocide by the United States as it sought to overtake the territory it deemed part of its "manifest destiny". Cultures were demolished or nearly so, and the peoples were rounded up and herded onto reservations. But then quite understandably the natives grew restless (is that off limits too?) and they went "off the reservation" to perpetrate attacks and whatever else they deemed necessary or desirable. I don't judge that behavior from my remote historical vantage point. Frankly I see Palestinians in a similar situation today, and much is made of the justifications for violence they use to redress the injustices they've suffered.

But to reference such historical events and broaden them into modern metaphors for use to describe behavior seems not all that offensive to me. It's not the nature of the people which is being commented upon, but activities they undertook on which no judgement is being passed directly. I see how one might become offended here if one tried, but I dread more the loss of all hyperbole from the language as we parse and denude our conversation of all evocative expressions. It seems we lose more all the time, some properly so, but this one seemed a stretch to me.

Can't we just bury the hatchet? Can we pow wow or do we all have to stay on the warpath and walk this trail of tears? Or am I off the reservation when it comes to this particular bit of political correctness?

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Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Knights Of The Galaxy!

The more I research it, the more it becomes quite clear that I'm lucky to remember The Knights of the Galaxy.  This futuristic star-spanning assembly was the brainchild of Robert Kanigher (under the name of "Anthony Dion") and Carmine Infantino for the earliest 1951 issues of Julius Schwartz's Mystery in Space. This comic is most famous for the long-running Adam Strange series but that was now how it began.

Lyle and the Knights of the Galaxy seemed modeled on the tried and true Flash Gordon motif so elegantly designed by Alex Raymond decades before. A handsome blonde hero saving a comely gal with the stars as a backdrop is the very essence of vintage sci-fi.

I read a Knights story in Justice League of America #91 and as it turns out that was only one of two stories about the team reprinted by DC at the time, other was in JLofA #85. That's odd since they were quite content to reprint most things more than a few times, especially with the 100-pagers they were soon to publish. To my knowledge this team's stories, which total eight have never been collected together in a trade.

The Arthurian motif was also used by DC with the much more famous Atomic Knights, a group of stalwarts on a blighted Earth. The Knights of the Galaxy cleave to the classic legend which inspired them much more closely as Merlin even makes an appearance in a later tale. The team appeared on the covers of the first six issue of Mystery in Space before giving way in the seventh. They only ever appeared in two more stories beyond that. Here is a site which discusses the stories with some neat glimpses of Infantino's art.

Here are those covers. Enjoy!

A Knights story was reprinted in this collection from 1999 which sports a vivacious Mitch O'Connell cover.

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