Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Exploitation Of Konga!

Here is the rather impressive debut issue of Charlton's Konga comic, developed as a tie-in to Herman Cohen's memorable early 60's monster flick.

Here you can see this particular issue in the Konga move pressbook (featured at From Zombo's Closet) along with the Monarch novelization by Dean Owen. Monarch was also an arm of the Charlton publishing "empire". Both the comic and the novel are among the "Special Exploitation Material" a theater could make use of to entice the customer to come see the movie. I'd love to see a Konga balloon or bank. The pressbook also suggests weirdly that the serum which gave birth to the giant Konga might actually be withing the realm of possibility! Who are they trying to kid?

The novelization is pretty racy in places. I wonder if theaters ever caught any heat for disseminating this book to its relatively unwary customers.

Rip Off

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Stuntman - Split-Second Action Take Two!

The second and alas final newsstand edition of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby's Stuntman features one of their most exciting covers. Again the faux book design is used to great effect.

"Curtain Call for Death" opens with Sandra Sylvan and another actor named Wendell Spencer as they entertain on the stage. Spencer though falls down dead on the stage and while the audience is momentarily confused, thinking it a part of the act, both Don Daring and Fred Drake are not so sure. They rush back stage to find Sandra distraught that her co-star has actually passed away. Soon we meet his understudy, a guy named Gil Golden and his tutor, an unsavory fellow called Anton Thorax. While Fred fills in for him on the movie set doing wild stunts, Don Daring investigates and quickly seems to suspicious behavior with Thorax. Fred on the other hand as Stuntman seems to have other ideas. A trap is laid to discover the murderer who reveals himself but as usual Stuntman saves the day.

"The Rescue of Robin Hood" is a story which perhaps gives us a clear picture of where the series might have gone if it had lasted longer. We find Don Daring cast as Robin Hood in the movie "The Outlaw of Sherwood Forest" and Sandra Sylvan as Maid Marian. Fred Drake of course is around to handle the difficult stuff for Daring. But in this one Fred is spotted by the director and is given a role which complicates Daring's usual scheme. Daring is momentarily fooled that he himself is just as physically capable as Drake but is soon disabused of this notion after several embarrassing incidents. Meanwhile in the background mysterious men seems to want to interfere with the production, but Stuntman arrives on the scene and things are quickly clarified. This story felt like a comedy more than an adventure story.

These are the only two Stuntman stories in this issue which also features another Simon and Kirby creation, "The Duke of Broadway" as well as other tales by other talents. Here's a glimpse as Stuntman himself introduces the new feature.

To read the complete issue go here.

Sadly the great cover art produced for this issue was simplified to its lasting detriment on this reprint from Harvey a few years later.

Much better was the use in 1987 by Pure Imagination when they reprinted several of Stuntman's adventures in glorious black and white.

Here's the handsome back cover art of that volume by the King which was inked by Greg Theakston for publication. 

Stuntman was cancelled after the second issue. The post-war years were a time of boom and bust. Stuntman alas proved to be a bust, but as we can see it was not for lack of artistic merit,  but for the most basic of reasons-- it didn't sell. The reasons for that had little to do with the quality of the series, but with the glut of material which was launched onto the newsstands at this time. Joe Simon reported unopened bundles of Stuntman were returned simply because newsstands had no space to feature new comics and dedicated that space to tried and true efforts.

Here's an ad for the never-to-be published third issue of Stuntman. For more on that effort and other Stuntman odds and ends be here next Saturday.

Rip Off

Friday, April 17, 2015

Red, White, And True!

When I discovered Captain Canuck in a lone grocery store way back in 1980, the comic was a breath of fresh air, a rousing adventure with a completely novel character in a much underused environment by a completely new company.

I jumped aboard immediately and sought out all the issues as they arrived at the comics stands and ordered the back issues and even some of the swag. I joined the Captain Canuck club and still have my membership card around here somewhere. I thoroughly enjoyed the well-crafted stories. But then it stopped just like that.

1993 Revival
2004 Revival
No more was heard until the 90's and after a spate of revivals which to greater and usually lesser degrees failed to catch the magic of the original series which blended superheroics with just the right spice of sci-fi and even a hint of fantasy to make a heady brew. Successive attempts seemed to ground themselves too tightly into reality and felt somehow more viscerally violent. And none of them had the great George Freeman on art.

Then a few years ago Richard Comely, the good Captain's creator authorized through IDW, a reprinting of the adventures including a story by Freeman originally done in the 80's in which he battles an alien dubbed "The Stygian". The story ended on an abrupt note.

Now at last we get the next part of that yarn as part of last year's latest attempt to breathe life into this concept. The 2014 Captain Canuck Summer Special can be read in all its glory online by going to this site. The pdf comic also features a fun story drawn by Claude St. Aubin. Both the stories here have a fun vintage feel.

Also at the site you will find an rather entertaining series of webisodes which introduce yet another new rendition of Captain Canuck, with a few new toys and a somewhat more smart-aleck attitude. They are pretty cannily crafted and wonderfully paced. 

All these goodies I discovered when I went looking for information on this Free Comic Book Day offering due out the second day of May. I definitely want to check it out, and if it's any good at all, I might well sample the upcoming series if it actually develops. With this character it's always best not to count your "Canucks" until they hatch.

Rip Off

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Big Screen Heroes!

Marvel has a gazilliion great, near-great, and darn-good heroes. So here is a short selection of heroes I think might be worthy a big-screen deal.

And all of the heroes above, I thought would get a movie shot before the guy below.

I love Ant-Man, but really.

Take a look.

Rip Off

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Herb Trimpe R.I.P.

One of my heroes is gone. The news of the passing of Herb Trimpe comes as a shock. Herb Trimpe was one of my favorite artists, a yeoman storyteller with an inviting style who hit his marks month in and month out with attractive appealing pages filled with adventure and heart.

I first knew the name Herb Trimpe as the artist on Marvel Super-Heroes #16 featuring the debut (and for decades only solo appearance) of The Phantom Eagle. Soon enough he became the regular artist on The Hulk, long one of my two favorite comics and my admiration for his work was sealed for all time.

Trimpe was one of the kind of artists I most admire, the kind who show up and get it done. There was never a whiff of the prima donna about Trimpe or his work, rock solid stuff which delivered the goods. Whether he was handling one hero or twenty, he drew away with gusto and filled the comic with energy and verve.

I liked him best when he inked himself, but rarely did deadlines allow such a thing, but he did that a lot on the myriad western covers he kicked out for Marvel. Trimpe was the quintessential Marvel Bullpenner until the sad day when he wasn't. Not unlike the purge which afflicted DC way back in the early 70's, Marvel reduced its staff and longtime talents, dedicated to the company, were asked to pack their bags after decades of loyal service. Here is what he said about that.

I think it's in these post-Bullpen days when my admiration for Trimpe grew even more. He rose above the hardship and at that late stage of his career (approximately a place I'm at right now actually) he redirected his energy into teaching and serving. His book The Power of Angels is arguably the most durable comics-connected tome to rise out of the ashes of the 9-11 tragedy, because in that book we find the hope which for a sadly brief time filled our nation. I need to read it again.

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Herb Trimpe and happily he turned out to be exactly what I hoped, a gracious and charming man. I had him autograph my copy of Marvel Super-Heroes #16, a book he genuinely seemed happy to see. He shouted out to Gary Friedrich, the writer of that tome who was next to him in the adjacent booth and I got both signatures on that day. I then commissioned a portrait of the Phantom Eagle which I cherish still.

Salute Herb, and godspeed. You've earned your rest.

Rip Off

When Babes Ruled The Earth!

I finally got to see the Hammer caveman epic When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth. Produced hot on the heels of the successful One Million B.C. which introduced the world to Raquel Welch in her delightful fur bikini, this one gives us Victoria Vetri in an even more revealing sliver of clothing.

The overarching plot of the movie (and there is a mild spoiler here) is that in some mythical moment in the deep past when man and dinosaurs somehow held sway together on the planet it did not yet have its Moon, but it would get one. That's pretty much the plot if you ignore all the scrimmaging around various and sundry actors do as they rush around trying to finish off Vetri's character named "Sanna".

She was to be a sacrifice to the Sun, but escaped and the rest of the movie is about how the Cliff People try to find and kill her though she has come under the protection of the Beach People. Sanna escapes again and finds herself reborn (sort of) and in command of a pretty neat dinosaur in a King Kong-ish moment. Her lover Tara finds her a few times and eventually after long long minutes of scampering about they get together as Earth gets its Moon.

The movie is handsomely done and offers up some pretty cave dwellers (who almost never go into caves) but spend time mostly on the beach. There are a few different dinosaurs, some stop-motion and some not who really don't seem to be much of a threat to people unless the people insist on walking right in on top of them.

This movie seems mostly to be about Vetri and other pretty actresses strutting about in nearly the all-together, and to be fair there's quite a bit of skin for man fans too. The movie hasn't enough plot twists of sufficient variety though to keep me on my toes throughout. Slash out about twenty minutes, maybe a few more and you might have a movie which earns its keep.

Rip Off

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Thunder Returns!

I'm delighted to hear that the Brontosaurus, the "Thunder Lizard", has been returned to us after a few decades of revisionist paleontology had the poor dino recapitated in museums across the globe. Check out this Scientific American article announcing the good news.

Brontosaurus is one of the big three classic dinosaurs of vintage imagination, along with Triceratops and of course Tyrannosaurus Rex. (Currently the Triceratops has, like the Bronto before him, been expunged as a distinct species, but the mighty T-Rex has recently been rescued from being reduced to a scavenger.)

Brontosaurus is featured in the classic movie The Lost World (based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's epic Professor Challenger adventure of the same name), taking the place of a flying dinosaur as it rampages down the streets of London before the epic tour of the great King Kong. To watch the epic saunter check out the complete silent classic here.The great brontosaurus begins his untethered tour of London on or about the one hundred and three minute mark.

Brontosauruses are often depicted as benign beasts, interested only gathering tons of fodder to power their enormous bodies and likely too large to really even notice the people who sometimes time travel into their zones. No dinosaur landscape is complete without a brontosaurus lazily munching down in the background.

I'm glad to have the classic "Thunder Lizard" back among us.

Rip Off