Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Debutante From Draculon!

Above is Tom Sutton's original for the luscious splash page from the very first Vampirella story from 1969. Forry Ackerman wrote this nutty tongue-in-cheek space fest, creating a very lighthearted vampire, a voluptuous innocent with a bizarre background for sure.

To see the whole story check below, or to see it on Tom Sutton's original pages go to this link.

This is the iconic pose created by Frank Frazetta for the debut issue. But what I just recently learned was that Frazetta was called in to create this piece to replace the cover below by Aslan, rejected because apparently Vampi was too pale. That rejected cover art was eventually used on the 1972 annual. You can see the somewhat more frivolous Vampi tone evident in this rejected cover, whereas Frazetta added his singular gift of sex appeal to his version.

We know of course that eventually Vampi would get a more serious approach, specifically written by Archie Goodwin and others and drawn magnificently by Jose Gonzalez, but this first Vampi story has a vivacious charm all its own.

And here's Forry flanked on either side by two real-world incarnations of his space vampiress.

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I'm really enjoying the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings movies right now. But it occurred to me while viewing them that my first awareness of them was by courtesy of Roy Thomas when he borrowed the name "Sauron", the arch-nemesis of Tolkien's epic fantasy for one of his own X-Men villains.

"Sauron" was a man named Karly Lykos. The last name was supposed to suggest he'd become a werewolf, but the Comics Code forbid it. So he became a psychic-vampire-pterodactyl-human monster instead. That's much better. Here's a link with definitive information on Lykos/Sauron.

It goes to show how the cultural understanding of Tolkein's works has transformed since that time, as I doubt it would occur to a writer today to lift such a name. Thomas might've thought he was paying respect to the original, but I get the feeling it was like many of his literary nods, a bit of an inside joke meant to amuse those familiar with Tolkien's work. The epic is referenced in Sauron's origin story, so the he's up front about the lift, but I bet the name rankles him today, since the original Sauron has become so ubiquitous.

But say "Sauron" to me and I of course think of the unblinking eye, but I also glimpse out the side of my memory a human-pterodactyl hybrid, a flying horror.

Neal Adams first designed Sauron. Here's an original page by Adams from that debut story.

John Byrne added his variation later in the X-Men run. Here's one of the iconic Sauron images.

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Definitive Flash Gordon!

IDW has announced that they are going to be publishing Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon pages in a definitive format that recreates as much as possible the original look of those pages. Even the Jungle Jim stories also by Raymond used at toppers on the series will be reprinted.

The books above have formed my base Flash Gordon collection for more years than I can count. But a reading of them a few years ago showed that time was having its way, so if the price point isn't too out of hand, maybe I'll have to give these Raymond classics a tumble.

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Friday, July 30, 2010

Frodo Lives!

I wish I had these ACE paperbacks. They were published without permission back in the 60's when Tolkien's popularity was beginning to crest. I've long thought that Jack Gaughan's artwork on these was vivid and compelling.

For my own part, I first read of Middle Earth under these "official" Ballantine covers by artist Barbara Remington. Here's an interview with Remington about how these peculiar but rather strangely pretty covers came to exist. My first trip there and back again was pretty lush and like most folks I suspect, I like to revisit from time to time.

For the record, I first became aware of something called "Lord of the Rings" in high school, where the beautiful slipcase hardback trilogy rested atop some bookshelves. Alas this was a zone from which this treasure could not be retrieved to be actually read, but had to be seen only from afar or with the assistance of the librarian. I remember that classic eye symbol staring out at me, but it would be a few years before I could answer that call.

This week, with only a few more precious days left before I have to confront the rigors of the high school student mind again, I'm taking some time to luxuriate in Peter Jackson's epic films, viewing the extended DVD versions.

Seeing this work on the big screen was a big thrill of course, but getting to see it in the comfort of my home is exquisite. The extended story in these adds to the understanding of the whole significantly.

There are weaknesses in the movies of course, that's inevitable, but overall I find this translation of the epic to pretty darned impressive, capturing the scope of the original pretty well.

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Classics Illustrated Reading Room!

Above are some classic covers for vintage tales adapting famous and significant science fiction stories. If you'd like to read these as well as other great Classics Illustrated stories of other types check out this link.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Just For Kicks!

Martial arts was a big fad during my formative years. The comics and popular media were filled with it. The punches and flips were neat, but it was the kicks which set it apart, which made dynamic and dramatic and very cool covres. Above is a great "kick" cover, a beautiful rendering of the one and only Bruce Lee by Neal Adams for the debut issue of Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu.

Below is my favorite all-time movie kick, this one also by Bruce Lee.

And here are some more great comic kick covers.

And just's the first "kick" comic book cover I remember, and it's also my fave. Neal Adams strikes again.

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