Monday, February 28, 2011

Flying Disc Man From Mars!

Flying Disc Man from Mars is one of the last serials made by Republic and a sequel of sorts to The Purple Monster which I reviewed here. This 1950 serial has a somewhat bad reputation, so I didn't expect much, but I was pleasantly surprised. There is a quite a bit of inventiveness in the first few chapters, though admittedly the story falls into a rut after that for many chapters.

The premise is exceedingly simple. The martian Mota comes to Earth, is shot down by a high-flying security man, and soon hooks up with Dr.Bryant (James Craven) a scientist who just happens to have been a former secret Nazi. After scaring up a few thugs for the heavy lifting, they begin to plot the downfall of liberty and seek to establish an intergalactic dictatorship so that Earth will not become too troublesome with its new-found atomic power.

The hero in this one is Kent Fowler (Walter Reed) who along with his sidekick Steve and his secretary Helen form a security outfit who offer plane-based protection to their clients. They also do more mundane security work, and that's good because during the course of the serial they crash what appears to all four of their planes.

The story is a fast-paced one, with Mota building a "semi-disc plane" which he uses to support the operation which mostly consists of stealing uranium and other needed materials for world conquest. The visuals of the movie are kicked up a notch when Mota successfully builds a cave-hangar for his disc inside a volcano. The ship rising in and out of the volcano is pretty keen and gives this story some needed sparkle.

There is a tiny cast in this story, as even the police are absent despite several dead bodies and tons of mostly-ineffectual gun play. Actually the gun fights are rather funny as often happens in these action fests, there is a bunch of point-blank shooting but rarely does anyone get hit. And never once in this serial does holding anyone at gunpoint work since they always knock the gun down and a furious fight ensues. You'd think just once they'd learn to stand back just a bit. But that's typical for these shows.

Mota (Gregory Gay) wears the same outfit as the Purple Monster and his arrival on the planet is practically identical, even using some of the same footage. This time though the alien merely joins forces with a scientist and doesn't assume his identity. That saves on many a tedious transformation scene.

This is a fairly typical serial, not too good and not too bad. It's got tons of action, though the fights by Republic standards do seem a wee bit tame. There were some very unconvincing closeups of the fights. There are props and scenes borrowed from other shows, but that's par for the course on these things.

Some of the cliffhangers are pretty hilarious. My favorite is how Fowler survives one of his many plane crashes by simply jumping out of the crashing plane at an opportune time and seemingly bouncing safely into a tree. He doesn't even seem to muss up his ubiquitous suit too much.

All in all I enjoyed it, though I did find I was talking to the screen quite a bit as the hapless heroes made the same mistakes over and over again.

Good fun. It's mildly recommended.

Here's a peek at the first few minutes.

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Radio Of Bronze - Fear Cay!

Yesterday I had to do a bit of driving across the state. Fortunately a day earlier, my Radio Archives collection of The Adventures of Doc Savage had arrived at my door. This eight-disk collection features two Doc Savage stories adapted for serial radio performance in the 1980's. The two stories adapted were The Thousand-Headed Man and Fear Cay. Yesterday the seven episode saga of Fear Cay proved ideal listening as I hurtled down the highways.

Fear Cay was featured in the eleventh issue of the original Doc Savage run and offers up a cracking tale featuring Doc and all his five aides along with Pat Savage his cousin. These six find themselves confronting a gang of vicious thugs who are trying to get hold of a mysterious prize on a lost island in the Caribbean. There is also a strange old geezer who claims to be 131 years old, and who gets around quite quickly for someone of such age. There's plenty for all the aides to do with Monk, Ham, Renny, Johnny, and Long Tom all getting some decent exposure. The action is spread around well, despite the pacing being rather relentless.

The producers of this program drew pacing inspiration from the classic Republic serial The Adventures of Captain Marvel and it really works. There are some great fights and some ferocious gun play. The characterizations are crisp and I had very little difficulty telling the players apart, despite there being a large cast of folks to keep track. The plot is classic Doc, with a the battle raging in the streets of NYC before shifting to an exotic locale. There is weird mystery and plenty of raw pulp beats to suit any Doc fan.

I frankly didn't expect these to be as good as they are. Many of these later radio shows can be a bit bloodless, clear copies of an art form that once thrived but now is all but gone. This seems to be more than a mere copy, but a true revival done by real pros who are adept at the business of crafting radio drama.

I haven't listened to the second adventure yet, but I yearn to do so, and will surely offer a report here when I do.

This collection is highly recommended. Not only did I receive the Doc Savage material but Radio Archives sent some other vintage radio shows to flesh out the package. There was even a bonus disk on top of that, so it's a really fair bargain for the money. For more details see this link.

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Time Tunnels!

This was one of the first Spidey comics I ever read. I don't think I bought it, but rather it belonged to a cousin who let me read it. I later of course got a copy of my own. In the hundreds of times I've seen this cover, it never occurred to me until just the other day how much the background in this John Romita composition looks like the iconic Time Tunnel from the Irwin Allen TV show.

It makes sense and seems obvious, but I'd just never noticed.

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Lunatic Binge!

I stumbled across this very interesting Jack Davis cover the other day. I was taken by the fact it was an infinity cover featuring Frankenstein of all folks.

Then later I found this full-spread scan of the cover. This is Jack Davis at his best.

One detail jumped out at me though when I inspected the cover. These little rats have some distinctive pants on don't you think?

Jack Davis can really draw Frankenstein. He imbues the Creature with a somber dignity despite a rather cartoony approach. The classic Jack Davis Frankenstein will always be etched in my memory.

I always craved that poster. Though I will admit I craved the Vampirella one more.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

The Patriot - Million Dollar Loot!

Here's a vintage Patriot story from Marvel Mystery Comic #62. The story features art by Al Gabriele and Vince Alascia. Enjoy!

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Captain America - Patriot!

This vivid throwback story written by Karl Kesel with some very evocative artwork by Mitch Breitweiser, tells the story of Jeff Mace the Patriot. Jeff Mace is the man who took over for Captain America and had a rather long career after World War II until the early 1950's. He was the third man to take on the identity after the disappearance of the original and the death of the Spirit of 76.

This entertaining four-part story details Mace's early time as The Patriot, showing how he was inspired to become a stateside fighter against the Axis threat. He was a reporter who wanted to do more, and he did. This is also the tale of his friends, such as an ace camera man Casey who ends up joining the war effort overseas, and a beautiful woman named Mary who eventually becomes the complicated masked character Miss Patriot.

This is not a story I can discuss much without destroying some of the surprises. But the large story is well known. Jeff Mace becomes Captain America and has to work alongside truly super-powered types like Whizzer, Miss America, Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner despite being just a regular guy. His struggle to become accepted and even a leader with these folks is poignant. Later he battles crime alongside Golden Girl and still later gives up the role of Cap entirely.

Kesel does a grand job of making all the established stuff about Captain America's most complicated history fuse neatly here in this untold behind the scenes saga. Jeff Mace is a good guy, and a hero you can root for completely. He makes mistakes, but seems always to be trying to do the right thing. This story is a breath of fresh air in a modern world overripe with anti-heroes and downright villains put up as role models. Jeff Mace, the Patriot is a hero.

This trade is highly recommended. It also has the one-shot All-Winners story from a few years ago as well as the classic What If? #4 story which first revealed in delicious retcon fashion that Jeff Mace had become Cap.

Get this book.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Upon Reflection - Faces!

This is the final installment of reflective comic book covers. This is in many ways the weirdest as it focuses on the human form itself as the reflective surface.

And as a little coda to the whole shebang here is the absolute most bizarre and rather gruesome reflective cover I've come across.

Compelling image, but very weird.

I hope you all enjoyed these. I've added to the previous galleries from time to time so check them out again. There are almost one hundred reflective covers I've located so far. It's turned out to be a very popular cover theme.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Blue Dogs!

George Rodrique

"Blue Dogs" is a nickname for a of conservative Democrats in the Congress. The name is memorable and when I attempted to track down the source, I discovered that its source is unclear. It might track back to a comment made by a Republican during the 90's about using strategies which would strangle the opponent, making him therefore "blue".

George Rodrique

Or it could be a reference to the artist George Rodrique who paints a whole gaggle of images featuring blue dogs. One member of the Blue Dog caucus apparently had Rodrique paintings in his office. It clearly is tied to the old-fashioned phrase "Yellow Dog" which is used to describe loyal Democrats who would vote for a yellow dog before any other party.

But for sure its roots seem to be Southern and that made me think of the ultimate blue dog, Huckleberry Hound. Whatever the source, it's given me the notion to put together a small gallery of comics featuring "Blue Dogs" of various kinds.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Thing For Posters!

I always loved this eye-catching and compelling cover for Fantastic Four #92 by Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott. It's definitely one of those a-picture-is-worth-a-thousand-words kind of images.

Below are a couple of original images showing how the details of this classic cover came together.

Notice how the image of Ben Grimm on the poster gets bigger, increasing the covers impact.

And here is an "homage" of the old FF cover from the 90's by Humberto Ramos and Karl Kesel. It's when others try to swipe the greats that you really see the skill of the originals.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Political Animals!

The usual crop of characters who run for President are often an outrageous lot. They are out-sized personalities, who want to be the most powerful person in the world for reasons not always centered on public service.

But given the anthropomorphic gang who have run in the comic book world, things could be much, much worse.

I'm just saying.

These actual somewhat more "human" presidents might do better.

Bobby Sherman was "human" wasn't he?

And then there's this guy.

Personally, this cartoon icon would get my vote. Talk about speaking truth to power. Ahoy!

Have a nice Presidents Day.

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