Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Mach Go Go Go!

While at my new favorite bookstore, Half-Price Books, I stumbled across a wonderful bargain--a clean slip-cased set of Mach Go Go Go, better known to me as Speed Racer. This is a two-volume set of the original manga which inspired the anime which was translated into English and broadcast in America during the 60's. The influence of that cartoon was culturally immense, though I confess I didn't see them until years later.

I found this set, a neat companion to the complete anime/cartoon collection I picked up several years ago. Both were released in 2008 in conjunction with the failed live-action movie update. That version tanked, but it did give us these gems, so it's a great event nonetheless.

Handsome and sleek, both the dvd and the hardcover manga reprint offer insights into a fresh style of entertainment, one I'm not all that familiar with.

Mach Go Go Go Indeed!

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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Fantastic Gams!

Women's gams must've been a real seller, or at least the editors of Fantastic thought so as they ran several covers featuring women's legs in all their curvaceous glory.

The first two covers apparently are by Ed Valigursky, a sci-fi artist of some repute. 

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Forbidden Art!

I can well remember when I was first beginning to assemble something akin to a VHS collection of classic sci-fi movies, one that was difficult to locate was Forbidden Planet. This atmospheric taught jewel of the movie was not found cheaply in the early 80's by any means. I had a mail-order catalog once which priced a single VHS copy of the film at fifty bucks. That's in 80's dollars no less. So needless to say it wasn't until many years later when I found a copy for a mere twenty bucks that I landed one.

Much of the movie seems quaint today, but it's somber tone and complete atmosphere of weird alienation make it a keeper. And of course there is Robby the Robot, arguably the absolute icon of 50's sci-fi.

Here we see a version of Robby by Bill Woggon for the final issue of Katy Keene. It's not really Robby of course, but it's so very very close that we all get the idea. Speaking of Robby check out this link to get your very own Robby for a cool $32,000 no less.

Innovation Comics adapted Forbidden planet in the 90's and this lovely cover by Daerick Gross Sr. captures the essence of the original poster exceedingly well.

This later rendering by an unknown artist is less effective overall, but still quite fetching. A strong image will win out. 

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Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Lovable Monster!

Millie the Lovable Monster was an oddity published by Dell Comics. It was the creation of Katy Keene kahuna Bill Woggon and lasted an erratically scheduled three issues before disappearing for nearly all time. Those three issues were reprinted in the early 70's toward the end of Dell's existence.

To read a complete Millie story go here.

The only other Millie item I can discover is this charming coloring book. Millie the Lovable monster seems a delightful character, and I'm surprised we haven't seen more of her.

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Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Beast From The Deep!

Tales of Horror #7 contains a curious story about a dinosaur that rises from the depths of the ocean to create some relative havoc. You can read that comic book here. It's an unauthorized adaptation of Ray Bradbury's story "The Foghorn". You can read that story here

"The Foghorn" was originally titled "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms" when it was first published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1951. Under that title it inspired a seminal science fiction movie directed by Eugene Lourie and which featured evocative special effects by Ray Harryhausen.

As you can plainly see, the look of the Beast was derived very closely from the illustration which accompanied the story.

The "Rhedosaurus" as it was called confronts a lighthouse in the film, though it is a tiny portion of the destruction the Beast causes after it reaches the streets of New York City.

The success of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms sparked interest in such giant monster movies and the following year Ishiro Honda gave us his variation on the theme, a little gem called Gojira which we famously know as Godzilla, King of Monsters.

Parody cover by Sol Brodsky
It's a rare thing when the creative process for such a major cultural icon can be so effectively divined. It enriches the character from where I sit, to know that its genesis was at once so prosaic and so vividly wonderous.

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Dirty Trancing!

I was standing in line at the local grocery the other day and while waiting my turn I perused their rack of "previously viewed" dvds. I've bought one of these before with unhappy consequences, so it was not without qualm that when I stumbled across a boxed set of the first three Trancers movies that I slid them onto the conveyor belt with my bread and milk and other essential items.

I've heard of the Trancer movies, seen them in video stores (when those existed in those halcyon days of yore) and whatnot, but I'd never actually watched one. Tim Thomerson, who plays the lead is a reliable and harmless talent, so I gave it a chance, the price was right.

Trancers (released in theaters as Future Cop apparently) is a blend of classic film noir and science ficiton tropes. Jack Deth lives in the future of the 23rd century where he hunts down "Trancers", human beings who have fallen under the spell of a deadly force which for all intents and purposes turns them into zombies, zombies hiding in plain sight until they are unleashed. The where and how are pretty vague, but we follow the lead of our hero Jack Deth (Thomerson) who is a "Trancers Hunter", a specialized cop living in the ruins of Los Angeles which has to no small extent disappeared under the waves of the Pacific. Deth is a hard-boiled and lethal fellow in the Sam Spade mode and the movie owes more than small nod to Blade Runner and The Terminator as well. Deth gets a mission to travel back in time via drugs which will allow him to inhabit the body of one of his ancestors to track down a master villain who has gone to 1985 to unleash his Trancers and kill the ancestors of the future political leadership. Deth lands in the modern world and gets about it, including meeting and falling in love with Lena (Helen Hunt) a youthful Punk Rock wannabe. Needless to say they have to work like crazy to solve the mission, but they do and Deth ends up stuck in our world.

Some years later the story picks up in Trancers II when another mastermind from the future heads to 1991 where Deth and Lena have been married for six years and are pretty happy. Unfortunately the future council sends Jack's first wife (who died some years after her mission begins and Jack was there) back to solve the problem and of course Jack and Lena get drawn into the mission. This direct-to-video effort is far less effective save for some reasonable acting turns by several members of the cast. The reliably sinister Richard Lynch is on hand to give the movie a proper villain, but he's not enough to save this peculiar "film noir" effort that takes place almost exclusively in the bright California sunshine. The movie is passably entertaining with some clever plot turns, but alas never achieves the right mood.

In 1992 Trancers III is unleashed and to some extent so is Jack Deth. In a classic film noir turn he ends up in a divorce with his wife Lena and ends up himself quickly transported to the future where the Trancer war has erupted with devastating results. Deth is transported to 2005 where the Trancer menace originated and he finds a black ops military unit led by Andrew Robinson (infamous Dirty Harry villain Scorpio) experimenting with steroids which create the Trancer effect. He struggles against this new threat with reasonable effectiveness, this time assisted to some degree by a future android Shark, who happens to have the head of a weird robotic shark, sort of. The end of the movie is pretty standard for an action movie, okay but not really full gear. It results in a change of premise as Jack is turned into an agent specifically charged with traveling in time to eliminate menaces, and his new partner is Shark. There are three more Trancer movies, so I assume this premise is realized.

The Trancer movies are a mixed bag by any measure. The first one has some real bite, a solid attempt to create a proper atmosphere. Deth is neatly operated within the confines of classic hard-boiled types we've seen in dozens of movies, part of a tradition, but nicely fitted into a sci-fi setting. The Blade Runner inspirations are hard to miss and it does at once help and hurt the movie, if it's to be judged on its own merits. One area these films miss is action, which almost always seems staged and slow relatively to slicker productions. They seem to rely on the actors to do a lot of the stuff and they are up to it, but it often lacks the crisp editing which really makes such things work.

It's clear that budgets were pretty meager for these movies, which have to accomplish a lot with very little. It shows sadly despite the earnest effort by the cast. The Trancer movies are diverting fun and slightly trashy entertainment, and they are slightly smarter and wittier than you might at first suspect. But they aren't great movies by any stretch, regardless of how charming Thomerson is in the lead.

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Hombre Arana Homages!

Spotted by Steve  W.

Here is a trio of wild covers from El Sorpendente Hombre Arana, the Mexican publisher who reprinted Spider-Man for many years. Clearly the unknown artist is knowledgeable about comic covers as he borrows from all over. Not only is a Captain Marvel cover by Gil Kane adapted, there is an image of Warren's Vampirella by Frank Frazetta converted to his purposes as well as a striking Kane cover for the Distinguished Competition.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Definitive Conan!

Barry Windsor-Smith, the most important Conan artist aside from Frank Frazetta, says the cover image above for the debut issue of Conan Saga is his "definitive" rendition of the character. To get a much better look at this lush piece of artwork check out this link. Smith also discusses each of the covers in this brief return to the character who he helped popularize (and who likewise helped popularize Smith in return). He talks about each cover, save for the seventh issue which he considers to weak to represent. I don't agree with that assessment. It's interesting reading. Go here to begin.

Here are the covers in question.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Coming Of Conan!

The intoxicating cover by Barry (Not-Yet-Windsor)Smith and the late John Verpoorten for Conan the Barbarian #1 has been featured here a few times. I love how Smith approached this project with gusto and panache. He's unafraid to throw all his youthful vigor into an image which, while it might lack grace in some places, is not shortchanged in action or drama. In a wonderful variation of the classic Frazetta pose which decorated the first Lancer Conan paperback, this image of Conan is active, but nonetheless stands astride a beautiful woman who lingers around his knees. The action around him is furious and chaotic. This scene might in fact be a moment before the classic sedate and ominous Frazetta image.

The closest we'll likely get to seeing Barry Smith's original artwork is this cover for Marvelmania Magazine minus the Verpoorten inks. Here there is a  a raw energy to the black and white presentation which is seen in full.

The classic cover has been reprinted dozens of times by Marvel and other publishers around the world. Here are some I have been lucky enough to gather up from across the globe. 

Here's a painting which uses Smith's art as its inspriation.

And here is a recent homage by John Romita Jr. for a cover of The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide. It has some of the vigor of the original, but misses its charm somehow.

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