Wednesday, October 31, 2018

All The Munsters Fit To Print!

This Halloween month of October I was finally able to finish a project that has eluded me for many years --- watch all of The Munsters. I picked up the episodes on DVD many years ago and have watched them off and on over the years, but never all the way through and never with a mindset to see the development of the short-lived series. The Munsters and its similar-themed competitor The Addams Family was a shout out by the producers of television to the "Monster Kids", the generation of Baby Boom youngsters who had rediscovered the classic monsters of the vintage Universal cycle thanks to the burgeoning medium of television. 

The Munsters appeared all over the place at the time, such as TV Guide and especially in the pages of magazines like Monster World dedicated to bringing home the monsters in a limited way in those primitive days before home video was ubiquitous. Watching The Munsters it's easy to see how the series started, revved up into an exceedingly high and entertaining gear, and then slowly but steadily began to lose energy as the gags became repetitive. It would have worse by far for the series to have dragged on and subsequent attempts to mine the property have only proven this to be the case. The series was lightning in a bottle, great in its moment but not long for the world. 

But that didn't stop folks from trying. Munster, Go Home was an attempt to get the property into the theaters on the big screen and in garish color. It failed because of some ham-handed handling, but also because the jokes again and again felt all too familiar. The talent involved in this show was mighty indeed, with the practiced duo of Fred Gwynne and Al Lewis providing outstanding moments of exquisite comedy timing.

The Munsters did find some traction in the other pop culture outlets of the era. A couple of novels from Whitman for youngsters were created sporting handsome covers by Arnie Kohn. I have the second one titled The Last Resort around here somewhere, and have had it since I was a boy.  I need to get the other one, if only for the handsome cover art. Whitman's comic book branch of Gold Key tapped the characters for a respectable run which as was typical of the time sported photo covers.

The Munsters produced by the same fellows who gave the world Leave It To  Beaver, was a product of its time, a time when monsters were so commonplace that they were seen as fit for humor. That hasn't gone away with movies like Hotel Transylvania and its sequels proving quite popular. But never forget that when it comes to a comedy riff on classic monsters, The Munsters was the original.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

A Spooktacular Experience!

The Creeps is like a time-travel device. The ideas and writing and art all look like they could've come out of a vintage Warren magazine like Creepy or Eerie. That's intentional, and in lesser  hands would not be as effective. Many have tried to tap the vein that the Warren mags found in the 60's and 70's themselves trying to update the basic zeitgeist of the classic EC Comics. In this iteration they realized that black and white was the key to success. While Warren dabbled in color from time to time, and splendidly so, the latchkey to find the balance between horror and awful was the refined lines of black and white artwork.

Getting artists of some reputation and skill and letting them dance was important, but almost always within the parameters of the black and white world. It kept the gore at an acceptable distance and so did not allow the gross to undermine the truly impressive allure of the grotesque. Sex and violence alas will always sell, but in some packages it speaks out with exceeding craft allowing for the vicarious experience to be one of catharsis and not merely banal indulgence. I'm a late comer, but an enthusiastic one as I explained last Spring. Get The Creeps while you can, and the first annual The Creeps Spooktacular is a dandy place to dive in.

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Monday, October 29, 2018

Forbidden Frankenstein!

"Anton Drek's " Forbidden Frankenstein ain't for everybody. If you're someone who thinks comics should stick to topics and themes suited only for kids then this is not a comic you want to fool with.

But if you're a bit more broad-minded in your comics tastes, then I heartily recommend this pornographic revision of the classic horror character created by the libertine Mary Shelley two hundred years ago. To read these classics check out this link and this one. These are absolutely NSFW so tread carefully.

"Anton Drek" is in reality Don Simpson, and he is one of my favorite artists, a man who is able to imbue his comic pages with not just well-rendered figures, but also a vigorous action. Simpson admires John Romita more than any other comic artist and it can be seen in even these rather different pages from Fantagraphics.

Simpson even revived Forbidden Frankenstein for a mainstream comics run in with his other remarkable creation the amazing Megaton Man. I'm not quite sure what Don Simpson is doing these days, every so often his website will light up with activity, but I know that if he ever decides to do more with the insanely over-sexed patchwork man I'm up for a glimpse.

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Sunday, October 28, 2018

Chamber Of Darkness!

Chamber of Darkness was the second of two mystery comics Marvel launched in the heady year of 1969 soon after their contract which limited their number of titles has lapsed. The first was Tower of Shadows which was glimpsed here yesterday.

The Chamber was hosted by a wonderfully underrated character dubbed Headstone P. Gravely. He's a creepy cat for sure, a gruesome undertaker who tells horror yarns in his spare time. As far as I know after his brief tenure in Chamber was concluded he has not shown up in any other Marvel comic, but I would love to learn that I'm wrong about that. One notable thing is that a try-out for Conan appeared in the fifth issue by Roy Thomas and Barry (Not-Yet-Windsor) Smith. Jack "King" Kirby did some of his final work for Marvel in this book before heading off to DC and his own Fourth World.

Chamber of Darkness was just like Tower of Shadows and after a time its name was changed to Monsters on the Prowl. This was for most of its run a reprint magazine for vintage Atlas monsters and such from a decade or so before.

There was one little hiccup when King Kull was showcased, sort of an in-between engagement when his comic was on hiatus for a time. So weirdly Kull appeared in both Marvel's upstart mystery comics.

While not as illustrious in many was as its sister Tower of Shadows, I've always preferred the Chamber of Darkness myself. And I've always had a soft spot in my head (appropriately enough) for its grisly host.

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Saturday, October 27, 2018

Tower Of Shadows!

When I was a wee lad, first sampling the comic book universe there came into my ken the title Tower of Shadows. It was a mighty thing indeed, the first time I'd read a comic book of this kind with small creepy tales presented by an even more creepy host. I liked it immediately though circumstances prevented me from getting more issues for some years. A lot of great artistic talent appeared in the pages such as Jim Steranko, Johnny Craig, John Buscema, Don Heck, Neal Adams, Gene Colan, Marie Severin, Barry (Not-Yet-Windsor) Smith, George Tuska, Tom Sutton, Wally Wood, Bill Everett, Syd Shores, and Bernie Wrightson among others.

Digger was a depraved fellow for certain, but he told a good story. Eventually I'd learn that Digger was replaced by the members of the Bullpen itself, but that didn't stop some of these yarns from being really nifty little visits to a really horrifying places. Digger eventually ended up as a part of the Marvel mythos properly when he was introduced as a small-time villain in the pages of Captain America and elsewhere as part of the Night Shift.

Eventually the noble Tower of Shadows became the more vital Creatures on the Loose and began to be a comic which showcased weird barbarian heroes in the vein of Conan. We get Kull the Conqueror's comic book debut which is quickly followed by Gullivar of Mars and Lin Carters's Thongor Warrior of Lost Lemuria. Ironically it was Thongor Roy Thomas was thinking to bring to comics form when he learned he could instead get hold of the original Conan. The series wrapped featuring a spin-off from Spider-Man, the Man-Wolf.

Tower of Shadows had a sister comic book amigos!

(Thanks Groove! It was a timely addition.)

More on that tomorrow. For more Marvel fearsome wonders today see this Groovy Link.

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