Monday, November 30, 2009
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
In these pics--Jack Kirby with Jerry Siegel, Neal Adams and, in the group shot, Don Glut, Mike Gold, Joe Orlando, Mike Grell, Paul Kupperberg, Martin Pasko, Don MacGregor, Jennette Kahn, Stan Lee and Len Wein
Here's the public link to the photo album. You do NOT need to be on Facebook or be one of my Facebook friends to see it!
Monday, November 23, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
In the beginning, we see Batman arriving at Birnam Towers, the great mansion home of the dying Roger Birnam, his lovely wife Clorinda and their son, Little Enoch. Roger, you see is one of Batman's oldest and best friends. NOT Bruce Wayne's mind you but Batman's. Yes, apparently the Caped Crusader used to hang out at Roger's pretty regularly. As one caption puts it, "...Batman's feet tread across old familiar floors where he'd often known happy moments."
Roger, upon seeing Batman, calls him "my oldest and dearest friend." He makes Batman promise to take care of his wife and son---who we discover is Batman's GODSON--and then he dies. At the funeral, Batman casually notes that he was surprised he'd never met any of the other mourners. Because, as we all know, Bats was clearly hanging around with the family all the time and should know all their friends.
After the funeral, the Dark Detective tells Clorinda he has to go but that she should call him on "the bat-line" whenever she needs him. He doesn't give her the number, however, so she must already know it.
Over the next page and a half, Batman discovers the death of one of the funeral but while he's hanging around Commissioner Gordon's office talking about the case, guess who calls him there on the "bat-line?" Yup! Clorinda! So Brucie boy (still in costume, mind you. It's like they don't even realize that mask comes off!) curls up in Gordon's chair for a long conversation. Clorinda says she's frightened about something. No details given. Batman, having sworn to protect her and little Enoch, drops everything immediately and heads back to Birnam Towers.
Seems a terrifying energy figure has been appearing and frightening Little Enoch. Batman gets zapped by it and then it disappears. The local Chief Constable then appears at the door to make sure everything's okay. He seems infatuated with Clorinda and jealous of the Cowled Crusader. Bats understands though, because after all, Clorinda IS "a fabulous female."
As Batman leaves, apparently having lost interest in the monster, we see him walking down the hill from the mansion. Ummm...did the Batmobile break down or what? Run out of bat-gas maybe? Anyway, whom does he meet on the road but...the energy monster! The thing points him back to the mansion where he looks through the window and sees what appears to be some sort of Satanic ritual. Like, um...yeah. They'd have time to pull that together in the time it took him to walk down the hill. He gets conked on the head and awakens inside where all seems normal again...except there are now a lot of guests everywhere!
Clorinda explains that her friends had all come to help her with her grief. One of them asks Batman for his autograph. After that---always in costume, remember!!-- Batman decides to have a bit of a lie-down and Little Enoch stays to keep him company because "he adores you so."
As he drifts off, he imagines his Godson pricking him with a pitchfork only to awaken to the energy creature taking it away from him and the boy shrinking and escaping through the keyhole. WTF??!! he thinks...or would have if the expression had been invented yet and the Comics Code would have permitted it.
At that point, the groggy hero sees the energy creature turn into the nattily dressed Phantom Stranger who informs him that Clorinda and Enoch have been riding herd over "a coven of witches and warlocks!!" He also says that when he gave his autograph to the one witch, she used it to hex him. The Stranger gives him the antidote which he just happened to be able to whip up easily on site. You see, he explains, he was the energy creature, a form he took on to protect himself from just such a "hex." Never mind that his seemingly limitless paranormal powers as seen before would seem to have been enough.
Then the Stranger informs the hapless Batman that "Enoch is the evil godling they all worship." Remembering his lifelong friend, Roger (whom we've never heard of before and never will again, mind you), he thinks how terrible it was that he had married a witch and didn't know it. I don't know about you guys but I've had a number of witch friends who'd resent that remark. The pair escape but the next night Batman returns with a court order to exhume Roger's body. Why? Who know? We aren't told and it never happens anyway as it turns out the local constable is in on everything, too and our hero gets decked again, this time ending up in an abandoned quarry stretched out on a sacrificial altar. All the coven members are wearing "traditional" robes except for...yep...Enoch. The cute li'l guy is all dressed up in a little short pants suit with a tie. Awwwww! His mother refers to him as "my whelp of darkness" and entrusts him to stab Batman to death. He cheerfully makes the effort but, as The Joker, the Penguin and a thousand others can tell ya, it ain't that easy.
That's when Satan appears. Seriously. As all educated folks know, witches and satanists are completely different things, one main difference being that witches do NOT believe in Satan! I guess these particular ones do, though, because when he claims the right to kill Batman, they let him take him away. It's okay, though, as Lucifer turns out to be our guest hero in disguise. The Stranger reveals himself and the two kidnap Enoch and take him in for tests. TESTS? He just tried to murder a super hero...twice!!
When he shows no signs of being anything but ordinary and not THE OMEN, they return to the mansion where they spot Enoch still there being toasted by his mother and the cop "on his satanic throne." Seems that while Roger had been away, his wife had twins and kept one hidden from him for what...five or six years? It's a big freakin' house, I know, but still...Tired of all this @#$!!, this time, the Caped Crusader just breaks down the window and goes after them but mother and child attempt to escape running up the stairs. There, they're thwarted by the Phantom Stranger who "had a psychic hunch they'd try to escape" that way. A sudden vision of the late Roger Birnam appears at the top of the stairs and scares them into falling off the railing to their deaths. At least that's what it looks like but Ol' PS claims it was just the moonlight hitting Roger's portrait and reflecting her guilt about everything.
In the end we see Batman back at Roger's grave, probably apologizing for having had to break his earlier vows and now vowing to look after Roger, Jr. forevermore. Roger, Jr. who, naturally (this being a Bob Haney story) was never seen again. Perhaps he was raised alone in the West Wing of Wayne Manor? In later years he would have become yet another Robin!
In the immortal words of Oliver Wendell Douglas, "OH, MR. HANEY!!"
http://frankensteinia.blogspot.com/ for the updated list of all participating bloggers.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
You may have heard about this but I'm betting most have not seen it--the Thomas Edison backed 1910 version of FRANKENSTEIN starring one Charles Ogle as the Monster. For nearly a century it was believed that only a couple of stills had survived and the main one, although intriguing to horror buffs, was also used for gag shots in places like LAUGH IN MAGAZINE in the sixties. The story as told to me by a major trafficker in rare films was that a collector had been hoarding a single surviving copy for decades and finally decided to cash in by selling it to the highest bidder. Unfortunately, he was never satisfied with the bids and so decided to release it himself, thus raking in expected millions! The problem, of course, was that once the cat was out of the bag it had long since fallen into the public domain and anyone and everyone began to duplicate this historically important film perfectly legally! Complete with original tinting here's all twelve minutes plus of..FRANKENSTEIN!
UPDATE-If you just want an idea of it, this works but it seems that it was actually on a wider screen than I can apparenrtly capture here so go here to erooster to visually catch the whole thing:
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
After a little polish I think I can get a really good short story out of my efforts, though! Take out a lot of the exposition and restructure a couple of scenes and I honestly think it might work better as a short story, in fact!
Here's an excerpt from the first draft:
The man in the spherical cushioned chair awkwardly sat staring at the now blank wall. He was 46 years old and his name was Hans Erlich. That much he knew. Absolutely nothing else was a certainty anymore.
"Dr. Erlich, as I say, that...that old television vid...that very one...was why we had been expecting you. It's so helpful on rare occasions such as this when such accurate records have survived and ultimately been preserved in the World Archive. Forgive me. Would you like a glass of water, Dr. Erlich? I promise you, sir, it will be okay. I've seen this many, many times before."
Dr. Erlich shifted, straightening out of the near fetal position in which he had inadvertently planted himself. "Then...this is all for real? It's true? I succeeded? I'm the first man to actually travel forward in time?"
The other man turned away. "Well..., on that score...I'm afraid I may have to disappoint you."
This did not go unnoticed by England's young tommies. In fact artist Norman Pett's strip (and its real-life model, the wonderfully monickered Chrystabel Leighton-Porter) became symbols of what the boys were fighting for and adorned tanks, planes and other armory. No less than Winston Churchill called Jane "a national treasure." There were movies and attempted revivals but JANE's success seems forever tied to the War years.
Britain's Titan Books recently came out with a nice history/collection of JANE for those of us who have been curious about her all these years. Why it's even being made available on this side of the Atlantic I'm not sure but Amazon has it at a nice price so I picked it up last week.
Is it good? Um...sadly, no. It's certainly interesting and the historical parts and color sections of the book are the best parts. The plots are fairly dull. Jane is a N.A.A.F.I. girl (From Wikipedia: The Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes (NAAFI) (pronounced /ˈnæfiː/) is an organisation created by the British government in 1921 to run recreational establishments needed by the British Armed Forces, and to sell goods to servicemen and their families. It runs clubs, bars, shops, supermarkets, launderettes, restaurants, cafés and other facilities on most British military bases and also canteens on board Royal Navy ships.) and as such is constantly around soldiers where she keeps getting into situations where she ends up topless, backless or in her scanties and either the reader or sometimes the other characters get to voyeuristically intrude on those moments. There are soap opera elements, some undercover intrigue and foreign relations, a funny dachshund, stock characters and way too much coincidence to take any of it seriously, especially when read in bulk in a collection such as this. The art, although salvaged from the best available sources seems muddy at times and Jane's nakedness is portrayed in complete and total innocence with never a hint of any sexuality whatsoever on her part.
The strips reprinted here are wisely from the most popular period because the earlier ones would have been of little interest and in the post-war years the whole thing was apparently given over to the romantic subplots that dominated syndicated serial strips of the time even in the US.
Conclusion: As someone whose curiosity about JANE had been stirred so many, many years ago now, I'm glad that this book was published and that I can now place the character and the strip into its deserved proper historical perspective in my head. If you're looking for a good read (or naked girls for that matter) look elsewhere.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Here's the story of EC comics capsulized and leading up to Bill Gaines receiving a much deserved award from the Horror Hall of Fame for the classic 1950's line.
We all thought the world of Raquel Welch during our formative years but I look at her often now and wonder why (other than the obvious hormonal issues). Her delivery was often terrible and on talk show appearances her breathy attempts at serious topics showed her to be not the smartest sex symbol of all time. When she started her musical career (where I aaaalmost saw her at the legendary Beverly Hill Supper Club in 1976) it became obvious her talents didn't lie there either. There are still plenty of iconic photos of Raquel that I enjoy seeing but I rarely think of her the way I once did. All that said, she danced pretty well in this 1970 sci-fi strangeness!
LITTLE LULU is yet another of those "childish" comics I avoided in my adolescence that I've come to appreciate over time. Been reading a lot of them lately (by the great John Stanley!) Here's an odd mix of classic and modern in one of Lulu's 1990's HBO appearances.
I just joined a Yahoo group devoted to the classic comic strip character BARNEY GOOGLE and I'm being inundated by emails featuring scans of wonderful daily and Sunday strips! This is NOT one of those dormant groups that's for sure! Here's one of the SNUFFY SMITH TV cartoons from the early sixties featuring Barney. He had been so long absent from the strip by my time that I had never actually seen anything but his name in the Sunday papers as I was growing up!
Orson Bean asks "What's a 'Ray Bradbury?' One of the two--both terrible--fake Genes says he was "an early producer of the show." When asked, "What else is Leonard Nimoy known for?", I'm not certain if they were expecting the answer that he sings or does photography or writes poetry but what they got from a fake Gene was , "He also acts." WTF?
The writer has not a single other credit in films. The director is credited as having done just about everything behind or in front of the camera...but rarely more than a handful of times. This was his sole directorial credit. The lead in this mostly black cast list is oddly given to reliable character actor Victor French, a mainstay of Michael Landon's various TV series and star of his own racially themed (but unfunny) late seventies sitcom, CARTER COUNTRY. Mike Evans from ALL IN THE FAMILY and THE JEFFERSONS is the only other familiar face. The rest of the cast are all either unknowns for whom this was their only credit or small-time character actors whose later roles included credits such as "Zombie # 3."
THE HOUSE ON SKULL MOUNTAIN is certainly not a bad film but by no one's definition is it a good one either. It's just kind of there. If you do catch it anytime soon, the memory will no doubt quickly fade.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
The great Jack Benny and the equally great Mel Blanc worked together intermittently for more than thirty-five years. This TONIGHT SHOW appearance with Jack's number one fan (before Karen Hughes anyway) Johnny Carson from 1974 was probably their final appearance together It was certainly one of Jack's final TV appearances as he died at he end of that year. Ya gotta love YouTube.
Monday, November 09, 2009
Sunday, November 08, 2009
Okay, this one's a little surreal. can you imagine a time when Soupy Sales, who recieved such an amazing outpouring of affection on his recent passing, might have been completely unknown to adults? I ran across this clip of Soupy on an early 1960's episode of the venerable I'VE GOT A SECRET game show. I'd venture to say this was the very first game show appearance for the venerable pie thrower who would go on to become, in my opinion, the consummate TV game show player on PASSWORD, WHAT'S MY LINE and Dick Clark's various PYRAMID shows. Brought on as "Mister X" no one knows him! His secret is that he's been hit in the face with 14,000 pies over the past seven years. The audience shows little sign of recognition and it seems host Gary Moore is just meeting Soupy for the first time. The celebrity guests aren't even afforded the traditional blindfolds! Veteran panelists Betsy Palmer, Bess Myerson, Henry Morgan and Steve Allen are all looking right at him obliviously as they ask questions to try to pin him down. Steve Allen! Himself a student of all things pop and comedy! Nothing! Turns out the sardonic Morgan had actually worked with Soupy in Detroit but outside of professing a vague after the fact familiarity he's also lost! When in the end Soupy's name is revealed there is no big sigh of recognition there either despite the fact that he'd alraedy been getting hit in the face with pise for seven years. Amazingly odd all around, it ends appropriately with our hero and the host amusingly demonstrating the best ways to take a pie to the face.
Saturday, November 07, 2009
Bobby Jordan was nearly the youngest but easily the most experienced of the original boys in DEAD END but ultimately his story was also the most tragic. A veteran of talent shows, radio and short films from the mid-1920's on, he made his New York stage debut in 1929,more than five years before DEAD END. In early motion pictures, he played "Sam" in a series based on the popular PENROD AND SAM series. Ironically, he was replaced in the role (although he continued to appear in the films) by Leo Gorcey's brother David. In DEAD END, the oddly long-haired Jordan gives one of the best performances, too. Along with Leo Gorcey, he was kept on at Warner's when the rest of the gang had their contract's dropped. He played in a number of non-series films and he was good. Handsome, too! Bobby Jordan's future seemed to be filled with nothing but promise. According to IMDB, by that point he was living in a big house and supporting his whole family.
Bobby stuck with the gang, though. He rejoined Billy, Huntz, Gabe and Bernard at Universal for awhile and also held his own in the early EAST SIDE KIDS pictures. Then his luck seemed to take a downturn. He joined the army in 1943. Around this time, he also notoriously had an elevator accident that lead to major, long-running health problems and aggravated alcoholism. In spite of this, Bobby was there for the start of THE BOWERY BOYS but left after the first eight entries, disappointed in the secondary role he was forced into now that Leo and Huntz had become perceived as a double act.
Over the next two decades he worked sporadically in films and on television but supported himself doing a number of short-lived jobs. He died in 1965 just as the gang was being rediscovered again.
By contrast, Bernard Punsly lead a charmed life. Although even slightly younger than Jordan and with only the slightest childhood stage experience, he auditioned for DEAD END and won a featured role as one of the gang. When the whole gang was taken to Hollywood for the film version of their stage success, this, of course, included Punsly. When the gang was infamously running rampant and getting into trouble on a daily basis behind the scenes, however, Bernard was nowhere to be seen. He preferred to retire to his room after work and read. He had decided to become a doctor. After seven years of loyalty to the Kids at several different studios, Bernard Punsly left show business, like Jordan later would, to join the army. In his case, however, he did not return. He began his medical training during the War and continued it after his discharge, eventually becoming a very successful doctor in California. He was the Dead End Kid most folks could never remember but in real life, he was by all accounts a happy man who had gotten into showbiz as a kid on a whim and knew when he had grown out if it. Dr. Bernard Punsly died in 2003.
This brings us to Gabriel Dell who never, ever grew out of show business. Although he never attained even the Grade B stardom that Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall enjoyed, there is no question that at the end of the day, Gabe was THE most successful Dead End Kid in Hollywood.
Although just one of the gang in the early pictures, Gabe was for some reason later separated out as a gangster, a Nazi, a police officer, an old friend, a new acquaintance. He continued intermittently with the various series throughout the 1940's but since he never played one continuing role for most of that time, he was never typecast. After an attempt at a nightclub act with Huntz Hall lead to both actors getting divorced, Gabe did the one thing that few childhood stars ever think to do. He took acting lessons. From the fabled Actors Studio, no less. Many child stars are natural actors but come to believe that they're perfect and thus don't bother to learn anything more. As they grow, this often becomes obvious (see Shirley Temple who at age 4 deserved an Oscar but who by age 12 was still cute but nearly unwatchable). Gabe took his craft seriously and ended up successfully back on Broadway. Toward the end of the decade, he was appearing alongside Don Knotts, Tom Poston and Louie Nye et al as members of Steve Allen's famous TV "gang."
Gabe Dell worked steadily through the 1960's and if anything was even more successful in the 1970's on television. He co-starred in two TV series, both sadly short-lived. One was THE CORNER BAR which lasted two seasons but replaced his character, Harry the bartender, with Anne Meara in season two. The other was Noman Lear's infamous misfire, A YEAR AT THE TOP in which he played a devil.
In 1971 he had obvious fun as a scenery-chewing killer with disguises and different voices on an episode of McCLOUD produced by Dean Hargrove. A few years later Hargrove and Dell wrote THE MANCHU EAGLE MURDER MYSTERY, a barely released cinematic failure which is notable for reuniting Gabe with Huntz Hall. After that, Gabe continued to be a welcome presence on TV with his most notable later role being that of Mordru the Merciless, arch-villain of the Legion of Super Heroes in the dreadful Hanna-Barbera LEGENDS OF THE SUPER HEROES TV specials. Some sources even credit Gabe as the voice of Bobba Fett in his animated debut in the STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL George Lucas would rather forget (although IMDB says that was Donald Francks). Gabe's last credit was in 1982 and he died in 1988.
Friday, November 06, 2009
Epic Mickey, coming out next year for the Wii console, will feature a new Mickey based on a very old concept. In the Wii game, Mickey travels back to the black-and-white cartoon world he abandoned in the 1930s, squares off against the Walt Disney character he replaced (Oswald the Rabbit) and runs around trying to eradicate other cartoon characters with paint thinner. Then he continues his quest to other locations and scenes from Disney history.
Thursday, November 05, 2009
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
The beginning of 1967 saw the United States still in the grip of the preceding Spring's Batmania! TV's high camp BATMAN series was in its second season and huge stars all wanted to appear on it! Van Johnson, Tallulah Bankhead, Art Carney, Shelley Winters. Had Liberace not appeared as an evil pianist, it might not have been a surprise to see Jack Benny on BATMAN as a crooked fiddler! Instead, though, Jack's appearance was in another venue entirely...and has been almost completely forgotten in the years since.
Once again, let's revisit the never-reprinted, TV-based BATMAN newspaper strip from the late 1960's. Beginning in early 1967, Jack Benny was the special guest star in a seven week sequence credited on Wikipedia to writer Whitney Ellsworth and artist Joe Giella (but I seem to detect a trace of some assistance at times).
The plot has the comedian in town for a fundraising violin concert for the Gotham Symphony when his rare Stradivarius is stolen by an unknown villain. In spite of Batman's protests that they don't work on commission, the Dynamic Duo agrees to take the case for $1000 dollars per hour (from cheapskate millionaire Benny!) donated to the Symphony.
The catch is that for those prices, Jack insists on tagging along to be sure they don't pad out their fee! Thus we see Jack taken blindfolded to the Batcave where the Batputer (sic) immediately and easily identifies the thief as "The Collector," a non-descript bad guy who likes the finer things in life.
Next it's off for a 15 story bat-rope climb--with Benny in the lead--to the villain's penthouse lair. BUT!...he is expecting them with poison-tipped darts which Batman diverts with his batarang...or at least he calls it a batarang. This is followed by the ClockKing-like Collector turning loose the two vicious gorillas he just happens to have in his luxurious apartment. Gorillas, of course, are NOT known for being vicious but hey, ...
Jack manages to deal with them by unintentionally finding their funny bone and getting them laughing, leaving the arch-criminal to resort to the tried and true method of a gun. Not to worry, however, as Batman immediately recognizes that the gun has been rigged by the Collector's enemies to blow up and kill him when h tries to shoot it. It takes the Caped Crusader a few minutes to convince his foe of this but after that, all's well that ends well.
With his Strad returned, Jack signs over a 7000 dollar check to Batman for the symphony. All that's left is for Robin's punchline and a brief plug for the following week's million dollar debut of...Batgirl (which I don't have...yet!)
Special Thanks to Marko in Croatia for pointing me towards these scans!