Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Saturday, October 22, 2016
A VAMPIRE IN HOLLYWOOD is the latest SUPERNATURAL LAW collection from the multi-talented Batton Lash and, as always, it is a pleasant reminder of what drew me to spend my life obsessing on “funnybooks” in the first place.
When I started reading comics, I loved the Silver Age mix of humor and excitement that one got from comics such as METAL MEN, METAMORPHO, or even SPIDER-MAN! In time, comics came to be dark and gritty with little to no genuine character development or humor.
But Batton “gets” it. He groks! More than perhaps any other creator still working in comics today, Batton Lash manages to put a lot of work into his comics while still making them feel effortless. He offers up well-defined characters, a unique setting, enjoyable art and dialogue, self-contained tales but with an ongoing, consistent back story, amusing Easter eggs and in-jokes, and even some positive and uplifting morals about acceptance in our splintered society.
For those of you who have yet to encounter Lash’s protagonists, Alanna Wolff and Jeff Byrd, they are lawyers. Good ones. They specialize, however, in cases involving monsters or the supernatural. This volume, for instance, offers up a vampire trying to make it in pictures, a werewolf on a TV self-help show, some ghosts running a scare school, a warlock who brings art to life...literally, and even Troma’s Toxic Avenger!
The latter is my least favorite, relying as it does on one’s knowledge of a cult figure from several decades back whose popularity just hasn’t carried on as much as it might initially have seemed it would.
My favorite, though, is the warlock and the hexed paintings that take on a life of their own and speak for themselves.
Alanna and Jeff, along with Mavis, the World’s Best Secretary, and a few new hires this time around, become surprising real in the midst of the rest of the unreality that abounds. A fun background story here shows efforts to turn the “real” Wolff and Byrd into fictional characters pigeonholed into the art styles of other comics artists including Frank Miller’s SIN CITY style.
Bottom line? A VAMPIRE IN HOLLYWOOD offered some of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had reading comics in ages. It’s a well-plotted series with good stories, a little drama, a little horror, a little law, and just enough humor to tie everything together in one clever and amusing bundle.
If you aren’t reading SUPERNATURAL LAW in one form or another, I really don’t want to hear you complain that they aren’t making good comic books these days...because they most certainly ARE!
Friday, October 21, 2016
Siegel and Shuster (misspelled every time in the ads as was often the case) in Cincinnati to promote the Fleischer cartoons in 1942!
Cincinnati's Palace Theater was modernized as the International '70 in the mid-60s but was pretty close to a grindhouse by the time it closed a decade later. I caught a lot of Euro-flicks and re-re-reissued sci-fi and horror films there. The millionaire who lived across the street from me at the time (!) bought it in the late '70s and refurbished it to its original glory, brought back the Palace name, and it ran a few more years with live acts and plays. I saw Bob Newhart, Liza Minnelli, and The Passion of Dracula with Jose Greco there. Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy were scheduled there just weeks after Bergen died so I missed them. The market couldn't support a big downtown theater like that by that point though and the Palace was finally vacated and eventually torn down, replaced by high tech offices.
Super author Brad Ricca tells me the below image has been confirmed as being in Cleveland but it's likely quite similar to their local appearance at the Palace.
And we end with a rare shot of Jerry and Joe smiling rare smiles decades later even after everything they went through.
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
“Show business is my life.” It’s an old expression that’s morphed into a comic cliché over the years but for some people, it’s still a truism. One such person is author Herbie J Pilato. Herbie has grown up in and around the television industry and, as such, has undoubtedly seen much of the sordidness behind the screen. Unlike too many jaded others, though, Herbie doesn’t exploit the negative, preferring always to instead celebrate the positive!
It was that attitude that recently brought us his book called GIDGETS, GLAMOUR, AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, a delightful and nostalgic collection of biographical pieces on many of the dream girls of the classic television era.
Now comes that volume’s corollary, DASHING, DARING, AND DEBONAIR, TV’S TOP MALE ICONS FROM THE 50s, 60s, and 70s. Here we have 300 pages highlighting the actors who created so many of the characters that generations have taken to heart as members of their own families.
In fact, the book as a whole comes across like one great big family reunion in print! Everywhere one looks is a familiar face. Look! Over there! Hi, Mr. Roarke! Hey, Major Nelson! How’s Jeannie? Oh, and isn’t that Barnabas Collins talking with Joe Mannix and Perry Mason? And Batman himself—Adam West—provides the brief but lovely Foreword.
Separated into sections such as “The Doctors, the Defenders, and the Dependables,” “The Super Men,” and—my favorite chapter title—“Darrins, Dobies, Dons, and Bobs,” each individual portrait contains a brief bio, a career overview, some rare or previously unpublished quotes from and/or about the subject, and a nice little summation of why they were important in TV history.
If, like me, you live in the past a lot as far as your entertainment choices, no one here will surprise you. On the other hand, if you grew up with these performers in perpetual reruns, there may be some here you haven’t thought about in years. Maybe even a few you had actually wondered “whatever happened to!”
Among the scores of actors discussed are Dick Van Dyke, James Garner, Clayton Moore, Henry Winkler, John Travolta, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr, Don Adams, David Cassidy, Bobby Sherman, and, of course (Herbie being renowned as a BEWITCHED expert) both Dick York and Dick Sargent.
There are even a few non-actors such as Rod Serling, Gene Roddenberry, Nat King Cole, and Johnny Carson.
Yes, yes. One can quibble that there are folks such as Jerry Mathers, Sonny Bono, Robert Young, and Jack Webb who are neither dashing, daring, nor debonair. But by the time you’re immersed in their stories, you realize that distinction just doesn’t really matter.
Ultimately, DASHING, DARING, AND DEBONAIR is no less than an admiring overview of television’s idealized male image and the sometimes less than ideal real human men who brought those images so memorably into our lives and our hearts.
As always, Herbie J Pilato writes with a deep affection for the positive influences of classic TV in DASHING, DARING, AND DEBONAIR without completely ignoring the negative. Still, when you finishing reading the book, you may not ever want to watch a current TV series again! Break out those classic DVDs!
You can get a personally signed copy (or two! Christmas is closing in fast!) here:
Saturday, October 15, 2016
In 1983, at the age of 24, I accompanied my father to a burlesque show. Well...sort of. Broadway hit SUGAR BABIES was touring with its original stars, Mickey Rooney (in what was clearly a triumphant highlight of his later years) and another classic Hollywood musical star, Ann Miller. Ann dropped out on tour, to be replaced by Carol Lawrence, and actress I had never really cared for but whom I adored in this! Amidst the pretty girls, the great juggler (Michael Davis whom I spoke to via email recently), the classic comics (Milton Frome and Mickey Deems--familiar to me from TV--among them) and the old, old jokes, at one point the cast threw Sugar Babies candy out into the audience. Since we had very good second row seats, Mickey just looked right at me and said, "Here ya go, kid" and then tossed it right to me underhanded. I ate them, but as you can see kept the wrapper as a souvenir.