Tuesday, February 28, 2006
FLASHBACK magazine, published briefly in the early seventies, tried to be to classic regular movies what FAMOUS MONSTERS was to classic monster movies. The problem was that there was no one like Forry Ackerman running the show (young Leonard Maltin would've been perfect!). Instead, then, in spite of some good general articles by fine film historians including Alan G. Barbour, what you mainly got was a treasure trove of rare stills and illustrations (including the great "deer in the headlights" shot of Ralph Byrd as Dick Tracy seen here). This was not a bad thing! A highlight of this first issue was also the fact that you had not one but two gang caricatures of Hollywood heavyweights by veteran MAD artists. The front cover offers Jack Davis' crowded premiere night scene and features Cary Grant, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, John Wayne, Spencer Tracy, Jean Harlow (who was long dead by the time Greenstreet appeared in a film in real life!),Clark Gable, Errol Flynn, Gary Cooper, Boris Karloff (in a nod to the monster mag crowd?), Jimmy Cagney, Fred Astaire, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. The inside back cover subscription ad offers Mort Drucker's version of the celebs: Bogart, Cagney, Davis, Karloff and Lorre joined this time by Kirk Douglas and Gregory Peck. Still, the nostalgia boom peaked fairly quickly and FLASHBACK didn't last long on the newsstands.
What you see pictured here is one of the single most influential pieces in my Library’s collection. This 1971 issue of Richard Kyle’s GRAPHIC STORY WORLD was the very first fanzine I ever saw. Kidd’s Book Store in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio was a staid old bookstore run by older men in suits but in their basement was the equivalent of a head shop! Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin shared the shelves with Terry Southern and Peter Max and an actual rack of undergrounds was over by the checkout desk. That desk, by the way, was generally manned by two very mellow, long-haired gentlemen in jeans (one with a beard!) and a sexy young lady one would have to refer to as a "hippie chick." In time, they grew to appreciate my relative maturity (I was 12 at the time) and let me hang out and even occasionally purchase some comix or a Vaughn Bode paperback. Over time, they would carry all of the best books on comics, lots of fanzines and every single weekly issue of THE MENOMONEE FALLS GAZETTE but to me the most fateful purchase was this issue of GSW.
I was amazed that there were things like fanzines at all! This one covered a lot of ground, too, reporting on undergrounds (including this vintage pic of Gilbert Shelton), foreign comics albums (in fact, according to the always reliable Wikipedia, Kyle coined the term "graphic novel" to identify the European comics albums), comic strips and featuring a cover featured interview with an artist I’d never even heard of (but who went on to be a favorite), Dan Spiegle. (The interview was conducted by Dan Gheno who is referenced by Mark Evanier just today as having a letter published in today’s NEW YORK DAILY NEWS.) In fact, the biggest mainstream piece in the issue was a centerfold of Jack Kirby pencils from his still fresh JIMMY OLSEN run. If Kirby’s fourth world series had drawn me back to comics (as previously told) then fanzines cemented that connection. In the back there was a smallish ad for an entire newspaper for comic collectors, THE BUYER’S GUIDE FOR COMIC FANDOM. I signed up and my first issue was number 17 with a cool Klaus Janson cover of Kirby’s Lightray. That free, lifetime subscription didn’t last beyond that issue, though, as publisher Alan Light had to start charging. Not much, though, and the content continually increased until the paper was sometimes in multiple tabloid sections! I would be a subscriber throughout Light’s run and well into Don and Maggie (no relation) Thompson’s tenure as editors, reluctantly giving it up some 25 years after that first subscription issue just because I could no longer find the time for it.
Speaking of Don and Maggie, this issue of GSW also featured their ballot for the 1971 Goethe Awards as reproduced here. I never did find out who won! Anyone out there know? As far as GRAPHIC STORY WORLD, it soon changed its name to, if I recall correctly, WONDERWORLD. I followed it for its remaining lifetime but my interests moved toward TBG, RBCC, THE COLLECTOR and COMIC CRUSADER. Then I discovered the EC fanzines. Then...well, lots more stories there. This issue of GSW deserves its special place in the Library, though, if only for reigniting my sense of wonder. Thanks Mr. Kyle!
I would be remiss if I didn't note the passing of Dennis Weaver. A fine actor, popular TV star, humanitarian and noted ecologist, I will remember him best as the star of one of my all-time favorite television series, McCLOUD. Not an ordinary TV series, McCLOUD began life as a variation on the popular Clint Eastwood film, COOGAN'S BLUFF, about a Southwestern lawman who doesn't fit into the big city when he goes to pick up a prisoner. In Sam McCloud's case, the character was in New York City to "study police methods." Okay, that's the ONE unlikely thing the producers asked you to accept. After that, it all fell into place. Sam was the easygoing, troublemaking lawman who clashed with his chief (the late, great J.D. Cannon as Chief Peter B. Clifford) as he stumbled his way through cases and clever plots inevitably teaching the NYC police more than they ever taught him. Originally a one hour series on a rotating show entitled FOUR-IN-ONE, the cowboy cop soon joined COLUMBO and McMILLAN AND WIFE as the mainstays of the NBC MYSTERY MOVIE, expanding in the process to 90 minutes and even, from time to time, two full hours per episode! And what memorable episodes! There was the time Bernadette Peters appeared as a prostitute spray painting her clients blue as the city dealt with a blizzard, the time that everyone tried to steal his Stetson and the time John Carradine appeared as...well...Dracula! Lots of great guest stars appeared including Sebastian Cabot, Stefanie Powers, Roddy McDowall, Richard Haydn, Eddie Albert, Lee J. Cobb, Lloyd Nolan, Steve Allen, John Denver, Jack Cassidy, Danny Thomas, Joan Blondell, Jaclyn Smith and the wonderful Chief Dan George. The shows were played straight with the laughs coming from the Marshal's indomitable spirit and inevitable down home homilies ("like a Western Charlie Chan" wrote one author). At its peak, the supporting cast also included Diana Muldaur (the only time I ever actually found her sexy) as Sam's girlfriend, Terry Carter (BATTLESTAR GALACTICA)as Sam's partner, Terri Garr, Della Reese, Sharon Gless, Ken Lynch and Sidney Clute. A much later TV movie reunited much of the cast but the magic, as usually happens, wasn't there, nostalgia being the prevailing factor.You can still find the magic on the recently released DVD set, however. Weaver, himself, was on record as saying that McCLOUD was the best time he had in show business. It certainly was a nice ride for viewers. " 'Ere ya go, Chief!"
Monday, February 27, 2006
Everything I said in my previous post still holds except for the fact that redaer Michael Kronenberg reminds me that issue two was in fact reprinted just 5 years later in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN KING-SIZE # 9 albeit missing 18 (!) of those padded pages. Don't know how I could have forgotten the rather obvious cover similarities. Ahem! Thanks, Mike!
By the mid-seventies, Marvel Comics was deep into the black and white magazine business with CRAZY (their version of MAD), The monster mags (their versions of the Warren line) and SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN (their version of the so-called "men’s sweat" magazines??). Back in 1968, however, Marvel was an innovator, not a follower, and their very first official foray into black and white magazine-sized comics starred their own flagship character in THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN! Behind a now-classic cover painting credited to one Howard Rosenbaum (and based, it says, on a drawing by John Romita) is a long (padded in fact!) story written by Stan the Man and nicely drawn in a wash style by Romita and Jim Mooney. Entitled, "Lo, This Monster," it attempts to deal with what apparently was perceived as a slightly more adult, political storyline but turns out to be a pretty standard slugfest just played out in a different venue. A few years later, the entire story would be shoehorned into the regular book’s continuity with a considerable amount of art touch-ups and dialogue changes making this book itself apocryphal when it comes to Spidey’s official canon. An all-new ten page variation on the classic origin story backs it up and features Bill Everett’s superb inks over Larry Lieber’s pencils. Having only drawn one annual with the character before this, Lieber would go on to draw the web-slinger’s adventures for decades in the newspaper comic strip.
Issue number two of the quarterly title offered a full color adventure (badly colored but full color nonetheless!) in 58 slightly smaller pages (speaking of padded) that presented the very first return of the Green Goblin since that character had been done away with in Romita’s first story arc two years earlier. With the importance this particular villain has taken on in the Spideyverse in recent years, I’m surprised but I do NOT think this story has ever once been reprinted, even in Marvel’s Essential volumes! If it has, I missed it entirely. Although the plotline is stretched out, there are lots of interesting little character bits with the Osborns, the ever-lovely Gwen Stacy and the surprisingly short and curly Mary Jane Watson!
Basically, Osborn’s exposure to footage of the Goblin in action restores his memories of both his and Spider-Man’s identities and he begins a cat and mouse game that makes Peter paranoid. Short of killing his best friend Harry’s father, Peter can’t figure out how to keep Osborn from spilling the beans about his powers. Lots of interesting visuals (mostly by Mooney from the look of it) but, as stated, padded to the extreme. Still, this was/is a pivotal tale in Spidey’s story and there’s nothing apocryphal to keep it out of circulation so why isn’t it included (other than the likely reason of having to shrink the artwork)? Perhaps only good ol’ Irv Forbush knows for sure.
Sunday, February 26, 2006
By now you’ve heard of the deaths of Don Knotts and Darren McGavin, both of whom, ironically, starred in the 1976 Disney comedy NO DEPOSIT, NO RETURN. My friend Bob Hastings appeared in that film also and we once spent some time discussing how an ocassionally tipsy David Niven would "hold court" on set regaling all and sundry with great tales of old Hollywood. Few of Bob’s scenes involved Knotts or McGavin, though. Since we as a society seemingly have to pigeonhole people, after a lifetime of great performances, Darrin McGavin is being remembered for A CHRISTMAS STORY and THE NIGHT STALKER and Knotts as a beloved figure best known for THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW and THREE’S COMPANY. I find the latter a bit tragic. You’ll get no argument from me that Barney Fife was one of early television’s greatest creations but, I’m sorry, Don’s talents were sadly wasted as Ralph Furley in a one note sitcom already past its prime on his arrival.
No, I think we should remember Don Knotts for his starring vehicles. As one of those comics (along with Bob Hope, Danny Kaye and Joe E. Brown among others) who made films that were uniquely theirs, based on character and personality traits already well familiar to the public, Don Knotts left us with an enoyable batch of family-friendly films beginning in 1964 with THE INCREDIBLE MISTER LIMPET. This absurd, partially animated comedy starred Don as a man who becomes a fish. Knotts brings a real human element to the role and thus has made it a cult film threatened in recent years with the prospect of a remake.
THE GHOST AND MISTER CHICKEN was the first "real" Don Knotts film, though. It took all that was good and familiar about the Barney Fife character and transferred it into an everyman type, then set the whole thing up in an exciting but not too scary haunted house mystery. Throw in Vic Mizzy’s memorable, inimitable music and this became one of my absolute best memories of early filmgoing! In fact, my parents and I saw it twice as it was held over in those days before months long theatrical runs. Backed up by a bunch of behind the scenes folk from the Griffith show and some great character actors of the period (including Charles Lane, Dick Sargent, Liam Redmond and George Chandler) there’s nary a misstep as the suspense builds to a most satisfactory surprise ending. I’d have to say this was one of my favorite films a s a child.
That said, it was only natural that I would follow Don into his later endeavors including: THE RELUCTANT ASTRONAUT, THE SHAKIEST GUN IN THE WEST, THE LOVE GOD? and HOW TO FRAME A FIGG. Actually, there’s no "including," that’s actually pretty much it for Don Knotts’ starring vehicles. By that time the young mavericks of Hollywood were making EASY RIDER and THE GODFATHER and even DEEP THROAT was considered "chic." Family films were definitely on the outs. Thus Don sought logical refuge in the last bastion of wholesomeness, Disney! Four years after his last starring role, Don Knotts turned up at the mouse factory teamed with Tim Conway in secondary, scene-stealing roles in THE APPLE DUMPLING GANG. This led to regular sidekick appearances in NO DEPOSIT, NO RETURN(1976), GUS (1976), HERBIE GOES TO MONTE CARLO(1977) and HOT LEAD AND COLD FEET(1978). After that, Knotts and Conway reteamed for THE APPLE DUMPLING GANG RIDES AGAIN and this time they kept the team going in a pair of non-Disney comedies, THE PRIZE FIGHTER(1979) and THE PRIVATE EYES(1981). Except for a few early small roles, cameos and always welcome voiceovers, Don’s only other major role in a movie was that of the pivotal, iconic TV repairman in PLEASANTVILLE with Tobey McGuire.
I can’t imagine a point where we won’t be able to turn on a TV and revel in the comic timing of Don Knotts as Barney Fife but let’s not forget that for an all-too-brief period, Don Knotts was also a movie star!
Saturday, February 25, 2006
One of my favorite relatively unsung comics artists has long been Bob McLeod. For thirty years now(!!) he has turned out amazingly smooth pencils and inks for Marvel, DC and dozens of other companies. I particularly remember some Spider-Man and Legion stories.Now, he's just published his first children's book, SUPERHERO ABC. When my son was little, my wife and I would sit in his room until he fell asleep. Sometimes, we would choose a subject and go A-Z naming items that fit it. David always wanted the subject to be super heroes. Here, Bob McLeod has done exactly that, in the process providing the most marvelously amusing drawings I've seen from him in years (except for "V" Yuck!). Here are a few nifty samples from the book and here's a link to Bob's website: Art by Bob McLeod. If you know Bob, tell him we love his book here at the Library. Then go out and buy it for yourself. You don't even need kids to appreciate it!
Friday, February 24, 2006
The quite wonderful blog entitled SilverAge Comics asked reecently for folks to post what their favorite Silver Age covers were so I did, giving a random, off the top of my head sampling. Imagine my surprise this morning to find nearly all of my choices in the site's new logo! Too cool! The book pictured here was the comic that made me want to learn how to read. I carried around a copy of this for ages along with my CASPERs and SPOOKYs trying to figure out just exactly what was going on. I remember calling Angel "Wings" and not making the slightest connection that Scott and Cyclops were the same fella! I recall trying to figure out who would paint buildings entirely gray like that, too as well as why they didn't get that guy in the wheelchair outa there. He might get hurt! Anyway, special thanks to Pat from SilverAge Comics for just making my day. Don't know how long the logo will stay but check it out today and I think you'll be back often for a great site!
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Those of you who were here yesterday (and if you weren't where the heck were you? We had lots of cool new posts!) know that I was off from work sick. Well, I'm feeling much better now after seeing my doctor, Ben Casey. Actually the pic seen here comes from a mid-sixties coloring book that I no longer have in toto. It was called something like PARADE OF COMICS and featured many of the top newspaper strip artists of the day including Charles Schulz, Jerry Robinson,Bud Blake and Alfred Andriola. Each was given three pages for original illustrations having to do in some way with a parade. This one was colored (perhaps by me, perhaps not. Who remembers?) but hey, whaadaya want? It WAS a coloring book after all! Anyway, before revitalizing BATMAN, Neal Adams utilized his advertising art realism on the comic strip version of the hit medical TV series, BEN CASEY. I've never really read a lot of it but it must have been good because it outlasted the series itself by several years. Neal became such an icon in his day that I was at San Diego one time in the late eighties and word spread through the crowd that Neal was in the room .Suddenly hundreds of folks of all ages were flocking around a tiny table where Adams, not even a featured guest that year, had set up shop to hold court and sketch. I was only able to get a good look at him by standing up on a table briefly myself but there he was, bigger than life. Neal's been somewhat controversial over the years but no one can deny his vast influence on comics art and storytelling. If Ben Casey had flopped, things might have happened a lot differently in comics over the last 4 decades! Thanks, Doc!
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Like I said in my last post, I'm off sick today so I guess that's what inspired this post.
Tying together two recent posts, here we have SICK magazine which ran for a surprising number of years as number three in the successful MAD Magazine rip-off sweepstakes. This issue is from 1970 and features the work of Jack Sparling, an artist we noted the other day for his sketchy work on the final issue of METAMORPHO. It seems much more appropriate here with ugly characters and caricatures. We also noted the other day that MAD rip-off number two, CRACKED, never seemed to be as funny as MAD. Well, guess what? SICK made CRACKED seem like it was written by George S. Kaufman! The only real attraction here is that SICK was edited for much of its run by Jack Kirby’s legendary partner (and the true creator of CAPTAIN AMERICA!), Joe Simon and thus on occasion featured new Simon art such as this portrait of then up-and-coming comedian Rodney Dangerfield.
Well, I'm off sick today so I thought this would be a good time to scan and post more of the 1973 Kings Island souvenir booklet that you've all requested. Believe it or not, that nondescript black picture above is the front cover. Buried as it was in the International Street stores, if you didn't pick up a copy you couldn't even tell what it was! The cover certainly didn't help in getting you to WANT to pick it up but I did so here's more!
HOLLYWOOD STUDIO MAGAZINE ran for more than two decades beginning in 1957. It was as much a collectors fanzine as a magazine but appeared on better-stocked newsstands across the country for much of that time. HSM had generally great covers like the comedians one seen here (from 1978) but the articles lacked any real substance (much like my blog come to think of it. Hmmm…). Quite often an article about say, Lana Turner simply stated some basic facts about the actress and then rattled off some movies she’d been in. Unlike most other movie mags of the time period, however, HSM dealt almost exclusively with the classic film era and its stars. For me at least, the highlight of each issue was the selection of candid, man-on-the-street photographs taken by Lee Graham ever since he was a kid. In themed issues such as the one seen here, the photos would also follow the theme. Thus here are presented several pages of previously unseen photos of comedians—the classic and the not so classic. Besides those legends seen here in their off hours, there are also pictures of, among others, Wheeler and Woolsey, Joe Penner, Roland Young, Andy Devine and Billy De Wolfe.
This issue is highlighted by articles on the Marx Brothers, Chaplin, Abbott and Costello, the Three Stooges and Harold Lloyd along with a nice piece entitled THE FORGOTTEN LAUGHTER about lesser-known funny folks from film.
I have no idea how long the mag ran or even if it may still be running but if you were a film buff in the seventies, HOLLYWOOD STUDIO MAGAZINE was a fun, informative addition to your collection with pictures you would never see anywhere else!