Sunday, December 31, 2006

My Name is Christa Helm

This is a piece written by Christa's daughter Nicole. I had seen the piece before but would not have presumed to post it without permission but Nicole herself just posted it as a comment under an earlier piece I wrote about her mother. I thought it might get noticed a bit more as today's post. MY NAME IS CHRISTA HELM The early 1970's were a difficult time for the women of the day. Their moms were of the 50's, housekeepers, held against their will, by the "Right thing to do'. Those divorces hadn't much in the line of options either. Then there was the incoming age of peace, rock and roll, and the newfound sex, drugs and freedoms that no generation of women before had the pleasure, and pain of experiencing.My mother was one of these women, finally finding power in her sexuality, as opposed to the shame her earlier experiences had taught her. Her beauty was undeniable, and once she mastered the art of manipulation and charm, she found her way onto the path of her dreams. She was going to be a Movie Star!A few years of modeling and "Faking it" paid off when she moved to Hollywood and changed her name to Christa Helm.Living in a mansion, driving a new Jag, rich men falling all over her. Movie stars, sports figures, rich producers, politicians and musicians. They were all hers for the taking, and she took, and she worked, until she found herself on on the Yellow Brick Road of fame.Guest starring in Wonder Woman, Starsky and Hutch, making B rated movies, lathering in the Coppertone commercial of the day with Tarzan, and finally starring in her own debut film that was never released, all introduced her to the thrills and dangers of stardom.The lifestyles of Hollywood starlets of the time were filled with drugs, sex, murder, and money. My mother gained it all, and lost it all in a very short time.Down to her last dollars, waiting on a prime role and desperate to survive, she logged all of her escapades in a journal. The journal is rumored to have been filled with lovers, events and details of her private moments.Her affairs, beauty and strength enraged many who knew my mother, but those same attributes also brought respect, career growth, and an array of people who truly loved and respected the beauty within her. In the end those who loved and hated her would all become scrutinized under an investigation that remains open today, almost 30 years later.In the early morning hours one February morning in 1977, my mother was murdered. Stabbed over 30 times. beaten with a blunt instrument and left to bleed to death under a parked car in an upscale Hollywood neighborhood.The case remains unsolved. She was born Sandra Wohlfeil. She died Christa Helm.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

All-Star Companions

Yet another cool Christmas gift I received, this one from my lovely wife, was Rascally Roy Thomas's ALL STAR COMPANION 2, the new book from the always reliable Twomorrows. This is, as you might guess from the title, a follow-up (one of two expected!) to 2000's unnumbered ALL-STAR COMPANION. Roy, along with the late Jerry Bails, is on record as a huge fan of the 1940's DC heroes, particularly those of the Justice Society of America. Both of these lovely volumes cover the JSA's appearances in ALL-STAR and beyond in obsessively minute detail and depth, something we greatly appreciate around here. Hundreds of pieces of rare and sometimes previously unpublished artwork dot each volume as Roy and friends weave the tale of each individual canonical appearance of the JSA in the forties and, in Volume two, Roy's own WWII era ALL-STAR SQUADRON from the eighties. Irwin Hasen, Arthur Peddy, Harry Peter, Mart Nodell, Joe Kubert, Bob Oksner and Beranard Sachs are given their due along with a dozen more as writer Gardner Fox is rightly lionized as one of the best comics writers of his day. Later, Jerry Ordway leads the way in coverage of the ret-conned Squadron series. Volume two even has a feature about the ads that appeared in ALL-STAR COMICS. You know, the same ads we've been running from time to time here at the Library! Captain Tootsie, Sam Spade and those guys! Hours and hours of great comics info and trivia in both of these fine volumes from one of my all-time favorite comics writers. Another great geek gift this holiday season!

Friday, December 29, 2006

WWII Timely Comics Ads

Since we were scouring through the archives just yesterday for Stan the Man's early text story, thought we'd also share these nifty early 1940's house ads featuring Cap, Subby and the Torch! Also present are the Patriot, the Angel, the original Ka-Zar and the original Vision,
the Young Allies, some thoroughly obscure characters...and a monkey. As they say, everything's better with a monkey.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Broken Trust by Stan Lee-1941

As you may have noted, today was Stan Lee's birthday. Stan Lee, the co-creator of Spider-Man, the Hulk, Stripperella and WHO WANTS TO BE A SUPER-HERO? began his writing career doing the postally mandated filler stories in early Marvel (Timely) comics. Here's a rare bylined early text piece from CAPTAIN AMERICA # 11, published in late 1941. The contents page describes it as "An ace G-Man brings down the king of the underworld." Enjoy BROKEN TRUST.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Marvel Encyclopedia

Another marvelous (pardon the pun) Christmas (and early birthday) present this year came from friend Terri. The DK MARVEL ENCYCLOPEDIA limited edition! Number 852 out of only 1200 produced worldwide to be precise! If you’ve seen the regular edition at your local book superstore, you know that it presents an authoritative, more or less up-to-date look at 1000 current Marvel heroes, villains and fellow travelers, illustrated in a hundred different styles with comic clips as well as art done especially for this volume. Everybody from Kirby and Ditko to last year’s flavor of the month illustrators that I’ve never even heard of are represented here. The limited edition, in fact, features two (count ‘em! Two!) signed art prints in their own separate little portfolio slot in the slipcase. These are done by artist Frank Cho who did (still does??) the marvelous LIBERTY MEADOWS strip! I didn’t even know he did any work for Marvel. Anyway, this is a marvelous (okay, that time it was on purpose) resource for all things in the Marvel Universe. As limited and as special as it is, however , I’m almost afraid to actually READ it! Maybe I should get the regular edition, too? Thanks, Terri!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Superman Finally Returns!

Like everyone else, I waited a bit impatiently for a new Superman movie for literally decades. I suffered through Nicolas Cage’s seemingly endless attachment to the project, rumors of director Tim Burton’s bizarre concepts, talk of a Batman cameo, Kevin Smith’s aborted script (which was quite good!) and producer Jon Peters’ insistence on using the "Superman is dead" saga as source material. Then, perhaps against all odds, Bryan Singer emerged as Superman’s guiding light and Brandon Routh was announced as a visually astonishing hero. The late Marlon Brando was back as Jor-el in footage left over from the controversy that cut him out of SUPERMAN II and Kevin Spacey, one of our greatest screen actors today, was announced as the villain of the piece. It looked like it was all coming together at last and I was going to be there to see it! Only…I wasn’t.
For weeks that stretched into months, it became an ironic (read: unfunny) running gag that I had NOT been able to see SUPERMAN RETURNS in spite of multiple efforts! Something came up to scotch my plans to see it with my wife that first weekend, she arranged for friend Kim to go with me later but when that, too, had to be postponed, she ended up seeing it without me! I was literally heading out the door to see it on my own when a phone call demanded my attention and I had to postpone again. Then came my summer firing! In spite of the fact that income was suddenly non-existent, I rationalized that I NEEDED to see SUPERMAN RETURNS to lift my spirits. Unfortunately, my spirits tumbled so fast that I still didn’t get to do so.

Fast forward to Christmas time. My wife and I are buying a couple used video games for our son. The store’s "buy 2, get 1 free" sale included DVD’s and I saw a SUPERMAN RETURNS DVD shining like a hidden gem in the store’s bin so my wife says to get that as the freebie so I could FINALLY see it! That evening, I load it in the player and am about to turn it on when Kim calls with a crisis. I chuckle at yet another interruption as I head off to her house to help out. Post-crisis, she asks what we had bought while shopping and I tell her that I was finally going to get to see SUPERMAN RETURNS! In a bit of a shock, she tells me that I have to return it. Being rather dense, I nonetheless eventually figure out that she has, in fact, purchased a copy for me herself for Christmas! Aaargh! I decide to wait just a few more days.

Finally, on Christmas Eve, Kim and I exchange gifts. I feel humbled as my friend presents me not with the expected DC double disk but, amazingly, that ultimate geek set, the fourteen disk SUPERMAN box set!!!!!! Every Christopher Reeve Superman film! Multiple versions of the Christopher Reeve films! The Donner cut! The Fleischer cartoons fully restored! The first George Reeves appearance! Superpup! Super parody cartoons! A dozen documentaries and TV specials! And, yes! SUPERMAN RETURNS!!!!!! At long last!

I guess it was inevitable that it couldn’t live up to the hype by that point, though, don’t you think? It was okay but…

Brandon Routh looks stunning, echoing Reeve but offering a more brooding hero. His delivery was good but the script keeps the Man of Steel so stoic much of the time that I longed for more lines for the poor guy. His Clark, if anything, was a bit less silly than Reeve’s. Do NOT, however, get me started on the changes in Superman’s uniform. Spacey, channeling Gene Hackman for the most part, offered a bit more realistic insanity to Luthor along with the silliness. His evil scheme though, was never really that clear to me. Seemed like a less than brilliant variation on the one he had back in the first Reeve movie.
The casting was good elsewhere. I liked Lois and Jimmy. Frank Langella seemed strangely subdued as Perry. Original TV Jimmy Jack Larson got a good cameo. Original Lois was unrecognizable in hers. James Marsden (Cyclops from the director’s X-MEN films) was quite good but his role should not have even existed! He plays Lois’ long-term boyfriend and the acknowledged father of her son. Uh…what’s it been now? About fifteen years since Lois and Clark got married in the comic books? Oh, and big surprise that Clark turns out (spoiler!) to be the child’s real father! My problem with that is that Clark Kent really is a Kansas boy scout. I truly doubt that he would have "been" with Lois in the first place without marriage BUT, if he was, he certainly would’ve worried about the possibilities of safely being able to procreate with a human woman and taken the proper precautions! When the child (spoiler again) first displays super powers, his first act is to kill the bad guy! He doesn’t seem too shook up about it and neither does Lois or, later, anyone else! That’s the part my wife truly hated.
I kept waiting for the various plot points to gel but it seemed too little too late. I never did figure out exactly what was going on. Where was Superman all those years really? What the heck was Lex up to exactly and why the coincidental timing? The movie seemed to go on at least ten minutes after what passed for a plot ended. The Brando footage was not well utilized, being played up more in the nicely edited trailer than in the film itself. Too much of the movie referenced scenes from the 1978 original for it to be considered the sequel it seems to be.
That said, I did enjoy the movie on some levels. Some of the individual scenes were truly spectacular, most especially Superman’s rescue of the plane and the Space Shuttle, the visual scenes of the hero in Metropolis, the baseball stadium, the Daily Planet globe rescue. Still, at the end of the day, we’re left with a sullen, brooding hero with no love interest who doesn’t even end up catching the villain. Marsdens’ character comes across as just as much of a hero and yet you just know that somewhere down the line, there’s going to be a triangle there, perhaps even with him becoming a villain so that Supes can be reunited with his one true love and the mother of his child. I remind myself that each of the Reeve films has it’s problems also and look forward to the inevitable Super-sequel with hope. The ingredients are all there and Tim Burton and Nicolas Cage aren’t. Maybe next time.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Happy Holidays!

Some of the absolute best comic book covers of all time were those found on the 1940's DC anthology title, COMIC CAVALCADE. During the super-hero heyday, this quarterly, fifteen cent title would always feature Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Flash. The unusual thing, though, was that they were never fighting criminals. No, they were doing charity work, selling war bonds, playing games, performing in a circus or just hangin' out together and enjoying each other's company. Here's a quiet moment from one of my all-time favorite Christmas comic covers. Happy Holidays to all my blogosphere friends, readers and cohorts. I, myself, have to go in to work today. Hopefully you don't. Enjoy the company of your friends and family just like these all-stars are!

Sunday, December 24, 2006


One of my favorite shows this season (passed on to me by folks in the UK) has been the BBC’s DR WHO spin-off TORCHWOOD. Essentially designed as a vehicle for the popular Eccleston series companion Captain Jack Harkness (played by John Barrowman), the series surprised me greatly by being an adult (at times VERY adult!) sci-fi/horror show along the lines of X-FILES. Rather than base the series around the notably bisexual time-travelling Jack, we enter TORCHWOOD through the eyes of Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles). She’s a young Welsh police officer (who may or may not end up related to the character of Gwyneth she played in a DR WHO episode!) who encounters the local branch of the secret nationwide organization devoted to researching and cataloging alien artifacts and technology and is drafted into the group by necessity. Jack himself is played as an enigmatic, moody (and that includes frequent light-hearted moods, too!) man with a most unusual past…and future. We’re never explained Jack in toto and, in fact, we’re led to believe that Jack himself may not understand exactly who he is. That’s part of the joy of the character. Still, Gwen is the POV star and her gap-toothed charm infuses every episode as her character develops in both good and not necessarily good ways throughout the season. Although not actually serialized, you kind of do have to watch the series in order as she and all of the other characters undergo a lot of changes. Each of the other regulars gets a star turn and each brings a deeper humanity to their roles than this type of series really requires. The overall effect keeps you off guard. There are lots of truly unexpected twists and turns, sharp dialogue, a great sense of classic British wit and lovely Welsh scenery (seen with wonderful camerawork and a lot of overhead shots). There’s also a considerable amount of blood, truly disturbing imagery, some fairly explicit sex scenes and the kind of devotion to detail that you really just don’t see on American TV these days. Producer/creator Russell T. Davies wins again! As Captain Jack says in the intro to every episode, "The 21st Century is when everything changes." If this series is any indication, it’s a change for the better! Don’t know how this one will survive on American TV but undoubtedly it will eventually cross the Atlantic. After all, Captain Jack IS an American…or is he?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Byrds-There is a Season

My friend the notorious Klaus Kinski, Jr. informed me recently that there was a new CD box set of the Byrds. My first reaction was "Why?" as the 4 disc 1990 Byrds box set was relatively definitive for all but the most die-hard fans. Still, the next time I was out I looked at a copy. Seemed like a lot of repeats from the first, some new stuff with which I wasn’t familiar and a DVD of a handful of mid-sixties TV appearances. At nearly sixty bucks, I opted to pass. Then a few days later I was at a big national chain when I happened on a stray copy. I looked at it again and noticed that this copy was labeled at 29.99! The other copies they had in the correct section were 44.99! Knowing a sign when I see it, I called my wife and asked if she would like to consider this my birthday present (even though said birthday is still a couple weeks away). At that price, I took the box set home.
I STILL think the first box set was better. Trying not to compare, however, I find myself enjoying this one immensely. As most of my readers undoubtedly know, the Byrds were arguably the most artistically successful American group of the British Invasion. Their biggest problem, by their members’ own admission, was that they were a group of "out for themselves" individuals rather than a real team like the Beatles. Thus, their members tended to come and go with only Roger McGuinn’s trademark jangly twelve-string and distinctive (if somewhat slight) vocals being the group’s only real constant. They were known in the beginning for their soaring harmonies (courtesy of relatively skinny young David Crosby) and later for practically inventing country rock (I say practically because you could make a darn good case for a half dozen other bands including Buffalo Springfield and Mike Nesmith and the Monkees). They were also known for their squabbles and for making electrified folk music (particularly Dylan’s) into massive hit records. If you’re a fan of the Byrds and already have the original box set, unless you also find this one at a bargain…or really like watching go-go dancers frug to MISTER TAMBOURINE MAN…I’d seriously consider giving this one a pass. What’s on it is choice, but when we already had a definitive collection, I still find myself asking "Why?"

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Return of Tony Isabella

I’ve been reading those Marvel Essential volumes lately that deal with the various horror series of the seventies. You know, GHOST RIDER, SON OF SATAN, MAN-THING, TALES OF THE ZOMBIE, etc. Back in the day, some of these were among my favorite comics. MAN-THING by Steve Gerber was a particular favorite. Gerber’s bizarre imagination was growing in leaps and bounds right before the reader’s eyes, culminating in the classic GIANT SIZE MAN-THING # 4 story "The Kid’s Night Out." After all these years, I still remember that as one of the most disturbing stories I have ever read in a comic. I had a chance to tell Gerber this not long after its original publication as he was the guest of honor at the very first Cincinnati Comic Book Convention. He thanked me for the compliment. That story is NOT in the current Essential volume however and the Gerber stories that are now seem just dated and preachy. His Simon Garth ZOMBIE stories do, too, although I now have an appreciation for Pablo Marcos art I never really had when I was younger. Likewise the Gary Friedrich tales where the author consistently mixes up variations of modern witchcraft with satanism. Some of my best friends are devout witches and I can assure you they don’t even believe in Satan (and I’m gonna delete any comments that say he believes in them. Heard it before!)
Whar DOES hold up in each of these volumes are stories by our blogger friend Tony Isabella. At the time both writing and editing for Marvel, his GHOST RIDER stories are entertaining and more than just a constant variation on the theme of the cowboy cyclist versus the Devil. His "Simon Garth Lives" story is the most entertaining ZOMBIE story and a fitting finale to that series and even his one appearance with a MAN-THING story seems fresher and less dated than Gerber’s!
Newly 55, Tony announced today that he plans on a full-time return to writing in the new year. I couldn’t be more excited. He has a love of comics and heroes and perhaps most of all an appreciation of standards that most writers in comics today don’t have and it shows. Having written mostly non-fiction columns, a few novels and most recently dialogued some foreign duck stories (which I’m sure is NOT as easy as it may sound!), no doubt Tony has a backlog of creative ideas I can’t wait to see in action. Happy birthday, my friend and welcome back! We’ll be watching for your return and anything you write will always have a place here at the Library.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Archie on Radio

Today we have a vintage ad for ARCHIE on radio! This has more meaning for me than some ads of this type as my wife and I have become friendly with three of the surviving actors over the last half decade or so and, in fact, appeared in two re-creations of original ARCHIE scripts. Bob Hastings wasn't the original ARCHIE but he took over the role as he returned home from World War II and made it his own. Hal Stone played Jughead throughout the run and Rosemary Rice appeared as Betty. All three of these great radio performers have become regulars at the annual Cincinnati Old-Time Radio and Nostalgia Convention. Back when Bob was the only one coming, I was priviliged to co-star as Jughead in two on-stage episodes in different years, one of which featured my lovely wife as Betty, the other having her as Veronica (so who needs to choose? I have 'em both!). It was a fun series distinctly in the ALDRICH FAMILY mode and all of the performers have great memories of doing it. In fact, if you ever get the chance to see Bob and Hal just standing together arguing and sniping lovingly at each other, you'll enjoy it more than most any show you could pay for anywhere! As far as this picture goes, though, what's the deal with Jug having his arm around Betty (whom is notably bosomier than Ronnie!) when we all know he hates girls!!!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Speaking of Black Hood, here's a nifty ad from the company that would eventually become Archie Comics, MLJ. This 1943 ad highlights some of the company's popular super-heroes. They would, of course, be revived in dreadful but fondly remembered "camp" versions in the sixties. In fact, the Hangman and the Wizard had gone to the dark side and were revived as villains! They would later be revived again and again including a brief run at DC, but never really successfully. Note however, the innocuous red-headed kid at the bottom of the ad. He never had to be revived because he never went away! As for Pokey Oakey, well... if some enterprising publisher is reading this, then...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Black Hood on Radio

We all know that SUPERMAN was a successful radio show and Batman was not (although he appeared on Supes' show). Other super heroes that did NOT appear on radio included Green Lantern, Captain America, Plastic Man and Captain Marvel along with most other ones come to think of it. Oddly, among those who DID have their own radio series included BLUE BEETLE, THE GREEN LAMA and, apparently, as I found out today, MLJ's BLACK HOOD. Here's a 1943 ad promoting the Mutual Network series. A quick glance at John Dunning's radio reference guide shows that he fought crime over the airwaves in a 15 minute serialized format for a little over six monhs before fading away into the ether. He was played by one Scott Douglas.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Joe Barbera

The late Joe Barbera, along with partner Bill Hanna, created an incredible legacy of entertaining animation that rarely gets enough credit due to the simple fact that Hanna-Barbera was NOT Disney or Warner Brothers. That’s just it, though. From the earliest collaborations on TOM AND JERRY to the stiflingly limited animation of the late seventies, Hanna-Barbera cartoons had a unique look and feel all their own, characterized by voice acting that, dare I say it, may well have been better than that of the bigger studios! As radio died off, many of the best of its voice actors turned to animation with Alan Reed, Daws Butler, Arnold Stang and even Mel Blanc taking up long-term residence in HB cartoons. Sometimes it seemed that Butler (along with Don Messick) was handling about 90 percent of the company’s output! The other thing that characterized Hanna-Barbera cartoons was their music and constant, inventive sound effects.
As a child, some of my earliest memories are of watching HUCKLEBERRY HOUND. Later, I developed a genuine fondness for H-B’s super-hero and fantasy cartoons such as THE IMPOSSIBLES, SPACE GHOST and BIRDMAN. The studio’s output spread into so many directions that quality suffered, perhaps inevitably, but as time went on, characters such as YOGI BEAR, QUICK-DRAW McGRAW and especially SCOOBY-DOO became icons every bit as beloved as MICKEY MOUSE or BUGS BUNNY. With animation having changed so much as computers developed, Joe Barbera was perhaps a man out of his time. His place in that time and in legend, though, are secure. Thanks, Joe! We here at the Library take special delight in the Hanna-Barbera books we have on hand and appreciate your life-long dedication to the fans!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Darwyn Cooke's Spirit

I'm on record as being a huge fan of Will Eisner's SPIRIT since age seven in 1966! Over the years, with rare exception, Eisner resisted the temptation to allow new creators to do new adventures of his classic character...until now. Supposedly approved by the Master prior to his passing last year, DC gave the project to Darwyn Cooke whose retro art style combines elements of classic comics art and current TV animation. He premiered his take on the "late" Denny Colt recently in a team-up with Batman that both surprised me and delighted me. Seems Commisoners Dolan and Gordon were old friends and an attempt by Batman's rogues gallery to eliminate Gordon leads to a team-up between Central City's masked vigilante and the Gotham hero he had thought just a myth. Now comes the first true issue. It's a slight piece in a way, reading at times more like an homage to Eisner than the first of a continuing series. Still, the familiar characters are well-delineated and the deceptively simplistic artwork masks a modern and fairly adult story. The new female reporter character is a joy. Obsessed with succeeding in her job (and the ratings) in spite of kidnap and rescue attempts, she broadcasts the whole thing via her cell phone. One of my favorite things about the new SPIRIT is Ebony! He's here and he works! Frank Miller! Take a look! Don't just write him out of the movie. At its peak and looking past the stereotype, Ebony was the humanizing heart of the seemingly indestructible Spirit. Looks like Cooke's planning on keeping it that way with a modern twist or two. Look's like THE SPIRIT is yet another modern comic book I'm liking here!
I'm betting Will would, too.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Gahoon

I don't know about you but I found this mid-forties ad for a new type of musical instrument to be a hoot (or is that a toot?)! A quick check of the 'Net tells me the Gahoon apparently didn't catch on after all.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Ed Brubaker and the Winter Soldier

It used to be said that to be really and truly, once and for all dead in the Marvel Universe was to be "Uncle Ben dead" or "Bucky dead" as those were the only two characters who had (in spite of various dreams, flashbacks, robots, etc.) never been revived. I noted recently that even an alternate world Uncle Ben returned! Still, nothing prepared me for Bucky’s big comeback…which I finally got around to reading in the trades. What surprised me most is that it all works!
Ed Brubaker is one of those types of comics writers who have begun to infuse the industry in recent years. Rather then just "Damn the torpedos! Full speed ahead!" they respect what has gone before but don’t let it stand in the way of a good storyline. After years of creative stagnation in the mainstream comics field, the development of these guys (Geoff Johns is another) has become a joy to watch! I’ll admit I’m still trepidatious but they have gotten my attention!
According to Ed, as a collector it always irked him that Bucky died "off-camera." That you couldn’t actually buy the issue with Bucky’s death because, in fact, it was an early example of ret-con! So if all we have is Cap’s version…maybe his partner wasn’t any more dead than Cap himself! Enter the writer’s way of looking at an idea and twisting it. Bucky survived that buzz bomb explosion but was rescued by the Soviets in pretty bad shape. Ed ret-conned that Bucky had logically (?) been a trained assassin and was probably about twenty when they fought Baron Zemo. As such, the Russians nursed him back to health and brainwashed him, taking advantage of and enhancing his covert training. Then they froze him, thawing him out every few years when they had a nasty job for him to do. Thus he aged much more slowly than normal. Somehow, it all actually made sense.
Besides Cap, the "Winter Soldier" storyline that ran last year featured superb storytelling all around, re-presenting Sharon Carter, Nick Fury, the Red Skull, and even Union Jack and Spitfire(!), all old acquaintances familiar and yet made new at long last. After years of false hopes and evil twins, Captain America finally learns the truth about his former partner a little at a time and in a moment of crisis, they even team up again! As with most comics these days, however, there can be no happy ending. Still, a good story well-told is a joy unto itself and I’ve found far too few of those in recent years’ comics. Mr. Brubaker, I salute you, sir! Thanks for caring enough to do right by Captain America in these confusing times in which we find ourselves. I guess even Bucky isn’t "Bucky dead" anymore. Here's a link to Ed Brubaker's site:

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Christa Helm Revisited

For those of you who have inquired, we here at the Library have not given up on our quest to unearth more info about actress Christa Helm, star of the unreleased film, LET'S GO FOR BROKE. The starlet, whose 1977 murder remains unsolved, is generating more and more interest from a number of sources and author John O'Dowd(John O'Dowd Presents: Hollywood Starlet - Barbara Payton) and I continue to work on her life story. The more we learn, the more complex and fascinating a woman she becomes. If you or anyone you know knew Christa, please contact me with any and all information you might have on her life, her career and LET'S GO FOR BROKE. Use the "Search This Blog" function to check out my earlier pieces on her and watch for some big news on Christa soon.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Kim Recommends:The Matrix

Not a big Keanu Reaves fan so I didn’t rush out to see THE MATRIX back in 1999…or since. It looked pretty good mind you. Just never a priority. I mean I do enjoy Larry Fishburne (Pee-Wee’s "Cowboy Curtis!") and the words "comic book-like" were bandied about quite a bit in connection with it but then that’s not always a good thing, y’know.
Then came Kim. Longtime readers know that my young friend Kim has eclectic tastes in…well, everything…and has a bizarre knack for finding films that I would greatly enjoy if I would just watch them. She insisted that it was time I watch THE MATRIX. I loved it!
Looking past the highly touted coolness factor and the nifty special effects, it really does offer an intelligent storyline in which reality itself is questioned on multiple levels. Nothing is what it seems. No one is as expected. There’s a lot of pop philosophy espoused throughout (so much so that a MATRIX philosophy book was later published) but in the end it’s the characters’ humanity that succeeds in shining through.
The fight scenes are choreographed in the style of Chinese martial arts films (ironically aided and abetted by computer) and the action sequences match any 007 film there ever was. The performances are good with Keanu being suitably cold for most of it and Carrie-Anne Moss (who according to IMDB once appeared in a TV series entitled MATRIX) owning her "kick-ass"(Kim’s words) role out of the gate. Fishburne is the heart of it all, though as Morpheus, the mentoring leader of the rag-tag group trying to reveal reality to the masses.
Why am I telling all of you this, though? Apparently I was the last comic book geek to see THE MATRIX. You guys have already seen it. We started the second one tonight but didn’t have time to finish it. I’m looking forward to it, though…thanks once again to Kim.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Joe Hill's Heart-Shaped Box

I kinda feel like I'm coming late to this party even though the book is still several months away from publication. What book, you ask? HEART-SHAPED BOX by Joe Hill. If you saw the plug in USA TODAY more than a month ago, HEART-SHAPED BOX is generating enough buzz to be considered a notable book of 2007 before it even comes out! Today, I got my hands on an advance copy and I'm anxiously devouring it already. The book won me over immediately by opening with a quote from Alan Moore! HEART-SHAPED BOX introduces us to a collector (like most of us) who collects weird and wacky things (like drawings of Disney's seven dwarfs by serial killer John Wayne Gacy). In the beginning of the book, he buys a real ghost online from one of the Ebay knockoffs. I'm still early in the book but let's just say this turns out to NOT be such a good idea. Obviously, I can't write a full review at this time but I'm enjoying it immensely and wanted to give you all a heads up. Hill's writing style is unpretentious and his imagination fertile. His background in comics and horror fiction (he downplays it for obvious reasons but he's Stephen King's son) serves him well for the pop-goth setting of the novel. Here's a link to Mr. Hill's website: joe hill fiction :: home Even though I'm not finished with it yet, I don't get the impression that it's going to be the blockbuster USA TODAY touted but I can't help but think pop culture fans and horror buffs will find HEART-SHAPED BOX enjoyable. Watch for it in February, 2007!

Monday, December 11, 2006

A New Kind of Family

At long last, here’s another forgotten TV show from the seventies. A NEW KIND OF FAMILY was one of far too many "relevant" series, most of which were thoroughly irrelevant in the end. This particular one from 1979, however, is notable for several reasons.
Essentially a vehicle for actress Eileen Brennan whose career was on the rise after appearances in several hit films including MURDER BY DEATH and THE CHEAP DETECTIVE, A NEW KIND OF FAMILY told the story of a two women who move in together (platonically. This WAS the seventies) and combine their families. One of the kids was Rob Lowe who would err…pioneer the accidental sex tape release less than ten years later. This was his first actual credit, believe it or not. The younger boy was played by David Hollander who was instantly recognizable as a TV kid in the Disco decade. He has since turned his attentions to scoring programs, perhaps most notably the recent animated series MY GYM PARTNER IS A MONKEY!
Near the end of the series brief run, the color of the roommate family was mysteriously changed with Telma (TONY ORLANDO AND DAWN) Hopkins and future wardrobe malfunction queen Janet Jackson taking over the mother/daughter roles, adding yet another trivial reason to remember this also-ran series. When it ended, Eileen Brennan went straight into what will probably be remembered as her signature role, that of the tough Captain in Goldie Hawn’s PRIVATE BENJAMIN. In spite of longtime health issues, she keeps building up credits even today when nobody remembers A NEW KIND OF FAMILY at all.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Tip Box Reminder

Just a reminder that if you like what you see here, you can drop a tip in the Ol' Paypal tipbox to the right at the top of the main screen. After my nightmarish summer, I have been working steadily (with a considerable pay cut) since mid-August but due to various factors (including the ever-popular "unexpected health issues") we are still treading water financially. My ISP just announced an increase as did the local electric company. This next week will mark a full year in which I've managed to make daily posts of pop culture items in spite of any and all distractions going on in my life. If you like what you've seen here, please consider donating a wee bit so we can do it all again for another year! Thanks!

Mart Nodell's Green Lantern

Since I've spent much of the past week reading stories of the Golden Age Green Lantern from the forties through the present (and even extolling the character's virtues here at the blog!), I feel as though I would be remiss if I neglected to note the passing yesterday of the character's originator, Mart Nodell. Mister Nodell was a delightful comic convention guest for many years and I had the pleasure to meet him twice in the late eighties/early nineties. One of my early favorite comic books was GREEN LANTERN (the Hal Jordan version) and I always enjoyed the guest appearances by the "Earth 2" GL, Alan Scott. At the time, I had no idea that the character had such a rich history behind it. Later, Green Lantern was the reason I shelled out big bucks (when I HAD big bucks!) for my first Golden Age comics. According to legend, Mister Nodell asked All American editor Sheldon Mayer what would get him a regular gig drawing for the company and was told that super guys were hot. On his way home, he saw a subway worker swinging a green lantern and history was born. Batman co-creator Bill Finger helped develop the character and over the years the series would feature scripts by Gardner Fox, Alfred (THE STARS MY DESTINATION) Bester and some of the best comics writers of the period. Nodell would handle the art off and on, sometimes also drawing FLASH stories. Later Alex Toth would draw some stories but Paul Reinman and Irwin Hasen eventually became the main artists on the strip. The character was so popular that he appeared in his own mag as well as in ALL AMERICAN COMICS, COMIC CAVALCADE and ALL STAR COMICS (with the JSA!). Although he disappeared for a few years in the fifties, the revived version would see his return as well as grow into a considerable franchise of its own. Just this week Green Lantern appeared in the new JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA book. Not bad for a spur of the moment inspiration. Thank you, Mister Nodell. You did a good job!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Like Father, Like Son

My father died in December. Oh my Gods and Goddesses, has it really been fifteen years ago?
My father, Frank, taught me a lot of my pop cultural background. He loved newspaper comic strips and from the earliest stages that I can recall would share the Sunday funnies with me. It’s sometimes hard to recall as an adult but that folded out Sunday comics page is huge and colorful and looks like a gameboard to a kid!
He bought me my first comic books, Harvey issues with CASPER and HOT STUFF picked up every single time he found himself in a drugstore that carried them. When I was old enough to go along, he let me pick my own and dutifully paid for them. By then, I chose BATMAN.
Frank himself loved comic books, too, especially SUPERMAN, SPIDER-MAN and his longtime favorite, DICK TRACY. He was in seventh heaven over the long series of sequential Blackthorne Tracy reprints started in the eighties.
His personal tastes in humor led to his teaching me to appreciate the comic subtleties of the Three Stooges, the Bowery Boys and Abbott and Costello. He also instilled in me an appreciation for silent comedians. His personal favorite, though, was always Red Skelton.
When it came to movies, he loved them, old and new. He introduced me to favorite classics such as ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES and DOUBLE INDEMNITY and, as I got older, to newer films he enjoyed such as DIRTY HARRY and DEATH WISH. His favorite actors were James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson and Spencer Tracy.
He grew up with B Westerns and whenever possible he shared that love with me also. In the seventies, a local TV station picked up a B Western package and the two of us sat down together weekly to watch Tim Holt, George O’Brien and every once and awhile Buck Jones ride the range.
Television became more and more of a favorite pastime as he grew older. He had always loved silly sitcoms such as THE ADDAMS FAMILY, MY MOTHER THE CAR and HOGAN’S HEROES. Westerns such as BONANZA and GUNSMOKE were weekly features at our house. He, along with my mother, also became a big fan of DARK SHADOWS. Frank retired in the late seventies after being hit by a car while crossing a street. After that, he became a big game show buff, delighting in CARD SHARKS and THE PRICE IS RIGHT. Survey people used to call and ask what his favorite shows were. After awhile, he realized that every time he told them, those shows were cancelled soon after. At that point, he began lying to the surveyors saying that he watched shows that he actually hated.

AS far as music, I could never get him to appreciate the Beatles or even the Monkees but he did instill in me a lifelong appreciation of swing music and Bing Crosby, his all-time favorite singer. He had even gotten to see Crosby and Bob Hope together in England during World War II.
Most of all, the thing that he instilled in me most was a love and respect for reading. He read constantly-fiction, non-fiction, newspapers, the Bible, comic books, dirty magazines. What you read didn’t matter to him so much as that you DID read!
Frank lived to see me perform onstage when I was with the comedy troupes. He got to hear me on the radio with them, too. He was in the audience for one of my game show appearances and saw my first few pop culture magazine articles published. He wasn’t really the type to say it, preferring to come across as a kind of hard, conservative father but whether he said it or not I knew he was proud of me. I wouldn’t have the pop culture background I have without my dad. You wouldn’t be reading this blog without my dad.
Fifteen years. In a way it seems forever. In a way, he’s never left. I hope I do HALF as well by my son.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Post Old-Time Radio

It's time we dug into the vast recorded archives here at the Library yet again. While dramatic radio ended its initial dominance of the entertainment field for good with the final 1962 broadcasts of SUSPENSE and YOURS TRULY, JOHNNY DOLLAR on CBS in the US, this was by no means the end of dramatic radio. In fact, just a couple years later, the great Fred Foy was announcing THEATER FIVE, a generally inventive New York based anthology series (My wife and I had the privilege of having dinner with longtime LONE RANGER announcer Foy a few years back. We discussed the greats he met due to his work on THE DICK CAVETT SHOW). In the seventies, there was a surprisingly dull DOC SAVAGE radio series and even a short, noisy FANTASTIC FOUR serial notable for its pre-SNL appearance of the great Bill Murray as the Human Torch! In other parts of the world, the concept of dramatic radio never went away at all, leading to a number of well done Canadian sci-fi adaptations including FAHRENHEIT 451 and COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT. In the UK, there were actually serious 1990's adaptations of popular DC comics story arcs such as the Death of Superman and the Batman/Bane/ Azrael Saga. meanwhile, one of the quintessential British programs (or should I say "programmes?"), THE AVENGERS, turned up in the unlikely market of South Africa in the early seventies. Running as a daily serial starring Donald Monat as John Steed and the late Diane Appleby as Mrs. Peel, most stories were adaptations of the classic Brian Clemens TV series. The distinctive voices of Patrick Macnee and especially Diana Rigg were missed but their replacements coped admirably, aided and abetted by the familiar theme music and a narrator who often told more of the story than he perhaps should. Even more recently, the various BBC websites have offered new DR. WHO serials as well as rebroadcasts of various sixties and seventies radio dramas. I've forgotten the name but I recently heard one with Vincent Price (a fixture of forties/fifties radio in the US) and Peter Cushing! Keep your eyes--and ears--open for some of these niftypost old-time radio gems, especially on the Web where they turn up free on various pop sites from time to time.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Justice Society of America

When I was seven years old, my parents and I stopped at a dimestore called Ben Franklin's on a Sunday afternoon and as we were going through the checkout lane with our cart, I spotted some comic books. One of them was an issue of JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA and featured several heroes being tossed about through giant sound effects words. One of the heroes was TV favorite Batman. There was another, however, who looked pretty much like Batman (at least when drawn by Mike Sekowsky). Soon enough, I learned that he was Wildcat, a super hero from the Earth 2 group, the Justice Society of America. With that issue, the JSA became immediate favorites and have remained so ever since. Over the years, through the courtesy of various reprint projects, I have been able to discover the surprisingly rich 1940's world in which these original super heroes premiered. Nearly all of the JSA were All American Comics characters and lately we've been writing alot about these longtime favorites here. Today, I stopped by my local comic shop for the first time in several weeks ( I got no money, remember?) and spotted an all-new JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA # 1.The magnificent (as always) cover by Alex Ross grabbed my attention, echoing as it did the JSA's earliest ALL-STAR COMICS appearance. Once again, after more than six decades, the golden age Flash and the golden age Green Lantern, two of my all-time favorites, prove themselves to be seminal heroes in the truest sense of the word. Here they team with only one other original member, the surprisingly durable Wildcat, and recruit a new team of youngsters to carry on as a "moral compass" for America and the free world. The JSA has meant so much to so many over the years for just that very reason. No matter who writes them, these guys ARE heroes and they know it. It's good to see that still counts in this new century in which we find ourselves. I don't pay much attention to modern comic books these days because the characters clearly aren't really the same ones I grew up with but, in this case, they are! There's something magical about Jay Garrick, Alan Scott and yes, Ted Grant. They were created at a time when the goal was simply to cash in on the super hero craze but somehow, they transcended that. JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA # 1 spends its entire length developing characters and setting up future developments. Geoff Johns knows his stuff, though, so its all good. The art is clean, the storytelling good.How can you go wrong with Golden Age Magic!? Booksteve says check it out!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

More Shredded Wheat Transfers

Hmmm...Apparently Shredded Wheat offered a number of these things at different times.
This one's from 1947.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Timely Comics Wants Mail

Here's a deal you don't see anymore! This is an inside cover ad from MARVEL MYSTERY COMICS # 4, soliciting mail for money! That's right! The editors would pay you good money (especially for 1940!) in exchange for letters detailing your favorite characters from MARVEL MYSTERY. SUB-MARINER, HUMAN TORCH, KA-ZAR, ANGEL or the AMERICAN ACE? Which one was it. Well, my money's on AMERICAN ACE for LEAST favorite as he's one of the very few Marvel/Timely characters whom I don't believe has EVER been revived. Incidentally, Stan Lee, although working as an "office boy" was NOT yet an Editor. Come to think of it, maybe that's the real reason he became an editor. Instead of giving out REAL cash, Stan came up with the ingenious concept of the "no-prize."

Monday, December 04, 2006

Shredded Wheat Comic Transfers

Yesterday, we talked about Silly Putty and the joys of being able to lift images of your favorite comics characters right off of the printed page! Well, here, in this fifties(?) ad for Shredded Wheat cereal, we have comic strip transfers which you can put right on your clothing (or your hankies!) and wear to school where you'll be the envy of all your friends...or at least you would be if any of these were A-list characters. I mean seriously, when ANDY GUMP and HAROLD TEEN are the big shot names on your licensed character list, I sense a bit of a problem. Were they even still being published that late? What's that? THE SHADOW?? Hmmm... I dunno... Hey, Mister Tollin, does that guy "Shadow" look like he knows what evil is lurking in the hearts of men...or anywhere else for that matter?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Silly Putty

Okay, so erector sets were a tad before my time on the Baby Boom scale. Silly Putty, on the other hand, was the "IN" thing during my youth! I recall seeing the ads (like this one from a 1966 comic) and buying it at Woolworths. In fact, I recall buying it a number of times over the years, usually in its traditional plastic egg container. Once, though, I found and bought Silly Putty (or possibly a knock-off) in a cool plastic skull container. Being the CAPTAIN AMERICA fan that I am, I naturally painted the white skull container red. I still have it! I'm sure you all know that Silly Putty was invented by accident when trying to discover a rubber substitute for use in World War II. If not, here's a link that will tell you all about that:Silly Putty - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. As a kid, the important thing was that it could pick up comics images from the cheap pulp paper and stretch them!! Ahhahahahaha! What fun!! It didn't taste that bad as I recall either!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

DC Slogan Contest-1956

Here's an interesting house ad. This is from 1956 DC comics and features the company's then most popular characters--Superman, Batman and...Tomahawk?? Well, as previously noted, the TV popularity of Davy Crockett helped Tomahawk around this time. Anyway, this particular ad announces an upcoming slogan contest to promote DC. Does anyone know if any winners were ever announced and what they were?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Rudolph the Red Nosed Comic Book

In the late fifties and early sixties (and then again in the seventies in the tabloid format) DC published annual issues of a comic based on the famed "ninth reindeer," Rudolph. Immortalized in cowboy music and TV puppets, Rudolph's four-color adventures were marvelous comic inventiveness. In fact, the seventies revival was from Sheldon Mayer, the unsung hero of DC/All American Comics. According to most sources, Mayer was instrumental in getting SUPERMAN published, he edited and shepherded most of the AA line that included the JSA members, he created Scribbly, the teenaged cartoonist as an alter-ego, the original Red Tornado and later and most legendarily, SUGAR AND SPIKE! If you look closely at some of Mayer's mid-sixties art, you could also make a good case for him being a possible influence on underground artists of the Gilbert Shelton school! Here's a late fifties RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER house ad to start off December right!