I know the Oscars have been over for several days but I would be remiss if I didn't note the recent acquisition (courtesy of my mother-in-law) of this signed copy of the 1965 hardback, THE OSCAR PEOPLE, Written by George Likeness, it offers pretty good in-depth looks at the actors and the films that had won the Academy Awards up until that year. There's a good selection of photos (published in sepiatone for who knows what reason, mind you) and some teeny tiny print giving lots of biographical details and anecdotes. Long out of print, if you're an Oscar buff, haunt your local used book stores for this one.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
I saw Clint Eastwood on the Oscars earlier this week and I was reminded of his statement to the author of this early 1974 biography that "I still have many things to do." I can’t help but think that even he had no idea how far he would come in the 33 years that followed.
I vaguely remembered "Rowdy Yates" on RAWHIDE by the early seventies but somehow my western-loving father had neglected to introduce me to any of Eastwood’s later features. In fact, my first real exposure to the star was when my dad took me (surprisingly at age 13) to a second-run showing of DIRTY HARRY in 1972. A week or so later, HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER opened and by that time I was a real fan. In those pre-Internet days, it wasn’t always easy to get information about your favorite stars so I was thrilled to find this book just a couple years later.
A detailed, serious look at the actor’s career as a star and a budding director with non-gossipy asides about his personal life, CLINT EASTWOOD, the book, is written by then Professor of film (at Northwestern if I recall correctly) Stuart M. Kaminsky. Kaminsky would go on to be my favorite mystery author with his Toby Peters series set in Old Hollywood as well as several other award-winning series. He later novelized THE ROCKFORD FILES and CSI. Clint has had a hell of a life and career since 1974 and been the subject of several other in-depth biographies. This one will always be special though because this one helped me really discover the man who is still one of my favorite actors. Thanks Stuart!
Monday, February 26, 2007
Jerry Robinson was an early and rather obvious assistant/ghost to Bob Kane on BATMAN. Robinson's style was quite different than what has come to be accepted as Kane's both in his layouts and his sketchier linework. Credited with creating (or at least highly influencing depending on whose version you believe) both Robin and the Joker, the young Robinson was certainly a major contributor to the mythos. Years later, he became the president of the National Cartoonists Society and in the 1970's acted as a liason with DC in the company's attempts to belatedly do right by SUPERMAN creators Siegel and Shuster. In between and for many years however, Jerry Robinson ran a newspaper feature entitled TRUE CLASSROOM FLUBS AND FLUFFS which illustrated schoolroom mis-statements ina literal manner to comic effect. His sketchy style had reached a zenith by this point and was not to some fans' tastes. The feature was popular enough, though, to elicit this collection published by Scholastic in 1970. Here are a couple samples from the book, too.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
When Carmine Infantino took over at DC in the late sixties, he made longtime JLA artist Mike Sekowsky an editor. Sekowsky proceeded to radically change all of the characters with which he was entrusted. Most extreme of these changes was the fact that Wonder Woman, AKA Diana Prince, was remade into a karate-chopping, mod Diana RIGG type with a male Chinese mentor named I Ching. 25 years of continuity were scrapped as Diana lost her powers and, after decades of near male-bashing, bowed and deferred to this guy she had just met! All things change, however, and 1940's WONDER WOMAN writer/editor Dorothy Woolfolk, one of the first ladies of comics, was brought in. She lasted only one issue before hot editor Denny O'Neil took over with some unusual covers by Jeff Jones and rare comic book writing from Samuel R. Delany! I Ching was moved to the background and the writing and art both improved during this sadly brief period. Yep, it only lasted a few issues before someone at DC suddenly decided to once again very suddenly scrap several years of continuity and go back to the original Wonder Woman concepts. Perhaps this was because of selling the TV movie rights as the Cathy Lee Crosby movie we mentioned earlier was just a year or so away. On the other hand, it may well have been simply declining sales. Either way, longtime WW writer/editor Robert Kanigher was reinstated on the book and in the span of just a few pages murdered Ching, had Diana forget him, had her recover her powers (with no real explanation) and return to the Amazons. Just like that. One has to wonder, however, exactly what Kanigher had against DorothyWoolfolk as right there on page one, the very first victim of the random sniper is described as woman's magazine editor, Dottie Cottonman. Cotton Man=Wool Folk. It's an in-joke reference but a rather cruel one. Anyone know any more details on this one? Were the other named victims-Jimmy Greene and Mary and John Mason--real-life references also? The art here is by Don Heck.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
I'm on record as being a big fan of the Golden Age Green Lantern. I first discovered the strangely RED-costumed crusader in his second team-up with his modern-day counterpart in the mid-sixties and followed him through many JLA-JSA team-ups and well into his various 90's and beyond incarnations. The book THE GREAT COMIC BOOK HEROES showed me his origin as originally published in ALL-AMERICAN COMICS and a number of reprints followed throughout the seventies before DC's Archives series finally got around to Ol' GL. The Archives reprinted GREEN LANTERN from issue # 1 but by the time that issue had been published, the original ring-slinger had already had numerous adventures in ALL-AMERICAN, ALL-STAR and (I may have the timing off on this one) COMIC CAVALCADE. In keeping with corporate policy, GL was demoted to honorary JSA membership with this issue of his own mag. That silly idea would later be dropped and Alan Scott appears with the JSA every month even now!
Friday, February 23, 2007
FLESH GORDON was a mid-seventies porn spoof that had its hardcore scenes cut out (note the retouched bosoms even in this ad!)and somehow managed to end up in major release AND even get good reviews! Designed to resemble the 1930’s serials, the special effects were done by a bunch of young Turks (some of whom would go on to do STAR WARS just a couple years later) and a ringer or two like Jim Danforth. The lead "actor," one Jason Williams, was suitably stilted but the other roles were played by scene-chewers of the first order. Even character actor John Hoyt was along for the ride as Flesh’s dad! The voice of the King Kong-like monster who kidnaps Dale Ardor was done by future Mister Incredible, Craig T. Nelson. As released, the movie was a silly softcore sex parody with stupid juvenile jokes but nonetheless endearing and enjoyable because the filmmakers clearly respected the source material.
What struck me to bring this all up was this other ad for the huge budget , campy FLASH GORDON of a few years later with Boris Vallejo's painting of Sam Jones looking an awful lot like Jason Williiams pose in the FLESH GORDON ad. His acting was about the same, also. In fact, the acting in FLASH was overall on a par with that in FLESH, the jokes almost as juvenile and the sex scenes not as interesting! Brilliant Swedish actor Max Von Sydow chewed the scenery as Ming the Merciless almost as well as William Hunt, the guy who played Emporer Wang in FLESH!! Queen, at one of their lowest ebbs, did the inappropriate score for this one and the special effects quite frankly weren’t as good as those in the earlier no-budget porn predecessor! The problem, I believe, was simply that Producer Dino Delaurentis was looking for a way to cash in on STAR WARS success and was incapable of realizing that it was successful because the people behind it genuinely LIKED the old serials!
There was a dreadful (and not in a good way) sequel to FLESH GORDON many years after the fact but you’ll note that there has been no big-screen, big-budget versions of FLASH GORDON lately at all. Knowing his love of pretty girls, I think creator Alex Raymond would probably have preferred Flesh to Flash.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
By now anyone who cares has probably heard of Fantagraphics' noble plans to take yet another run at reprinting the complete POGO comic strip by Walt Kelly. What folks tend to forget, however, is that in later years Kelly had quite a bit of assistance on the strip including from his wife Selby who took over the strip eventually after her husband's death. The strip still only outlasted its creator by a couple of years. Even though Selby Kelly could do a decent approximation of Walt's art style, his humor, pacing and political viewpoints were unique. Here, though, is the very first official POGO art to appear after the strip's end in 1975. This cute piece was done by Selby Kelly in 1977 to welcome fellow Georgian Jimmy Carter to the White House long sought in the strip by the denizens of the Okefenokee Swamp. According to reports at the time, it was sent directly to Carter in Washington. Wonder if the COMPLETE POGO series will include this?
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
When I was a kid, I used to think it would be cool if I met some of the actors I would see on TV and maybe even be friends with them. Never thought it would really happen of course. Then, over the years, I found it almost surreally coming true. One of the single neatest folks I ever met from the world of show biz was radio actor Harlan Stone. Everyone called him Hal. Reports are coming in that Hal died today apparently from complications from what he led folks to believe would be fairly routine surgery.
Hal Stone’s biggest show biz claim to fame was a long run as classic sidekick Jughead on the ARCHIE ANDREWS radio series. Following that stint, he spent decades directing mostly TV commercials and by all accounts enjoying it immensely. He was smart, gentlemanly, and genuinely witty but also a curmudgeon of the first order. I worked opposite him as an actor in old-time radio re-creations and under him as a director. During casting, he was amazing to watch as he cast multiple roles by ear and instinct. As a director, he appreciated that the actors—even those of us who were and are amateurs—knew what they were doing by the time we got to a read-through and took a nurturing but essentially hands-off role when it came to anything but timing. Having portrayed Jughead twice myself opposite original ARCHIE ANDREWS Bob Hastings, I was initially disappointed when Hal started coming to the shows knowing that he owned that role. That first year, though, we met up in the hallway of the hotel and exchanged an impromptu conversation in full Jug voice to scattered passerby applause. That won me over. He signed a copy of his autobiography to me a couple years later and then wrote me a nice email when I reviewed it here at the Library about a year ago. In recent years he had become a welcome fixture of the radio conventions and a keeper of the flame for OTR on various web boards and newsletters. He was scheduled to be at the Cincinnati Old-Time Radio and Nostalgia Convention again in April. I’ll really miss my friend. Thanks, Hal.
In the 1960's, TV knew how to do super-heroes every which way but seriously. Thus we have animated heroes (BIRDMAN, SPACE GHOST), sitcom heroes (MISTER TERRIFIC, CAPTAIN NICE) and high camp heroes (BATMAN) dominating the airwaves with varying degrees of success. The 1970's, however, were not as kind to super-heroes on television. In spite of the improbable success of the HULK TV series (basically a green-hued retread of THE FUGITIVE, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE, THE IMMORTAL, etc.), both SPIDER-MAN and WONDER WOMAN (at least in its initial incarnation) pretty much flopped. With the latter, all we got was a TV movie of the week/pilot featuring blonde, mini-skirted Cathy Lee Crosby miscast as the Amazon princess by a mile! Spidey at least made it to a short run series with handsome Nicholas Hammond (THE SOUND OF MUSIC) as Peter Parker. The webslinger himself was mostly played by stuntmen and even they looked like they were having a rough time climbing up those buildings! The mask didn't work, the webs looked horrible and the plots dragged. The Japanese version made around the same time (in spite of the transformer-like spider-machine!) was much better! Luckily, Lynda Carter and Tobey Maguire were still to come!
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
The book THE SUPER COPS by L. H. Whittemore was a bestseller from 1973 about two daredevil police officers/detectives who were, due to their at times reckless exploits, nicknamed "Batman" and "Robin." The real life detectives, Greenberg and Hantz, made the round of talk shows in the day but by the time the film based on them came out just a year later, they were already old news, supplanted by the ironically more realistic police novels of Joe Wambaugh.
THE SUPER COPS is not a bad little film as it episodically details their meeting and their adventurous patrols and cases. The most interesting aspects, though, are the folks behind the scenes. The screenplay, for example, is written by one Lorenzo Semple, Jr….best known as one of the major writers of the BATMAN TV series. Guess they figured who better to write about the exploits of Batman and Robin. He also wrote the 1966 BATMAN movie and later returned to super-heroes with the scripts for SHEENA and FLASH GORDON. The director is, in fact, the late great Gordon Parks, the brilliant African-American photographer and previously director of THE LEARNING TREE and the seminal blaxploitation film, SHAFT!
The stars of the film are Ron Liebman, a loudmouthed New York stage actor later known for a well-done but short-lived TV series entitled KAZ (and for a tempetuous marriage with equally loudmouthed actress Linda Lavin) and David Selby, coming off several years of teen-idolhood as DARK SHADOWS’ sexy, sideburned werewolf/ghost Quentin Collins. Neither actor really made it as a screen star but both have continued to be welcome presences on TV and in film from time to time.
The real detectives acted as advisors and appear in small roles in the film. Anybody know whatever happened to Batman and Robin?
Monday, February 19, 2007
Well, thanks to a few donations from you generous folks out there I was able to afford a new scanner and now, for the first time since early November, we present a newly scanned image from Booksteve's Library! This image of a 1976 drawing of everyone's favorite Caped Crusader done (presumably) by the notoriously ghosted Bob Kane for legendary strip artist Milton Caniff is incomplete, partially out of focus and was nightmarishly hard to actually get to where I needed it to be. Hopefully, that will change as I get used to the new scanner. I do find it amazing how more modern technology has complicated the simple joys of hitting a button and opening a file. Sheesh! Still, with any luck, you can look forward to some long overdue stuff from here at Booksteve's Library coming up in the days, weeks and months to come! That doesn't mean we'll give up the rare comics ads though as they've proven surprisingly popular for what was originally intended as filler! Thanks to everyone for their continued support!
Reports came in this morning that Bob Oksner, of whom we wrote of our admiration here last week, had passed away over the weekend. As noted last time, nobody ever drew a comic book girl as cute and naturally sexy as a Bob Oksner girl whether it be Bill Ward, Wally Wood, Frank Frazetta or the classic SUPERGIRL (and PUSSYCAT) artist Jim Mooney. Here then, as another tip of the hat to the late, great Mister Oksner, is Angel from ANGEL AND THE APE, one of several late sixties strips co-created by the amazing Sergio Aragones. This particular shot shows our detective heroine as drawn by Bob and inked by the fabulous Mister Wood (assisted by Bhob Stewart?) himself. If you were the right age in 1969, this was better than PLAYBOY! Thanks again for sharing your humor and your art with us Bob Oksner. Bet the real angels aren't as pretty as yours.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Saturday, February 17, 2007
As MAD's favorite film parody artist and caricaturist for over forty years, cartoonist Mort Drucker is perhaps more widely known than most artists in the field, by style at least if not by name. Few recall his simple gag cartoons that appeared as filler from time to time in early sixties DC comics. Like these for instance.
Friday, February 16, 2007
In the seventies, I was never one to worship at the altar of Frank Frazetta. Oh, he was okay I guess... if you liked rippling muscles, buxom beauties and bloody swords. I respected him as a highly stylized illustrator. It’s just that his style wasn’t to my taste. Everyone else seemed to equate Frazetta with God however! His comic book work is negligible and was virtually nonexistent by the time I discovered his work in the sixties. Frank was doing paperback cover paintings and the occasional piece for Warren magazines like CREEPY and VAMPIRELLA. In the early seventies, however, he was the first lowly comic artist (again, if you could even call him such) to be treated to not one but a series of "ART OF…" books from a major publisher. I bought a few of them…used…but just never really saw the attraction. I don’t DISlike the man’s work at all. Some of it is marvelous, exciting and genuinely sexy! The man himself is fascinating (as witness the recent documentary, FIRE AND ICE). I just couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about! By the time I looked closely at Frazetta, I guess he couldn’t possibly have lived up to the hype. Anyway, here’s a semi-rare signed one page anti-drug message from Frank, published in DAREDEVIL COMICS (among others?) waaaay back in the late 1940’s!
Thursday, February 15, 2007
With all this talk of presidential candidates this far before the election, I'm reminded of this game (and its politically incorrect ad) offered by Archie Comics (MLJ) during the Roosevelt administration. Wonder what THIS would go for on Ebay! Note that the map will never change. Hmmm... 48 states. Like most things in comic book ads in those days, it was only one dollar.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
LAW AND DISORDER was a decidedly strange little R rated comedy-drama that snuck into second string theaters on its first run in 1974. Starring Carroll O’ Conner near the absolute height of his fame on the long-running ALL IN THE FAMILY (although I’ve always suspected it may have been shot earlier and shelved as witness the small role for then hot Karen Black) one would have thought the film might do better than it did. Instead, it went virtually unnoticed. O’Conner co-stars as a cabbie who, along with fellow New Yorker Ernest Borgnine (whose Academy Award winning career was then on a post-POSEIDON ADVENTURE upswing) becomes an amateur police officer in an attempt to clean up the neighborhood. At first it’s a lark and the pair bumble through their rounds like characters on a bad sitcom but eventually violent reality sets in and the picture gets dark. It drones on far too long before ending on a hackneyed note (that my father nonetheless loved!) but it has moments where it’s fun to watch Carroll prove he wasn’t just Archie Bunker and he and Borgnine play off each other quite well.
Monday, February 12, 2007
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Special thanks to Steven Rowe and Sam Kujava for verifying my tentative but sleep-deprived identification of Bob Oksner as the artist on the previous Bob Hope PSA. It actually got me thinking about Oksner and realizing I knew little or nothing about him even though he has long been a favorite artist. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say that nobody from the best PLAYBOY cartoonists to Jazzy Johnny Romita (Senior) or even my revered and admired Wally Wood could draw prettier, sexier girls than Bob Oksner! Here are just a very few examples from the man who won the National Cartoonists Society Award for best comic book cartoonist at least twice in the early sixties along with a one-page bio that appeared in THE MANY LOVES OF DOBIE GILLIS.
Saturday, February 10, 2007
Here's another 1940's ad for collecting Kellogg's PEP cereal's comic book character pins. This one is a fairly impressive looking piece of advertising (with a beanie!) except for one obvious flaw. I can just see the comic's colorists thinking to themselves: Hmmm...Blondie, ey? Wonder what color HER hair should be.
Friday, February 09, 2007
One of the very first toys I actually remember requesting (politely of course), roughly age six, was GI JOE. They were everywhere! This ad from a mid-sixties comic points out that the toy was familiar from television—commercials that is! I actually never had the Army guy, the Air Force guy or the Navy guy. No, "Santa" got me the Marine guy that year. No disrespect but I wasn’t even sure what a Marine WAS at that age! Perhaps adding to the confusion was the fact that the only accessory I ever got for my Marine Joe was the snowsuit set! Well, the only one we bought anyway. A few years later (1971 I believe) I traded Timmy Wheeler some comic books (Surprisingly, I don’t recall which ones) for the GI JOE helicopter. Now this thing was freakin’ humongous! The chopper blades alone had a wingspan of about three or four feet. I soon found out that was probably why Timmy traded it. Even though the blades were removable, you couldn’t store the darn thing! It was always there! Sigh.
Not long after my initial JOE, they came out with CAPTAIN ACTION and my collecting mentality (and perhaps the fact that no one I actually knew was in the service or had a brother in Vietnam or anything like that) led me to obsess on him for the next few years instead.
Toymaker Hasbro later revived, revised and reinvented GI JOE to be something very different (and to me not very interesting) from its initial action figure beginnings leading to a massively successful marketing campaign, TV series and long-running comic book!
Thursday, February 08, 2007
Here's a 1964 DC PSA one pager featuring their licensed character Bob Hope. Well, technically it features the "real" Bob Hope, not the silly licensed character drawn by Bob Oksner (and later Neal Adams of all people!) for many years. I know the art style here but I can't place it. Is it Oksner? Chic Stone? Sam Kujava? Ummm...actually I know it's not Sam. I was just wondering if perhaps Sam, a longtime comics expert and sometime reader of this lowly blog, could identify the artist as I am totally blanking due to sleep deprivation!
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
All of us comics fans know Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner, Bill Everett's masterful anti-hero and the very FIRST Marvel super hero. Namor who fought his way through New York City and fought the Human Torch, Namor who was tried and convicted of murder, Namor who was ret-conned into the Invadersand fought nazis alongside the Torch and Toro and Captain America and Bucky, Namor who was awakened from years of amnesia to battle the Fantastic Four, the Avengers and Daredevil, Namor who regally defended the throne of sunken Atlantis from the likes of Attuma and Krang. Yeah, yeah. "Imperius Rex" and all that. Here, however, we offer two pages showing the one true Sub-Mariner in a different and perhaps thankfully forgotten light! This is from MARVEL MYSTERY # 89 from 1948.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
For the third Old Time Radio and Nostalgia Convention in Cincinnati (nearly twenty years ago now. Geez!), I adapted and directed a script called RESULTS INC. starring an all amateur cast. The hardest part was the special effects. We ended up tape recording endless variations on footsteps and doors opening. For gunshots, we had a box full of balloons and a paddleball paddle with a nail driven through it. We would rapidly pop the balloons and it worked fairly well. The following year, however, they brought in a pro.
Barney Beck was an absolutely delightful gentleman with a million stories and a great sense of humor. In the golden age of radio, he reportedly worked at various times on episodes of BOBBY BENSON, SUPERMAN, BOB AND RAY and THE SHADOW. Barney’s area of expertise was all but a lost art by the time we met but he took pride and delight in sharing it with all and sundry, both on a one on one basis or in groups. During the live on-stage re-creations, I sometimes just watched Barney running around his little sound effects area stage right. He knew exactly what, when, where and why and watching Barney at work was often like watching a skilled dancer. On the other hand, when he flubbed up (which was rare) he laughed louder than anyone and urged the cast to go on so as not to throw off his timing. One of the best compliments I ever received was when Barney told me after I acted in a re-creation performance that I was born 40 years too late and had missed my calling.
Barney Beck became a fixture at the Cincinnati Con for years until illness forced him to give it up. This past week, word came that Barney had died at age 86. Thanks for sharing yourself and your very special art form with all of us, sir. May your footsteps creak forever in our memories.
Monday, February 05, 2007
Not the Super Bowl ads if that's what you're expecting though. Around here, we have our own ads! Today's are from 1955 and feature Willie Mays, Mickey (CIRCUS BOY) Dolenz, POPEYE and Miracle Aid. Mark Evanier's been talking about Funny Face drinks which I loved as a child. Here's an earlier one:Miracle Aid- "If it tastes good it's a miracle." Anyway, sure looks tasty in this ad but seems to have been gone by the time I would've noticed ten years later. And finally...PIRATES!! Who says the world of fifty years ago was all that different than the one in which we find ourselves today?
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Here's a 1992 ad for a UK drink product contest featuring as unlikely pitchman Judge Dredd. By that point more than ten years old, 2000 AD's Dredd had become as iconic in Great Britain and parts of Europe as Batman and Spider-Man. Never really more than a cult figure in the US for some reason, the well-written and often amazingly and uniquely drawn (and/or painted) satirical adventures of the world's most incorruptable lawman continue unabated to this day. Special thanks to the erstwhile Klaus Kinski, Jr. ( Bruce over at Bookgasm) for pointing out this ad to me.
Saturday, February 03, 2007
Here we have yet another Tootsie Roll commercial in the form of a comic strip. If CAPTAIN TOOTSIE was, as we have stated previously, similar to CAPTAIN MARVEL, then this installment presents Dr. Narsty, the strip's bald, lab-coated equivalent to Marvel's arch-enemy, Dr. Sivana. This installment is, in fact, credited to Marvel's pappy, C. C. Beck and Rod Reed, a longtime writer for the Big Red Cheese.
Friday, February 02, 2007
Once again I come to you with an uncharacteristicly personal request. As some of you may know, my scanner blinked out quietly a couple of months back which severely limited what I can post here in regards to my actual library. Multiple attempts at fixing and/or otherwise rigging it have now led to the conclusion that we need a new scanner. Unlike some bloggers (and no offense meant to any of them), I have consistently posted at least once daily since December of 2005 in spite of illness, weather, power outages, unemployment, severe depression, and more recently sleep deprivation and overwork. Even the scanner issue hasn't stopped me but it HAS limited me to images already scanned or found on-line. So here I am, thanking all of you yet again for your continued support and asking that you consider a tip in the Paypal tip box if you like what you've seen. I don't plan on retiring the blog but I would like to get back to more substantial posts. We are still crawling out of the financial hole caused by last summer's unemployment and any help would be appreciated as always.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
I never subscribed to a comic book but these ads sure made it enticing. Here, in this early sixties one, Johnny DC points out the merits of what, at the time, were DC's TOP books and why it would be worth your while to pay for them a year in advance so they could be sent directly to your mailbox!