Thursday, January 31, 2008

Holy Bat-Phone!

By now, I'm sure you've all seen this type of thing before. Here's the Caped Crusader on the phone with a mischievous look on his face. Is he making prank calls or is he just checking to see if Alfred needs him to pick up some beer while he's out? You tell me. Fill in the words and email the picture back to me at and we'll print the best of any responses here next week!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tip the Blog

Sigh. These past two weeks have seen unexpected financial setbacks yet again and I find myself once again sheepishly having to remind readers that now would be an excellent time to hit the ol' PayPal tip box on the right if you can afford to support a little of the pop culture goodness we try to bring you every day. Thanks for all who have donated in the past. You are appreciated very much!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Random Panels of Comic Book Weirdness # 21

Late sixties SUPERMAN comics were an absolute treasure chest of weirdness! This Ross Andru panel just strikes me as wrong on so many levels. Funny...but wrong!

Boys of Steel

Here's a forthcoming book that I really can't wait to see. If you're tired of re-reading Gerard Jones' oh-so grown-up MEN OF TOMORROW for the umpteenth time, Marc Tyler Nobleman's children's book, BOYS OF STEEL, due out this summer, looks to be a good follow-up,offering the stories of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and their creation, SUPERMAN to young audiences. He made their reputations and yet in a very real way ruined their lives. While we wait for the book to come out, here's a wire service report from December of 1975. This was during the period where Neal Adams and Jerry Robinson--as detailed in Jones' book--eventually shamed Warner Communications into doing at least reasonably well by the pair. The lawsuits continue to this day, however, with a fascinating book to come on that if, in fact, they are ever really settled! You can pre-order Marc's book here: Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman: Books: Marc Tyler Nobleman,Ross Macdonald

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Badly Costumed Super Hero of the Week

During World War II, it seemed like everyone and their cousin Mort was wrapping themselves in patriotic colors and defending the Republic even if they didn't have a super-serum. Maybe that's why there was a shortage of material for good flag-based costumes. I mean, seriously...these guys, THE EAGLE and "Buddy, the Daredevil Boy" look like they're wearing thick pajamas for a costume with bath towels for capes!!

And he can't even lace his boots all the way apparently! Oh, least he doesn't have bare legs.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Coming in '65-Superman!

Here's proof that in those innocent days just prior to Batmania sweeping the nation, DC was heavily merchandising SUPERMAN in anticipation of a Supermania that never came. The 1950's George Reeves TV series continued to air in syndication, the Broadway flop was just around the corner and this ad gave a heads up as to some of the upcoming products. While said products were never amazingly popular at the time, you can undoubtedly find them today on EBay at premium prices.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Movies That Fell Through the Cracks # 35

Talk about a fascinating cast! 1977’S CRACKING UP presented a number of the folks who would later turn up in Christopher Guest’s ingenious comedies—Fred Willard, Harry Shearer, Michael McKean and Edie McClurg for example. McKean’s TV partner David L. Lander also appeared ("Squiggy" to Michael’s "Lenny."). The writing credits as well as the starring credits on this TUNNELVISION follow-up include the sketch comedy troupes Ace Trucking Company, the Credibility Gap, the Graduates(?), Neil Israel and the two main guys from The Firesign Theater, Peter Bergman and Phil Procter (who later did the subversively hilarious J-MEN FOREVER). Also in the cast were writer/actor Jim Staahl who would later host the early eighties LAUGHTRAX, the series that introduced (for better or for worse) Howie Mandel, the late Stephen Stucker who stole both AIRPLANE films effortlessly from all the old pros with lines like the unforgettable, "There’s a sale at Pennys!" and the great Fee Waybill and the Tubes, now longtime cult favorites!
Sounds fantastic! The plot seems to be something about an earthquake in California and I’m betting the whole thing is horribly disjointed and unfunny. I wouldn’t know, though, because it never even played around here and while I do recall seeing it on VHS in a store one time in the eighties, I still have never seen it. Looks like CRACKING UP fell through one of its own cracks.

Badly Costumed Super Hero of the Week

Didn't anyone tell this guy that fur was out? And bare legs again? When was that ever really a good idea for a male super hero? The waxing alone! And a tail? Seriously! Why give the bad guys something to use against you, silly? Stupid logo, too. Can't get him on trademark violation, though. This BLACK PANTHER was fighting crime in long forgotten forties comics more than two decades before T'Challa popped into King Kirby's endlessly creative mind.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Yesterday I mentioned Mae West's SEXTETTE in passing. Here's a VARIETY ad for that film prior to its pretty-much-never-happened wide release. Its very existence pegs it as an odd bird. Mae West, herself, is an odd bird and looks like one here...complete with plummage!

Mae West began her career onstage and later in a series of pre-code films that were fairly open (for their day) about one particular subject: S-E-X. She insisted on writing her own lines and doing things her way and she was granted these things at a time when women mostly were not. The early Mae West is a true pioneer of both feminism and the sexual revolution.
Ms. West was allegedly banned (and banned from even being mentioned!) on radio do to a now quaint Adam and Eve sketch with the great Don Ameche. There was no way she would have been allowed on early television (although there is one MISTER ED episode...don't ask!). By the sixties, she was revered by film buffs as a unique star as well as a harbinger of sixties permissiveness. The problem was that she was still around.
In 1969, it became a bit of a joke that the aged West chose to make a belated return to film in, of all things, Gore Vidal's X-rated sex-change satire MYRA BRECKINRIDGE. As ever, West insisted on doing things her way, not caring particularly what her young director or co-stars had to say about it. This led to a well-publicised feud with star Raquel Welch. The end result is a sad, psychedelic mish-mash of a film. The 76 year old legend oddly comes off best and yet seems to have been inserted from a different picture entirely. After the hype settled, (said hype including an album by West!), MYRA came to be looked at as a bizarre coda to a unique career. That is...until SEXTETTE.
In 1978, now 85 years old, Mae was sewn into yet another skin-tight outfit with outrageous headgear and somebody convinced her that it would be a good idea to make SEXTETTE, ostensibly an adaptation of her controversial 1930's stage play, SEX. Although I question how this ever could have seemed like a good idea, in execution it is a veritable pile up of train wrecks.

A young, handsome and pre-007 Timothy Dalton co-stars as West's character's new husband who is unable to consummate his marriage because all of her previous husbands and lovers keep showing up. The episodic farce that follows features an eclectic cast including Keith Moon, Alice Cooper, Dom Deluise, George Hamilton, Tony Curtis, George Raft and Ringo! And Regis Philbin, too!! It's all very campy and self-indulgent but, as vanity projects go, admittedly well-made. It was, in fact, directed by Ken Hughes who had previously directed, among many others, the film I saw on my first date--CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG. It scores big in the so-bad-its-good department, however, because no matter what you do, its hard to get past the sad spectacle of Mae West herself.
Note the hype in this ad and how easily much of it could have been--and probably was--taken out of context. Dick Cavett interviewed Mae on a television special around this same time and, as herself, she still had it. SEXTETTE, rather than being the crowning jewel to her career, took over the "bizarre coda" slot and made MYRA BRECKINRIDGE look pretty darn good after all.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Black and White Nights

From the department of "Nostalgia isn't what it used to be," here's a piece I wrote back in 1986:

It was probably 1965. My memories of life up to that point consist of black and white photographs with scalloped edges. I remember my grandmother’s white hair and black dress, Superman in a gray costume, the Beatles in black, collarless suits with their four black moptops and white winter snow covering everything in oh so black nights.
The Beatles. The Fab Four. In my mind those four black and white Beatles are not the same as the ones who would emerge after that. While there was no single moment of transition, the second half of the 1960’s was most definitely in color…psychedelic color in fact. I remember school in colors—comic books, record albums and action figures, too. In essence, my childhood from age six.
Television was almost completely in color by the time we were able to watch it in 1968. I’ve seen so many pre-’68 shows in color since then that I "remember" them in color even though I originally saw them in black and white. Most movies were also in color by that same period with black and white becoming a novelty. Black and white became rare…and therefore precious.
I recall real life from 1966, too, in bright, vibrant colors that logic tells me could never really have existed. Indescribably blue skies and golden mornings—all of which I lived through and yet none of which passed in quite the way I recall.
In the beginning of MGM’s WIZARD OF OZ, Dorothy lives in a black and white world but longs for the beautiful, colorful world she knows just has to exist somewhere over the rainbow. The fact that she even knows what a rainbow is indicates that her world was never really as dull as she believed it to be.When she reaches her goal, her objective immediately becomes to return to her "simpler" life. It seems impossible but she perseveres and finally does return. A sad psychological case, perhaps, but an interesting metaphor for nostalgia.
Elvis Costello wrote, "There’ll never be days like that again…" In fact, there never were…but there are now.

Happy Linda Blair's Birthday!

Tomorrow, January 22nd, is the birthday of one of our favorites here at the Library, Ms. Linda Blair. Humanitarian, horsewoman and cult favorite Academy Award nominated actress, she has been a public figure for 35 years now and we here have followed her career ever since. Thus today we offer a couple of rarely seen shots of our heroine circa 1974. Happy birthday, Linda and thanks again for all the good you do for our animal friends. Here is the Home page of Linda Blair's WorldHeart Foundation.

The Kings of Silent Comedy

In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s the Ohio Valley Chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society showed classic films on the giant screen of downtown Cincinnati’s long vacant EMERY THEATRE. As a budding film buff I was delighted to spend many a weekend there in the company of Cary Grant, Fred Astaire, Orson Welles, William Powell and Myrna Loy, the Marx Brothers, Jean Harlow and Katherine Hepburn. For eleven days in 1979, however, I was given the rare opportunity to immerse myself in silent comedies!
Raymond Rohauer was a much-maligned businessman who helped Buster Keaton rescue and exploit his classic film catalog (many of which had been believed lost!) in the early sixties. By the late seventies, it’s clear he was continuing to do the same thing with other silent films. I’m not certain if this particular program was a travelling exhibition or just something arranged for the Emery but I do know I was there as often as I could be!
For the most part the prints were the best of the best and all were projected at the right speed as opposed to the too-fast mode often granted silent films! The photoplays themselves were a combination of classics and rarities. Chaplin appears, of course, but the show wisely emphasizes the OTHER stars of the day instead of lionizing the little tramp at their expense as was so often done when discussing silent comedy in those days. If anyone can be said to take center stage it’s the great Keaton, represented every single evening and by films from THE GENERAL and STEAMBOAT BILL, JR to a short with his mentor, Fatty Arbuckle.
Harold Lloyd appears frequently in both his glasses character and his pre-glasses character. Baby-faced Harry Langdon gets a good representation, too, including LONG PANTS and THE STRONG MAN, both early Frank Capra films! Along the way we also were treated to a bit of Mabel Normand, Ben Turpin, W.C. Fields and even TILLIE’S PUNCTURED ROMANCE, Mack Sennett’s 1914 comedic melodrama with the great Marie Dressler (and co-starring Charlie Chaplin as the villain!).
Note that the films all featured live accompaniment from theatre organ legends Lee Erwin and Bubbles Libbin. Both were regulars at the Emery for silent features. The advertised special midnight showings for the weekend were Mae West’s then-new SEXTETTE (a horrible modern comedy with Timothy Dalton, Keith Moon and Alice Cooper) and a totally out-of-place showing of Lon Chaney’s PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.
All in all, a delightful time was had by 20 year old me and I came away with a whole new love and respect for silent comedy which led to us picking up a number of books on the subject over the years including this fairly comprehensive encyclopedic reference, A-Z OF SILENT FILM COMEDY-AN ILLUSTRATED COMPNION.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Jerry Lewis, Neal Adams and Henry Boltinoff

Here's an unusual hybrid ad from late in the run of DC's ADVENTURES OF JERRY LEWIS comic. This one combines the ad itself (featuring the current issue's Neal Adams-drawn cover) with one of the ubiquitous Henry Boltinoff gag strips that ran for nearly thirty years in DC comics.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Mother, Jugs and Speed

One of my all-time LEAST favorite movies is MOTHER, JUGS AND SPEED, an alleged black comedy with a bunch of talented folks on both sides of the screen going about everything all wrong (IMHO). Judging by the comments on IMDB, I seem to be in a minority but I really disliked this 1976 movie. Supposedly designed in the vein of M*A*S*H, the episodic story deals with a private ambulance service but takes a wide turn from comedy to brutal drama and never looks back. The impressive cast includes Bill Cosby as "Mother" Tucker (get it?), Raquel Welch rather obviously cast as "Jugs" and bizarrely enough, Harvey Keitel as "Speed!" Perhaps even more bizarrely, Keitel comes off best in this early, uncharacteristic role. A post-JEANNIE but pre-DALLAS Larry Hagman has a genuinely disturbing scene in which his character rapes an unconscious young woman. Ugh! The eclectic supporting cast includes Second City vet Severn Darden, GET CRAZY’s Bill Henderson and Allen Garfield, the ever-sleazy L Q Jones and Bruce (WILLARD) Davison.

The whole bloody (literally in some cases) mess came from the mind of screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz who wrote two of my favorite James Bond films (LIVE AND LET DIE and DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER), contributed to the first two SUPERMAN films with Christopher Reeve and created TV’s HART TO HART (which starred favorite Stefanie Powers!). Directing this misfire was Peter Yates whose credits include the Steve McQueen classic BULLIT and the Oscar-winning BREAKING AWAY.

Incredibly, there was an attempt at a TV sitcom pilot (with an extra "g" added in "Juggs" for no apparent reason) two years later starring Ray Vitte, an actor later killed, according to IMDB, in a scuffle with police, in the Cosby role.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Random Panels of Comic Book weirdness # 19

Okay, the premise here is that Superman's dead, see? And somehow his body parts have been transplanted into these lackluster (and badly costumed I might add) bad guys with the "cool" name of...the Big Four! This Ross Andru (with Mike Esposito?) panel from a late sixties WORLD'S FINEST shows the guy with Supes' lungs, the guy who got his eyes, the crook with his hands (Aside-My wife's father was a doctor who worked on the first successful hand transplant operation in 1965!) and also...the bad guy who had an ear transplant? Are there such things as ear transplants? If so, how do they work? Could he really get Kal's super-hearing from that? And if he did, wouldn't the other guys still make merciless fun of him? Be kinda like when BLACKHAWK's Chuck became "The Listener" and wore pajamas with little ears all over 'em. Lame.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Robin and Superboy

I'm sorry but I'm a sucker for these cool old house ads. Today's comes from the period when Robin, the Boy Wonder was headling a (more-or-less) solo series in STAR SPANGLED COMICS and the very young SUPERBOY stories were appearing in ADVENTURE COMICS.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Frazetta Red Cross Ad

Here's another scan where I've sadly forgotten the original 1950's appearance. Frank Frazetta ostensibly draws cowboy Buster Crabbe (FLASH GORDON) teaching then-new life-saving methods for the Red Cross. Is it me, though, or does the whole thing have a bit of a homoerotic feel to it? Quite frankly, I've seen better renditions of Buster by the great Frazetta, also.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Badly Costumed Super Hero of the Week

Ya miss a couple days blogging and before you know it, it's that time again. Actually, I'm thinking of changing the name of this feature to "Barely Costumed Super Hero of the Week" as these guys sometimes show an awful lot of skin. This guy, for example, is the Banshee from 1942'sV COMICS. I don't see any seams in that "costume" and the hands look naked...only blue. You'll note that there's never a really revealing shot so it's entirely possible this nutcase simply painted himself blue and rather badly wrapped a couple scarfs around him and "Voila!" Actually the "scarfs" seem like smoke a little in the first panel but not elsewhere. I'm thinking they're just the worst face covering since the Shadow's!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Swell Comics For Our Troops

Here's an interesting World War II era ad from Harvey comics touting the popularity of their comics with the armed forces. I wonder, however, why they bothered to put "limited editions" on the ad. Comics rarely went back to press in those days so, even though they often had huge print runs (in spite of paper shortages) weren't they ALL really limited editions?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Badly Costumed Super Hero of the Week

Lest you think that only Golden Age heroes had costumes only Mr. Blackwell could love, here's the current version of the venerable BLUE BEETLE. Okay, so it's actually supposed to look like a beetle this time around. I get that. I don't really see a great need for it but I get it. Imagine having to DRAW this guy consistently from panel to panel though! He's almost as complicated looking as IRON MAN! The original versions of BB may have been pretty non-descript and, let's face it, Ditko's cool sixties version really was just a Spidey redo but this guy? Hope therapy for the artists is covered by DC's contracts.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me

Never have been too big on birthdays, particularly as the years begin to just soar by but tomorrow Richard Nixon and I share yet another one (my 49th). At least I'm doing better than he is these days! Looks like I'll share with CAPTAIN TOOTSIE this year, also. Of course, there's also friend Rose whose shirt...well...speaks for itself.

My First Elvis Movie

Elvis Presley would have been 73 years old today. I find it hard to imagine what he’d be doing today if he had lived because I find it difficult to envision an Elvis who could’ve beaten his demons. I don’t remember the first time I saw or heard of Elvis on television or radio. It seems as if, in my lifetime, he has always been the iconic demi-god of rock and roll. By the mid-sixties, however, his actual career had followed the paths of Danny Kaye, Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis, resulting in tailor-made motion picture vehicles of which the star himself was often the only redeeming quality. Unlike those gentlemen, though, Elvis didn’t do TV specials or live performances any more. Just fan-pleasing movies. I remember the first one I saw and it’s still my favorite (in spite of nearly universal pans on IMDB). DOUBLE TROUBLE was a 1967 spy spoof (one of about 800 that year alone! Spies were hot in the mid-sixties) in which Elvis was a musician traveling abroad and pursued by both a worldly villainess and a 17 year old ingenue. I was playing with my friend Timmy at his house one Sunday afternoon. Actually, we were reading coverless JIMMY OLSEN comics on his front porch. Suddenly, his mom comes out and suggests we go to the Liberty Theater to see the new Elvis movie. A quick call to my mom and it was a done deal. We took the bus down eleven blocks to the theater and went in in the middle of the movie. In those pre-STAR WARS days you could do that. Then we simply sat and enjoyed it until we got to the part where we came in. A year or so later, when I got my first LP record player, I actually talked my parents into buying the soundtrack album in spite of its extravagant $3.98 pricetag. The picture seen above was a free insert in the album. Happy Birthday, Elvis and thanks for the entertainment!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Random Panels of Comic Book Weirdness # 18

Been reading quite a bit of the pre-New Look BATMAN comics lately. Here's a 1951 DETECTIVE COMICS panel in which Bruce apparently comes to the realization that his old enemy the Penguin is having a sex-change operation. Dick seems confused by this.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Interview Interviews Linda Blair-1977

Liz Derringer was a high-profile celebrity interviewer in the seventies/eighties, probably best known for her HIGH TIMES pieces. Here, courtesy of ace researcher DEREK Tague, is a photocopy of Ms. D's brief but informative 1977 interview with our favorite, Linda Blair, from Andy Warhol's tabloid-sized magazine, INTERVIEW.

In the piece, Linda, promoting EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC, also discusses her family, her horses, Richard Burton and Liz Taylor and perhaps most interestingly to the gossip-minded, her prior relationships with Steve Tyler and actor Helmut Berger. Note that Linda would have just turned 18 in late January of 1977 and that this article was published in the February issue that year. She was still about five years away from posing naked for OUI Magazine.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

DC Means the Best in Westerns

Or at least it did during that shadowy period around the end of the Golden Age and before the official beginning of the Silver Age.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Movies That Fell Through the Cacks # 34

Ed Asner is, of course, a now-legendary character lead on television but his major roles in feature films have been few and far between. This one, however, appearing as it did just around the time the award-winning LOU GRANT was ending its original run, should have been at least a minor hit. Instead, I'm betting most of you never heard of it. O'HARA'S WIFE is a sort of modern version of the classic TOPPER-style ghost story. In this case, O'Hara's wife (duh) has died but that doesn't stop her (Mariette Hartley) from appearing and interfering in his relationship with his kids. One of the kids, in fact, is played by Jodie Foster which, in and of itself should raise this above a footnote but...Note that this ad is for a special showing for Academy consideration. They obviously had hopes. I doubt that it had a wide release at all.

Directed and co-written by a William Bartman (NOT Bart Simpson!) as his only feature film credit, other TV favorites like Tom Bosley and Ray Walston appear but the film never really managed to get itself noticed.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Challengers Ad

I have been just amazingly enjoying the new BRAVE AND THE BOLD series by Mark Waid (the true keeper of the silver age flame) and the ever amazing George Perez. One of the many highlights is the best-in-decades portrayal of Jack Kirby's CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN. Here's an ad for the Challs first getting their own mag way back when.