Sunday, September 27, 2009
We start off this year's Mighty Marvel Monsterbash a few days early this year with this post spotlighting one of the best vampires ever to grace a comic page: HELLCOW!
Hellcow first appeared in Giant-Sized Man-Thing #5 from 1975....and the rest is history. I guess...
Above: Hellcow bio (click to enlarge)
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
In 1931, Looney Tunes director Bob Clampett approached Edgar Rice Burroughs to adapt A Princess of Mars into a feature length film. Burroughs responded enthusiastically to the idea, recognizing live action would have limited where an adaptation could go visually, but advised Clampett to write an original adventure for Carter. Working with Burroughs' son John Coleman in 1935, Clampett used rotoscope and hand-drawn techniques to capture the action, tracing over the motions of an athlete who performed John Carter's powerful movements in the reduced Martian gravity. Clampett designed Tharks, the Green Martians of Barsoom, which he attempted to give a believable appearance, and produced footage of them riding eight-legged thoats at a gallop, which showed all eight legs in coordinated motion. He also produced footage of a fleet of rocket ships emerging from a Martian volcano. MGM was to release the cartoons, and studio heads were enthusiastic about the series.
Unfortunately, the footage received negative reactions from exhibitors across the US, especially in small towns, many of whom opined that the concept of an Earthman on Mars was too outlandish for Midwest American audiences. The series was not given the go-ahead, and Clampett was instead encouraged to produce an animated Tarzan series, an offer which he later declined. Clampett mused that there was irony in MGM's decision, as the Flash Gordon series released in 1936 by Universal Studios was highly successful, and speculated that MGM thought that serials were only played to children during Saturday Matinees, and the John Carter tales would be seen by adults during the evening. The footage Clampett produced was for many years believed lost until Burroughs' grandson, Danton Burroughs, found some of the film tests in the Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. archives in the early 1970s. Had A Princess of Mars been released, it would have beaten Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to become the first American feature-length animated film by five years.
John Carter of Mars test (1935) mpeg
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Y'know what I really love to do when I'm terribly depressed and blue? It involves comics...and, well....I'm an odd guy.
One thing I love to do, and trust me, it's hilarious even if it might be considered blasphemous, is go to my local comic shop and pull out four or five issues of The Incredible Hulk, circa 1970s, out of their quarter boxes (because condition doesn't really matter), read 'em...and while reading them, take an ink pen and magic marker and replace the word "Hulk" with "Jesus" wherever it might appear, and draw a little beard on the Hulk. Then, go back and read it again.
This exercise is priceless, I assure you. Try it sometime.
The other is go to whatever public retail venue that might be near that sells comic books that isn't a comic shop (the grocery store, Wal-Mart, gas station) and buy an Archie comic book. This is actually quite a chore, because if you haven't noticed, comics have lost their foothold on the American newsstand, and Archie Comics is one of the few left that's actually stuck it out and is still hanging in there.
Now, I do this because Archie Andrews and his world of Riverdale is comfort food for the fanboy. Over the last nearly 70 years of publication, Archie and the gang have stayed stagnant. Nothing really changes for them except clothing styles and slang. No matter how hectic your life has become, or what troubles you may be facing, the Riverdale kids and their supporting cast remain the same. Sure, within the last few years, Archie Comics has begun experimenting with concepts that seem completely foreign to them, yet common place with all other publishers...i.e., continuing storylines, cross-overs, and the occasional change of pace from the Archie "house" art style....an art style that was pretty much defined by one man in the late 1960s: the late Dan DeCarlo...but pretty much things are how they've always been in Riverdale. And, I find that comforting and endearing...it's nice to go someplace where (much like the fictional bar "Cheers") everybody does know your name...and they're happy to see you again...just like the last time you were around. It's the comic book fan's equivalent to going back home again...
So, to celebrate the works of DeCarlo, I figured I'd dig deep and drag out some really obscure stuff...
Homer the Happy Ghost, as you can probably already tell, was Atlas/Timely/Marvel's none-to-subtly veiled rip-off of the incredibly successful Harvey Comics "Casper the Friendly Ghost" property, which was written by Stan Lee and illustrated by DeCarlo in the 1950s. In 1970, Marvel decided to revive the series, which was basically reprints of the 50s material that lasted around 5 issues...
Homer the Happy Ghost was published by Atlas Comics in the 1950s. His first issue was dated March 1955. All of the issues were written by Stan Lee and Dan DeCarlo. The title lasted until 1958.
Willie Lumpkin, has a much more amazing tale, as told again by Wikipedia:
The character was originally created for a syndicated, daily comic strip by writer Stan Lee and artist Dan DeCarlo. Lee had initially submitted samples of a strip about a New York City beat cop, but was told by his editor that it was too "big city-ish" and that he wanted a friendly mailman to better appeal to mainstream America. Willie Lumpkin, which was only published in 1960, drew humor from the people and situations Willie Lumpkin would encounter along his mail delivery route in the small town of "Glenville."
Lee and artist Jack Kirby then introduced their comic book version of Willie Lumpkin in Fantastic Four #11 (February, 1963). The comic book Lumpkin is depicted as significantly older than in the comic strip, though the character's good nature was retained, as were references to his past as a mailman in Glenville, which the comic book located in Nebraska.
In his first comic book appearance, Lumpkin is represented as having befriended the Fantastic Four, to whom he makes regular fan mail deliveries at their Baxter Building headquarters in New York City. He half-jokingly requests to join the team on the grounds that he has the "power" to wiggle his ears. He serves as their mailman for many years, and on occasion falls into the zone of danger that typically surrounds the adventuring heroes. Examples include a story in which he is forced to spend Christmas Eve locked in a closet while the Fantastic Four fight the Super-Skrull, when he helped to save the team from the Mad Thinker, or when he is mind-controlled into accessing Doctor Doom's time machine by a minion of Immortus. An alien Skrull also impersonates him in another story to infiltrate the Fantastic Four's headquarters. Willie Lumpkin also crossed over into Spider-Man comics, where he briefly dates Spider-Man's Aunt May.
Willie Lumpkin appeared in his own solo feature in Marvel Comics Presents #18 (May, 1989). The fan-favorite story was a parody of A Christmas Carol in which Lumpkin is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past, who had intended to haunt cantankerous Spider-Man nemesis J. Jonah Jameson but couldn't find his address. The story concludes with the normally amiable postman deciding that he hates Christmas.
Above: Willy's niece- Wilhemina "Billie" Lumpkin
Willie appears in Fantastic Four #543, being interviewed about the FF on the news show 'Lateline'. He talks about how, though the group took on cosmic menaces, they always found time to greet him.
In a lovely little bit of comic book geek fan service, none other than Lumpkin co-creator, Stan Lee, portrayed the mightiest mail carrier of the Marvel Universe in the 2005 Fantastic Four film...
Homer the Happy Ghost #1 (1970) CBR file
Willy Lumpkin CBR file..
Thursday, September 3, 2009
I love Snuffy Smith....it comes from the fact that I grew up in a rural farmland region, and have been tagged with the label "hillbilly" in the past. Regardless of the fact that I'm a college graduate with three degrees, the first reaction I get from folks when they discover the area that I grew up in is that one of ,"Oh.....you're from the sticks....." and immediately they seem to pass judgment on my educational background and intelligence. I soooo love the moment that tends to happen later when they realize they're fuckin' with someone who's probably smarter than them, and possesses a quick wit and a wise-acre smart mouth, to boot. I tend to cut people like that to ribbons verbally, showing no mercy or remorse for their feelings.
It's the little things that bring me joy....
Anyways...I love so-called cornball hillbilly humor. Not so much the current variety that has peaked in popularity (the whole Blue Collar Comedy Tour can kiss my ass with their collective unfunny lips), but the old school stuff.....Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, Li'l Abner (Al Capp was a genius), Lum n' Abner on the radio, The Beverly Hillbillies and The Dukes of Hazzard on the movin' picture box and such....I just find the stuff endearing. So sue me.
Private Snuffy Smith is a 1942 American film directed by Edward F. Cline and starring Bud Duncan as Snuffy Smith.
Snuffy Smith has been for many years the predominant character in the syndicated newspaper comic strip Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, created by Billy DeBeck and later drawn by Fred Lasswell from 1942 until 2001 (when Laswell died). The strip is currently drawn by John Rose.
Snuffy is a stereotypical hillbilly. He lives in a shack, makes moonshine, is in constant trouble with the sheriff and is very shiftless, occasionally doing a small amount of farm work but primarily working his still and loafing. He also has some proclivity toward stealing chickens, which led to a brief but effective use of his character in a marketing campaign by the Tyson Foods corporation in the early 1980s.
He is very short, wears a broad-brimmed felt hat almost as tall as he is, has a scraggly mustache and wears a pair of tattered, poorly patched overalls. He constantly cheats at poker and checkers. His speech is ungrammatical in the extreme. In fact, almost all of the characters in the strip (except of course for the occasional visiting "flatlander") have been stereotypical hillbillies – sharp-tongued gossipy women such as his wife Loweezy (Louisa); his baby Tater; his nephew Jughaid (Jughead); his neighbors Elviney and Lukey (Lucas Ebenezer); the sanctimonious (but nonetheless ungrammatical) Parson; Silas, the owner of the General Store; the ostentatiously badged Sheriff Tait and others. Vehicles were rundown jalopies of a seeming 1920s vintage, even in the 1970s and beyond.