Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Looking back, comic books had less of an impact towards my fascination of science fiction than my reading material of today would indicate. It was traditional literature that kick-started my fascination with science fiction. Television and film certainly had an influence (2001 blew me away) but the parents were big on books and encouraged reading. One old folk tale in particular had a huge impact on me.
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury was one of the first books I can recall reading that really got me interested in Science Fiction. The late 60s and early 70s were a boom time for publishers as they filled racks with inexpensive content collected from the pulps of decades past. A new generation of readers, particularly college kids, were exposed to authors, their ideas and work that had not been available since they were first published years prior in the Pulp and SF magazines. Much of the work was actually simplistic, cliched and reflected the era and market in which they were written, but fancy new pop-art covers helped sales and the wonderfully archaic stories seemed prescient in their descriptions of Utopian and Dystopian futures. But I didn't know all that and didn't care. I just thought it was cool there was so much "new" SF on the market.
I voraciously read any SF book I could find at the local library. Many of the books I found were old cloth-covered volumes from the 1940s and 10950s that in the early 1970s were still on library shelves, held in some sort of stasis waiting for a reader to thaw them out. Back before computerized systems library books were tracked by a card in an envelope found on the inside front cover. This card was stamped in ink letting the borrower know when it was due back. I often checked out a book based on how long it had been languishing on a shelf and enjoyed being the one who discovered a story that hadn't been read in twenty years.
Eventually the need for more input led to a more intense appreciation of television and film. Star Trek (in syndication at the time) was watched not because I thought it particularly brilliant or even good but because any science fiction was better than none at all. The same reasoning applied to the Irwin Allen shows that were were never missed, though their campy stories were often disappointing. The old monster, horror and SF movies on Los Angeles channel 5 and San Diego channel 6 always had me tuned in. Johnny Quest was the best science fiction-based cartoon ever.
But there is one comic book story that had turned me toward science fiction more than any other and was always remembered of fondly. That story was Journey to the Sun and it appeared in an anthology of funny animal tales published by Gold Key comics in 1970. From a notice on the title page of the story, Journey to the Sun was presumably originally published somewhere by the Whitman company sometime around 1961, though I can find no information for it actually being published anywhere prior to 1970. It may have been a "trunk" story, printed as educational school material or existed in some other form. Golden Comics Digest #12 could even be the first printing of the story. It is possible. The story is an odd inclusion along side the other tales of ducks, rabbits and boxing roosters.
Journey to the Sun was a tale about a scientific expedition to the center of the solar system. The story is of situational drama common to the the early Silver Age after the Comics Code Authority throttled most over-the-top creativity. During the trip to the Sun disaster strikes the expedition multiple times, threatening the mission. It is only through creative ingenuity and teamwork that the lives of the crew is spared and the mission is accomplished. Yet in spite of the questionable science, outdated characterization and educational message the story had me enthralled. A crew was sent into space on a trip to the Sun not to save the Earth from a supernova or keep Mercury from crashing into Venus thereby destabilizing planetary orbits but rather to get a close up look at the Sun and report home! Nothing but science! For a kid raised on the NASA missions it was a fascinating and fun story that I never forgot. When I saw that comic book digest on a rack with other periodicals at a local supermarket I had to have it, just because of the space station on the cover.
Interestingly the story contains one of the odd conceits of speculative space travel of the 1950s, that trips into the cosmos would be undertaken by the Average Joe. From a generation that grew up in a war time environment creators often applied what they new of group dynamics to their work. Often that dynamic reflected their military experience from World War Two and Korea. Space ship crews were often depicted as being similar to that of a military squadron common to the Army or Navy. An officer or two would lead the ship and the crew consisted of grunts who were supposedly highly-trained astronauts who nonetheless performed menial tasks that would be familiar to any camp-dweller and even pulled a form of KP when they misbehaved. This parallel can be observed in its most popular form in the 1956 film Forbidden Planet.
Journey to the Sun is uncredited and I have no idea who wrote, inked or colored the story and I am unable to locate much information concerning its publishing history. Since a lot of early comic book work was considered disposable (even by the creative teams) and many works remain unidentified it is possible that only the creators or their families will be able to fill in the blanks at this point. While my eye for identifying creators is not as good as it once was the panel layouts and style are familiar. As far as I can tell the pencil art in Journey to the Sun was accomplished by comic book and newspaper strip veteran Lee Elias but it could have been done by Milton Caniff or even Jim Aparo for all I know. Many of the panels appear to contain the work of different styles, particularly the facial expressions, though this could be the work of the inker. The similarities and differences to Elias' style can be seen in the example panels from All Star Comics and JttS. If someone could help confirm the artist or artists that would be groovy.
Golden Comics Digest #12 is one of those things from my childhood that I always keep an eye out for. Now that I am in the nostalgic phase of my life I managed to find a good copy and purchased it for myself. The story is exactly as I remember it and is a nice representation of the kind of tale that populated comic books of the era. It is a bit more realistic in execution than the other science fiction-oriented situational dramas like Space Museum that appeared in the DC anthology.
So enjoy a piece of my childhood and read Journey to the Sun from Golden Comics Digest #12 (August 1970). It is a slideshow, but a reader can make it larger and view individual pages at full size by clicking on the links.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Here is a little arts and crafts project for all you fashion-conscious gals!
Click the picture to print and create your own ethnocentric personal rainbow! Show your work.
Hi-School Romance #11 (October 1951).
1) What was the name of the science fiction film that featured a couple of hostile aliens found on the moon, one of which looked like a drag-strip racing timing light and the other a floating leathery sphere that ate astronauts?
OK! Found it! Mission Mars (1968).
2) What was the comic strip in Boy's Life magazine (I'm confident the strip is not The Tripods or Space Conquerors) that featured a stranded astronaut and his savage companion?
Ok! It was a version of Al Stenzel's Space Conquerors. Long-running series that changed over the decades. The one I was familiar with featured Kurt and Primo as the astronaut and the native, respectively.
3) Was that really Patrick Swazye dancing in the Stevie Nicks Stand Back video?
4) What issue of an adult magazine is this from?
5) What old comic book is it that has on the cover two hillbillies carrying a pig between them?
Answer: Red Seal #16.
6) What Uncle Scrooge story had him putting all his money in a rolling bank vault so the Beagle Boys couldn't steal it?
7) Who wrote and drew Journey to the Sun?
Answer: I thought it was Lee Elias but this commenter is reporting it to be Ray Bailey.
8) What ad featuring Kelly Brock did this image originate from?
9) What does the design on Kono's jacket mean?
Ok! I'm hearing it was an apology from the artist over some work he used as inspiration.
10) Who is the cartoonist who drew Otto Look?
11) Looking for an original item or good photo/scan of a 1980s t shirt design "The Assassination of Garfield the Cat". If you see it you'll know it.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Other than The Land of The Lost I failed to enjoy a lot of the Krofft television programs mainly due to my age. I was just a bit too old for most of them and the stories were really aimed at an audience several years before my time. My sister, being younger, loved nearly every show they made and the tube was usually reserved for her on Saturday mornings. One show she enjoyed more than I was H. R. Pufnstuf.
While Sid & Marty have always denied the show was one big drug reference (except for the occasional joke) it really did come out as nothing more than an acid trip for kiddies. Each week the Brothers Krofft would take you on a magic carpet ride that alternated between groovy, psychedelic delight and the unbridled terror of a bad flashback. The setting of the show was in a fantastic place called Living Island, where everything was alive, intelligent and anthropomorphic. The rocks, trees, houses, air and in fact any object you could imagine were all animate, awkwardly staggering and shuffling around the landscape. The citizens of the island displayed irredeemably evil or benevolent traits, presumably depending on the quality of the trip the production crew were having that day.
Performer and child star Jack Wild played Jimmy, a boy marooned on the island through the machinations of an evil witch. Each week Jimmy would attempt to escape the island with his friend Freddy, a magic, talking flute coveted by the witch. Jack was was the star of the show and he could sing and dance up a storm. There are a few tunes he performed that I can still remember and they rise to the surface every now and then like the songs from School House Rock are wont to do. While Jack looked okay to me then, another examination by my adult eyes reveals the harsh toll being a child star can be. In many scenes he does not look all that well and often appeared exhausted.
In the episode Book, Flute & Candle (Originally broadcast November 15, 1969) Jimmy is running from the witch after an attack on the peaceful settlement tended by Mayor Pufnstuf (a dragon whose name may have been inspired by the Peter, Paul and Mary tune Puff the Magic Dragon). Lost in the dark forest with the magic flute, Jimmy is attacked by the living trees and mushrooms that serve the witch.
The forest scene from that episode embedded here is pure nightmare fuel the terrifying World of Sid & Marty Lovekrofft. The pitiful, mournful cries for assistance by one of the victims is horrifying. Book, Flute & Candle is a perfect example of a show geared toward children that make you wonder what the producers were thinking. I can't imagine any child of 1969 that didn't scream themselves awake for a month after seeing this.
Decades have passed and my sister still won't knowingly eat mushrooms.
Angela Davis from the cover of International Times #132 (May 1972). Artist unknown.
This is a cool graphic from an old UK magazine that I cleaned up a bit to remove the streaks and whatnot though I kept the color scheme. Since the image is so amazingly cool, I expect this graphic or a similar knock-off to start showing up on the racks in those nationwide t-shirt and novelty crap emporiums in about a week to be worn by the same type of person (albeit female) who wear those Che Guevara shirts without knowing or understanding what the imagery symbolizes.
Before you give that store at the mall any of your money read up a bit about Angela.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
The Big Bang Theory is one of my favorite "fish out of water" shows. The nerdy, strange character of Sheldon has quickly become the primary focus of the show as each episode spotlights his increasingly bizarre behavior.
I don't know how long the stories can continue by spending all their time on Sheldon as his actions can get annoying very fast. Each episode tries to top the previous one in strange personality quirks, but he is clearly the stand out character of the group. The writers are on something of a roll so lets see how long it lasts.
One of the pluses of the show is the "Sam and Diane" situation was dealt with fairly quickly between the very distracting Penny and hapless Leonard (who as an adult still has not accepted his innate outcastiness). I usually find something to laugh at in every episode.
But geek humor can be infuriating, particularly when the writers get it wrong or wield it with sledgehammer subtlety. I can't help but think if Sheldon Cooper was a true comic book fan he would be wearing a TRITTSYC t-shirt. I was this close to having one made and sending it to the producers in the hope that the actor would wear it in an episode but I realized I wasn't hopeless and insane and stopped myself.
Also I don't know his size.
"OH, CRAP!"I was right. Within a year Ferrell's name was being thrown about with increasing frequency as a possible lead in a Land of the Lost film. One argument for why Ferrell would be "great" for the role of Will Marshall was because he had curly hair like Spencer Millligan! What?
"He's going to be in the movie. Oh, no. Oh, crap. This is bad."
I have speculated that even back then the MW&H name-dropping was not a coincidence and Ferrell likely had an idea that he would have been attached to a future project based on the television show. If that was not the case and it was just a humorous happenstance, then millions of dollars have been invested and an entire motion picture franchise owes its existence to an obscure throw-away joke from a film about profane weed-smokers.
There are less compelling and auspicious reasons to bring a film to the screen and attach a star to a project, I'm sure, but I'd be hard-pressed to fund one. My problems with the idea of the film stems from being a fan of the SF elements of the television show who would like to see the source material go in another direction. I don't want to see an expanded children's show, which is what it appears the Ferrell version will be leaning towards. Land of the Lost is going to be a family film and by all accounts the story will pretty much parallel the recent Journey to the Center of the Earth. Imagine instead if the source material was treated as a cross between Alien and Jurassic Park? That's at least ten years of good franchise money right there.
I hope the film does well and isn't going to be as bad as I think it will be but Ferrell's involvement and the tailoring of the subject material to meet his wacky comedic style does not bode well for an enduring franchise.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Even if Will Farrell wasn't attached to the Land of the Lost film I expect it to be mediocre at best. All the clue you need is in this publicity still that was released to show, presumably, how kewl an army of Sleestak are.
But I dread this scene by what it represents in the story and it is probably typical of the type of situational gags that will permeate the entire film. From this one photo I can predict with confidence the scene will go something like this:
The New Three Stooges (Disco Stu, Dumbass and Cutie) will be exploring some sort of temple when they are menaced by a gaggle of Sleestak. Frightened, they turn away and head for an exit only to be confronted by another group of hissing creatures. At this point Ferrell will probably make a noise similar to one made by either Curly or Lou Costello when frightened and the trio will turn as one and head in a third direction. The scene gag ends when MW&H meet the Boss Sleestak or some long-lost guy pretending to be the Sleestak God or something.Ugh.
I'm only speculating but that particular gag will be done at least twice and possibly three times including the reveal of the antagonist, but due to time constraints probably won't be pushed to four times. The villain will inevitably have to appear just then to stop the Sleestaks from tearing MW&H to chewy bits. Interestingly, if the gag was pushed to five times then it might actually be a funny bit, since the group of explorers would be so scared they would attempt to flee through an exit they had already tried.
If I want "funny" Land of the Lost, I'll watch Bubble Boy.
Thanks to the sick feeling of doom I'm experiencing from reading all the Land of the Lost movie news, S&M has been in my mind more than usual of late. I've been thinking about the Sid & Marty Krofft characters all day. I hated that one show about the sea monsters because it was stupid and featured the annoying Johnny Winters. My sister liked it, but looking at it in adult terms it becomes terrifying. I don't know what seaside town Johnny and his pals lived in but I bet it was either Santa Carla or Innsmouth.
Maybe catering to the Hannah Montana/High School Musical demographic by featuring a big Bob Fosse-inspired song and dance number performed by tap-dancing Sleestaks in the upcoming Land of the Lost film isn't the best way to fill the seats of a movie theater.
Looking at this picture I can envision fifty Sleestaks hissing in harmony while they tap their way down the steps:
LOST! Ohhhh, you are too!
Baby, I don't want to be lost with anyone but you!
Marshall, Will and Holly are not even related in this version? Way to lose the dynamic, guys. Anna Friel is cast not as daughter Holly, but the love interest? Sorry, but I won't be able to get over the familiar expectation of the three of them being father, son and daughter in my mind. But that would be an entirely different film. I like Anna Friel but I just don't see any sexual tension there with Ferrell. I would put forth the only sexual tension Ferrell generates is between him and the audience waiting for him to screw up a scene.
I've been waiting years for a hard SF cinema version of the classic show and I guess this isn't it. I honestly hope I'm wrong but the more I hear and read about this project the less confidence I have in it. Guess I'll be waiting for a long, long time for a reboot once this Will Ferrell vehicle bombs science fiction cinema back to the stone age and ties up the licensing and rights for another decade or two.
On the bright side the Sleestak High-Steppers would totally own their interpretation of Steam Heat.
Sunday, November 09, 2008
With the recent election of Barack Obama to the Presidency of the United States, many real Americans for America have been asking when I will be conceding the race.
Concede? There is nothing to concede. Many people forget that I have access to amazing technology that allows not only journeys to alternate universes but the ability to travel through time as well.
To suggest that I have "lost" my bid to be President of the United States of America is to ignore the Krofftian resources that I can avail of myself of by a simple visit to the Hayley Mills Celebratory Complex Research and Development warehouses located here in sunny San Diego.
As the ultimate beltway outsider (watching tragedy unfold in this universe on a screen from my home dimension) what was made clear to me was that change was needed. It was obvious that inaction and apathy was dangerous. The work of many players was needed to avoid a terrible future that would rival the downfall of my own people. I could not allow America, and by extension the world, likewise descend into primitive, superstitious and warring tribes as my once enlightened race did. I have seen the futures and they were terrible indeed.
Manipulating events is much simpler on a grand scale than it is to manipulate people. Except for Monkerstein. That was so easy it was embarrassing. Not that the bad guys didn't try to accomplish both. Fortunately, while most people do not succumb to fear and ignorance there are enough who will not light a candle and instead prefer to cower in darkness and gather many around them, to huddle in caves and hide from the light. But many people, canines, frogs and simians and even the inanimate did their part by lifting torches over the land. They sensed that by not moving forwards we would all be taking giant steps backwards. True Americans for Americans could not tolerate such Non-American behavior.
Many entered the race for President. Others supported them. Encouraged in part by their bravery against impossible odds an unprecedented number of people became involved in guiding their own future, all wielding a tiny bit of influence on their surroundings. It was a good fight. One that we won. The anti-progressives tried to re-write the commandments and carved over two hundred of them, not in stone, but the bony, bleached skulls of our founding fathers. Alone, we accomplished little. Yet as the flap of a butterfly's wings can change the weather, how the stupidest movie star can occasionally say something wise and the way that very special issue of Teen Titans featuring Starfire helped crush Apartheid all those hats tossed into the ring disturbed the air enough to create a mighty storm.
Nothing was "lost". It has all gone according to plan.
Friday, November 07, 2008
Sometime on November 4th, 2008 I received the one millionth visitor to my site. Since I started keeping track it took about two years to reach that visitor mark (what Bully and Zaius regularly refer to as Tuesday). Not bad for a site that is the digital equivalent of gum on your shoe.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Hard to believe time went by so quickly and my last Futura entry was in August! The reason for the delay was two back up drive crashes losing all my data and a flip-flopping work schedule. Rebuilding all the files was time-consuming. It is bad enough to do it once, but then to have the new replacement drive also fail was a bit much, so I let a lot of things sit around for a while. Fortunately I managed to save much of my Futura stuff and what I couldn't recover I found on line, in varied forms of quality, so I'll continue the series.
Planet Comics #50 (September 1947) is where things take a turn for the simplistic creatively and the story kind of loses direction. The dream-like quality of the Futura Saga is emphasized over the next several issues keeping with the premise put forth in the premiere story even as the content artistically begins to parallel the quality typical to the perceived disposable comic book entertainment of the era.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Everyone is talking about change. I want to believe President-elect Obama will be different in many ways from his predecessors and I'll give him and his administration the benefit of the doubt until the gang in Washington gets up to their usual tricks.
The "Change" that is expected means a lot of different things to a lot of people. There is fear of change and of course wildly overblown expectations of a new age of peace and prosperity. While not prepared to speak for my generation the "Change" I think we expect is something less concrete and may be more ephemeral. My generation was raised on the idea that equality is a given and was long overdue, and any lack of progress towards that goal was due to either our laziness or by the hate of the ignorant. For many my age, that an African-American is elected President in America is more of "Okay, no reason there shouldn't be." The "Change" I expect promised by the Obama administration is one of leadership.
But for my Mom the "Change" is more real and much more personal. It is historic.
As a child, my Mom lived for a time in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was expected then, with the very real result of brutal reprisal for not complying, that African-Americans would step off the sidewalk if a Caucasian person was also using the path. The right of way was for white people only. African-Americans would have to tread into mud, water, dirt or worse until the other person passed by.
That a member of the human race could go from being forced to stand in a gutter to being President of the United States of America within her lifetime is the change that my Mom voted for. The slogan on those posters was not only a promise from Obama to America, but from my Mom as well.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Monday, November 03, 2008
I don't usually engage in much small talk at work with the customers. I do enough not to be rude and because I try to be a nice guy and I'm not deliberately obnoxious. I admit to not being very nice when I shut a grifter down. Who could possibly purchase 10 bottles of laundry soap week after week by accident and then try to return it the following week without a receipt when it is no longer on a 2-for-1 sale? I have no patience for that type of stuff.
It could be my upbringing making me sensitive to matters of ethics, humanity, morality and human rights but usually when I get into a prolonged conversation with someone it invariably turns bad and I recall why I don't really care to spend my time yammering with the locals.
My chats usually have negative results and make me want to go home and shower. For example, this conversation I had with a customer the night before Halloween.
"Looks like you are getting enough candy today."People are a continual disappointment to me.
"Yes! Halloween is so busy for us."
"Really? Where is that?"
"Bird Rock area. Honestly, I think they bus people in."
"We get hundreds of visitors on our street on Halloween and you can tell they don't live there. It's a nice neighborhood and everyone is really generous. So it stays pretty busy until the patrols start at about 9 and clears them out."
"Private security patrols. Between the patrols all over the area and us manning the fire hoses we keep everything under control."
"I...see. Well, you have a wonderful Halloween."
Of the many vinyl albums I own there is one in particular that I always kept out of storage primarily because the front and back art of the record sleeve is drawn as a comic book! The album is Susie Heartbreaker (Ghetto Child) by the New York-based Soul/Funk/Disco/Salsa group L.G.T. Exchange. Taking his cue from the "Black-Rock Operetta" illustrator Morgan Harris tells in a comic book format the story of the short, tragic life of a young woman trapped in a cycle of sex, drugs and prostitution.
Musically the album follows the popular and successful artistic trends of the time and the sound is heavily influenced, at least on this early album, by James Brown and Santana. The sound doesn't have quite enough bottom for my ears, though that may be caused more by the limitations of my turntable and speakers than any lack of production values on the part of the band. Not that the songs are completely unoriginal. While the album is by no means on par with the ground-breaking Tommy, it is cut from the same vinyl. For fans of the era and style of music there are several likable enough tunes out of the ten tracks that convey a story relevant to Huggy Bears past and present.
For your between Wednesdays reading pleasure, here is the painstakingly restored front and back of the Susie Heartbreaker LP. Some of the imagery may not be safe for work. Enjoy!
Click the pictures to spin at 33 1/3!
As a special bonus for those looking to get their groove on here is a Susie Heartbreaker slideshow of the album art featuring the title track, Ghetto Child.
For those interested in adding to their collection of music or comic book-related ephemera, the album can be found on the 'net for around $20.
Sunday, November 02, 2008
From Unknown (May 1940). Story by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt.