Tuesday, March 31, 2009

John and Bully in 3-D!

It's Bully's pal John's birthday today! John is a great guy. We have never met in person and we know each other only via our blogs. John is, to paraphrase a professional blogger, a real internet friend. John had helped me when I was going through a very bad time by sending me literally thousands of dollars worth of books. By doing this John kept me entertained when my resources were severely curtailed and I was unable to access the art and stories I enjoy. I was incredibly depressed and stressed and John helped keep my spirits up by sending care packages. A whole bunch of bright spots in a pretty dark time. Those lights had to be cast by someone and that was John. He shines. His kindness helped in ways I can't ever repay. If John and Bully make it to the San Diego Con this year I want to shake his hand, Bully's hoof and buy them both lunch everyday.

So I can't think of a better treat than letting everyone wishing John and his pal Bully a happy birthday than for everyone to do so in person. On my budget the cost of flying the thousands of his fans around the country would be impossible but I can make it happen through the magicks of the internet!

So break out the red & blue glasses folks, because while most of you can't meet John in person I can bring the next best thing, JOHN & BULLY in 3-D!

So click on over to Bully's place and join the party!

Bully & John in 3D

Happy Birthday, John!

A lady with a skull

Found at a used book store last week. How could I pass this up?



Bonus! Illustration from back cover.
The Dream Is Deadly (October 1960). Cover painting by Barye Phillips.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Colletta hands

Oh, Vinnie. Well, you made the deadline, and that was what was most important back in the day.

Today's fans complaining about delays in publication amuses me a bit more than it annoys. Would fans now accept anything that had a rushed, Colletta-style production value to it or do the demands of the market require stylized, photo-realistic, highly-detailed computer-enhanced work with snappy presentation? In times past a good story would often balance out poor art (ie, many comics published in the 1990s). Could the same be said of today, or is it that technological advances and consumer expectations no longer allows creators to give less than an endless series of mind-boggling blockbusters?

Lovers #85 (June 1957).

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Atoms and Evil

Atoms and Evil by Robert Bloch (Fawcett, 1962).

Click to reach critical mass!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Scene from an S-Mart

"Are there any new movies out?"
"Not really. There was that one about the really old guy trying to have sex with a teen-aged slave."
"What? I don't know that one. What is it called."
"Twilight."
"Oh. Oh! Is it any good?"
"It is...If you are a 15 year old girl and have no sense of self-esteem."


- A conversation between my wife and I while shopping.

Don't just stand there

Don't just stand there

Space: 1999 - Breakaway (17 October 1975).

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Billy Bunny and Daddy Fox

Found this old book Billy Bunny and Daddy Fox at a used bookstore on Adams Avenue this week. There are a few good used book and magazine stores on that street and are worth spending some time in browsing. There were several volumes of the Billy Bunny series in the store but this one contained art I preferred over the others, even though one book contained a drawing of the Luckymobile tearing through a forest that I was loathe to pass up for the time being.

Billy Bunny was a series of books written in the 1920s by David Cory for children featuring the tales of a young rabbit and his many adventures. One of the main themes of the stories seems to be about Billy and his friends and their attempts to avoid being eaten by their carnivorous peers. From what I read, most of the entries are typical cautionary tales about trusting strangers and bachelor uncles.

Each book contains a few minimally colored illustrations credited to artist Hugh Spencer. The art is wonderfully simplistic and un-apologetically two-dimensional. I chose to purchase this volume in the series over the book containing the Luckymobile (reminiscent of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride) because I really got a kick out of the the two pages featuring the the bourgeois rabbit exploiting proletariat child labor and the ambushing bobcat.

Click the pictures to make Flemish-sized. Enjoy!



Bonus advertisement section!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bypass to Otherness

Bypass to Otherness was published by Ballantine books in 1961, featuring stories originally published in the 1940s. The 1960s were a boom time for science fiction paperbacks as great "new" authors made the scene. Not many people where aware that savvy publishers had mined the past by raiding the contents of decades of old pulp magazine material and packaged it as new with abstract, vaguely SF-themed art for a modern audience. Aided by the growing counter-culture, science fiction was reintroduced to an entire generation, granting another life to semi-retired, marginal or forgotten authors and ensuring that alternate thought, ideas and art would not entirely vanish as cheap pulp magazines crumbled with age.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Never Forgive, Never Forget

Dell house ad that advocated the destruction of their titles from the sad era when comic books where considered disposable. As bad an idea for posterity and collectors as clipping those Marvel Value stamps.

Absent-Minded Professor #1 (1961).

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lunchtime with Sleestak

Typically I prefer to take my breaks from work in the office. It is quiet and I am left alone to enjoy my meal and get caught up on paperwork or read and maybe watch a flick on the laptop. Often customers, oblivious or just being jerks about it, intrude with problems real or imagined if a manager is found in public. On this day I chose to take my lunch break out in the public seating area due to meetings in the office.

For a few minutes I watched the Hayley Mills film In Search of the Castaways, one of her successes from 1962, loosely based on a Jules Verne story. This film is noteworthy for featuring Hayley Mills' first adult on-screen kiss. Not a bad film, though dated and meant for a young audience. It is equal parts fun, ridiculous and Wold-Newtonish. One aspect I found annoying was the music. Disney makes a lot of money via their original movie soundtracks so it is understandable that every movie they produce has a few songs in it. This is done whether the plot can really support the intrusion of a tune or not. I love the Hayley, but I can only take so much Maurice Chevalier who in the course of the movie drunkenly bursts into song at the pop of a cork. So since time and my patience was was short I stopped the film, closed the laptop and started reading a book I had brought along.

That is when the first interruption began. I was leafing through my new book when a customer approached my table.

"You work here. The Wi-Fi works better in the middle of the room than on the sides..."
"Yeah. I'm at lunch right now."
"...So you need to adjust the coverage so that when I sit next to the wall I can get a better connection. If I don't sit next to the wall near a plug my laptop battery runs out after a few hours."
"Well, we offer free Wi-Fi, not free electricity."
"That's your response?"
"Sir, I'm off the clock, eating my lunch and reading. There are two managers standing right over there who are getting paid and they will be more than happy to listen to you complain about the quality of FREE STUFF."

The customer went away mad, upset that I declined to reconfigure the internet so he could leech our bandwidth for six hours.

While on the subject of free stuff, Bully and his pal John just sent me a copy of The Wolverton Bible, published by Fantagraphics. That was the book I was reading at lunch when Crybaby McLaptop accosted me. Some comic book fans are not aware that for nearly two decades, Golden Age illustrator Basil Wolverton worked for and was a ranking member of a popular religious organization. While Basil played a role in the organization speaking to the faithful he is best known for his art work illustrating the Bible for their various publications.

Through the course of his career Wolverton's art was typically graphic, shocking and at times sickening even as it was brilliant. To his credit, when Wolverton secured the job of illustrating the monumental task of illustrating the many passages of the Bible he insisted that he be allowed to render the stories with honesty and not have them sanitized for popular consumption. The Bible, like most religious tracts, is a product of the times and is as violent, raw and uncomfortable culturally as it is supposed to be inspiring. There is nothing about the book that would cause either the believer or reality-based reader to avoid it. It does not preach nor does it tear down the institution. Each reader will take from the experience what they choose to, be it a study of the evolution of an artist or an affirmation. The images may make some people uncomfortable, particularly those concerning the end of the world. The book, with just a few exceptions, reprints the entirety of Wolverton's work chronologically. It is a fascinating look at the side of an artist that most fans are not familiar with due to the scarcity of the material.

Get your own through Fantagraphics.

Thanks, guys!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Friday, March 20, 2009

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Must See TV

Submitted for your approval are two ultra-rare issues of television programming magazines featuring the infamous teleplay Spiders Come Back, initially broadcast back in February of 1964 on the syndicated thriller anthology series Mysterious. The episode so horrified the audiences of the day that the U.S. Government itself took an unusual step and interceded, forcing the network to cancel the show or face the possible loss of their broadcasting licenses. Originally scheduled to be shown nationwide, after the east coast debut the show was preempted and not broadcast to the rest of the network time zones. In the annals of broadcast history, the intervention of the government over the content of what would be by today's standards a typical horror show is comparable to the censorship of the classic Judgment at Nuremberg, when the sponsor, a maker of gas kitchen ovens, successfully lobbied to have any reference to 'gassing' removed from the script.



As the new hostess of Mysterious, Hayley Mills gave introductory and epilogue framing sequences to teleplays, similar to those offered by Boris Karloff as the host of Thriller and Alfred Hitchcock for his part in The Alfred Hitchcock Mysteries. The producers of Mysterious also made use of the Hitchcock model, in which the host would appear for a short epilogue to assure audiences (and the censors) that the antagonist did indeed pay for their crimes, even though the actual feature usually ended with the evil-doer triumphant. The use of this device in Mysterious however did nothing to mollify the government censors. They acted swiftly to ensure Spiders Come Back and the then shocking themes of murder, abortion, homosexuality, adultery and the re-animated dead would never be again broadcast. It was possible that hostess Hayley Mills, though a fine and talented actress, was unable to convey the same air of gravitas when winding up a tale as her fellow hosts Karloff and Hitchcock so effortlessly conveyed. Disappointed with the cancellation of Mysterious, Hayley would leave television to star in several blockbuster films for Disney, proving the adage that the best revenge is to live well. A fine epilogue of her own story.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Making up for the Birds


Don't ask me, I don't know either. Picture was completely unrelated to anything in the magazine.

Follies (Winter 1933).

Extreme Makeover


Going Steady #1 (September-October 1960). This is my new favorite romance comic book cover. Art by Joe Simon, who is totally freaking me out.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hayley Mills tells how she feels

From Inside Movie (January 1963) comes an article in all likelihood generated by whatever PR machine was gearing up to push the new film Summer Magic, which was about to be released into theaters. This article features Hayley Mills candidly relating how she is handling growing up and becoming an adult. At this point in her life Hayley was facing one of the greatest obstacles of any actors' career, that of growing up.

The article tip-toes around the subject of puberty pretty deftly as Hayley describes her casual meeting with a wolf (from the description, probably a drunken Mickey Rooney) while she is out shopping. While the text attempts to appear as an innocent, embarrassing though thrilling encounter about a young girl approaching womanhood, the magazine really comes off as kind of sleazy. The vivid descriptions of Hayley in a pair of high heels and being fitted for a brassiere made me woozy. Hayley Mills is not Lolita even though the article really tried to sell her as an object of desire without coming right out and saying it. There was a lot invested in keeping her sweet, but various markets had to addressed and courted. Still, once past the Hollywood PR hack attempts to make Hayley sexy without being overtly sexual the piece tries to be positive and is superior in tone to those finger-wagging articles that would be published ad nauseum in just a few years to come.

Click the pages to make tabloid-sized.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Thirteen - The Movie (Official Comic Book Adapation)

Once a regular, though often troubled presence in the marketplace, the Dell comic book company stuttered through a few short-lived and ultimately futile revivals before finally surrendering to the inevitable and being consigned to the dusty stacks of publishing history.

Dell published a few original series, some good and some just silly or a waste of paper and ink. They hit the ball out of the freaking park with a couple titles but were mostly known for quick and dirty adaptations of television series. There were few 60s and 70s television series that didn't get a Dell treatment. Like most of their titles the book would start out strong but would soon feature repeated covers and content as the sales figures didn't support investing in new material. Once a cover and interior content was reprinted, usually with a marked decline in the coloring process, it meant the book had been canceled.

Dell as a company has made a few attempts over the years to re-enter the market, mostly by re-imagining an old book or series. But in the fickle direct market economy the attempts were usually financially disastrous. After limping along through the 1990s, Dell would eventually only exist as the small company that printed the instructional illustration booklets that are packed inside new canisters of tear gas used by law enforcement. One of the more ill-fated, though intriguing, attempts to revive the Dell line came in the year 2003.

Several years before the Archie company would experiment with altering the fabled house art style of the Riverdale gang that had endured virtually unchanged since the 1950s, Dell made a similar attempt with a property of their own. The small publishing house that had become Dell attempted to make an obscure teen comedy comic book series relevant by merging it with the box office smash teen drama Thirteen.

While the Dell company was in familiar territory by adapting a film property, the choice of cinema source material was raw, adult-oriented and full of situations that the comic book malt shop and bobby-sox gang of the 1950s never experienced except as subtext comic book fans would itemize, obsess and analyze many decades later. Of the four issues planned to bring the film to the printed page only one saw print. The following three issues were canceled due to low sales on the first issue. The remaining issues exist only as solicits in a few industry trade magazines and a cover gallery on the GCD.

The problems with the choice of Thirteen to relaunch the Dell company were many. Parents with fond memories of the Dell comics of their own youth were horrified when they themselves read the first issue, presumably long after their own child had it in their possession for several days. The book was returned by retailers in numbers not seen since Marvel published Void Indigo. Not only was the new, contemporary Thirteen out of place in the magazine rack of the local grocery store the company had no idea how to market what could have been a valid adaptation of the controversial movie. Instead of dealing with a niche demographic and garnering small though respectable and steady sales as a trade collection, the book was dumped as a monthly onto an open market that had no idea how to sell it. Dell took a risk and failed. What could have been an interesting effort on the part of Dell to make a come back did not work and it was apparent that the lack of a clear marketing strategy was what closed the Dell shop for good.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Monday, March 09, 2009

Blah blah blah

TV Guide (July 1972) illustration accompanying article about broadcasters.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Programmed by a Famous Lover

International Insanity (January 1977)

Yes, your parents bought and used these. Probably at creepy suburban key parties fueled by rum and marijuana, during which you were conceived. Enjoy the nightmares.

International Insanity (January 1977).

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Radioactive Judy

Oh, the Cold War! I miss it. It was far easier and less stressful to be scared of an entire country on the other side of the planet instead of worrying about a few motivated, unbalanced individuals like we do today. Yet fear of nuclear annihilation was so pervasive in the 1950s it even managed to insinuate itself in a comic book about a boy-crazy bobby-soxer. Sometimes I think that comic books of the past did a much better job than portraying women than they do today. Sure, they were silly, daffy and helpless much of the time and only left the confines of the home to search for a husband, but I doubt a contemporary magazine would offer much better content.

A Date With Judy #57 - Radioactive Judy (Feb - March 1957

Would a similar title today feature a young woman armed with scientific gear in search of Uranium or would they depict her wielding a credit card and shopping at the mall?

A Date With Judy
#57 (Feb-March 1957).

Monday, March 02, 2009

Oh, come on!

I get what the creators are doing and what audience they are targeting, but come on!

From Terminator: Revolution #3 (2009).

Previous ridiculousness: Terminator: Babe-O-Rama.