Monday, September 28, 2009

An eye for the boys

While in the 1970s and early 1980s the use of faux eyes was prevalent in a lot of novelty and counter-culture jewelry in 1962 I'd have been very intrigued by any girl non-conformist enough to wear the eye necklace.

From Linda Carter, Student Nurse #6 (July 1962).

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Coming Soon To Your Grocer's Freezer

If someone had ever said to me, "I don't believe it is possible that a marketing agency could create an advertisement about microwaveable meals that successfully evokes the idea of risky, anonymous oral sex in the bathroom stall of a bus station."

My reply would have been, "On the contrary. I think it is inevitable."

Spotted in a local grocery store, 9-21-09.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Local News


Thanks to President Obama and his policies, Al Qaeda have fallen on desperate times and have had to resort to robbing banks in San Diego for their fund raising.

Screenshot from the local section of Google News, September 14, 2009.

Monday, September 14, 2009

We're gonna need another Wiglaf

Wiglaf doesn't fare to well against a dragon in a 1953 re-telling of Beowulf. From The Wonder Story Books - They Were Brave and Bold. Art by Florence and Margaret Hoopes.

I Command Thee, Fellow!

About a week ago my YouTube account was 'permanently disabled' due to a complaint of copyright infringement by DashGo/Audiobee, a company engaged by Krofft Entertainment to market their product to and protect from websites and social networks.

Don't get me wrong. I come down on the side of the creator when it comes to copyright infringement and theft. Back in the early 90s I supplemented my income through creative works and it irked me no end to not get paid for what I did. I got ripped off by creeps and grifters enough that I could see the big picture even then. I don't really disagree with what the various industry organizations do to pursue the bad guys but the perception is they pounce on goofy kids and old people who don't quite grasp computer technology. They rarely seem to be publicly successful with going after the people burning hundreds of DVDs and CDs and selling them out of the trunks of their cars in parking lots or from underground websites that charge for access or downloads without renumeration to the creators.

Prior to the account being disabled YouTube sent me a message letting me know that a short clip I had used of a particularly nightmarish episode of H.R. Pufnstuf (here) had been removed due to a notice filed by DashGo/Audiobee. The next day I discovered my account was disabled due to the most recent complaint. Apparently, this was the third violation of my Terms of Service agreement. The first was when I posted a 'Sleestaks in the Library' clip, the second a comparison of MASH and Stargate. I didn't protest the the first complaint though I thought it silly as there were hundreds if not thousands of the Sleestak clips yet available that remained all over video sites that are still there to this day.

For the second complaint I filed a counter-notification as I considered the short clip comparing similarities between an episode of MASH and Stargate: Atlantis fair-use and for the purposes of critique and review. I never heard back and didn't care enough at the time to pursue the matter. Not hearing back from mega-companies is not all that unusual. Years ago I was once the recipient of a DMCA notice about some art that I had personally created and posted at a forum. After the warning I let them know I was the creator and owner of the image but I never heard back from the company that sent me the notice. I figured ignoring the little guy was business as usual and expected I would continue to be ignored and the matter dropped or my account would be deleted in error, which I would then protest or make the decision to go elsewhere.

I have read horror stories concerning the relationship between YouTube customer service and users who have had their accounts disabled and so far my experience has been a positive one. After my account was disabled I filed a counter-notice to the DashGo/Audiobee claim under Fair Use. YouTube responded quickly to my emails, explained what was going on and how to restore my account. They have not stopped me from creating a new account. They also let me know that they can't find any counter-notices filed by me, but I wasn't really surprised at that. Those who enforce copyrights very likely ignore hundreds of counter-notices a day and it isn't the responsibility of YouTube to follow up on them. If I don't hear back in a few days I'll file again.

While I received regular communications from YouTube (if not resolution to my favor) DashGo/Audiobee is a different story. I have contacted them via email, their blog and via the counter-notification and they have yet to respond, which isn't saying they are not going to. Then again it is their prerogative if they respond at all. They feel they did their job, which is taking down infringing material from the web and protected their client's interests. Reversing their decision may set a bad precedent and their goal is to market to the web and social networking sites, which presumably means via revenue and not handing out stuff for free.

Now where I differ with what DashGo/Audiobee is doing in my case is that once again, not only is the idea of fair use not being considered but they have gone after a fan, not a pirate who is damaging their bottom line. It is hardly a secret that I am a fan of the Krofft characters, particularly The Land of the Lost. My entire online persona is based on one of the characters and anything I post about them is out of appreciation. It is just ridiculous to me that DashGo/Audiobee had my short clip removed from YouTube when entire episodes of shows remain online and unchallenged for years at various video streaming sites. Seems a bit random.

Furthermore, as with the MASH/Stargate: Atlantis video, the Pufnstuf clip was adapted from media I personally own and not ganked from other sources. I feel like I am being punished for saying something is awesome.

So what does this mean?

The actions of DashGo/Audiobee, however well-intentioned on the part of their business and their client, has for me sucked the enjoyment out of anything Krofft-related. Not that putting up something Krofft-centric was a daily event but I posted when the mood and muse rapped me upside the head. So it may be a while before I post anything about their characters or shows. DashGo/Audiobee has less protected intellectual property than successfully discouraged another fan from giving a damn about something.

This is a strategy which I doubt would be successful in a business but seems common among such firms that it makes one wonder if alienation of a demographic generates such a steady revenue stream that it is an important part of any business model. Let's face it, the value of the Krofft stable of characters has been decimated, possibly irreparably or for at least another ten years, by that horrible 2009 Land of the Lost movie. The Krofft franchise needs all the positive fan promotion they can get and they just discouraged one amateur media outlet that gave them regular free exposure.

So what have I learned?

Maintaining several media hosting accounts is a good idea. Keep the personal videos and photos you want to share with friends and grandma separate from those you use in a "professional" manner.

I kept my blogging-related and personal videos hosted in one place because I never believed someone would really have a problem with posting a short clip giving what amounts to free advertising. If I received notice that they did, civil discourse would work everything out in the end. I have most of my videos archived and I could easily replace them via other sources if I felt like taking the time but a few personal ones are gone for good. They will only be recoverable unless YouTube restores the account and that can only happen if DashGo/Audiobee agrees with my assertions of fair use and allows them do it.

Updates to follow, I am sure.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Old Stormalong

From the Wonder Story Books series, They Were Brave and Bold (1953).
Art by Florence and Margaret Hoopes. Original story by Frank Shay (1930).

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Four Cs

Odds are that in the 60s and 70s if there was a television show or semi-popular media property then Dell, Gold Key or Whitman published a comic book adaptation of it. Typically the book lasted only one issue and was probably done to fulfill some contractual licensing agreement. A few titles ran for more than one issue but mostly they were just one off publications created as additional advertising. The art was serviceable and the stories not much different from the show or movie they were derived from. A few of the titles later became notorious for their perhaps unintentionally humorous cover art.

Off-model representations of the original media were the norm, particularly among the early Star Trek comic books published under the Gold Key imprint. It was the painted cover art that made Gold Key stand out from their competitors. They were creative, gorgeous and fanciful and for the most part were far superior to the interior content. There are a few Star Trek and Twilight Zone covers that are just spectacular.

Had Diamond Bomb existed to have been licensed to Dell or Gold Key then she was probably have been revamped more than for the youth market mystery novels. Diamond would have been changed into a wealthy, generic action-adventurer aided by a team of unlikely specialists operating out of a secret base on an island somewhere. Diamond and any supporting characters brought over from her long publication history would have also been rendered terribly off-model and quickly forgotten except as a curiosity to die-hard comic book fans.


Cover and page for Diamond Bomb and her Clarity Commandos adapted from the Gold Key comic book Jet Dream and her Stunt-Girl Counterspies (1968).

If you get the chance to peruse the original Jet Dream comic then I recommend it. While the depiction of the wing of the jet plane cutting through the rioting crowd is the most unintentionally extreme image the book contains it is nonetheless wonderfully goofy. I didn't do much to change the panels I posted here. FYI, the original battle cry of the Stunt-girl Counterspies was "Jet-A-Reeen-O!" Hard to top that.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Back To School

I was pretty impressed with the speech President Obama made to all the kids on Earth yesterday. Being a cynical type I expect the "work hard, take responsibility and don't expect things to be handed to you" message won't go over too well with some folks.

Once the speech was done I flipped over Fox News to see what crazy wingnut conspiracy theory they could attach to the speech. It was a pleasant surprise to discover they were initially hard-pressed to find anything negative about the President's message. From the tight smiles and strained voices I could tell it was killing them or at least causing career-panic among the broadcasters that couldn't think of anything bad to say. I speculate fear was rampant as each newsie was terrified of being the first one giving a thumbs up to President Obama for worry they would lose their job. One pundit did manage to sneak in that she was disappointed that the President didn't find the time to address traditional family values. Except, of course, urging children to study, work hard, finish school and try to make something of themselves is about as family values as you can get.

As usual, Fox News got up to their usual tricks when it came to the informational banner at the bottom of the screen...

Monday, September 07, 2009

Flower Girl

From the story Flower Girl by Chester Cohen with art by Eberle.
Rocket Stories Magazine
(September 1953).

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Those Meddling Kids

Repackaging and recycling old novels and novelettes is nothing new to the publishing world. As previously mentioned the Perry Mason books have been in nearly continual publication since the 1930s.

Cover art for books had changed drastically since the 1940s. By the time the 1980s came around the layouts were far simpler and an art trend began that was in full force by the time the 1990s appeared and exists to this day. While book covers may have been painted they were more likely to be photographed. Photographs can be easier to manipulate and in many cases are far less expensive. Stock photos have been known to be used in the place of original art. One other difference was that the female form was not in the forefront of the art as in previous eras.

More than likely the covers were, if not abstract, dark and moody, probably consisted of props generic to a mystery tale and usually no more than three were shown. A glove, a knife and a glass of wine or a gun, a key and a letter or some combination of vaguely mysterious items would usually be shown on the cover, typically blurred or in soft light. The photographic covers of recent years, particularly among the mystery titles, are notorious for following thematic trends if not blatantly ripping off each other. There are more than a few internet sites devoted to swiped art and themes of mystery and other novels. The far more generic and arty covers also ensured that women buyers were not alienated by the sexy cover art. As in the 1970s name recognition of either the author or main character became the major selling point for books. While traditionally a big name always helped push a book out the door in earlier eras it was in many instances the niche market of young men hooked by the tease of wanton females that closed a sale. Of course, this is not restricted to the book market.

But when simply slapping on a new cover on an old story wasn't enough then publishers diversified a bit by going after the youth market. The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and to a lesser extent The Three Investigators were very popular among younger readers. The Hardy Boys series had existed for decades and several volumes were produced. The original novels were re-written and updated to be more contemporary with brand new stories. In the 1970s the Hardy and Drew franchises outgrew their previous media flirtations and could be found in prime-time television, Saturday morning cartoons (as members of a crime-solving rock band), comic books and brand new novels. Unfortunately both the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew television shows were popular not for the quality of the production but the attractiveness of the stars, a short-sighted but typical Hollywood endeavor.

Before the decline of libraries in America it was an easy task to locate complete sets of both versions of the Hardy books. Among many fans some of the 1940s versions of the books were preferred over the rebooted stories but that was not always the case. The 70s re-telling of the novels were more "realistic" and were all about solving white-collar crimes, usually with the aid of their father. The original novels occasionally drifted into the fantastic. The 1940 version of Disappearing Floor has such plot elements as sonic fear machines, mind control rays and a honest-to-gosh Science Villain. In many ways Frank, Joe and Nancy were not as accessible to readers as the Investigators. While the Hardy gang and Drew often traveled the world with their professional and successful families fighting crime the Investigators hung out in a junkyard, grifted a car company out of transportation and acted stupid around adults in order to fake them out. The Three Investigators books were a much funner read because they were more like the average young reader, fallow in resources and having to succeed primarily by using their wits. Where Nancy would just pop on down to the local FBI building to have one of the guys run fingerprints in the super-computer, the Investigators would be the kind of guys who would have to compare prints themselves with a cracked magnifying glass they salvaged from the junkyard using a personally-gathered database of suspects they fooled into handling polished drinking glasses. They were hard core.

If Diamond Bomb had existed to have been re-written for the young adult market then she would have been subjected to a radical personality change. She would no longer be a reformed thief and she wouldn't shoot people in the legs to make a point. Men would be pals to and not meat toys. Diamond would have been essentially rebooted as a Nancy Drew clone. She would be younger, sweeter and didn't use guns, except in a situation where she would tremulously point it at a villain who would then take it from her and hold her hostage. Diamond will have been in a non-threatening and chaste relationship with a steady boyfriend that her father approves of. Her adventures would have been technically exciting but not really dangerous. Diamond would invariably be kidnapped by the bad guy but would manage to free herself and solve the crime just as the police arrived to apprehend the criminal.

The above mock-up book cover for Diamond Bomb #1 - Those Meddling Kids was adapted from a Nancy Drew publication.

I'm this many

Today is my birthday.

Yeah, I'm old. Not that old, but I shouldn't be eating a lot of red meat anymore. I eat a lot more salad than I have been and man, vegetables are boring. I'd enjoy my meals a lot more if lettuce had a face and I was confident it screamed when it was slaughtered back at the farm. Look, you can call it harvesting if you want, my palate calls it slaughter. Don't spoil my illusion because it is the only way I can handle eating vegetables all the time without fantasizing about the nutritional benefits of the neighborhood pets.

So another year behind me. I'm an adult now and have been for some time, but there's a young guy inside me who refuses to go down without a fight. Until he gets winded, anyways.

My weaknesses used to be fast women, booze, crap tables, the beach and a high cliff to dive from into the ocean. Now it is stairs.

In honor of my birthday my insurance company sent me a post card informing me that I should schedule an appointment for The Camera Procedure. You know the one. Yeah, I'll do it. Personal health is important and I want live to see my kid grow old and die before I do.* There are some things you just don't delay or avoid no matter how intriguingly nightmarish. I'll do it, but I won't like it. You can bet I'm going to opt to stay awake during the procedure, though. If the Doc finds gold while he is digging I'm going to be alert enough to stake a claim.

* What?

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Traveler

Kind of a cross between Mad Max meets Night Ranger. Still, a kind of fun 80s series of post-apocalyptic survival full of evil Barons, mutants and corrupt government officials still up to their usual tricks even after they destroyed human civilization. I read a lot of these type of men's adventure series back in the 1980s. There were 11 books in this series in all, I think, and my favorite book is the one where the bad guy gets his comeuppance from a petroleum jelly-coated stick of dynamite.

I did not make that up.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Man from Saturn



The Man From Saturn, from Amazing Stories (June - July 1953).
Story by Harriet Frank Jr. . Artist uncredited, possibly art director L R. Summers.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Motion Comics: Animation of the Past, Today!

Does no one remember Clutch Cargo?

Click for a look at what childhood horrors your Dad had to deal with!

I don't see the lure in the "new" Motion Comics. Unless they are viewed on something about the same size as a book I can't be all that interested and that has more to do with my age and how my eyes work than my fear of new technology. But I get why they are being produced. Motion Comics can give the public their movie fix in between animated specials and live action films. It also serves as one of many intermediary steps before publishers finally pull the plug on the long, slow death that is print media.

One of the things I have noticed by observing the younger generation and the media empires that produce content for them is that their entertainment is disposable to them. This is much as it was for both the companies and consumers of decades past before the notion of collectability and preserving the content of the past for use in the future became as widespread as it did starting in the late 1960s. Today more than ever everything is only momentarily cool and amusements are consumed on-the-go and rarely revisited. I think this is why comic book companies cater mostly to the aging, hard core fans that began reading and collecting at the end of the Silver Age.

There is an inevitable evolution to these things. Originally the stepped-down animation style of a motion comic was little more than a digital version of a Power Records album. Given the high cost, slow internet and CPU speeds a character would rarely do more than shift a few degrees in place, giving the illusion of action in the narrative. One of the more understated yet quite effective use of motion effects in still frame cartooning was the use of blinking eyes of the characters in the online For Better or Worse strips. If you were not paying attention it would really creep you out.

As technology improved the expectations of both the creators and the readers increased and currently motion comics are typically made with pretty high production values, the Watchmen motion comic being a good example. Eventually Motion Comics will probably get to the point were the line between full animation and the simplified Syncro Vox-style will be blurred.

My entry in what is sure to be a very long week of bad Marvel & Disney gags

The news that the Disney Company is buying Marvel Comics and their stable of characters was met by fans with various cries of alarm, worry, anger and shaking sobs. I don't know, I'm kind of looking forward to the epic "final" battle between Tigger and Logan. If memory serves, Tigger has a healing factor that just won't quit and he may be Logan's long lost Great, Great, Great Grandfather.

There have been worse cross-overs.