Friday, June 29, 2007

Number 153

Son of Frankenstein Friday…again

Yet another in our on-again-off-again series featuring our favorite monster.

This is a diverse group: a Garbage Pail Kids card, a Marvel "Classic," a Joe Maneely satire strip from Cracked, an indy comic with a famous cover artist and two covers by Dick Briefer. There's even a snack to nibble on while you look at all of this. The Kellogg's Monster Fruit Flavored Snacks I bought last Halloween. Hurry and eat them, though…the expiration date is tomorrow, June 30, 2007.

For a time in the 1970's Marvel Comics had their own line of Classics Comics, with art usually done by the Filipino artists that took over comics for a time during that era. This was a rush job by Dino Castrillo, an artist I'm not familiar with. Despite the visualization of an ugly monster on the cover by artists Gene Colan and Ernie Chua (Chan), Castrillo's monster is actually--gasp--handsome.

Not so handsome is John Pound's Garbage Pail Kid Frankenstein. Jeez, is that a cat he's stomping? Don't tell PETA, please. I don't need any trouble, and it's all Pound's fault, anyway.

Tomb Tales was a black and white homage to horror comics published in the late '90s. This is issue #7, from 1999, with a cover by none other than the great Jack Davis! I don't know how the guy swung it, or how much he paid the artists, but he used other EC artists for other covers. Check out his website for all of the covers. Not only does Davis do a great job on the Frankenstein monster, he includes Dracula, the Wolfman and even the Gillman. A regular Universal Monsters gang.

Click on pictures for full-size images.

From an old 1950's Cracked magazine comes Frankenstein by Joe Maneely. Joe did a much better version in an old issue of Atlas Comics' Menace.* I scanned the story from a reprint in Cracked Monster Party #2, from 1989. If you're getting eyestrain from trying to read the small type, don't feel bad. I've read it and it's not worth the trouble.

Finally, two great covers by the master of the funny Frankenstein, Dick Briefer. These issues of Prize Comics are from 1947.

*You can see that story if you click on Joe's name in the labels under this posting.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Number 152

Space Ace and the Nothing Weapon!

Space Ace returns for his third appearance in Jet #3. It's his first appearance drawn by Al Williamson. As a treat, here's a scan of the original art for the splash page of this story.

Click on the picture for the full-size image.

Space Ace runs into a rare book and a pirate queen. Flor. She pulls the ol' come on over act on him, wearing her sexy dress with the slit up the side...on Saturn's moon of Titan, yet! She doesn't think that he knows that she knows that he's slipping her a mickey. He really knows that she knows but he also knows she doesn't know he's switched the mickey around. Too bad for Flor. Space Ace gets one up on her. Flor ends up on the floor.

This is full of more space opera hokum courtesy of scripter Gardner Fox. I like the "paralysobeam" reference she uses to her henchman, Gayta. (Gayta?) The henchman takes off with the book, but the rest of her pirate gang is still around. You can tell they're pirates because one of them is wearing a punk rock mohawk, and a shirt with a skull on it. Or it could be he picked up an old rock t-shirt from the Titan Salvation Army Thrift Store.

I don't think Al Williamson ever did a job by himself. Harvey Kurtzman called the Williamson posse "The Fleagle Gang," and they were tight: Al, Torres, Frazetta, Krenkel. I've seen this strip reprinted in several different fanzines over the years. Pre-EC work by Williamson (and his gang) is so desirable it's the reason most people would have for collecting Jet #3.

In the upcoming and final Space Ace in Jet #4, you'll see he even enlisted some aid from Wally Wood.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Number 151

"I Discovered The Secret Of The Flying Saucers!"

Sixty years ago today, June 24, 1947, pilot Kenneth Arnold was flying his private plane over the Cascade Mountains in Washington State when he saw a flight of what he described as "crescent-shaped craft." It caught the public's attention in a big way. From the early news reports grew the legends, stories and mythology of flying saucer lore. Nowadays we call them UFOs, but I still like the term "flying saucers." So did Jack Kirby, who did this story for the resurrection in 1958 of Atlas Comics.

Here's how I understand the events: In 1957 comic book publisher Martin Goodman sold his distribution company, and went with another distributor that went out of business.  No comic books were produced until Goodman made a deal with his main competitor, DC Comics. DC agreed to distribute Martin Goodman's comic book line as long as he kept it to six titles a month. The first of those titles, which is dated December, 1958, was Strange Worlds #1, with the cover and lead story by Jack Kirby.

In retrospect this is the comic book that led to the creation of the Marvel Comics line as we know it today. No writer is listed but it was probably Stan Lee, working with art provided by Kirby.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Number 150

John Buscema's Helen Of Troy

Dell Movie adaptations were very popular in the 1950s. I bought my share of them.

What interested me about Helen Of Troy (the movie) was the star, Italian actress Rossana Podesta, who in my nine-year-old brain I had elevated to the level of goddess. I thought she was totally hot. My dad must've thought so, too, because he took me to the movie. Did I mention I was nine-years-old? Do nine-year-olds harbor such lusty thoughts? I did.

Besides Rossana Podesta I had another secret fetish for Helen of Troy. Dad had some books his father had bought for him about 1930-31. The books were a four-volume set, My Book Of History, published in 1930 by The Book House For Children. They may have been published for children, but some of the pictures were very un-childlike, either to a nine-year-old kid or a 59-year-old adult, for that matter. This is the My Book Of History version of how Paris met Menelaos' wife, Helen. See those perky boobs--and how can you miss them--she's pointing right at Paris? Boy, howdy, did that picture make an impression on me. The artist is someone named Simpson.

Click on pictures for full-size images.

John Buscema was the artist who drew Dell's adaptation of Helen Of Troy, but I didn't know that until quite a while after Buscema's art became familiar to me in the late '60s-early '70s. By that later stage of his career Buscema was fully immersed in the Marvel Comics style, drawing super-heroes like The Avengers and sword-and-sorcery like Conan. His art was full of action, Jack Kirby-style. By comparison, Helen Of Troy (published as Dell Four Color #684, and dated March, 1956) was more sedate and illustrative, more Hal Foster's Prince Valiant than Jack Kirby. Not that he didn't draw some action in Helen. The fight scenes are very good. Buscema's art is solid and well-suited to the material.

The thing I immediately noticed about the comic Helen Of Troy is that in the end Paris lived. In the movie he was killed. The comic doesn't dodge this, nor does the movie, but basically the story of Helen and Paris is of a guy stealing a man's wife. Yeah, it's also a story about a big war and eventually a big wooden horse, but in its distilled form it's about two people with a hankering for hanky-panky. For a long time in literature and motion pictures there was an unwritten rule about adultery. If people committed adultery then someone had to die. Adultery was one of those understandable, but unforgivable sins, so the punishment was usually death. In the movie, Helen Of Troy, that unwritten rule was enforced, but in the comic book it wasn't. We found out that Paris had survived just a couple of panels before the "Dell Pledge To Parents" which says, "[Dell Comics] eliminates entirely, rather than regulates, objectionable material." OK…if they say so.

Some vandal--and it was most likely me--took a grease pencil to some of Page 5. Sorry about that.