Saturday, June 17, 2006
A belated happy birthday to artist Frank Thorne who celebrated his yesterday and to Neal Adams and Ross Andru whose birthdays were on the 15th. I know that Mr. Andru passed away in 1993 but I liked his art and wanted others to know when his birthday was. Even though I forgot till I was looking at my 1977 Marvel calender. The above book of Red Sonja is of Frank Thorne's art and it is for sale here.
I live not too far from Cincinnati, Ohio and have gotten use to hearing of all the Hollywood stars that were from there. Like Doris Day, Tyrone Power, Roy Rogers and even Steven Spielberg live in Cincinnati for a brief period when he was a child. What stars ever came from my side of the river in Kentucky. Of course there is my old college classmate George Clooney and his Aunt Rosemary but that is about it as far as movie stars go. However, I have recently found out that Una Merkel was born and raised in Covington, Ky. Who is Una Merkel? Well it seems she was the star of stage and screen years ago. She was born on December 12th 1903 and stared in plays and movies along with Helen Hayes, Lillian Gish, Buddy Ebsen and, my favorite, Jimmy Stewart. She received a Toni award for best actress in the play Ponder Heart. Above is a picture from the movie Born to Dance. She starred with Jimmy Stewart and Alfred Hunnicut. The photo shows her and Hunnicut looking at a movie camera. As time went on parts got smaller but she kept busy acting, usually with roles in Disney productions. Miss. Merkel’s home at the corner of Fourth and Greenup Streets was torn down years ago. Perhaps it should have been made a historical site.
Friday, June 16, 2006
Not long ago the rage in movies was to drive there in your car and park it next to a speaker. You would hang the speaker on the driver side door of the car and watch the movie as it was being projected on a screen the size of a city building and listen to it from the speakers. This was the day of the drive in movie theaters from the 1950’s to the mid 1970’s. That was there heyday. From the mid 70’s to the late 80’s there was a huge decline in attendance as more people started going to indoor cinemas and the movies started coming into the home buy way of VHS rental tapes. To a generation who grew up watching movies on the really, really big screen it is a beloved memory. Most of the movies shown were 2nd runs of major hit films and on occasion an overseas film that was trying to crack the US market. One that I remember is Superargo. The English was dubbed in so the words and the actor’s mouths never matched and for a superhero Superargo walked pigeon toed. That term means that his feet pointed either outwards or inwards. There were two types and I remember this at that time I had that problem. Usually those films didn’t go any farther then the Drive In. One did make the big time. Dr. No! It was the first James Bond film. It did well in England but the theater owners didn’t think it would do well in America as Bond was British. So they sent it to the Drive Ins. When cars at those theaters were lined up around the block they saw it was a hit. Drive In theaters didn’t charge as much as walk in theaters so Dr. No was soon out of the Drive In business. A Bond film has never had its first run at a Drive In since. My memories of the Drive In would have Mom and Dad packing a picnic and placing it in the cooler. Mom and Dad thought the prices at the concession stand were too much and from the prices I see today I tend to agree. I always took a pillow in case I fell asleep in the back seat during the 2nd feature. Try as I must I don’t think I ever succeeded as I always remember my Dad carrying me in to the house to bed. Sometimes I woke up while he was carrying me. Other times I just woke up in bed the next day. At the drive in they also had playgrounds. Kids would play there before the movie started and in between the first and second feature. There was always one kid who would sit on top of the slide to watch the movie. In the early part of my drive in experience Mom and Dad would let me lay on the hood of the car and watch. Cars were built bigger back then and the sides of the hood were thick enough and strong enough to hold a person. I remember sometimes I would be on one side and Dad on the other. As time went on and cars got smaller this was rarely done. My cousin Rachel and I asked once if we could do it. We were told only if we didn’t move. Well you had to talk to the person next to you but Mom and Dad kept knocking on the window to not even turn to each other. You see with the size of the cars being smaller they didn’t think the center was strong enough to hold us. As we turned to talk to each other we were moving towards the center. All the fun was now taken out of watching the movie from that point of view. Times changed and I got older. I can’t remember the last time I was at a drive in but they became known as make out spots for teenagers. I never personally did this but since they only operated in the Spring thru the Fall there were a lot of “Closed for the Winter” jokes about teenagers and drive ins. The drive ins that we went to the most were the Florence Drive in and the Dixie Drive In. I remember the concession stand ads and the coming attractions for adult movies that I knew I would never see. For some reason the coming attraction of Diary of a Mad Housewife with Richard Benjamin has stuck in my head all this time. What I really liked about the coming attractions was the voice over announcers. That is now a lost art form. I remember watching a lot of Disney, Elvis and Jerry Lewis movies at those Drive Ins. There were a couple of times that we drove out before the movie was over. In one case it was before it started. The movie we drove out in the middle of was Little Big Man with a young Dustin Hoffman. There was a scene that they objected to. The scene was Dustin and his adoptive mother went in to the candy shop. Dustin is preoccupied with the soda he is drinking but then notices that his Mom and the store owner are gone. He starts to look for them and finds them “together” in the basement of the store. Our car and a few others left the movie. The other movie we left before it started was a Disney film. It was Candleshoe with David Niven. Dad called the Florence drive in to see when it was on as we had already seen the second one. The person at the drive in said that Candleshoe was the second feature. So we didn’t arrive till the second feature. Guess what. As the first movie was going off we saw it was Candleshoe. The person at the drive in got the schedule mixed up. Mom and Dad complained to the Manager. He gave us 3 passes to use for any movie that summer. Unfortunately, the rest of the summer was R rated movies that we didn’t want to go see. Till Candleshoe came out on video tape I never got to see it. The Dixie drive in became infamous during it’s tenure in the business. You see the movie screen could be seen from the expressway. If there was a nude scene in a movie there were a lot of car accidents because the drive was watching the movie instead of the road. There was a law that said that the Dixie Drive in could never show R rated films again as it was a traffic hazard. Most Drive In theaters are gone from the area. The Dixie and Florence were torn down years ago. The Florence Drive In site is now a neighborhood of condos. For awhile I thought of buying a condo there. I thought it would be ironic if one day I was watching an old movie and might be sitting in the very spot where I first saw that film. I tried to find a photo of the Dixie or the Florence but couldn’t find any. The one above is of the Dent Drive In that is in Cincinnati not too far from here. I never went to the Dent but it effectively conveys the feeling I have for destruction of my two favorites.
As I said yesterday I miss the letters pages in the comic books. Sometimes I would read that page first. I must not have been the only one. I remember a couple of times when an editor would reveal part of the plot to that issues story in an answer to a question someone would ask in a letter. Before he did the editor would say something like if you’re the type who reads the letter pages first then you may want to stop now if you don’t want to know the ending to this issue. I usually kept reading. I don’t know for sure if Stan Lee started the letters page in the 60’s but he took full advantage of it. He talked to the readers as if he was standing right there in front of them. He created his own slang terms like “real frantic one” “face front true believers” and “make mine Marvel.” You felt as if you were in a club with your friends talking about comics. Eventually the letters page got a spin off called the Marvel Bullpen Bulletins Page. Stan had a section called Stan Lee’s Soapbox. There he would tell you what was on his mind. Usually it was about Marvel sometimes it was about what was going on in the world. Most of the time he would bring that around to related to the world of comic books. The page informed you about what was going on in other Marvel comic books and also in the lives of the creators. Without realizing it Stan had created a loose knit family. Of course other comic book companies saw what was done and tried to imitate it. DC started their own letters page. At first it wasn’t as fan friendly as Marvel’s. Letters to Marvel usually started out Dear Stan and Jack. Letters to DC would start out saying Dear Editor. At Marvel you were writing to a friend. At DC you were writing to a business. By the 70’s DC had gotten a bit friendlier. The one company that had almost as much success with their letters page was Archie Comics. The letters weren’t just about the stories in the books but about how the Archie comics affected the reader’s life. They might send in a poem or they might tell how a story in Archie comics caused them to get friends together to clean up litter in their neighborhood. Just as Marvel created fan clubs like the Merry Marvel Marching Society and later Friends of Ole’ Marvel, Archie had the Archie Club. The letters page was really reports from club members. Membership was only 25 cents. The top four letters were printed in the Archie Club News each month and given prizes that ranged from $1 to $5. Club members were given a button as a club member and a press card. You see club members were considered reporters as they were reporting on events in their lives. I use to imagine using mine to get into a real news event and report on it but I never tried that. Another aspect I miss about the letters page is the title of the page. At Marvel they had “Let’s rap with Cap” for Captain America or “The Spider’s Web” for Spider-Man. DC had “Metropolis Mailbag” for Superman or “Cape and Cowl Comments” for World’s Finest. The most fun part was when they had contest for the readers to name the page. You would send them a letter that contained your entry and hope you would win a prize. Usually it was just seeing your name in print. Sometimes it might be something special like having a character named after you or getting a year’s subscription to the comic book. When DC started a Captain Atom comic book I was probably one of the many readers who suggested calling it “Splitting the Atom” I believe they wound up calling it “Quantum Comments.” Speaking of prizes, this was another thing that Stan had fun with. If you spotted something that was out of place in one of his comics, like a typo calling Spiderman Superman for example, he would give you a No-Prize. Many readers tried to get one of these. Early on if you did get on Marvel you send you an envelope saying that it contained the No-prize. There was nothing inside. Later with the cost of postage rising they stopped the mailing even if you did win a No-prize. Hey it was in the title. You won no prize. As I got older I would sometimes look back on old issues to see if any big names in the industry had their letters printed. You would expect them to be filled with names like Marv Wolfman, Len Wein, Mark Evanier, Fred Hembeck, Neal Adams etc. You know it turned out to be rare to see any names of future comic book writers and artist. I remember seeing one from Martin Pasko but that is about it. After reading all of this you would think that I would have had a lot of letters published. I had none of mine published. I only wrote two. One to Marvel Team Up and one to Green Lantern and neither were considered for publication. That didn’t matter. I still loved the letters page. This is what I had on my mind today.
Thought you might like to see this ad from 1969 with Arnold. It appeared in comic books that year and later he played a comic book character in the movies. Mr. Freeze in the Batman films. The Terminator started out as a charactor in a movie of his but became a comic book character later. Sort of makes you go hmm!
Thursday, June 15, 2006
I was just over at Fred Hembeck's sight. You can go there from the link at the left. At Fred's I was told that Tim Hildebrandt of the Hildebrandt brothers died at age 67. There were no details in his passing but his talent will be missed. They did a series of cards for Marvel some years ago called Marvel Masterpieces. Each one was a masterpiece as you can see by the sample above. To any member of the family I must let you know that his art touched all lovers of good art everywhere. I am sorry for your loss.
When I first started reading comic books one of my favorite pages in the whole book was the letters page. Now I miss the letters pages in the comics but what I really miss is what they filled up that page with on the first issue or two of a new book. After all the book had not been released yet so no one could write in about the book. Writers usually gave you an insight into their creative mind and the process of how the book came into being. Now there is no set process on how to create anything. It may just pop into your head. It may come from having a good time with friends. Still it may come from someone just sitting down at a keyboard or drawing pad trying to create something on purpose. Inspration can strike anywhere. Reading how anything is created has always fasinated me. Many creators wrote on those pages how the series idea came to mind. Sometimes they had it easy. The characters were already created for them. Either the company wanted a new book or reader demand for a favorite character, well demaned it. In that case the writer would fill in any new readers on the background of the character. In this case our example is from Freedom Fighters #1. These were the Quality Comics heroes that DC had bought out years ago but had rarely used. He fills us in on the 2 times they used them as a group but until that time they worked alone. The reason for the new book, at least from a writers point of view, is to show how they would work as a group. To have them change and grow into their characters. After, all the Justice League, Justice Society and Legion of Super-heroes were well established in these areas already. If you want to read more you should be able to click on the photo above and enlarge it to read. I plan on another posting on letters pages later.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Not the Bridman from the 1960's Saturday morning cartoon series that Cartoon Network and Boomerang now run. This is my Birdman. this post got me tothinking about my attempt at creating a comedy/adventure strip when I was in high school. None of the strips have survived the years. The above is a recent doodle of the main character. As you can see as an artist I make a great writer. He had the typical powers of flight and superstrength as well as he could communicate with the birds. I don't remember the plots but his arch enemies were the Hummingbird and the Sparrow. It seems I was going for campy humor.
My cousin Randy also had a character that he did at the time he called Turtle Parrot. Of course these two titans teamed up once to defeat an earth shattering foe.
Later in College my buddy Chuck and I were like always goofing around. A friend of ours had a name for his car and Chuck wanted to know what he should call his. As we got in the car I saw all the "improvements" that had been done to the car over the years. I said it should be called a miracle if it gets us anywhere. Thus was christened the Miraclemobile. Our goofing continued as we remembered the old Batman TV show. Chuck was driving and since I was the passenger he called me Wonder Boy and I called him Miracle Man. We were broadcasting majors and soon we had written scripts for Miracle Man as a radio show. Episode one was taped with our fellow classmates and DJ's from the student radio station. The wind was taken out of our creative sails when one day we were at Comic Book World and noticed a new book on the stands. Issue #1 of Miracleman by Alan Moore. We had not copyrighted the name yet so we tried to change it but none of them fit. The fun that we had and felt fueled Miracle Man was not there with Captain Miracle or any of the other names. Miracle Man and Wonder Boy only fought two villains on paper. Wing Wong and Col. Collection. Now Col. Collection was a thief who stole to keep his collections up to date. One day he was bored as they were all complete. So he started a new collection. He started collecting collectors. He would kidnap people who had world famous collections. Wing Wong was my favorite. Again it came out of us joking around. While it is the funnest it is also the most politically incorrect of the two. This was in the days when it was ok to do that. Wing Wong was of Asian decent and he wanted to corner the market in door to door cosmetic sales. He did this by wiring his doorbell so that it would kill anyone who rang it. So when a salesperson rang the bell that was one less competator he had to deal with. He thought he would use it to defeat Miracle Man. Our hero had the best dumb luck in the world. Not knowing he was at the villains house & how the crimes were being committed once he saw the doorbell he...knocked on the door. Wing Wong answers wondering why he didn't ring the bell. Now he has to invite MM into his home. MM is kidnapped and Wonder Boy saves the day but all credit is given to Miracle Man.
One day I may revive one of these heros but with a different non-copyrighted name. I just hope it fits the character.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Well today on the muzak system at work I heard a song I loved in my senior year of college. It was Dexys Midnight Runners and it was called Come On Eileen. The songwriter is talking about his relationship with his first girlfriend. What has kept the song and the group in my mind for so long since they only had this one hit in America? Well it is something that I heard that the leader of the group was suppose to have said. He is suppose to have said if he ever had a song go to number one in America that he would quit the music business. I took it to mean that was his goal to have a number one song in the US. Sure enough their first song in the USA was "Come On Eileen" and for one week in April of 1983 it was the number 1 song in the country on the Billboard charts. All these years I thgought that Kevin Rowland, the songwriter and leader of the group, kept his word as they were never heard from again in the USA. Since the group was from England and big in Europe I think they just stayed overseas. I recently found a quote from Mr. Rowland and I believe this is the real quote. "I promised myself that if Come On Eileen didn't do well I'd find another way of making money. I don't want to be in a loser group touring around everywhere, suffering for my art. It doesn't mean a think because if the music doesn't relate to people and win success, it's a waste of time." There may be some starving musicians who have a different point of view but that is what he said. Not that he would retire after a number one record in America. The song came out when Michael Jackson was rising in his bid for "king of pop" and this was the song that bumbed Billie Jean off the number 1 spot. Mr. Jackson fought back with Beat It. I got the above photo from this auction on e-bay. This is an auction for the 12 inch disc of the song that they would play in Disco's and later they sold in music stores.
Monday, June 12, 2006
Here is a very good lighthearted comedy adventure show from England. Randall and Hopkirk Deceased is about 2 detectives Jeff Randall and Marty Hopkirk. While working on a case the villains run down Hopkirk and he dies. He comes back as a ghost that, of course only Randall can see and to help him solve the crime and his murder. Hopkirk breaks one important rule of being a ghost. Normally he has to return to his grave before the sun rises. To help Randall he has to stay till after the sunrise. He now has to wander the Earth as a ghost for all time. Now Hopkirk had a very pretty wife named Jean. Jeff Randall is attracted to her and has a hard time fighting that attraction and his loyalty to Hopkirk. It is even harder since Jean works at the office as the agency secretary. Hopkirk notices the attraction and is jealous. Part of the comedy comes in when he over reacts. For example Randall and Jean have to get alone to discuss a case so that the villain doesn’t over hear them. Hopkirk thinks Randall is trying to get her alone to ask her out on a date. Other comedy came with Hopkirk getting use to his ghostly powers. In one episode he found that he could imitate anyone’s voice. When Randall is drugged he will only respond to the crooked Dr.’s voice. He won’t do anything unless the Dr. tells him to. So Hopkirk imitates the Dr. telling Randall where to walk to and who to attack to get out of the hospital. This was a very good show that only lasted one season. I wish there was a good American version. The closest that we came was when it was syndicated on late night TV in the USA. Here it was called My Partner the Ghost. My cousin Randy and I ran across it when we were sleeping over at either his house or mine. I forget which right now. We liked the show. I found it again a week or two later but never saw it again till I found this VHS tape. Now I see it is available on DVD. The complete series. I guess the name Randall and Hopkirk Deceased is a good title. However, I think My Partner the Ghost is better. It sums up the series in the title and gives you a sense of fun and adventure.
I don't know if this is really providing a service or if I am really addicted to blogging. I thought that if anyone was interested in what the Andy Capp snack foods were or what they looked like I would show you one. I mentioned it in this post.
Prolific wrtier and editor Len Wein was born on this day. He is known for being editor in chief of Marvel Comics in the 70's as well as his run as a writer on the Amazing Spider-Man and is co-creator of SwampThing at DC Comics. Swamp Thing won him the Shazam award for best contining character and best story for issue #1. So he is an award winning writer. I once heard a story that he and Marv Wolfman started out together trying to get jobs at DC as artist. They both brought samples of their work, stories that they wrote and drew themselves, to Julie Schwartz. He took a look at both and told them you two aren't artist. You're writers. He hired them on the spot as writers for DC Comics. Happy Birthday Len.
Sunday, June 11, 2006
Acting in faith
That is why we live by believing and not by seeing.
2 Corinthians 5:7 NLT You honor Jesus when you act in faith on His Word.
Most of us try to get through life on human wisdom. Some of us succeed. Others of us make so many mistakes that we die with innumerable regrets. If only we could get guidance from above, we would get this "life" stuff right. If only we could hear the voice of the One who knows. If only.
The truth is that we can. The Voice has spoken. His words are available to us. But there's a catch. We have to be willing to obey it. Otherwise, we won't have what Jesus calls "ears to hear." Those who obey what they already know of God have their ears opened to more; and those who have ears open are readily obedient.
The root of the problem is that most of us have trouble, however minor it may be, with obedience. We lose our "ears to hear," and as a result, we fall back on human wisdom. Our lives never match those of the biblical heroes. Why? Human wisdom would not have pushed Abraham up a hill to sacrifice his son; it would not have led God's people to the edge of the Red Sea with an army in pursuit; it would not have marched around Jericho seven times and blasted a trumpet for the wall to fall; and, most strikingly, human wisdom would not have vilified the Son of God on a cross in order to save a wretched race.
Really, when it comes to it, would you prefer to live by the human logic that results from losing your ears to hear? Or would you prefer the cutting-edge, risky-but-real life of a true, radical believer? The answer isn't clear for everyone. But we've seen who lasts. Your Bible is full of their stories. They lived by faith, not by sight.
Marvel has used the name The Human Fly for 2 characters. One was a villain the other was a part time hero. This post is to discuss the hero. I say he was a part time hero as he was really an acrobat/daredevil stunt performer. He was badly injured in a car accident and had his life saved at the hospital by reconstructive surgery. His real name and face were never revealed. He did stunts at benefits to help children. Sometimes he caught the attention of supervillains and had to stop them. The selling point for the series was that Marvel said it was based on a real life daredevil who called himself the human fly. It is rumored to have been Rick Rojatt and they did have photos in the comic book showing Rojatt or someone else dressed as the Human Fly performing stunts.
Whether it was Rojatt or not who the book was based on I can’t say. It may have been based on an older Human Fly named Harry Gardiner. He was born in 1871 and started climbing buildings around the turn of the century. He was the first urban climber and climbed over 700 buildings in the world. Unlike his comic book namesake he did not wear red spandex. He just climbed wearing all white street clothes, tennis shoes and his rimless glasses. His most famous climbs were October 1916 for the Detroit News. They hired him to get attention to their ad department to climb their building. In 1918 he climbed the Bank of Hamilton to celebrate the end of World War I. It is said that while climbing the building he stopped inside one of the Banks windows and signed insurance papers. He did that because he was a high risk and not able to get insurance anywhere else. This gave the Bank of Hamilton a lot of attention. In 1919 he climbed the World Building where the Vancouver newspaper was published. It is not known if he was hired for the climb. The World Building is now known as the Sun Tower.
So the Human Fly was real. I just am not sure who it was based on. Marvel published a little over a dozen issues of the book between 1977 to 1979. The one thing I really remember is the wonderful art of Frank Robbins. At that time he was known for doing The Invaders. However, he did do work on Batman, Power Man, Captain America and others. He is no longer with us as he died sometime in the 1990’s but his art will live on for years to come.