Archive - April 2009
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April 30th, 2009
Drowning In Drawings

Time to continue with my seemingly tireless efforts to flood the market with Hembeck originals! (Sorry--no accompanying jokes this time around. Or, am I actually doing you a FAVOR, skipping the quips? Well, anyway, just go look....)

Hey, everyone, it's--

Larger? Grab mouse, click.

Ebay auction? Here.

April 29th, 2009
Gran Pa

We went to see Clint Eastwood's "Gran Torino" yesterday..

Up until a few months back, when we took in "Changeling"--featuring Angelina Jolie's Oscar nominated performance--I'd never seen a movie directed by Eastwood. Heck, aside from the initial "Dirty Harry" movie, which I saw back when it first came out, I'd hardly ever even seen Clint the ACTOR!! But I was so impressed with "Changeling"--which I gather isn't even close to being his best film--that I made it a point to check out him pulling double-duty on "Gran Torino" as soon as it hit our local budget theater. Whereas not all that long ago, I woulda let it pass by without even thinking twice.

The plot? Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, an embittered Korean War vet. The film opens at his wife's funeral, and we soon see that this is a man who doesn't let anyone get close to him, even his two adult sons and their families--and especially not the Asians who've moved in next door. Kowalski spews racist nomenclature easily and freely, and initially, wants no part whatsoever of his neighbors. However, after foiling a botched attempt to steal his pristine mint 1972 Gran Torino as part of an initiation forced upon the reluctant Thao (Bee Vang) by a gangbanger cousin, an unlikely bond develops between the two, one largely facilitated by the boys older sister Sue (Ahney Her).

Now, this could just as easily be the plot of a sappy, ABC After School Special, as it could be of a really good movie.

Guess what? Chalk me up for coming down on the side of "really good movie"--heck, make that "really, REALLY good movie". Somehow, "Gran Torino" missed out on getting any Oscar noms (maybe they figured Clint had already raked in his share?...), but for my money (merely one thin dollar, admittedly), I found this flick to be more moving than several of the films that did gather a few Academy nods. There's no doubt, for instance, that given the choice, I'd pick this one over "Doubt". But, as noted in the past, I don't get a vote, so sorry Mr. E. I'm thinking he deserved to be in the mix for the acting award, and the work of his two young Asian co-stars (newcomers both, this being their only credit on both their individual imdb pages) is exemplary as well. The predictable story unfolds unpredictably, with sweet moments, funny moments, thought-provoking moments, and yes, a few pivotal violent moments. In the end. the character of Kowalski somehow all makes sense, and as unlikable as he appears in the movie's opening minutes, you'll find yourself rooting for him in the film's final moments.

Hey, how can you NOT love a guy who, three decades after turning "make my day" into a national catch phrase, does his level best to claim "get off my lawn" as his own, simply by snarling it so unforgettably?...

(Note to comics fans: one of three executive producers on the project is Jenette Kahn. Yes, THAT Jenette Kahn. Guess old Warner Brothers connections don't fade easily...)
April 28th, 2009

Today we offer up our versions of five super-couples--and I do mean SUPER-couples!!

(And as a bonus, check out some creaky quips dreamt up by moi specifically for the occasion!)

But first, the drawings, starting with--

ANT-MAN and The WASP!!
And NOW, the jokes!!

Y'know HOW Daredevil met Elektra?

On a BLIND date!!

(rim shot)

With a name like Janet Van Dyne, how could she help being anything BUT a Wasp?...

(rim shot)

I guarantee you, Medusa is one women who's NEVER said, ":I simply can't do ANYTHING with my hair!"

(rim shot)

Cyclop's favorite song to serenade Phoenix ? "I Only Have EYE For You".

(weak rim shot)

Superman and Wonder Woman were quite the item for awhile, but what finally broke them up was that he wanted to do all his shopping at the supermarket while she insisted on using!!

(VERY weak rim shot...)

And now that THAT'S over, let's get back the art, shall we? Wanna see 'em larger? Zip yer mouse over the above pics and--like magic!!--twice the size!!

And this here link's yer one-way ticket to the current Ebay auctions!!

More soon!!
April 27th, 2009
Boris Sure Is Bad Enough

Last night, I went on another one of my VHS fishing expeditions--I came across an eight hour tape that simply had "Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome" scrawled on it.

I popped it into the VCR, and then went about discovering what else was recorded there. Made up entirely of Turner Classic Movie material from 2003, the aforementioned Gould meets "Ghoul" programmer led things off, followed by "West Of Shanghai", "The Raven", "The Black Cat", "Freaks", and "M". Boris Karloff was the featured star of the first four films (the two Poe flavored flicks i saw long, long ago, the other two not at all), "Freaks" I actually remember watching shortly after taping it off TCM, mostly to satisfy a decades old curiosity, and "M" I've yet to see.

But just to keep things simple, I decided to start at the beginning and scope out Karloff's 1947 performance as Gruesome. He receives top-billing over Ralph Byrd's Dick Tracy,and he truly deserves it. Not only is he afforded substantial screen time (something that was not always the case when tuning into a lesser forties' Karloff or Lugosi vehicle), but he's far a more interesting character as well!! Truth is, I'd never seen a Tracy film before (save for the Warren Beatty update). After several earlier serials starring Byrd, this was the last of four feature films (the initial pair starring Morgan Conway), though Byrd would be back in 1950 to film 39 episodes of a "Dick Tracy" TV program, and would've filmed more if he hadn't died suddenly of a heart attack (yes, I've been doing my internet homework!). From what I've been able to gather, contemporary critics found this last Tracy film, while enjoyable, more cartoonishly campy than the three that preceded it. Was it the appearance of Dr. A. Tomic that did it, or was it his comely assistant, professor I.M. Learned? Beats me, but for an alleged chuckle-fest, the final half of this thing features enough indiscriminate homicide to pass for an episode of "24"!! And of course, Boris is right in the thick of it all!! (Naturally, he gets his eventually--gosh, is that a spoiler, or simply a foregone conclusion?--but wait'll you see HOW he's dispatched!! Not exactly cricket, Dick...

(Trivia note: Tarzan of the (near) future, Lex Barker, has the unbilled role of an ambulance driver who gets slugged in the flick's final minutes--gee, you can hardly recognize the guy with his shirt on!!)

And you CAN share in all the fun, thanks to YouTube!! Yup, it's another in our ever-popular series of "First Fred watches it on tape, then he passes it along to YOU via the YouTube!" blog entries. It's in six parts, and runs a total of 65 minutes. Watch for the scene where, as the police are rapidly closing in, the big boss asks Gruesome to look after and protect his lady friend for him, prompting Boris to smile and answer reassuringly. What happens next AIN'T for the faint of heart, lemme tell ya!

Anyway, enjoy! I did!!

Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome Part 1
Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome Part 2
Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome Part 3
Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome Part 4
Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome Part 5
Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome Part 6
April 26th, 2009
Oh, Mother--Times Two

Thanks to the internet, one of my favorite things to do after watching a movie or an old--or even not all that old--TV show is to Google the names of the various supporting actors and actresses seen in the end credits, cuz you never know what you're gonna find.

Take, for instance, the case of Irene Tedrow. That's exactly what i did after watching her in the pivotal--yet peripheral--role of Congresswoman Geddes in one of my very favorite episodes of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show", "The Dinner Party". That's the one, you might recall, where Mary throws a disastrous dinner-party for her Congresswoman friend, a party where there's more guests than portions of food (Rhoda unexpectedly brings along a pre-Fonz Henry Winkler as her date). Most memorable is the moment when a hungry Lou Grant casually takes what amounts to two full portions, only to have to put half of it back at Mary's panicky behest!! Funny, funny scene!!

So anyway, following the cat's final meow, I checked out Irene Tedrow's imdb page. Some impressive credits there, but I found a pair that would be of particular interest to the comics fans amongst us (which is pretty much all of you, I'm guessing).

In 1975, Ms. Tedrow essayed the role of Martha Kent in the TV adaptation of the quasi-hit Broadway show, "It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's Superman!".

A few years later, in 1978, on the short-lived Nicholas Hammond "Spider-Man' program. she played Aunt May!!

That's right, folks--this lady holds the unique distinction of being the ONLY actress to play the adoptive mother-figure to both Superman AND Spider-Man on the tube!! Now THAT'S an internet era factoid if ever I saw one!!

Y'know, if only Bill Dozier hadn't jettisoned the role of Martha Wayne on the old "Batman" show. Who knows? Maybe Irene Tedrow coulda qualified for a triple-header!!
April 25th, 2009
Oh, Mother!...

As you may've heard, the fine folks over at YouTube have recently instituted a section of their site devoted to both full-length movies and entire episodes of various television programs. These are NOT the user-posted clips that have made YouTube famous, but high-quality, officially sanctioned, all-in-one videos.

You can go here to see what you can see.

Lotsa good stuff, huh? And with all the top-quality goodies available for one's viewing, just WHERE do you think I gravitated towards?

Uh huh. The so-called "Worst Program In Television History", "My Mother The Car".

I hadn't seen the show since it ran its single season back in 1965, and I actually recall liking it. Of course, I WAS 13 at the time, so I figured it was past time to take another look.

YouTube has five episodes of "My Mother The Car" available, including the very first one.

Over the last few days, I watched all five of them. So, is it THAT bad? No. Is it in fact sorta good, the way I remember it? Also no. Let me explain...

The production values are high, with a fair amount of the scenes filmed outside. The car looks way spiffy. The entire cast gives it all they've got. Those are the pluses.

The minuses? It's just not very funny. Star Jerry Van Dyke appears to be obliged to amp down the natural gregariousness he displayed earlier on brother Dick's show. And the concept is not only silly, it's stifling.

Look, "Bewitched", "I Dream Of Jeanie", "My Favorite Martian", and "Mr. Ed" were all of the same era as "My Mother The Car", and all shared a central conceit with it--one character, and one character only, is aware of a magical totem right smack dab in the middle of things. A witch. A genie.A martian. A talking horse. All were big hits. All were just as fanciful as having your dead mother come back, reincarnated, as a talking car, maybe, but far more manageable, storywise. Viewers found the notion of a pair of attractive young women performing magical tricks, a faux uncle who's really a man from outer space, and even a horse that talks, far easier to believe. For one thing, each of them could casually interact with those in the cast unaware of their special abilities, even the horse. But David Crabtree's (Jerry Van Dyke) mother? There wasn't much she (the voice of early sitcom icon Ann Sothern) could do but squawk at her son via the radio when he--and he alone--was sitting in the car. Sorta limited the plot possibilities...

Which is probably why, of the five episodes up on YouTube (numbers 1,2, 4, 5, and 6, out of 30), three concern themselves with recurring foil (and easily the funniest thing about this whole misbegotten enterprise) Captain Manzini (played by Avery Schreiber, aided by his distinctive walrus mustache and essayed with all the subtlety of a silent film villain), a rich car collector who's desperate to own the rare (and in reality, non-existent) 1928 Porter that for some reason he can't pry away from Crabcake.



And THAT folks, is the recurring gag that occurs not only in every episode that Schreiber appears in, but in virtually every SCENE he appears in!! Geez, talk about running a gag into the ground...

The Captain isn't involved at all in the second episode, but the premise there has Jerry worried so much about some car strippers that have been plaguing the neighborhood, he eventually winds up sleeping in the garage with mom!! And I guess that's brings us to the subliminal (for 1965) ick factor. Dave complains early in the episode that he doesn't want his mother stripped! In another show, he hoses her down with cold water, declaring "I'm gonna give you a bath, mom", and gets a big giggle when she complains the water is too cold! And there's that whole bit about sleeping in the garage with her. Dave's wife (Maggie Pierce, in a thankless role) eventually shows up with pillow in hand to join her seemingly vastly over-concerned hubby, and as they snuggled in the front seat, I couldn't help but think, after forty subsequent years of sit-com coarsening, how things might've played out if this same episode were filmed today. The oblivious wife would likely look in the back seat, and remind her flustered husband of what they used to do in their younger days in just such a situation, and suggestively suggest for old times sake that--well, I think you see where I'm going here!! Freudian hilarity ensues!! Ick factor, notched to the max!

That said, I want to make special mention of episode 5, "Burned At The Steak". This particular story could've played on any other sit-com of the day--the car plays a small, mostly incidental role this time around, being most notable for tipping Dave off that the newlyweds next door have been fighting. It's all about her bad cooking--including that charred hunk of steak--and Crabtree tries his best to reunite the pair. Of course, things backfire, and instead the couple head for divorce court!! Turns out Dave's a lawyer (a fact I hadn't gleaned in the previous three episodes), so he gets to represent the wife and her Laura Petrie hairdo. More amazingly, though, hubby (a young, subdued Charles Grodin) has a ridiculously aggressive Lee Van Cleef handling his briefs!! Even without a talking car factoring into the proceedings, events unfold in a surreal manner that, even for mid-sixties sitcoms, is--like the aforementioned steak--hard to swallow!! But Van Cleef is a real hoot, no doubt about it.

You'll also see Bill Daily, James Sikking, and Barbara Bain pop up in various episodes, should you be able make it through all five shows. No, I certainly can't say it's a good show, but I can't deny being strangely fascinated by it either. There's no laugh track, so you're on your own there (me, I chuckled out loud only once, when mom complained of her "CARthritis"--your milage may vary).

Now, if I could only get that blasted theme song out of my head!!
April 23rd, 2009
Crazy Freddy!! (aka "Ads Infinitum")

Time for some more illos, art lovers!!

Such as...

To get a closer look, run you mouse over any of the above pics and--viola!!--BIGGER!!

Ebay auction access? Year looking' at it, pal!!

See ya!!
April 22nd, 2009
Animated Confession

Last night, Lynn and I saw (in regular ol' 2-D) "Coraline", the stop-motion, computer-enhanced, animated adaptation of Neil Gaiman's award-winning children's novel. What follows is less a review than a confession...

It almost put me to sleep!!

Literally. After about fifteen minutes in, it was all I could do to keep my eyes open. As faithful readers of this blog are well aware, over the last 13 months or so, me and the missus have been taking in pretty much a movie a week, and in all that time, a similar, inexplicable bout of grogginess occurred only one other time.

When? While watching "Wall-E".

Not during the extended, mostly silent opening sequence, but once the story shifted over to that spaceship with all the computer generated humans milling about? THAT'S when I found myself continually fighting to keep my eyelids in the upright and locked position!! At the time, I figured my reaction was just one of those things--"Wall-E' was among the flicks I never quite got around to blogging about, so I never mentioned my curious reaction here. And y'know, I liked it well enough--though obviously couldn't work up the type of enthusiasm for it that a fair amount of folks who considered it an instant classic did.

But now there seems to be case building for me to admit--first to myself, and then to you--that, geez, I simply can't become viscerally engaged with computer animated feature films! This newly discovered personal blind spot may explain my past less than delighted reactions to beloved fan-favorites such as "The Incredibles" and "Finding Nemo", both of which I originally viewed on the small screen. (And no, I've never seen "The Nightmare Before Christmas", "James and The Giant Peach", or "The Corpse Bride", though I had always wanted too. Maybe not so much anymore...). Still, rather inexplicably, I distinctly recall being totally enchanted by both of the "Toy Story" films, and easily managed to stay awake for "Shrek" 1 and 3 (missed 2), so perhaps there's still hope for me. Guess we'll find out when "Monsters vs. Aliens" comes to our local theater in a few weeks).

Y'know, I have no problem with hand drawn animated films (or ones that LOOK hand-drawn anyway). When Julie was younger, the whole family enjoyed the likes of "The Little Mermaid", "Beauty and the Beast", "Pocahontas", "The Hunchback of Notre Dame", and "Aladdin", to name just a few--even if they began to seem pretty formulaic eventually. And I certainly loved the big-screen escapades of SpongeBob and The Simpsons! But apparently, there's something about computer generated cartoon images that just don't click for me (or puppets either--I've never harbored the least bit of affection for The Muppets, truth to tell). Because, c'mon--I'm nodding off during the sumptuous visual fest that is "Coraline" and yet I'm sitting in rapt attention on my couch, never missing a single beat of that less than remarkable JLA teleflick? I'll be the first to admit it, friends--clearly, there's something WRONG with me!!

So pay me no mind--go see "Coraline". If you're a fairly normal person, you're likely to enjoy it (even if the storyline isn't nearly as full of stunning surprises as I was led to believe from reports posted elsewhere. If you've actually read a Gaiman comic or two--and back when I kept up, I polished off the entire SANDMAN run--the shocks will be few).

Just gotta remember the NoDoz next time!...
April 21st, 2009
Lost...AND Found!!

In 1964, Marvel restarted their Hulk feature by installing the Green Goliath in the back pages of TALES TO ASTONISH, pencilled by Steve Ditko.

In 1964, Marvel ran specially produced pin-up pages of virtually all their characters in the pages of their various magazines.

In 1964, Steve Ditko pencilled one of these pin-ups spotlighting The Hulk for TALES TO ASTONISH.

In 1964--and in all the years since--said Hulk pin-up was never, ever inked, and never, ever seen.

Until NOW!

Thanks to a hot tip from a hot guy--Jim Salicrup--I'm delighted to share this link with you, your ticket to view a never before seen 45 year old illo of Bruce Banner and his fellow castmates by the legendary Steve Ditko!! Enjoy--and thanks, Jim!!
April 21st, 2009
Things That Were Never Meant For Me To See...

...I FINALLY saw.

Yup, been doing more rooting through old, previously unwatched video-tapes, and I came up with two--you should pardon the expression--gems these last couple of nights (both made for me, long ago, by a close buddy--thanks big guy!! Can "Black Adder" be very far over the horizon now?...)

First into the VCR was the ill-fated 1994 "Fantastic Four" movie that was never released. (For the curious, this page does an admirable job summarizing the whole sorry situation, and then some). Produced purely to maintain the rights to Marvel's oldest family, with apparently no intention of EVER seeing the light of day--a salient fact that was kept from the actors, director, crew, and--he'd have you believe--even hired gun producer Roger Corman himself--what you have is one of the cheapest looking movies you're EVER likely to see!!

But is it WORTH the seeing?

I'd say have to say yes, but with reservations. The special effects are almost nonexistent and the script is simply pedestrian. Despite these flaws, the filmmakers do a decent job of capturing the comics series proper spirit (even if the scene, pre-rocket launch, in which Sue and Johnny's mom dubs the quartet "The Fantastic Four:" for no discernible reason, IS cringe-worthy). When I mentioned that I'd seen this flick recently over on my Facebook page, a LOT of positive comments came in from folks, some even preferring it to the later, big-budget version!! I'm not prepared to go THAT far, but I will say I thought that their Dr. Doom. looked truer to the comics version that his latter day doppelganger (though the decision to record the actors lines while wearing that metal mask was, in the final analysis, the wrong one. Or as Reed might've said to Doc in the heat of battle, "What? WHAT did you say? Could you repeat that threat, please?..."). And look, I LOVE Jessica Alba, honest, but Rebecca Staab looks EXACTLY the way Jack Kirby drew Sue Storm (even if she and the rest of the group were wearing the John Byrne designed outfits...).

It's a fun curio--and the very last image is a true hoot! It's just as well it was never released, though, as it might well've killed the audience's potential appetite for any future FF flicks.

And speaking of appetites...
Did you know there was a two hour pilot made for a proposed "Justice League of America " series back in 1997? And that, from what I've been able to ascertain looking around the 'net, unlike the relatively warmly received FF movie, THIS unreleased piece of cinema is basically reviled? Yup, it's true.

But for all it's faults--and there are many--i found it just as entertaining, and maybe even a smidgen bit more so, than the FF flick. I can see why fans didn't like it, though, as it strays way, WAY far away from the source material. Guy Gardner is Green Lantern, for instance, but while he's outfitted in Guy's costume, his mask--and his persona--come directly from Kyle Rayner. Barry Allen is The Flash--but this isn't any Barry Allen WE'VE ever seen in the comics. And while this production is much spiffier than the FF one--and the special effects marginally better--the costumes are just plain awful!! Fire and Ice, the two female members--and unassailable evidence that the producers were attempting to emulate the light-hearted Giffen/DeMatteis JLA era--pass muster, clotheswise (two attractive women in skin tight outfits--tough to botch THAT up!), but the male members range from barely passable (GL), mostly right with key elements way wrong (The Flash's mask and gloves), to impossibly dorky looking (The Atom). David Ogden Stiers as J'onn J'onnz actually looks fairly decent--until the camera catches a sideways silhouette of him! From MASH to mashed potatoes--way. WAY too many mashed potatoes, apparently!!

Storywise, the plot revolves around what is more or less the origin and induction into the League of Ice (she's decked out in costume only briefly, in the show's final seconds) as the group takes on the mysterious Weather Man. Interspersed throughout are interview clips with the various members, making pithy observations on their day-to-day lives as super-heroes. Truth to tell, I thought this added quite a bit of personality to the proceedings and liked the conceit quite a bit. There were even some mildly witty lines sprinkled throughout these segments, and combined with the fairly decent acting (particularly from the thespians portraying Ice, Ray Palmer, and big-browed Green Stiers himself (though if you look closely, his neck is continually in need of a tad more emerald make-up...)). I can see where this may not've been the best direction for a JLA telefilm to head in, but--aside from those truly horrendous outfits--it's a mildly interesting approach. it sure made me appreciate the Ice character far more than I ever had before, that's for sure!!

Anyway, that's the way I feel about things. If you wanna judge for yourself, well, no need to scrounge up an overpriced bootleg copy of either previously suppressed super-hero epic--merely go look for YOURSELF!! (Yup that means YOU, John Firehammer!) BOTH of 'em are are on the YouTube!; links to follow...

JLA TV pilot 1997 Part 1

JLA TV pilot 1997 Part 2
JLA TV pilot 1997 Part 3
JLA TV pilot 1997 Part 4
JLA TV pilot 1997 Part 5
JLA TV pilot 1997 Part 6
JLA TV pilot 1997 Part 7
JLA TV pilot 1997 Part 8
JLA TV pilot 1997 Part 9

Fantastic Four 1994 Part 1
Fantastic Four 1994 Part 2
Fantastic Four 1994 Part 3
Fantastic Four 1994 Part 4
Fantastic Four 1994 Part 5
Fantastic Four 1994 Part 6
Fantastic Four 1994 Part 7
Fantastic Four 1994 Part 8
Fantastic Four 1994 Part 9

Enjoy! (Well, if you can...)
April 20th, 2009
The Sale That NEVER Ends!!

More art up for grabs, sans any special announcements this time around. Feast yer peepers, friends!

Eternal IKARIS vs. New God ORION!!
And if you're unfamiliar with that last pair of battling buddies, then friend, you don't know JACK about comics!!

Larger images available via a simple mouse click, as always.

And here's access to the current Ebay auctions--bid early, bid often!!

Back soon--adios amigos!!
April 19th, 2009
World Wide WebFred

Got a couple of Hembeck-centric links for you folks today.

A while back, Rob Kelly over The Aquaman Shrine, commissioned yours truly to come up with a brand new gag in the tradition of my long-ago cartoon strips featured in DC's Daily Planet promo pages (a fair number of which can be viewed over at Neil Polowin's The Hembeck Files), giving me carte blanche to scribble out whatever silly joke came to mind, the only condition being that it feature (natch) Aquaman!

An intriguing challenge, and after thinking about it for a bit, this--lovingly colored by Rob himself--is what I came up with! (And here's a link to the blog entry detailing how the whole thing came to be). Having far more room to play with than I did back in the old DC days, the art is far more expansive than what was usually found down on the outer corners of the Daily Planet pages, but the gag? Not a whole lot different. Check it out--I hope it'll make you groan AND grin!

Then there's the latest Five For Friday survey over at Tom Spurgeon's The Comics Reporter. The question: Name Five Specific Superhero Serial Storylines Of Which You're Fond (In Other Words, You Don't Have To Be Able To Make A Case For Them, You Just Have to Like Them)

View my response by going here, which includes the very first series of continued stories I ever came across in my many, many years of reading comics.

And come back HERE again soon, for more fun-filled opportunities to waste your precious time!! See ya!!
April 16th, 2009
Returns Department

Regular readers of this page know that I harbor no great love for the campy sixties "Batman" TV program, seeing as it cruelly dashed my thirteen year old hopes of having people take my beloved comic books seriously. At least, that's the way it felt then, and I never quite got over the sting. But it's not like I watched the first episode, flipped off the set and never tuned in again. Sure, I was disappointed that it didn't live up to my impossibly high ideals, but I still watched the show faithfully likely for at least two-thirds of it's initial run, hoping to make the best of the situation. I guess I finally got tired of it right around the same time the rest of the country did, but there's no denying I was a fan, if a somewhat reluctant one.

So, several years back--2003 to be specific--when CBS broadcast an oddball retelling of the story behind the story entitled "Back To The Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt", I felt a lingering obligation to tape the two-hour presentation. I was, however, in no particular rush to actually WATCH the thing.

THAT occurred only recently. You may recall me discussing my current fascination with rediscovering what's on my imposing pile of unwatched VHS tapes, tapes that have been mounting up steadily over the years. Truth is, I was actually rooting around, looking for a Beach Boys TV movie bio I'd come across only days earlier, but was unable to find it (and still haven't), so, taking a deep sigh, figured what the heck, and popped the Adam West/Burt Ward team-up into the VCR instead, figuring, minus commercials, I'd only have to endure about 90 minutes of this vapid video recap.

And then something totally unexpected happened--


Holy stunned reaction, Batfans!!

Split nearly fifty-fifty between scenes of the two aging actors searching about on a silly quest to locate the Batmobile, which goes missing at the top of the show, and flashbacks recounting the hit series' history, utilizing a pair of actors--Jack Brewer and Jason Marsden--as the younger Adam and Burt, there's never a dull moment. Along the way, we encounter actorly subs for all the key Bat baddies, as well as bona fides of Frank Gorshin, Lee Meriweather, and Julie Newmar--not to mention a few intriguing seconds from Lyle Waggoner's actual--but unsuccessful--screen test as the Caped Crusader! Joss Whedon fans should be on the lookout for a pre-"Angel", pre-"Dollhouse" Amy Acker in the small role of Mrs. Burt Ward.

It's all broad, goofy fun, with lots of fourth-wall breaking, and witty chemistry between BOTH Dynamic Duos!! Y'know, I'm convinced I'll NEVER be able to say I actually like Adam West in the role of Batman, but watching this, I finally came to realize that I've ALWAYS liked him in the role of "Adam West, the guy who used to play Batman", which, let's face it, pretty much what he's been playing, to one degree or another, ever since the show went off the air!!

(And speaking of going off the air, maybe the biggest laugh I garnered from the entire show came from a scene that wasn't fishing for one. Faced with the show's imminent cancellation, the faux Adam and Burt are commiserating over drinks when Ward bemoans the fact that, just a few short months earlier, his "Batman" contract prevented him from taking the lead role in "The Graduate", thus making the show indirectly responsible for launching Dustin Hoffman's career!!!

Dustin Hoffman or Burt Ward? That's a CHOICE? Hey, the show didn't only make Hoffman's acting career, it probably saved Mike Nichol's DIRECTING career as well!! Holy miscasting, Batman!!

Yeah, there's lot's of fun to be had watching "Return To The Batcave", and if you somehow missed it, guess what?? I didn't go on and on about it just to make you feel bad for passing it by, i went on and on about it to whet your appetite, because the whole thing, in ten nine-minute plus segments, is currently posted on the YouTube!!

Here's your links, Batfans!!

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10

One last oddity about the show--I took notice that from the outset, a very key word seemed to be avoided. Fact is, I don't recall the word "Batman" being uttered until about fifteen minutes into things, when "Adam" is in "William Dozier's " office. After that, it's tossed around freely, but I have to wonder, was there some sort of DC Comics mandated embargo on the term in the program's opening moments for some arcane legal reasons? if any of you do sit down and watch this thing on your computer, let me know if I'm right, or if I just misheard things (Holy Miracle Ear, Batman...).

That's all for today, good citizens!
April 15th, 2009
Your Attention Please!

Folks, I know that, at first glance, today's blog entry looks like yet another one of my seemingly endless attempts to hawk some custom made illos--and in truth, it IS--but these drawings have been carefully assembled to ALSO serve the purpose of announcing several upcoming projects of mine for the fine folks at Marvel Comics!!

First up, may I suggest you seek out the upcoming 50th issue of CAPTAIN AMERICA? Besides the action-packed lead story, this anniversary celebration includes a two pager from yours truly (beautifully colored by Chris Giarusso, a talented gent I certainly hope to work with again). I throw a spotlight on the Marvel Age's FIRST Captain America, Carl Zante!


Read it and find out. But as part of my back-handed salute, I included a panel not unlike the following illo, based on the Human Torch's 1963 meeting with the faux Cap..

But that's only the appetizer!!

Because just yesterday, I turned in all ten pages for the first Petey story commissioned in over a decade!! (If you don't know about Petey, follow this link for the full--and I do mean FULL--story). I'd noticed that reprints of some of my past Petey tales had been turning up in the giant-sized SPIDER-MAN FAMILY book, so I figured, hey, why not see if the idea of a NEW Petey episode appealed to them as much as it did to ME!! Happily, they took the bait, and it'll run in some, as yet undetermined, issue of S-M FAMILY!! (Gee, now THERE'S a catchy abbreviation...)

SPIDER-MAN and the "PETEY" cast!!
The story features "Petey" regulars Flash and Liz, natch, but needed a villain--and though J. Jonah Jameson figures prominently in the proceedings, he doesn't quite qualify for the role. Neither does reporter--and future "Big Man"--Fred Foswell. But one of his eventual associates does. WHICH of The Enforcers tangles with young Petey Parker--Montana, Fancy Dan, or The Ox? Hey, gotta SAVE some surprises for the paying customers, y'know!!...

But here's the biggest surprise of all--

Our little escapade guest stars none other than younger versions of both Jericho and Daniel Drumm, better know to us all as

Well, whaddaya expect from a story called "Loa and Order"?

As soon as I know WHICH issue it's slated to appear in, I'll be sure to post that info!! Hopefully, this'll start up a whole new cycle of "Petey" stories--I've got plenty of OTHER ideas for potential upcoming entries! And that's not even counting the inspired notion my buddy Terry A had--finally tie up that long dangling "Will Wyatt Wingfoot play in the big game?" FF sub-plot once and for all!! Of course, dunno how I'm gonna do that without using Doc Doom's time machine, but hey, maybe THAT'S my answer right there!! Well, I've a few plots of my own to figure out first, but maybe someday...

In the meantime, just for the heck of it--there are NO revival plans afoot here, folks--I decided to draw the two stars of one of DC Comics most beloved, past cult titles--and another one of my own (coff coff) signature series

For what it's worth, note that this is my first ever attempt at 'Mazing Man, and thus, owes a WHOLE lot to creator Stephen DeStefano's version. As for ol' Zoot, this is likely only my second or third go at the character since the 'MAZING MAN book closed up shop. Ah, nostalgia...

As always, click on the above pics to see 'em larger, and here's your one-way ticket to my Ebay auctions.

And THAT, oh patient reader, brings our relentless self-promotion to a merciful end!!...

For today.
April 14th, 2009
Three Flicks, Three Bucks

Back over winter break, Julie's friend Courtney was visiting. We'd all just seen the movie "W", and as we were leaving the theater, she asked if we'd seen "Doubt" yet. As it was still in the first-run venues at that point (i.e., the pricey places), I said no, we hadn't.

"Don't bother", she replied, "nothing happens".

Well, months later, after racking up a raft of Oscar nominations--including four acting nods--Lynn and I were willing to gamble a buck apiece to see just how accurate Courtney was in her assessment.

She wasn't altogether wrong.

True to the title, a lot of what happens--or doesn't happen--is left in doubt. The storyline--concerning suspicions of an old-school nun regarding possible improper relations between a young priest and the school's first black student (it's set in 1964)--is engrossing, if ultimately unfufilling. What there can be NO doubt about, however, is the extraordinary acting by all concerned, most especially by Meryl Streep as the aforementioned tough-as-nails sister! Last seen wearing flowing frocks, belting out Abba tunes on a Greek mountainside in "Mamma Mia", the transformation from THAT character to this one is absolutely astonishing!! Hey, I knew she was good, I just didn't know she was THIS good!! Too bad she wasn't quite good enough to make me buy the films last few lines...

(Based on a Pulitzer Prize award-winning play by John Patrick Shanley--who also adapted for the screen and directed it himself, his only other writing/directing credit coming for 1990's "Joe Versus The Volcano", the film has a clear theatrical feel at times, never more so than with Streep's final speech, the sort that usually calls for a dramatic blackout to end things with a flourish when performed live, but doesn't work quite as well on screen. Also, several scenes are shot tilted for no discernible reason. One odd scene alternates shots between the priest and the younger nun with camera angles shooting from below, up their respective nostrils, before settling in for a more standard straight-on approach!! Y'know, you'd almost swear Gil Kane must've done the storyboards for THAT sequence!!...).

The younger, kinder nun is played by the always adorable Amy Adams, who turns in her usual top-notch performance. As the priest, Philip Seymour Hoffman does a dutiful job, though his character isn't as finely etched at the two nuns. But with only one substantial scene to her credit, Viola Davis, is stunning as the mother of the young student in question.

If I were Catholic, maybe this movie would've held a much deeper meaning for me. But I'm not, so it doesn't. The acting is of the highest caliber, though, and even if I never quite felt an emotional connection to any of the characters, that alone makes it worth seeing.

Even though nothing really happens...
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" is one of those movie where EVERYTHING happens, as we literally watch the lead character take his first breath AND his very last as well, a time period encompassing the first World War right up to Hurricane Katrina. By now, it's no secret what the gimmick is here: our hero (Brad Pitt) is born like unto a man in his eighties, and ages in the opposite direction of everyone else around him. Pitt was justifiably rewarded with an Oscar nomination for his nuanced--and constantly evolving--performance. I sat there during the first third of the film, just flat out amazed--I actually thought to myself, "Gee, I didn't know Brad Pitt was so SHORT?".

Of course, he isn't--I learned afterwards (thank you, Google!!) that he isn't actually IN the first third of the film, not really. Instead, a computer generated image of his made-up noggin was overlaid on various child actors! Hey, you coulda fooled me!! (Wait a second--they DID...)

All sort of folks come and go as Ben grows increasingly younger, and there's more than a fair share of funeral scenes--keep a hanky handy. And as for true love Daisy (Cate Blanchett), well there are moments. Creepy moments (they meet when she's seven and he looks seventy, which doesn't stop his narration from informing us it was love at first sight--ewww!...), happy moments (they finally arrive at the same age in 1964, and cavort around their apartment, pausing only briefly to watch The Beatles sing "Twist and Shout" on The Ed Sullivan Show), and poignant moments (they reunite after a separation one last time, he a teen, she a fiftysomething).

Directed by David Fincher and loosely based (VERY loosely, from what I've been able to ascertain) on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the film's epic quality disguises a simple message: life is short, no matter WHICH way you go through it, so make the most of it and the people you meet along the way.

The Hurricane Katrina framing story is workable, but given my druthers, I would've liked to have seen it end a DIFFERENT way: when Ben heads to India to spend his last, infant-bound days, wouldn't it have been nifty to have had Angelina Jolie show up to adopt him? After all, didn't she loose a son in HER Oscar nominated role from last year?...
Those were our fine, Academy Award nominated cinematic selections these past two Tuesdays. Today, we took in the non-nominated--but starring, the poster boasted, a pair of previous Oscar winners--"Last Chance Harvey".

Dustin Hoffman plays the marginalized father of a bride, one who flies over to London to attend his daughter's wedding, only to be informed by her that she's going to ask step-dad James Brolin to give her away. Things in his life are just not going Harvey's way--at least, not until he run's into Emma Thompson.

Watching these two lonely people bring out the best in each other--Harvey's impromptu speech at the reception is an emotional highlight--is a joy to see. Hoffman and Thompson have a real chemistry, and make a believable couple, even if he is her senior by 22 years--and in heels, she very conspicuously stands nearly a head taller than him in most every shot they share! Both of these issues are addressed briefly--and sufficiently--towards the films conclusion. (Besides, Dustin appears at least a dozen years younger than his true age--though he still looks shorter than her...)

Granted, there's a little bit of a predictably cornball wrench thrown into the proceedings at the eleventh hour, but this is the sorta flick where a feel-good finale is never in question. Which is why it stars Academy Award winners, but had absolutely no chance of garnering any of its own. Still, with it being only the second full-length film written and directed by Joel Hopkins, I found it satisfying if unapologetically lightweight. A romance for old people--what a concept!! if you like this sorta thing--and heaven help me, but I do--you could do worse that "Last Chance Harvey". Not exactly a comedy, there are a few chuckles to be found sprinkled throughout--not to mention some fine acting by the leads. And after all the Josh Brolin flicks I've seen this past year, it was nice to see that his dad gets out of the house once in awhile as well!!

Next up? "Coraline" is currently playing at the Silver Cinema Theaters--and the Coming Attractions billboard located to the right of the refreshment area promises "Slumdog Millionaire", "The Reader", "The Wrestler", "Watchmen", "Fanboys", and maybe best of all, before today's feature, they ran a preview of "Sunshine Cleaning", ANOTHER Amy Adams classic!!

Yup, we'll be there for each and every one of these cinematic masterpieces--even the ones without Ms A!!
April 13th, 2009
Lady Squarebutts and Basestealing Apes

Who better to instruct the young 'uns of this nation as to the TRUE (non-pirate) meaning of the word "booty' than the unlikely combo of SpongeBob Squarepants and Six Mix-A-Lot, hmm? Brought to you under the aegis of the fine folks at Burger King!!


That's right--an honest to gosh Burger King commercial featuring a rap tune about women with (wait for it) square butts!!

Poor taste? Judge for yourself--here's the thirty second ad. And friends, if you can stand THAT, check out the extended music video version, running 2:23. Frankly, this seems so wrong on so many levels, it's actually entertaining solely on a "holy crap--did I just see what I thought I saw?" basis? Mucho thanks to my good buddy, Ramblin' Roger Green, who tipped me off regarding my ol' pal SpongeBob's latest endeavor.

On a totally different topic...

I'm a little late in mentioning this, but over on Robert Goodin's Covered blog, back on April 2nd, in honor of the then imminent baseball season, he posted one of my redos, one featuring a sliding baseball player, a GORILLA baseball player!

HUH? (the sequel...)

Go look for yourself if you don't believe me!! Though next to dancing fly-girls with square posteriors, pretty much ANYTHING else seems perfectly acceptable...
April 10th, 2009
Got some movie reviews I've been meaning to share with you, some video links you need to see, and also a con report to write, but because I've been busy (and more on THAT next week), I haven't quite gotten to any of 'em yet. Sorry.

But in the meantime, we still got art--and for the right price, YOU can have it too!

Our latest offerings...

Click yer mouse to see larger versions, and follow this link over to our current Ebay auctions if you see something you like well enough to open up your wallet!

See you soon!!
April 9th, 2009
Frank Memories

I was sorry to learn about the recent passing of the noted cartoonist Frank Springer.

Springer's work burst, seemingly fully blown, into my consciousness early in 1968, when he handled the full art chores for the initial two issues of SECRET SIX, one of an exciting roster of fresh new (and ultimately short-lived) titles emanating from the then staid offices of DC Comics. A few short months later, he was given the unenviable task of following the proverbial hard act to follow, Jim Steranko, on several issues of NICK FURY, AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D., and acquitted himself very nicely.

In the years that followed--aside from providing reams of fully rendered pages for NATIONAL LAMPOON--he mostly either pencilled or inked stories for Marvel Comics, only rarely doing both at the same time. As an inker, he appeared to treat his fellow artists' pencils more like breakdowns, with his own style generally coming out as the dominant one. True, this didn't always work as well as could be hoped for, but when matched with a simpatico penciller like Frank Robbins on THE INVADERS, well, it DID!

Like I said, I THOUGHT 1968 was the year I was first introduced to Frank Springer's work, but turns out, that wasn't the case at all. Several years after becoming thoroughly familiar with his style, I was casually paging through a couple of comics I'd bought back in 1963, and suddenly realized they were actually Springer's work as well!

And this came as a bit of a shock since one of 'em featured the single most chilling panel I'd ever seen in a comic book up to the point when I originally bought it, one that's STILL forever burned into my mind's eye!! Something like that you DON'T easily forget. lemme tell ya!!

The series in question was called BRAIN BOY. It ran all of six issues, of which I managed to pick up only the final two off the stands at the tender age of ten. It was published by Dell, a firm that had steadfastly refused to have their books approved by the Comic Code Authority. As most of their material up consisted of family friendly licensed characters, there was little need to. But every so often, they very subtly snuck something out that was just a little bit harder edged than the day's norm (see: John Stanley's GHOST STORIES). From personal experience, I'd have to say the final issue of BRAIN BOY definitely fit that criteria...

Created by writer Herb Castle and artist Gil Kane, the legendary cartoonist relinquished the art chores after the debut issue, affording Springer his very first comic book credits on the subsequent five . The series title character--a costume-free psychic named Matt Price working for the U.S. Secret Service--is (ironically, given that it'd be his final appearance) sent off on a rare vacation in a tale entitled "The Mindless Ones".

Price chooses the Canadian back woods as his destination, hoping for some quiet time getting back to nature. But everyone he seems to encounter on his way up to the Blue Lake Lodge, well, they don't quite seem all THERE. Like this lovely young woman he asks for directions ...
The lake--swim in the lake! That's ALL everyone seems to talk about and to do--while maintaining a glassy eyed stare and monotone delivery all the while. But as creepy as that was, NOTHING tops this panel from page seven (did I mention the thing ran a full twenty-seven pages?), a panel that took up fully the top two thirds of the page...
A coffin!! In a COMIC BOOK!!

Tame today, granted, but back in 1963, I had never seen even a hint of such a thing before!

And look 'em all--zombie like, carrying a clearly home-made coffin, appearing right out of nowhere in the (uncomfortably familiar to my very own surroundings) woodsy setting! There's a DEAD GUY in that box--and though we never actually see him, and only learn how he met his fate rather indirectly much later, this particular picture still shot an icy chill down my ten-year old spine. It still does, to be truthful...

But there were lighter moments, such as the blowhard Price meets at the Lodge, a fellow guest, and one who appears unaffected by what's got everyone else so glazed over. HE ventures that all hicks act that way, and when Price tries to counter that rather specious argument, well, just get a load of THIS crazy dialog...
But guess what? it's the lake. Once you take a dip in the lake, well friends, there goes the old free will. Number two on my personal disturb-o-meter was this pictorial depiction of a mindless navy, closing in on their still mindful prey, another drawing meriting a full two-thirds of a page to afford it maximum impact...
The townspeople descend upon the still-resisting--and still dry--Price with all sorts of vicious weaponry in hand. Truth is, this one slipped by me as a kid, not leaving nearly as lasting an impression as the two maxi-panels pictured above. It must've been the Marie Severin-like masking of the panel's true nature with a cool swathe of blue that prevented me from realizing just how brutal that scenario was, but in rereading this story for the first time in decades the other night, there was no missing it THIS go-round!! A typical 1963 panel this ain't!!
In the end, we learn that there are microscopic alien life forms floating around in the lake, controlling anyone who comes in contact with the local water. Schemes are afoot to branch out and eventually take over the entire planet, but as you might imagine, in the end, Brain Boy literally short-circuits THOSE plans.

Here's the one panel they actually appear in--dinosaurs, swamp monsters, and--can it be?--cute li'l sea monkeys! Not quite as disturbing as coffins hoisted by mindless lumberjacks, true, but overall, a fairly nasty bunch.
These days, there are plenty of heretofore obscure sixties era comics being given the royal reprint treatment ("Nemesis" anyone?), and considering Castle's quirky but engrossing scripts and Springer's quietly disturbing art, a complete collection of BRAIN BOY would make a fine addition to any comics fan's collection--and a fine testament to the talents of the late cartoonist as well.

Thanks Frank. Rest in peace.
April 8th, 2009

Congrats to the New York Mets for winning their Opening Day contest over the Cincinnati Reds, 2-1, behind their ace, Johann Santana, and a mercifully refurbished bullpen.

But hold on, non-sports fans--I'm not here to talk about that.

Fact is, when it comes to sports, my own interests are a laser thin--Mets baseball, and maybe post-season action, and that's it. No hockey, no golf, no March Madness, no Super Bowl (save for the occasional half-time show), no Winter, Summer, Spring or Fall Olympics. So one cable channel that gets totally ignored around here--save for a half-dozen Mets telecasts per season--is ESPN.

I'm aware that they have an annual awards show called the ESPys, and I'm aware they get a big time celebrity to play master of ceremonies each go-round, but I've never watched one. Well, yesterday--thanks to the always invaluable TV Tattle website--I stumbled across an article by a writer who was expressing his unbridled glee at finding the opening monologue from the 1998 telecast on YouTube.


Simple--Norm McDonald.

Apparently, the misguided folks who hired Norm got more than they bargained for, WAY more! After originally going out live, a whole lotta editing had to be made before ESPN would rebroadcast it--and then they locked it away entirely! But there it was, in all it's scathing glory!! Standing in front of an audience of athletes in ill-fitting tuxes, armed only with his disarmingly goofy smile, Norm delivers a typical take-no-prisoners monolog that'll have you laughing as much for its humorous content as for its sheer audacity!! Part of the REAL fun is watching stone-faced reactions to the quips as the camera pans the audience--baseball's Ken Griffey, Jr. seems particularly unamused.

Trust me, you don;t need to know much about sports to appreciate this bit, but just as a quick primer, bear these few facts in mind: the New York Yankees once paid a whole lot of money yo acquire a Japanese pitcher who then failed miserably; Tiger Woods is the way best golfer in the world; and football's Heisman Trophy has a certain...history attached to it. And please note--the last gag is a killer.

If you find Norm McDonald anywhere near as hilarious as I do, it doesn't matter WHAT level of interest you have in the sports world--you GOTTA see this!! It runs just under eight and a half minutes, and trust me, it's time well spent!!

And as always, listen for the inevitable "crack' reference!! Norm NEVER disappoints...
April 6th, 2009
Art Again, Naturally...

Sorry for skipping out on you folks over the last few days--I've been busy.

I'd hoped to blog about some substantial (or at least semi-substantial) topics--several of which are floating about in the back of my cranium, nearly fully formed--but alas, there's just not enough time at the present to do 'em justice. Soon, promise.

In the meantime, though, we continue our relentless quest to separate hard-earned cash from at least a few of you with our seemingly never-ending supply of quirky (AND bargain-priced!!) illos!

THAT we have time for!!

So, here's what we have up for grabs THIS time around:

As always, click the above images with your mouse for a closer look.

And here's your link to my current Ebay auctions.

More soon!
April 2nd, 2009
Con Job

Just a quick note to inform anyone in the quasi-immediate area who might be interested in my whereabouts this Sunday, April 5th. I'll be a guest at the third Albany Comic Con, along with such luminaries as Herb Trimpe, Joe Sinnott, Joe Staton, Ramona Fradon, Ron Marz, Bob Smith, Paul Abrams,and Joe St. Pierre, among others! And a mere three dollar admission fee gets you in!! The show runs from 10 am until 4 in the afternoon (given the drive I have ahead of me, bear in mind that I may be a wee bit tardy, but I'll be there most of the day, fear not), and if it's half as much fun as the one I attended back last fall, it'll be one heckuva day!! If you're nearby, I hope to see you there!!

And here's a link that'll give you all the additional info you'll need!!
April 1st, 2009
Crazy Freddy!!

This ain't no April Fool's Gag, folks--the prices we're asking for the following illos are INSANE!!

Today's subjects:

For a larger view of each, simply graze your mouse across the above pics.

And here's your access to the Ebay auctions.

See you again soon, friends--I kid you not!!

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