Archive: October 2005
|October 31st, 2005|
|THIS is what it all comes down to!
Over the last thirty days, we've brought you Boris and Bela, FAMOUS MONSTERS and MONSTERS TO LAUGH WITH. Creatures cavorting with Archie and Herbie, Vincent Price and the Mothman, Dragula and "The Cape Canaveral Monsters", but when all is said and done, THIS is what Halloween means to me:
Giant Little Lulu Halloween comics!
I've been toting around three of these extra thick editions nearly my entire life--the 1959, 1960, and 1961 issues. (Ironically, the 1958 Giant pictured above was purchased sometime in the eighties, but being the only one of the four that wasn't coverless--and since the GCD doesn't seem to be working currently, making it impossible to sneak in there and poach a more relevant cover--this one'll just have to do.)
Back when I was a kid, I'd never fail to reread those three comics every October in the days leading up to Halloween. Later on, after I curtailed the practice of dressing up in funny clothes and going door to door, begging for sweets--after the ninth grade, I think--I still made a point of pouring over those comics, sometimes on the very day itself, only hours before the little kiddies came a' knocking on our door.
Like the Dennis the Menace Christmas specials, these Little Lulu giants evoke a very unique resonance, vividly calling back to my childhood days, something only a handful of other books in my vast collection of slowly decaying pulp-paper periodicals can manage. To me, there books ARE Halloween, partially because I made them that way by hoisting a tradition around them. No, I no longer read them every Spook Season--the life of an adult finds time to be at a premium, unfortunately--but more often than not, I DO pull them out, page through them, and maybe read a story or two come each October. Y'see, the OTHER reason I'm so fond of these books is simply because they're so doggone GOOD!!
There's some question as to whether or not Lulu guru John Stanley was still writing the feature when these books were published, but if he wasn't, whoever was was doing an exemplary job! These comics had to be close to one hundred pages (all new!), and one of the nicest aspects of the contents was how the stories, though self-contained, evolved the way a real child's Halloween would: start with some talk at home about the upcoming event to, maybe a Halloween celebration in school shortly thereafter, shopping for a costume next, going to friend's party to follow, then the main event--an evening of actual Trick or Treating, ending perhaps most bittersweetly by returning home with a full bag of candy, preparing for bed, knowing that Halloween is over again for yet another year. That last story ALWAYS gets me...
(And of course, there are always plenty of opportunities along the way for Lulu to tell Alvin tales of Ol' Witch Hazel and Little Itch, among other suitable subjects...)
(From 1961's MARGE'S LITTLE LULU AND WITCH HAZEL TRICK 'N TREAT #50--for some reason, the title seemed to change every year--I offer up a fresh scan of the first two pages, a short introductory piece entitled "Hair-Raising Breakfast" that nicely sets up the tone--and the trajectory--of the rest of the book. Just scroll down as I put both pages together.)
I was very happy years ago when Another Rainbow published their LITTLE LULU LIBRARIES, and I'm delighted that Dark Horse is currently issuing these wonderful comics at a more more accessible (i.e., cheaper) price, but I just wish they'd get around to reprinting Lulu's Halloween specials. Today's audience shouldn't be denied the pleasure of witnessing Mr. McNabbem dressed up as The Pied Piper, Lulu's dad daring to ring Mr. Grump's doorbell while wearing a ghost outfit, Wilbur hosting Mysto the Magician at his gala Halloween party, and Lulu hastily divesting all her dollies of their false faces after having a particularly bad dream about them running rampant on the streets when everyone else was finally in for the night!
Yeah, friends, THAT' S Halloween!
|October 30th, 2005|
|The horror! The horror!|
|What? You don't think that's a moment of
Well, apparently artist Jack Rickard did, as he included this ill-matched pair in his beautifully rendered montage of monstrous icons...
|There they are, right smack dab between Lon
Chaney as the Phantom of the Opera, and someone
wearing a modified Batman mask (and smiling
maybe a little too broadly!).
That title logo is from the fondly recalled Broadway musical parody, "Mannie Get Your Ghoul", written by Frank Jacobs and illustrated by Rickard from the 85th issue of MAD magazine (March 1964). Utilizing all the classic Universal creatures, this 8 page feature lovingly satirized the theater's then recent penchant for building musicals around the likes of such unsavory characters as thieves, ("Oliver"), gangsters and gamblers ("Guys and Dolls"), juvenile delinquents ("West Side Story"), and even--shudder-- business executives ("How To Succeed.In Business Without Really Trying")! So, the folks at MAD figured, what's the NEXT logical progression regarding musical subject matter?
|The timing was perfect for me, as I was at
the very peak of my interest in macabre movie
stars when this issue came out--AND it was
one of my very MADs as well, meaning it was
one of of the best ones, since (to me at
least), all the jokes seemed completely fresh!!
It wasn't until nearly two years later that I picked up a copy of MAD # 80 (July, 1963) at a used book store, and found the parody of the then ubiquitous "Blondes have more fun" ad campaign on the back cover. I immediately recognized the two MAD staffers from their appearance in the "Mannie Get Your Ghoul" montage (even if I'm still not sure EXACTLY which MADmen they actually were)! Thus was solved a minor mystery of several years duration...
|(As for the fellow in the Confederate army
hat up top, that, for all you young folk,
was actor Nick Adams, star of TV's short-lived
Civil War battle drama, "The Rebel"--and
at the time, for reasons I never quite understood
by me, regular MAD magazine whipping boy.)
Yeah, he was scary all right, but then, how about THIS guy?...
|This faux-Victorian portrait is the product
of the delightfully twisted imagination of
artist Travis Louie.
I saw Travis a few nights back at a party thrown by mutual friend Cindy Dill (several other notables, including Terry "King of the Chili-Makers" Austin, and Jim "Elan" Starlin, were also in attendance). His work is unique, and amazingly polished. Check his site out for more new stuff--it's just the thing to keep you in a Halloweenish mood all year around!
And imagine that blonde up above with fisheyes? THAT might've even been too much for Jack Rickard to take!!...
|October 29th, 2005|
|That's a rather nice splash by cartoonist
Bob White for the 18th issue of ARCHIE'S
MADHOUSE (April, 1962), wouldn't you agree?
It does a swell job of capturing the creepiness
factor while still coming across as comfortingly
humorous. And I really dig Phantom Frank
there. While my collection of ARCHIE'S MADHOUSE
is hardly exhaustive, he doesn't appear in
any of the other issues I do have, with Hilda
the Witch (mostly) handling the hosting chores
for the Monster portion of the magazine.
Too bad. Maybe giving him three eyes, a mask,
and changing his hair color wasn't quite
enough to keep the folks at MAD magazine
at bay, since Frank certainly does possess
more than a passing resemblance to Alfred
E. Neuman, doesn't he? Something, incidentally,
I never noticed in all these years, until
I typed in the previous sentence! The obvious,
y'see, ALWAYS confuses me...
Now, a short Halloween oriented personal anecdote.
Each year, IBM puts together a fairly lavish Haunted House attraction at the local plant, which is open to its employees and their families. It's a one-night only affair, the gala ghoulish festivities also featuring pumpkins, costumes and crafts. Lynn, Julie and I have gone most every year since we moved into the area nine years back. This year's event was held this past Thursday night. Home from school on Wednesday--it was parent-teacher conference day--it became more and more apparent to me that daughter Julie wouldn't be going back to class the following day, as she was being overcome with a moderately nasty but extremely persistent cold. Alarmed at the grim potential of this developing situation, I approached Lynn that evening with a question...
"If Julie doesn't go to school tomorrow, but she feels up to it, do you think we can still go to the Haunted House anyway?"
"I suppose. Did Julie send you here in to ask me that?"
"No--I wanted to know!"
Lynn just laughed and shook her head.
Luckily, Julie didn't need much convincing--and sure enough, while she indeed stayed home from school that day, we also went to the IBM Haunted House, which was quite nicely done this year.
Hey, I'm a fella who likes his traditions, especially when it comes to Halloween. I've been banished from the Trick or Treating trail since last going out in 2001--a guy's gotta have SOMETHING to look forward too this time of year, y'know!
Speaking of traditions, check out Five For Friday #53, this time dealing with Halloween costumes. My first three answers were utilized in that sadly missed tradition that was the once-annual Wrightson Halloween Party. I also attended in a white sheet with my face covered entirely with green make-up one other time, apropos of nothing, actually.
Lastly, Happy Boo-day, Batton Lash! May your cake be baked with candy corn filling!
|October 28th, 2005|
|Back in 1964, I was at the absolute peak of my Marvel Mania, so if the name of Stan Lee had turned up on even something like the "The Warren Commission Report", I would've bought it in a minute! As it came to pass, the government chose not to involve Stan in their investigation of JFK's assassination, leaving Marvel's head honcho enough extra time on his hands to hop aboard the burgeoning creature feature bandwagon. The result was MONSTERS TO LAUGH WITH (the title being changed to MONSTERS UNLIMITED for the final four issues of its seven issue run), a thin black and white magazine featuring a lot familiar full page monster movies stills, with word balloons filled with Lee's also familiar gags...|
|But as much as I loved Stan--AND his gags,
AND monsters, to boot--I had a hard time
justifying spending that quarter on MONSTERS
TO LAUGH WITH, since, being just a kid, money
was tight and I had to spend what I had wisely.
Twenty-five cents, after all, could get me
TWO Marvel Comics AND a piece of Bazooka
bubblegum. Even at a leisurely pace the first
time through, the 36 pages of Lee's horror
yock-fest probably took me, oh, two minutes
to read! Maybe three, if I spared a moment
to gaze deeply into Bela Lugosi's eyes (always
a possibility). Those Bazooka Joe comic strips
that came with my gum took almost as long
to read, fer gosh sakes!
Ultimately, I wound up with three issues (numbers 2, 4 and 5).
From those two later issues, there was a little contest Stan concocted for all his eager readers--submit your own bit of funny dialog for the normally humorless Frankenstein monster. Over there on the left is Lee's contribution, "Please! Don't fire me! Don't send me back to "Car 54, Where Are You?"...
|With all apologies to the great and marvelous
Stan, I'm liking contest winner Frank Waitt,
Jr.s quip quite a bit better: "She had
a figure about like this!"
(And if you could make out the names of the honorable mentions, you'd see the always familiar name of Don Glut is included in this monster mix.)
Nearly a decade later, during Marvel's monster craze of the seventies, Stan brought back this feature--and many of the same jokes--in the pages of not one, but TWO magazines: MONSTERS OF THE MOVIES and MONSTER MADNESS, the latter of which was given over almost entirely to Stan's gags. I own two issues of the former, one of the latter, and it only takes a cursory glance to realize that Stan had some, ah, long-time favorites. For instance, he seemed to have an inordinate fondness for stills featuring monsters carrying off fair damsels, with the joke usually going something like this "Cool it honey! My parents don't believe in mixed marriages!". THAT one turned up several times, with only minor variations. Contemporary commercial slogans and pop culture references always made for easy laughs as well.
In the end, these photo gag books merit only a footnote on Stan Lee's career resume, but you gotta love a guy who'll run a picture of the Grade Z monster gal, Frankenstein's Daughter, and then fill the accompanying word balloon simply with the phrase, "What's new, pussycat?''...
And speaking of Marvel Legends, word came in the other day from Jim Salicrup of a Mothman sighting--on the inside front cover of Warren's EERIE #38 (Feb. 1972)! The big fella was apparently the subject of that issue's Eerie’s Monster Gallery: The Mothman Of West Virginia (by Doug Moench and Jaime Brocal). Jim didn't have his issue at hand, but thought if I might, it would make a nifty addition to this month's Fearful Fred Sez Fright-fest. Well, as usual, Jim had a swell notion, but after going downstairs to check my collection of Warren publications, I was disappointed to discover that, after bailing out on the title when Archie Goodwin left his editorial post somewhere in the publication's teen-numbered issues, I didn't start buying it regularly again until...number 39.
As Don Adams used to say, missed it by THAT much!!
So alas, Jim, no Warren Mothman. But if anyone has easy access to that particular issue, and can send along a nice scan, it'd be much appreciated. Cousin Eerie and the Mothman on the same page--the mild boggles, if only mildly.
Cuz y'know, odds are, Mothie's family doesn't believe in mixed marriages, dig?...
|October 27th, 2005|
|Here's an odd little book, one I'd completely
forgotten I had bought back when it first
came out until the other night when I was
moving things around downstairs because of
(say it with me, gang) last week's flooding.
Famed monster-maven, Forrest J. Ackerman, presides over a compendium of articles and observations--some new, some old--about the then recently departed Boris Karloff (this standard paperback edition was published in 1969, the same year the 81 year old actor passed away). There are 36 separate pieces found behind Verne Tassey's cover painting in the volume's slim 191 pages, from an array (if not a wide one) of authors. Forry himself writes several eulogies for the late horror icon, including ones for SCIENCE FICTION TIMES, one for a noted fanzine of the era, PHOTON, and one written on spec within 24 hours of Karloff's death for the LA TIMES, but left unpublished since the newspaper already had an obituary by one of their own staff prepared. And that's just scratching the surface of this book's contents.
Various encounters with the screen legend are shared by a number of different folks, background information and checklists are lovingly compiled, and the ever dependable Don Glut shows up with two separate articles, one focusing on Karloff's radio work, the other concerning Boris in the comics. Why, they even dug up--you should pardon the expression--a piece from a 1932 issue of MOVIE CLASSIC spotlighting what was then merely the first of several ex-Mrs. Karloffs!
But make no mistake--this is no scandalous compilation. It takes only a quick skimming to determine that true blue adulation is the emotion of the day. And why not? These writers clearly treasured the man, and needed an outlet to express both their grief and their admiration. Nowadays, there are any number of outlets for this sort of thing when a major (or even not so major) celebrity succumbs, primarily in the realm of magazines, whether it be in ongoing periodicals or specially published tribute one-shots. But apparently back in 1969, this hastily assembled--but genuinely heartfelt--paperback was the best course Karloff's acolytes had available to them. Like I said, odd, if nonetheless endearing...
Let me leave you with this, my favorite squib from Bill Warren's collection of "Fascinating Karloff Facts":
In 1948 Universal Pictures paid Karloff's hotel bill in New York City to get publicity shots of him staring curiously at the marquee of "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein". He said okay--"as long as I don't have to see the movie."
Of course, a year later, he shared billing with the boys in "Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff", and then again in 1953, on "Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", so just who was the joke on THEN, hmm?
Still, I'd sure love to see a photo of the publicity shot mentioned above. Although maybe a better one would've been Boris staring, mouth agape, at a lobby card for "Bela Lugosi Meets A Brooklyn Gorilla", wouldn'tcha think?...
|October 26th, 2005|
|When I started this web-site nearly three
years ago, there were plenty of stories I
wanted to finally tell. Well, some I have,
but some I haven't. Some stories needed just
that little extra dab of attention, as well
as the right timing to reveal all. One such
anecdote that I've been patiently keeping
tucked away in my back pocket deals with
that gent over to the side, the immortal
Bela Lugosi. Said event happened back in
the eighties (either 1984 or 1985), and I've
been--you should pardon the expression--DYING
to tell it ever since.
Well, the time has finally arrived, and you can find this entirely true story (I swear!!) over at the IGN Comics website, in the form of the 33rd chilling episode of The Fred Hembeck Show!
(Yes, I know that it's not technically included in Hembeck.com, but in my heart, The Fred Hembeck Show is as much a part of this site as anything else here, since all you need to get there is to hit the links above...)
|So please, go check this week's installment
out, even if you're getting weary of our
current narrow focus on all things creature
features, big and small, I urge you not to
pass this one by. After all, I've only been
waiting twenty years or so to share this
startling little story with the world!
Otherwise, what've we got? Peter Sanderson's Comics In Context #107, in which he continues his in-depth discussion of Neil Gaiman's "Anansi Boys". Then there's Ken Plume's most recent FilmForce Weekend Shopping Guide, in which Mr. P attempts to entice me into purchasing all sorts of delightful media-related goodies (and wife Lynn does her level best to try and stop me!! It's sorta like Good and Evil duking it out on my shoulder--my only question being, WHICH one is "Good" and which one is "Evil"?...)
(Ken and Peter also sent me--independently--a rather curious link featuring the ever delightful Hayley Mills in a somewhat...modified...version of "The Parent Trap". Some might even call it "improved"--not that there's anything wrong with that! First click Paul Lacalandra, followed by "Ordinary Girls", then let the fun begin! Thanks, guys...)
Not blanching at the heavy Horror emphasis yet? Then zip on over to Dial B For Blog and Steven Thompson's BookSteve's Library, where you'll find plenty more fiendish facts and artwork!! (And Steve--I promise to update my Links page early in November, as your site well-deserves a permanent home there on!)
Don't miss this fine interview with one of the nicest guys in comics--and a very talented one as well, I hastily add--Roger Stern. And guess what? It's monster free! That alone should have some of you zapping over there immediately, I'll bet!...
Roger Green offers a few eloquent words about the late Rosa Parks, an amazing lady who made history simply by standing up for her rights by continuing to sit down.
Those of you who recall Steve Wintle's much missed Flat Earth blog will be happy to learn he's returned to the blogging arena, in the form of a communal page called The House of Irony (or go here for the strictly comics oriented portion of this wide-ranging pop blog). Nice to have you back, Steve--and I'm NOT being ironic, honest!
That's about it for links. I haven't really had much of a chance to keep up with all my regular surfing in recent days, so my apologies if I missed something particularly good. The clean-up downstairs took about three to five hours a day from the Sunday after the deluge until this past Sunday, eight days later. And that was just getting the wet stuff up off the floor and out of the house. Someone upstairs really, REALLY wanted me to tidy up, apparently. (Lynn again? Probably...) It'll take a while to put everything back properly in place, but at least now we have about a dozen large plastic bins that we're using to keep boxes, books, and papers in and off the floor. Flood us once, shame on You; flood us twice, shame on us. Even with all the stuff we had to throw out, only a small percentage of material with any real consequence was lost, thankfully. (So what kind of crap HAD I been hoarding? More details after Halloween, when you'll not only get the whole sob-story, but many of the oddball items I rediscovered during the recovery effort. Lemonade out of lemons and all, y'know...)
Monday I took a little time off from the reconstruction and drove over to visit with, Terry Austin, who was hosting our mutual buddy, Bill Alger (check out his online strip, June--it's nutty, only without getting stuck in your teeth!!). We had a swell get-together, even if it was shorter than I may've liked (I had to get home in time to take Julie to her portraiture class by 4:30). I suppose I could say more, but I know Bill's still waiting to read about our mutual exploits at last June's NYC Con, so I don't want to spoil him by disseminating TOO much information about this latest encounter. Someday Bill, someday. Suffice to say, it's always fun to see you--even if the specifics are fuzzy...
And today? Well, as I write this (Tuesday evening), our area's suffering the remnants of Hurricane Wilma. They call it a Nor'easter in these parts. Me, I call it too much @#$%ing rain!! So far, though, so good--water has yet to start gushing in downstairs. Even if it does, we're prepared this time. But still, getting up an peeking down the steps every, oh, ten minutes, is hardly the way I'd planned to spend my day!
Water--my new arch enemy.
More later. Until then, "Glub glub, y'all!"
|October 25th, 2005|
|October is drawing to a close, but if--to
paraphrase ol' Chuck Dickens--you yearn to
keep Halloween in your heart all year around,
you could do far worse than grab yourself
a copy of the trade paperback pictured above,
TALES OF SUPERNATURAL, a collection of the
very first eight issues of cartoonist Batton
Lash's WOLFF & BYRD, COUNSELORS OF THE
MACABRE, all retoned, relettered, and in
some cases, even redrawn. Most importantly,
though, they AREN'T rewritten, which is just
swell, since they were tremendously entertaining
in the first place! Go here for ordering information--and while I CAN'T
actually order you to send for a copy, I
can, y'know, highly suggest it, dig?...
If you're not familiar with Batton's lawyer duo, well, there's good news afoot--they've just gone online with all new material, with fresh strips debuting every Monday and Thursday. Here's your link for that.
"The Monster Mash" was once a very big hit, but the Monster LASH? BATTON a thousand!
(As Comic Book Guy would undoubtedly say, "Worst puns ever..." Sorry. The book really IS good though, honest!...)
|October 24th, 2005|
|With one week left until Halloween arrives,
Monster Month is slowly winding down
blog. Yeah, maybe its been a little
promise, NO Christmas Month in December--but
I've come this far, so I'm not bailing
Today's entry serves as a bit of a preview for NEXT month's (unofficial) theme, Stuff I Found Downstairs Cleaning Up After The Big Flood. Oddball newspaper clippings, long-forgotten comics ephemera, idiosyncratic drawings--if it ain't wet, it's fair game!
Buried at the bottom of a (thankfully) dry box full of miscellaneous papers, I found this all too appropriate piece of artwork...
|I could be wrong, but I don't think this
was ever published anywhere. There's
a dozen pieces of art combining my
with wife Lynn's inking, done during
back in the early eighties when she
too much time on her hands. She did
job, I thought. More from THAT particular
well in November.
In the meantime, more creepy creatures tomorrow.
Just bear with me here, okay?
|October 23rd, 2005|
There's no explaining Herbie--either you were there or you weren't. I was, and I STILL don't quite know what to make of the so-called fat little nothing!...
|Obviously, that's a mummy on the cover of
HERBIE #19, but the fellow ushering the Fat
Fury into the oven is actually Count Dracula
(the story inside revolves around the infamous
vampire's latest endeavor--running a pizza
biz! No--don't even THINK about asking me
to make any sense of that!!...)
By the way, both of those covers were drawn by the wonderfully talented Kurt Schaffenberger, who was NOT the lollipop loving lump's regular artist. That claim to cult-hood could be made only by Ogden Whitney, who, aside from a handful of covers turned in by Mr. S, was otherwise responsible for every appearance young Mr. Popnecker made in various ACG Comics publications during the sixties.
Like, for instance, this sequence from "Herbie And The Spirits", the rotund one's second appearance, originally found in FORBIDDEN WORLDS #94 (March-April 1961).
Like I said, there's no explaining Herbie.
And clearly, that accounts for a huge portion of his sometimes otherwise baffling charm.
That, and the delicious lollipops, natch...
|October 22nd, 2005|
|That's the key portion of a full page photo
from "The Last Man On Earth"--a then current Vincent Price flick--which
appeared on page four of the very first regular
issue of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND that
I ever bought, number 30 (September 1964).
I don't think I ever saw another still from that film anywhere else after that, but no matter--THIS terror inducing tableau was forevermore burned into the ol' cerebellum.
Finally, the other night, I sat down and watched the movie.
It wasn't bad. But, the picture above turned out to be more than a little deceiving.
Look, I'm not gonna go through the whole plot with you--this isn't a review, y'see. Suffice it to say that our friend Vince there is the last functioning human alive (or so he thinks), three years after a mysterious plague turns everyone else into vampires (who actually act more in the tradition we've come to associate with zombies, however). It's based on a famous novel, "I Am Legend" by Richard Matheson (which I've never read), which spawned a later version, "The Omega Man" with Charlton Heston (which I've also never seen), and there's even been recent ongoing plans to film the story a third time under its own name utilizing big stars and a much bigger budget (which I probably won't go out and see, either--sorry).
But in this version, it's all very matter of fact for the surviving Price--he gets up out of bed each morning, and, protected by the sun's rays, goes out about the city and almost casually stakes as many sleeping vampires as possible before returning home to barricade himself in as, woken by the darkness, his undead neighbors pound his door for hours on end. As these creatures are portrayed as both slow-moving and stupid, he's never in much danger once he's inside (though how he gets ANY sleep whatsoever, I'll never know), but the moment captured above is one of two instances in the film where he actually loses his cool: having to fight his way back into his house after losing track of time and returning home during the dark of night (the other is during a flashback when he's confronted by his recently dead wife banging at his front door. You know THAT can't be good...).
It's a strong story--I can see why folks want to keep remaking it--but this version was made with an otherwise (save for Price) Italian cast and crew, with a budget that was probably less than what Pavarotti spends on pasta alone in a month--even February! Cheap, cheap, cheap! The vampires aren't all that menacing--watching the movie, I'm thinking, "Yeah, I could probably get away from those suckers myself." And logic kinda goes out the window towards the end when other survivors seemingly turn up (as in, WHY'D they wait three years to let on to Vinnie that they were out there as well?), but Price's acting--which is NOT the typical scene-chewing you might well expect from him--is admirably low-key, fitting in nicely with the subdued, depressing mood of the production. After all these years, I'm glad I finally saw "The Last Man On Earth", but the blood-curdling bursts of terror implied by the photo above never really materialize.
Too bad Forry didn't publish any pics of Price sitting calmly on his couch, listening to jazz LPs playing on his record player as the crowd of vamps shuffled around, moaning but unseen, outside. It may not have made for a very exciting page in FAMOUS MONSTERS, but it would've been a whole lot truer to the spirit of things...
|October 21st, 2005|
|Initially, I was reluctant to dive into the
whole monster thing. I'll admit it--I was
easily frightened as a child (as opposed
to, ahem, now). I put off watching anything
scary for a long, long time. Before I actually
did break down and sit through the dullness
that was "The Cape Canaveral Monsters"
(see October 8th entry), I did have one earlier
I tuned midway through into a showing of "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein", going on the not unreasonable assumption that, hey, if Bud and Lou--two of my favorite funny men--were in it, how bad could it be? Bear in mind, I had yet to pick up my first monster mag, and had only the vaguest idea of what the infamous Frankenstein looked like. The first nefarious character I saw on my TV screen that day was Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula, but as he wasn't identified in the scene (I came in late, remember?), I clearly recall thinking to myself--in a very smug, self-satisfied manner, I hasten to add--of the elegantly dressed actor, "Well, if THIS is the supposedly horrible Frankenstein monster, I sure don't see what all the fuss is about--he ain't so scary!!"
And THEN the real thing burst onto the screen, and I jumped up and quickly changed the channel!
Clearly, I wasn't yet ready.
About a year later I was, and one of the ways I knew for sure that I could survive sitting through these creepy old movies without getting TOO freaked out was the fact that I could page endlessly through my issues of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND without having the multitude of stills within give me nightmares.
But, if one ever did come anywhere close to realizing that undesirable accomplishment, THIS would be it...
The eyes, the teeth, the drool! And the way he was looking right AT you--brrr! This appeared in the first FAMOUS MONSTERS paperback collection, one of my earliest brushes with Forry's folly. But check this--here was Ackerman's accompanying caption:
Meet Harry. Occupation: grave robber. He digs people the most. From the Mexican melodrama THE BODY SNATCHERS.
Yeah, I've gotta admit--ol' Harry there made me a mite uneasy at times. For quite awhile, I did my very best to avoid page 41 whenever possible--but somehow, for that very reason, I was drawn to seeking it out! Ultimately, the cornball gags in the caption diffused his grotesque appearance enough that I just laughed whenever I saw the big guy. Monsters were nasty, monsters were bad, but hey, they could be FUN too, y'know!
Yes, even guys like Senor Harry!
|October 20th, 2005|
|The above is just a small taste of the lead
story in ARCHIE'S MADHOUSE #16 (December,
1961), "Monster Institute of Transylvania"
(M.I.T.--get it?) The art is by Samm Schwartz,
the cartoonist long associated with illustrating
the misadventures of young Mr. Andrew's associate,
Jughead Jones (taking a brief leave of absence
from the carrot-top spawned Goldwater empire
during the mid-sixties to gamble on helping
launch the Tower Comics line as both an editor
and co-creator of Tippy Teen and friends.
For my money, Schwartz was a VASTLY underrated talent. His storytelling ability alone was enviable, but combine it with his knack for both humorous characterizations and a wonderful feel for atmosphere--as you can plainly see by glancing up top--and you've got yourself a candidate for one of the most criminally overlooked artists in the entire history of comics!
Hey, it doesn't take a genius from M.I.T.--EITHER one--to see Samm was a class act! If you don't believe me, just pick up most any JUGHEAD comic from the late fifties on into the nineties, and that'll provide most all the evidence you'll ever need!
(LOVE that two-headed guy, by the way! Imagine HIM on a double-date! Lemme tell ya, Riverdale would never be the same!...)
|October 19th, 2005|
|Geez, will you look at the NOSE on that guy!!
(No, that promo art of Vincent Price from "Masque Of The Red Death" has NOTHING to do with this week's 32nd episode of The Fred Hembeck Show, but I've always thought it was a real nifty drawing, and since I've watched two of Mr. Price's films in recent days--albeit, not "Masque..."--I was moved to share it. With any luck, I'll find some time to offer up a few observations about the flicks themselves as well. Still working on cleanup duty, don'tcha know. It wasn't exactly Hurricane Katrina, but the downstairs flood was still an unprecedented--and unfortunate--event hereabouts. More on that later, too...)
Which is why this week's IGN feature is drawn from the Hembeck.com archives. It's a Halloween tale that's become a regular treat around here each October, and even if you've already read it, you might want to check out some photographic additions I've included to spice up the festivities. (If only I hadn't lost the photos my buddy Bob Almond sent me via email right after I first posted the story, but alas, they went down when the old computer crashed nearly a year back--sorry Bob, but I DO appreciate your effort...)
Now then, the weekly links: Peter Sanderson's Comics In Context #106, Ken Plume's FilmForce Weekend Shopping Guide, Roger Green's Ramblin' With Roger--y'know, all the usual suspects.
Additionally, hats off to Mag and H for hitting the two year mark of their swell Comic Treadmill site. I don't always agree with the guys--they once said early DAREDEVIL comics weren't all that good! Can you imagine? (Actually, they made a lot of sense, but I still like 'em any way. DD comics AND the fellas both, I mean...) Keep that Treadmill running, guys--you can't stop now!
Of course, Fanboy Rampage DID stop--and just when I FINALLY figured out what was going on! (I'm a bit slow at times...) Since I don't really keep up with the new books the way I once did, I didn't pay attention as much as I might've, since it was mostly people squawking about stuff I wasn't following. It's hard to get invested in an argument when you don't really know what people are arguing about, y'know? And there was always so doggone much to READ!! Message boarders do go on, don't they? Well, I only wish I'd gotten hep to it earlier and had more time to peruse it, but in any event, good luck to you Graeme--you're a legend now!
And good luck to ME--more clean-up awaits!...
|October 18th, 2005|
|I watched the 1931 version of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" starring Fredric March in the classic dual
role for the first time the other night.
Of course, having had dozens of stills from
the film burned into my consciousness during
my monster magazine buying phase back in
my teen years, this was yet another one of
those movies that seemed oddly familiar even
upon its initial viewing. And yet, there
was one key misconception offered by Forry
and his competitors all those years ago:
They said it was a horror film.
True, horrible things happen, but you know what might be a better title for this little scenario?
"Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Horny"!
No exaggeration. The prim and proper Jekyll moons continuously over his fiance, while her even more uptight General of a father keeps pushing the couple's wedding day as far back as possible, clearly frustrating the young doctor, who nonetheless smiles through gritted teeth as his dreams of matrimonial bliss keep getting back-burnered against his will.
So instead, he front-burner's this new concoction of his, ostensibly under the guise of scientific research, but once put into effect, his transformation into the hideously hairy--and dentally deficient--Hyde is mainly used as an excuse to take total possession of a saucy blond dance hall girl who, sometime earlier, had the unfortunate luck to have had the good Dr. Jekyll help her through a scrape with an abusive boyfriend (one who ultimately--compared to Hyde--must've seemed like a real pussycat). And folks, without getting explicit in a "9 1/2 Weeks" way, the film makes it entirely clear that the lovely couple pictured above had gotten way, way past the stage of necking way, way fast!
Then Hyde is found out, murders a few people, and is killed himself, reverting back to his Jekyll persona as he takes his dying breath. The end.
A good movie. Fredric March is quite effective, if a tad too ape-like. The contrast between Jekyll and Hyde is properly severe, though, both via the memorable make-up and personality-wise. Miriam Hopkins as the object of his (their?)(sated) desire plays her role to the hilt, not-so-coyly enticing the young doctor during their first meeting, and evincing genuine horror (hey, maybe it IS a horror movie after all!) as Hyde first "courts" her, and then, as time passes, comes to totally dominate her life. There's only one thing left that puzzles me:
If his name is pronounced "Gee-kell" throughout the movie, a well-known classic, why have I always heard it pronounced "Jeck-ell"? When did the change occur? In the Spencer Tracy version from the forties (which I have on tape, and hope to see sometime soon)? Or was it when Bob Stevenson's brain children met Abbott and Costello? Does anybody know--I'm genuinely curious as to when the good doc's name shifted.
(It's kinda like Chico Marx. He was given that stage name because he liked the chicks (ladies), so the pronunciation of his name was supposed to be "Chick-o", but somewhere along the line, people began using what is generally the accepted pronunciation of Chico when referring to him. I remember seeing Groucho talking with Dick Cavett about his brothers when I was younger, and thinking it odd that he, of all people, couldn't pronounce his own brother's name correctly, as he persisted in calling him "Chick-o". Yeah, I could be a stupid kid at times...
Can't really blame folks for the mistake, though--he never played a character called "Chick-o" in any of his movies, and Harpo certainly wasn't any help in getting the whole name thing straightened out in the public's mind. Who knows--maybe when "Chick-o" shifted inexorably over to "Cheek-o", the cosmos turned "Gee-kell" into "Jeck-ell" at that precise moment, in search of a balance of sorts?...
Or, as Harpo Marx might say...
|October 17th, 2005|
|"By George, I always did want to meet
Ah, Magoo, you've done it again!...
|October 16th, 2005|
|And where's the Creature From the Black Lagoon,
you might ask?
I'm not certain, but I believe he was last seen swimming around in my basement!!
More on that later--Archie isn't the ONLY one with a Madhouse, y'know!
|October 15th, 2005|
|Here's a scoop--four years before he donned
the make-up to kibitz with Abbot and Costello
as Frankenstein's monster, Glenn Strange
first met with comic Ole Olsen, half of the
"Hellzapoppin" team of Olsen and
Johnson, while on the set of "The House
of Frankenstein"! And here Bud and Lou
probably figured THEY were the first comedy
duo to hook up with ol' Frankie!
(Looks like that 1945 vintage BATMAN comic has the big guy spooked, though Ole, on the other hand, appears to be admiring the Joker's moves!)
...And that's all for today! Posting will be light the next few days, thanks to the fury of Mother Nature. While nowhere near the same ballpark as the recent hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis that have plagued the world, the east coast has been barraged with eight straight days of rain, and apparently the ground hereabouts was gonna take all it could take, because when I went downstairs last night a little after nine (about two hours after a previous peek) to check the few trouble spots where water has, in the past, leaked in slowly, prepared to sop it up, only to be stunned to find the ENTIRE floor covered with at least an inch of water--and rising!! This has NEVER come close to happening in the nine years we've lived here, but you know what they say about there always being a first time, don't you? More details to follow--yes, there were casualties, so to speak--but suffice to say, I stayed up all night, bailing things out as best I could, until Lynn was able to go out this morning and buy several pumps, each more effective than the smallish one we had available to us (which we use exclusively to pump the water off our pool cover in the spring, a task that generally isn't in need of any real speed, unlike last night's situation). A massive clean-up awaits me--aw, @#$%!..
Anyway, it's eleven thirty in the morning now, the pumps are working, and I'll probably hit the sack soon. But first, a post.
Blame it on blogger's delirium...
|October 14th, 2005|
|Back in the late fifties and early sixties,
most adults considered the renewed interest
in horror movies--particularly those featuring
the iconic Universal Studios creatures--to
be merely a teen-age fad.
And rock and roll?
EVERYONE considered that a fad!
So those clever folks--all adults, natch--who worked in that eras' burgeoning satire mag field (another contemporary fad) figured an easy way to mine some yocks would be to combine these two "passing" fads, resulting in such blood-curdling drawings as this...
|Yup, that's John, Paul, George , and Igor,
courtesy of perennial CRACKED artist,
And by the time this issue of ARCHIE'S MAD HOUSE hit the stands in 1961, opera was clearly out amongst the hip. This change in tastes didn't directly effect most folks, save for one in particular, as artist Bob White demonstrates with this diagram...
|But going even further back, into the late fifties files of CRACKED, the late Joe Maneely brought together both rock and monster royalty, and melded them into a single electrified creature, the puppet, no doubt, of a certain Colonel Frankenstein...|
|And anybody out there remember early sixties
crooner Bobby Vee? Ever wonder what
stood for? Well, no doubt, some scribe
the likes of SICK was cobbling together
"Bobby Vampire" script even
the Beatles broke big in 1964, forcing
to trash his work, From then on, it
"I Want To Bite Your Neck",
Saw Her Stabbing There", "Love
Me Boo", "Twist And Howl",
and "P.S. I Love Voodoo".
Well, at least there was still Lesley GORE...
And, on an unrelated note, here's Five For Friday #51:
Potpourri: Name Five Completely Random Comics-Related Things
I've sent mine in, and if you hurry, you can get your choices on the record as well. Come back here tomorrow, click the above link, and read the results!
|October 13th, 2005|
|Although he never appeared as a guest on
"The Tonight Show", I'll
associate the Mothman with Johnny Carson.
The year was 1975. I was living in Buffalo, New York. I'd finished college, and was just waiting until my girl friend (and future wife) Lynn completed her studies. Perhaps I was bored, but one day, when I went to get some groceries, I did something I had never, ever done before:
I bought a supermarket tabloid.
It was a copy of THE STAR, which was still fairly new at the time. Save for color covers, it was still being printed on standard gray newsprint stock. The reason I bought it? What else--the headline:
"Johnny Carson--Laziest Man In Show Business!"
|Over the years, the public eventually got
used to the late-night host's frequent vacations
and regular three day weeks, but this was
all fairly new stuff back in '75, and THE
STAR felt the need to rile up some outrage
amongst the populace. I myself wasn't watching
Johnny at the time--I never was much of a
Carson follower--but I was intrigued enough
by the aggressive rudeness of this screaming
headline to plunk down a quarter to see what
sort of case the paper was going to make
against the ersatz Carnac (non-Inhuman division).
Nowadays, that sort of brash tabloid celebrity
coverage is all too commonplace, but back
in that Bicentennial Year Minus One, it was
enough of a novelty to catch my not-yet-jaded
attention. So sue me.
Naturally, when I brought the paper back home, all my roommates, as well as Lynn, razzed me for wasting my money. To the great shock of no one living on Stockbridge Avenue at the time, there were no great revelations about Johnny in that cover feature--unless you're inclined to think, "Gosh, for all that money he's making, he sure takes a lot of vacation days" is stellar investigative journalism. Disappointed, I decided I wasn't going to be totally cheated, and proceeded to read everything else in that issue of THE STAR (which, incidentally, was the last one I bought, save for some special tribute issues much later on). There's only one other thing in that issue that I remember:
A two page article on the Mothman.
"The Mothman?" some of you may well be asking, "WHO is this Mothman you speak of?"
Well, it's a long story, and in a measly two pages, THE STAR only barely scraped the surface (I recall that they focused heavily on some mysterious strangers dressed all in black--I think they referred to them as "The Enforcers", bringing back warm (but totally unrelated) memories of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #10--who'd show up after a sighting of the creature, ask questions, and then quickly vanish again). All of the details, it was noted, could be found in a book that was about to be published entitled "The Mothman Prophecies", written by noted UFO expert, John Keel.
I HAD to have a copy!
But, try as I might, I couldn't find one. None of the local campus area bookstores chose to stock the hardcover edition of something with the curious title of "The Mothman Prophecies" (go figure). Frustrated, all I had was the slim set of facts found in the two-page article--and the constant mocking, good natured though it may've been, of those around me, none of whom bought into this thing anywhere near the way I did. But one day early in the spring of 1976, in one of those selfsame bookstores, I came across the first paperback edition of this by now (in my mind, anyway) nigh legendary tome! I was ecstatic! Grabbing a copy, I hurried home, brandished my prize before all my pals, did my best to ignore their collective eye-rolling, went to my room, and settled in with the book.
And WHAT I learned! Oh me, oh my!
The Mothman--a huge, seven foot winged creature with red eyes--had been spotted on several occasions in the small town of Point Pleasent, West Virginia, during the mid-sixties, and tragedy and disaster always seemed to follow, the worst instance being the collapse of a bridge, responsible for the deaths of nearly fifty people! The blurb on the front cover says "Compelling and genuinely frightening!", and it was true--I couldn't stop reading, AND I was getting totally creeped out! I can still recall being up in my room, late at night, when everyone else in the house was asleep, one eye on the latter pages of the book, the other peeking towards the window, blinds drawn, but half expecting the glow of red eyes to be staring into my second floor room!
Yeah, I'm THAT gullible.
Despite my enthusiasm for this undeniably true, thoroughly documented story, nobody else took me up on my offer to read the book. Dear Lynn most especially would have none of it. To her, the Tooth Fairy and the Mothman possessed roughly the same degree of credibility--with maybe a shade more favoring the Tooth Fairy because, after all, hey, she DID make a few bucks off of him! (Her? IT?...) But I believed, yes I did! The Mothman existed! And so, by extension, did UFOs (they were part of the story too, y'see...).
Now, this could've been one of those watershed events in a person's life. I easily could've gone out and bought up every other book this John Keel fellow had written--and he had a pretty hefty bibliography behind him, make no mistake--turning myself into a full fledged UFOlogist.
But, nope, didn't happen.
Truth is, I've never actually read another book on the so-called paranormal, and aside from viewing a few documentaries on TV over the years, I've kept pretty clear of the whole subject. I've never even reread "The Mothman Prophecies', even though I once, long, long ago, envisioned myself actually adapting it into comics form!! (This, I hasten to add, was BEFORE I concocted my humorous style, and was still laboring under the misconception that I was an artist best suited to adventure-type material. ANOTHER unbelievable fantasy, eh?...)
But years later, I belatedly discovered that I wasn't alone in my fascination with the Mothman. While I was up there in Buffalo, falling under the creature's spell, down in New York City, a copy of the book was being eagerly passed around the halls of Continuity Studios! No, head honchos, Neal Adams and Dick Giordano, didn't have time for such foolishness, but pretty much all the young guys working there had a chance to peruse the book. Obviously, it was met with skepticism by some, but I know for a fact, several of these young legends to be--who shall remain discreetly nameless--took off on a pilgrimage to West Virginia, with an itinerary that covered many of the sights and locations mentioned in Keel's book, including several spooky abandoned buildings. No, the Mothman was nowhere to be seen, but I DO recall word of a UFO sighting during the excursion! It's been many years since this saga was related to me, so the details are a bit hazy, but there you have it--the next time you look in a seventies era comic and see a credit line for "The Crusty Bunkers", pause for a moment and wonder, who amongst this group was under the spell of the Mothman when he inked those pages?...
And yes, when the book was finally made into a (semi) major motion picture a few years back, I actually left my house and went to see it in the theater. For me, that's big time. And once again, Lynn stayed home. Just as well. Better to be amongst true believers (and Richard Gere fans)...
This all came to mind the other day when I saw Dorian Wright had devoted an entire entry of his blog, postmodernbarney.com, to the Mothman (including a fine array of associated links). Of course, Dorian dismisses the whole thing as "bunk', but y'know, even after all these years, I'm not so sure.
After all, THE STAR was right about Johnny, weren't they? I mean, he couldn't even hang in there long enough to make it exactly thirty years hosting "The Tonight Show", could he? Now, c'mon--that IS lazy!
So yeah, winged creatures flying over Point Pleasent? Sounds perfectly reasonable to me.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go help the finance minister of some small country who needs my assistance getting to his nation's wealth. Boy, I sure am lucky he emailed ME--I stand to make quite a few bucks out of the deal! At least, that's what he tells me.
Gee, I wonder if HE has red eyes, too?...
|October 12th, 2005|
|What is the Secret Origin of Richard Corben?
Zip on over to the 31st episode of The Fred Hembeck Show to find out!
While over at the IGN Comics website, check out Peter Sanderson's Comics In Context #105. Peter takes an in-depth look at Neil Gaiman's new prose novel "Anansi Boys".
Keeping it all in the IGN family, Ken Plume's Filmforce Weekend Shopping Guide is a lot of fun. I just discovered these last week, and I plan to keep reading 'em regularly from now on--even the ones that DON'T mention my name! (Or SpongeBob or Hayley Mills either!...)
Mark Evanier has a touching story about the late Louis Nye.
Roger Green wasn't John Lennon, but he played him in front of the family record player; and more.
BookSteve's Library is going all creepy, scary, monster-centric, too.
Dial B For Blog continues their ongoing Halloween celebration with the Frankenstein Monster, the Headless Horseman, and Devils and Demons.
Greg Burgas' Sunday links.
Mike Sterling's Joker links.
Dorian Wright's Mothman links.
Did "The Addams Family" ever cross-over with "The Munsters" on TV? Well, no--but "The Addams Family" DID cross-over with "Batman" on the tube! This, and other examples of seemingly thousands (okay, hundreds) of likely and unlikely video cross-pollinations, are documented--in a very amusing manner--over at a site with the unlikely name of Poobala. That's the link to the home page for Thom Holbrook's site, but you can just jump ahead if you like and go here to access the master-list of cross-over action. It's a whole lotta fun! Just like watching far too much TV--WITHOUT the nasty aftertaste! Nice job, Thom! (And don't miss his celebrity photo page, wherein Thom stalks famous folks in bookstores all across the land!)
And lastly, here's a heretofore unknown to me official Richard Corben webpage. A fine site, even if they don't tell you the WHOLE story! (And yes, this IS where we came in--you KNOW where to go now, so git!...)
|October 11th, 2005|
|Who's that Count?
Well, to me, the vexed vampire in Elaine Gignilliat's cover painting for the June, 1981 issue of NATIONAL LAMPOON always looked hauntingly like...Charlie Callas?
Okay, that's probably just me.
I'll tell you who it definitely WASN'T though, given the look in his eyes--the star of the Neal Adams' illustrated NATIONAL LAMPOON strip from a full decade earlier (November 1971 issue), THIS guy---
I'll admit, I never really found many of the comic strips published in the LAMPOON all that funny--and this Tony Hendra written episode is no exception--but 1971 era Adams artwork is always a treat to behold. Even better, believe it or not, is the full-color cover by none other than Frank Frazetta that accompanied this nine-pager (one that, by the by, to my mind made a better case for this concept's glaringly obvious gag than the comparatively labored.strip ever did).
I'd show to except, well, I can't because it's not (in Internet parlance) "work safe". While we here at Hembeck.com pride ourselves in running a clean ship, since it IS Frazetta after all, well, let me tell ya what I'm gonna do--I'm gonna post it somewhere ELSE on the site, and when it's safe, and no one's around, and it's very, very quiet...
Shh--don't let anyone else know. After all, I wouldn't want to give other folks any sorts of ideas, because then, next thing you know, EVERYBODY will be posting nekkid pictures, and, gee whiz, what would become of the web THEN??
So, shh, okay?
If nothing else, posting Dragula allows for an easy transition over to a fascinating set of links I stumbled across just the other day.
Looking at "Bride Of Frankenstein" through a gay prism, for instance. Or howabout a similar peek at "Freaks"? The entire classic Universal output? "Plan 9 from Outer Space"? These are all segments found at the Bright Lights Film Journal site (which trumpets a piece on the wondrous "SpongeBob Squarepants Movie" on its home page no less!). This is all very intriguing stuff, and I recommend that those of you interested in gaining a fresh perspective on some old favorites take a look.
And if nothing else, it got me thinking--I've already seen "Ed Wood", but I really should see "Gods And Monsters" too, shouldn't I?
Guess that'll have to do me until that long hoped for John Carradine bio-pic starring Charlie Callas comes out, huh?...
|October 10th, 2005|
|I was saddened to read of Louis Nye's passing
at age 92.
Growing up in the years just past Steve Allen's original heyday, I still managed to take delight in any latter day antics of Allen and his crew--Tom Poston, Don Knotts, Pat Harrington, and most especially Louis (pronounced "Louie") Nye. He ALWAYS made me laugh!
In recent years, I was genuinely thrilled to see him take a recurring role on "Curb Your Enthusiasm".
|Approaching ninety, Nye still possessed the
innate ability to deliver a laugh line for
all it was worth--and sometimes, all he really
needed was a casual look to crack me up.
It's unfortunate that he's gone, but I'm
grateful to Larry David's gang for letting
a seasoned pro go out working, and at an
age well past that when most actors had long
since retired (whether by choice or not).
Famous for greeting his old boss with the line "Hi-ho Steverino", as much as I would've liked to end this small but sincere tribute with a play on that phrase, neither his first or last name really fit. And making a play on "The end is nigh" just seems too, well, disrespectful. So let me just say simply that Louis Nye brought me a lot of chuckles, giggles, and guffaws over the years, and that he'll be long remembered but sorely missed.
|October 10th, 2005|
|This painting by John Fantucchio graced the
cover of 64th issue of the noted sixties
fanzine, RB-CC, and remains, to this day,
one of my all-time favorite interpretations
of the Frankenstein Monster.
(I've long wondered whatever became of John Fantucchio. His unique artwork seemingly turned up in just about every other fan-publication coming out of G.B. Love's S.F.C.A. corral back then, but aside from a few fleeting strips found in the post-Archie Goodwin Warren magazines shortly thereafter, one day he just sort of...up and vanished.
Gone, maybe, but not forgotten, not by me...)
And by the way, the guy had himself a GREAT signature! Imagine writing THAT elaborate bit of business on a check! Hey, I'd sure hate to be behind John at the check-out if he was planning on using his credit card...
|October 9th, 2005|
|There she is--no, NOT Miss America--the title
character of what a lot of folks (myself
included) consider the greatest monster movie
of all time--or at least from the classic
era-- "The Bride Of Frankenstein". Given the relatively small amount of screen
time allotted this stitched-together sweetie,
it's a tribute to both actress Elsa Lanchester
thespian abilities and Jack Pierce's remarkable make-up that, over the last seventy years, the Bride's
image has reached true iconic status.
But what of the film's opening scene, wherein a radically different looking Elsa appears in the introductory role of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly, the woman who, way back around 1818, wrote the original novel that would later spawn a spate of Frankenstein flicks? When, I wonder, was the last time you saw HER?
Well, feast yer eyes, fiends--here's Ms. Lanchester all decked out as the wife of celebrated poet Percy Bysshe Shelly (and just what immortal creature did HE come up with, hmm? Just asking ...)
|What a cutie! Hubby Chuck Laughton was one
lucky stud-puppy, that's for sure!
(Best then not to think of the aging actresses' many appearances on sixties TV, in both sitcoms and hour-long dramas, cast as a frumpy and generally ditzy little old lady--better to remember her as the woman who both made the Frankenstein monster what he is today, AND then transformed into a mate to, well, DIE for! (Hope I didn't just spoil the ending of the movie for those of you who haven't seen it yet...).
Happy 65th birthday to John Lennon, which is TODAY, not yesterday as I mistakenly indicated in my last post.
Imagine--ME screwing up? It's easy if you try...
|October 8th, 2005|
|Do you remember the first monster movie you
ever saw? I do. It was "The Cape Canaveral
Monsters", and my greatest lasting memory
of the experience is not of fear, but of
annoyance. Let me explain...
When I was younger, I made a point of avoiding scary stuff. Sometimes it blindsided me--like unexpectedly, during an episode of "Car 54"--but generally, I managed to steer clear of shudder-inducing cinema. I WAS getting older, though, and I began to think maybe I was missing out on something here, something all my buddies would invariably chatter excitedly about at school. So I distinctly recall the day I made the decision to go ahead and make the plunge into the realm of macabre movies.
It was a Saturday afternoon. I was at my grandmother's house, watching TV. A commercial came on. It for that evening's edition of Channel 11 WPIX's weekly "Chiller Theater" selection. As I sat there in front of the screen, mesmerized, I first saw a hand come up out of the ground, then a vampire throw back his cloak, a shapely but pale woman walk zombie-like alongside a hefty--and threatening looking--bald man, an enormous squid-like creature come out of the ocean, and an electrified man rip off his restraints and grab for his captors throats! At the end of this amazing display, the off-screen announcer gravely intoned, "Tonight at 7:30 on "Chiller Theater", "The Cape Canaveral Monsters"! Don't miss it!!"
Miss it? After THAT promo? Highly unlikely! What better way to inaugurate myself into the world of man-made killers and old world creatures than to watch THIS monstrous smorgasbord?
Because, y'see, I was under the impression that the commercial I'd seen earlier was composed entirely of clips from "The Cape Canaveral Monsters" (the title WAS plural, after all...). Imagine my mounting frustration, as I sat there, waiting ever-so-less patiently, as each station break would come and go, and none--not a single one--of those cool looking creepsters from the ad had yet to show up!!
Sigh, They never would. As you may've probably guessed, the clips were an amalgamation from several movies, most notably "Plan 9 From Outer Space" (which works surprisingly well--just so long as you limit it to bites of no more than say, oh, five seconds at a time?..) and Lon Chaney, Jr's "The Indestructible Man", among others . Noticeably absent were any of the alleged Cape Canaveral monsters, and there was a simple explanation for that--there WEREN'T any!!
Well, not in the traditional sense. A couple of aliens land on Earth and--all off-screen, mind you--take over the bodies of a man and a woman, hoping to use these human vessels to sabotage our nascent space program (this quasi-topical film was released in 1960). Outside of a slowly deteriorating skin condition, the pair hardly resembled the shambling horrific characters I'd primed myself for, and even if the movie had been any good, I would've been severely disappointed. Inasmuch as it was directed by Phil Tucker, who gave us the outrageously awful "Robot Monster"--y'know, the one with the man wearing a space helmet over his gorilla suit, working near some caves on a bubble machine to take over the Earth with? Yeah, THAT "Robot Monster"!!--I shouldn't have been surprised at how bad it was.
|Watching it now--or, in my twenties, like
I did the aforementioned "Robot Monster"--I
may've been able to actually ENJOY it for
it's egregious flaws, but not at that age,
not with those expectations. Uh uh. I haven't
seen it since, though some of the more hazy
details were filled in by this astoundingly comprehensive piece I found with some quick Googling. Y'know,
the Internet truly IS an amazing place..
I don't recall what my SECOND monster movie was, but I'll never forget my first, if only for the valuable lesson it taught me about having high expectations and what to do when they're dashed: just move on. Try and try again, and who knows? You might get lucky? After the sober realization had about what I had just seen finally sunk in, I remember hoping that the NEXT episode of "Chiller Theater" would feature that creepy looking lady and the big bald guy!
This time I got lucky--it DIDN'T...
On a totally unrelated topic, let me just note that today would've been John Lennon's 65th birthday.
|October 7th, 2005|
|Could this be Hiram Lodge's idea of Universal health care?...|
|Y'see, with regular butler, Smithers, on
vacation, Mr. Lodge hires a fellow with the
suspiciously familiar name of Franklin to
fill-in around stately Lodge Manor--AND,
not so coincidentally, to throw a nasty scare
into his daughter's carrot-topped suitor,
truly putting the teen's blood pressure to
Naturally, his plan backfires, and Archie ultimately winds up frightening Frankie! It all took place in ARCHIE #125, (February, 1962), the cover of which ALSO featured the well-known monster, though the cover-gag was totally unrelated to "Help Wanted", the lead story.
What both insides and outsides did share, though, was the stupendous artwork of Harry (I love, you love, we ALL love!) Lucey! It's a fun story, made all the more effective by the under-appreciated Lucey's skillfully done illustrations.
|And keeping with the current ongoing theme
here at Hembeck.com, correspondent Baden
Smith offered the following intriguing suggestion...
Great idea to make October the monster/horror month...but shouldn't you be observing the tradition by giving yourself an appropriate name for the occasion, in the vein (so to speak) of the EC horror comics (or their printed - or even TV host - descendants)?
Something like Hembeckula, or Dead Fred....er, I expect you can think of something better, but you know what I mean!
(Baden also wondered who was responsible for lettering Warren Publication's distinctive logos and such, but I'm afraid I don't know. Can anybody help with that?...)
But getting back to Baden's original point, well, it seemed like a fun idea, and I considered it.
Until this note from my buddy Ron Marz came in, with the accompanying link..
Sorry to hear about your passing. You seemed so spry:
Ah yes, the great Hembeck! I read where he died not too long ago.
That last line turned up on the DC Comics Message Boards, attributed to some guy going by the name of "stressfactor"! "Stressfactor"? HE'S not the one who just read that he DIED recently, now is he!?!
So Baden? Cute notion, but I don't think I'll tempt fate any--plain ol' Fred it remains--LIVE Fred!...
And speaking of names, a lot has been made the last few days of Nicholas Cage--Actor For Hire--naming his child Kal-el. Well, I'm here to confess that had daughter Julie been a boy, we would've named HER after my favorite super-hero! Of course, since we're talking about the civilian identity of Captain America here, that's not a particularly radical act, is it?
Steve Hembeck! Has a nice ring, eh? And besides the tip of the proverbial hat to Steve Rogers, it would've also been a nice salute to my favorite cartoonist, Steve Ditko, two of my favorite writers, Steve Englehart and Steve Gerber, AND a pair of much beloved comedians as well, Steve's Allen and Martin! Steve Rossi? Well, not so much--but we did dig the way it sounded. y;know?
But, we had a girl, didn't we, so Julie it was (and no, we didn't name her after legendary DC comics editor Julie Schwartz. No real reason for picking the name save merely for liking it...).
Gee, no wonder Lynn never wanted another one...
Lastly, here's a link to this week's Five For Friday at The Comics Reporter:
Surface Beauty: Name Five Comics With Great Cover and/or Production Design
Click to see my choices, then add yours.
More monster fun tomorrow!
|October 6th, 2005|
|The first issue I ever bought of Forrest
J.Ackerman's legendary ghoul-fest, FAMOUS
MONSTERS OF FILMLAND, was number 30, September
1964 (although my first actual exposure to
the concept might well've been from the first
of three paperback collections, whose publication
date was June of that self-same year).
Whichever it was, I was instantly hooked! Take a look at that choice Russ Jones portrait of Count Lugosi--there weren't many eleven year-old boys back in the day who could've resisted THAT!
The Great Monster Craze was in full swing by 1964, and thanks to the constant availability of the classic Universal Creature Features on local television, that was the year I too became a convert.
|But there were a whole lotta fright flicks
out there, more than any TV station could
possibly handle, so, in those pre-VCR and
DVD days, the best way to learn about them
was to immerse oneself in the plethora of
monster mags available, and where better
to start than with the one that started it
all, FAMOUS MONSTERS?
I pulled out my collection of these Warren publications the other day, and paged through them for probably the first time in near thirty years, maybe more. I noticed a number of things. First off, I was mildly surprised to see how small my stash was: I had FM #30-40, 43, the 1966 and 1967 FEARBOOKs, the three paperbacks, and nine of ten issues of the short-lived companion magazine, MONSTER WORLD (I missed number 2, and truly regretted it--conversely, I skipped FM 41 and 42, and have no idea why I decided to pick up the 43rd issue. All I know is that it was my last...).
Y'see the two books pictured here? My copies are absolutely beat up, obviously read over and over, and then over again. Looking through them again, nearly every page--every classic still, every cornball caption, even every cheesy advertisement--immediately brought back a warm wave of nostalgia. By the time I got past about the first three issues of each title, though, the warm fuzzies were gone. And by the latter issues in my snapshot of a collection--some featuring reprints of material as recent as stuff found in my initial issues!--I clearly understood, with just a cursory glance, why I abandoned FM, and never came back. Too much filler, too many pages of text saying as little as possible, and gags that, yes, even made ME cringe!
|Another odd thing I noticed in the my run--during that nearly two year period, a handful of elderly actors who'd received fourth, fifth, sixth--and even lower--billing on the various classic (and quasi-classic) horror films of the thirties and forties passed away, and they're all given a royal send-off! In truth, these extravagant features on the demise of some otherwise forgotten starlet who, once, long ago, fell victim to the vampire Count--or a fellow who helped excavate the Mummy's tomb, only to subsequently feel the ancient Egyptian's vise-like grip around his throat--were little more than excuses to run page after page of scenes with the dearly departed's more illustrious co-stars: Karloff, Lugosi, Carradine, Rathbone, Price, and Chaney. Curiously, a true giant of the genre--of cinema, even--also passed away during this period--Peter Lorre--but his tribute wasn't anymore extravagant than the one afforded Dracula's Van Helsing. Odd.|
|Well, I may've stopped reading FAMOUS MONSTERS
relatively quickly, but that was hardly the
end of my investigation into that peculiar
little corner of the publishing field--but
more on that another day.
Check out this site for the covers of every issue. I was a bit overwhelmed--I didn't realize FM had lasted quite as long as it did. I can only imagine what it was like in its later years, since they clearly seemed to be running out of gas by issue forty. Of course, that was probably just my perception--maybe a few issues of FAMOUS MONSTERS--ANY few issues--is all you really need. After that, everything begins to seem redundant.
There's one last thing left to ponder. Outside of reprints found in the paperbacks and the two FEARBOOK's, I've never really seen the material that most likely represented the TRUE glory days of FM, and that's okay. But still, for forty-one years now, since I first saw this cover offered for sale in the back issue department--issue 29, meaning I JUST missed picking it up off the racks myself--I've wondered--I STILL wonder--WHY is JERRY LEWIS'S name emblazoned there in such, big bold type, sharing billing with, of all things, "The Flesh Eaters"?? This bizarre combination has puzzled me for decades. If anybody out there possesses a clue, well, I'd sure appreciate a tip! ( Will?...)
FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND may've, in the end, seemed a bit too juvenile for my (ahem) ever more evolving sophisticated tastes, but it WAS the original, making all the good stuff that followed possible, so let me give it the respect it's due, if only for THAT!
Anyway, just HOW smart was I back in those days anyways? After all, it DID take me at least three issues to eventually realize that the mag didn't REALLY employ a writer whose name was actually "Dr. Acula"!
Sorry, Forry--you sure got me there!
|October 5th, 2005|
|It's that time again. Time to zap on over
to this week's 30th edition of The Fred Hembeck Show. This time around, the topic--by way of
answering a question my colleague, Peter
Sanderson posed a fortnight back--is my relationship
with the Funny Animal Kingdom.
No, Count Duckula ISN'T part of the discussion, but I wanted to include an image here today that would be consistent with my ongoing focus on monsters, as well as something that also featured a funny animal. Well, with this particular cover, I have both:
Count Duckula is the funny animal...
And Geraldo is the monster!!
Har! Har! Some of these are just TOO easy!
But aside from my little joke, there was a bit of a surprise awaiting me when I cracked open the cover to this 1989 comic--the art team. Illustrating this book-length Michael Gallagher scripted extravaganza was the unlikely team of penciller Warren Kremer--the legend behind Richie Rich, Casper, Stumbo the Giant, Little Lotta, and close to three entire decades of Harvey Comics--and inker, well, none other than the man whose art revitalized Moon Knight, painted Frank Miller's Elektra, and concocted his own set of STRAY TOASTERS, Bill Sienkiewicz!!
Here's a small taste of the Geraldo Rivera/Count Duckula/Warren Kremer/Bill Sienkiewicz Star Comics madness!!
|Getting back to my latest piece for a moment,
I'd like to take this opportunity to publicly
thank my editor over at IGN Comics, Ken Plume. Time was getting a little tight,
so I asked Ken to help me out by choosing
some images to illustrate my ramblings. In
the past, I've provided him with the accompanying
art, but this time around, since there weren't
any specific images that needed to go along
with my deathless prose--and the deadline
was getting close, as I may've hinted--well,
I dumped it all on good ol' Ken's shoulders!
He did a great job, and I just wanted thank
Speaking of Ken, well, just the other night, I was Googling myself--hey, we ALL do it! It's a purely natural act, y'know--and I came across THIS little blurb in what turned out to be Mr. P's Weekend Shopping Guide over at IGN FilmForce.
If you're Fred Hembeck, than you're probably going to rush out to buy the double feature of the original Hayley Mills Parent Trap and its made-for-TV sequel that, amazingly enough, is titled The Parent Trap II (Walt Disney, Not Rated, DVD-$19.99 SRP). What, they couldn't go all the way and wrap it up with the final Mills Trap outing in III? What a gyp! The first disc features both films, while the second disc essentially cannibalizes the Parent Trap "Vault" release from a few years back, with behind-the-scenes featurettes and retrospectives on the original film.
While I didn't exactly rush out to get my copy--I believe I managed to wait, oh, two full days--I DID buy one yesterday (AND for a mere $14.99, I might add). Thanks for the tip, Ken--I probably wouldn't have even known that the discs had been released if you hadn't directly pointed it out to me! Now, I just need to find some time to watch it--and when I do, I WON'T be Googling myself! Promise!
Ahem. Yes. Well, now is the time when I usually point you over towards Peter Sanderson's Comics In Context, #104. This week, Peter finishes up his incisive overview of the BATMAN: DARK DETECTIVE limited series. Hey Peter--nice job, as always, but I finished that WEEKS AGO--what took ya so long?? (Hee hee!!...)
Roger Green. Every day, this guy has something to say! Man, he's taken to blogging the way Count Duckula took to a Rivera!!
It appears my whining last week won me a spot in Greg Burgas' weekly array of links, and I'm thankful for that. Still, upon sober reflection, my behavior was hardly dignified, and I assure you, Greg, it WON'T happen again. Next time, I'll just flat out beg!! Begging is SO much more sincere, don'tcha think? And, Mr. B? I realize we're Permalink free hereabouts, but the IGN material happily boasts that nifty li'l function. Just a tip, though--you'll KNOW when the begging begins, never fear!!
And when it comes to links, Laura Gjovaag ALWAYS seems to have plenty--though it only SEEMS like most of 'em are Aquaman related!
In much the same spirit as we're promoting here, Dial B For Blog has great entries on Aurora Monster Kit ads and Werewolves and Witches!
Well, that's pretty much it for now. Go read my latest true confession. I had Lynn check it out, and seeing as how she rarely reads those columns (Hey, she LIVES with me--let's not punish her TOO much!!), I thought it might be interesting to get her opinion on this one, since I do spill a small portion of my guts in it...
She gave me a one word review:
Yup, another winner! Well, what are you waiting for--GO!!
|October 4th, 2005|
|We continue on today with what has inadvertently
developed into a series of promos for monster
magazines, all long since left moldering
in the mausoleum of petrified periodicals.
This time around, we focus on the short-lived
companion to Warren Publications trailblazing
FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND, MONSTER WORLD.
This ad appeared in the 30th issue of FM (September, 1964--just coincidentally, my initial exposure to the magazine, but more on that later this month), heralding the arrival of the lower-priced MONSTER WORLD (35 cents as opposed to the hefty fifty cents Forry Ackerman's original brainchild went for).
|When the first issue finally hit the stands several months later,
it brandished an entirely different logo
than the one used in the FM ad, but I was
always quite enamored with this design, mainly
because the multitude of caricatures of classic
horror films icons found within each letter
were so nicely drawn.
(And for a somewhat better--if regrettably blurry--view of the art, click on it for a version three times as large...)
|Who drew it?
My first guess would be Russ Jones, but I'd have to include the great Wally Wood as a prime suspect as well. After all, the very same pair teamed up to produce a short--but richly delineated--comics adaptation of the original Universal "Mummy" film for the debut issue of MONSTER WORLD.
(Of course, later issues of MW featured several movies translated into comics form by Joe Orlando, and as I've learned the hard way around here during months past, when in doubt, it's ALWAYS a good idea to guess Joe Orlando!! Right Mark?...)
And, unfortunately, in going over to friend Evanier's to facilitate the above link, I was confronted with the sad news of the passing of two familiar faces from my youth, Nipsey Russell and Hamilton Camp, both of whom I was always delighted to see, frequently brightening the vast video landscape.
I was particularly fond of Nipsey, not only for being a part (however small) of my beloved "Car 54, Where Are You?", but also for being a regular panelist (alongside another long-time fave, Soupy Sales) on "Can You Top This?", whose late sixties edition doubled as both an entertaining game show and a hilarious comedy showcase. In recent years, I was pleased to see Nipsey turning up ever so occasionally as the featured attraction in some fanciful--and quick--comedy bit on Conan O' Brien's show.
All due respect to Carl Sandburg, e.e. cummings, Joyce Kilmer, Allen Ginsburg, and all the rest, but MY favorite poet has always been Nipsey Russell. Yes, those other folks may well have had an edge with the words, but when it came to delivery, it was abundantly clear--Nipsey had no peer.
I'll miss him.
|October 3rd, 2005|
|Last October, in the entry for the 23rd, I made mention
of a book called, TALES CALCULATED TO DRIVE
YOU BATS published by the folks at Archie
Comics back in 1961 for a few short--but
fiendishly fun-filled--years. Well, shortly
thereafter, one of my thoughtful readers
sent me a scan of the delightful house ad
above that originally appeared in the 16th
issue of ARCHIE'S MADHOUSE (December, 1961).
Unfortunately, in the intervening year, I lost both that scan AND the name of said helpful correspondent--they were on the computer that conked out several months ago--but luckily, I myself owned a copy of that particular issue of ARCHIE'S MADHOUSE, so I knew I'd be able to at least share the nifty Orlando Busino art work with you people, even if my the gent who tipped me off must remain anonymous, at least for now (you out there, friend?...).
One other thing--notice how it says "Real Advertisement" at both the top and the bottom of the page? That's probably because, in the context of the rest of the issue, it sure seems like just another goof! But it's not. It's BATS.
And (dare I say it?), BATS all, folks!...
|October 2nd, 2005|
|The above subscription ad (minus the coupon
that ran underneath) appeared in the first
of the three issues the short-lived MONSTER
MANIA magazine eked out (or is that, "EEKed
out"?...) to the newsstand back in the
sixties. Co-published and edited by noted
Warren Publications' veteran, Russ Jones,
it commenced mid-way through 1966. I thought
you might like seeing MAD's maddest--and
best--caricaturist, Mort Drucker, in a rare
outing outside his normal environs, offering
his always delightful--and in this case,
truly dead on--take of the classic creepy
creatures that so enamored a whole new generation
of monster movie fans, of which I proudly
counted myself as one at the time.
(Although I bought a copy of the third and final issue--sure am glad I DIDN'T subscribe!--the pair of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing photo covers, nice as they were, sorta paled before the Frank Frazetta painting used for the cover of the single issue I missed, MONSTER MANIA #2!
Gee, y'know, maybe I SHOULD'VE subscribed?...
Oh, and for a GREAT personal reminiscence by Mr. Jones--who definitely DID know what was happening, Bob--detailing not only his MONSTER MANIA experience, but his Warren years as well, go here.)
Yes, fiends, it's October, and because of that, yes, I've made an executive decision: it's gonna be a monstrous month here at Hembeck.com.! Rare art, nostalgic ramblings--maybe even a pun or two (ya think?...)--most all of it with a Halloweenish tinge!
Come back, then, for a daily dose of tricky treats--if you dare!
|October 1st, 2005|
|By all accounts, Hammer Studios' 1957 release,
"The Curse Of Frankenstein", was
a mostly successful updating of the classic
Universal series from decades earlier.
Film historians, on the whole, however, much preferred Boris Karloff's Monster declaring "Bread good! Fire bad!" to Chris Lee's perhaps too-subtle complaint, "Soup warm! Needs salt!"
Nice wristwatch mad Doctor Rolex provided the creature though, don'tcha think?..
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