Sunday, December 28, 2008

“Weird Christmas Tales” Chapter Four: Impulse and Plastic Man… Weird Christmas: Situation Normal All MYX-ed UP!

Previously, I defined the comic book “Weird Christmas Tale and why it is given a special place in our hearts, minds, and in this Blog. Then, we saw Bugs Bunny get a big (Weird) Christmas surprise, were ourselves surprised by The Flintstones and were saved from evil trees by The Simpsons. Once again, from my 2001 APA column The Issue at Hand # 57 , it’s time for some more “Weird Christmas Comic Book Fun”…


Our final “Weird Christmas Tale” moves along at a breakneck pace but, with THIS cast of characters, what else would you expect!

The Issue at Hand Is: IMPULSE # 57 February, 2000. Published by DC Comics.


(…First, for the uninitiated, an introduction to our players!)
Impulse: Bart Allen is “The Fastest Kid Alive”. Grandson of Barry Allen, better known as legendary comic-book hero “The Flash”, Impulse possess the gift of amazing speed and the brain of a Junior High student with Attention Deficit Disorder. Governed more by “impulse” than reason, Bart tends to “leap” first and, much later, may give the abstract concept of an associated “look” some marginal consideration.
   
Plastic Man: An accident at one of those ubiquitous chemical factories left the former “Eel O’ Brian” with the ability to stretch, shape, and form his body in an infinite number of amazing ways. With short, dumpy, straw-hatted, bow-tied comedy relief sidekick Woozy Winks, Plastic Man fights (…and often jokes) for good as a member of the Justice League of America.
   
Mr. Mxyzptlk: As some of you may know, “Mxy” is a magical, mischievous imp from the supernatural “Fifth Dimension”. This prankster’s passion is to bedevil Earth’s greatest hero, Superman, in repeatedly vein attempts to prove his own self-imagined superiority. A bizarre quirk in the governing laws of the Fifth Dimension requires that if Mxyzptlk should speak his name backwards while wreaking havoc in our own “Third Dimension”, he is instantly banished back to the Fifth Dimension for a period of at least ninety of our days! When this occurs, all magical manifestations of Mxy’s also revert to their “normal state”. Don’t look at me… What am I, a “dimensional lawyer”?!

Needless to say, when encountering Mr. Mxyzptlk, the primary objective is to get him (…by trick or other means) to say his name backwards! Fortunately, his foolish pride, staggering vanity, and obsession with the execution of his plans has resulted in a vast number of situations in which Superman and other DC heroes have gotten him to utter the magic word “KLTPZYXM”! And now you know everything necessary to read…

“A Plastic Christmas” 22 pages. Writer: Todd De Zago. Penciller: Ethan Van Sciver. Inker: Prentis Rollins.

Sneaking pal Woozy Winks inside the Justice League’s lunar headquarters to watch the classic Christmas film “It’s a Wonderful X-mas” on the JLA’s monstrous, high-tech video array, Plastic Man is interrupted by a priority call from Impulse.

It seems that, in his previous adventure, Bart was left holding a jug of dangerous technoplasmic-goop, and was advised that JLA headquarters would be the safest place to store it. On the word of kindly Woozy, and against his better judgment, Plastic Man allows Impulse transporter-access to the installation. Once there, Bart wants to see everything at once, and causes the expected amount of mayhem and destruction.
.

Meanwhile, in good ol’ Metropolis, back on Earth, Mr. Mxyzptlk is preparing
“…a timely Christmas caper for his favorite foil, Superman!”
At “Metro Music Hall”, the site of the annual Christmas musical pageant, Mxy has conjured-up a massive engine of destruction in a festive holiday guise. His “SANTAndroid Super-Bot”, a great weapon in the form of “Saint Nick”, is magically programmed to rain terror on the festivities and attract the attention of Superman. Like most of his past plans, the objective is simple…
     
Once his adoring public sees him battle and then slay – no pun intended – their precious Santa Claus… well, that’ll be all she wrote! ”
     
Alas for poor Mxy, Superman was, at the time, off in space participating in a prelude to what would become the most sweeping comic-book epic of 2001, the spectacular “Our Worlds at War”, and was unavailable to take the bait. So, when word of large explosions rocking Metropolis reached the Justice League’s monitoring system, it fell to Plastic Man to take the call. A tussle between Plastic Man and the imp results in a semi-conscious and semi-delirious Mxy being locked INSIDE the android. The result, looking to all the world, that Plastic Man has taken actions which have roughed up “Santa”, leaving the “jolly old elf” disoriented, dazed, and confused.
.

“Merry Christmas! Feliz Navidad! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Kwanza! Happy Festivus!” the faux-Father Christmas spouts-off in rapid succession. Don’t recognize that last one? Neither did I until last month when, while watching late-night TV, I discovered it to be a bogus holiday observed by the family of George Costanza on SEINFELD!
     
It is at that point in the conflict that IMPULSE arrives on the scene… Oooohhh, Boy!

“HEY!!? What happened to Santa?!? What did you DO to him?!?! How’s he gonna to deliver all those presents tonight?! All those kids can’t be disappointed! He needs help, and he needs it fast – and I’m just the guy to do it!”
     
So, as if he’d read the earlier stories of Bugs Bunny and Fred Flintstone, and before Plastic Man can utter a syllable, Bart Allen, too, is off to “save Christmas”!
.

Dragging the malfunctioning “SANTAndroid” along at super speed, “…a well-meaning Impulse traverses the planet, aiding the ‘ailing’ Santa Claus – with the help of Mxyzptlk’s perpetually restocked magic sack – in spreading holiday joy throughout the world… in, might we add, record time!” Plastic Man finally catches up with Bart at the end of his “rounds” and explains the situation. They return, with “Santa”, to JLA HQ.

There, Mxy regains consciousness and threatens the heroes with magical means of torture and death… until Woozy Winks speaks up and (…like any good sidekick) expresses his faith in the shape-shifting abilities of his hero, Plastic Man!
.

Dismissing Plas’s talents as “bush league”, Mxyzptlk boldly declares that he can easily duplicate or surpass ANY shape, form, or object into which Plastic Man can transform. This results in Woozy and Impulse each calling out a series of names of various animate and inanimate objects, with each contestant rising to the challenge.

With the previously mentioned film, “It’s a Wonderful X-mas”, playing on a large background monitor, Woozy proposes the following…

    
Okay, Mr. Mixy-Fishsticks – howzabout becommin’ a character in my favorite movie?”
    
With that, Mxy suddenly vanishes and a black and white image of the imp appears on the monitor, hovering over the shoulder of a joyous “George Bailey” as he celebrates the generosity of his family and friends at film’s end.
    
A snap! I told you, I can do anything! And the name is MYXZPTLK, you doofus, not…
.

The sentence is never finished, because, without a word, Woozy aims a remote control directly at the monitor… and presses REWIND! Next, we hear…
     “…Dna eht eman si KLTPZXYM, uoy sufood, ton…”
   
And, with a frustrated cry of “NMAD!, Mr. Mxyzptlk is instantaneously transported back to the Fifth Dimension, where it is expected he will spend at least the first quarter of the year 2000.
     
The movie ends. Christmas (yet again) is saved. Superman is also saved -- from an annoying distraction, that is. The heroes momentarily celebrate. Plastic Man tells Impulse to GO HOME!” Plastic Man smiles. Good for Plastic Man! Good for Woozy!
.

By this time, readers, I expect you can pick out the various elements that make this a “Weird Christmas Tale”. A death-dealing Santa-Bot. Magically produced Christmas presents – which, presumably, VANISHED when Mxyzptlk did (…Hopefully, Mxy departed before dawn, or there are going to be a lot of astonished and unhappy children watching their presents fade into the ether come Christmas Morn').
     
An extremely innovative, tangentially Christmas-related twist on an old comic-book standard: Getting Mxy to say his name backwards. For this, writer Todd De Zago is to be commended!
.
Though, perhaps the weirdest thing about this story is that fact that even my oldest VCR does NOT emit the annoying squeal of “fast backwards sound” when in Reverse Scan mode – as might be heard on an archaic reel-to-reel audio tape system.

So, why would the ultimate high-tech video equipment installed in the Justice League Watchtower on the Moon be possessed of such a feature? Unless Batman planned to obsessively review the reversed lyrics of old Beatles songs for clues to various crimes, I haven’t the foggiest notion!
.

The final observation that can be made concerning these “Weird Christmas Tales” would be to consider their symmetry, or how they might otherwise relate to one another.

Our second and third “Weird Christmas Tales” feature THE FLINTSTONES and THE SIMPSONS, respectively. As phenomenally as The Simpsons has performed as a prime-time network animated series, it would probably not exist but for the pioneering success -- and inspiration on Simpsons creator Matt Groening -- of Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera’s The Flintstones. One begets the other! Both do “Weird Christmas Tales”!

In addition, our pair of bookending “Weird Christmas Tales”, appearing in LOONEY TUNES AND MERRIE MELODIES COMICS # 99 and IMPULSE # 57, were released darned near – if not exactly – fifty years apart! We have celebrations of Christmas 1949 and 1999. One at the century’s center, the other at the century’s end!
      
I’m not sure what it all means… but I DO know that it means SOMETHING! And that is the fun of delving into ( Whoooo! Jingle, Jingle! Whoooo! ) “Weird Christmas Tales”. Share some with your loved ones this Christmas season!

Good Night and Good Christmas – Weird or Otherwise – Comics Reading.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

“Weird Christmas Tales” Chapter Three: The Simpsons… Weird Christmas at Halloween!

Previously, I defined the comic book “Weird Christmas Tale and why it is given a special place in our hearts, minds, and in this Blog. Then, we saw Bugs Bunny get a big (Weird) Christmas surprise and were ourselves surprised by The Flintstones. Once again, from my 2001 APA column The Issue at Hand # 57 , it’s time for some more “Weird Christmas Comic Book Fun”…

Not all “Weird Christmas Tales” are unintentionally so. Some, these days more often than not, are created as such from the start. Our next two, more contemporary, examples certainly bear this out.

The Issue at Hand Is: BART SIMPSON’S TREEHOUSE OF HORROR # 4
Released: October, 1998. Published by Bongo Comics.



I don’t watch a great deal of network prime time television, so there are three outstanding events for me each fall season: Baseball playoffs and the World Series, NFL football, and the annual Halloween episode of THE SIMPSONS.

For well over a decade, network television’s longest-running prime time entertainment series, THE SIMPSONS, has, each year, presented a special Halloween episode, which decidedly departs from the series’ usual animated sit-com format. Usually divided into three vignettes, each segment takes the various Simpsons characters on a hilarious “journey into the weird”.
   
Another highlight is that virtually all of the names appearing in the show’s on-screen credits are “Halloween-ed up” to be presented as humorously macabre versions of the actual names. For instance, producer James L. Brooks is regularly credited as
James Hell Brooks, and the voice of Marge Simpson, Julie Kavner, has been billed as Julie Cadaver”.
  
 
BONGO COMICS, which appeared on the scene in 1993, is the brainchild of Simpsons creator Matt Groening, and is primarily devoted to presenting THE SIMPSONS and various related series in comic-book form.

Beginning in 1995, Bongo has adapted the format of the Simpsons Halloween TV specials to the comic book as Bart Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror. To date, six issues of this annual (trick or…) treat have been published, with # 7 expected to be on sale as you read this column. You could do worse for your $4.50… much worse!

  
I Faced Tahn-Enn-Bahm the Christmas Tree from Another World!” 13 pages. Script: “Depraved Chuck Dixon”. Pencils: “Odorous Phil Ortiz”. Inks: “Bilious Tim Bavington. Colors: “Nathan Killer Kane”. Letters: “Chris The Hunger Ungar”. Editor: “Bill The Horror, The Horror Morrison”. X-Mas Tree Hugger: “Gut Wrenching Matt Groening”. Nice carry-over of the TV style credits, eh?
 
When the poorly-stored Simpsons’ metal Christmas tree is found to be rusted through and through, environmentally conscious daughter Lisa suggests the family get a live tree “…One we can plant in the backyard when the holidays are over, and enjoy throughout the years!”. So, it’s off to the “Live and Let Live Christmas Tree Farm” they go.

As Homer grumbles over having to use a shovel instead of a chainsaw, Lisa spies the perfect Christmas tree, suspiciously bathed in an eerie
light from above,
and the tree is dug up with a healthy supply of soil for the trip home. Homer proceeds to ineptly string a multitude of dangerously configured electric light strands around the tree, as Lisa begins to question her choice when she fails to find a like species in her copy of “The Enormous Book of Trees we Love”.

Suspicious, she tiptoes down to the living room in the dead of night and is shocked to find that the tree has come to horrifying life – complete with glowering eyes and a maniacally slavering mouth of razor-sharp teeth!
 
The egregious evergreen introduces itself as “Tahn-Enn-Bahm”, the vanguard for an armada of conquering alien ships, now orbiting the Earth.
 
I come from a world your kind cannot even pronounce… because, if you accent the thirtieth syllable wrong, it means ‘big butt’! ”
 
After a preview of Tahn-Enn-Bahm’s plans, Lisa resolves to end the alien’s threat by grabbing an axe and chopping the fiend to pieces. However, the “ET-tree” counters with:
 
Can you really do that, Lisa? I’ve heard your worshipful tone when speaking of plant life. Can you chop down a tree? Even a planet-plundering pine like myself? ”
 
She can’t, of course, but is determined to find someone to do the job. Police Chief Wiggum, Mulder and Scully from THE X FILES, and even Homer refuse to believe her wild story. The latter in a magnificent bit which references previous oddball occurrences from actual Simpsons Halloween TV specials from years past…
 
You have to believe me, Dad!”
    
“…Like all your other lies? Daaaad, I created a universe in a margarine tub! Daaaad, the principal is cooking children in the cafeteria!”
 
Lisa admits defeat as Tahn-Enn-Bahm gloats, but then it comes time, at last, for Homer to water the live Christmas tree. Puffing and grumbling all the way with a huge bucket of water, Homer trips over an extension cord and thoroughly douses the needled-nemesis from tip to root. Combining the conductivity of that much water with frayed, unsafe electrical trimmings is just what it takes for the “would-be conqueror of Christmas Future” to perish in a spectacular exhibit of festive holiday lighting!

EEEEEYAAAAA!

Stupid smoke detector!”
  
  That’s not the smoke detector, dad, that’s an alien death scream!”
   
  Stupid alien death scream!”
 
With their leader defeated, the terrible trees quickly depart our galaxy – as cowardly invading aliens are wont to do. The Earth is saved! At least until we fade out with the arrival of yet another alien armada, this time made up of sentient chocolate bunnies and marshmallow peeps (!) lying in wait to spoil the next major Christian religious holiday!
 
Writer Chuck Dixon is better known as a master of terse, action-oriented comic-book stories, primarily featuring Batman and Batman-related characters. I’d say the reasons were obvious for including this story in the pantheon of “Weird Christmas Tales”. An established writer superbly performing outside of his normal genre, providing a tale of “killer Christmas trees” would be enough… but how many times has a Christmas story of any kind ever appeared in a Halloween comic book?! Weird enough for me!
 

Next Time: “Weird Christmas Tales” Chapter Four with Impulse and Plastic Man! Yes, really!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

“Weird Christmas Tales” Chapter Two: The Flintstones… What’s Wrong With This (Christmas) Picture?

Previously, I defined the comic book “Weird Christmas Tale (HERE) and why it is given a special place in our hearts, minds, and in this Blog. Then, we saw Bugs Bunny get a big (Weird) Christmas surprise. Once again, from my 2001 APA column The Issue at Hand # 57 , it’s time for some more “Weird Christmas Comic Book Fun”…
 
I promise that our “Weird Christmas Tales” won’t get any weirder than the Bugs Bunny saga of our last post! In fact, our next one would be completely conventional, if not for one peculiar quirk.
 
The Issue at Hand Is: THE FLINTSTONES # 31 December, 1965. Published by Gold Key Comics.

Christmas in Bedrock” 24 pages. Cover and story art by Phil De Lara.

Adapted from the TV animation script “Christmas Flintstone”, written by Warren Foster.


Twas the week before Christmas… And all through Bedrock… Everyone was happy… But Fred was in hock!
 
Yes, Fred needed some extra cash to buy presents for his family. Since, unlike with Bugs Bunny, there were no “Massive Slingshot Propelled Rocket Missions to the Moon” that HE could volunteer for (…even mad scientists go home for the holidays, it would seem), he settles for a more mundane evening stock clerk’s job at Macyrock’s Department Store.

After numerous mishaps, Fred is at the point of being fired when the news arrives that the store “Santa Claus” has come up sick. To stem the sudden exodus of customers with kids, Mr. Macyrock desperately recruits Fred for the job.

Fred is a natural in the role, and finishes out the week in grand jolly style. As the Christmas Eve shopping period draws to a close, his final performance is even televised. That broadcast would appear to have echoed far beyond the boundaries of Bedrock, as two tiny men claiming to be “Santa’s helpers” later roust Fred from a nap in the employee locker room.

 
Hey, what are you kids doing in here? The store is closed!”

We’re not kids! Blinky, here, is 420 years old!”

And Twinky is 385!”


Convinced that this is a further publicity stunt, Fred quickly changes his mind when the sleigh he is ushered into (…pulled by a pack of “rein-dinos”, of course) takes to the air, and deposits him at the North Pole and the very home of Santa Claus, himself. Bedridden with a severe cold, Santa taps Fred for the annual midnight ride – and does Fred ever do the joyous tradition proud.

In one of my favorite scenes in TV animation – nicely recreated by Phil de Lara for the comic book – Fred circles the globe dropping presents via parachute to the different countries of the world, bellowing “Merry Christmas” greetings in the language of each land! Calling it a “night before Christmas”, Blinky and Twinky drop Fred off at his home, and depart before Fred realizes that he’s left his own family’s presents in the sleigh.




Depressed, he bunks with Dino in the “dinohouse” for a time, but finally decides to go inside and face the Christmas music. There, he finds the Flintstone and Rubble families in full celebration, surrounded by gifts galore! He rushes outside to catch a glimpse of Santa, who has just made a special trip to return the favor that Fred had done him.

 
How about that for a wonderful guy! He gets up out of a sick bed to make MY Christmas merry!

Nobody can ever tell ME there’s no Santa Claus!”

 
On the evening of December 25, 1964, the episode “Christmas Flintstone” aired in prime time on ABC television. Not to be confused with a later expanded (…and inferior ) remake of the same basic concept, this was an original episode of THE FLINTSTONES series – and remains, to this day, one of my most favorite Christmas TV productions.

But, what made this a “Weird Christmas Tale”? Nothing that I could discern for over thirty years after its premiere, or its original comic-book publication. Some time ago, however, “Friend of This BlogChris Barat hit me between the eyes with something so blindingly obvious that it’s remained a joking source of “shame” for me ever since.

You see, the Flintstones cannot possibly celebrate Christmas! One need look no further than the letters “B.C.” (…as in “fifty million years B.C.” ) for the reason why!

Alas, in the presence of this single basic and unalterable fact, one of my most cherished Christmas stories melts away like December snow, when that
dreaded “yellow additive is introduced to it.

This “concession to the obvious” catapults “Christmas in Bedrock” and “Flintstone Christmas”, upon which it is based, squarely into the realm of “Weird Christmas Tales”.


But I STILL like it a lot! So there, Chris!
 
Next Time: “Weird Christmas TalesChapter Three with The Simpsons.

“Weird Christmas Tales” Chapter One: Bugs Bunny’s Weird Christmas Becomes Even Weirder Than He (and we) Imagined!

Last Post, I defined the comic book “Weird Christmas Tale” and why it is given a special place in our hearts, minds, and in this Blog. Now it time to “Crack those Covers” and present my 2001 APA column The Issue at Hand # 57 for some “Weird Christmas Comic Book Fun”…
The Issue at Hand Is: LOONEY TUNES AND MERRIE MELODIES COMICS # 99 January, 1950. Published by Dell Comics.

I purchased my copy of this “Weird Christmas Curio” at Comic Con International San Diego: 2001, and picked it, totally at random, from my trove of booty to read during the long return flight home to New York. It was a nice sort of “Christmas-in-July” experience.
    
However, when I hit the last page of the story, it moved it from an ordinary Christmas story to a “Weird Christmas Tale”!
    
Perhaps, I should have been warned by the cover. In his cartoons, Bugs Bunny is often seen “kissing” Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, and other adversaries. We chuckle, and little is thought of it as we move on to the next explosion or anvil-dropping gag.
  
Here, though, Bugs is seen kissing himselfactually a mirror’s image of himself, over which a festive sprig of mistletoe is hung. I shouldn’t be too hard on Bugs for this. After the ending of this story, you might agree that Bugs would be well-advised to simply “keep it to himself”!
   
Bugs Bunny (Untitled) 12 pages. Art by Tony Strobl.

During the last week of 1949, there is “Only ONE more shopping day ‘till Christmas”.

Bugs Bunny has never lacked for female companionship – “Daisy Lou” from the 1948 cartoon “Hare Splitter”, “Honey Bunny” from the comic books of the 1960s and ‘70s, and “Lola Bunny” from the recent feature film “Space Jam” to name a few – and this year is no exception. Miss 1949 is “Lula Belle”, a tight-sweatered, plaid skirted, blonde bobby-soxer of a bunny with an almost-human flesh-colored face and legs… and gray “rabbit ears” protruding from her blonde hair. Bugs, apparently, liked ‘em exotic – exotic for a rabbit, that is. Lula Belle’s design was an unusual image for the time, to say the least.

Being a “typical guy”, Bugs has just purchased Lula Belle’s Christmas present – a single carrot – rationalizing: “…About girls, it ain’t so much the present, it’s the sediment [sic]”. He then spots Lula Belle at a jewelry store, buying an expensive watch. She requests that it be engraved:
To my favorite boy friend”.

Okay, “normal” Christmas story so far. We have the potential for a classic “comic misunderstanding”, upon which so many sit-coms are based. After eating the carrot (…as I said, “typical guy”), Bugs desperately searches for money to buy Lula Belle a more suitable gift. He quickly volunteers for an amateur scientist’s “Atomic Propelled Rocket Mission to the Moon”. Nope, still not a “Weird Christmas Tale”. Convenient, oddball money-making opportunities like this can turn up on virtually any street corner in certain cartoon or comics continuities.
 
The rocket arcs into the stratosphere and immediately plummets back to the North Pole (…it WAS amateur, after all ), leaving Bugs to believe he’s landed on the Moon. He mistakes a penguin for a “Moon creature” and a strolling Santa Claus for “The Man in the Moon”. Not yet a “Weird Christmas Tale”, as two issues later, Bugs would meet the real Man in the Moon – and find him to be some bizarre clone of Yosemite Sam! Compared to THAT story, this one – at least SO FAR – is downright tame!
 
While trying to recall if Bugs was on his list of “GOOD boys and girls” or “BAD boys and girls”, Santa gets word via snowbird that Mrs. Claus’s plane, loaded with Christmas toys, was forced down nearby with motor trouble. Santa prevails upon Bugs to don a spare red suit and beard, and keep the toys (…who apparently “…come to life, only here in Santa Claus Land”) out of mischief, while he tends to the grounded plane. Even THIS notion does not categorize the story as a “Weird Christmas Tale”, as there were a number of old Warner Bros. cartoons where toys, groceries, characters from books and magazines, etc. would “come alive”, once their respective stores or shops closed for the night.
       
The toys quickly wise to the deception (…though I can’t decide if it was Bugs’ slight build, buck teeth, fuzzy cotton tail, or long ears which tipped them off ) and the rabbit is attacked by toy soldiers, sailors, marines, police and fire departments as an impostor. Once explanations are exchanged, the toys ask Bugs to assume some of Santa’s duties until he returns. These include: sewing up a stuffing-leaky seam on a Teddy Bear, teaching “Mama Dolls” to stop saying “Papa!”, and helping the Toy Police Squad locate “The Big Bad Fox” who escaped from his own story book and is hiding inside a copy of “Pollyanna”.

When Santa fails to return by the Christmas Eve departure deadline, the toys press Bugs into service to man the sleigh and take off into the wild blue Yuletide yonder. STILL not a “Weird Christmas Tale”, readers! In comics and animation, characters as diverse as Mickey Mouse, Fred Flintstone, and Cartoon Network’s Johnny Bravo have been called upon to substitute for Santa Claus – with the expected varying results. It’s only fitting that Bugs Bunny, arguably animation’s premiere superstar, get to try his “four-finger gloved hand” at this!


BUT NOWNOW, we get to the part that makes this our first “Weird Christmas Tale”! Wooooo!
   
Once underway, Bugs decides to make his first stop at Lula Belle’s house. He shimmies down the chimney in time to observe Lula Belle and her father swapping gifts – and hears the following exchange:
   
“A watch! For me? How nice!”

“And look at the engraving on it, Father!”

“ ‘To my favorite boy friend!’ How sweet, Lula Belle!”

“You are my favorite, you know, Father!”

 
WHOA! I’m not sure I REALLY WANT TO KNOW what’s going on inside THAT “happy home”! Welcome to “Weird Christmas Tale Land”, folks!
   
Even IF this WERE intended as a completely innocent plot contrivance on the part of the writer, there were OTHER, more appropriate, ways in which this could have been handled!
 
Just modifying the watch’s inscription to something more general like To the man I most admire” would have accomplished the same result, and not take this story to a place I’m certain none of us wanted to go! One can only hope that this passed innocently the over the intended audience’s collective heads, as it apparently did with the Dell editorial staff!

If I were Bugs in this situation, I would run like the dickens, because there are some problems you just can’t solve with dynamite sticks and anvils! And so he does, with a frustrated: “Well, how do ya like that!”. Small wonder, he basically “abstained” until “Honey Bunny” arrived on the comics scene in 1966. Smart bunny, that Bugs!

At this point, Santa arrives to relieve the romance-rocked rabbit, who banishes his woes with a good Christmas-time heckling of old pal, Elmer Fudd.

The balance of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies Comics # 99 proceeded along uneventfully with more standard seasonal stories featuring Sniffles and Mary Jane, Porky Pig, and Henery Hawk. Oddly, it concludes with a summertime story, in which Sylvester ineptly caddies for golfer Elmer Fudd. Huh? Can you say “Inventory”, readers?


August, 2012 UPDATE:  For another story with Lula Belle and her Dad, go HERE!

December, 2012 UPDATE:  If you wish to actually SEE the story, go HERE!


Next Time: Weird Christmas Tales” Chapter Two with The Flintstones.

I’m Dreaming of a “Weird Christmas”! Introduction.

The “Weird Christmas Tales” comic book column, done for my APA column The Issue At Hand # 57 (2001), was both one of my favorites, and one of the best received in the column’s nearly 15 year history. So much so, that it was one of the first things I’d considered as a Blog posting. Now, Christmas Week is here and the time is right to share.

This lengthy piece will consist of our introduction and four chapters, to be posted over Christmas week. Here goes



Though less common today than in years past, the Christmas comic book was, and is, a special treat. Whether it be a Christmas themed issue of a regular, ongoing series, or a specifically prepared Christmas annual or one-shot, the Christmas comic book never fails to deliver a unique type of entertainment.

Often, the treatment is reverent or, at the very least, in keeping with the spirit of the season – even within the context of comedy or adventure. Carl Barks’ 1951 classic Donald Duck story “A Christmas for Shacktown” ( Dell Four Color # 367 ) may be the most sterling example of this – and is likely the most frequently reprinted Christmas comic book story worldwide.

But, as much as I love them, we are not here to discuss the type of good Christmas story that gives you the “warm and fuzzies” even on the chilliest day of the year, and seemingly coats the world in a blanket of pure white, freshly fallen, unsullied snow…

…We are here to discuss their opposite number… the “Weird Christmas Tale”!

The “Weird Christmas Tale”, by my definition, is not necessarily one that pokes fun at the spirit and sentimentality of the season. That would fall under the generally accepted parameters of comedy, parody, or satire. The “Weird Christmas Tale” goes beyond this, and presents us with something different, unconventional, or… uh, just plain “weird”.

The “Weird Christmas Tale” is one that will leave you saying: Wow!”, “What th’…”, or (…in the case of our second example) “D’oh! Why didn’t I ever think of that!” Think of it as the kind of Christmas story in which you’d never find Bing Crosby or Burl Ives. Though you WILL recognize most, if not all, of the names of the characters involved, as comic books often tend to trot out their best and brightest for this sort of thing.

And, while not as indelible as “The Bells of St. Mary’s” or “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”, once read, these “Weird Christmas Tales”, on the strength of their sheer unconventionality, just may stick with you a tad longer than the average holiday fare. They have for me!
(…or maybe I just like Christmas comics – Period! Who knows!)

Next Post: We’ll “Crack those Covers” for some “Weird Christmas Festive Fun”…

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas with TV on DVD!

A poster on the online Home Theatre Forum for DVD TV Shows (You can link to that site HERE.) opened a thread in which we were asked to list our “Favorite Christmas TV Episodes on DVD”. I thought this was a wonderful topic, and contributed a list of my own admittedly unusual favorites.

In keeping with “the spirit”… that is the spirit of the holidays AND the spirit of never throwing anything away, when you can use it more than once, I post my Christmas TV Episode on DVD List (…with the DVD set in which you’ll find the episode) here for your enjoyment.

We begin with my favorite of all…

THE FLINTSTONES: “Christmas Flintstone”. (The Flintstones: The Complete Fifth Season) Yes, as longtime friend – and friend of this Blog – Chris Barat pointed out, The Flintstones COULDN’T POSSIBLY celebrate Christmas, but who are we to question the genius of Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, circa 1964. Years later, we could question PLENTY – but in ’64 there was no one better at the cartoon biz.

This is the “Fred Saves Christmas” (…long before every fictional character and their fictional brother began saving Christmas) episode from The Original Series – not to be confused with anything that may have come later.


LOST IN SPACE: “The Toymaker”. (Lost in Space Season Two, Volume Two) Explicitly mentions Christmas – and occurs at Christmas time. This charming tale of the Robinsons trapped in a fourth-dimensional toymaker’s shop manages to conjure up the feeling of the season, without directly dealing with the holiday itself.

LAND OF THE GIANTS: “The Night of Thrombeldinbar”. (Land of the Giants: The Complete Series). This is not a Christmas story… but SHOULD BE. It would seem to be how the holiday is celebrated on the Giants World. If you ever thought that GIANTS’ “Alexander Fitzhugh” and Lost in Space’s “Doctor Zachary Smith” were completely interchangeable, this episode will nicely illustrate the difference between the two!

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.The Jingle Bells Affair”. (The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Season Three – of the Complete Series Set). Even a hard line Communist dictator can succumb to the holiday spirit, under the right circumstances. Some very nice footage of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade circa mid-sixties – complete with vintage character balloons.

JUSTICE LEAGUE ANIMATED: “Comfort and Joy” (Justice League Volume Two). Three separate tales of Green Lantern and Hawkgirl, Superman and Martian Manhunter, and Flash and The Ultra-Humanite. The latter two being the most effective as Christmas tales. As a near-lifelong DC Comics fan, this has become a Neo-Christmas-Classic for me!

Of course, I like The Grinch, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph, Frosty and the rest… and you’ve GOT to admire them for their staying power over the decades, but those can be on anybody’s list. A list like this says “ME”, about as well as anything could… wouldn’t you say? How many other folks would ever associate LAND OF THE GIANTS with Christmas? …Yes, even I’M starting to worry about me now!

Hope you all get the DVDs you want this season – including a few of these!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Best Batman Film of Them All! (Not Quite a DVD Review...but Long Anyway!)

I’m referring to 2008’s “The Dark Knight”, which I’ve just seen for the first time on DVD (…more about which HERE).


This is not exactly a DVD review. I won’t go too deeply into the film, and risk spoiling anything for the few interested parties who might not have seen it yet, but instead toss out some random observations.

If you WANT to spoil things, just click HERE.

THE PROS:

Heath Ledger very definitely lives up to the hype as The Joker. He brings a new level of visual grotesqueness to the character yet, conversely, plays him in a remarkably understated way.

The very best contemporary comic-book versions of The Joker (…from O’Neil and Adams’ “The Joker’s Five Way Revenge” [1973] to Moore and Bolland’s “The Killing Joke” [1988] and beyond) are those that put a scare into you – as the original Bob Kane version and the post-1960s version was meant to do. Ledger’s Joker does exactly that… and even pulls off the type of remarkably unexpected “surprise murders” that Kane’s Joker did, way back in BATMAN # 1!

The film doesn’t waste time on The Joker’s origin! We’ve seen SO MANY different versions of it in various comic books (“The Killing Joke” being a prime example), the 1989 BATMAN film (Jack Nicholson’s version) and even in BATMAN THE ANIMATED SERIES (“Beware the Creeper”). Since there is no one “definitive” version of this seminal moment for the grandest of all comic-book villains, why toss “just another version” on the pile here and detract from the larger story at hand.

In terms of capturing the essence of the “Contemporary Batman”, Christian Bale may be the best of all. He, too, tends toward the frightening, as a good modern Batman should. Borrowing from the best version of the character outside of the comics medium, (BATMAN THE ANIMATED SERIES), Bale lowers his voice to a scary, raspy pitch when speaking as Batman.

We get yet another origin for Harvey Dent/Two Face. This is not consistent with ANY previous version – comics, animated, or feature film. But, it is SO well executed within the story context of “The Dark Knight”, that it may stand second only to the shockingly original “Lye-In-The-Face” early comic-book origin.

Arron Eckhart is convincing as both crusading District Attorney Harvey Dent and the schizophrenic Two Face. And the make-up job on the “bad side” of Dent’s face is about as perfect as Two Face could ever look!

The supporting cast of characters is in great hands with Michael Caine as Alfred, Gary Oldman as Captain (and later in the film) Commissioner Gordon, and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox. Cain, Oldman, and Freeman truly look the part and play the part well, and that is very important to someone like me who has a concrete image of what these classic characters should look and act like. To digress, Oldman may be the only actor to be successfully cast as both an established Irwin Allen character and an established DC Comics character – Doctor Zachary Smith and Commissioner Gordon, respectively.

One more striking difference between “The Dark Knight” and other contemporary media versions of Batman is in the depiction of GOTHAM CITY itself.

In the previous films, as well as the Animated Series, Gotham is presented as some sort of “dark fantasy land”. Consider Anton Furst’s designs and their subsequent derivatives for the films – and the “Max Fleischer Superman / Art Deco” inspired architecture employed in the Animated Series.

Here, it is presented as a “NORMAL CITY” and, as such, a more effective backdrop for Batman, The Joker, and Two Face. These extraordinary characters “stand out” more because the set doesn’t “steal the scene” from them.

THE CONS:

It is clearly a “Loud Film” and, for living room DVD watching, I found myself constantly adjusting the volume up to hear softly spoken dialogue and down to diminish the explosive effects. If you live with someone “sensitive” to his or her surroundings, it might be best to play this when you are home alone. I may revisit it to play with “Captioning On”, just to catch some of the things I may have missed.

The lead up to the climax, where Batman employs a cowl-activated optical device – giving him almost omnipotent visual powers, is rather confusing to watch and decipher. If I can consider Esther as typical of the “vast uninitiated”, her confusion with and dislike of this scene is probably justified. I wasn’t exactly on-board with it myself.

The early “mob / money laundering / Asian connection” bits
just seem to lengthen the film unnecessarily – but they do open the door through which Heath Ledger’s wonderful version of The Joker walks in, so I’ll consider it a necessary (though overlong) evil.

Yes, the character of Rachel Dawes is superfluous… but there is no annoying soundtrack by Prince, no “Tim Burton Weirdness”, no “blonde guy playing Bruce Wayne” and no inappropriate “Joel Schumacher Camp” and complete misinterpretation of established comic-book characters. Given all this, Rachel isn’t all that bad… and this time she isn’t played by Katie Holmes! To celebrity gossip-weary me, that’s a good thing!



IN SUMMARY:

Director Christopher Nolan started something extraordinary with his “Batman Begins”, which resulted in “The Dark Knight” – in my opinion, the best Batman film of them all!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Getting LOST Again!

LOST Season Four was released on DVD December 09, 2008. And, as with the previous three releases, it appears to be a first class package all the way!

As you may know from previous postings, I have, thus far, seen the series ONLY on DVD – not broadcast TV. Releasing the 16 episode (writer’s strike shortened) Season Four at this particular time is a very clever strategy on the part of ABC/Buena Vista.

Why? Because, should I choose to do so, I CAN begin watching Season Five on TV – even if I’ve never done so before. Season Five begins January 21, and I should easily be able to polish off these yet unseen 16 episodes of Season Four before then.

Once I do, I’m faced with the prospect of continuing to consume this very addictive series on DVD – and waiting until December 2009 to do so – or pick up the next round of new installments on ABC in little over a month! Very clever, ABC/Buena Vista! I’m guessing you’ll get me to do something I’ve resisted for years – watch LOST on prime time network airings.

Another clever innovation on the part of the DVD’s producers – and a lesson that modern comic books could certainly stand to learn – is that LOST Season Four on DVD leads-off with a feature called “LOST in 8:15”.

This is an extensive recap of the first three seasons, done at “football halftime show highlight speed” with fast narration and the occasional wry comment thrown in for good measure. Having processed Seasons One thru Three in compressed time anyway (on DVD in less than three months), I can say this is a very complete review of the series' fundamentals and most important plot beats.

In a continuity-heavy show like LOST, you can easily get… er, “lost” in the many, many details of three seasons of television broadcasts and, as we begin Season Four, the time is right for an extensive review before proceeding.
Hey, DC and Marvel… are you listening? Shouldn’t it be this easy to get… “up to speed” with The Flash?

Oh, and “8:15” isn’t just an arbitrary run-time. It also references Oceanic Flight 8:15 that crashed on the unknown island that has been the basis for LOST. Can I use the word “clever” often enough to describe this effort?!

I’m looking way forward (…with a few “flash-forwards” along the way) to getting LOST again!

…And remember, please do not offer spoilers of any kind! Thanks!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

What’s Wrong with this (Moving) Picture?

…Or, Why see The Dark Knight in a Dark Theatre?

I’m a big BATMAN fan! Have been since I first saw Adam West in 1966.

Since then, I’ve enjoyed all interpretations and all eras of the character. Have a complete run of both BATMAN and DETECTIVE COMICS from the Silver Age to the present… and a small number that go back further still. Needless to say I loved Bruce Timm’s Batman The Animated Series – and have seen all the Batman motion pictures.

All, except THE DARK KNIGHT!

It’s not that I had any specific reason for not seeing THE DARK KNIGHT. I particularly wanted to see it, as many regard it as the best Batman film of them all.

I’ve just grown to dislike the movie-going experience. The crowds, difficulty parking, and especially the ticket prices! The theatre Esther and I frequent most often (…that is, if you can use the work “frequent” to describe our very occasional and irregular visits to the whatever-plex) now costs twenty-two dollars for two persons to attend an evening show.

Add gas, any food or drink, and the annoyance of sometimes having to buy a ticket in advance (...or risk a sold-out show), actual commercials playing on the big screen (…not movie trailers, mind you, but product commercials!) and the usual late-comers, noise-makers, and view-blockers among the audience, and it is simply not enjoyable for me anymore.

So, each week during the last blockbuster-summer, I kept putting off going to see THE DARK KNIGHT.

But I will see it this week… thanks to DVD. And for 14.99 (Best Buy’s release week sale price, as well as Amazon’s current price!) vs. the “22.00 Plus” I would have paid to experience it with all the “extras” detailed above!

Yes, you can argue “Big Screen” and “Big Sound”… but, depending on the size of your own home entertainment investments (…and ours are not at all extraordinary), you can experience it in just as much glory as you can in the whatever-plex!

For all I know, I may not even like THE DARK KNIGHT, now that I’ve purchased it and own a copy… but, I think we’ve truly reached a notable point in time when I can now buy a theatre-quality copy for less than the price of two admissions.

…Here’s hoping Heath lives up to the hype!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Comic Book Letter of Comment: Scroogian Symmetry!

…Or, How “The Twenty-Four Carat Moon” Before June – Became Something to Remember in November.

…Or, aren’t you glad this isn’t just another embedded video?



Carl Barks’ Uncle Scrooge opus “The Twenty-Four Carat Moon”(Originally appearing in UNCLE SCROOGE # 24, 1958) has long been a favorite comic book story of mine, ever since I first read it “postage-stamp panel-sized” in WALT DISNEY COMICS DIGEST # 6 (1968).

Below: Cover of UNCLE SCROOGE ADVENTURES # 13 (1989) featuring a reprint of “The Twenty-Four Carat Moon” – New cover art by Don Rosa.

Such a favorite is this tale that, on May 05, 2008, when I was invited to participate in the DVD documentary feature “Donald Goes to Press” for the Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald Volume 4 (1951-1961) DVD set, I mentioned it prominently.

To digress, I DO hope you’ve managed to get a copy of what we now call “CHRON-DON # 4”, as there were only 39, 500 copies run and, despite being released about 15 days ago, it’s already becoming somewhat difficult to find. (More on that HERE and HERE and you can read more about “Donald Goes to PressHERE).

Two days after my tribute to this Carl Barks classic was committed to video, Gemstone releases UNCLE SCROOGE # 375, on May 07, leading off with a reprint of … “The Twenty-Four Carat Moon”.

Fast forward to November 11, 2008: Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald Volume 4 (1951-1961) is released on November 11, and the world (…okay, make that fewer than 39, 500 folks, considering the likely speculative hoarding of the set) gets to hear me wax nostalgically over the greatness that is “The Twenty-Four Carat Moon”.

Then, a mere eight days later on November 19, Gemstone releases UNCLE SCROOGE # 382 containing my Letter of Comment on the appearance of the story in May’s issue # 375… in which I say many of the same things I say in the DVD documentary. Here’s the LOC:

“I’m afraid to open my mouth! My brains might fall out!” – Scrooge McDuck, America’s first “Cash-tronaut”, from Carl Barks’ “The Twenty-Four Carat Moon” in UNCLE SCROOGE # 375.

I’ve been waiting for you to reprint this outstanding tale, just so I could pull this favorite quote to open a letter of comment! …And it’s a good thing he DIDN’T open his mouth, as those aforementioned brains would just bump-up against the inside of his space helmet – and what an image that would have made!

Clearly a product of 1950s Sputnik Fever, “The Twenty-Four-Carat Moon” saw Scrooge, Donald, and the nephews in their own “space-race”, with rival tycoons and the Terrible Beagle Boys taking the place of rival superpowers, to claim a golden planetoid hidden behind the (as of then unseen) dark side of the Moon.

Alas, the “dark side” aspect of the story will forever doom it to be a period piece when seen from a late 20th or early 21st Century perspective. But, the comic-book gods smiled upon this opus when I first saw it in its initial American reprinting as the featured attraction of WALT DISNEY COMICS DIGEST # 6 – released in late 1968, not long before Apollo VIII became the first manned craft to circle the Moon! That gave our dauntless Ducks one final chance to be the first and only beings to see what lurked behind our Moon, and made this Barks epic just that much more special to me at the time!

(End of Letter of Comment)

…And, to the Harvey Comics fans out there, YES, that “Cash-tronaut” line was a tribute to those dreadful Richie Rich “verbal gag” covers (…or would they be “gag reflex covers”?) of the 1970s.

So, Carl Barks’ “The Twenty-Four Carat Moon” becomes prominent for me over two days in May and again over eight days in November. In May, I discuss it for video, re-read it and write a Letter of Comment in two days. Half a year later, in November, I watch the DVD discussion and read the published comments in eight days. “Scroogian Symmetry”, I call it! (…I mean, if you HAD to call it something, what else COULD you call it?)

I don’t know what all this rambling means, but it must mean something… beyond the notion that, by now, you may be wishing I just embedded a video of another old Hanna-Barbera cartoon instead!
...Fear not, I’ll get back to that soon enough!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Huckleberry Hound in “Piccadilly Dilly”

Give a man a fish and, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Give me an embedded video, and I’ll watch it. Teach me how to embed videos in my Blog, and I’ll endlessly inflict them on you in alarmingly large numbers!

Yes, this Blog HAS become rife with embedded videos of late. But, if you like Lost In Space or early Hanna-Barbera cartoons it can be a beautiful thing. At least I think so…

Piccadilly Dillyis a favorite Huck Hound cartoon that has not been released on DVD. It was written by Warren Foster, going back to the “Jeckyll and Hyde thing” he did for the Friz Freleng Bugs Bunny classic “Hyde and Hare” – but with a different ending.

I particularly like Foster’s dialogue in this one. When Huck converses with “Doctor J.” about his formula, his exchanges with the captain, or when he just cluelessly blathers on to himself. And ya gotta love Hal Smith’s maniacal laughter as "The 'Dilly"!

So, enjoy the great Daws Butler and Hal Smith, and the additional incongruity of Huck as a London Bobby with a Southern drawl.




C’mon, WB… put the rest of Huckleberry Hound out on DVD!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Just One More Lost In Space CGI.

I really don’t know what to make of this, other than it is one damned amazing effort!

I’ll assume it’s only one more ambitious fan-effort (of many to be found). And that maybe “homemade CGI" is the 21st Century replacement for “fan-fic”. (You can see some other examples of CGI-reimagined Lost In Space openings in my previous post HERE!)

The names “involved”, that are seen at the end – and I’ll assume they are not used with permission, if a fan product – would seem to be there to give the notion of some "authenticity" (...if nowhere but in the author's fantasy), but imagine if something like this could be "legitimately" done – or even created for a possible video game.

…So, if this thing “disappears” someday, I will not be very surprised, so do enjoy it while it’s here to entertain you – and consider “what could be or could have been"!

Back when I was in my “early double digit years”, this is precisely the sort of thing I would play and replay in my head. New episodes, Dick Tufeld narrated “Third Season Next Week Scenes” for earlier episodes likeDeadly Games of Gamma Six”, “The Astral Travler… and, of courseThe Keeper”. (Yes, I suppose I was always TV Sci-Fi geeky to some degree… SO WHAT!)

But now, it seems that the more motivated members of geekdom, can now create those “in-your-head” scenes to share with the rest of us! Do we live in a WONDERFUL AGE, or what!


Oh, and look for “Space Station K-7” from Star Trek’s “The Trouble with Tribbles at about 1:34 and Forbidden Planet’s “Robby the Robot” (a two-time guest star on the original Lost In Space) at about 1:40. …Enjoy!



So, don’t cha wish it was “for-real”?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Amazing Things Fans Can Do Today! Lost In Space Third Season Opening – Remastered and Customized!

It never ceases to amaze me what dedicated fans can do these days.

Here’s the original Third Season Opening to Lost In Space, followed by customized openings to the episodes The Condemned of Space and Visit to a Hostile Planet”!

Not only are they redone in CGI, but each opening is “custom to the episode” by utilizing shots of the cast THAT ARE ACTUALLY FROM THAT PARTICULAR EPISODE!

In other words, the credit shots of Guy Williams, June Lockhart, Billy Mumy, Jonathan Harris, et al used for the credit sequence for “The Condemned of Space” are actually fromThe Condemned of Space” (in the comet’s path), and ditto for “Visit to a Hostile Planet” (runaway acceleration).

To digress, I’ve always been one for having differences in the opening credit sequences for different seasons of a show – as was the case with Lost In Space, Star Trek, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., F-Troop, Land of the Giants – and certain cartoons like Scooby-Doo Where Are You and DuckTales.


In fact, shows like U.N.C.L.E. and I SPY would actually work scenes from the episode into the credit sequence, just as has been done here.

Conversely, just try to pin down when any given Simpsons episode was from! You just CAN’T DO IT!

With different or changing opening sequences, you always know (at least approximately) when – or from which season – the episode you are watching is from.

But just imagine taking it to extremes with opening credits sequences that are SPECIFIC TO THE EPISODE! Apparently, someone did… Enjoy!

1: Original 1967 Third Season Opening.



2: "The Condemned of Space" (Custom CGI)



3: "Visit to a Hostile Planet" (Custom CGI).

Friday, November 14, 2008

Jets, Giants… and “Bear”, Oh My!

Week Eleven in the 2008 NFL Season is a great place to be if you are a New Yorker!

After a hard-fought overtime victory over the arch-rival New England Patriots 34-31, the New York Jets sit alone atop the AFC East with a record of 7-3, while the New York Giants do likewise in the NFC East at 8-1!

UPDATE: Make that Giants record 9-1 for Week Eleven (...as of Sunday, November 16) with a 30-10 victory over the Baltimore Ravens!

I don’t think both teams have EVER been in first place at the same time THIS LATE IN THE SEASON, ever before!

To celebrate, here’s an embedded video of my all time favorite “football cartoon” – Yogi Bear in “Rah Rah Bear”!

It dates from the second season of
THE HUCKLEBERRY HOUND SHOW in 1959, was written by the great Warren Foster, and was magnificently voiced by the equally great Daws Butler and Don Messick. Butler, of course is Yogi, but also delivers Ranger Smith’s one-or-two lines in this one. And Messick (who normally spoke for “Mister Ranger”) is superb as the football game announcer.

Rah Rah Bear” is a prime example of why I love the early Hanna-Barbera cartoons… even though, for many of my early, formative years (…until I finally watched a “real” NFL game), I thought the game of football was played by two lines of “really big guys” running full-tilt directly into each other!




Ironically, as I post a Blog entry that, at least in part, celebrates the New York Giants’ success, I link to a cartoon that results in their defeat! Sorry, Eli. …Enjoy!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

CHRON DON – GONE DON!

This Blog continues its obsession with Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald Volume 4 (1951-1961) with my revisiting the local BEST BUY where I picked up my two copies on the Tuesday morning of release.

By Thursday evening, in the five-o-clock hour, all copies of CHRON DON 4 were SOLD OUT! There were three vertical “shelf places” full of them 2.5 days ago… and now they’re all gone.

I certainly hope each one went to “deserving homes” where they will be viewed and enjoyed for years to come. But, as past Treasures sets with LARGER press runs have already proved, I’m certain that some have fallen into the hands of (Boo! Hiss!) speculators as well!

FREE THE CHRON DONS!!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

“Don for the Count” – a Senseless Census of Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald Volume 4 (1951-1961)!


I can officially confirm that the press run for Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald Volume 4 (1951-1961) is 39, 500 copies (as I warned HERE).

So, given my two purchased copies, and one each known to have gone to friends David Gerstein and Chris Barat, that leaves a potential of 39,496 still up for grabs. Get yours before the speculators move in, as has been the case with previous sets of Walt Disney Treasures.

Considering there were 165,000 copies of Volume One, and a diminishing number with each successive volume, it’s possible that there are persons who might (should they someday desire to do so) never be able to complete the series. 165,000 to 39, 500 is quite a decline even when spread over four volumes.

Shifting gears, the documentary feature Donald Goes to Press appears to have turned out very well. How can you not love a chronology that takes you on an artists’ tour from Al Taliaferro (featured) to Flemming Anderson (briefly glimpsed) and beyond! (THAT, my friends, is a LOT of ground covered!) Your thoughts on it – and the set in general – are welcome in my Comment Space.

The 45 minutes of my interview session were nicely distilled into a small portion of the feature’s approximately 13 minute running time. I see no cuts beyond the rough cut I’d seen earlier.

…Maybe one day, after you ALL watch it, I’ll list some of the things I discussed that didn’t make it in.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Burying the “Treasures”? – or Donald the Diminishing DVD Duck!

This coming Tuesday, November 11, 2008, sees the release of The Chronological Donald Volume 4 (1951-1961), and I urge all of you who are interested to get it on the day of release – or as near to the day of release as possible.

Aside from a great group of Donald cartoons, there is also Donald Goes to Press a special DVD Extra Feature that details Donald’s career in comics. (You can read more about the feature HERE!)
The reason for the urgency is that the press run for this set (…at least according to Internet postings I’ve read) will be 39,500!

I repeat – 39,500! That’s down from 50,000 for last year’s Volume 3, which is already in short supply, and has begun to fetch premium secondary market prices. (You can read about that situation HERE!)

So, if you want to complete your CHRON DON (Thanks for the name, Chris!) collection, or just want to experience a once-in-a-lifetime mainstream acknowledgement of the joys and wonders of Donald Duck comics, get this while you can find it easily!
AND, while you’re at your preferred DVD retailer, don’t miss out on Popeye the Sailor (Volume 3) 1941-1943 – Released November 04. This is an extraordinary set that includes all of the seldom (or never) seen Popeye WWII cartoons, covers the transition from Max Fleischer to Famous Paramount Studios, and completes the run of Black and White Popeye cartoons. AND, AND don’t forget about the Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume 6, recently released on October 21. As with the Popeye volume, this collection contains an entire disc of wartime cartoons, including such favorites as “Herr Meets Hare”, “Russian Rhapsody”, and the magnificent “Daffy the Commando” (a possible inspiration for the TV series Hogan’s Heroes).
There’s another disc of older Black and White cartoons featuring Bosko, Buddy, and director Jack King’s early masterpiece “A Cartoonist’s Nightmare”. Not to mention the expected disc of perennial WB favorites like Bugs Bunny’s “Hare Trigger” (the first appearance of Yosemite Sam), "Birth of a Notion" (Daffy Duck vs. Peter Lorre) and one of my all-time favorites Porky Pig and Sylvester in “Jumpin’ Jupiter” -- the final entry in what I’ve come to call “The Cowardly Sylvester and Stupefyingly Oblivious Porky in Danger Trilogy”!
This is a ONE GREAT MONTH for classic animation lovers! Enjoy it to the fullest!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Dancing with the Stars… of Lost in Space!

Congratulations to President-Elect Barack Obama!

Since today is such a happy day, let’s do a happy dance with those zany Robinsons from Lost in Space!

Monday, November 3, 2008

VOTE, VOTE, VOTE! (With The Flash and Donald Duck!)

VOTE, VOTE, VOTE!

Vote as if your LIFE DEPENDED ON IT… because it very well MIGHT!
Vote with conviction! Be as brave as a KNIGHT!



Vote not by emotion, but vote with your HEAD!
Don’t act like a “puppet” and be MISLED!



Don’t find that you’ve missed the BOAT, BOAT, BOAT!
Don’t let yourself be someone’s GOAT, GOAT, GOAT!

Just remember to VOTE, VOTE, VOTE! ‘Nuff said!

See what can happen if you leave it to OTHERS?
It's all up to you!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

“Magilla Gorilla vs. Yogi Bear for President”


Admit it… Don’t you wish this was REALLY the choice?!


In two days, it'll all be over! For now, let's enjoy this...

In 1960, Hanna-Barbera and Western Publishing, the producer of H-B licensed comic books, ran Huckleberry Hound for the presidency. Read about that by clicking HERE.

If ONE Hanna-Barbera character running for the highest office in the land was a good idea, why not run TWO H-B characters for the next such election in 1964?

Some one must have felt that way, and so there was the electoral oddity better known as MAGILLA GORILLA # 3, as discussed in my column THE ISSUE AT HAND # 70 from Election Time 2004.


The Issue at Hand Is: MAGILLA GORILLA # 3.

Cover Date: December, 1964. Released in September, 1964.
Cover Art by Harvey Eisenberg. Published by Gold Key Comics.

Magilla Gorilla vs. Yogi Bear for President” 32 pages. Writer: Unknown. Art by Pete Alvarado.

MAGILLA GORILLA was Hanna-Barbera’s first new television series of 1964. This would be a great year for the H-B Studio, as it also saw the premieres of JONNY QUEST, PETER POTAMUS, and perhaps the best season of THE FLINTSTONES.
       
Yogi Bear, according to legend, began life as both a “tribute character” to comedic actor Art Carney – and as one of the three components of THE HUCKLEBERRY HOUND SHOW of 1958 (More on that HERE.).

Self-described as being “Smarter than the Average Bear”, Yogi’s charm and popularity resulted in an unprecedented animated series spinoff, THE YOGI BEAR SHOW in 1960.
 
Magilla Gorilla was a big, naive but lovable APE for sale at a pet shop in an unnamed city (…presumably, New York). The series followed what became a “tried-and-true” formula for producers Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera – that of a “lovable, wise guy animal” confounding a long-suffering human authority figure. This became such a recurring formula, you can actually play “Fill-In-The Blank” with it.
   
Lovable, wise guy animal Yogi Bear confounds long-suffering Ranger Smith.
   
Lovable, wise guy animal Top Cat confounds long-suffering Officer Dibble.
   
Lovable, wise guy animal Wally Gator confounds long-suffering Zoo Keeper Mr. Twiddle.
    
Lovable, wise guy animal Magilla Gorilla confounds long-suffering Mr. Peebles.
      
Lovable, wise guy animal Breezly Bruin confounds long-suffering
Colonel Fuzzby.
  
   Get the picture? Somehow, though, we loved it every time!
     
Our story opens with Magilla, in his pet shop window, watching a televised debate between the “Elephant Candidate” and the “Donkey Candidate” for the presidential election of 1964. The eternally frustrated pet shop owner, Mr. Peebles, hits upon the idea of ridding himself of Magilla by running him for president.

At the same time, three-fourths of the way across the continent, Jellystone Park Ranger Smith decides on a similar course of action to rid himself of the pesky Yogi Bear! …Yes, really, that's it!

Gosh, could this be the flimsiest pretext for a political action in the history of… like, EVER? Imagine if we used such fundamentally flawed reasoning to… um, I dunno… go to war… Oh, no, wait…

I also wonder if Officer Dibble, Mr. Twiddle, and Colonel Fuzzby had similar ideas in “untold stories” of their own!


In any event, Top Cat is recruited from the ranks of available Hanna-Barbera characters to act as Magilla’s campaign manager and, in a role-reversal of the 1960 comic, Huckleberry Hound takes on the Yogi Bear campaign.

32 pages of electoral laughter ensue. Here’s two moments the comic didn’t show you…


Cam-PAIN Antics # 1: Magilla trails a swing-voter to his medicine cabinet. Could this be part of his plan for Health Care Reform?



Cam-PAIN Antics # 2: Yogi’s special appeal to a gun-lobbyist.




We end with the “Elephant and Donkey” candidates (…horrified at the prospect of losing to a gorilla or a bear) maneuvering both Magilla and Yogi to launch themselves into space – and far, far away for Election Day – in a symbolic gesture toward our efforts in the Space Race.
       
So, with the contest once again paired down to Lyndon B. Johnson and Barry Goldwater, it is presumed that history resumed its rightful course. In closing, I'll leave it to each of you to decide for yourselves if that was a good thing...


What’s a good campaign without BUTTONS? Here’s one for each!

Remember to vote… even if you write-in for a bear or a gorilla!