Sunday, October 31, 2010

My Most Frightening Halloween Experience!

No, it wasn’t any of the ghosts, goblins, devils, or skeletons!

Nor, was it even my New York Jets being shut out by the Green Bay Packers 9-0!

It was a 12-13 year old girl in some sort of costume (can’t even remember what) who rang the doorbell, and thrust her loot sack in my direction – while incessantly talking on her cell phone, and never once looking up at me!

Halloween sure has changed! Brrrrrr!

Post # 100 Featuring Superman!


We don’t see Superman nearly enough at this Blog.

But, given his various and sundry “vision powers” over the years, no doubt he’s seen MORE OF US!

…Probably "more of us" than we’d want him to! He’s looking RIGHT NOW, isn’t he? Good thing he’s such a decent and modest sort, eh?

More important, we’ve reached 100 POSTS for the year exactly two months earlier than we did in 2009!

Thanks for being around to read them all!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

DVD Review: Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho: 50th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray)


Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho: 50th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray)

(Released: October 19, 2010 by Universal Studios Home Entertainment)

Another Looong DVD Review by Joe Torcivia – Just in time for Halloween!

Okay, let’s “peel back the curtain”(…somebody hadda say it!) and look at Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho: 50th Anniversary Edition.

Stripped (….I guess somebody hadda say THAT, too!) to its basics, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) could be viewed as the story of the WORST “first date” on record. When Marion Crane met Norman Bates.

I’ll not spoil the picture for anyone who has not yet managed to see it. Though at least SOME spoiler hints in the body of this review will be impossible to completely avoid.

Let’s just say that, if you are seeing Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho for the FIRST TIME, you must see it via this spectacular Blu-ray edition. …Oh, and if you are seeing Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho for the HUNDREDTH TIME, you must see it via this spectacular Blu-ray edition. We clear on this? Good!

So, please indulge me, as I “shower” this DVD set with praise. (…Yeah, somebody hadda also say THAT!)

As is our custom in these reviews, we’ll break it into CONS and PROS.
The CONS:
If there are any CONS to this set, I can’t find ‘em! I sent Detective Arbogast out to look for some… but he seems to be …er, “overdue” in reporting back. Hope nothing unfortunate has happened to the poor chap!
The PROS:
I could go on… and on…

The Film: Hitchcock, Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, and a spooky old house and motel. …Who needs more?!

In this Blu-ray presentation, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho has never looked better! There is a newly mixed sound track for this presentation as well. My audio setup is not the most sophisticated, and so I probably cannot fully appreciate this, but even I can notice sounds and effects emanating from different points – or “moving across the screen”.

Cast:Janet Leigh as “Marion Crane”.
Anthony Perkins as “Norman Bates”.
Vera Miles as “Lila Crane”.
John Gavin as “Sam Loomis”.
Martin Balsam as “Detective Arbogast”.
Patricia Hitchcock (Alfred’s daughter) as “Caroline” (Marion’s co-worker).
Mort Mills as “The Highway Patrolman”.
Simon Oakland as “The Psychiatrist”.

Oddly, though it is regarded as Janet Leigh’s film, she… um, “checks out of the Bates Motel” at 49:00 of this 1:49:58 film. So, this film continues for an HOUR after her death, with Anthony Perkins assuming primary focus.
The DVD:
Menus are very attractive, are easy to navigate, and display over portions of the Bernard Herrmann score for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.

Universal’s Blu-ray product links to the Internet and displays TEXT PROMOS for various Universal media product in the upper right corner of the screen. The information is for currently on-sale DVDs, currently playing theatrical features, etc.

You have the OPTION to explore any of these promos further via video “commercials” …IF YOU WANT TO! Unlike the “Robo-Promos” (which play automatically at the start of a DVD) that I so detest on Warner DVD sets. Universal is to be commended for this approach.
And, the ultimate “PRO” for “Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho: 50th Anniversary Edition” (Blu-ray)…

The Extra Features:

Full-Length Commentary on Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho by film journalist and author of the book “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho” (1990) Stephen Rebello (1:49:58). Rebello offers an amazing commentary, filled with facts and valuable information. Here’s just a sampling:

Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho was made for $800,000, primarily by the television production crew for Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The first half hour of the film (where Janet Leigh drives “on the run” and encounters Mort Mills’ Highway Patrolman) is very similar to the Season Two Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode “One More Mile to Go”, where David Wayne has stashed the body of his murdered wife in his car trunk – and is hounded by a motorcycle cop. The TV episode was ALSO directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

I went back to watch this and, sure enough, the similarities are very much apparent.


This also taps into Alfred Hitchcock’s general “uneasy feeling” about police.

Like the director himself, Alfred Hitchcock’s OWN AUTOMOBILE also played a cameo in the film, driving (not once but TWICE) past the Highway Patrolman.

There was a big “to-do” over the TOILET in Room One of the Bates Hotel (and the unthinkable FLUSHING of same to get rid of evidence) as seen in the film. This was believed to be the first toilet seen in cinema. Certainly, the first flush!

The MONEY, stolen by Marion, was set up to be the focus of the film, but was nothing more than the “MacGuffin”, as Psycho shifts its focus halfway through to the Bates Motel murders and they mystery of the killer.

Alfred Hitchcock, himself, held the knife in the “shower scene”, to get the exact placement he wanted.

Anthony Perkins was performing in a play at the time the “shower scene” was filmed, and a stuntwoman played “Mrs. Bates”.

Alfred Hitchcock wanted the “shower scene” to have NO MUSIC. Composer Bernard Herrmann disagreed, and wrote perhaps the MOST MEMORABLE MUSIC CUE in all of cinema. Can’t you just here those “rough, high strings” now?

Rebello tells of theatre audience reaction: Screams, “Don’t go in there!”, etc. When Norman was cleaning-up the bathroom, after “Mother’s” bloody murder of Marion, an older lady was heard to remark (…with the greatest of unintended irony!) “What a GOOD BOY he is!”

Vera Miles (Lila) was under contract to Hitchcock (and fell out of favor with the director – but got the part anyway), and was in “Revenge” – the first episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Rebello elaborates on the untitled and unadorned BOOK that Lila finds while snooping in suspected murderer Norman’s room. Such books with no markings were usually Victorian Era pornography!

Simon Oakland’s film-ending exposition, as a psychiatrist, was tacked-on to explain or “ground” the film, and get it by the censors of the day. Weird occurrences would follow Simon Oakland from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho to Kolchak the Night Stalker!


Documentary: “The Making of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho” (1997. Length: 1:34:12) A fine “Making Of” piece, detailing all aspects of the production. Contributors include, Janet Leigh, screenwriter Joseph Stefano (whose career later stretched through THE OUTER LIMITS and even into STAR TREK THE NEXT GENERATION), Patricia Hitchcock (who restates that her father was “petrified of police”), author and director Clive Barker, Psycho’s Assistant Director Hilton A. Green, Rita Riggs (Wardrobe), Paul Hirsch (Music Editor), and Peggy Robertson “Personal Assistant to Mr. Hitchcock” – who calls him “Hitchy”!

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(DIGRESSION: How great a SIMPSONS joke would “The Hitchy and Scratchy Show” be!)
Additional tidbits include:

To misdirect the media from the actual ending of the film, Hitchcock let it be known that he was conducting a search to cast “Mrs. Bates”.

A music cue from Psycho was used in STAR WARS! (…and even tells us where!)

Ms. Hitchcock quoting her father: “I cannot make this picture in COLOR, because it would be TOO GORY!”

Documentary: “In the Master’s Shadow: Hitchcock’s Legacy” (25:58) How Hitchcock influenced so much that followed. (…like THAT’S news!) Participants include directors Martin Scorsese, William Friedkin, John Carpenter, Eli Roth, Guillermo Del Toro, Hitchcock biographer Donald Spoto, David Sterritt author of “The Films of Alfred Hitchcock”, and many others.

Roth describes “The Birds” being on TV, when he was young, as “an event”. I remember it that way too, on NBC SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE MOVIES, about 1969.

Scorsese, amazingly, describes the fight between “Jake LaMotta” and “Sugar Ray Robinson” in his “Raging Bull” (also shot in black and white) as being based “shot-by-shot” on the shower scene! Where the “[boxing] glove corresponds to the knife!” And the two are overlaid to PROVE IT! How ‘bout that!

Hitchcock/Truffaut: (1962 Audio Only) A fifteen minute interview by Francois Truffaut of Hitchcock. Informative, but annoying – in that both parties require the services of a translator to be understood by the other, and the translator is present (and actively working) throughout the proceedings.

Theatrical Trailer: Alfred Hitchcock takes us on a “light and cheery” tour of the Bates Motel and family house, with upbeat fifties stock music to set the mood! He even introduces “The Toilet”! Be afraid

Re-release Trailers: Several trailers to promote the theatrical re-release of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, emphasizing those particular scenes you would not see on TV. There is some stock footage and recorded verbiage by Hitchcock, with most of the “announcing” load carried by noted television voice Marvin Miller.

I’d wager they were referring to the knife penetrating Marion’s flesh at 47:57, and the glimpse of breast at 47:58 - 47:59. Though, these days, you’d probably see that too.

Newsreel: Footage of the New York opening of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, narrated by (guess who?) Marvin Miller. This feature emphasizes Hitchcock’s policy of “No Admittance once the film has begun”, and is highlighted by the sight of a near-life-size cardboard standee of Alfred Hitchcock, backed in most major venues, by an actual Pinkerton uniformed officer.

The “Alfred Hitch-Cardboard” holds a sign that says the following (Read aloud in the newsreel by the ubiquitous Marvin Miller): “We won’t allow you – to CHEAT YOURSELF! You must see PSYCHO from beginning to end to enjoy it fully.

Therefore, do not expect to be admitted into the theatre after the start of each performance of the feature.”

We say no one – and we MEAN no one – not even the manager’s brother, the President of the United States, or the Queen of England (God bless her!)
How do you not LOVE THAT!

Additional Extras: Photos. Storyboards. Posters, Advertising and Publicity Materials and more. Also a newly produced feature on the remastering of the sound that runs 9:58.

Overall:
THERE’S A BIG SPOILER AHEAD. BE WARNED!
How can you go wrong! It LOOKS great and SOUNDS great! For the first time, I heard Norman (when he is disarmed by Sam at the climax) say “I’M NORMA BATES!” Really, I’ve never heard that “actually spoken” on any of my TV viewings. Yes, there was something there, muffled by the soundtrack – but NOW you can HEAR IT!
OKAY, SPOILER’S OVER. YOU CAN LOOK NOW!
The film is magnificent and the extras give more than you could ever hope for. As many of today’s DVD sets seem to “go cheaper” in that regard, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho: 50th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray) stands as a prime example of how great such a package can be!

Get a copy and enjoy -- Halloween or anytime! Tell ‘em Detective Arbogast and I sent you!

Um… Where IS Arbogast, anyway?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Blogging Imitates Art as Bugs Beats Daffy Again!

I’m certain you all remember the Warner Bros. cartoon “Show-Biz Bugs” (1957), where Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck have competing stage acts – and, try as he might, Daffy just can’t outdo Bugs.

Daffy might dance his heart out (panting after his command performance) only to receive an ovation of chirping crickets. Bugs, on the other hand, need only peek out from behind the curtain to the sound of thunderous applause.

Apparently, that dynamic applies to this Blog as well!
Recently, I’ve posted DVD Reviews of both current Looney Tunes Superstars Collections: Bugs Bunny: Hare Extraordinaire” (HERE) and “Daffy Duck: Frustrated Fowl” (HERE).
Reviewing my Blog “Pageview Statistics” for the period of May 2010 to October 2010, I find that the Bugs Bunny review exactly DOUBLED the pageviews of the Daffy Duck review – which is truly odd because they are essentially the SAME REVIEW, with one slanted more specifically toward Bugs and the other toward Daffy.

“Bugs Bunny: Hare Extraordinaire” 126 Pageviews.

“Daffy Duck: Frustrated Fowl” 63 Pageviews.

I can’t explain it… and all I can say is “Cue the crickets!”

Can’t you just see Elmer Fudd holding a “SmartPhone” (Fill in your own joke!), with Daffy trying to maneuver him to the “Daffy Page” – and Bugs turning him toward the “Bugs Page”.

BUGS: “Okay, Doc! Would you like to hit his page now – or wait ‘till you get home?”

DAFFY: “HIT IT NOW! HIT IT NOW!”

BUGS: “You keep outta dis! He doesn’t have to HIT MY PAGE now!”

DAFFY: “Well, I say he DOES have to HIT YOUR PAGE NOW! So, HIT HIS PAGE NOW!”

SFX (BUGS’ VISITOR COUNTER): “Ding!”

DAFFY: “Youuur Despicable!”

(With my sincerest apologies to the great Michael Maltese!)




Th-Th-That’s all folks!

Monday, October 25, 2010

The 1966 Chronicles: STAR TREK “The Man Trap”.

Some time ago, before Blogging, I had great fun working on a series of my own writings called “The 1966 Chronicles”.

It was thusly named because 1966 was – and will likely always be – my favorite year for general pop culture.

Thanks to various DVD collections, I was able to recreate a large portion of what the Fall 1966 Prime Time TV schedule was for me.

Unlike in 1966, I was now able to write about it and share those thoughts with others. But with a twist…

I wrote this series of commentaries AS IF I WERE IN 1966, seeing these shows for the FIRST TIME, with the only the knowledge of prior seasons (if any) – and with ever so much the hint of an anomalous “glimpse of the future to come”.

Previously, we devoted such a post to LOST IN SPACE (Go there if you dare!), so it only seems fair that we do the same for “that new show on the space block” – STAR TREK!

That means… I’m seeing STAR TREK for the FIRST TIME, after a healthy exposure to the previously existing science fiction shows of the day. Sounds like fun!

Race you back to 1966 to watch…

STAR TREK: “The Man Trap” (September 08, 1966)

1966 looks like a great year for us Science Fiction (…Is the term “Sci-Fi” in any sort of popular use, as of yet?) fans, with the return of VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA and LOST IN SPACE, that new show TIME TUNNEL beginning tomorrow night, and the premiere of this new show… STAR TREK!

It’s a very funny looking ship they travel in, on this show.

Unlike the more classic “saucer-like” shape of the Jupiter II on LIS, this “Enterprise” really looks strange. A big disc with a “neck” leading to a body with two “wings” on diagonal poles, practically dragging behind it. I wonder how they could even LAND such a ship! Maybe they’ll always be “laser-beamed” down to different planets, as they did tonight.

Another strange thing is the ORANGE SKY of the planet they visited! (…Say, how do I know that, watching it in Black and White? No matter…) It really makes the place look strange and alien, as well as very sparse – with lots of sand, few plants, and some rocks – with a few ancient ruins thrown in for good measure.
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For all I know, since it doesn’t premiere in color until next week, maybe the planet on LOST IN SPACE has a weird sky color too though, even in B&W, it seems more lush and hospitable than this one.

They’ve got a really good captain, named Kirk, and a pointy-eared member of the crew called Mr. Spock – I think he’ll be a standout, despite his measured tones and odd appearance. Like LOST IN SPACE, there’s also a doctor on board, but I don’t think he’ll become a regular trouble maker like Doctor Smith.

Doctor Mc Coy was central to this plot but, like the doctor on VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, I wonder if we’ll only see him when a doctor is needed for the story…. maybe, we might never even see him again! That would be too bad, even though Kirk and Spock look as if they can carry the show almost by themselves, just like VOYAGE’s Admiral Nelson and Captain Crane.

There’s a pretty extensive crew, of all different types of people. Not something you often see on TV. Love the daringly short skirts… even at age 11!

Actor Alfred Ryder, the Phantom U-Boat Captain from VOYAGE last year, was the guest star, and was very creepy here as well… but in a different way. In VOYAGE’s "The Phantom Strikes" he gives you the creeps BECAUSE he is a supernatural phantom. In STAR TREK’s "Man Trap", however, he gives you a deliberate feeling of "uneasiness" ... that SOMETHING'S not right, even if you haven't figured out what it is.

As for what “IT” is, the “Man Trap” turns out to be a shape-shifting alien creature, of the type we’ve already seen on LIS and VOYAGE, but maybe a bit more predatory. Watching it go through multiple iterations of the ship’s crew was well done. Especially the final scene, where it attacks Kirk in human female form and is killed by Mc Coy.

This STAR TREK shows quite a bit of promise. But, then again, I’m predisposed to like this sort of thing to begin with… so we’ll have to see where it goes. I’ll be back next week, after stopping first to watch F-TROOP.
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Still gotta wonder where they came up with the design for that ship, though! Looks too much like a duck – but ducks DO fly, and fly FAR, so I guess it’s all good!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Do Scooby’s Origins Lie at the Bottom of Boris Karloff’s “Well of Doo(m)”?


Would anyone mind if I SPOILED a 1961 episode of the television series THRILLER? …And then linked it to SCOOBY-DOO?
If so, please skip this post. If not, you’ve been warned. You may proceed…
LAST CHANCE: I’m REALLY going to SPOIL the ending of the THRILLER episode “Well of Doom”!

Everyone okay with that?

…All right, let’s proceed!
Boris Karloff, the actor and host of the TV series THRILLER (1960-1962), died on February 02, 1969.

SCOOBY-DOO WHERE ARE YOU, the animated TV series, premiered on September 13, 1969.
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Thus, we may conclude that Boris Karloff lived in a world that never knew Scooby-Doo.

While there is a segment of the readership that might envy Mr. Karloff his position on the Universal Time Line, I am not one of them. Especially, because it leads to such an unusually interesting Blog post!

As stated previously, I am presently enjoying THRILLER THE COMPLETE SERIES on DVD. THRILLER began as an anthology of crime / mystery stories and, later in its first season, became known for its great horror tales.

The crime stories were actually quite good! One (“The Big Blackout”) could easily have been expanded into a Humphrey Bogart film, and another (“The Fingers of Fear”) might be reasonably retrofitted into an episode of PERRY MASON.

But, ultimately, fans of THRILLER gravitate to the horror episodes – and with good reason. Those I’ve seen thus far: “The Cheaters”, “The Purple Room”, and “The Hungry Glass” (starring William Shatner and Russell “The Professor” Johnson) are excellent. Another, “Hay-Fork and Bill-Hook”, perfectly straddles both the crime and horror genres.

…And then there is
Well of Doom”.

Well of Doom” is a expertly crafted gothic horror tale, taking place on the Scottish Moors of 1961, where its protagonists (Ronald Howard and Torin Thatcher) encounter a demon/warlock (Henry Daniell) and his undead giant zombie slave (Richard Kiel).

Jerry Goldsmith’s outstanding music score and the eerie black and white atmospheric set (…picture LOST IN SPACE’s “Anti Matter World” in B&W, shrouded in dense fog) made for one memorable viewing experience.

But what, you may ask, does this have to do with Scooby-Doo?
Just this… A suddenly unexpected twist occurred toward the end of “Well of Doom”. Something I’d wager was never done on TV before.

The warlock and zombie TURNED OUT TO BE ACTORS (!) hired by Thatcher to
(…Are you ready for this, Scooby fans?) scare Howard into signing over his land!

Yes, really!

You even see Daniell’s warlock out of his makeup, Mister Hyde-like top hat, and scraggly-haired wig, once he believes that the plot has been successfully executed! Kiel (…unfortunately for him) didn’t need to wear a fright mask – just some old tattered zombie clothes and a little pallor.





The most amazing thing is that Daniell and Kiel LOOK LIKE two characters that stepped right out of an episode of SCOOBY-DOO!

Look at these images and tell me I’m wrong! You can’t, can you? It’s uncanny!

So much so, that I can’t help but wonder if Producers Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera saw this episode (…We KNOW they watched a LOT of TV!), filed it away for the better part of the decade, and refashioned the “Well of Doom” concept into SCOOBY-DOO WHERE ARE YOU!

What was a brilliantly executed one-time ruse on THRILLER (…where the terrors, at least to this point, were “real” within their story’s context) became standard operating procedure for Scooby-Doo – where EVERY ghost and monster was a phony masked “seeker of something”.

So, did Boris Karloff help give us Scooby-Doo?

You decide! BWAH-HA-HA!

Monday, October 18, 2010

I Dood It Again!

Saturday, October 16, was “National Boss’ Day”.
Now, why anyone would select a SATURDAY as the day to honor your boss, is beyond me. If it’s an arbitrary “holiday”, used as an excuse to sell cards and other Boss-approved doo-dads, why not make it on a Friday to end the week nicely – or, better yet – a Monday, to get the Boss in a good mood for the coming week?

I mean, REALLY… who wants to think of your boss on SATURDAY!

Nevertheless, when handed a Boss’ Day Card to sign this morning (since we couldn’t do it on a Saturday), I wrote the SAME THING in the card as I did last year – and will probably do it again in the future.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from decades of producer Irwin Allen’s particular brand of Sci-Fi / Fantasy television, it is to “never throw anything away”, when it can be re-used in the future!
Click on THIS LINK to find out what that was – and how it relates to UNCLE SCROOGE comics.

And, on the subject of UNCLE SCROOGE comics, be sure to pick up Boom Kids! UNCLE SCROOGE # 397 (out in ONE MONTH) and read my latest script: “The Last Auction Hero”. (My title, of course!)

Yes, I know that has nothing to do with “National Boss’ Day” – but somewhere, in some far-off land, it just might be “National Gratuitous Plugs Day”!

Friday, October 15, 2010

BORIS KARLOFF TALES OF MYSTERY: A Gimmick That Turned Out Better Than Planned!


BORIS KARLOFF TALES OF MYSTERY, published by Gold Key Comics, was a spinoff of the TV series THRILLER, hosted by Boris Karloff (NBC 1960-1962).

Indeed, the first two issues were even titled BORIS KARLOFF THRILLER. Once the series was off network, it became the more familiar BORIS KARLOFF TALES OF MYSTERY.

This was what I call a “gimmick comic”. Meaning the “gimmick” is what makes the comic special.

The title contained the type of mystery/ horror/ weird sci-fi comic book tales that might have been found at DC, Marvel, or just about anywhere in the Gold and Silver Ages of comic books.
By the “feel” of the stories, “Karloff’s Tales” were most likely written by the usual suspects like Arnold Drake, Gaylord DuBois, and Paul S. Newman.

The gimmick was that, just as with the television show, Boris Karloff would appear in the lower right of the TV screen / splash panel and introduce the story with the expected ominous comments.

So, why did this gimmick turn out better than planned?

Boris Karloff, the actor, died on February 02, 1969.

BORIS KARLOFF TALES OF MYSTERY, the comic book, ran until a cover date of February, 1980! This would put its final issue near the end of 1979.

So, for over TEN YEARS, “Boris Karloff” introduced his “Tales of Mystery”… FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE!!! (Shudder!)

Somehow, I suspect Old Boris would have been proud of that!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

New York Comic Con – Where your Inner-Geek can Come Out for a Peek!


It was “Christmas in October” with my acquisition of WALT DISNEY’S CHRISTMAS PARADE # 2 (1950)! This is the issue with Carl Barks’ “You Can’t Guess”, a Mickey Mouse by Bill Wright, a Grandma Duck by (very early) Paul Murry, and even such unusual features as “Abmrose the Robber Kitten” from Silly Symphonies!

And I finally found an affordable copy of this issue at… New York Comic Con!

In five short years, New York Comic Con has become one of the industry's more important shows – and the type of comic and related arts convention that I always felt that New York deserved!

Needless to say I had a great time over October 8-10, meeting friends old and new – and even a few persons who (I was delighted to learn) read this Blog! I’ll spare their reputations and keep their identities a secret!

As both interests shift and want lists contract with the advance of time and decades of collecting, my “haul” is decidedly smaller than in years past, but no less “special” to me.

In addition to CHRISTMAS PARADE # 2, my stack included several issues of Gold Key’s BORIS KARLOFF TALES OF MYSTERY (…in response to the great enjoyment I am presently experiencing with the recently-released THRILLER The Complete Series on DVD, hosted by Boris Karloff. I’ll have more to say about the comic soon.
A long-standing hole in my Silver Age DC Comics collection was filled by the addition of WORLD’S FINEST COMICS # 117 (May, 1961), edited by Jack (“I never met a monster I didn’t like!”) Schiff. The cover speaks for itself!

And WALTER LANTZ NEW FUNNIES # 182 (April, 1952), which introduces us to "Knothead and Splinter" … sort of! In this debut tale, they are “Nuthead and Splinter”… and they are BOTH BOYS! At the end, they force themselves on Woody Woodpecker, whom they decide to call “Uncle Woody” – and are presumably adopted as such.



I learned that publisher Craig Yoe will be doing a book on Bud Sagendorf’s Popeye! Sagendorf is long overdue his proper recognition – and I can’t wait for the book!

I met “Mister Felix the Cat” Don Oriolo – who is one heck of a nice guy!

And I got a look at my upcoming dialogue work for Boom Kids! UNCLE SCROOGE # 397! …Out in just a month! So much fun… so little time!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Comic Book Covers: THE FLINTSTONES # 34 (June, 1966) What’s a “Blip, Blam, Bloo”?


Honestly, could we end this ANY other way?

With a Blip, Blam, Bloo comes The Great Gazoo!” So said the cover of THE FLINTSTONES # 34 , released in April, 1966 – not long after the final original episode of THE FLINTSTONES was run.

The sixth season would continue in repeats, and The Flintstones would move on to endless syndication and television history!

Some are of the opinion that the coming of The Great Gazoo, in the sixth and final season, signaled the end for (what was then) television’s longest running animated series.

I am one of those, though Harvey Korman was quite enjoyable as the little green guy.

The Gold Key comic book series would continue through the middle of 1970, and there would be later Flintstones series from Charlton, Marvel, Archie, and DC AND – in contrast with the cancellation of the TV series – perhaps we can trace the longevity of the various comic book series to THE EVENTS OF THIS VERY COMIC BOOK!

You see, unlike the TV series, where Gazoo hung around until the show was shut down – in the comic book version of the Gazoo debut (by Vic Lockman and Pete Alvarado), Gazoo RETURNED HOME AT STORY’S END (!), perhaps ensuring that the comic books would not suffer the same fate.

Or, as The Clash might say a few million years later… “Should he STAY, or should he GO!” You decide!

Whatever your thoughts on Gazoo, let’s just give a final Happy Fiftieth Salute to THE FLINTSTONES!

THE FLINTSTONES # 27 (July, 1965): Bonus Cover-age!

Today, for “Flintstones at Fifty”, we’ll do a SECOND cover… just because I like it.

Flintstones covers most often had two varieties: The typical “stone-age gag” that you’d see on the TV show (Bird with wide-wingspan used as an umbrella for two, etc.), or “A Bad Moment for Fred”!

This is my favorite “Bad Moment for Fred” cover, drawn by the great Harvey Eisenberg.

CAN’T YOU JUST FEEL THE HIT!

The brown background color was unusual for a Gold Key cover, and is somehow evocative of the rocky ground that Fred is being pounded into!

And, within lurk… (Shudder!) The Gruesomes!

And, on a totally personal note: On that same day in May 1965, I received by mail subscription both this comic and UNCLE SCROOGE # 58 – which contained “The Giant Robot Robbers” by Carl Barks. What a wonderful day THAT was!

Tomorrow, our last Flintstones cover.

Comic Book Covers: THE FLINTSTONES # 8 (December, 1962) "The Modern (Art?) Stone Age Family!”


Today’s “Flintstones at Fifty” is more of a “Fifty/ Fifty”!

Fifty percent illustration and Fifty percent LOGO!

Look at the SIZE of that thing! It’s a prehistoric GIANT – just as large as the cover illustration itself!

In its first eighteen months (mid 1962 thru 1963) Gold Key Comics did a great deal of “graphic experimentation” – shaking up the traditional version of the comics formerly published under the Dell label.

Borderless panels, rectangular dialogue balloons, reduced background detail and singular background coloring (in a sort of imitation of the “modern” theatrical cartoon shorts of the time). And occasional experimentation with the front cover illustrations… such as we see here!

Frankly, this looks more like an early-sixties RECORD ALBUM COVER than a comic book!

Enjoy this oddity, and be back for more “Flintstones at Fifty”!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Comic Book Covers: DELL GIANT # 48 THE FLINTSTONES BEDROCK BEDLAM (1961).

We continue our “Flintstones at Fifty” celebration with “How It All Began” in comic books for “The Modern Stone Age Family” – DELL GIANT # 48 THE FLINTSTONES BEDROCK BEDLAM (1961). Art by the great Harvey Eisenberg.

As you must know by now, my favorite seasons of THE FLINTSTONES were Season One and Season Five.

What our last featured comic was to Season Five, this was to Season One – and, if I read my date codes correctly, would have been released in July, 1961 – which would have been smack in the middle of the “summer rerun” portion of that first season.
The inside front cover introduces us to Fred, Wilma, “Deeno”, Baby Puss (the saber-tooth cat), Barney and Betty in the form of a one-page gag with Fred and Barney “running into each other” full-tilt, on their way out to work.

We have a few of the early standards:

The backyard feud between Fred and Barney.

Fred’s attempt at social climbing.

Fred and Barney disguising themselves to “teach the girls a lesson”.

A story where Fred becomes an assistant private-eye to Perry Gunnite ( a “Peter Gunn” parody character who appeared ONCE on the show, but had a long life in the comics).

Strangest of all was a flat-out adaptation of the Season One episode “The Snorkasaurus Hunt” – but with the “quarry” named “Snorky the Snorkasaurus” differing from the continuity-busting TV version that has the talking, Bugs Bunny-like wise-guy dinosaur turn out to be their pet “DINO”!

Art for these stories was by Harvey Eisenberg and Pete Alvarado.

Come back for more “Flintstones at Fifty”!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Comic Book Covers: THE FLINTSTONES # 28 (August, 1965)


We continue our “Flintstones at Fifty” celebration with a look at my personal favorite Flintstones comic book – THE FLINTSTONES # 28 (August, 1965). Art by the great Harvey Eisenberg.

Previously, I’ve said that my favorite seasons of THE FLINTSTONES were Season One and Season Five.

This comic was not only released during Season Five (An August cover date would have had it appear in June, 1965!), but it was as perfect a reflection of the tone of Season Five as has ever been seen outside of the 1964-1965 episodes themselves!

I wish I had a scanner because the interior art of the lead story (also by Eisenberg) may very well have been the GREATEST SINGLE ARTISTIC EFFORT ever published under the Gold Key Comics banner! And, considering that Disney legend Carl Barks was Gold Key’s most famous artist, that’s REALLY saying something!

Eisenberg gives us incredible designs for the Flintstone and Rubble characters (better than they EVER looked on TV), the props and backgrounds, and the “guest villains” – a pint size pirate and his huge prehistoric parrot.

In addition, Eisenberg also varied the panel composition in ways rarely seen in the Silver Age. Tilted panels, characters breaking out of panel borders, panels within panels, darker than normal inking to indicate mood… I don’t think even Jack Kirby could have done a better job on this one!

I got my original copy of this treasure via mail subscription in 1965. It is so well etched into my consciousness that I didn’t even need to look it up before preparing this Blog entry.

And, for those who didn’t care for the Fifth Season tone, the backup (with art by Pete Alvarado) was a more “conventional” tale where Dino swallows Fred's walkie-talkie, with the usual ensuing hilarity.

If you get only one FLINTSTONES comic book in your life, get this one!