Saturday, June 30, 2012

What’s Wrong with This Picture… er, Package?

…At a glance, two things.

One is the unfortunate, distracted, and almost constipated look on Batman’s face. 

Maybe that’s why he’s so intense… or maybe he’s just girding himself for the coming showdown with Bat-Mite in the final episode of both this set – and the series.  (Oh, it’ll be AWESOME SAUCE… trust me!) 

The other is that REALLY WEIRD LOOKING THING down in the lower left corner.  (Oh, here it is again!)

What IS that thing, anyway? 

Surely, it cannot be a DC COMICS LOGO! 

THIS is a DC Comics Logo.  (Classic Silver Age.)

THIS is also a DC Comics Logo.  (My favorite version, for what it’s worth.)

Even THIS is a DC Comics Logo – though why ANYONE at DC would approve a logo so evocative of the SHIELD of Marvel’s Captain America is beyond my mortal comprehension.  But, a legitimate DC Comics Logo, it is. 

But, THIS?!

Sorry.  But, personally, this does not make me think of “DC COMICS”! 

Hell, it doesn’t even say “DC”!  Can you honestly distinguish the two letters “D” and “C” from this mess?  Especially, if you didn’t “go in” looking for them? 

What is it… really?  Any thoughts, readers?

...While we're at it, what's "DC Entertainment"?

And why is the "D" peeling-off /falling-off the "C", as if its GLUE dried out? 

Classics forever! 

Do I even HAVE to say it?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Time Flies – Even When You’re NOT Having Fun… Our Final (and I do mean FINAL) Installment!

Finally, and to my most bitter disappointment, it’s been over a year since even THIS!   

STILL, nobody has done a damn thing to change it! 
…And, by now, I’ve begun to believe this may be the actual death of the American Disney classic character comic book!  

Say what you will about the admittedly good DARKWING DUCK title, and the fiasco that was DUCKTALES, what *I* define as the American Disney comic – the “Core Four” of WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES, MICKEY MOUSE, DONALD DUCK,  and UNCLE SCROOGE – have been “done and gone” for over a year!
…And there is not one infinitesimal hint, or ray of hope, that these titles will return. 

The fact Disney itself outright OWNS the largest publisher of American comic magazines (Marvel), and nothing has emerged in the year since the release of WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES # 720 is most indicative of the future – more accurately, the LACK of same – of these titles.  Titles, I might add, that have endured, through a string of publishers, since 1940! 

Miracles sometimes happen, however, such as the successful new POPEYE comic book!  Perhaps a similarly, right-minded licensee may step forward to do what Disney/Marvel shows no interest in doing  -- continuing these titles… because they DESERVE to be continued! 

Until that happens, I’ll leave you with the final line I wrote for Mickey Mouse as what,  alas, remains the final original line of dialogue for WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES…
Here’s to the GREATEST bunch of characters I know!” 

That’s not just Mickey talkin’ folks… It’s ME too! 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

What It’s Like Outside!

With temps between 95 and 100 degrees, you don’t have to be a basketball fan to root against the “Heat”… and for the “Thunder”! 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Time Flies – Even When You’re NOT Having Fun… AND You’re LATE in Posting Your Lament!

Now, it’s been over a year since even THIS! 
And STILL nobody’s doing a damn thing to change it! 
 …And I’m a few days late with this post.  Blame it on Manchester Black! 

Been watchin’ me DVD, ‘ave ya now! 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Back in… er, Black? And, Mini-DVD Review!

No, this post does not refer to AC/DC, though I’ve been a fan for years! 

There’s a scale of how likely certain things are to occur.  We all have our own criteria, but it often boils down to something like this: 

  • I’ve Just Come Up With TEN New Words for “Certain”! 

  • Reserve Mine Now!

  • Sure Thing / Can’t Miss!

  • Likely.

  • Probable.

  • Maybe.

  • Maybe Not.

  • Probably Not.

  • Unlikely.

  • No Way!

  • Snowball’s Chance!

  • Your Grandchildren’s Descendents Will Never See This!

Everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – in the universe, and all that could possibly be conceived, falls somewhere on that scale. 

Over two decades ago, when DuckTales was still a “hot show”, I made the discovery of a Flintheart Glomgold PVC figure, among the dozens of Scrooges and various nephews! 

To my knowledge, this was the first and only piece of Flintheart Glomgold merchandise ever to exist outside of comic books (…at least in the United States)!  “Flinty” still stands in a small knick-knack cubby near the ceiling of my living room, among other such Disney, Warner Bros., and DC Comics curios. 

Until that fateful day, a Flintheart Glomgold figure would have fallen somewhere between the “No Way!” and the “Snowball’s Chance!” categories. 

…On June 12, 2012, something finally TOPPED THAT! 

Best Buy released its Special Edition Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack of the DC Comics Direct-to-DVD release of “Superman vs. The Elite”, based on the early 2001 comic book story appearing in ACTION COMICS # 775

…with a bonus enclosed PVC figure of Manchester Black! 

I’ll pause to allow you to add a few more Exclamation Points!  (! ! ! ! !) 

Manchester Black?!  REALLY?!  …Wow!!! 

I now have a PVC figure of the British punker leader of The Elite – the remorseless, ultra-violent group of would-be heroes, based on the then-popular comic book THE AUTHORITY, who kill in the name of justice – and whom Superman ultimately (and thankfully) – takes to school in a refreshing affirmation of “Truth, Justice, and The American Way”! 

If Flintheart Glomgold was a “Snowball’s Chance!”, then Manchester Black might have ranked below even “Your Grandchildren’s Descendents Will Never See This!”

Yet, they’re BOTH in the same knick-knack cubby!  Though I have Black posed next to a figure of Superman… who’s about to give him what-for! 

To the film… it is EXCELLENT!  I’d go as far as to call it the best of the Superman Direct-to-DVDs. 

Unlike “All Star Superman”, it does not feel rushed, as it adapts a SINGLE ISSUE story, rather then a 12-part epic, into its allotted 1 hour and 14 minutes

Manchester Black does not constantly smoke, as he did in the comic, but instead keeps a matchstick in his mouth. 

BUT, in contrast, there might actually be more violence – including on-camera deaths of civilians, and off-camera deaths of a few heads of state (!) – than in the comic.  Language also makes it PG-13. 

The other members of The Elite: Menagerie, Coldcast, and The Hat (Below Left to Right) are accurately portrayed.  Lois and Clark are married, as they were at the time of this comic. 

The DCU countries of Bialya and Pokolostan are used over Lybia and Japan from the comic.  Atomic Skull is smartly inserted into this story for added heinous villainy, and there is a brief cameo by Doctor Light.  And, note to Chris Barat… Dirk Armstrong (Anyone else remember him?) even appears in cameo as (guess what?) a conservative radio commentator.  BTW, he is not necessarily played for laughs, but is more used as a device to illustrate the public’s shifting views of both Superman (down) and The Elite (up).  …And he ends up in considerably better shape than his liberal counterpart.  (Poor devil!)

George Newbern, who voiced Supes in the JUSTICE LEAGUE Animated Series plays him here.  He’s not Tim Daly, but he’s clearly the next best thing!  David Kaufman, from the 1996 WB Animated Series (…and “Dexter Douglas” of FREAKAZOID!), returns as Jimmy Olsen!  He sounds exactly the same! 

Robin Atkin Downes is excellent as Manchester Black.  I don’t think a more perfect voice could be found! The Elite’s backstory is expanded upon well beyond the confines of the comic – and it all fits quite nicely. 

Among the many extras is a commentary track by the writer and editor of the original comic book story -- Joe Kelly and Eddie Berganza. This may be exclusive to the Blu-ray release.

If you enjoyed the “Eddie Beganza run” of the Superman comics of the late ‘90s – early 2000’s (and I did), you will really enjoy this. 

But, if possible, get the package with the Manchester Black figure… You (and your grandchildren’s descendants) will probably never see the likes of it again! 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

"Treasure of the Lost Storyboard!" ...Or, "I Thin' This is The End!"

One of our favorite Bloggers, YOWP, has put up a find for the ages… a storyboard to an unproduced Quick Draw McGraw cartoon!  See it HERE!

Presumably, it was written by the great Michael Maltese (as were ALL of the Quick Draw shorts) and, given that it was destined for the third and final season of the show, the subject matter indicates that it might have been intended as a possible final episode. 

Indeed, I wonder if that might be why it was shelved.  For what it’s worth, I would have LIKED it as the final ep. 

I’ll step aside now, but you can catch me among Yowp's commenters… exhibiting the UTTER GALL in daring to suggest alternative dialogue for something written by Mr. Maltese. 

You know, Michael Maltese... the guy who wrote the great Bugs Bunny cartoon "Rabbit Seasoning" with such wonderful dialogue as "Would you like to shoot him NOW... or wait 'till you get home?", and "Pronoun Trouble!"  And tons more!  THAT Michael Maltese!  

Say, who do I think I am, anyway, huh?  Somebody should give me what-for!  What-FIVE, even! 


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Strange Parallels: Silver Age DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation!

A strange thought occurred to me – and this is all the more ironic because DC Comics is now owned by Warner Bros. – but you can equate the three main Silver Age editors at DC to the three main animation directors at Warner Bros.! 

Julius Schwartz = Chuck Jones (Visionary and most often the best at everything he did.) 

Mort Weisinger = Friz Freleng (Lesser than Jones, but still legendary in his own right.) 

Jack Schiff = Robert McKimson (The “Third Guy” about whom relatively little is known – and is generally underappreciated.) 

...Anyone else agree? 
WE appreciate you, Bob... and Jack too!

Friday, June 1, 2012

DVD Review: Herman and Katnip: The Complete Series. Part One: Background and General Information.

Herman and Katnip: The Complete Series

(Released 2011 by Vivendi Classic Media) 
Another Looong DVD Review by Joe Torcivia

Summary:  It’s like Tom and Jerry… but they TALK!!!

Traverse the 1950s with Herman and Katnip, Paramount / Famous Studios’ answer to MGM’s classic Cat vs. Mouse team Tom and Jerry.

Clever and streetwise New York mouse Herman drops in just in time to rout the ornery feline Katnip, and save a bunch of dull and pathetic look-alike mice (ranging anywhere from 3 to 4, to dozens at a clip) from starvation and general mortality. 

As with most Famous Studios’ output, Herman and Katnip was nicely designed and well animated, with lots of violence to keep us entertained.  Unlike most Famous Studios’ output of the 1950s, the settings and scripts were VARIED enough to avoid the numbing repetition exhibited in most Famous series.  These are FUN to watch – even now! 
Arnold Stang
Adding the dimension of vocalizations, normally lacking in MGM’s dueling duo, Herman and Katnip were suitably voiced by Arnold Stang (Top Cat) and Sid Raymond (Baby Huey), respectively.  Famous Studios stock players Jack Mercer (Popeye), Mae Questel (Olive Oyl, Little Audrey), and Jackson Beck (Bluto, King Leonardo) were on hand to round out the voice cast as needed. 

Like Warner Bros. Tweety (prior to his long association with Sylvester), Herman had a solo career, palling around with a “Henpecked Rooster” alternately named “Henry” or “Hector” or bedeviling various black cat “Katnip prototypes” (These cartoons, save the first one, can be found on Thunderbean’s “NOVELTOONS” DVD set of 2012), before pairing-up with Katnip in 1950’s “Mice Meeting You”.  This association would last through 1959 and the end of the series.

Katnip also had a career independent of Herman, starring in two solo cartoons (both included in this set) and also as fall-guy to another Famous Studios star “Buzzy the Funny Crow”. 

Counting only those cartoons where Herman faced-off against Katnip, we have a total of 31 – with the two “Katnip solos” bringing the set’s total up to 33.  NOT BAD for a set that generally sells for about 6 to 9 dollars! 

Alas, the Buzzy cartoons and Herman solos are not included but, for the price, how can you really complain! 

Oh, and I should mention that, while the talents of Stang, Raymond, and the animators were first rate, the REAL star of these cartoons – and of MOST Famous Studios output of the era – is composer Winston Sharples!  

Sharples’ unique scores add tremendous enjoyment to any cartoon they support!  During the ‘90s, I can recall a truly misguided period in these cartoons’ checkered history where the Sharples scores were removed and replaced by synthesizers – presumably, to make the cartoons sound more “modern” and “hip”.  Thankfully, in this collection, Winston Sharples is restored to all his glory. 

As is our custom in these reviews, we’ll break it into CONS and PROS.  And, in this case: OTHER!


Authenticity of the Experience:  These cartoons have been subject to slicing and dicing and other editing atrocities for as long as they’ve been televised, so it’s small wonder that the original theatrical experience cannot be duplicated.  Unless this were a Thunderbean product, I’d never expect it to be. 

The versions of Herman and Katnip cartoons used here appear to have originated with a syndicated package called “The Harveytoons Show”.  As such the H&K theme song is severely truncated and the credits sequence is edited out altogether.  That’s really a shame, given the Famous stalwarts performed over-and-above the norm for this series in particular.  They should be credited for their efforts. 

The classic “Skiddle-Diddle-Dee, Skiddle-Diddle-Day, It’s just like a hol-i-day…” theme is never used at any time in this collection.  But truncated versions of a jazzy instrumental version of “Skiddle-Diddle-Dee” and the 1940s Noveltoons theme are heard throughout. 

At least we get title cards – and the restoration of Winston Sharples… though cut for the theme sequences. 

Here's a YouTube Video of the original theme.  Warning: It continues to Auto-Play other Famous Studio themes (...but that's a good thing too!)  SOUND ALERT!

Content Notes:  There is NO CONTENT LISTING of titles anywhere inside the package, or on the back cover!  While, with certain exceptions, they follow the order of original theatrical release, this isn’t something that even most hardcore animation fans have committed to memory, much less mere civilians.  I shouldn’t have to consult an animation research book, or access the disc menus for this information, when a mere paper insert would suffice. 

Original Order:  As noted above, the original release order is ESSENTIALLY maintained, though “Frighty Cat” (1958) and “Felineous Assault” (1959) are dropped-in among the 1953 releases – for reasons completely unknown.  The unexpected transition in animation styles is jarring, to say the least, giving the set a CON in this area. 

Menu and Navigation:  Menu navigation is easy, with a “cat’s paw” icon serving as the cursor.  BUT… a very loud version of the theme for the aforementioned “The Harveytoons Show” plays whenever menus are displayed!  Did I mention that it is overly LOUD?  If ever there WAS a place to include the classic Winston Sharples theme “Skiddle-Diddle-Dee”, it would be here to play over the menus. Nope! And, to make things worse, it is overly LOUD!  Did I make my point?

The Extra Features:  There are NO extra features!  Can’t really complain too loudly, given the amount of material at the price – but something (even a few clips of the original theme / credits sequences that can be found on YouTube) would be welcome.

Cutting the Extra Features?

OTHER:  (Our place for items that are neither PRO nor CON! …Just Odd!)

“Play ALL” vs. Selecting Individual Cartoons:  In sets like this, I tend to select individual cartoons over the “Play ALL” option.  But, as seen in the recent TennesseeTuxedo DVD collection – where one particular episode is INCOMPLETE as an individual selection and COMPLETE when “Play ALL” is engaged – there are things that can be completely MISSED, if one chooses not to “Play ALL”. 
PLAY ALL.. or DIE, Mouse!

In this case, if you select “Play ALL”, you get the Herman and Katnip cartoons formatted into what would be the equivalent of “Half-Hour Shows”, that is grouped by THREES! 

The “shows” – that ONLY play as such under the auspices of “Play ALL” – begin with the theme and opening sequence for “The Harveytoons Show”… that we ALREADY hear enough of whenever a MENU is displayed! 

At the end of the grouping of three H&K shorts, there is a generic and all-inclusive END CREDITS SEQUENCE that credits EVERYONE who apparently worked on the Famous Studios / Harvey theatrical cartoons of the 1950s.  (…Including, I would assume, at least a few individuals who DID NOT necessarily work on Herman and Katnip!) 

And the REALLY WEIRD part of this is that a still of CASPER displays – and the classic “Casper the Friendly Ghost” THEME SONG plays! 
MY theme is FRIENDLIER than theirs!

Um… Not Herman and Katnip’s classic theme, which is nowhere to be found… but Casper’s?  Really?  I LIKE Casper’s theme… but…

And this occurs for EVERY group of three H&K cartoons, ONLY when you select “Play ALL” – which I did only by chance!  I’ve begun to wonder exactly WHAT ELSE have I missed out on during all those years I’ve only selected individual cartoons or episodes! 


The Number of Cartoons vs. the Price:  33 theatrical cartoons for an MSRP well under ten dollars. At “three cartoons per a theoretical half-hour TV show”, that yields ELEVEN SHOWS!  Magnificent, when compared with the LOONEY TUNES SUPERSTARS: BUGS BUNNY and DAFFY DUCK sets that give you fifteen individual cartoons (and no Extra Features) for an MSRP of 19.98 – yielding the equivalent of FIVE SHOWS vs. the ELEVEN SHOWS you get here! 

Robo-Promos and Excessive Copyright Warnings:  There are NO Robo-Promos or Excessive Copyright Warnings inflicted upon us for HERMAN AND KATNIP: THE COMPLETE SERIES.  Unlike other sets like THIS!  Thank you, Vivendi Classic Media. 

The “Complete” Series:  Using Jeff Lenburg’s invaluable reference work, “The Encyclopedia of Animated Cartoon Series” (1981) as a guide, I find that this is INDEED “The Complete Series”, in that all cartoons that feature Herman and Katnip together are included.  …And, the two Katnip solos to boot. 

So “Complete”, in fact that it included (by my unofficial count) a small number of cartoons either omitted or only excerpted on the previous Harveytoons: The Complete Series, also from Vivendi Classic Media.  Had I realized THAT sooner, I would not have waited this long to get the set! 

 Okay, that's enough Blog reading for now!

Go outside!  Get some exercise!  Eat some healthy foods!  Tell that special someone just how much you love them -- and/or just how much they mean to you! 

...Don't TEXT them!  TELL them! 

Then come back... scroll down... or just click on THIS LINK to read Part Two of our Herman and Katnip DVD review...

 The Cartoons Themselves!   ...See ya there! 

Don't go away! There's more fun to come! ...Maybe not for Katnip!