Sunday, January 29, 2012

Birthday Comics Review: LOBO # 25 (March, 1996)

We’re nearly a week behind my actual birthday, and here’s the post I’d hoped to have had up then. But, we sadly lost Dick Tufeld, and that was the end of that! This post was originally prepared for my APA and Fanzine Column “The Issue At Hand” – after which this Blog is named.


The Issue at Hand Is: LOBO # 25 (March, 1996)

Published by DC Comics.

Released January 17, 1996 (…One week before my own birthday!)

Lobo’s Big Birfday Bash” 22 pg. Written by Alan Grant.


Art by Ellis and Propst.

SUMMARY: Lobo’s friends (…at least those who’ll own up to it) throw him a surprise birthday party. What WERE they thinking?! And exactly WHO is this LOBO, anyway?

LOBO was the leader of my three favorite comic book titles that began in the nineties, the others being IMPULSE and SAVAGE DRAGON. I actually preferred the “regular series” written by Alan Grant (late of JUDGE DREDD) to the various LOBO miniseries that proliferated at the time. Grant’s run provided us with the regular cast of fellow bounty hunter Jonas Glim, attractive waitress Darlene and Galactic Diner Mogul Al – who was clearly based on actor Al Molinaro’s character on the TV series HAPPY DAYS.

Though Lobo has achieved some degree of notoriety by virtue being one of the highest profile comic-book characters of the nineties, not to mention his appearances on the WB Superman and Justice League Animated Series, it may still be necessary to describe the character to an uninitiated audience (…Though I’d expect MY readers to have at least a passing familiarity with one of my most favorite DC Comics characters!) The task won’t be easy, but here goes…

Lobo is the most feared bounty hunter in all of Space. Armed with a massive hook and chain, and riding a souped-up “space bike”, he is the scourge of wanted men (or beasts) throughout the cosmos.

With a cursory resemblance to the members of the rock band KISS and the fashion sense of the WWE, he possesses the requisite measure of strength and invulnerability, is ruthless in the pursuit of his quarry or his goals, yet lives by an unusually strong, but quirky, “code of honor”.

That said, he may be comics’ most unlikely “everyman”. Yes, really!

Like many of us, he rails against unethical business practices, the ineffectual performance of the Postal Service, the excesses of the entertainment industry – and (in a truly memorable sequence that I wish I could reproduce here) those who exceed the posted transaction limit in a long ATM line!

Being all-powerful and answerable to no one, he can act on such matters in ways we can only dream of – resulting in some great, albeit often violent, fun for his readers.

So, what do you give “The Baddest Bastich in the Galaxy”? Other than a wide berth and a great deal of latitude, that is!

Among the presents from Lobo’s throng of well-wishers are a flamethrower (Natch!), a bomb detector (…which he spurns, because it takes the fun out of getting blown up), a trio of gift wrapped wanted criminals – each with a price on his head (… a rather thoughtful gift for a bounty hunter, when you think of it!), and a busty stripper – who, after a healthy dose of indignation and a few stiff drinks, forces the men to disrobe at gunpoint!

The inevitable mayhem resulting from such a mix of “high-spirited” individuals, free-flowing liquor, and instruments of mass-destruction as plentiful as hors d’oeurves ends in the fiery obliteration of the party-site; a brand new branch of the chain of cosmic eateries known as “Al’s Diner”.

Gleeful over the carnage, Lobo’s spirits quickly reverse when he learns that his final gift of the evening – from restaurant mogul AL – is the deed to that very diner!

This, of course, could be considered a gift of sorts from writer Alan Grant to regular Lobo readers who have repeatedly witnessed the running gag of Lobo’s finding new ways to casually destroy various incarnations of “Al’s Diner” over the previous two years worth of issues! It’s always fun to see a running gag turned back upon itself!

All that vicarious fun AND a gift from the writer to boot. Honestly, was your last birthday this much fun? I didn’t think so!


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

R.I.P. Dick Tufeld.

It is with the greatest of sadness that we report the death of Dick Tufeld, longtime broadcast announcer… and voice of the Lost in Space Robot, on January 22 at the age of 85!


As with the actor in the Robot costume, Bob May (whose passing you can read about HERE), Dick Tufeld never received a screen credit on LOST IN SPACE (1965-1968), presumably to perpetuate the notion that the Robot was some sort of ACTUAL “mechanical marvel”, but he was well known to – and much beloved by – the show’s fans.

Dick Tufeld brought an amazing degree of characterization to everyone’s favorite “Bubble-headed Booby”. As the show progressed from a world of “basic grey, by-the-numbers science fiction” to one of “explosively colorful and delightful sixties camp” – up to and including visits to surreal western planets complete with bragging gunfighters and life-sized stuffed animal beasts of burden, fourth-dimensional toy workshops, murderous gambling machines, galactic beauty pageants, and space biker gangs – Tufeld brought the Robot from “monotone affirmatives” to singing spirituals like “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” and quoting the poet Robert Burns to laughing, crying, professing undying loyalty, and tossing deserved sarcastic barbs – and becoming of one of the most distinctive and (yes) much-loved TV series personalities of the era.

Marvin Miller may have blazed the trail for talking robots, providing the distinctive voice of Robby the Robot for the influential ‘50s Sci-Fi film “Forbidden Planet”, but Dick Tufeld’s “Lost in Space Robot” (known alternately as “B9” and “M3” – but really just “The Robot”) showed us just how much FUN it could be to have a robot as a friend!

I daresay that even STAR WARS fans have Dick Tufeld (and his LIS co-star Jonathan Harris) to thank for the character of C3P0 – as that later creation seemed a near-perfect melding of Tufeld’s Robot and Harris’ Doctor Smith.

And, needless to say Tufeld’s immortal line “Danger, Will Robinson!” has transcended LOST IN SPACE to become an iconic part of the American English language.

In addition to acting as the Robot’s voice, Tufeld was also the show’s announcer, as seen in (Sound Alert!)  THIS LINK (if it is still operative) – and (Sound Alert!)  HERE he is narrating a promo for VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA. He also delivered the opening narration for the first episode of VOYAGE – and voiced the cosmic brain in that series’ Third Season opener “Monster from the Inferno”. He could also be heard at the opening of every episode of THE TIME TUNNEL – and narrated the “Next Week Previews” for Disney’s ZORRO, which starred LOST IN SPACE actor Guy Williams.

I’ll end with a completely random line of the Robot’s – the final line from “Collision of Planets” (the wonderfully infamous “Space Bikers” episode): There is nothing you can do with a truly dedicated misfit!”
 
It’s a line I’ve loved for decades, and just one of so many things to thank Dick Tufeld for!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

DVD Review: Big Jake (1971)

Big Jake (1971)

(Released: 2005 by CBS Paramount Home Entertainment)

Another (not so) looong DVD Review by Joe Torcivia

Who are you?”

Jacob McCandles!”

I thought you was DEAD!”

Not hardly!”

It’s 1909, and the big wave of change in civilization that has swept over Europe and the eastern United States has just begun to trickle toward the west. Indeed, the opening title and credits sequence of “Big Jake” plays over an introduction, narrated by George Fenniman, illustrating exactly that with period photographs.

Then, it dissolves into a procession of the vilest western badmen you ever saw (and the reason this one earned its PG-13 Rating), led by John Fain (Richard Boone).

Fain’s gang of cutthroats invades the vast McCandles ranch – presided over by Martha McCandles (Maureen O’Hara) and her three adult sons Jeff, James, and Michael (Bobby Vinton, Patrick Wayne, and Christopher Mitchum) – kill many of the hands and servants, critically wound Jeff, and abduct Jeff’s young son Jacob for a million dollar ransom.

Martha sends word to her estranged husband “Big Jake” McCandles (John Wayne), found wandering the vast countryside with his dog named “Dog”, and acting just as you’d imagine an “older John Wayne” to act, to return home and bring the boy back alive.

Of course, there are family tensions. “Big Jake” never even KNEW of “Little Jake”. Older son James is contemptuous of and disrespectful toward the “Daddy” who left, and motorbike-riding (!) younger son Michael has to earn “Big Jake’s” respect. And there is a posse of Texas Rangers riding around in 1909-era automobiles (…motorbikes and automobiles both indicative of the changes illustrated at the film’s opening) who are gung-ho to get the Fain Gang.

“Big Jake” decides to strike out on his own after the bad guys (…and wouldn’t we be disappointed if he didn’t) heavily armed and accompanied by his trusty Indian tracker associate “Sam Sharpnose” (Bruce Cabot) and faithful “Dog”, as James, Michael, and the Rangers move out to the tune of their more modern approach.

Needless to say, the second group fails, with James and Michael (with motorbike hopelessly wrecked) eventually joining “Big Jake”, Sam, and “Dog” in their relentless pursuit of Fain across the Mexican border. …Um, look out, Fain!

I have a soft spot for the later western films of John Wayne, having seen a number of them theatrically as a teen: “Chisum” (1970), “Big Jake” (1971), “The Cowboys” (1972) my personal favorite and a DVD we will review someday, “The Train Robbers” (1973), and “Rooster Cogburn” (1975).

The older, more crusty and ornery John Wayne just seemed to make for better films, as the Western genre reached what would be a twilight period.

I particularly liked the odd sight of “carpooling Texas Rangers” and the young, free-spirited Michael careening around the desert sand and rocks on his motorbike, in direct contrast to the most traditionally iconic western image there is – that of John Wayne!

Other Items of Note:

This film was a true family affair!

Both Patrick Wayne (as son James) and Ethan Wayne (as grandson “Little Jake” – yes John Wayne’s youngest son played his GRANDSON!) were featured – and the film was produced by Wayne’s son Michael for Wayne’s production company, Batjac Productions.

Christopher Mitchum (son Michael the motorbike rider) is the son of actor Robert Mitchum – star of many films, including THIS ONE.

Familiar John Wayne costars Maureen O’Hara, Bruce Cabot, Harry Carey Jr., and John Agar further add to the sense of “family”.

As is our custom in these reviews, we’ll break it into CONS and PROS.

The CONS:

An Absolute Lack of Extra Features: In the past, we’ve been charitable to early DVD movie releases that were severely lacking in Extra Features. Though we do call them out on it! (See THIS REVIEW of “The Thing from Another World”) And all the more so if the release were from a major studio (See THIS REVIEW of “He Walked by Night”)

But, in my humble opinion, this unimaginably barebones release of “Big Jake” may outdo them all!

My standard for a movie DVD’s Extra Features is the inclusion of a theatrical trailer for the film, a commentary track, and “making-of” or background featurette. Thus far, “He Walked by Night” has been the only one to “whiff” on ALL THREE. And, even there, I’ll concede the release year of 2003, and that it was a black and white film starring Richard Basehart. Here, we’re talking a 2005 release of a more “contemporary” film starring Hollywood legend John Wayne! Even the lowliest of “fifties sci-fi quickies” offer more than this!

Like “He Walked by Night”, this release of “Big Jake” does not include as much as a TRAILER! Even Warner Archives springs for THAT! This is a MAJOR CON, and this great film deserves better! It might as well have been an old VHS tape, for all it offers!

If only “Big Jake” McCandles and his posse could trek out to Hollywood and kick the sorry butts of the CBS Paramount execs responsible for this release!

The PROS:

The Film: It’s John Wayne vs. Richard Boone, with all the violence that the more recently–liberated 1971 Hollywood could serve up! And the contrast between crusty, determined, and “truly gritty(pardon) John Wayne and the new-fangled devices that surround and confound him is a delight to behold.

Not much else beyond a great film and a great cast! But, blame that on the DVD’s producers.

Overall:

Big Jake” is 01:49:34 of “John Wayne greatness”! And, in a personal-plus for me, it is the older and more contemporary John Wayne, who had come a VERY long way from westerns like THESE!

It revives in me memories of a time when “The Movies” was still an exciting place to go – and not reflective of “the same sorta stuff you see on television” – as it became shortly thereafter, and pretty much has remained to this day.

The lack of Extra Features for this set is, frankly, APPALING! Indeed, can it even BE called a “set”, if nothing is offered beyond the movie itself? ANY John Wayne product deserves better than this! Not even a trailer?! Glad The Duke wasn’t around to see this.

That notwithstanding, “Big Jake” is recommended for fans of John Wayne, the Western genre – particularly the Western Genre of the late-sixties and seventies period where the overall focus began to change and reflect the genre as unjustly outdated, and that period of Hollywood film productions in general.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Blink and You Miss It: “Here’s to you, Mister Robinson”!


Here at TIAH Blog, we love Edward G. Robinson!

We loved him HERE, HERE, HERE, and in many other things.

But, here’s a great “Blink and You Miss It” moment from the JUSTICE LEAGUE episode “Comfort and Joy”, which was part of my recent Christmas Holiday DVD viewing, which I described HERE.

Yeah, I’ve seen the image of “Frankenstein” every time (though I wonder if it was Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, Jr., Glenn Strange, or some interloper)…

…But check out what’s FOLLOWING “Franky”!!!







I sure gave my pause and rewind buttons a workout to confirm what I *thought* I saw!

All I can say is “Mnyaah!”

Thursday, January 5, 2012

R.I.P. Vicar.

This is a particularly sad one for me to write!

We say “Thank You and Farewell!” to Victor Arriagada Rios, better known to most of us as “Vicar” (a clever and easy-to-negotiate derivative of his full name), who left us on January 03, 2012 at the age of 77.

Vicar was one of the very best of the artistic talents toiling for the European publishers, who assumed dominance over the field of Disney comic book production as the once mighty American licensee, Western Publishing, began its long, slow decline into eventual oblivion.


Along with Daniel Branca, Daan Jippes, and Fred Milton, Vicar ushered in a “New Age” of great Disney comic book art in America that began with the assumption of the Disney comics license by Bruce Hamilton and Gladstone in 1985. By the time the Gladstone line began in 1986, we were VERY hungry for this, and embraced the work of these talented folks with a wave of admiration that lasts to this day.

And, after many long and unsatisfying years of Gold Key and Whitman Ducks drawn by the likes of Bob Gregory and Kay Wright… BROTHER, were we READY for it!


Indeed, Vicar and Branca formed the artistic nucleus of the Gutenberghus Group (later Egmont), with their amazingly faithful renderings of Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge and the rest in two different and significant phases of the classic Carl Barks style.


Branca specialized in the look of “Carl Barks Circa 1961” (…that would roughly equate to tales like “Mythic Mystery”), while Vicar epitomized Barks’ most classic look – that of about 1953… think “Secret of Atlantis”.


To me, NO ONE was better at capturing that particular look and feel than Vicar! And, that earned him a very special place among my most favorite Disney comic book artists.


It was my extreme pleasure to have “collaborated” with him on three occasions, providing American English dialogue for stories he’d illustrated (the first two both originally written by the great Lars Jensen and the third by Paul Halas and Tom Anderson).

Heads You Win…Tails You Bruise!” (my title) introduced unscrupulous, nerdy, and hygienically questionable coin collector Melvin X. Nickelby to the Duck Universe in UNCLE SCROOGE # 367, and I was honored to give this creation of Jensen and Vicar’s his definitive (and rather annoying) American voice! I don’t know how many comic conventions Vicar may have attended, but he certainly gave Melvin the “right look”! C’mon, readers… you ALL know what I mean! Right?
Please note: This particular image of Melvin was not drawn by Vicar -- but it's the only one I could find, and it does reflect the character as originally designed by Vicar.


An aside: I was further pleased to have scripted Melvin’s SECOND APPEARANCE in a story I titled “Bad Things Come in Threes” – in which I further upped Melvin’s “obnoxious nerd quotient”, including the notion that he has a Blog (that no one reads!). This WOULD have been published by now if Boom! hadn’t gone “kaboom!”


Next was a particularly fine artistic effort by Vicar in a Jensen story I titled “Uncle Scrooge meets The Synthezoid from the Deepest Void” for UNCLE SCROOGE # 370.
Vicar outdid himself with lots of wonderful sci-fi trappings and character designs, in this tale of alien criminal Tachyon Farflung being pursued to Earth by a titanic robot, who desires the Earth’s (and Scrooge’s) precious metals to replicate. And, Vicar draws a great big cool explosion to boot!


Anyone who calls Vicar’s art “stiff” should take a good look at that one, and reconsider.


Vicar also drew the story I called “Return of the Titan of Tae-Qwon-Duk” for Boom!’s DONALD DUCK # 362. In it, he designed the prominently mustachioed villain I aptly named “Handlebars McTwirlsneer”. I loved the name, as it seemed reminiscent of ‘60s Carl Barks, but it would never have come about without Vicar’s character design to serve as a perfect inspiration.


Rest in Peace, Vicar! Donald, Scrooge, Tachy, Melvin, McTwirlsneer, and I salute you!

My friend Pete Fernbaugh has a great tribute to Vicar that you can see HERE!

GeoX has a nice review of a Vicar story (with lots of art) HERE!

HERE is a detailed story from The Santiago Times, from Vicar’s native Chile.

UPDATE:

Here are more Blog links to Vicar Tributes. Please read them and enjoy!
Chris Barat
Ryan Wynns
Comic Book Rehab (Joseph Adorno)



Where’s WHO?

Briefly, for the New York Jets fans among the readership…



There should be a sequel to this comic (and the forgotten show upon which it was based) called…


Where’s Santonio?”


Good luck to the New York Giants (the NY team left standing) in the playoffs!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

R.I.P. Eduardo Barreto.

Far less publicized than the recent death of Joe Simon, but no less meaningful to me personally, was the passing of DC Comics artist Eduardo Barreto at age 57, on December 15, 2011.

Barreto came along at exactly the right time to become indelibly memorable for me. In the mid-eighties – before the John Byrne revolution began in 1986 with “The Man of Steel”, the Superman titles were dominated by two stellar names of the Silver Age and prior. Curt Swan (of course) on SUPERMAN and Gil Kane on ACTION COMICS – with each occasionally spelled by other familiar names such as Kurt Schaffenberger.


Along comes Eduardo Barreto in SUPERMAN # 397 (Cover Date: July, 1984) with interior art and cover (above) – and, as much as I LOVED the work of the other guys, Barreto was a breath of fresh air… and (perhaps) one of the very first “new names” to be associated with Superman in the eighties.


Beyond his not-frequent-enough contributions to the various Superman titles, Barreto may have been best known in comic books for a run on THE NEW TEEN TITANS that followed the iconic run by George Perez.


Barreto was also the artist of the JUGDE PARKER newspaper strip – and in 2011 (fittingly) retuned to Superman in a “Retro-Active Superman” one-shot, which presented a lead story done in '70s / '80s style by creators of the period, and was cover dated September, 2011.

Time Flies Faster Than a Speeding Bullet!

First, everyone go read the comment by my great friend Ryan Wynns on the previous post, my follow-up to that, and (hopefully, I say as I write this) more of interest from others yet to come.


Consider SUPERMAN # 361 (published in 1981 by DC Comics) and its secondary feature: Superman III in the Year 2020”!

Now that we’ve reached 2012, does that REALLY seem so far off?

Sobering Thought for the Day: After this year, it’s only two presidential elections away!

…See ya at the polls!