Saturday, December 30, 2017

Adventures in Comic-Boxing: Merry Cats-Mouse!

After OUR LAST POST, we really need one more “Christmas Extension” before bringing the Season of Peace and Good Will to a close for another year… and here it is, courtesy of Harvey Comics’ MUTT AND JEFF JOKES # 3 (Cover Date: February 1961). 

Most MUTT AND JEFF comic books, published by DC Comics, Dell Comics, and finally Harvey Comics, reprinted Daily and Sunday MUTT AND JEFF newspaper comic strips – usually with a “topper” introductory gag-line added.  Some, mostly those from Dell, produced new stories, but strip reprints certainly predominated. 

CICERO’S CAT was a “sister strip” to MUTT AND JEFF, running (I believe) as an additional Sunday supplemental feature.  These usually appeared in the MUTT AND JEFF comic books – and Dell even published two issues of CICERO’S CAT with all original stories, in the late 1950s. 

Here is a particularly nice Christmas strip…

Would that we all might find some way to emulate this! 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

DVD Review: K. Gordon Murray Presents "Santa Claus" - or, "Life's a Pitch, Then You Fry!" 

It's been a VERY long time since we've done a Looong DVD Review around here, as comics - both old and new - have had quite a resurgence at this Blog.  But, here comes a REALLY WEIRD ONE! 

K. Gordon Murray Presents "Santa Claus" (1959)

Another looong DVD Review by Joe Torcivia

Summary:  Alien Santa Claus vs. The Devil! ...Yes, really! 

This seems a very unlikely way to "extend Christmas" at TIAH Blog, but this all stems from the the Horror and Sci-Fi Film Appreciation Society that I attend each Thursday night.  

K. Gordon Murray Presents "Santa Claus" was the film of the week on December 14, 2017 - but, alas, I was not in attendance that evening, as I was up against a translation and dialogue deadline for "A Very Special Issue of UNCLE SCROOGE for IDW" that you will soon see... and hopefully enjoy.  

In consolation, I was given a DVD copy of the film by our Fearless Leader, Indie Filmmaker Keith Crocker, to watch at a later date. That date, for me, was December 22, post-Uncle Scrooge deadline but still well in time for Christmas.  

Before we get to my review, please visit the Blog of fellow member Marc Whinston, whose post on "the evening I missed" provides vital background on K. Gordon Murray Presents "Santa Claus" (...So I don't have to!) and offers a TRAILER for the film that you should very definitely watch before reading on... 

...You still here?  Go do it, and come back!  

Okay, now... Ready for some POETRY?  

'Twas the Day Before Christmas,
And Up There in Space, 
Santa Claus Lives,
In an Opulent Place!  

A Palace of Marble,
So Light and So Airy,
Contains Captive Children,
Now, THAT'S Really Scary! 

The Kids Sing for Their Supper,
And Make Toys for Their Keep,
Did Santa Fire the Elves,
Because He's So Cheap? 

Do We Root for This Santa?
Or Root for the Devil?
I'm Not Always Certain,
Just Who's on the Level!  

If I'm Forced to Choose,
'Tween the Two Guys in Red,
I Suppose I'll Pick Santa,
Let the Devil be Dead!  

Just imagine what this film must have done to make me create a Five-Stanza Poem-Parody for it!

Santa's an ALIEN?!  Presumably, his cloud city remains in fixed orbit behind the Dark Side of the Moon [Insert Your Own Pink Floyd Joke Here], which was unseen by man in 1959.  He PASSES the Moon on his way to Earth, bolstering that postulation.  

He opens with laughter far more maniacal than jolly, and apparently keeps CAPTIVE EARTH CHILDREN OF ALL NATIONS for his labor force - and his entertainment!  Since the children, at one point, wonder what they EAT on Earth, it's clear that Santa's probably taken them at a very early age, (perhaps from the hospital - or WOMB) as they do not miss their parents, and the parents are not searching for them!  BRRRRR!  

The children perform nation-specific musical numbers for Santa's amusement, like some bizarre living parody of Disneyland's "It's a Small World" ("After All") exhibit!  

But, still there are worse beings in the cosmos than this version of Santa Claus.  Specifically, "Lucifer the Devil", who sends his hapless minion "Pitch" to turn the children of Earth (the ones Santa has NOT labor-trafficked in) against Jolly Old St. Nick!  

The various elements of the film come together in an orgy of unparalleled weirdness...

We have ballet-dancing devils! 

Melodramatic, self-explanatory, and overly cautionary narration, the likes of which you would have heard in then-contemporary cartoons like RUFF AND REDDY - and was so manically lampooned by William Conrad in ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE!

Legendary magician Merlin and Vulcan (the key-maker) are also in Santa's thrall... 

What's on those FLOWERS Santa so often SNIFFS, Merlin?  

And, can you save some for Ralph Bakshi's Mighty Mouse?

Santa's electronic equipment is outfitted with human body parts, eyes, ears, mouths, etc.   Did he get THOSE from the same place he got the children? 

Last, but far from least, are the Plastic Sleigh-Propelling Reindeer (Only FOUR? More economizing on Santa's part?) that TURN TO DUST AT THE LIGHT OF THE SUN???!!!  ...What are they, VAMPIRES?  

Can't ya hear it now...

On, Bela - On, Christopher,
On, Lugosi and Lee,
In Your Coffins 'Fore Sunrise,
Or Screwed You Will Be! 

Gosh, but I'm feeling POETIC today! 

Yet, despite all its weirdness, this film strikes an interesting balance between sentiment and comedy.  Sentiment with the stories of Little Lupita (the poor girl who wants a doll from Santa) and the poor (in another sense) rich kid who just misses his parents.  

And the comedy:  An indecisive family of cowards with guns (always a sure-fire laugh-getter) who thinks Santa is a burglar.  Pitch in soot-blackface after a chimney blow-back - with an exasperated camera-facing stare reminiscent of Wile E. Coyote, or Oliver Hardy - and getting butt-missiled by a toy cannon (below)! Santa treed by a Pit Bull, and Pitch doused by a fire hose!  

All of this stuff managed to work for me - meaning that I actually LIKED this film!   

I only wish I had the experience of seeing it with the group!  

Though I did the NEXT BEST THING!  I watched it back-to-back with FAMILY GUY's "Road to the North Pole" - with it's rather unorthodox portrayal of the legend of Santa Claus.  Everyone should see these two back-to-back for maximum effect!  

They kinda GO TOGETHER, Don't They? 

Back quickly to reviewing the DVD itself... This DVD version of K. Gordon Murray Presents "Santa Claus" comes with no subtitles, extras, or even a Theatrical Trailer... but I'm never one to look a gift disc in the mouth!  

Oh, did I say "mouth"?   

Please send your thoughts - especially if you've actually seen this film!  ...I wanna know what you think!  

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas 2017 (and 1950) with Bugs Bunny!

Merry Christmas 2017, to all of our readers and friends - old and new! 

And this is the special Christmas comic that I mentioned in OUR LAST POST! 

I had never read Dell Comics’ BUGS BUNNY’S CHRISTMAS FUNNIES # 1 (1950) before this month, because I’d just gotten my copy this December.  Ditto for BUGS BUNNY’S CHRISTMAS FUNNIES # 2 (1951).  Read ‘em both over the last two weeks.  Both are excellent issues, and a great way to set the scene for the joyous holidays soon to come. 

BUGS BUNNY’S CHRISTMAS FUNNIES # 1 is also the source of the “Giant Robot Snowball Fight” splash panel, I posted previously! 

It is part of the climactic sequence of the issue’s lead story, Bugs Bunny in The Days Before Christmas”, written by Don R. Christensen, and drawn by Tony Strobl. 

This unusual Christmas tale runs a whopping 31 PAGES (…of this even-more-whopping 128 page comic magazine), which would explain why this particular story was never reprinted by Gold Key during the 1960s or ‘70s – though a “32-Page, No Ads” special comic would have accommodated it quite nicely, with any random one-page gag to fit on Page 32. 

It wouldn't have fit in this 1966 Christmas issue, for instance!  Oh, and could you have gotten "more sixties" than "The Girl from B.U.N.N.Y."?  ...Well, could ya? 

Where do I begin to list the strange and wonderful elements that went into making this tale? 

Needing some Christmas money, Bugs becomes an assistant chimney sweep.  It’s big business this time of year, as chimneys are cleaned in anticipation of the arrival of Santa Claus!  On his first job, Bugs accidently destroys Elmer Fudd’s Christmas tree.  

While in the forest, trying to replace it, Bugs runs across… a Biblically-dressed shepherd, who “contracts with Santa” to provide The Jolly One with little 1950s-Sci-Fi-style Robotic Helpers – and (if that’s not enough) possesses a “Magic Twig” that duplicates the placid personality of any docile animal it touches into said robotic helpers, in order to bring them to peaceful and presumably productive life!  (Whew!) 

Fired as an assistant chimney sweep, Bugs becomes apprentice to the shepherd, who has just created a GIANT robot to do the GIANT (What else?) tasks that Santa requires! 

Soooo, guess what happens when Bugs accidentally duplicates the decidedly non-placid personality of a grizzly bear into the GIANT robot?  No more spoilers on this (GIANT or otherwise) … It’s Christmas, and NO ONE ever asks Santa for spoilers! 

From cover to cover, BUGS BUNNY’S CHRISTMAS FUNNIES # 1 is an outstanding issue, with both Holiday and Non-Holiday tales brought to you by the talents of the aforementioned Don R. Christensen and Tony Strobl, with John Carey, Phil De Lara, Al Hubbard, Fred Abranz, Vivie Risto, Jim Pabian, Gil Turner, and Ken Champin… a veritable “Who’s Who” of Dell Comics circa 1950 – Carl Barks, Harvey Eisenberg, and Roger Armstrong excepted.

 I know, Bugs! I'm in awe of this line-up, too!

There are the usual game and text-story pages… and the “sheet-music” and lyrics to three seasonal songs: “O Come All Ye Faithful”, “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, and (of course) “Jingle Bells” are reproduced!

Adding to the outright unconventionality of it all, are the one-and-only (I’m certain!) comic book appearance of the Scotsman who challenged Bugs Bunny to a wild game of golf.  "One-and-only", at least for Pre-DC Comics modern issues, where virtually any character who EVER appeared in the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies theatrical shorts could be found.  

Darned near everyone appeared in DC's version of LOONEY TUNES comics!

And, finally… THREE, count ‘em, THREE comic book adaptations of actual LT & MM cartoons – One for Bugs Bunny, and two for Daffy Duck… at least ONE of which could very definitely never be shown on TV today!  Another vastly changes one supporting character for no possible reason I could see, save maybe “giving us more dialogue to read” than the original character would have given us.   Oh, and the Scotsman was in an ORIGINAL STORY, not a cartoon adaptation!  Imagine that!

So, BUGS BUNNY’S CHRISTMAS FUNNIES # 1 makes quite a nifty Christmas (or holiday of your choice) present for anyone fortunate enough to receive one… or just go out and get one for yourself, like I did.  You won’t be sorry! 

We’ll be back with one or two “Christmas Extensions” before we’re through.  Merry Christmas (or holiday of your choice), Happy New Year (or “first of the month” of your choice), and enjoy whatever you do this holiday season to the fullest! 

Finally, a BUGS BONUS WINTER GAG, from another Dell comic, just for the sake of celebration!  Click to Enlarge! 

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Post Before Christmas!

‘Twas the Post Before Christmas,
And all Through the Blog,
Not a Notion was Stirring,
‘Cause We Worked Like a Dog!

Yes, this Blog HAS been sleeping for a short while, as it is wont to do when we are (all together now) “Horrifically Busy”, but we can never stay away for too long.  And so we’re back to get in one more post before Christmas 2017! 

We’ve published our backlog of comments, and have a bunch of things waiting for you in 2018, so stay tuned. 

For now, two things: 

ONE:  HERE is my original mentor Mark Evanier on Blogging and what it means to have a Blog.  

Not surprisingly, I agree with every word of it and, as I still draw on some of the things I learned from Mark during our old-fashioned mail correspondence back in the early eighties about comics writing, I draw on so much of what he says here about Blogging – before I even knew he said it! 

TWO:  I just read an AMAZING Christmas comic this week for the first time ever!  Below is a fantastic half-page splash panel from it!  Does anyone know – or can anyone guess – which comic it is? 

We’ll have that answer for you on Christmas Day… but everyone is welcome to guess right now!

See you then!  

Monday, December 4, 2017

Achille Talon, By Way Of Achille Talon!

You may recognize the name “Achille Talon” as that of one of our friends, and regular commenters. 

But, do you also recognize “Achille Talon” as that of a wonderful French/Belgian comic series, from which our friend “Achille Talon” has taken his screen name? 

Neither did I, until he brought it to my attention by providing an Amazon link to a rare English language volume translation of one of the stories – pictured above! 

...Now, it's time to bring it to YOUR attention! 

Click to Enlarge, to Read Descriptive Text. 
“Achille Talon”, or “Walter Melon” as he is known in English, is the product of creator Michael Greg who, in this volume gives us a fantastic 44-page comedy adventure (in four-tiered panel layout, as was done in Dell and Gold Key Comics – no less), in which Achille/Walter journeys to the jungles of “Messaplato” in search of his lady-love, the fair (and somewhat indifferent) “Magnesia Pamperbilt” and the diamond mine she just learned she has inherited. 

 “Magnesia’s Treasure” (1977, with an English translation created in 1981), opens with Achille/Walter purchasing a small vase for Magnesia from an outdoor flea-market, as a token of his undying affection. Click to Enlarge any and all panels! 

We readers are quickly thrust into the magnificent absurdity that I’ll presume permeates the entirety of the  “Achille Talon” series, as Magnesia enthusiastically accepts the gift – but decides that she must change the décor of her entire living room to fit the vase!  

To do so, she orders her servant/faithful companion “Hexcedrin” to switch her present living room furniture with that of a departed aunt and uncle, which is stored in Magnesia’s vast attic.  

Achille/Walter, ever the fawning gentleman assists, and finds an old book – containing a letter that reveals Magnesia to be the heir to a lost diamond mine in the aforementioned Central American land of “Messaplato”. 

Impulsive Magnesia and Hexcedrin are off in search of the titular “Magnesia’s Treasure” , with Achille/Walter just late enough to miss the departing plane, and imagine the many terrors the two ladies will be facing without his protection! 

Achille/Walter gears-up for a dangerous jungle adventure, takes the next plane, and finds the greatest dangers to be customs, local law enforcement, and wild vehicular traffic!  Please forgive an occasional "crooked panel", as this book cannot lie flat on my scanner!  

Teaming up with a perpetually inebriated old war buddy of his father’s, “Arthur, the 14th Duke of Booswallow” (a pun to make me envious), Achille/Walter eventually plunges into the jungle to find Magnesia.

Along the way he picks-up a delightfully funny array of pursuers, hangers-on, and just plain old self-interested exploiters that include…  

…An officer of the Messaplato Secret Police...

…The enterprisingly mercenary natives of the “Kiukiubamba Tribe”...

…A band of revolutionaries... 

…A rather inept man-eating leopard...

…The mysterious adventurer with a bad case of amnesia, “Colorado Jones”…

…Dangerous fauna, and deadly man-made traps…

…And the Messaplato Military!

This wondrous mix (and mix-UP) of humorous and satirical characters makes for one heck of a conclusion!  ...But, no more spoilers! 

Instead, we’ll move on to why the readers of this Blog should enjoy “Achille Talon”, AKA “Walter Melon”.

The character of Achille/Walter is a delightful mix of Carl Barks’ Donald Duck, and E.C. Segar’s J. Wellington Wimpy – yet, with a quality all his own. 
The basic story structure is that of a Carl Barks Donald Duck adventure, beginning innocently in Achille/Walter’s hometown, and leading to intrigues in an exotic locale – with lots of twists, turns, and eccentric characters to encounter along the way. 

Michael Greg was Don Rosa, “before there WAS Don Rosa”!  Like Rosa, Greg adheres to - and builds upon -  the classic Barks story structure, yet creates panel after panel of insanely cramped detail… and does so in a very funny style of cartooning! 

The English translation, by Pablo Vela, is worthy of the best in the English-dialoguing business, such as Geoffrey Blum, Gary Leach, and the “Creative Core Four” of the present IDW Disney comics! (…You know who we are!)

I heartily recommend “Achille Talon”, AKA “Walter Melon” to the readers of this Blog – and thank “The Other Achille Talon” for recommending it to me! 

…Finally, I don’t know if any additional American English translations of “Achille Talon” were created after 1981, but *I’d* sure like to give it a go sometime! 

UPDATE: December 08, 2017:

Compare the detail in these panels from the American printing with that of the French original.  This is discussed in the Comments Section:  Thanks to Achille Talon (The PERSON) for citing the differences!