Thursday, July 26, 2018

Adventures in Comic-Boxing: "HIGH There, Foxie!"

...Or, it's a matter of perspective!  

Just look at the PERSPECTIVE in this opening splash panel of a FOX AND CROW story in REAL SCREEN COMICS # 33 (DC Comics, December 1950)!  

You're actually UP HIGH!  Higher, even, than Crawford Crow - looking down on both him and the visitor still further below, from a tree-tops view!  

The angle on Fauntleroy Fox's HOUSE (at left) really sells it!  

That's something you didn't see every day, especially in a "funny-animal" comic!  I'm a writer, not an artist, so I really can't properly explain it any better than this - but, WOW! 

Kudos to artist Jim Davis for taking what should have merely been "ordinary", and making it "extraordinary"!  

But, that's not all in the "extraordinary" department, as REAL SCREEN COMICS # 33 is also home to an amazing META story, in which Fox and Crow squabble over "Top Billing", resulting in Fauntleroy Fox LEAVING THE FEATURE, and being replaced by a "Fox Hound"!  

But the "magnificence of THIS meta" is hardly limited to just concept, but dives deep into the VISUALS as well!

Cast your eyes upon what appears to be a WOODEN PLANK, suspended across, and somehow attached-to, the top of the splash panel - bearing their billing and names!  

And, as seen below, it's REALLY HANGING THERE, to the extent that Crawford can PROP A LADDER AGAINST IT, and start ripping-down its lettering!  

Why, there's even more of that great "Jim Davis Perspective" in the above illustration's lower-left panel!  ...That thing's just really up in the air!  

THE FOX AND THE CROW, and its related series, are known for incorporating more meta-antics into their stories than the conventional-by-contrast Disney comics and other contemporary comics from Dell - but this one really deserves a prize for sheer audacity!  

While you all ponder that, I'm going to step out my front door... and if I look up and see a huge wooden sign, across the sky directly above, that says "JOE AND ESTHER" - you'll never hear from me again!  

...Either because I DIED OF SHOCK right there on the spot, or Esther wanted "Top Billing", and replaced me with a dog!  

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Adventures in Comic-Boxing: Double Indicia for Scooby!

I've heard of "Double Indemnity"... but "Double Indicia"?  

Just when you think you've seen it all, something new always comes along to delight, puzzle, or in some way astound you... either in the "Oh, that's SO GREAT!" sense... or in the "How did THAT ever happen?" sense!

SCOOBY-DOO WHERE ARE YOU? # 58 (DC Comics, 2010 Series, Cover Date: August, 2015) contains a definite example of the latter! 

Our recent post on SCOOBY-DOO WHERE ARE YOU? # 53 (HERE) shows a reprint of a previous issue's LEAD STORY - but with the original INDICIA REMOVED, leaving lots of "empty space" at the bottom of the page.  

If you can conceive of it, SCOOBY-DOO WHERE ARE YOU? # 58 does this one better (...or, would that be "one WORSE"?)  Let's crack those covers, and see what awaits us inside... beyond the "phony disguised ghost for our Meddling Kids to unmask", that is!  

Here is the first page of SCOOBY-DOO WHERE ARE YOU? # 58.  It is the cover story.  The NEW story of the book.  ...Looks normal enough.  (CLICK to ENLARGE all illustrations!) 

The second story in the issue is a REPRINT from SCOOBY-DOO # 49 (DC Comics, 1997 Series) from 2001.  Let's see if YOU can spot the problem before Velma and Fred beat you to it!  

Well, there's no shame in losing to Velma or Fred when it comes to detecting.  (Especially Velma!)  Daphne's got it too, so maybe I should help you out a little.  

Let's DOLLY-IN for more of a close-up...

Not yet?  Well, I'll not have any of my readers come in behind Shaggy and Scooby, when it comes to mystery-solving, so take a good look at THIS!  

Yeah, that's VERY SMALL!  Here's a better look!

OMG!  It is the ORIGINAL INDICIA from SCOOBY-DOO # 49 (August , 2001) NOT REMOVED from the story's reprint in SCOOBY-DOO WHERE ARE YOU? # 58 (August, 2015)!!!! 

...And, THAT'S not even the WORST of it!

In more recent years, as opposed to 2001, DC Comics puts its indicia in the back of each issue - where, traditionally, most publishers (DC included) had once put it on PAGE ONE!  


...With its indicia at the BOTTOM OF that last page!

Closer look...

So, now we are left with the indicia for SCOOBY-DOO # 49 (August , 2001)...

...Actually PRECEDING the proper indicia for this issue - SCOOBY-DOO WHERE ARE YOU? # 58 (August, 2015)!

As I said... "Just when you think you've seen it all..." 

That's why we'll never run out of these "Adventures in Comic-Boxing" posts!  ...And ain't that a wonderful thing!  


...And, from that same promo page, don't we also miss the BATMAN '66 title!  ...I sure do!  


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Separated at Mirth: Oil "Can-certo"

Given the direction of the Woody Woodpecker comics from the mid-1950s onward, where I can recall that version of Woody being described as "the poor man's Donald Duck" (what with adventures with a nephew and niece and domestic comedies), you'd think that Woody and Donald would have more cover gags in common than they actually do.

But, a nice example of "Mirth Separation" occurs with the covers of WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES # 363 (Gold Key Comics, Cover Date: December, 1970)...

...And WOODY WOODPECKER # 201 (Whitman Comics, Published in 1983).

Take your pick as to your preference... the indignant look of Donald, or the more sly and mischievous look of Woody!  

I think they're both great, but what puts the WOODY cover over the top for me is that Knothead HASN'T EVEN REALIZED that his violin has been appropriated - and he continues to bow, completely unaware of Woody's actions... while the DONALD gag is executed more typically in the traditional vein of covers for WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES! 

It's a nice little "action piece" for Knothead, well executed in the static medium of comics and, as a perfect final touch, Splinter is also in on the gag - stifling a laugh! 

Many extra points are due the WOODY cover, simply because it was a product of 1983, near the very end of the long history of the "Dell/Gold Key/Whitman" line of comics, when things were very rarely as good as they once were! 

Things to note:

In composition, the UNCLES and KIDS are switched... with Donald at an upper-left position on the cover and Woody at lower-right. 

Conversely, Dewey is more-or-less at lower-right, while Knothead is more-or-less at upper left. 

Donald's OIL seems to be thicker and gooier, by the way it spreads across Dewey's violin. 

Sheet music litters the floors in both cases. 

Donald appears to have no issue with Huey's trumpet or Louie's sax - unless he plans to stuff something in each of them after he's done with the oil can! 

WOODY WOODPECKER # 201 was the FINAL issue of that title to emerge from Western Publishing, ending a long line of great comic books that began with this issue from the DELL FOUR COLOR LINE...

...Through MARCH OF COMICS...

...The regular DELL Comics line...

...GOLD KEY Comics...

...And finally WHITMAN! 

Oh, there were some very sloppily-assembled WOODY WOODPECKER comics from Harvey Comics in the early '90s, but the less said about those - the better! 

I prefer to think of Woody ending his comics career with THIS ISSUE!  

Funny thing, with the early success of the IDW Disney comics line in 2015 - and the great things it did for Donald Duck...

...I had hopes that IDW might start a WOODY WOODPECKER title, consisting of DELL reprints, and the Woody comics done overseas.  I would have made myself first in line to translate and dialogue those! 

But, no... So let's just remember Woody's glory days in comics like these...

...And enjoy Donald Duck and Woody Woodpecker - now and for always - "Separated at Mirth"!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

R.I.P. Harlan Ellison

One of the giants of writing - both due to his own vast talents, and the notoriety created by his often cantankerous nature - left us on June 28, 2018, with the passing of Harlan Ellison at the age of 84.  

Not being much of a "reader of novels, or other prose fiction", it was through the medium of television that Harlan Ellison was able to reach this devotee.  And, it was through the outstanding efforts he created for that medium that I became a life-long admirer of those vast talents.

Ironically, his characteristic cantankerous nature was perhaps the very thing that limited his contributions to the medium of television to a precious - but VERY CHOICE - few, during the formative, and groundbreaking, period of the 1960s.  

Last night, as I often do when someone I admire in the field of popular culture passes, I indulged in a personal "Harlan Ellison Marathon", culled from my DVD collection, and immensely enjoyed those "precious but very choice few" artifacts from what will forever be my favorite era of television.  

...And, as sparse as his contributions might have been, Harlan Ellison was one of the many reasons why that era is so personally beloved!  

Ever so slightly out-of-original-order, here was the program for Saturday evening, June 30, 2018... and can you think of a better way to ride-out the middle of a five-or-more-day 90-plus heat wave?  

THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR: Season 3 Episode 10: "Memo from Purgatory" (December 21, 1964).  

Ellison's autobiographical account of his early days as an aspiring writer, during which he joined a 1950s New York street gang in order to write a novel expose on the controversial subject.  

The hour is both quite dramatic and, at times - and from this modern-day perspective - laughable, but is riveting nonetheless, and an unusual subject for the Hitchcock Hour.  So much so that Hitchcock himself dispenses with his usual "funny-host-bit" at the end of the program, and instead tells us that "...the problem of youth gangs should be taken seriously"!    

It is also noteworthy for a cast consisting of James Caan (in the "Ellison role" - and in my view just a tad too old and "dignified" to be a member of a street gang), a pre-STAR TREK Walter Koenig as the leader of the gang, and cool tough guys Tony Musante and Zalman King as gang members.  

Oddly, Walter Koenig would not yet have joined the cast of STAR TREK when Ellison would have written his immortal TREK opus "The City on the Edge of Forever" - but he gets to write for him here!  

Also, it is a VERY RARE non-sci-fi offering from Ellison!  

VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA: Season 1 Episode 5: "The Price of Doom" (October 12, 1964).

On board the Submarine Seaview, a monstrously-expanding specimen of plankton, and a surreptitious saboteur wreak havoc for Admiral Nelson and Captain Crane.  

Unknowingly, with these elements and in this FIFTH episode, Harlan Ellison set the basic template for the next four years of this series, where both monsters and sinister passengers of all sorts would abound!  

With his aforementioned cantankerousness, Ellison had his name removed from the writing credits of the episode - loudly disagreeing with network-mandated changes to his script (...He should try writing scripts for Disney comic books some time!  Hoo-boy, would he have had a hard time with THAT!) - and had it replaced with his pen-name "Cord Wainer Bird"!  

He never again contributed to this series, as well as other series that would similarly displease him, and that would indeed be a pity!  

THE OUTER LIMITS: Season 2 Episode 1: "Soldier" (September 19, 1964).

In the vast wasteland of Earth's distant future, two soldiers, both deadly enemies bred only to kill, are transported by a freak accident to Earth of 1964.  Separated in their journey, "Quarlo Clobregnny", played to savage perfection by actor Michael Ansara, falls under the care of a psychiatrist (Lloyd Nolan) who is determined to break through Quarlo's singular savagery... while the other "soldier" remains mysteriously at large - but close by!

A nicely-done, tense outing, devoid of the usual aliens and monsters that inhabit THE OUTER LIMITS!     

THE OUTER LIMITS: Season 2 Episode 5: "Demon with a Glass Hand" (October 17, 1964).

Robert Culp is "Trent", a man with no memory - save that of a computer in the form of an artificial hand!  He begins the episode with only TWO of the hand's "five fingers", each finger being a vast memory cell.  To piece his mysteriously dangerous situation together, he must restore all five fingers to his "glass hand"!  

Not an easy task as, in THIS future - as opposed to the one seen a mere four weeks ago in "Soldier", aliens have completely conquered the Earth, and possess the three missing fingers!  Trent is the guardian of the remaining human population of future-Earth but, without the memories stored in the missing fingers, does not know where they are, nor how to locate and restore them!  

Dispatched mysteriously to (you guessed it) 1964, he is the quarry of the conquering aliens, who travel back in time via a "Time-Mirror" to capture Trent, learn the location of the remaining humans - and destroy them.  

All the action takes place in an actual Los Angeles office building - a old and distinctively creepy structure called "The Bradbury Building", which has been the site of other TV and film productions - and is immediately recognizable to knowledgeable fans.  

In the building, Trent finds and partners with a timid-yet-brave woman played by Arlene Martel - later known as the Vulcan "T'Pring" on STAR TREK!  And the BUILDING is as much a "star" of this magnificent episode as are Culp and Martel!  

My inadequate description of "Demon with a Glass Hand" hardly does it justice!  It is, without doubt, one of the single greatest examples of Science Fiction ever produced for television!  If you haven't seen it, DO SO!  And, if you have, DO SO AGAIN!  

Uncharacteristically, Harlan Ellison actually penned TWO episodes of THE OUTER LIMITS, unlike any of the other series cited in this survey of his work.  

Alas, on regrettably similar occasions, I've had relatively recent viewings of these two superb episodes of THE OUTER LIMITS... "Soldier" for the passing of Michael Ansara, and "Demon with a Glass Hand" for the passing of Arlene Martel.  

STAR TREK: Season 1 Episode 28: "The City on the Edge of Forever" (April 06, 1967).

Does this REALLY need any introduction?  A drug-crazed Doctor McCoy jumps through a mysterious time portal and changes all Earth history - including the creation of Starfleet!  Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock follow to undo the damage, but first they must somehow figure out exactly what the damage was!  Oh, and we're in Depression-Era New York City, with Joan Collins!  

Far better known than "Demon with a Glass Hand""The City on the Edge of Forever" is ALSO (to repeat myself) "one of the single greatest examples of Science Fiction ever produced for television!", and it's no small coincidence that two such incredible products sprang from the fertile imagination of the same great mind!  

Finally, to end the evening with a change of pace, there was this...

TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: Season 1 Episode 10: "Djinn, No Chaser" (January 13, 1985).  Adapted from a short story by Harlan Ellison.  

A hapless 1980s newlywed husband, spends time in an insane asylum, after his wife buys a "magic lamp", inhibited by a loud, mischievous, and cranky genie who, due to his immense physical size, cannot get out of the lamp!  A funny, first-person-narrated (by the husband) story, with basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the not-so-genial-genie!    

Ya almost gotta wonder if that same genie was previously seen in (all together now) 1964!  

In addition to this, and so many other things, Harlan Ellison's stories and scripts were also seen on the 1980s version of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, the 1990s version of THE OUTER LIMITS, and even the original 1960s version of THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. - which debuted in... 1964!  

Ellison even wrote an unproduced script for the 1966 BATMAN TV SERIES, which would have introduced Two-Face to that particular 1960s continuity.  It was recently published in graphic novel form by DC Comics!  

For all this and countless more items, stories, and anecdotes, I thank you, Mr. Harlan Ellison!  Rest In Peace!