Thursday, July 9, 2020

Adventures in Comic-Boxing: Vincent Price and Superman's Super-Synergy!

Here is an ad from the back cover of SUPERMAN # 294 (DC Comics, Cover Date: December, 1975) featuring the great VINCENT PRICE as spokes-ghoul for a curious plaything that allows you to make SHRUNKEN HEADS out of apples! 

Talk about a diabolical twist on Mr. Potato Head! 
This spud thinks it's a dud, Bud! 

But, we also have a nice, but clearly unintended, bit of synergy between the issue's front and back covers! 

Because, on the FRONT COVER, we have THIS...

...And on the BACK COVER, we have VINCENT PRICE...

...Who starred in THIS!

You couldn't have PLANNED it better than that!  


Ryan said...

The first thing that popped in my mind upon seeing Superman’s melodramatic scream on the cover was Charlton Heston’s iconic screams in Planet Of The Apes (“You finally really did it. You maniacs...) and Soylent Green (Soylent Green is PEOPLE!) The apocalyptic environment of the cover reminded me of those Heston flicks. Plus he’s such a great dramatic screamer I think I just heard Superman’s line in his voice.

Just wondering but do y’all ever unintentionally hear certain lines of dialogues in a certain actor’s voice? I’m sure lot of people connect voice actors to characters, for instance in my mind Batman sounds like Kevin Conroy but I’m referring to specific pieces of dialogue reminding you of a specific performance. Ehh Maybe I’m just weird.

Regardless melodramatic corny lines bring a smile to my face... So I guess it’s a good thing I like comic books and sci fi since they have lots of those to go around

Achille Talon said...

That, and you can even tell yourself a pretty amusing story just from that panel and the ad. A mad scientist character played by Price sells a kit to create shrunken heads, it spreads like wildfire with no one realizing that the creation of each and every "false" head somehow makes a real person somewhere disappear, and Superman — who is immune due to not being human — finds himself the only unaffected man on Earth!

(Actually, regarding that nonhuman comment… It is my understanding that there are many other DC superheroes who are actually aliens or supernatural in nature. And even more villains. I don't know what the "real" answer to how humanity disappeared in this story is, but has there ever been, to your knowledge, a story taking advantage of that fact — with humanity getting bulk-kidnapped or otherwise wiped out, and the Earth being left not empty, nor with one forlorn hero wandering it, but inhabited by reams and reams of the less mundane heroes and villains?)

Also, has Superman ever actually faced off against Vincent Price — that is to say, a character designed after him? I know Batman had Egghead…

scarecrow33 said...

I would love to see how that Superman story played out. That's one issue I have never seen, to my recollection. That and the Vincent Price movie title put me in mind of "The Last Man" by Mary Shelley--in which a pandemic wipes out all but one of the human race. (In an early example of proto-sci-fi, the first person narrative has been discovered in a cave that acts as a time capsule in reverse--containing a message from a future era.)

Your Mr. Potato Head reference reminds me that the original Mr. Potato Head required a real potato. This could be problematic, especially when it sprouted. I actually liked it better when the entire toy was re-developed with a plastic potato--I'm sure it's much more hygienic and safer, as long as the child doesn't try to eat it.

But regarding the shrunken heads--why would any child want to use real apples in such a bizarre way? It certainly would not have been the fulfillment of any childhood fantasy of my own. Shrunken heads were never on my list of interest, not even of morbid curiosity. Plus, growing up in the Apple State likely taught me a healthy respect for apples--which I would never, then or now, have wanted to subject to such an experiment. (Speaking of which, we already know how Johnny Appleseed would have reacted--see "A New Adventure for Johnny Appleseed" in the Dell Giant "Mickey Mouse in Frontierland".)

Had I seen that ad as a youngster, I would have relegated it to the same place as the "free item" catalogs or the sea monkeys, or getting rich quick by selling greeting cards, or the platoon of plastic toy soldiers--in other words, would have paid little heed or attention to it. I rarely even looked at the back cover of a comic book once I observed it contained advertising. (I know, I know--I should be a better capitalist and acknowledge the vital importance of advertising for the maintenance of the global economy--but if a thing doesn't grab my interest, it just doesn't. This includes nearly one hundred percent of all advertised products. Do I really need a Jeep Cherokee or a retractable awning? Or a wonder drug with gruesome and debilitating side effects?)

But the main point is fascinating--that the back cover special guest Vincent Price starred in a film with the same title as the phrase that Superman utters on the front cover. That is indeed remarkable--and probably not planned, which makes it all the more remarkable. And to think teachers used to claim that comic books were not educational! (I actually learned more from comic books than in all my years in school or college combined--but that's a topic for a whole other discussion.)

Joe Torcivia said...


I would not be the least bit surprised to learn that this SUPERMAN cover was inspired by Heston – especially so, by “Planet Of The Apes”! In fact, now that you’ve got me thinking about it, I’m quite sure it was. …”Always borrow from the best!”, I say!

Oh, I very definitely “hear” certain comic book characters as possessing specific voices – pretty much always have.

Kevin Conroy and Tim Daly, for instance, ARE Batman and Superman! Though Diedrich Bader (Batman’s voice on “Batman the Brave and the Bold” and “Harley Quinn”) often sneaks in there as well. Olan Soule (Batman’s voice for the 1968 Filmation cartoon) “speaks” for the “Silver Age Batman” as does, of course, Adam West when reading the BATMAN ’66 title!

David Warner is the PERFECT Ra’s Al Ghul! What a great casting choice that was! The Joker very nicely varies between Caesar Romero and Mark Hamill… as he probably should.

Animated characters with “good” voices also speak for themselves in my comics reading– meaning most Warner Bros. and Hanna-Barbera characters! Also true for The Fox and the Crow, with the original voices from their Columbia cartoons.

Conversely, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck do not have a definitive comics voice… oddly, that might make it lots easier for me to write good dialogue for them. Needless to say, Alan Young IS Uncle Scrooge, though (like Diedrich Bader) David Tennant is also starting to sneak in there.

One that has particularly manifested itself of late is Whit Bissell (General Kirk of THE TIME TUNNEL) speaking as “The Chief” in Doom Patrol. It’s perfect.

By now, everyone is probably asking… “Joe. You must have ‘heard’ a voice for The Phantom Blot! Who was it?” Yes, even as far back as when I was originally reading those seven wonderful issues of the PHANTOM BLOT comic (1964-1966), I heard whoever the actor was who did the voice of Pruneface in the early 1960s DICK TRACY cartoon! That may not apply now, since Ducktales and House of Mouse, as well as some of the more modern stories, have made the Blot quite a bit more bombastic (even I’ve written him so), but it sure worked back then!

Not EVERY character has a “voice” – far from it, in fact most don’t – but some of them just manifest naturally while reading… and if you really reach a stage of “reading nirvana” you can even add a mental music-score from existing TV and animation music to complete the experience. That also happens occasionally! Don’t know if it’s because I love the comics medium SO much, or if I’m just a little weird (…not just in my senior years, I’ve pretty much always done that). Probably a little of both.

See, you ask a question and look how much you get back in return! How many other Blogs (…Um, ARE there any other such Blogs left?) do that?

Joe Torcivia said...


“A mad scientist character played by Price sells a kit to create shrunken heads, it spreads like wildfire with no one realizing that the creation of each and every ‘false’ head somehow makes a real person somewhere disappear, and Superman — who is immune due to not being human — finds himself the only unaffected man on Earth!”

That is a MAGNIFICENT IDEA! I’ve said before: “You’ve got a future in this busines!” Question is, do you really want to live a life of deprivation, or get a real job? HINT: It’s best if you do both, like I did!

Seriously, that really should have been done in animation, while Price was still alive to voice it – or even now, with Maurice La Marche doing his great impression of Price.

In that vein, check out the new TWILIGHT ZONE (2019) episode “The Comedian”, where a would-be stand-up comedian suddenly has the power to make the butt of his jokes VANISH, as if he/she/it never existed! …Aside to Clapton in particular, see this!

I guess nobody will REALLY mind if I partially spoil a 1975 issue of SUPERMAN, but everyone (human, superhuman, alien, etc.) was transported to “another dimensional plane” by Brain Wave, a super-powerful telepath, in order to enact an evil scheme – the success of which required that he be the only soul on Earth, for a brief period of time.

Superman was off in space at the time this occurred, so he was not banished along with President Ford, Frank Sinatra, Chuck Jones, Carl Barks, William Shatner, Tom Baker, and li’l old me (assuming you did not exist in 1975), as well as Batman, Green Lantern, Dr Fate, and Martian Manhunter – and everyone else regardless of their “super-status”!

I won’t spoil any more, just in case I’ve inspired anyone to check this comic out. It’s a goody, with a clever “Clark Kent” backup story as well! And, while I’m in an “inspiring mood”, I’d also advise everyone to check out Vincent Price in 1964’s “The Last Man on Earth” (the title of which may also have, in some way, influenced the SUPERMAN cover), a black and white horror film Price filmed in Italy – which presages the later horror classic (and MY favorite horror film of all time) “Night of the Living Dead” (1968) in many amazing ways!

Offhand, I can’t think of a story where the world was left with only a bunch of superheroes and super villains… but it MUST have been done by someone at some point. It’s too good not to.

Similarly, I can’t think of a “Vincent Price-like” foe for Superman, but there’s this issue of GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW which, despite being in a decided minority, I STILL maintain the villain is inspired by Vincent Price!

Joe Torcivia said...


“I would love to see how that Superman story played out. That's one issue I have never seen, to my recollection.”

Well, I’ve partially spoiled it above, and that’s as far as I go. The rest is up to you. It’s probably not expensive. Good comics like that are usually undervalued, in favor of the ones that got more hype.

“That and the Vincent Price movie title put me in mind of "The Last Man" by Mary Shelley--in which a pandemic wipes out all but one of the human race.”

Um, we’re getting uncomfortably close to reality here… :-)

I had the original Mr. Potato Head, complete with the “body with a long, sharp plastic spike” on which to impale the REAL potato (…and, hopefully not put-out your eyes)! All I know is that, being real food, I never got to keep one of them intact for very long. I also found, as I presume other curious kids did, that a TOMATO did not work nearly as well… Too squishy… and drippy! Yeah, it’s much better today!

I, too, had the same reaction to the notion of “shrunken-head apples”! Even Vincent Price couldn’t move me to want that! But if vague memories serve – and I do not guarantee this – I believe that Price actually did a television commercial for this product. Someone who watched more morning and afternoon TV in the mid-seventies than I did could better answer that. Though an abominable product like this could never have had a better spokes-ghoul!

Yes, it was indeed a prefect addition to “The Legion of Bad Seventies Comic Book Ad Pages”! No doubt about that! Move over, Margie… Vincent Price has some shrunken-head apples for the entire family!

I think ALL lifetime readers learned some of THE most important things from comic books! From an occasional and obscure scientific fact, to an expanded vocabulary, to a general life’s philosophy! I like to think that my overall character was shaped by the comics Mickey Mouse and by Silver and Bronze Age Superman! Though sometimes I easily can fall into being Donald Duck… or even Lobo, my general outlook comes from the two greatest comic book heroes, more than those less-than-perfect (though, in their own way, loveable) rascals!

Achille Talon said...

(For the record, I did watch and greatly enjoy Last Man on Earth years ago on the occasion of some kind if debatably-lawful soul having uploaded it onto YouTube. The eventual twist — read no further, anyone who hasn't seen it and wants to be surprised by it themselves — is a bit forced considering the short timescale, fun though it is, but Price is as stellar as ever and it's a moody, evocative film. I don't even know that I'd characterize it as horror, really — it struck me as more of a bleak blend of gothic and sci-fi, but I don't, offhand, recall any out-and-out "BOOH" moments.)

Debbie Anne said...

I wasn’t above borrowing from Charlton Heston and “Planet of the Apes”:

Joe Torcivia said...


Yes, I remember that one! Great stuff!

“Borrowing from the Best”… at its, um, er… best!

HERE is Deb’s link, so you all can see her funny and original spin on said “borrowing”!

Joe Torcivia said...


“Horror”, as with nearly all labels, is most often an exercise in subjectivity.

In the case of “The Last Man on Earth”, I’d call it “Horror” on the basis of the zombie-like former-humans and the dread idea of being the lone survivor among them… something that gets a tad toned-down with Price’s character eventually learning to take it all in stride, as he marks days off his calendar and routinely goes about his business – but no less horrifying a concept!

But you are every bit as correct in your assessment of the film as “a bleak blend of gothic and sci-fi.”

Genre labels can mean different things to different people – like, these days “Horror” is largely regarded as something starring mostly young people or kids, and featuring a lot of requisite “jump-scares”! I liked “Horror” better when it primarily starred adults. …Even when *I* was a kid myself.

I can’t figure if the “youth movement” began with “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, or with SCOOBY-DOO (talk about “opposite poles”), but once it took hold it never let go.

Another example of “subjective labeling”, if I may jump genres, would be the Gary Cooper film “The General Died at Dawn” (1936 – and which I just saw for the first time two nights ago)!

--An aside… One of my primary goals in retirement is to see as many of the great movies and TV shows – and read as many of the great comics – that I’ve neither seen nor read up to now! I try to get at least one example of it (comics, film, or classic TV) in every day! Imagine… some people actually want to TRAVEL! Ha!

Anyway, the back of the Blu-ray case describes “The General Died at Dawn” as “…an action-packed Film Noir”.

Now, I *LOVE* the Film Noir genre… and admittedly this film had “dark secrets”, an “ambiguously-intentioned female lead”, and was filmed in black and white – but I’d call this more of an “Adventure” film, given the aforementioned “packed-action” and its basis in geo-politics rather than more run-of-the-mill crime and murders. So, one person’s “Film Noir” is another person’s “Action-Adventure”, I guess.

But, far more than any genre labeling, I first saw “The Last Man on Earth” at some point over the last decade – and was struck with how much of it (presumably) influenced the later “Night of the Living Dead” - again my favorite (Possibly Subjective Labeling Alert) “Horror” film of all time… you know, back when horror films still starred adults – and that, being a near-lifelong “Night of the Living Dead devotee”, didn’t know this until relatively recently!