Thursday, March 31, 2011

Charlton Notebook: Space Adventures #40

The early 60s were a truly interesting time during Charlton's publishing history. They spent a lot of time searching for an identity before finally entering the Action Hero era. Space Adventures is one of their stronger titles of this era, and this issue evidences that strength. There are two Captain Atom stories with Steve Ditko art. I really love the 'pixie dust' effect used to show him flying. The second story is a real riot, as a boy dying of gamma ray radiation is 'cured' by Captain Atom. What's the cure? Well, a flight through space seemed to do the trick, and somehow the boy survives wearing only his pyjamas. There is a so-so story featuring a Flash Gordon clone, and fun Rocco Mastroserio drawn tale with an EC style twist ending. All in all, it's nothing great, and the Captain Atom stories have been reprinted elsewhere but these are always worth grabbing if you seen an inexpensive copy.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Cinematic Alphabet

I got this idea from my good pal Rupert over at . My idea was not necessarily to find the best film for each letter of the alphabet, but rather the first great movie that came to mind beginning with the letter in question. Here goes!

A is for About a Boy

B is for The Big Clock

C is for Children of Men

D is for D.O.A.

E is for Escape From the Planet of the Apes

F is for Fortress

G is for Gotcha!

H is for The Hidden

I is for The Invisible Man

J is for The Journey of Natty Gann

K is for Kansas City Confidential

L is for The Last Waltz

M is for Moon

N is for Nosferatu

O is for Outland

P is for Pretty in Pink

Q is for Quiz Show

R is for Rushmore

S is for Star Wars

T is for The Talk of the Town

U is for Under the Volcano

V is for Valley of the Gwangi

W is for The Woman in the Window

X is for X, The Man With the X-Ray Eyes

Y is for The Year of Living Dangerously

Z is for Zoolander

Add It To My Want List: U.F.O & Alien Comix

I love UFO comics, everything from Dell's Flying Saucers to Gold Key's UFO & Outer Space. I've never had my hands on a copy of this book, though. UFO talk was pretty big in the 70s, so Jim Warren decided that it might make sense to recycle a few UFO-themed stories from Eerie and Vampirella. That works just fine for me, as I don't have any of the issues from which the stories originate. The real selling point for me (aside from the UFOs) is the fact that this book contains 8 pages of Alex Toth art and 11 pages of John Severin art. Throw in a bunch of other stories about aliens and conspiracy theories and I'm sold. I just hope it's better than that UFO Connection issue of Marvel Preview.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Reprint This! Ghost Comics

We all love those pre-Code horror stories produced by the gang at EC. The thing is, how many times do we need to see the same titles reprinted? There's a plethora of untapped pre-Code goodness out there, waiting to be discovered by a new generation of horror fans. Why not start with Fiction House's Ghost Comics? Fiction House produced some of the very earliest horror stories in comics, and many of the issues of Ghost Comics actually include reprints from titles such as Jumbo Comics and Rangers of Freedom. While the roster of artists may not be up there with the bullpens of EC, Atlas or even Harvey, these stories are drawn by solid professionals such as Maurice Whitman (terrific covers), Jack Kamen and Jack Abel and they all have that Iger Studios feel to them. Some of these stories have been reprinted here and there, most notably in that 'Mammoth Book of Horror' collection and some of the , but I think the time has come for a handsome hardcover of Fiction House horror to take its place on my bookshelf.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Trade Marks: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

My kids love the Wizard of Oz. As a result, I've grown to like it much more today than I ever did as a child. Plenty of people whose opinions I respect recommended this recent miniseries adapting Baum's initial book. When I saw the hardcover on sale for half-price, I couldn't pass it up as I figured that I'd read it and then pass it along to my kids. Well, I'm not ready to hand it over quite yet. Eric Shanower's script is a joyous, and yet suitably dark, interpretation of Baum's original vision. Skottie Young's artwork is equal parts creepy and cartoony, and his characters designs are unique and yet familiar. The story roles along at a nice pace, and the disturbing parts are restrained enough that an child could likely handled them. The overall package is very impressive with informative text and great sketches. I know that Shanower has done a ton of Oz related work and I look forward to tracking it down. Trade Mark: A

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Highlighting House Ads: ACG's TrueVision

Everyone knows that there was a big 3-D craze in the early 1950s. Many of you will also be aware of the fact that comic book publishers hopped aboard the bandwagon by inserting 3-D glasses in certain (higher priced) books. American Comics Group joined the trend in a rather unique way. Rather than go the traditional route, ACG developed TrueVision, a rather innovative way of giving more depth to the comic book page. This house ad gives the reader of a good sense of the TrueVision effect, with the black border and porous panel borders acting as a trompe l'oeil. I've only owned a few of these books over the years, but they are really fun and the effect is quite cool. It is, however, a lot of black ink and if the pages are deteriorating at all, you can wind up with black fingertips.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Married With Clickers: Episode 11 - X, the Man With the X-Ray Eyes

This week, we look deep into the eyes of Roger Corman's 1963 film, X, the Man With the X-Ray Eyes. but do we like what we see? This film stars Ray Milland as a scientist who wants to see what God sees, but doesn't quite understand why God doesn't have to wear bulky sunglasses. It's a pretty ambitious film, but what happens when ambition outpaces budget? Tune in to find out. Also, we got through a ton of movies this week: The Driver, Dune, The Hurt Locker, Across 110th Street, Heroin Busters, The Last King of Scotland and Blue Thunder. Can you find the common thread? We top it all off with some terrific feedback and pose the question: What 50s or 60s B-Movie should be remade today? Feedbackers are Smurfy, so email us at marriedwithclickers at or leave us a voicemail at 206-338-0793.

Single Issue Hall of Fame: Flash #229

OK, I know, all 100-Pagers are awesome, but this is truly a standout issue. The cover story is a team-up between Barry Allen and Jay Garrick as they take on the Rag Doll and the Thinker. I truly believe that the team of Irv Novick and Frank McLaughlin is horribly underrated. There's a three panel sequence in which Jay and Barry are sitting on a park bench chatting that is absolutely beautiful. This is the return of the Rag Doll, an old Jay Garrick foe with a terrific design. For Infantino fans, this issue has a Golden Age Flash reprint from All-Flash #31 (1947), a fun back-up story from Flash #145 and an old school, old costume Kid Flash reprint. Gil Kane fans will be delighted to find the Black Hand story from Green Lantern #29. There's also some fun Flash trivia and a Flash word search. What more can you really ask for? Well, how about one of the all-time great Mort Meskin drawn Johnny Quick stories? This is a wonderful book, and remains one of my all-time favourite 100-Pagers.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Memoirs of a Bronze Age Baby: Marvel Team-Up #91

Here's one that has really stuck with me over the years and lends itself well to repeated reads. I would have been 7½ when this hit the spinner racks. I was in love with Spider-Man and morbidly fascinated by the Ghost Rider. Stephen Grant's story succeeds because he manages to sprinkle a superhero team up story with enough creepy occult elements to get a young lad's attention. Peter is visiting a circus sideshow and spots a familiar flaming skeleton (a certain muck monster named Ted is also part of the act). Eventually, the skeleton comes back to Ghost Rider mode and he and Spidey take on the mysterious magical madman (spoiler alert: it's Moondark) in order to free Johnny Blaze's soul. There's a call out to Freaks, something we'd also see in the regular Ghost Rider series. I'm never sure how I feel about Pat Broderick's art, as it's a bit too cratoonish at times with long limbs and short torsos. It suits the superhero scenes more than those with human interaction, but he certainly knows how to tell a story. There's a rather gruesome ending to this one, as Moondark is devoured by Satan himself. Spidey looks away, Ghost Rider looks on with glee. As a child, I was doing a bit of both.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Steve Ditko Cover of the Week: Out of this World #6

Well, Hello Dali! You know, what I really love about Charlton is that they always gave their artists carte blanche. Could you imagine this kind of cover coming from either DC or Atlas during the 1950s? Of course, I imagine it didn't sell as well as the product from those companies but I give the Derby crew full marks for effort. This cover looks like something out of the opening credits to the Twilight Zone. While, I really appreciate the surrealist design, I kind of wish that the cover was a little less 'black' and that a bit more of the purple and/or green had been used. I imagine that this is a tough book to find in high grade. I really like Ditko's signature here as it mimics the other rectangles. Good stuff!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Married With Clickers: Episode 10 - The Watcher in the Woods

For our tenth episode, we revisit a childhood favourite while on vacation 'in the woods'. Does Disney's attempt to make a scary movie for the whole family actually work? Did the legendary production problems hurt the final product? Just how old is Bette Davis? Tune in to find out if this one still gives us the creeps or if you really cannot go home again. This week's Question of the Week is "What is a good 'First' horror movie for kids?" We also finally got around to watching The Social Network and Scott caught a screening of Machete Maidens Unleashed. Mr. T called and told us that he pities the fool who doesn't leave us feedback - so email us at marriedwithclickers at or leave us a voicemail at 206-338-0793.

Exit Stage Left: The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor #25

Here's the final fling of one of the most unusual series of the 70s. Dormant since 1977, the fine folks at Western thought it made sense to put this series back on the racks for a single issue. It's actually a reprint of the very first issue. As was the case with many books published under the Whitman imprint, the cover was line drawn version of the original painted cover. I'm not sure why this editorial decision was made, but it has always struck me as odd. The story introduces us to Dr. Spektor, who might very well be related to Fox Mulder. We also meet his lady friend and assistant, Lakota Rainflower. Jesse Santos' artwork is an acquired taste, but I've always found it appealing. There's also a back up story co-starring Dracula, reprinted from the series' 5th issue. It a rather odd send-off to a character who had been gathering dust for 5 years.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Gil Kane Cover of the Month: Jimmy Wakely #13

I'll be posting more about the Jimmy Wakely series soon, but for now I just wanted to highlight this stunning cover from 1951. The design is fairly simple: gunslinger in the foreground, wanted poster in the background. As is apparent, simple is often best. The hat coming off is a really nice touch, and I really like the font in the Wanted poster. Kane could really do it all in the 50s, moving from Western, to Sci-Fi and to Dog comics. The hand positioning is quite cool, and I've always dug the way Kane shows a gun grip. I find the colour scheme quite interesting, as it is nicely subdued - almost giving it a 'wash' look. Great stuff.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Quick Book Reviews

The Long Goodbye - Raymond Chandler
This was my first exposure to Chandler and I was very, very impressed. Philip Marlowe really does live up to his iconic status. The mystery is quite convoluted and there are perhaps a few too many moving pieces, but Chandler does a good job keeping the reader engaged throughout. I really liked this Black Lizard Vintage Crime volumes. A local shop has tons of remaindered copies and they are a real bargain. I watched the Altman adaptation a week or so after putting the book down. A strange, and yet quite intriguing companion piece.

Dark Side of the Screen - Foster Hirsch
My parents gave me this for Christmas. It was an 'out of left field' choice, as I don't tend to discuss classic cinema with them. It was, however, a wonderful choice as I absolutely adored this book. Hirsch does an excellent job of organizing the various themes, and I truly appreciated the updated afterword in which he sounds like a giddy fanboy talking about recent noir discoveries. I really appreciated experts who are open minded and who believe their area of expertise to be a living, breathing thing.

Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood
I am not the world's biggest Margaret Atwood fan. I tend to admire her work more than I enjoy it. This science-fiction tale, which flips between a pre and post-apocalypse North America, is thoroughly enjoyable. Her writing is sharp here, and she does an excellent job of universe building. It is, however, somewhat rudderless in the second half. That lack of coherent vision, along with some soon to be dated pop culture references, hurt the final product. I have a feeling that Atwood has actually looked into the future, and this serves as a warning. My wife has a copy of Year of the Flood, and I will like tackle it within the next few months.

Red Harvest - Dashiell Hammett
To me, this book should be admired as literary innovation rather than as a story itself. It meanders and drags in places. The ideas are all there, and the dialogue is very hard boiled in spots but the whole thing does not fit together all that well. Hammett put all of those elements together in The Maltese Falcon. It also inspired somewhere around a million authors and led to a new genre and countless works of pulpy crime fiction.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Trade Marks: The Outfit

Since I was 99% sure that I would really like this adaptation of Donald Westlake's (aka. Richard Stark) 1963 novel, I took my time with this one. I wanted to savour it, so I took breaks between chapters and came back to it a couple of days later. This really helped me to better appreciate the amount of love and passion Cooke puts into these books, as there is so much more to it than just the plot. Cooke himself adds some clearly delineated breaks within the story, making it easier to read it in chunks. It also helped me to better digest the changes in style and approach that Cooke infuses into the story, including some text and a cartoonish chapter. These might come across as quite jarring if you were to sit down to read it cover to cover. In all honesty I don't think that I was quite as enamored with this one as I was The Hunter, but I have a feeling that this book will be more rewarding as I revisit it down the road. Cooke is onto something really great here, as evidenced by the sadness when I read "Parker will return in 2012". That feels like forever! Trade Mark: B+

Monday, March 07, 2011

Married With Clickers: Episode 9 - All That Jazz

It's Show Time, Folks! This week we take a look at Bob Fosse's Felliniesque All That Jazz from 1979. It was nominated for a ton of Oscars and won a handful. Did it deserve them? Can Chief Brody even sing? Will we break in song or break out in hives? Tune in to find out. We introduce a Question of the Week segment, wherein we ask you to recommend musicals for people who do not love musicals. We also cover a handful of recent movies watches: A Wednesday, Wasabi and Date Night. Our Doctor told us that we need more feeback, so send us an email at marriedwithclickers at or leave us a voicemail at 206-338-0783.

Hidden Gems: DC Comics Presents #84

Let me begin by saying that this is not a great comic book. It's fine as far as mid-80s DC superhero books go, but nothing Earth-shattering occurs. What makes this one notable, however, is that it contains artwork by two of the greatest comic book artists ever to put pen to paper: Jack Kirby and Alex Toth. I don't really want to call it a collaboration, as DC was simply using up the Toth drawn part from inventory leftover from the short-lived Challs feature in Adventure Comics. As for Kirby's contribution; this was one of his final jobs for DC. While I don't think Greg Theakson's inks really adds much to the pencils, he does help bring a fairly consistent look to the artwork and makes the transition between artists less jarring. This is not and essential book to own, but it certainly a curio.

Friday, March 04, 2011

You've Been Warned: Marvel Team Up #36 and #37

This is a two-parter, so consider yourself doubly warned. I've always admire the ambition of this series; trying to team Spidey up with everyone in the Marvel Universe no matter how little logic is involved. If Batman can team up with Kamandi, why can't Spidey meet Deathlok? Or Killraven? Or every monster in creation? This story follows a convoluted path and Spider-Man and Frankenstein get together (I honestly can't remember how) are both targeted to become some sort of Dr. Moreauvian plot to take over the world via an army of monsters. This silly plot, stretched over two issues by the inefficient Gerry Conway, fizzles out before it gets started.

Essentially, the all powerful mad scientist villain, whom had no problem capturing Spider-Man and the Frankenstein monster (twice), is ultimately defeated because he is (literally) caught napping. Seriously? Then he whimpers like the bad guy in a Scooby Doo cartoon. I know this is a funnybook, but I like my villains to go out with some degree of pride. There's also a lame Beauty and the Beast angle within the Man-Wolf subplot. S.H.I.E.L.D. seems displeased to have to clean this mess up at the end. Sal Buscema's pencils are rendered lifeless by Vinnie Colletta's inks. I know that he's an easy target, but this is a prime example of him hurting a story. This one is downright beastly, and not in the intended way.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Comic Book Robot of the Month: Mr. Atom

Mr. Atom is certainly a Comic Book Robot Hall of Famer, and likely in the all-time top 10 of Comic Book Robots. He was first introduced in Captain Marvel Adventures #78 (November, 1947) and is a card carrying member of the Monster Society of Evil. The thing is, he was not supposed to be a villain. His creator, the well-intentioned Dr. Charles Langley, made the mistake of giving this robot a brain (isn't that always the way?). Mr. Atom decided that his destiny was not to be one of serfdom, but rather to 'rule over men'. He headed straight to the United Nations building (I thought it was originally in San Francisco, not Fawcett City) and killed a delegate. After a long battle, Mr. Atom was finally defeated by the Big Red Cheese. Of course, he would continue his attempts to fulfill his destiny again and again. He's a wonderful creation, with a superb retro design that looked terrific when he returned in the 70s. Holy Moley, indeed!