Marvel comics DRAGONSLAYER 1, 1981

Movie adaptations can be tough, this is not new news. But over the years, there have been some good (and some times very loose) adaptations that were very good. Case in point, 2001: A Space Odyssey,  by Jack “King” Kirby, Aliens (Dark Horse comics), Creepshow (Plume/Penguin Books), and several others. The one getting spotlighted today though is when Marvel comics really started going bonkers with obtaining the rights to movies, toys, etc., and pumping out comics about them by the minute.

I can’t say whether this book is a faithful adaptation or not because I haven’t seen it (yet). But I can say that the book itself is entertaining and has some very talented people responsible for its creation. The fabulous painted cover is by the late, great Earl Norem! His covers from the magazines of the Bronze Age are incredible, and this comic is no different. The scripting is by another legend of the industry in Denny O’Neil, with art by the equally awesome Marie Severin (pencils and colors, with inks by John Tartaglione, letters by Irv Watanabe). Definitely give this one a look, you won’t regret it!

 

DC comics: The Sandman (Wesley Dodds)

Being a little green yet with my DC comics and their characters, I decided to grab this trade and single issue out of pure curiosity, but make no mistake, the names Joe Simon and Jack Kirby (definitely check out the Kirby Museum for a ton of facts, pages, and excellent insight to Kirby!) had a lot to do with the purchase as well! This incredible duo didn’t create the Sandman (Gardner Fox and Bert Christman did), but not long after a revamp by Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris (Adventure Comics #69), Joe and Jack took over the reigns, and really created some fantastic adventures for this crazy character and his new sidekick (Sandy)!

The stories varied from heavy subjects like slavery and suicide, to the more usual tales of war and the mob! Mostly though, they had a strange vibe or a villain that was downright bizarre. People like NightShade (later known as Ramulus), Thor, and Noah…Barton, who has an Ark full of animals. No joke folks, it’s all right here in these pages. From Nazis to Santa Claus, anything you can think of Simon and Kirby already have, and more than likely before you or your parents were even born.

The second part of this post is to spotlight an issue of DC Comics Presents (#42, written by Mike Barr and artwork by Jose Delbo and Joe Giella), as it was the first time I’d ever read a story about the Sandman! Reading this cool story about where the character went after the Golden Age (a back up as the main story was one that featured Superman and the Unknown Soldier, which is just OK), really had me thinking about this character I’d heard of but never really knew anything about, other than he was created in the Golden Age, and was later (in name) drastically changed for a Vertigo title by Neil Gaiman (I’ve read absolutely none of those – not my thing). There was another story in JLA 113, 19974, that showed what happened to Sandy, and featured Dodds (I don’t own that one yet!).

Whether you’re a fan of Golden Age characters or haven’t really read much of them, definitely give the Sandman a try!

 

 

Moon Knight Special Edition 3, 1984 “A Long Way to Dawn” and “”The Mind Thieves”

Every once and a while, you get a comic book that reflects society, sometimes the bad parts of society that previously no one else wanted to show. Sometimes writers and artists have a tendency to ram messages about societal problems down a readers throat, and that of course is not a good thing. I won’t give any examples but in the 1980’s, you have plenty of comics that were critical darlings that weren’t very subtle in delivering a point about social issues. There are however titles like this one, that do an excellent job of showing things as they are for some people, and enlighten the people from the other side of the tracks on just how bad things can be.

When Doug Moench (writer) and Bill Sienkiewicz (artist) took over the reigns of the character Moon Knight, they made comics that were thought-provoking, edgy, and they did it without being overt about their intentions. Too many writers nowadays fall into the trap of beating the readers over the head with their own agendas, without ever considering whether they’re even remotely right or who they may alienate. Can you even imagine what these guys would create together in this day and age? The scary part is that there isn’t anybody in mainstream comics with the cajonies these guys had back in 1980! Pimps, drunks, drug addicts, and thieves, you get them all in this book!

 

img432

img434

img435

img436

img437

img438

Cinema Sunday: King Kong (1933)

King-Kong-1933

Title: King Kong

Distributor: RKO Radio Pictures

Writers: Merian C. Cooper, Edgar Wallace (story), James Ashmore Creelman, Ruth Rose (Screenplay),

Directors: Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Shoedsack

Producers: Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Shoedsack, David O. Selznick

Starring: Fay Wray, Bruce Cabot, Robert Armstrong, Frank Reicher

Released: March 1933

MPAA: UR

 

Although I’m partial to B-movies, every once and a while, I crave for something big. Something so huge, it must get attention. Not just huge mind you, but a film that was revolutionary. Two men that took this film and made it larger than life- Merian C. Cooper and Willis O’Brien. These two men are nothing short of pioneers in their respective fields, and if not for their achievements and courage to be visionaries, I shudder to think where the film industry would be today (or wouldn’t be).

I won’t go into a huge breakdown of the actual film, because lets be honest, the over whelming majority have seen it, and probably multiple times. This will just be a subtle reminder of how awesome this film is, and how its creators shocked the world back in 1933. Yes, amid the greatest economic downfall of this great country, these filmmakers went all out and made a movie that brought people to the theaters. I give you, King Kong…

 

kong1

The film begins with two men talking about a “crazy” trip that a vessel will soon embark on, led by Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong), a wildlife photographer/filmmaker that apparently knows no fear. The first mate, Jack Driscoll (Bruce Cabot) then yells down at the men, questioning who they are. We then see Denham and Captain Englehorn (Frank Reicher), arguing over the trip and its specifics. An agent then shows up that was supposed to get a girl for this excursion, but he tells Denham that with his reputation for danger, no one will do it.

 

kong2

Denham then storms out, vowing to find a girl, “even if he has to marry one.” Denham is no dummy, so after he sees a bunch of women hanging around a homeless shelter, he swoops in for the chance. None of them cut the mustard for him, so he carries on. He happens upon a vendor selling fruit, and a girl tries to steal an apple, but the owner catches her. He tells her he’s going to call the police, but Denham intervenes, and pays for the fruit. He then takes the girl, Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) to a restaurant, and buys her a meal. He tells her that he’s making a movie and he wants her to be in it. With no other course of action (she’s apparently hit a string of bad luck and is homeless), she agrees to do it.

 

kong3

The following morning, Denham and his crew load the ship, and get ready to head out. Driscoll and the Captain aren’t sure this wide-eyed girl is up for this trip. Driscoll scoffs at a “woman” being on board, but does let up after talking with Ann. Charlie the cook (Victor Wong), seems to be Ann’s only friend, even after six weeks on the seas. Eventually, the expedition reaches Skull Island. Denham found the island’s location from an ancient map, and also heard about many strange creatures that inhabit the location. As they sit closely to the shores, they can hear the ominous sounds of beating drums.

 

kong4

They make the decision to take some men to investigate the island. They head deep into the jungle, and discover an indigenous tribe of warriors that is performing a ritual dance. After a few minutes of observing, Denham and his crew are discovered. The tribe seems peaceful enough at first, but then when they discover Ann, they get restless. The Captain knows some of the dialects from the area, and communicates as best he can. The chief of the tribe tells him that the girl they see chained up is the “bride of Kong.” In the end, Denham decides discretion is the better course, and they leave. The tribe inhabits a village surrounded by walls that are twenty-five feet high, at least. This puzzles the crew, and they wonder why they need walls that high.

 

kong5

That night back on the ship, Ann is chilling out on the deck, but suddenly is kidnapped by some of the tribesmen from the island. The crew soon figure it out, and the chase is on. The tribesman have a huge advantage knowing the island and its many trappings, so they elude the crew for quite some time. Inside the village walls, the tribe begins to start up the ritual again, this time with Ann as the sacrifice! The tribesmen strap her to a couple of trees, then lock the gate to the village, then begin to bang a huge gong, as if ringing the dinner bell. Minutes later, a huge ape crashes through the jungle, and eyeballs the beauty.

 

kong8

By the time Denham and his crew show up, Kong has already carried Ann off, to who knows where. They pursue, and almost immediately are attacked by a dinosaur! On the way to his man cave with Ann, Kong encounters an Allosaurus, and battles the creatures (at one point we see a single-leg take down and a also a judo throw!), eventually breaking its jaw. Kong plays with his kill like a toy for a minute afterward, then turns his attention back to Ann (who was tossed into a tree top). Along the way the crew fights a Brontosaurus, and Kong faces off with an Elasmosaurus and even a Pteranodon!

The crew eventually catches up to Kong, and manages to steal Ann away, then they head back to the village with Kong in-tow. A huge donnybrook breaks out back there between Kong, the villagers, and the crew. Kong is eventually subdued by gas bombs that Denham brought along for just such an occasion. He intends to take the behemoth back to NYC to display him to make some big bucks.

 

kong6

Will Denham find out that nature cannot be controlled? Or will Kong become the first giant ape that people actually pay money to gawk at? Will Ann get kicked to the curb now that the adventure is over? Only a viewing of this classic will answer these soul-searing questions!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

If there is actually anyone out there that hasn’t seen this film, you need your head examined. A classic if there ever was one, this movie made Willis O’Brien a household name in the area of stop-motion animation (Kong and the other creatures were spectacular). This film had a huge influence on the man most noted for that part of filming, Ray Harryhausen.  The film also put Fay Wray (image below) on the map, although she had a bit of a career before this film hit. After it though, she was used extensively in horror and action/adventure films.

The influence of this film doesn’t stop on these shores, and is absolutely a direct influence for Godzilla, and all other giant monster films that followed. Speaking of what followed, Son of Kong is also an interesting film and deserves a viewing, as does Mighty Joe Young (more comedic moments, but still good).

You must certainly give this film a viewing every now and again. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve seen it, because it entertains every time, and if you look closely, you can find something new every time as well. Armstrong plays a great showman, Wray a great damsel in distress, and Driscoll a fabulous hard-nosed sailor. The cast was key in this one, but without Willis O’Brien and his efforts, it would’ve all been for naught. The music score was spot on, and made the dramatic scenes feel even more real, and they help keep you on the edge of your seat!

 

kong7

 

Click here for the trailer!

Cinema Sunday: Tower of London (1962)

towerlondon

Title: Tower of London

Distributor: Universal Pictures

Writers: Leo Gordon, Edward Small, F. Amos Powell

Director: Roger Corman

Producers: Gene Corman, Edward Small

Starring: Vincent Price, Michael Pate, Joan Freeman, Robert Brown, Charles MacCaulay

Released: October 1962

MPAA: Approved

 

After a brief hiatus (one weekend for a quick vacation!), Cinema Sunday has returned! And of course, with a film starring one of the all time greats (if not the greatest), Vincent Price! This film is one I’ve been dying to see, and now that I’ve watched it two or three times, I’ll be spotlighting it today! In typical Price fashion, we get some very disturbing scenes in this film, and his fabulous portrayal of this sinister character. Listen, not everyone can take a historical setting, elements from the works of Shakespeare, and murder, and turn them into gold. But yes, Vincent Price can do the impossible.

The rest of the cast is good as well, and you should definitely recognize a few faces in this one. Murder, ghosts, and insanity, are all present in this gem! Alright, without further interruption, here we go!

 

tower1

The film begins with a narrator telling the viewer that the Tower of London, and the insanity that went on within the structure. The year is 1483, and Edward IV King of England is on his death-bed. He’s surrounded by his family, which includes his brother, Richard, The Duke of Gloucester (Vincent Price). We see Edward’s two sons as well, and they will take over once they become of age. In the meantime, Edward’s other brother, George (Charles Macaulay), Duke of Clarence, is named as protector of the young boys that will one day rule. The three son’s mother is also there, and she seems suspicious that Edward being weak, puts the throne and England in jeopardy.

 

tower2

Later that night, Richard and George (although Richard and Edward call him Clarence) are having a drink together, as they have not seen each other in many years. The two men compliment each other but Richard seems a bit illusory with his words. George then asks Richard for his help in protecting the boys, and puts out his hands for an embrace. As Richard hugs his brother, he pulls out a knife, and stabs him in the back! He then dumps the body into a barrel of water (to make sure the job is done?).

 

tower3

Richard then retreats to his room, where his wife, Anne (Joan Camden) knows about these plans, and urges Richard to wash the blood off of his hands. The others present then find George murdered, and call for Richard. Once he arrives and acts surprised, everyone notices that the blade bears a certain family crest on it, and it is the family of King Edward’s wife’s family, the Woodville’s. Edward’s wife (Sarah Selby) is present, and can’t believe what her family is being accused of this day. They all go to Edward’s chambers to give him the bad news, and in his grief, he thinks that his wife’s family may have done it, in a power play for the throne. Edward then names Richard as the new protector of the children.

 

tower4

Later that night, Richard is quoting Shakespeare to himself, but all of a sudden he hears a voice nearby. He then sees his dead brother (a ghost), and he tells Richard that there will be a reckoning. Richard tries to explain his actions but George tells him that he’ll die a violent death, and at the hands of a dead man. At this very moment, there’s an explosion (lighting, cannon misfires?), and it sends some rubble from the top of the Tower crashing down, almost killing Richard. George tells him again, that death will come for him soon. Richard scurries to him bedroom, and Anne attempts to calm him down, and he reveals to her that a ghost tried to kill him.

 

tower5

Richard goes to visit Edward one last time, and their mother is by his bedside. She speaks very sharply at Richard, and seems to know him for the malefactor that he has become. She urges him to see his dying brother, and as he bids him goodbye, he kisses him on the forehead. As he backs away, he sees blood where his lips touched his brother. He screams in fear, and his mother tells him she doesn’t see anything, and she accuses him of treachery. He shoots back at her, and blames her for his deformities (apparently he has something along the lines of curvature of the spine, and other physical handicaps).

 

tower6

The Queen then launches a secret investigation into the death of George. At this point, we have two factions in the castle. One loyal to Richard, and the others loyal to the Queen and her family. The aid of Sir Richard Ratcliffe (Michael Pate), helps Richard keep everyone off-balance for a while, but when he tries to coerce the Lady-in-waiting, Mistress Shore (Sandra Knight – image below), and later murders her, things really begin to get out of hand.

Will Richard’s plan to usurp the throne of England come to fruition? Or will the Woodville’s and their accomplices be able to stop him before he kills everyone in his way? Watch to learn the answers!

 

tower7

OK, here are my thoughts:

As far as films starring Vincent Price go, this is definitely a must see. It’s right up there with House of Wax, Last Man on Earth, The Fly, etc. His performance alone is worth the price of admission, but you do get solid jobs from Michael Pate (he plays a great weasel in this film), and even Charles MacCauly (Blacula) in just a couple of scenes that he has in this one.

The special effects are good, and Price really does an excellent job in the scenes with the ghosts. One scene in particular, which I didn’t mention above, is when one of the ghosts inhabits the body of Price’s wife in the film, and this causes him to go off the deep end even further, and he strangles his own wife, believing she’s the ghost. The sets were convincing for sure, but the music wasn’t anything you’ll remember.

Search this one out, and believe me when I say that it’s definitely worth owning. Even if you’re not a huge Price fan like I am, you’ll be impressed with this one after just one viewing!

 

Click here for a couple of clips!

 

Supernatural Thrillers 4, 1973 “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”

The title “Supernatural Thrillers” is probably most known for the Living Mummy character, but its beginnings were quite different. The first four issues contained stories based off of classic monsters! This one in particular is an adaptation of the classic story by Robert Lois Stevenson, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde! The story revolves around a certain doctor that is having a crisis of conscience. He believes that his scientific endeavors trump any sort of morality. Hammer Studios did a movie adaptation that was marvelous, so definitely check that out!

The team of creators on this book are foreign to me (with the exception of the artist) for the most part. The writer, Ron Goulart, is most known for his mystery and sci-fi work. The interior artwork is by Golden Age DC artist, Win Mortimer (Superman, Superboy). He was instrumental in that era’s consistency, and along with others like Bill Finger, Jerry Robinson, Joe Kubert, and more. Letters were by Jean Izzo and editing was Roy Thomas! The cover was by “Rampaging” Ron Wilson and Ernie Chan!

 

 

img631

img632

img633

img634

img635

img636

Worlds Unknown 7 and 8, 1974 “The Golden Voyage of Sinbad”

Being a huge fan of Ray Harryhausen, I’m always delighted to see a comic book that was influenced by work of his. Well, there were at least books I know of that were straight up adaptations of his stop-motion work. One is Marvel Spotlight 25, and the other two are Worlds Unknown 7 & 8! Both of these comics showcase a film “The Golden Voyage of Sinbad,” condensed, of course. We see Sinbad and his crew battle mythical monsters, evil sorcerers, and the like!

Len Wein (writer) is a guy who’s probably most known for being a part of resurrecting the X-Men franchise, and rightly so, but if you look at the entire body of work, he deserves much more credit. It doesn’t take a writing wizard to adapt a movie into a comic book, Ill give you that, but seeing his name in the credits of any book puts my mind at ease. The art team of George Tuska (interior pencils and cover pencils to issue 7) and Vince Colletta (inks- interiors and covers) is one that some might malign. I understand when people complain about Colletta rushing jobs and putting out substandard work. He has done some good work though, and I think issues like these two prove it. Glynis Wein (colors) and John Costanza (letters) both were always very solid and deserve kudos. On issue number eight, we get a cover by one of the masters of the comic book industry, Gil Kane!

 

img615

img616

img617

img618

img619

img620

img621

Thor 253, 1976 “Chaos in the Kingdom of the Trolls!”

Some of my favorite comics are those of Thor, volume one. Especially the issues in the mid-200s. I really enjoy the way each story seems self-contained but also connecting to the previous and following issues in a way that wasn’t inconvenient. In this second part of a three-part story, Tor must team-up with his sworn enemy, Ulik the Troll. These two absolutely hate one another, but they must work together to defeat a dragon and then a giant! By story’s end though, Ulik and his minions are laughing at the Prince of Asgard!

I’m a big fan of “Lively” Len Wein (writer/editor). From his work as an editor (Watchmen, New Teen Titans), and vision in reviving the X-Men franchise (along with Dave Cockrum), he really should be recognized a lot more than anyone seems to give him credit. Artist “Big” John Buscema (pencils), is a master that let us too soon. His work on books like Conan, The Avengers, and Silver Surfer are the stuff of legend. Of course, as with most artists, some inkers suited his style better than others, but honestly, his pencils were strong enough that they typically would show right through. One of the inkers that did suite him quite well, was Tony DeZuniga (Jonah Hex, Black Orchid). He’s another one of those guys that rarely gets enough airtime, as an inker or penciler, and that is a travesty. Colors were by the ever-present Marie Severin. She’s someone who should definitely be on your radar simply because not only was she a great artist, but also because she was one of the few women in comics since back in the Silver Age. Letters were by Condoy (?). The cover was by Jack “King” Kirby, and even though there appears to have been some alterations, you can still see the weight that Kirby’s pencils carry.

 

img596

img597

img598

img599

img601

img600

 

Doc Savage 8, 1973 “Werewolf’s Lair!”

Just for the record, I know virtually nothing about Doc Savage. That said, anytime you throw a classic monster in a comic book, I’m in! This wacky story reminds me of an episode of Johnny Quest (Werewolf of the Timberland) for several reasons. I wont get into them because it would spoil the issue, but you do get some good action, and some werewolf face-time as well. It’s part two of a story, so the circumstances leading up to this is lost on me, but that aside, it’s still very enjoyable. As the last issue in the series, you get the distinct impression it was cancelled abruptly because there’s no reference to cancellation at all.

As a whole, I like the work of Tony “The Tiger” Isabella (writer). He did some really cool horror stuff back in the early Bronze Age that’s worth looking up. The art team, led by “Riotous” Rich Buckler (cover pencils and interior layouts), are very solid. You get finishes and inks by “Terrific” Tom Palmer (Tomb of Dracula, The Avengers) and Jack Abel (GI Combat, Our Army at War) . Both men have had extensive careers in the industry, and proven themselves to be top-notch at their craft. Once again, the duo of “Titanic” Tom Orzechowski (letters) and “Genuine” George Roussos (colors), complete this list of comic book legends!

 

img586

img591

img592

img593

img594

img595

img587

Conan the Barbarian #41, 1974 “Garden of Death and Life!”

Of course, who doesn’t enjoy a good story where Conan thrashes some scoundrels, and then saves the beautiful woman! I know a lot of people will steer clear of a series like this because they think it’s very one-trick pony, but if you really enjoy the genre, give it a try! This story in particular has a very weird and twisting ending. Sometimes Conan can get a little weary in regards to the plot, but action is never missing nor is a mystical/magical aspect that always kept my interest. Throw in an evil sorcerer or a weird creature, and I’m in for the long run!

When you have a character with the history that Conan has, it’s now extremely difficult to cook up decent stories. That’s not to take anything away from Roy Thomas (writer) mind you, but the groundwork laid by Robert E. Howard (creator) surely deserves the lion-share of the credit. It certainly doesn’t hurt your book when you have an artist the caliber of “Big” John Buscema (pencils, R.I.P.) and Ernie Chan (inker on interiors and cover) to put forth a spectacular visual feast either! Add on Bronze Age stalwarts John Costanza (letters), and Glynis Wein (colors), and the book will ascend to the heights of greatness! Did I forget to mention the cover by the master, Gil Kane?

 

img393

img394

img395

img396

img397

img401