Classics Illustrated: The War of The Worlds (1954)

After seeing a post in a FB group a while back, I started to wonder- which is my oldest comic? Well, it took some investigating, but I can now say that it’s this issue of Classics Illustrated that is my oldest comic book (1954). It’s not in the greatest shape, but I’m pretty sure I only paid a buck or two for it at a local show. The film is of course iconic, but when I saw this comics, it called to me.

Honestly, I’m not familiar with the creators of this adaptation at all but after doing some research, I’ve found that the artist (cover and interiors) Lou Cameron is nothing short of a superstar. As far as the writer of this adaptation, I found absolutely nothing about Harry G. Miller. Not sure if that’s because he’s just been forgotten or his work load was minimal. Either way, he did a fine job on this one.

 

 

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Strange Tales 146, “The End at Last!”

All good things must come to an end…and so did the reign of a certain creator on this title! In this awesome story, we see Dormammu battling not only his nemesis Dr. Strange and then none other than Eternity! Dormammu laid a trap for Eternity and the Doc, but things fall apart rather quickly in this issue for the fiery-headed fiend! Before that though, we do see just how powerful Dormammu is, when he confronts Eternity, and manages to hold his own for a while!

The glorious artwork by “Sturdy” Steve Ditko in this, his last issue of Strange Tales, is absolutely marvelous. There are three full splash pages that are nothing short of brilliant, and Spider-Man aside, show his best work in a superhero book. Most know of Ditko’s abrupt departure from Marvel Comics, and how he’s the biggest recluse in comic book history (to my knowledge). I’d love for him to do just one interview to set some things straight, and not listen to all the pundits speculate about certain matters. Either way, he’s one of the best creators of the industry has ever seen, and should be lauded as such. The story is scripted by “Dandy” Denny O’Neil, colors by Stan Goldberg, and letters by Artie Simek!

The other story in the book (“When the Unliving Strike!”) features Nick Fury. The story by Stan Lee, and layouts by Jack “King” Kirby, pencils by “Dashing” Don Heck, inks by “Mirthful” Mick Demeo, and letters by Sam Rosen.

 

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The Phantom Stranger 33, 1974 “Deadman’s Bluff!”

Supernatural characters are a huge draw for me. Whether it’s movies, television, comics, etc., they always seem to deliver a little something extra you don’t always get from superheroes. Now, take two of these characters, put them in the same book, and you’ve got something special! On one side, you have Deadman- a temperamental ghost that inhabits the bodies of the living to get things done.  On the other end of the spectrum, you have The Phantom Stranger. A guy who has been portrayed in a few different ways over the years with a couple of back stories. Both are intriguing, engaging, and unpredictable.

I’m starting to believe there might not be a better way to start off a comic from this genre than with a cover from Jim Aparo. To say that they’re eye-catching isn’t giving them their due justice, especially when dealing with the supernatural. The story is by Arnold Drake (RIP), a man who began his career in the 1950s, and worked on everything from The X-Men to Batman. Mike Grell (art) is a name most will know from his work on titles like Green Arrow, and a host of others. He’s one of those guys that don’t get mentioned very much but made some fantastic contributions to the industry and should get more credit. The legendary Joe Orlando was the editor of this great issue and rounds out the creative team.

 

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Cinema Sunday: King Kong (1933)

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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…

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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!

 

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Click here for the trailer!

Dr Strange and Dr Doom: Triumph and Torment – OGN (1989)

I typically only talk about single issues of comics when I blog (sometimes two issues), but this OGN (original graphic novel) is one that gets very high praise from me, and as well it should. For those that don’t know, Victor Von Doom’s mother was a sorceress, and one day when she wanted revenge, she called out for help from an ancient evil. The evil that answered is named Mephisto. He then had control over her immortal soul, and one day, every year, Doom attempts to wrest control of his mother’s soul from this demonic entity. After quite a few failed attempts, he turned to the sorcerer supreme himself, Dr. Strange, for help. As with everything, though, not all is as it seems with Doom, and his plans for retrieving his mother’s soul from Limbo!

Undoubtedly, one of my favorite writers is Roger Stern. Whether it’s The Avengers work he did, his run on Doctor Strange (1974 series), or his incredible (but way too short) run on Captain America, he always delivered the goods! The artwork is something to marvel at as well. Mike Mignola (pencils) and Mark Badger (inks and colors) prove to be a very good team. Their rendition of Mephisto is spot on in this story. There is some extra material in the trade I have that fleshes out the characters in this story a bit, and those names are nothing short of iconic as well (Gerry Conway, Gene Colan, Tom Palmer, P. Craig Russell, and more).

 

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The Spider: Scavengers of The Slaughtered Sacrifices (2002)

When you have a character that has been around since 1933, it’s kind of double-edged sword if you try to modernize him. Most creators don’t though, and that’s a good thing. Sure you might miss out on the youth that doesn’t care about pulp characters, but you will hit your target demographic. The character in this story is called The Spider. He’s Richard Wentworth, a rich, playboy type guy, that uses his wealth to help him in his fight against injustice…no, not Batman, The Spider! When Harry Steeger created this character, the only other big time pulp characters were basically The Phantom, and The Spirit. Steeger did a good job at using the momentum those characters had generated, but The Spider definitely stood out from them.

Fast forward to the year 2012, Dynamite Entertainment put out some promotional material stating a new series starring this character was soon to be published. It definitely piqued my interest, and the series paid off with great talent (David Liss, Colton Worley, Alex Ross, Francesco Francavilla, and others), that brought intriguing stories, incredible artwork, and quite frankly, a breath of fresh air to the medium.

This introduction got me thinking that perhaps there was more material that I could feast upon? The first book I encountered was an immediate buy. Why? Because when I saw Don McGregor (writer) and Gene Colan (art) at the top of the book (The Spider: Scavengers of the Slaughtered Sacrifices – 2002 Vanguard), that’s all it took. I knew nothing about the story but had faith in Don’s reputation, and of course, it didn’t hurt that my favorite artist was also one of the creators either. If you like crime, action, Noir, and a twist of the macabre, then this is a book you must seek out right away. It’s like mashing Tomb of Dracula and Batman meets Ghost Rider. No joke, it’s that cool.

 

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Monsters on the Prowl 29, 1974 ” A Monster at My Window!”

Watch out, here come more monsters! Yes, another post for the holiday, that revolves around some of the monsters from the pre-Marvel days. Believe me when I say that this one is solid! A giant alien monster that is the first to come to Earth to scout out the planet…or is he? Another tale that involves a sea monster terrorizing a ship at sea! The third installment is one that presents an alien that disguises himself as a human to study them. He finds out that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Finally, we get a joker that likes to play pranks on people, and sometimes hurting more than just their feelings. He himself finds out in the end that karma comes back at you in a hard way!

These stories have an edge over others, in that they have such powerhouse art talent behind them that even if the story is mundane, the artwork carries them through. The work of Jack “King” Kirby (cover and interior pencils to story one- Dick Ayers inked the cover) has been documented by many, and I could go on all day about how great it is, but if you don’t own much of his work, you need to remedy that now. “Joltin'” Joe Sinnott is mostly known for being an outstanding inker, but in this book, you get to see him flex his muscles with pencils and inks on one story! The man named Bill Walton isn’t one that’s familiar to me, but he does do a great job on the story in this particular issue. Last but certainly not least, is Steve Ditko. His weird and creepy work is one of legend, and elevates him to a pretty high status in the sci-fi/horror category. Of course, everyone knows him from Spider-Man and Dr. Strange, but dig deeper, and enjoy the treasures that you will find!

 

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Cinema Sunday: Tower of London (1962)

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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!

 

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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.

 

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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?).

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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).

 

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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!

 

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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!

 

 

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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!

 

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