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!

 

 

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Creatures on the Loose 18, 1972 “The Fury of Phra!”

The titles of horror comics Marvel produced in the late Silver and early Bronze Age (and everyone else mainstream) were pretty tame, thanks (no thanks really) to the Comics Code Authority. Some good material for sure, just nothing cutting edge until the CCA was toned down. One of those titles was Tower of Shadows, but that was later changed to Creatures on the Loose. At first it served as just another vehicle to reprint older stories, but in issue sixteen, we saw a character called Gullivar Jones Warrior of Mars take over. The run of stories for this character didn’t last long, but they were pretty cool. Basically a clone of John Carter, Jones fought on other worlds against fantastical beasts and despots, often with no real agenda. Alas, the stories aren’t Earth-shattering, but the visuals definitely make them worth checking out.

Written by George Alec Effinger and Gerry Conway, with at by Ross Andru (pencils) and Sam Grainger (inks), and letters by Jean Izzo. There are also two back up stories in this issue, and both are reprints and quite good. The first one is “Under the Knife” has art by Tony DiPreta, while the second “What Lurks in the Mountain” is a Steve Ditko and Stan Lee production! And the cover to this one is by the artistic machine of Gil Kane (pencils) and Joe Sinnott (inks)!

 

Gold Key comics – Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery and Dark Shadows

Everybody knows about the “big two” in comics, plus hardcore horror comics like EC comics titles, but there were others and one of them was Gold Key Comics. Western Publishing company produced children’s books for a long time then threw their hat into the ring of comics in 1962. They had some original series but were more famous for their licensed properties, such as Buck Rogers, Disney characters like Donald Duck, Bugs Bunny, Popeye, etc. Two more of those titles being Dark Shadows and Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery.

Both series had some very bizarre issues (especially Boris Karloff), but they always had great covers, usually the painted variety. The interiors sported artwork from some of the creators from the Golden Age right on up to the young blood of the Bronze Age. This mix of creative juices always had interesting results, and definitely gave older fans and younger ones something to look forward to.

Credits include (for Boris Karloff 39 & 41)- Len Wein, Joe Certa, John Celardo, Win Mortimer, Jack Sparling, Giorgio Cambiotti, Oscar Novelle, Luis Dominguez, and a few more that are uncredited. Dark Shadows (9) – painted cover by George Wilson, interior art by Joe Certa, written by D. J. Arneson, and letters by John Duffy.

 

Super-Team Family 12, 1977 “The Eternity Pursuit!”

There are certain tropes that can get me to be any comic. One at the top being an adventure in space! This tale stars Hawkman (Katar Hol), Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), and The Atom (Ray Palmer)! The three heroes have traversed the stars in search of the love of Ray’s life, Jean Loring. She disappeared after a situation with Supergirl, and Iris Allen, as they were abducted by T.O. Morrow and a living planet! She was flung across the galaxy, and her whereabouts are unknown. Luckily, The Atom is a genius and has invented a device to track her down. Aliens, spaceships, sword fights, and an underwater battle as well! This one issue has it all!

This awesome cover by Al Milgrom and Jack Abel is enough to get any Bronze Age collector to buy it. Action packed, full of heroes, and even though it’s possibly a bit too busy, the action is great! Inside the art team is composed of the terribly underrated Arvell Jones (pencils), inks by Bill Draut, Ben Oda (letters), and Jerry Serpe (colors)! Excellent splash pages, panels full of excitement and solid dialogue. Definitely pick this one up if you don’t already have it in your collection!

 

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.

 

 

Atlas/Seaboard Comics!

One might get a bit confused when they see the name “Atlas Comics.” For most, it means Marvel Comics between the Timely comics era (1930s-early 1950s) and the most notable Marvel Comics era (1961-present). But after leaving Marvel Comics in 1972, Martin Goodman soon after started a rival company called Atlas Comics in NYC. He would pay better, return artwork, and in doing so, attract some of the industry’s top talent to this upstart company. A few problems arose quickly though: first, the industry was beginning to sag and the big two were having sales problems, so imagine being the new kid on the block, trying to compete with two giants. Secondly, the staff was ill-equipped to handle the assignments in front of them (Goodman made some bad decisions that put his top two employees Larry Lieber and Jeff Rovin in a tough spot- per The Comic Book Journal and Comic Book Artists mags).

Atlas may have only been in business for a couple of years, but they did produce some interesting books. I’ve got a few horror titles they released but they also had crime, military, superheroes, etc. Wonderful work by people like Neal Adams, Russ Heath, Rich Buckler, Howard Chaykin, Steve Mitchell, Steve Ditko, Gary Friedrich, Frank Thorne, and Wally Wood! Take a look!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dark Horse Comics: Frankenstein Underground!

It’s Halloween, so I had to fire up the blog for a couple of posts! Just a quick one here to notify everyone that this book is a must have for anyone that loves anything Mike Mignola! His work with Hellboy, BPRD, and everything else is fantastic! The artwork by Ben Stenbeck (pencils/inks), Dave Stewart (colors), and Clem Robins (letters), is nothing short of spectacular! You’ll see the Monster in every situation possible in this book, and Mignola does an incredible job with this book.

 

Time Warp 1, 1979 “Doomsday Tales and Other Things”

In the late 1970s, DC cut back on their titles, and laid off a ton of employees. The comics just weren’t selling, and they needed to regroup. The early 1980s would bring some new hope in the form of All-Star Squadron, and New Teen Titans, but there were also some additions that are very obscure, but noteworthy for the comic book aficionados out there!

A short series of only five issues, this weird book gave us some rather interesting material. Mostly sci-fi (with a little horror), this first issue is chocked full of creators with a long list of credits, and quite frankly, legends in the business. From aliens to spider-men, you’ll be whisked away to fantasy worlds that will take you back to a time when comics were great!

Cover by Mike Kaluta, interiors stories by Denny O’Neil, Michael Fleischer, George Kashdan, Mike Barr, Jack Harris, Bob Rozakis, and Paul Levitz. The art teams are nothing short of spectacular and include the late, great Rich Buckler, Dick Giordano, Steve Ditko, Tom Sutton, Jerry Grandenetti, Don Newton, Dan Adkins, and Jim Aparo!

 

 

Cinema Sunday: It Came from Outer Space (1953)

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Title: It Came from Outer Space

Distributor: Universal-International

Writer: Harry Essex (novel by Ray Bradbury, and perhaps the screenplay as well)

Director: Jack Arnold

Producer: William Alland

Starring: Richard Carlson, Barbara Rush, Charles Drake, Russell Johnson, Joe Sawyer

Released: May 1953

MPAA: Approved

 

 

After a long winter hiatus, I wanted to return to my roots and review a film from the classic sci-fi (B-movie) genre! Along with classic horror, this category is near and dear to my heart, for reasons that would take forever to explain. Suffice to say they both are treasures from my youth that I still hold close, and got me through some adverse times.

One thing that makes B-movies from the 1950s and 1960s so good, was the “tough guy” lead actors. Perhaps none more so than Richard Carlson. A real life bad apple, serving in the United States Navy as a pilot, Carlson brought his fearlessness to the big screen (and small screen). A cigarette smoking, fist fighting, ladies man who had a very short list of peers in those categories (probably only John Agar), Carlson epitomized everything about that far gone era of films.

In this film however, Carlson is more of the reasonable man, than throwing punches every five minutes. Yes there is some action on his part, but he’s mostly the voice of reason that doesn’t use violence. OK, let’s get on with the show!

 

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The film begins with a spaceship crashing to Earth, on the outskirts of a small, middle-American town. A voice tells us that a little about the town, and the scenery there. We see inside the voice’s home, and as John Putnam (Richard Carlson), and his girlfriend, Ellen Fields (Barbara Rush) are sharing a quiet moment together, they head outside to stargaze. Putnam has a huge telescope, and he peeks through it, hoping to see something. Ass the two are about to start making out, they see a meteorite (or so the think)rocketing towards the nearby desert. It smashes into the Earth, and Putnam, being an amateur astronomer gets riled up about it.

 

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We the viewers get to see that it was no meteorite, but a space ship that crashed. As the smoke clears, we see a terrifying looking alien pop out of a door on the ship! It searches the nearby area, leaving a trail of slime behind it as it scares off the desert animals. The following day, John, Ellen, and a chopper pilot (Dave Willock) investigate. John heads down inside the crater to get a closer look, and when he does, he’s shocked to see an alien space craft! He approaches the open door, but it slams shut, causing some loose rocks to slide down over the craft. John manages to crawl out unscathed, but Ellen and Pete don’t believe him.

 

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As they’re trying to figure things out, Sheriff Matt Warren (Charles Drake) shows up with his deputy, and of course they laugh at Putnam, saying he’s nuts. Of course Ellen and Pete can’t verify the story since they didn’t go down to see it themselves. As they’re driving home, one of the creatures is standing right in the middle of the highway! It forces them off of the road, causing them to almost smash into a rock. As John gets out to investigate, the creature is in the brush, watching him.

The following day, the news media has found out about the “meteorite” crash, and is going crazy. Scientists, the military, and even the sheriff and his men are there lurking around. They continue to make fun of John, and even harass Ellen. The sheriff also tries to warn off John about being with Ellen (as he worked for her father and told him he’d look out for her after his death). John tells the sheriff that Ellen does what she wants, and that he isn’t telling her to do anything she doesn’t want to do.

 

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On their way home, John and Ellen run into a couple of friends that work for the utilities company. One of them, George (Russell Johnson) tells them that everything has been calm as far as they’ve seen. He and Frank (Joe Sawyer) let John listen to some strange noises over the phone lines, but they can’t figure out what is causing it.

Over the next few days, townspeople, begin to disappear for a day or so, only to return in a dazed state like they’ve been hypnotized. They seem to have an ulterior motive for everything they do, and that eventually gets the skeptical sheriff to wonder what is going on. John eventually searches the desert area by the crater, and finds an old abandoned mine. He tries to enter but is confronted by one of the aliens. The alien tells him they mean no harm but recruited the townspeople to help repair their ship, so they can return to the cosmos. Putnam believes the creature, but will the sheriff?

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

One of the earliest films about this subject (you did already have The Thing from Another World, and The Day the Earth Stood Still at this point, plus some other notables), the angle of aliens that were not evil is something you really need to consider. That was not the norm and quite frankly still isn’t. We have Ray Bradbury to thank for that, and from some reading I’ve done, the man credited as screenwriter pretty much just took what Bradbury wrote and made extremely minor changes. We all know Bradbury is a beast at writing scary, weird stories, but he should get the credit for this one.

Most of the films from this era don’t have very notable music but Herman Stein did a good job on this one. Very threatening, and melodramatic when needed. Clifford Stine was on top of his game with the cinematography as well, especially in the scenes with the aliens.

Carlson is his usual awesome self. He’s a very strong presence in every film he’s been the lead in, and that is a fact. Barbara Rush is quite good as well. She does a fantastic job as John’s girlfriend, a concerned citizen, trying to balance being a school teacher and that usual form of reasoning versus her feelings for John and his beliefs and so on. It doesn’t hurt that she’s a very beautiful woman either (image below), as she’s basically the only woman in the entire film!

 

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Don’t hesitate, look this one up and give it a viewing. Set aside a rainy afternoon and check out this classic! You won’t be disappointed!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

 

 

Jack Kirby’s – Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth!

A post-apocalyptic world dominated by talking apes with an odd assortment of other talking creatures such as killer dolphins…yep. The unbridled imagination of Jack “King” Kirby (writer, editor, penciler) is something of wonder to us mere mortals, and it has been from his earliest works to his creations in the 1970s- work such as Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth!

The book has a Planet of the Apes meets Escape From New York kinda vibe to it, and that’s a wonderful combination. No, Kamandi isn’t Snake Plissken, but the general tone and war-torn future definitely match up. There’s quirkiness to this title that has all the charm you’d expect from a comic produced by Kirby. Every issue I own contains not just a wild story, but also multiple splash pages that will absolutely blow your mind!

The early issues were inked by Mike Royer (also inker on another great Kirby DC title during this era, The Demon), and other than Joe Sinnott and Bill Everett, he’s probably my favorite Kirby inker. The later issues were inked/lettered by D. Bruce Berry. His style fit Kirby pretty well too, but not quite as powerfully as Royer’s. My absolute favorite issue is 29, because of the Superman tie-in! Kirby was a creator that can make anything seem real, no matter how ludicrous it seems when you step back and look at it.

 

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