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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X-Men Classics 1, 1983 “The Sentinels Live!”

Back in the Silver Age, the X-Men weren’t a big deal. The book just never seemed to be able to find an audience. The early issues were a bit tough to get through reading, but the Kirby artwork obviously helped. That said, after issue 66, it went into reprints. That’s the part that baffles me, since leading up to that last issue of new material (the title was cancelled and went into reprints for over four years, until 1975), the book was producing the strongest material to date by a long shot!

This fantastic reprint book shows us issues 57-59, with that incredible story with the return of the Sentinels! Of course that means Trask as well, but we also see the dangerous Mesmero too (and Magneto…sort of)! The interpersonal relationships between the team members is on full display in these issues for sure.

Roy Thomas (writer) was certainly a gifted writer and that was clear on any kind of book, but his keen sense on writing team books was certainly felt by the readers of the X-Men. He knew how to weave the personal nature of the X-Men and the real world applications together seamlessly. The team of Neal Adams (pencils) and Tom Palmer (inks) put on quite a show in these issues as they did in pretty much everything else they touched as creators during their storied careers. The colors were courtesy of Daina Graziunas. Throw in a great wraparound cover by Mike Zeck (and Palmer on inks again), and throw in some extra art by Adams as well, and you get to see a visual feast!

 

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Thor 198, 1972 “And Odin Dies!”

After the departure of Jack Kirby (in 1970), Marvel comics needed someone to step in and fill the gigantic shoes of that legend. Not that anyone can do what Kirby did exactly, but to keep the titles rolling on pace, and with solid work. The Fantastic Four and Thor were books that Kirby made into gold with his style and powerful pencils, not to mention his imagination. With the source material already in place, they turned to “Big” John Buscema to take over the artistic duties.

In this issue, we see the return of the mighty Mangog! One of the few beings that has actually rivaled Thor in power, and strength (and making bold statements!). Throw in the Warriors Three, the Grand Vizier, and just about every other inhabitant of noble Asgard, and you’ve got a story to remember! A slam-bang action issue that features all the characters you know and love from this corner of the Marvel Universe!

Written by Gerry Conway, pencils by “Big” John Buscema, inks by Vince Colletta, John Costanza on letters, and edited by Stan Lee!

 

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Cinema Sunday: Nightmare Castle (1965)

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Title: Nightmare Castle

Distributor: Allied Artists Pictures (U.S.)

Writers: Mario Caiano, Fabio De Agostini,

Director: Mario Caiano

Producer: Carlo Caiano

Starring: Barbara Steele, Lawrence Clift, Paul Miller, Helga Line

Released: July 1965 (Italy)

MPAA: UR

 

Taking a break from the Boris Karloff addiction, and roaming across the seas for a look at one of my favorite scream queens of all time, Barbara Steele! A while ago I reviewed Black Sunday, another film starring Miss Steele, and that one was a product of the late, great Mario Bava. This film didn’t have his legendary vision, but I’ll bet it will surprise you! Alright, let’s get down to business!

 

The film starts with a mad scientist guy experimenting on frogs. A beautiful woman approaches, and we find out then that Stephen Arrowsmith (Paul Muller) is on the precipice of a break through. His wife, Muriel (Barbara Steele), taunts him, as he’s about to leave on a trip to a science conference. The maid interrupts their little spat, and then later, Stephen leaves in a carriage. Before he leaves, he leaves instructions with the gardener, David (Rik Battaglia), that he needs to take care of a few things while he’s gone.

 

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After he leaves, David comes into the house and at this time we find out that he and Muriel have had an affair. As they run to the greenhouse to make whoopie, they’re both seen by the maid, and she has a sinister look on her face. The two begin making out in the greenhouse, but before things can get to crazy, they’re surprised by Stephen. Apparently he knew something was up and faked his departure earlier. He smashes the gardener over the head with a poker, then the next time we see the trio, Stephen has the two adulterers chained up in the basement, and is whipping the beejeesus out of them.

 

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As the torture is continuing, Muriel tells him that she knew that he was a beast, so she tore up the old will she had made that bequeathed everything to him, and made a new one that leaves every penny to her sister (who’s apparently mentally unstable).  Stephen then tries to get Muriel to tell him where the will is, and that if she does, he’ll not kill her and things can go back to normal. She refuses of course, and then we see him and the maid, Solange (Helga Liné), trying to formulate a plan. They resolve that they’ll kill the two in the basement, and then set their sights on the sister.

 

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He concocts a plan, and then executes it. He ties Muriel to the bed, then drops some acid on her! He then releases her boyfriend, who lunges to her side. At that moment, he electrocutes the two of them! Time passes, and we see Stephen continuing his experiments. He uses the blood from his dead wife and her lover to reverse the aging process on the maid, Solange (who’s now beautiful, and not old and decrepit).

 

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The scene changes again (some time passes I believe), and the carriage approaches the home. We now see Solange, as she comes outside to greet Muriel’s sister, Jenny (Steele again, but now blond, instead of her trademarked jet-black hair). Solange is startled at the uncanny resemblance of the girl, but also the fact that Stephen is with her, and announces that the two were married just this morning. The two then set out to drive Jenny insane, and then they’ll have the family fortune all to themselves. Stephen and Solange think they have Jenny trapped like a fly in the web of a spider…but what they don’t realize is that sometimes the spider becomes the fly, and can become the victim as well!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

This film is one that fits into the category of being better than it gets credit for. Of course you’ll have those that will say it’s cheesy, or cheap, or that it lacks quality in certain areas. While that may be true at times, you cannot deny the foundation of the film, which is the actors. Barbara Steele does a great job in her dual role (actually triple role, but I’ll let you figure that one out for yourself). She really has a knack for playing someone who is truly sinister. Between this film and Black Sunday, she should be mentioned in the same breath as the other female horror greats that have graced the screen.

The film is also slightly esoteric, but this is part of its charm (and all movies of this type). Some get put-off by dubbing, but this film does a decent job compared to some atrocities that are out there. The home where the film largely takes place, is atmospheric enough to lend some weight to help things along. A mediocre sound track also helps in a couple of spots as well. The two leading ladies are nothing short of gorgeous (images below), and that is something this era is spectacularly known for, and is expected by fans. Murder, betrayal, possession, ghosts, torture, you name it, you get it all in this must see film for any Barbara Steele fan!

 

Click here for the trailer (even though I believe the film is public domain)!

 

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The Human Torch 8, 1974 “The Painter of a Thousand Perils!”

Alright, so, Torch got his own series in the 1970’s…sort of…yes, it’s reprints, BUT the cover is brand new, and the reprints are good stuff! When you have villains as sinister as The Painter (Wilhelm Van Vile), and “Scar” Tobin, you know that your chances of survival are minimal! OK, maybe not, but these two evil-doers are definitely near the top of the cornball list, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s an awesome list.

When I look down at the credits box, and see Jack “King” Kirby (pencils), I understand that there will be a quality to this book that few others can even think of attaining. Frequent inker of the Silver Age (but also a good penciler and overall artist since the Golden Age) “Darlin” Dick Ayers, is a name most will remember from his inking in the early Marvel Age. He also did some great stuff in the military and western genres as well. The scripter, Robert Bernstein, is an enigma to me. I believe I’ve only heard his name once or twice before, and to my recollection, this is the only comic I own with his work in it. The cover is by one of my favorite unsung heroes of the Marvel Bronze Age, “Rampaging” Ron Wilson! A plot by Stan Lee and letters by Terry Szenics rounds out the creative team! Oh, and don’t miss the advert at the bottom! 

 

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The Man Called Nova 23, 1978 “From the Dregs of Defeat!”

Wait, why am I spotlighting a random issue of Nova…? I’ll tell you why! Because of the villain(s) in this mag! First of all, I’m a huge zealot when it comes to the Tomb of Dracula! In my humble opinion, the best villain in that awesome comic was none other than that body-less brain, Dr. Sun! But wait, didn’t he perish in the series? NO, he did not! And thanks to one of his creators, he appears once again in the pages of Nova! And at the end of this tale, we also see another great megalomaniac, The Sphinx!

The sheer amount of comics either written, plotted, and/or edited by Marv Wolfman (writer/editor) is astounding! For me his crowning achievement will always be Tomb with Gene Colan (pencils on the flashback panels with Tom Palmer inks), but his Fantastic Four is pretty good, and his work on Marvel Two-in-One, Teen Titans, and of course all the great content in the black and white mags from the 1970s! Long time DC comics artist Carmine Infantino (pencils- cover and interiors- cover inks by Bob McLeod), the inking was by a plethora of gentleman (M. Hands…many hands), colors by Janice Cohen, and letters by Jim Novak!

 

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Cinema Sunday: The Ape (1940)

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Title: The Ape

Distributor: Monogram Pictures

Writers: Richard Carroll, Kurt Siodmak

Director: William Nigh

Producer: William Nigh, William Lackey

Starring: Boris Karloff, Maris Wrixon, Gertrude W. Hoffmann

Released: Septmeber 1940

MPAA: Approved

 

The list of films I’d like to watch and review is about ten miles long. That’s OK though, as I’m only half way shot. Speaking of getting shot, Boris Karloff has been shot, stabbed, electrocuted, etc., more times than I can count. He’s really been in every situation you can imagine in his films, and he always looks brilliant doing it. Who else could star in a film called “The Ape” and sell tickets? No, this isn’t the most cerebral film you’re ever going to see, but Karloff can take any film and make it rise above an inferior script, cast, whatever. He was that great. OK, on with the film…

 

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The circus is in town! Of course everyone is excited, and the kids are jacked up to see the ferocious beasts. They sneak over to the “crazy doctor’s” house for some mischief. Over inside the town drug store, the townspeople are discussing this same doctor. They feel as if this doctor is using people and not healing them. Nobody seems to have the courage to do anything about it though. Just then, the doctor comes in, and everyone clams up. He then sees the druggist for some meds he needs. The two men retreat to another room for privacy, and the druggist tells him the townspeople are getting inquisitive about his motives.

 

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Later, Dr. Bernard Adrian (Boris Karloff) visits a patient of his named Miss Frances Clifford (Maris Wrixon). She’s wheelchair bound, and reminds him very much of his daughter, who passed away years ago. He buys her gifts to show his affection for her, but he also experiments on animals to try to find a cure for her affliction. He promises her she’ll walk again, and she tells him she’s scared when he talks so crazy. Her boyfriend Danny (Gene O’Donnell) shows up, and the doctor tells him that they’ll take Frances to the circus tonight.

 

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Later that night, the town is bustling as opening night is here. Dr. Adrian bows out from the trip though, and Danny and Frances go alone. Meanwhile, that same group of kids are sneaking to the front of the crowd. They remark at how big the gorilla is and that he’s the size “of six men.” Danny and Frances are having a good time, but back at the Doctor’s lab, we see him experimenting on a dog. The circus ends, and Danny and Frances head out. After everyone leaves, one of the employees is checking to make sure everything is as it should be. Over at the gorilla cage, an employee taunts the beast, and it begins to get wild. The owner comes by and reprimands him, but after he leaves the gorilla grabs the man and almost kills him. A cigar dropped by the man starts a fire, and they release the animals so they don’t get killed. The gorilla escapes in the confusion.

 

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Over at the doctor’s office, the circus men bring the man in that was almost killed by the ape. The doctor agrees to help the man, who’s clearly delusional. At this moment, the doc gets a sinister look in his eyes. We then get the impression that he’s going to use him as a guinea pig for his experiments on how to cure Frances. Meanwhile, the circus and townspeople are searching for the beast. Dr. Adrian visits Frances to encourage her that he’s found a way to cure her paralysis. He tells her it will be painful, but it will be a miracle. The following day, Frances actually has feeling in her legs after never having that sensation before.

 

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That evening, the doctor gets a surprise visit…from the ape! He bursts through the Doc’s window, and attacks him. The doctor quickly grabs a flask and tosses the liquid into the ape’s eyes. It blinds him and then the doctor kills the beast with a knife!

 

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I’m going to stop here because the thing that puts the film in a completely different direction begins here (plus the movie is public domain, so you can watch it for free anytime!).

 

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Here are my thoughts:

As I stated in the beginning, this film won’t win any awards for its script but the acting of Karloff brings the film to a good level. His interactions with Maris Wrixon (image above) are very good, and you really believe he’s a doctor trying to do everything he can to help her walk again. Of course his methods are unethical, but his heart is in the right place. Miss Wrixon is absolutely stunning and plays the part of the invalid very well.

The supporting cast isn’t too exciting, but they manage to keep the film rolling along. The sets are standard fare and don’t add or subtract from the film. The film is all about the oral dilemma Karloff’s character is in, and the sad turn it takes eventually. As i said, the film is public domain so get out there to Youtube or wherever and give it a screening. Any fan of Karloff or quirky B movies will enjoy it.

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

 

Ghost Rider 16, 1976 “Blood in the Waters”

The Bronze Age was an age of growing up for some preexisting characters, and the introduction of some new ones that were not only part of the zeitgeist  of the times, but ones that would last a very long time afterward. One of these characters is the Ghost Rider! Opinions vary on who created what exactly, but we know that Mike Ploog, Gary Friedrich, and Roy Thomas were involved. Over the decades, there have been a few different people to carry the mantle of the Ghost Rider, but honestly, none are better than the original, Johnny Blaze.

In this issue, we see Blaze and his alter-ego battle dolphin killers…and a great white shark! Yes, shortly after the frenzy that was Jaws (summer of 1975), Bill Mantlo (writer), George Tuska (pencils), Vince Colletta (inks), Janice Cohen (colors), and Karen Mantlo (letters), gave us the awesomeness of Ghost Rider fighting Jaws (edited by Marv Wolfman, cover by Bob Brown and Dave Cockrum)!

 

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Cinema Sunday: The Black Cat (1934)

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Title: The Black Cat

Distributor: Universal Pictures

Writers: Edgar G. Ulmer, Peter Ruric

Director: Edgar G. Ulmer

Producer: E. M. Asher

Starring: Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, David Manners, Julie Bishop (Jacqueline Wells), Lucille Lund

Released: May, 1934

MPAA: Approved

 

Welcome, fiends! Here we are on the cusp of Halloween, and I’ve selected another film starring the great Boris Karloff! Not only that, but we also get none other than Bela Lugosi as well! Without giving too much away, this film has both men as former friends, but those days are over (at least for one of them). Universal paired these two giants together for a few films over the years, and this one is right there at the top for me! Alright, let’s travel back in time to 1934!

 

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The film begins at a busy train station, where Peter and Joan Allison (David Manners and Julie Bishop) are getting cozy after getting aboard their train and into its compartment. These two honeymooners are settled in when a baggage man tells them that there’s been a mistake, and the compartment was double booked. After some deep sighs, they agree to let the man share with them for the ride. Enter Dr. Vitus Werdegast (Bela Lugosi). He tells the couple that he’s going to Hungary as well, to visit this old friend. He also tells them that he spent fifteen years in a Siberian prison after being captured during the war.

 

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After arriving at the train station, they all get on a bus to reach their destination. The bus driver tells the occupants about the atrocities that went on in this area during the war, and of someone who built a house nearby…suddenly, the bus veers off the road, and plummets down an embankment. The driver is dead, and Joan is unconscious, with a bad wound. They walk on foot to a nearby home, and the doorman answers and lets them in, with slight reluctance. After the doorman calls on a radio, we see a figure rise out of bed (with a beautiful blonde woman next to him sleeping). Dr. Werdegast then administers first aid to Joan, and as he’s finishing up, the door swings open, and  Hjalmar Poelzig (Boris Karloff) walks into the room.

 

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Later, Werdegast accuses Poelzig of betraying the Hungarians to the Russians. Poelzig sits silently and listens to Werdegast talk about his theories on what went down years ago. Eventually he brings up his wife, and how he knows that Poelzig told her that he was dead, in order to steal her away. As the two seem to be ready to come to blows, Peter walks in and they calm down. As they’re all having a drink together, a black cat walks into the room and frightens Werdegast. He picks up a letter opener, and hurls it like a dagger, killing the cat. At that moment, Joan walks into the room in a zombie-like state. She talks briefly, but then Peter takes her back to her room.

 

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In the middle of the night, we see Poelzig, as he’s creeping around the house. He then stops at a glass case, and its contents are not china or crystal, but the corpse of a woman, then proceeds to look at a few more he has standing around. We also see that he has another black cat to keep him company. He then enters the room where Werdegast is sleeping, but quickly finds out that he’s switched rooms with Peter so he could be in the adjoining room with his wife. The two then go to the other room and Poelzig agrees to show Werdegast his wife. He takes him to the basement where he shows him his wife, as she’s been preserved. Werdegast blames him for her death (he also tells him that their daughter is dead too), and pulls a gun out and tells Poelzig he’s going to kill him now. Suddenly, the black cat creeps in, and scares the crap out of Werdegast. He drops the gun, and falls into a glass case. Poelzig tells him that they’ll have time to settle things after the other guests have left.

 

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As Poelzig returns to his room, we see a beautiful blond woman again, and he calls her Karen (the daughter of Werdegast, Lucille Lund). He tells her to stay in her room all day tomorrow, so as not to arouse Werdegast. We also see him reading a book on satanic cults and such. The following morning, Werdegast is getting ready to check on Joan, and Poelzig comes in, and stares at her eerily. Werdegast knows that his look has something sinister behind it, and wants to stop him, whatever the cost.

 

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I’ll stop here, because going any further would ruin the film’s ending and grandiose show!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

This film is the culmination of the non-monster horror/thrillers of this decade. You cannot find a film with more atmosphere, or better performances from these two giants. Karloff is simply evil in this film, but Lugosi is as well, although he’s driven by revenge, not from a devilish perspective. There is also a ton of great music in this film, and not just at parts but from beginning to end.

The content of this film is more than edgy for its time. How many movies in 1934 were showing (in shadow) someone being skinned alive? There were other elements too, like the satanic cult angle, the dead woman being kept “fresh.” Other elements as well, but I’ll leave it at that.

This film is a “must see” for any horror fan, or the team of Lugosi and Karloff. Both men shaped this genre and forever left a stamp on the industry with very few other actors in their company. Get this film on DVD or BluRay immediately.

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

 

 

DC comics: The Witching Hour!

Back so soon? And for more fright I see…well, lets see if some DC comics can do the trick! Their horror titles in the 1970’s were awesome, and anthologies like The Witching Hour! were right at the topOut of all the DC horror titles I own, this is the one that I own the most issues of, and that is a good thing. Top to bottom the series had the standard fair of the times, but always slanted towards the side of death. Whether it was supernatural (as it was most of the time), or just your garden variety psychopath, the book delivered. Oh, and skulls are a major cover theme!

One of the things that made this title a winner was the huge names that graced the credits early on, but let us not pass over the great group of artists from foreign countries that made a huge breakthrough in this decade. The most prominent cover artist of this title in the books you’ll see here, is Luis Dominguez.  You do get a couple from the always awesome Nick Cardy as well, and even one by Ernie Chan. The interiors were a mixed bag for the most part but were always solid. You get names like Ruben Yandoc, Rico Rival, E. R. Cruz, Ricardo Villamonte, Nestor and Frank Redondo, Dick Ayers, Chic Stone, Gerry Talaoc, Alfredo Alcala, Curt Swan, and more!

 

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