Tuesday, May 31, 2016

TONY'S TIPS #159

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Totally Unofficial 100 Things Superman Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die by Joseph McCabe with a foreword by Mark Waid, IDW’s Classic Popeye by Bud Sagendorf and Johnny Red by Garth Ennis and Keith Burns!

JULY 1963: ALVIN #5

Today’s bloggy continues my 136-part “chipmunk-charged” series on the comic books that hit the newsstands in the month of July 1963. That month was pivotal to my comic-book career because it was the month when the amazingly awesome Fantastic Four Annual #1 ignited my desire to write comics.

Alvin and his fellow chipmunks were created by Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. for a 1958 novelty record. As Dave Seville, Bagdasarian had a hit with “Witch Doctor.” The voice of the title character singing "Oo-ee, oo-ah-ah, ting-tang, walla-walla, bing-bang" was a pitched-up version of Bagdasarian’s voice. This was pre-Chipmunk.

In the fall of 1958, the “witch doctor” voice became the voice of Alvin and the Chipmunks in "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)". The song was a hit. It sold more than four million records in just seven weeks, topping the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks. It won three Grammy awards and was even nominated for record of the year. A subsequent album was also successful.

Alvin, Simon and Theodore made their first comic-book appearances in Four Color #1042 [Dell; October-December 1959]. The chipmunks in that one-shot don’t look as they do in the subsequent Alvin title that ran for 28 issues from October-December 1962 to October 1973. They had been redesigned for The Alvin Show, the first of several Chipmunks cartoon shows developed for television. The first series of 26 episodes aired in 1961-1962.

Which brings us to today’s spotlight comic book from the month of  my comics awakening. Alvin #5 is dated October-December 1963. The Grand Comics Database has yet not identified the artists or writers of this issue. We know that the prolific Paul S. Newman wrote for the title, as did Don Segall, but we don’t know if either of them wrote the stories in this issue. As for the artists...I’ll include a few pages from this issue in the hope that one of my readers will be able to identify who drew them. As always, I appreciate any information about this comic book and the others I’ll be writing about as part of this series.
                                                                                  

“Share and Share a Bike” is a one-page gag strip that runs on the inside front cover of the issue. Dave gives the boys a new tricycle and is upset when they fight over it.  He tells them they have to share it equally. They do, but not in any way Dave expected. I’ll run this page as an addendum so that you can enjoy the punch line - punch panel - for yourselves. 

There are four Alvin stories in this issue. In each of them, either Alvin or Dave want something or want to do something...and things go hilarious awry.

In “Water on the Brain” (5 pages), a very tired Dave decides he has to deal immediately with a dripping faucet and the chipmunks manage to mess up the simple task he gives them.
                                                                                  

In “Snow Fun” (9 pages), Dave and the boys rent a cabin so Dave can compete in a skiing competition. Alvin and Simon want to get in on that fun. Alvin’s natural inclination for making things go not as planned, combined with an angry bear, makes for a race that doesn’t go as planned.

Dave buys “a genuine 1926 Sputtz Bare-Back” car in “Auto Mission” (5 pages). A simple plan to take the boys for a spin results in two death-defying accidents and a carload full of gravel. How? Because that’s the way Alvin and Dave roll. It’s my favorite story in this issue.
                                                                                

In “Rink Jinx” (8 pages), Alvin can’t go to ice show with Dave and the boys because he lost his ticket. But, since he doesn’t want to tell Dave that, he feigns “larynxgitis” and stays home. However, he then sneaks out the house and tries to sneak into the arena where the event it taking place. What could possibly go wrong with such a well-conceived plan.

Also in the issue is “Fido’s Flights of Fancy” - a one-page prose story I didn’t read because I didn’t read those as a kid and don’t read them now - and a four-page Little Angela story: “No Space for Rant.” As I understand it, comic books of the era had to have some content that didn’t feature the title character in order to qualify for second-class mailing privileges. 
                                                                                
                                                                            
Little Angela is a thoroughly bratty kid who makes long demands on her parents. She insists they - right now - replace her moth-eaten space suit. She’s such an unpleasant child that I didn’t mind too much when the tale concluded with her standing on her lawn in a new space suit that was so tight she couldn’t move her arms and legs. This is bad parenting, but...

I don’t believe the artist of this Little Angela story is the same artist who drew the Alvin stories. I’ll post a page of it so that you can make your own determination on that.

The inside back cover is a full-page ad selling 132 Roman soldiers for only $1.98. The back cover is the Wallace Brown ad which claims boys, girls, men and woman can make $50 and more selling Christmas cards in their spare time. I’ve written about these ads in earlier July 1963 bloggy things.

That’s all for today. There will be more JULY 1963 bloggy things in the weeks to come, a Rawhide Kid Wednesday tomorrow and, starting on Thursday, my multi-part report on the always-wondrous East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention in Philadelphia. Thanks for stopping by today and I’ll see you tomorrow.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Monday, May 30, 2016

JULY 1963: ALLEY OOP #2

Today’s bloggy thing continues my 136-part “reaching back through time” series on the comics that hit the newsstands in the month of July 1963. That month was pivotal to my comic-book career because it was the month when Fantastic Four Annual #1 ignited my desire to write comics.

Alley Oop was the creation of cartoonist V.T. Hamlin. The caveman made his debut on December 5, 1932, in a comic strip syndicated by Newspaper Enterprise Association. The strip mixes adventure, humor and outright fantasy.  From Wikipedia:

Alley Oop, the strip's title character, was a sturdy citizen in the prehistoric kingdom of Moo. He rode his pet dinosaur, Dinny, carried a stone war hammer and wore nothing but a fur loincloth. He would rather fight dinosaurs in the jungle than deal with his fellow countrymen in Moo's capital (and only) cave-town. In spite of these exotic settings, the stories were often satires of American suburban life.

Several years into Alley Oop’s run, the late Hamlin introduced time travel into the strip via 20th-century scientist Dr. Elbert Wonmug. With this development, Alley’s adventures could traverse all time and quite a bit of space, earthly and otherwise. Though the caveman isn’t nearly the household name of his earlier decades, his comic strip continues to this day.


Alley Oop #2 [September-November, 1963] is the second of two issues published by Dell Comics after the company’s split with Gold Key. Though the cover shows Alley, Wormug and the time machine, all of the interior comics are prehistoric domestic comedies with just one mention of Wonmug. The Grand Comics Database doesn’t identify the cover artist, but my best guess would be Dave Graue, who wrote and draw the Alley Oop newspaper strip from 1966 to 1991, and assisted Hamlin prior to that.
                                                                         

The inside front cover of this issue is a reprint of an Alley Oop Sunday strip signed by Hamlin. I don’t know the date of the strip, but I’ll post it as an addendum to today’s blog.

The issue features four original Alley Oop stories. The GCD doesn’t have any credits for them, but it’s possible they were written by the prolific Jack Mendelson, who wrote hundreds and maybe thousands of cartoons and comic books during his career. As for the artist or artists, I’ll post a few pages and you can play comic art detective with them.

WARNING! THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD!
                                                                            

In “Domestic Bliss” (7 pages), the ever-rhyming Foozy and his wife Zel decide Alley needs to settle down and raise a family. If Alley spends a few hours with their happy family, Zel opines, Oop would propose to girlfriend Ooola on the spot. The couple invites Alley for a delicious wart-hog steak meal and then ask him to watch their triples while they go for a stroll. Alarmingly, the triplets look exactly like Foozy. Brrr...

Every game the triplets play with Alley results in intense bodily injury to the caveman.  When Foozy and Zel meet up with Ooola, Zel predicts Alley will propose as soon as he sees his girlfriend.  Oop walks towards them with a dazed expression and takes Ooola’s hand, telling her there’s something he wants to ask her:

I wanna ask that you never ever bring up the subject of marriage and kids again!!

Ooola has gotten over her disappointment in “Neither Fish Now Fowl” (9 pages). She offers Alley scrambled dinosaur eggs for breakfast, but he craves “a real he-man breakfast - like broiled barracuda!" This requires him to chop a large chunk of tree into a canoe and go fishing. Things go wrong.

Alley hooks himself and ends up in the water. He hooks a fish, but it’s seized by an archaeopteryx. Alley ends up in the water. Alley throws a firecracker he got from Wormug at the bird, but the bird drops it on Alley and yeah, Alley ends up in the water.

The battle of wills continues. Alley catches another fish and, when the bird takes it, he tries to reel the bird in. Instead, the bird wraps the fishing line around the canoe and dumps Alley and Ooola into the water.

Ooola begs Alley to give up “this wild idea of fish” for breakfast. The stubborn caveman goes to the local fish market, only to learn the shop is out of fish. The owner offers him a baby archaeopteryx and gets clobbered for his offer:

Must be one of them bird-lovers!

In “Tee for Two” (4 pages), King Guz wants to learn to play golf like all the other kings. Thrown out of his living room by his wife Oompa, he enlists Alley Oop to be his caddy. Though this doesn’t go well, it’s Guz and not Alley who takes his lumps.

Frustrated, Guz gives up and kicks his golf ball into an impossible hole-in-one. Much to Alley’s dismay, the king insists on continuing his practice into the wee hours of the morning.  

“The Worm Turns” (12 pages) is the final and longest story in this issue and it’s problematic...to put it mildly. King Guz wants Alley to go on a mission to Amazonia, an island that is ruled by “dames.” As a disguise, Alley wears a blonde wig and a dress that would show a lot of sideboob on an actual woman.

Just walking out of Guz’s cave, Alley gets fondled by an lecherous fellow caveman. Since cosplay does not equal consent, Alley knocks the creep’s false teeth out with a KA-POW punch.

Dinny the Dinosaur laughs as Alley’s appearance and earns himself a CLONG on the snout. Oop rides Dinny to Amazonia, which, all of a sudden, isn’t an island.  A rock that makes Amazonia territory has this message chiseled into it:

ENTERING AMAZONIA
NO MEN ALLOWED!

Two Amazons, both bigger than Alley, see through his disguise and take him back to their camp as an example to “the other (ugh) men.” He finds the men cleaning, doing laundry and sweeping outside the Amazon Palace. Oop is appalled:

Why’nt you guys stand up on your hind legs and demand yer rights?

The responses:

Dear me, we’ve tried that!

But those awful brutes just knock us down again...BAW!

Alley thinks to himself:

I never seen such a bunch of henpecked jellyfish in all my born days! I kin see I gotta make some changes around here!

He offers them a container of water:

Well, fellas–-looks like I got here with this magic potion just in time! One swig of this stuff and no dame on Earth’ll dare talk back to ya!
                                                                     

One of the men drink the “potion” and grabs a gorgeous red-haired Amazon. He dumps her on the floor and tells her to start cleaning:

From now on, I wear the pants around here!! Understand?!

Y-yes, dearest!

Alley is pleased with his accomplishment here. The husbands of the Amazons prefer things this way. The redhead takes Alley aside:

Mr. Oop–-should I let you in on a little secret? We women prefer it this way, too!

She kisses him on the cheek.

Oop returns to his home country of Moo. Ooola remarks that Alley’s looking pleased with himself. What follows might be the sole saving grace of this story. Alley says:

I just taught those poor simps in Amazonia to stand up to their wives! Kin ya imagine a guy lettin’ himself be pushed around by a mere female?

To which, Ooola loudly responds...

A MERE FEMALE??

...before landing a solid CLONG on Oop’s chin.

Told by the Grand Wizer that he doesn’t understand women, Oop says he does understand women. He just doesn’t understand Ooola!

Feminism in the Stone Age...of 1963!

Dell comics of this era didn’t carry much advertising.  The inside back cover offers 147 Famous Automobiles for only $1.98 while the back cover is the Wallace Brown come-on trying to entice readers to sell the company’s Christmas cards.

I’ll have some other stuff later in the week, but, for tomorrow, I have another installment of this JULY 1963 series. See you then, my friends.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Sunday, May 29, 2016

JULY 1963: ALL-AMERICAN MEN OF WAR #99

Today’s bloggy thing continues my 136-part “flying high” series on  comic books that hit the newsstands in the month of July 1963. That month was pivotal to my comic-book career because it was the month when the spectacular Fantastic Four Annual #1 ignited my desire to write comics.  
 
All-American Men of War #99 [September-October 1963] is one of what fans have dubbed DC’s “Big Five” war titles. The others were G.I. Combat, Our Army at War, Our Fighting Forces and Star Spangled War Stories. The cover is by Irv Novick and features Johnny Cloud, the Navaho Ace. Cloud appeared in AAMOW #82–115 (1960–1966).

The inside front cover advertised the “Magic Art Reproducer” that was discussed in earlier installments of this “July 1963" series.

Cloud stars in “The Empty Cockpit” (15 pages) by Robert Kanigher (who was also the editor of DC’s war titles) with Novick art.  This story is told in two parts and the bottom third of the final page of each part, as well as the issue’s non-series tale, has an ad for a Tootsie Roll product. More on these ads in a bit.

The story opens with a nightmare. During a dog fight with Germans over the English Channel, Cloud spots a terror rocket heading right for London. The only plane that can stop it is a Spitfire, but the cockpit of the British plane is empty and the bomb gets past it to wreck death and destruction below.

Johnny had this terrible dream night after night. He remembers his father, the chief, taking him to see the Smoke-Maker when he was a boy. The Navajo mystic told him then: Heed the warning of dreams! The moon must rise on a dream coming true!

Johnny is grounded by his commanding officer and the squad doctor: Cloud--you’ve flown yourself into exhaustion! You’re grounded--until you’ve rested enough to shake off that nightmare that’s flying inside your head.

Johnny is ordered to take a week off in London. He arrives just as one of the German terror rockets hits the street in front of him. That’s where part one of the story ends.

DC comic books of this era often ran paid advertising on the bottom third of the last page of their stories.  When they didn’t have an paid to fill the space, they ran house ads. I’ve often wondered how profitable these ads were for the company. I would dearly love to hear from any bloggy thing reader who knows what kind of money the ads brought in, what the page rates of the era were for the writers and artists and if the writers and artists were paid less for those pages that were but two-thirds the size of the regular story pages.

Before we get to the second part of “The Empty Cockpit,” there are two pages of other DC Comics content. The first is a subscription ad offering two-year subscriptions for various DC titles, most of them edited by Kanigher. The titles: Our Army at War, Our Fighting Forces, G.I. Combat, All-American Men of War, Star Spangled War Stories, Metal Men, Sea Devils, Wonder Woman, Blackhawk and Flash.
                                                                            

That’s followed by teen humor character Binky showing readers “How to Spend a Summer Week!” It’s a public service announcement in the form of a one-page comic strip. Many of these were written by Jack Schiff, but the Grand Comics Database doesn’t have writer or artist credits for this one.

The first five panels show Binky and other kids visiting a museum, working a part-time job, going to a band concert, getting books at the library and going to the beach.  Pete finds excuses to refrain from any of these activities.  He concludes: Gosh, summer’s no fun when you have to stay home. Nothing to do in this old town.

The wise-for-his-years Binky has another view: Don’t be like Pete. There’s summer fun in your own home town! Look for it and you’ll find it!

Part two of “The Empty Cockpit” opens with a stunned Johnny having his terror-rocket nightmare. He’s revived by a young R.A.F. pilot and, together, they rescue a kid and his kitten from a building on fire and about to collapse.

Allan, the pilot, is also an earl. He invites Johnny to visit his field. During the drive, Johnny has the nightmare again and recalls the long-ago words of the Smoke-Maker. When they get to the field, Cloud discovers that Allan flies a Spitfire.

Allan’s squad gets sent out into battle during Johnny’s visit and Allan doesn’t come back. Later, when these British fliers go out a second time and the field is empty, Allan and his Spitfire return. Allan is on his last breath and dies in front of Johnny.

A third scramble is called. As the only pilot on the field, Johnny climbs into Allan’s Spitfire and takes off. Everything is the same as in his nightmare, but, in reality, he’s in the “empty” cockpit. He spots the terror-rocked from his nightmare, but Allan used all his ammo attacking the German bombers. The Spitfire leader yells at Johnny to shoot that rocket down, but Johnny has to try something else. His narration:

I winged against the terror rocket again and again...as if it were a stampeding buffalo snorting fire. I had to turn out of its insane flight...

The terror rocket swerves hard enough to flip Johnny’s plane over and then hurtles into the German bombers with a satisfying BLAAM! The physics of the plane being able to catch up with that missile might be a little shaky, but you can’t beat the lettering on the sound effects.

After his leave, Johnny returns to his own field.

C.O.: You look great, Cloud! The rest did the trick! No more dreams, eh?

JOHNNY: Yes, sir! No more dreams!

CLOSING CAPTION: The skies hold mysteries as well as combat when Johnny Cloud, the Navajo Ace, flies in All-American Men of War!

The next two pages are filled with half-page ads we’ve discussed in earlier installments: Missile Attack (a game) for $1.25, 104 cards for $1.49, a free pass and two free ride coupons for the Palisades Amusement Part in New Jersey and 207 stamps for a quarter.
                                                                              

“Sgt. Rock’s Combat Corner” (one page) is a letters column in which ask questions about combat-related stuff. Jerry Gorman of New York, New York asks about the firepower of guns from the 1300s and 1400s. Jack Peterson of Chicago has questions about mortars. From Holland, Ohio, Gerald Doumas wants to know what is the highest decoration for bravery given by the Navy and Army...and how many of these were given out in World War II. Finally, Dory Cohen of Los Angeles asks about the fall of Sicily in World War II. It’s an informative page and, hopefully, the above shot of it will enlarge enough for you to read it.

Next up...

Three G.I.’s were blasted out of World War Two - back into World War One - and they had to take an enemy-held town today - with an...ATTACK FROM YESTERDAY!

The ten-page story was written by Hank Chapman, a prolific writer for Atlas (Marvel) in the 1950s and the DC Comics war books of the 1960s. He was a great writer who signed many of the stories he wrote for Atlas. Jack Abel penciled and inked the tale. Abel’s work is terrific; he was “able” to hold his own as part of an artistic rotation that included Novick, Joe Kubert, Russ Heath, Gene Colan and the Ross Andru/Mike Esposito team.

The title page shows a World War I Spad, tank and doughboy going at a German gun emplacement. The story proper opens with a reunion of the Hall family. Infantry Captain Willard Hall fought in World War I and says today’s war will never be as rough as that one. His two sons - tank jockey Rick and pilot Ken - scoff at the very notion of that. A few months later, they’re all involved in a battle to take a heavily fortified French town.  It doesn’t go well.

From the rooftops, the enemy’s gun stop Captain Hall’s platoon in its tracks. The older soldier covers his men as they retreat.  He takes cover in a war museum that has “everything from the big war! From a British tank to a French Spad.”

Before you can say “foreshadowing,” the Captain must go mano-a-mano with a Nazi SS trooper. He wins.

Rick’s tank scores some hits on the German guns before those guns knock his tank out of action. In front of that war museum. You can cut the foreshadowing with a knife.

Ken’s P-51 takes out some more guns before his plane gets tagged. He chutes to safety, but the German commandant sees him fall into the war museum. The Halls are reunited and Dad experiences a huge thought balloon:

My World War II infantry failed to take the town! Your modern tank, Rick, failed to knock out the guns! And your flashy new plane, Ken, failed to blast the batteries! In my war--the great war-–it would’ve been different with these weapons–-now just museum pieces!

That’s when the bilingual Rick spots a sign:

This sign says that all the weapons and machines in this museum are battle-ready! Just as they were in the first world war!

Dad Hall starts barking orders. He and Rick drive the tank through a wall so Ken can take off in the Spad. The tank protects the old plane until it gains the sky.

The Spad flies too slowly for the German gunners to adjust.  Score a bunch for our side.

The tank crashes through the remaining buildings, causing them to collapse around the Germans and their guns. The fight is over in a matter of panels.

Afterward, Dad tells his boys they are now veterans of his war and asks them how it feels:

Rugged–-Dad!

The rest of the issue are paid advertisements for toy soldiers and such. From here on in, when I write about comics from this month, I’m only going to discuss those ads I haven’t discussed previously.

There’ll be another installment of this JULY 1963 series tomorrow. See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Saturday, May 28, 2016

JULY 1963: ADVENTURES OF THE FLY #27

Today’s bloggy continues my 136-plus-part “Nostalgia or obsession? You decide!” series on the comic books that hit the newsstands in the month of July 1963. That month was pivotal to my comic-book career because it was the month when Fantastic Four Annual #1 ignited my desire to write comics.

Adventures of the Fly #27 [September 1963] was published by Archie Comics. Archie himself makes a cameo appearance in a paid ad, but, save for the address on the letters page, there’s no mention of the company. The indicia lists the publisher as Radio Comics.

John Rosenberger is the cover artist, though the cover is nothing more than a slightly better rendered copy of the splash page of the cover story. Charlton Comics did this frequently with its covers and other comics publishers did it as well, albeit less frequently.

The inside front cover of this comic book features four “no cost” ads from the Dean Studios of Des Moines, Iowa. The “no cost” items are a male or female miniature dog that you can hold in your hand; a 10-second Polaroid camera; a tiny, powerful Bulovia Radio; and a new real, live miniature monkey that, like the dog and the radio, you could hold in your hand. The advertising copy is really small. Near as I can figure, these “no cost” items are a come-on for the company’s hand-painted photo enlargements. The supply of each item was said to be limited.

A modicum of online research turned up a terrific article from 2009 titled “Top 10 Outrageous Comic Book Advertisements.” Here’s what the article says about the miniature dog offer:

Please give me a home at no cost – Paris Hilton must have read this ad to get her tea cup dog, poodle, or whatever it is. They give you good advice and say you can keep it in a box and enjoy teaching it tricks. Yes, like play dead, because keeping your dog in a box will suck all the life out of it. But hurry, they only have a limited supply of miniature dogs. Imagine the storage facilities.

The Truth – You could get a dog (and some ads offered a monkey) if you could get 20 of your friends to order hand colored enlargements of photos they send in to Dean Studios, the ad’s sponsor. I’m betting not many people could sucker 20 other people to pay for this rip off, but I assume a few did. Getting the mutant dog or the half-dead monkey with HIV must have been quite a reality check.


Did anyone of my beloved readers ever fall for this one?

Written by Robert Bernstein, a regular contributor to DC Comics at the time, the cover story is told in two chapters: “The Great Z-17 Mystery!” (8 pages) and “The Menace Of The Invisible Planet!” (12 pages). Rosenberger pencils and inks both chapters.

Warning! There will be SPOILERS AHEAD!

A test pilot (Captain Greer) and the experimental plane he’s flying go missing in space. The government calls on the Fly and Fly-Girl to investigate. But, before we get to that point of the story, we get some quality time with their civilian identities.

Attorney Thomas Troy defends a chorus girl charged with murder on the basis of circumstantial evidence. The district attorney and the judge both think Troy did a great job. The jury agrees and acquits. She’s grateful. Troy asks her out to dinner and she accepts. The D.A. is envious:

Don’t judge me too harshly, Miss Leroy. As district attorney, I must prosecute whomever the grand jury indicts! Personally, I, too, thought you were innocent!

That sounds wrong to me, but I’m no Bob Ingersoll, master of legal stuff in comics. Maybe if I loan him this issue, he’ll write about it in his “The Law is a Ass” column at ComicM!x. End of free plug.

Meanwhile, actress Kim Brand is impersonating a chorus girl so she can “absorb the night club atmosphere” for her new movie. Neither this scene or the courtroom scenes have much to do with the rest of the story beyond the foreshadowing observations that people aren’t always what they seem.

Cut to the testing and disappearance of the Z-17 plane. When said plane disappears beyond our atmosphere, Troy and Brand change into the Fly and Fly-Girl to find it. Almost as soon as they hit space, they are surround by force spheres and drawn toward a space ship. Inside the ship is...Captain Greer.

The two chapters of the story are separated by a page of half-page ads for products we’ve already discussed in earlier installments of this JULY 1963 series. There’s the Convoy of Terror nuclear naval battle game and Task Force. The latter is described as “America’s most exciting war game.”

Back to the main story...

Greer is an alien spy who can control his protoplasm and change his body into any shape we wishes. Knowing the Fly and Fly-Girl would be the greatest threats to his world’s planned invasion of Earth, he became the most qualified test pilot in the world. He needed to be the pilot for the Z-17 to capture the heroes.

The would-be invaders, who have mastered the science of illusion, take the Fly and Fly-Girl to their invisible planet. They intend to test the powers of the heroes and discover their secrets. Fly-Girl does a little flirting with Greer, hoping to turn him into an ally. It’s a silly plot development that goes nowhere.

Because the Fly and Fly-Girl’s powers are magical in nature - given to them by the Fly World - the scientific devices of the invaders are useless. When they learn the Fly World will send its armies to battle them if they invade Earth, the alien shape-shifters decide to cut their losses and run.

Fearing punishment for his failure, Greer murders the small group of scientists studying the Fly and Fly-Girl. He then disables the force field surrounding the invisible planet so he can escape with the heroes. They leave Greer behind because he’s an arrogant dick. Just because you’re a villain doesn’t mean you have to be so darned unpleasant.

That final chapter of the cover story is followed by a page of ads we’ve seen before. One is for U.S. Royal Bike Tires - with Archie as spokesperson - and the other is for Popsicle.

“On the Fly” is a single-page letters column.  From Freehold, New Jersey, reader Donald Schank wants to see THE BLACK HOOD.  The Hood does appear in this issue...teaching karate in a one-page feature by Bernstein and Rosenberger.

Ian Darwin of Ontario, Canada points out a lettering error.

Jeff Baker of Fort Worth, Texas asks why the comic doesn’t publish an imaginary story where THE FLY and FLY-GIRL’s secret identities are exposed to the world. The editorial response:

Probably because we’re afraid the sensational revelation will push the Cuban, Berlin and Viet Nam crisis off the front page. But it’s definitely a thought.

Mark Leland of Covington, Kentucky would like to see a FLY cartoon series on television.

From Nottingham, England, George Taylor requests a story where THE FLY falls for FLY-GIRL.

John Yanacek, Woodbridge, New Jersey asks a question about the buzz guns use on occasion. He would also like to see THE FLY published every two weeks.

Kenny Siw of Berkeley, California, wants to see “a crime-fighting team-up of all your heroes.” The editorial response:

THE FLY, FLY-GIRL, THE JAGUAR, THE BLACK HOOD and all the others are discussing it. It’s definitely in the planning stages.

Finally, Jimmy Down of Adelphi, Maryland, would very much like to see THE SHIELD again. The editorial response says that nothing is impossible in comics.

In case you hadn’t noticed, on the letters page, the editors always used all capital letters for the names of the heroes.

“The Black Hood Teaches Karate” in the afore-mentioned single-page feature by Bernstein and Rosenberger. During my brief tenure as the editor of Marvel’s The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, I ran such martial arts teaching features by Frank McLaughlin, creator of Judomaster. If I’d remained as editor longer, I would have tried to get more of these training features and more of McLaughlin’s writing and art in general.

Next we get a page of half-page ads offering “amazing sea-shrimp” for only $1 and 100 Toy Soldiers for $1.25.  Outside of Marvel t-shirts, I never bought anything from comic-book ads. All my money was going towards comic books, trading cards, Famous Monsters of Filmland and monster movies at the neighborhood theater.

Fly-Girl sort of solos in “Fly-Girl’s Pet” (5 pages) by Bernstein and artist John Giunta. The Grand Comics Database sums up the short story thus:

Professor Drexel creates a perfect assistant for Fly Girl: a large robotic insect named Insecto. But while the two are on patrol, Insecto attacks Fly Girl unexpectedly.

Wrapping herself in a cocoon to protect herself from Insecto, Fly-Girl summons the Fly telepathically. The Fly saves her lovely ass. We then learn Fly-Girl was responsible for the robot going crazy. It’s a mechanical device and, when she tried to communicate with it telepathically, she broke it. This theme of this story was clearly not female empowerment.

Before I sum up my feelings about the Fly and Fly-Girl, we have a few more ads to cover. The first is a full-page pitch for Daisy B*B guns and related items. The Daisy B*B Range lets you have shooting fun indoors. Because what could possible go wrong with that.

The Junior Sales Club of America takes over the inside back cover to recruit youngsters to sell greeting cards and earn “nationally  famous prizes” that number in the dozens: Lady Sunbeam Hair Dryer, a chemistry set, a Daisy pistol, a rocket-firing airplane and many others. I didn’t fall for this one either.

The back cover is a contest sponsored by the makers of the Bendix Automatic Bicycle Bake. To enter, you had to fill out the form and complete this sentence: “The Bendix Automatic Gear Shift and Power Brake makes a bike more fun because...”

The contest was open to boys and girls who had not reached their 15th birthdays before September 1, 1963.

The cherished first prize in this contest was a one-week. expense-paid trip for four to Disneyland via United’s DC-8 Jet Mainliner.  The 1000 other prizes included General Electric portable TV sets, General Electric transistor radios, Kodak flash camera sets, Etch-a-Sketch drawing boards and Ray-O-Vac magnetic flashlights. Had I seen this comic in 1963, I would’ve entered the contest.

I don’t think I ever bought an issue of Adventures of the Fly until it became Fly-Man and started doing an awkward imitation of Marvel Comics super-heroes. I thought the Fly and Fly-Girl were two of the dullest super-heroes in comics.

I did occasionally buy or trade for Adventures of the Jaguar, also published by Radio Comics. I thought the Jaguar was a much cooler character and he had at least three gorgeous women fighting for his affections. I had started noticing girls by this time, thanks to a southern blonde who had transferred into the Catholic school I was attending and also to a taller blonde who was the first girl in my class to...ah...develop. Which she did...magnificently.

That’s all for today. I’ll be posting several JULY 1963 pieces over the next several days, all the better to get ahead of schedule and be able to spend some time with Barb and the kids. Coming up on the morrow: All-American Men of War #99.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Friday, May 27, 2016

GARAGE SALES, CONVENTIONS AND TONY, OH, MY!

The good news is I am crazy busy writing stuff I think you’re gonna love. The bad news is I can’t tell you about it yet. I’m not trying to be a tease here, but I want you to know there are good reasons I can’t always be swift in answering your e-mails and other private messages. My goal is to respond to all outstanding business in both  my e-mailbox and Facebook message section by December 22, which is when I will turn 65.

Many things conspired to keep from holding any of my world-famous Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sales in 2015. That won’t be the case this summer.

My first VAOS garage sale of 2016 will take place Friday, June 24, and Saturday, June 25. The hours will be 9-1 each day. There will be no evening or Sunday hours this first time around, but I might add these for subsequent sales. It’s a work in progress.

I’ll have more to say about this first VAOS garage sale between now and then. The plan is for me to take over the Casa Isabella garage on Tuesday, May 31, and start arranging the tables and filling them with cool stuff. That cool stuff won’t include too much of what I have offered in the past because much of what I have offered in the past is going into our always popular, five-buck, stuffed-to-the-gills mystery boxes. Do boxes even have gills?

Besides garage sales and writing, I’ll be making approximately two  convention or other appearances each month between now and the end of the year. Here’s the current schedule...

Friday, June 17: Indy PopCon 2016 (Indianapolis)

Saturday, June 18: Indy PopCon 2016 (Indianapolis)

Sunday, June 19: Indy PopCon 2016 (Indianapolis)

Friday, June 25: VAOS garage sale (Medina, Ohio)

Saturday, June 26: VAOS garage sale (Medina, Ohio)

Friday, July 15: G-Fest (Chicago)

Saturday, July 16: G-Fest (Chicago)

Sunday, July 17: G-Fest (Chicago)

Thursday, July 21: PulpFest (Columbus)

Friday, July 22: PulpFest (Columbus)
              
Saturday, July 23: PulpFest (Columbus)
                
Sunday, July 24: PulpFest (Columbus)

Friday, July 29: Monsterfestmania (Akron)

Saturday, July 30: Monsterfestmania (Akron)

Wednesday, August 3: Euclid Library (Euclid, Ohio)

Sunday, August 14: Neo Comic Con (Strongsville)

Saturday, September 17: MECCA Con (Detroit)

Saturday, October 1: Cleveland Comic Con 2016

Sunday, October 2: Cleveland Comic Con 2016

Friday, October 21: Grand Rapids Comic-Con (Michigan)

Saturday, October 22: Grand Rapids Comic-Con (Michigan)

Sunday, October 23: Grand Rapids Comic-Con (Michigan)

Saturday, November 5: Akron Comic Con (0hio)

Sunday, November 6: Akron Comic Con (Ohio)

Here’s some basic notes on the appearances:

If you’re a fan, I will sign anything I’ve written free of charge this year. I will sign other items on a case-by-case basis. If you have multiple items, I will sign them free of charge. However, if there are other fans in line, I might sign only a few of your items and ask you to step to the back of the line to get the rest. This almost never happens.

I will probably start charging something for my signature in 2017, though that’s not carved in stone. It will depend in part on what level of support I’m getting from the promoters of the conventions and other events.

If you’re a promoter who wants me as a guest at one of your shows, you should look at the above list for months when I’m not already doing two conventions. Then, you should be prepared to cover all of my hotel and travel expenses, as well as an appearance fee and a per diem for other expenses. I do realize putting on conventions is an expensive proposition for promoters, but I don’t wish to take a loss on my appearances at them. Trust me, I won’t be the least bit offender if you decide I’m too expensive for you.

I’ll be honest. There are conventions I will let skate on some of the above. All of my July appearances are as much or more vacations as they are professional appearances. There are other exceptions. But, going forward, this is generally how it will work. Promoters should know this before they contact me.

I’m in pretty decent shape for a man of my advanced years. I expect to be able to write and attend conventions for many more glorious years. But I intend to be smarter than I’ve usually been when it comes to both of those.

That’s all for now. I’ll have some sort of bloggy thing for you on the morrow. See you then. 

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Thursday, May 26, 2016

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 77: PART TWO OF TWO

This is the second half of my “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” installment  covering Rawhide Kid Special #1 [September 1971]. I got through the first half of this 68-page, reprint special yesterday. Which brings us to...

“The Fallen Hero” (5 pages) by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers was the third and final Rawhide Kid story from issue #29 [August 1962]. With a few changes, it’s the same plot as “The Defeat of the Rawhide Kid” from issue #20 [February 1961]. This story reprinted a second time in The Mighty Marvel Western #37 [February 1975].

Rawhide rides up to a farmhouse and asks for water for him and his horse.  The farmer and his young son Davey are glad to help even a stranger.  Davey recognizes the Kid and asks for an exhibition of Rawhide’s shooting prowess.  After a brief show, the youngster asks his dad if the Kid can stay for dinner.  To Davey, the Rawhide Kid is a hero and he wants to be a famous outlaw just like him.

The Kid bullies Davey, prompting a facedown with Davey’s dad.  The Kid’s guns don’t scare the father and he proceeds to deliver unto Rawhide a righteous beatdown.  The “cowardly” Rawhide makes tracks for the wide open spaces.  But Davey’s dad knows what the Kid just did for Davey and, when Davey is old enough to understand, he will tell him what kind of a man the Rawhide Kid really is.

Rawhide pretending to be an actual outlaw was a frequent element of these short tales.  Once his stories got longer on a regular basis, I don’t think it was ever used again.

Next up is a full-page house ad for The Mighty Marvel Western #14 [September 1971] with a new cover by Herb Trimpe. This is a 68-page reprint issue featuring...

Rawhide Kid in “When the Kid went Wild” (7 pages) by Lee, Kirby and Ayers from The Rawhide Kid #30 [October 1962]

Rawhide Kid in “Riot in Railtown” (5 pages) by Lee, Kirby and Ayers and also from The Rawhide Kid #30.

Rawhide Kid in “Showdown With the Crow Mangum Gang!” (6 pages) by Lee, Kirby and Ayers and also from The Rawhide Kid #30.

“Return of the Outlaw!” (4 pages), a non-series story by Stan Lee and artist Syd Shores originally published in Kid Colt Outlaw #67 [December 1956] and also reprinted in The Rawhide Kid #31 (December 1962]. 
 
Kid Colt Outlaw in “The Snake Tattoo!” (5 pages) with art by Jack Keller and originally published in Kid Colt Outlaw #67.

Kid Colt Outlaw in “The Plundered Stage” (5 pages) with art by Jack Keller and originally published in Kid Colt Outlaw #67.

Kid Colt Outlaw in “The Dude” (5 pages) with art by Jack Keller and originally published in Kid Colt Outlaw #67.

“Dance, Or Draw, Tenderfoot!” (4 pages) by Lee, Kirby and Ayers and originally published in Two Gun Kid #54 [June 1960].

Two-Gun Kid in “Be Outta Town Before Noon, Kid!” (7 page) by Stan Lee and John Severin and likewise from Two Gun Kid #54. The Two-Gun Kid tales in this issue are all reprinted from the pre-masked hero era of the character when he was a singing cowboy who traveled the West. I am not making this up. For these reprints, the production department would redraw the singing cowboy to look like the masked hero.

The above was followed by a full-page “Two-Gun Kid Pin-Up Page” by Lee and Severin. The copy proclaimed the page showed the lightning draw of the Kid “thru the magic of our artist's pen." The page was also from Two Gun Kid #54.

Two-Gun Kid in “ The Two-Gun Kid, Murderer!” (5 pages) by Lee and Severin. It’s also from Two-Gun Kid #54. The GCD indexer notes that “the court generously allows the Kid to keep his mask on during his murder trial.” Of course, in the original publication of the tale, the Kid would not have been wearing a mask.

Back to the Rawhide Kid stories...

“The Trail of Apache Joe” (7 pages) leads with a great splash page of a barroom bully terrorizing the patrons of said establishment. Rawhide sends the bully running, but, while the other patrons are thanking him, the town’s elderly sheriff gets the drop on the Kid. The sheriff offers his prisoner a deal: bring in the dreaded Apache Joe and the lawman will use his influence with the governor to get the Kid a full pardon.  The highly-motivated Kid does just that in a short-but-exciting action sequence.  But, when he brings Apache Joe in, he learns the old sheriff has passed away without telling the new sheriff about their deal.  Rawhide manages to escape, but there’s still a price on his head.

This story is also from Rawhide Kid #29, was reprinted again in The Mighty Marvel Western #36 [December 1974] and is also by Lee, Kirby and Ayers. It’s likely Lee and Kirby co-plotted it and their other stories in this special, but, absent “I was in the room when they did it” evidence, we can’t know for sure. Me, I just love the whole of the parts.

The Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page follows the “Apache Joe” story. It’s the same one that was in Rawhide Kid #90 [August 1971].

The special concludes with two Rawhide Kid stories from Rawhide Kid #28 [June 1962]. Both are by Lee, Kirby and Ayers.

In “The Guns of Jasker Jelko” (6 pages), the Kid hides from lawmen at a carnival. Star attraction Jelko is a bully and thief.  Rawhide catches him robbing the carnival and outguns him. The best thing about it is the gag at the end of the story as the Kid walks away into the distance.

SLIM: Say, Sheriff! There’s the hombre who caught Jelko!  There’s only one gun in the West could beat Jelko! And that’s...

SHERIFF: Yeah! I know, but he ain’t the one!

SLIM: How can you be sure?

SHERIFF: Heck, Slim! He don’t look nothin’ like -— Annie Oakley!

This story got a second reprinting in The Mighty Marvel Western #41 [September 1975].

“When a Gunslinger Gets Mad” (5 pages) is the final Rawhide story in the special.  It’‘s hilarious.  The Kid orders milk in a saloon. Bullies get in his face.  Brawl breaks out and Rawhide mops up the floor with the creeps.  Cut to “a short time later” when a cowboy comes in for a drink in the trashed establishment.

COWBOY: Hey, Fatso! Gimme a drink!

BARKEEP: What kind of drink?

COWBOY: Huh?  Rotgut, of course! What else?!!

BARKEEP: Rotgut!!

The barkeep punches the cowboy in the face.

BARKEEP: That’s what I thought you said!

The barkeep pours a glass of milk.

BARKEEP: Rotgut is for pipsqueaks!  We only serve men here!

Seated at what may be the only chair and table left standing, the Kid thanks the barkeep for the milk.

RAWHIDE: Much obliged, mister!

BARKEEP: Likewise, son!

Me? I wonder if people really asked for “rotgut” in the Old West or anywhere else.  Was it a brand name?  If it wasn’t, it should be. Maybe there should also be a Diet Rotgut for when you want to get really sick without gaining weight.

This story was reprinted again in The Mighty Marvel Western #40 [August 1975].

That’s the big finish for this special two-day edition of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” If all goes as planned, I’ll be back tomorrow with updates on my appearance schedule and my Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sales. See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 77: PART ONE OF TWO

The Rawhide Kid is my favorite western comics character and one of my favorite comics characters period.  Something about the short of stature (but big on courage and fighting skills) Johnny Clay spoke to the short of stature (but big on comics-reading skills) teenage Tony Isabella.  After rereading the Kid’s earliest adventures when Marvel Comics reprinted them in a pair of Marvel Masterworks and an Essential Rawhide Kid volume, I wanted to reacquire every Rawhide Kid comic, reread them and write about them in this bloggy thing of mine. This is the 77th installment in that series.

The Rawhide Kid #1 [September 1971] is what the indicia reads, but the corner box has Rawhide Kid Special #1, as does the Grand Comics Database entry for the issue. It’s a 68-page, reprint special with a new cover by Herb Trimpe. In addition to the seven Rawhide Kid stories blurbed on the cover, there’s a non-series anthology tale. I’ve written about all of the stories in previous installments of this series, but I’ll save you the trouble of going back to those older bloggy things by repeating my earlier comments.

There will be SPOILERS AHEAD. You have been warned.

“Gun Duel in Trigger Gap!” is a 13-page, two-chapter story by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers. It was first published in Rawhide Kid #19 [December 1960]:

Because of his diminutive stature, the Kid was seen to be an easy target for the many bullies found in Marvel westerns.  A weary Kid feigns timidity to avoid a saloon shoot-out with the brutish Bill Corbett.  When Corbett tries to force his unwanted attentions on pretty Nancy Clark, the Kid gives the lout a two-fisted beatdown.  Within days, Nancy and the Kid have fallen in love.

Violent events rapidly put an end to the romance.  Nancy’s dad is the town sheriff and he recognizes the Kid...and the dreaded Garson Gang is coming to town to rob a gold shipment.  The sheriff takes a shot at the Kid. The Garson Gang takes Nancy prisoner.  The Kid rescues her, but then pretends he was after the same shipment. He flees, leaving Nancy behind in tears.

The sheriff pursues the Kid, but Rawhide gets the drop on him.  Our misunderstood hero then returns the gold to the lawman, asking him to tell his daughter Nancy that, though the sheriff recovered the gold, the Kid escaped.  Rawhide knows Nancy could never have a good life with an outlaw.  As the sheriff watches the lonely young man ride off, he realizes what kind of man Rawhide really is...and how much the Kid loved his daughter.  In future issues, we’ll see more bullies and more of the Kid pretending to be a badman to spare the feelings of others.

“Fight or Crawl, Kid!” (5 pages) is also from The Rawhide Kid #19 was also reprinted in The Mighty Marvel Western #38 [April 1975]. Lee, Kirby, and Ayers return. The Lee/Kirby/Ayers story starts with gunslinger Crow Mallon calling the Kid out in, yes, another saloon.  Mallon wants to make his rep by beating the Kid in a gunfight and tries to intimate Rawhide with some keen shooting.  In a scene that will be repeated in other tales, the Kid exhibits gun skills so far beyond Mallon’s that Crow virtually takes flight as he rides out of town. Sayeth the Kid:

Well, he wanted a rep, and I reckon he’ll get it after all...Crow Mallon, the loudest-mouthed four-flushin’ bully in these parts! Just like all blusterin’ bullies, their nerve turns to water when they pick on the wrong hombre!

Thus endeth the lesson.

The Mighty Marvel Checklist and Marvelmania ad runs between pages four and five of the above story. Oddly enough, they are the same checklist and ad that ran in Rawhide Kid #90, which hit the stands a month before this special.

Next up is “Yak Yancy, the Man Who Treed a Town!” (5 pages), a non-series story by Stan Lee and Dick Ayers. It originally appeared in Rawhide Kid #29 [August, 1962].

This story is way too short for its plot.  The title character is an outlaw who tyrannizes his henchman Bull.  When they come across a small secluded town, Yak decides to take it over.  He gathers an army of thugs and does just that.  He appoints himself mayor, fines the bank whenever he feels like it, imprisons townspeople to make it easier to rob their homes, ranches, and businesses.

A stranger comes to town, applying for a job as a deputy because he plumb likes to fight outlaws.  When Yak draws on him, the stranger shoots the gun out of his hand.  Yak orders his gang to shoot the stranger, but they are interrupted by the arrival of the Cavalry. The stranger is Colonel Carter of the Fifth Cavalry.

How did the cavalry know about Yak’s takeover of the town?  Bull, tired of being pushed around, got a message to them.

In its five pages, “Yak Yancy” seems cramped.  More pages could’ve shown more of the townspeople reacting to the situation and more of Bull reaching his breaking point.  As I see it, the basic story is good enough that it could have been a long Rawhide Kid adventure. Here’s how my version would have gone:

The Rawhide Kid is living peacefully in the town.  When Yak Yancy takes over, he tries to lie low, but he can’t stand seeing good and decent people under the thumb of the outlaw.  The Kid fights back, but even he can’t beat a small army by himself.

Mayor Yancy tries the Kid for his “crimes” and sentences him to be hanged. That’s when Bull, inspired by the little guy’s courage, sends a rider to get the cavalry and organizes the townspeople to fight back and save the Kid.

The townspeople fight back, the cavalry arrives, and now it’s Yak and his men who are outnumbered.  They surrender.  Colonel Carter tells Bull there’s an opening in his troop for a good man like him. Pretending not to know who Rawhide is, he asks the Kid to go on a quick ride to see if any of Yancy’s men got away.  He tells the Kid that if any of the outlaws reach the border - just a few miles to the north, by the way - they would be out of his jurisdiction and he’d be unable to take them in.

As the Kid rides off, Colonel Carter tells Bull he wishes he had a dozen men like that little guy.  However, in his thoughts, Carter is wishing he had a dozen men like...the Rawhide Kid!

“The Little Man Laughs Last” (6 pages) has long been one of my all-time favorite Rawhide Kid stories. It’s by Lee, Kirby and Ayers and also comes from Rawhide Kid #29. It was reprinted again two years later in The Mighty Marvel Western #34 [September 1974].

The tale starts with the Kid leaping from his horse to a stagecoach because he doesn’t want to ride “a hoss all the way to Abiline!” I assume Stan meant “Abilene,” either the city in Kansas or the one in Texas.  This isn’t the first time we’ve seen our young hero take a stage coach.  I assume his horse just follows along in case he’s needed in the last panel, as he is in this story.

Two imposing passengers - you can see them on the cover - get tough with the Rawhide Kid, falsely accusing him of pestering the lovely young woman riding with them.  Before the confined brawl can really get going, the stage is held up by outlaws.  The passengers cower before the bad guys, but the Kid takes on the gang all by himself. He also slaps around the bullies a mite.  Removing his hat, Rawhide bows before the lady and says:

Sorry for the rough house, ma’am! Sometimes it takes us small fellas a little while to tame those big tough hombres! Anyway, I reckon you won’t have to worry about them no more!

The lovely lady plants a kiss on the cheek of the surprised Rawhide Kid and says:

It’s not them I’ll worry about, Kid! It’s you! How will I ever get you out of...my heart??

The startled Kid rides off as the woman reflects:

I fear I’ve scared him off! It took the harmless kiss of a helpless female to do what killers’ guns and fists could not accomplish!  Farewell, Rawhide Kid!! No matter your size, you’re the biggest man I’ve ever met!

Because it’s a really busy week for me, I’m splitting this edition of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” into two parts. Come back tomorrow for “Rawhide Kid Wednesday Part Two” or “Rawhide Kid Thursday” or...aw, call it whatever you want. Just come back tomorrow for more western fun in the mighty Marvel tradition!

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

JULY 1963: ADVENTURES OF MIGHTY MOUSE #160

Today’s bloggy thing continues my “determined little cuss” 136-part series on the comics that hit the newsstands in the month of July 1963. That month was pivotal to my comic-book career because it was the month when the most spiffy Fantastic Four Annual #1 ignited my desire to write comics.

The Grand Comics Database came up terribly short when I initially checked its entry for Adventures of Mighty Mouse #160 [Gold Key; October 1963]. Back then, the entry had only the cover and cover date. The first incarnation of today’s bloggy thing added to that entry. Even sans credit for my work, I was thrilled to be able to assist the GCD, which is clearly the most mind-boggingly useful research tool for comics fans in the known universe.

We don’t know for certain who wrote and drew the stories in Mighty Mouse #160. A visit to Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928-1999 notes that Fred Fredericks wrote, penciled and inked Mighty Mouse comics circa 1963-1965.  If the name sounds familiar and it should, it’s because the now-retired Fredericks had quite a career in both comic books and comic strips.  He drew Mandrake the Magician from June 1965 to his retirement in July 2013. In addition, according to Wikipedia, he drew these Gold Key comics: Nancy, Boris Karloff, The Twilight Zone, Mighty Mouse, Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, O.G. Whiz presents Tubby, Bullwinkle, Mister Ed and Munsters.  The hard-working Fredericks also inked a number of comic books for both DC and Marvel.

If Mighty Mouse looked like Mandrake, even an amateur art spotter like me could tell if Fredericks drew this issue. Since the heroes and their worlds couldn’t be more different I can’t.  However, what I can do is post a few pages of this issue in today’s bloggy thing. Maybe some one far more knowledgeable than I will be able to make a definite identification.

Since none of the stories in this issue seem to have been reprinted in the United States, I’ll be revealing plot details in discussing them. In other words, there are SPOILERS AHEAD!

Moving right along...

The inside front cover of this issue is a black-and-white house ad that has a special offer for readers. For $1.25, “lovers of action and adventure” can get six issues each of Turok and Tarzan.  That’s both titles for $1.25. 

“Panic from the Sun” (8 pages) is this issue’s cover story.  Mighty Mouse is called by the police to investigate a crime wave in which only awnings and sun umbrellas are being stolen.  These thefts are part of a plan by the Clutching Cat.

Mighty Mouse tracks the crimes from Mouseville to Catville, which is also part of his foe’s plan. A massive explosion sends our hero spinning into space and knocks the Earth off its axis just enough to turn the Mouseville into a tropical hellscape. With nothing to protect them from the heat, the mice flee their town and into the claws of the waiting villains.

Mighty Mouse shakes off the effects of the explosion and returns to Earth. But the scorching heat is weakening him. He flies back into space and channels all his remaining energy into punching the Earth hard enough to set its axis to rights. He captures most of the cats and puts them to work sewing awnings and sun umbrellas for all the people of Mouseville. The Clutching Cat manages to escape, but he’s suffering from a terrible case of heat rash.
                                                                                

Next is The Yellow Jacket in “Smashing the Bank Gang” (4 pages). Most and maybe all Gold Key comics would have a feature unconnected to the star of the title in each issue. The Yellow Jacket poses as the elderly caretaker of a wax museum, but he’s actually a “flying fighter against crime.”

A grocer and his daughter are driven from their store by two cops who tell them the property has been condemned. The phoney cops are bank robbers using high-pressure torches to melt their way into a bank vault next door to the grocery. The hero makes short work of the gang, after all, he only had four pages to work with. The next day, the grocer’s daughter visits the museum to tell the caretaker what happened. She’s amazed to see he already has a display of the tools the robbers used. The girl didn’t realize he was a friend of Yellow Jacket. He says:

Oh, yes...as a matter of fact, we’re very close!

Digression. There was a time when many Gold Key comics had a rule about captions and word balloons touching panel borders. It was a dumb rule and it hurt the overall look of the art. 
                                                                            

Mighty Mouse returns in “The Sinister Barbershop” (7 pages). Tony’s is the only barbershop in Mouseville. It even has a barbershop trio that sings to customers. Then, unexpectedly, the barbershop closes for several days. When it reopens - Tony nervously says that it was closed for repairs - customers start disappearing.

Evil cats - as if there were any other kind in Mighty Mouse - have kidnapped Tony’s wife and forcing him to help them seize the mice who come into his shop. Mighty Mouse investigates and the cats try to kill him. Deadly acid doesn’t work, but Tony passes it off as an accident. In the basement of the shop, some captured mice use old wires to send a morse-code message through the lit barber pole of the shop.

Mighty Mouse returns to the shop. The cats cuff him to a chair and spin it around at high speed to make him dizzy. That works for half a page and then the cats gets theirs. As a bonus punishment, Tony shaves their heads.

“Scrambled Eggs” is a one-page prose story and I was never one for reading comic-book prose stories. It involves friendly wolf twins, a hungry fox, newly-hatched birds and an angry bird mom. The moral of a story: Don’t mess with a mother, especially if she’s an eagle.

The prose story is followed by “Mirrors of Doom” (6 pages), another Mighty Mouse adventure.  A new Catville gang forms to use mirrors to capture mice. They trick a mouse hayride into going off the road by making the driver of the truck think the vehicle’s reflection in a mirror is an oncoming truck. As he flies over the woods, Mighty Mouse hears a cry for help.

The cat criminals use mirrors to confuse and blind Mighty Mouse, but he recovers quickly and goes after the gang. Our hero knocks down three cats with one punch, but the leader threatens to throw a bag of mice off a cliff if Mighty Mouse takes one step closer to him. Ironically, the cat is looking at a Mighty Mouse reflection in a mirror.

Mighty Mouse comes at him from another direction, saving the mice and capturing the gang leader.  Since the hayride truck was damaged in the crash, Mighty Mouse makes the cats tow the vehicle back to Mouseville.  Which is fifteen miles away.

“Cry Torpedo” (6 pages) is the issue’s final story. Captain Steve’s sightseeing boat is struck by a torpedo that lodges in the craft’s hull. It’s a giant hollow torpedo that works like a submarine and is manned by...all together now...evil cats looking to capture the mice. Mighty Mouse is on the job, but these criminals are clever.

Ramming Mighty Mouse doesn’t work, but the grease on the outside of the torpedo makes him hard for him to grab it until he uses ocean sponges to scrub it clean. He tears his way into the now-surfaced sub, but is tricked into holding a basket of nitroglycerin.  Drop it and all the mice die.

The cats make a break for it. Mighty Mouse throws the nitro basket at them.  However, since this isn’t Itchy and Scratchy, the blast only stuns the villains.

Mighty Mouse fixes the sightseeing boat. The passengers think that it was the greatest sightseeing trip ever. The captain wonders if he can get Mighty Mouse to do it on every cruise.

Final digression. I am writing today’s bloggy thing under protest. As the owner of a cat named Simba, who probably thinks she owns me, I’m appalled by the blatant species bigotry shown by the characters and the creators of this comic book. Cats are wonderful creatures. They don’t deserve to be physically and verbally abused by a brute of a mouse who wears red-and-yellow long johns. End of digression.

The inside back cover is a black-and-white “Keys of Knowledge” fact page on physical therapy. Number seven in a series, it shows how to do a “jackknife and scissors” exercise.

The back cover is an ad we’ve seen in other comics this month: 204 Revolutionary War soldiers for only $1.98.

I hope you’re enjoying my JULY 1963 series. Look for more entries in this series in the weeks and months to come.

Come back tomorrow for a very special installment of our “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” series. See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Monday, May 23, 2016

TONY'S TIPS #158

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...It's a first issue special with Black Panther, Grizzly Shark and Power Lines. One of these is my pick of the week.

JULY 1963: THE ADVENTURES OF LITTLE ARCHIE #28

Today’s bloggy thing continues my “Still at it” 136-part series on the comic books that hit the newsstands in the month of July 1963. That month was pivotal to my comic-book career because it was the month when Fantastic Four Annual #1 - the greatest comic book of all time - ignited my desire to write comics.

The Adventures of Little Archie #28 [Fall 1963] is not a comic book I would’ve read back then.  The only issue of Little Archie I owned as a kid had a dinosaur on the cover.  My love of such prehistoric critters outweighed another strong emotion.

Comic-book stories about adults and teens when they were children creep me out.  I didn’t care for Little Archie.  I didn’t care for Superbaby.  I shuddered at stories where the Legion of Super-Heroes or Lois Lane were turned into toddlers.  Even Tiny Titans has been a tough sell to me and it’s hilarious.

It’s not directly related to this phobia of mine, but TV shows like Toddlers and Tiaras and Dance Moms disgust me.  The idea of tarting little kids up with the full consent and participation of parents, teaching them to shake their little asses like strippers, and then putting them on TV for the delight of pedophiles...that’s as wrong as it gets.  Every adult who appears or works on those shows should be arrested, convicted and jailed.  But I digress.

The Adventures of Little Archie #28 was a 68-page comic book.  The comics stories were divided between Bob Bolling and Dexter Taylor, both of whom wrote and drew their stories.  The cover is by Bolling and, according to the Grand Comics Database, it’s the only time he drew a cover based on one of Taylor’s stories.

Most of the Little Archie adventures are just that: adventures of one kind or another.  The kid goes after a car thief, befriends an alien frog-creature come to Earth to investigate the “inferior human race,” contends with a stranger attempting to steal a doll from Veronica and, with Betty, survives an auto accident because he and she were wearing seat belts.  A few of the stories are of the more realistic “kids learning valuable lessons about life” variety.  It sounds like an entertaining mix for those readers who weren’t as  creeped out as I was.

Maybe I should face my phobia and write some kids comics.  Little Punisher, anyone?

The inside front cover has a full-page ad for the Pearl Splendor Christmas Card assortment. You can make $32.50 for selling 50 boxes and it costs nothing to try. This Cheerful Card Company seems to be a different company from the one advertising in DC Comics titles.

Bolling’s “Sneak, Squeak and Creek” (9 pages) is disturbing on two levels. Early in the story, Fred Andrews keeps berating the driving skills of his wife Mary. The man is a total dick in these scenes, completely unlike the character in his other appearance. Then, once we get to the Archie trying to catch a burglar stuff, I was stunned by Archie’s insane recklessness and the brutality of his encounter with the burglar. It’s the comics equivalent of the exploitative reality shows I mentioned above. This story was reprinted in Laugh Comics Digest #13 [November 1977].

Next up is a “Li’l Jinx” single-page gag strip by Joe Edwards. It’s  the ancient joke of a fortune-telling machine that gets everything wrong, including the user’s weight.

That’s followed by a subscription ad offering four giant issues of Little Archie for a buck plus one free coloring book.

“Little Archie and the Astral Amphibian” (10 pages) is that alien story and it’s also by Bolling. The frog-being has an insufferable superiority complex but ends up appreciating the sense of fun that human beings embrace and enjoy. I liked this one. So did others. According to the Grand Comics Database, Jaime Hern├índez named this as one of his favorite Bob Bolling stories. The GCD also points out the Lodge family butler is named “Jarvis” in this story. That was changed to the usual “Smithers” in reprints, but the GCD does not list where it was reprinted.

This was followed by a prose article child star Hayley Mills, one of two such articles in the issue. Near the back of the comic book, there’s an article on Elvis Presley.

Dexter Taylor’s “Little Archie Learns To Be Nice To Little Girls” (9 pages) has the Andrews lad taking after his father and not in a good way. He takes advantage of Betty by having her carry his books home from school. This inexplicably leads to Archie’s folks telling him how they met...with each telling a different tale. Archie takes two things away from this. His parents tell stories that might not be the truth and he should be nicer to Betty. The kid vows that he will only let her carry four of his books tomorrow.

In another Li’l Jinx one-page by Joe Edwards, she writes a letter to her friend Greg. She writes very slowly because...Greg doesn’t read very fast.

The anguish continues. In the two-page “In Good Taste,” Archie is shown to be lazy. In the single-page “Troubles of a Money Lender,” he makes foolish loans to his friends and only makes an attempt to collect from the only kid he can lick. At least the one-page “Laugh Along with Little Archie” - which consists of four one-panel gags - doesn’t feed my growing disrespect for the lad.

“Troubles of a Money Lender” was reprinted in Little Archie Comics Digest Annual #3 [1978].

“Laugh Along with Little Archie” featured the last appearance of Ambrose, who had already been dropped from the title. This page was reprinted in Archie's Double Digest Magazine #18 [September 1985]. The GCD says Ambrose returned in the 1980s and, if I’m remembering correctly, Ambrose also appeared as a teen and an adult in various Archie titles since then.

“Billy Wins with Bendix” is a one-page advertisement in comic-book form. Allegedly, a “Bendix automatic transmission and power brake” will make your bike go faster.  If this were a Little Archie story, he’d be involved in illegal gambling on bike races.

In Taylor’s “A Perfect Afternoon” (6 pages), Archie’s neighbors are watching him while his parents are off on a trip. The neighbors are so worried about Archie causing accidents that they themselves are the cause of several. I don’t like this kid. The GCD says the tale was reprinted in Archie Annual Digest #35 [1979].

This story is followed by a page of half-page ads for “Task Force” (America’s Most Exciting War Game) and “Convoy Terror” (a Nuclear Naval Battle Game).

Taylor’s “The China Doll Mystery” (8 pages) is this issue’s cover story. Mr. Lodge buys a small statue for Veronica. One man tries to buy it. Another man tries to steal it. Grabbing the statue from the thief, Archie ends up throwing it at him. The crook’s head and the statue break. The latter has jewels in it. The Lodge cook offers to make whatever Archie wants. The kid asks for chop suey.

This is followed by another page of half-page ads: U.S. Royal bike tires and, in comic-strip form, Popsicles.

“Highway To Danger” (5 pages) is by Taylor. The GCD synopsis covers it well: Little Archie and Betty are riding in a truck with Betty's brother Chick. When the brakes get jammed and the truck crashes, they escape unharmed because they were wearing seat belts.

This story is sort of a public service message and not a bad one at that. I don’t remember seeing Chick in any modern stories, so I’m guessing his luck eventually ran out and the loss was too painful for Betty or her parents to ever mention him again.

This is followed by the Elvis article mentioned above and a page of half-page ads. The first ad offers readers a chance to get cash or premiums for selling Cloverine Brand Salve. I think Cloverine is Wolverine’s adorable little sister. The other ad is one we’ve seen elsewhere this month: 100 Toy Soldiers for $1.25.

Little Archie’s pal Jughead wraps up the issue with “Food Facts” (3 pages), again by Taylor. Admonished by Miss Grundy for eating in a classroom, Jughead insists he thinks about other things than food. But, when he mentions going to a baseball game or watching TV, he is actually thinking about eating a hot dog and the show he watches is a cooking show. It’s mildly amusing. This story was reprinted in Jughead's Double Digest #192 [July 2013].

Next is a full-page ad for the Wallace Brown Christmas cards that we’ve seen advertised elsewhere.

The inside back cover offers a free lucky piece when you join the Archie Comic Book Club. To join the club, you have to subscribe to one of these titles: Archie, Pep, Laugh, Jughead, Betty & Veronica, Archie’s Joke Book, Life with Archie or Archie’s Mad House.  Those who joined got ten issues for a dollar.

The back cover ad proclaims “GIVE ME JUST ONE EVENING AND I’LL TEACH YOU TO HYPNOTIZE EASILY!” For the full-refundable $1.98, you could get the complete 25-lesson GUIDE TO HYPNOTISM. It sounds like a long evening.

Today’s bloggy thing probably craps on beloved childhood memories of those who loved The Adventures of Little Archie. However, while recognizing that there were, indeed, wonderful stories published in the title, I remain profoundly disturbed by the concept of turning horny teenagers into precocious children. That only gets worse in the way-too-many stories in which elementary schoolgirls Betty and Veronica battle for Archie’s affections. Shudder.

Coming next in my JULY 1963 series will be The Adventures of Mighty Mouse #160, which was published by Gold Key. See you tomorrow.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Thursday, May 19, 2016

JULY 1963: THE ADVENTURES OF JERRY LEWIS #78

Today’s bloggy thing is another installment of my “Is this a cry for help?” 136-part series on the comic books that arrived at the newsstands in the month of July 1963. That month was pivotal to my comics career because it was the month when the glorious Fantastic Four Annual #1 ignited my desire to write comic books.

The Adventures of Jerry Lewis #78 [September-October 1963] shows our boy cracking wise with a Viking who clearly doesn’t appreciate the humor. The Grand Comics Database opines the cover is penciled and inked by Bob Oksner. I’m inclined to agree.

The inside front cover advertises the Magic Art Reproducer which we’ve seen before.  Indeed, every outside ad in this issue is one  we’ve seen in other DC Comics titles from this month.  The line-up: Tootsie Rolls, 207 Stamps, Tootsie Roll Pops, Missile Attack, 104 Cars, Tootsie Roll Fudge, 104 Kings’ Knights, 100 Toy Soldiers, the Blast Off space game, the Christmas cards from Wallace Brown and 204 Revolutionary War Soldiers.

The issue-length story is untitled and runs 26 pages, though three of those pages are half-pages that fall at the end of the chapters. The writer is unknown, but he or she does a terrific job capturing Jerry’s voice and speech mannerisms. I could “hear” the performer in every word balloon.  The story is drawn and signed by Oksner and it has everything you’d expect from that great artist: great facial expressions, fluid motion and a gorgeous girl.  Of course, like his fellow DC star Bob Hope, Lewis was blessed (or cursed) with a face that looks like a cartoon.

As with almost all Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope and other celebrity comics from DC, this issue’s tale has never been reprinted anywhere that I can find. So, for that reason, I will be revealing plot details willy-nilly in today’s bloggy thing.

SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD


The story opens with an obsessed Jerry going to the library because he wants to read about pirates right now.  However, all the books on pirates have already been checked out by “Professor J. Overlap Peasplitter” and are overdue.

Jerry explains why he must have a book on pirates:

I want it should be on pirates on account of I broke a dish today and it broke into pieces of eight. Get it? Now if that doesn’t call for a pirate book, what does?

Jerry goes to the Peasplitter home where he meets the absent-minded professor and the professor’s gorgeous daughter Mary. Peasplitter is working on a time machine and planning to research the pirates of the past. He cons...convinces...Jerry into taking the trip for him. The chapter ends with Jerry in the machine and realizing that he might be making a mistake.

“Teen Age Views” is a half-page filler, four panels of teenagers sharing humorous definitions: An example: “Psychiatry is the art of teaching people how to stand on their own two feed while lying down on a couch!” The creator or creators of this feature have not yet been identified.

“Inside Hollywood” is a full-page prose column reporting on various celebrities. Stanley Holloway, who played Eliza Doolittle’s father in Broadway’s My Fair Lady has been signed to play the role in the movie. Kirk Douglas’ government-sponsored speaking tour in Brazil was a triumph. Alfred Hitchcock has slimmed down to 200 pounds “and endangered his profile.” Imogene Coca is making her motion-picture debut in Under the Yum Yum Tree.

Back to Jerry Lewis. The second chapter opens with the professor’s time machine sending him to a baseball stadium where he arouses the ire of...wait for it...the Pittsburgh Pirates. Jerry makes his way back to the Peasplitter house. The professor says the machine just needs a few adjustments.

Before the second time travel attempt, the professor gives Jerry a two-way transistor radio so they can stay in touch. As Jerry goes back through time, the music playing on the radio changes to match the eras through which he’s passing:

I’m just a lonely minute man looking for a Minuet maid...

Jerry ends up in the time of Vikings, who, after all, were feared pirates. He narrowly dodges a welcoming spear thrown by Skag the Peace-Lover. Jerry is relieved by the name until Skag explains what it means:

Yes! Ha-ha! But unfortunately for folks, I only find peace after a good messy fight! Ha-ha-ha! Grrr! Ha-ha-ha!

The third and final chapter opens with Jerry fleeing from Skag and trying to contact the professor on the radio. He runs into Astrid, the daughter of the chief of the people Skag is presently invading. Astrid looks exactly like Mary.

Astrid thinks the radio is magic and asks Jerry to use his magic to make her wheelchair-bound father invincible. Chief Leif looks like the professor. Miraculously, when Skag tries to slice the chief in half, the old man leaps to his feet and runs away. According to the law of the land, Skag must catch the chief to claim the village and the lovely Astrid.

The two sides settle on a boat-racing contest. Skag has a crew to propel his boat. The chief has Jerry’s wizardry. This doesn’t look like it will end well.

As per the chief’s request, Jerry gathered food for the trip. The problem: the chief asked for “food fit for a Norse” and Jerry heard “food fit for a horse” and brought “alfalfa and oats” and “Kentucky blue grass.” Fortunately, they don’t have to look at what they are eating because a thick as pea soup fog rolls in.

Days later, Jerry, Astrid and Chief Leif make land...at Plymouth Rock. Which we know is Plymouth Rock because the name is painted on the rock. As a hail of arrows descend around them, Jerry learns the chief’s full name is...Leif Ericson. The chief discovered America before Columbus did.

The indigenous Americans aren’t at all happy about the arrival of Jerry and the Ericsons. They shout at them from the shore.

Nobody expected on rock till 1620!

Pilgrims got first reservation!

Later they send us to reservation!

Viking go home!


The story is running out of pages so Jerry uses the radio to call for help from the future. He finds himself back in 1963, but with Professor and Mary Peasplitter who, for some reason, have a Viking boat of their own.  No one quite knows what happened and we never find out what happened to Chief Leif and his daughter.

The final panel has Jerry back at the library. This time, he’s in a hurry to take out books on ghosts. However, according to library records, a “Dr. Spook” has borrowed them all. The library asks if Jerry would like to contact the doctor. As Jerry flees the library, he tells the librarian to just send him a card when the doctor brings the books back.

Despite its weak ending, I enjoyed this story.  As I’ve said in the past, I would eagerly purchase a Best of Jerry Lewis or a Best of Bob Hope collection. While DC probably doesn’t have the rights to the material anymore, they could probably come to an agreement with Lewis or the estate of Hope to publish such books with a portion of the profits going to charities near and dear to Lewis and, when he was alive, Hope.

Such volumes could sell to fans of the comedians and also to comics fans who would be attracted by such great artists as Oksner, Mort Drucker, Neal Adams and others. In the case of Jerry Lewis, later issues of his title features guest appearances by Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the Flash.

The only DC house ad in this issue is a full-page subscription form that lists ten books: Fox and Crow, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,  The Adventures of Jerry Lewis, The Adventures of Bob Hope, Sugar & Spike, Lois Lane, Wonder Woman, Superboy, Justice League of America and Tomahawk.  Readers who subscribed to the titles would get two years worth of issues “at the low low price of 10 cents per issue” as opposed to the cover price of 12 cents per issue.

More to come in this series.

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I’m taking the next three days off for the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention in Philadelphia. I hope to post a report on the convention sometime next week.

I’ll be back Monday. See you then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella