Wednesday, April 26, 2017

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 108

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, honor and fighting skills - Johnny Clay speaks to me.  After rereading the Kid’s earliest adventures when Marvel 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. We’re currently in the extended twilight of the title. We’ve seen the last new Rawhide Kid story that will appear in the title, which is now a bimonthly reprint. This is the 108th installment in my “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” series.

The Rawhide Kid #121 [July 1974] had a new cover penciled by Larry Lieber and inked by Frank Giacoia. It shows the Kid fighting side by side with Kid Colt. Instead, the issue reprints the Rawhide Kid story from Rawhide Kid #40 [June 1964]. There’s just one teeny tiny problem with the new cover which can be seen by comparing it to the original Jack Kirby/Sol Brodsky cover.
                                                                                 

That’s right. The story reprinted in this issue is “The Rawhide Kid Meets The Two-Gun Kid” (18 pages) by Stan Lee and Dick Ayers. Kid Colt appears nowhere in Rawhide Kid #121. Whoops!

Since I wasn’t involved with this issue, all I can give you are my best guesses for this error. It’s possible the Lieber/Giacoia cover was intended for the previous issue, which did guest-star Kid Colt, and didn’t make it for that issue. It’s all possible this new cover was really intended for an issue of Western Team-Up that never came out because Western Team-Up ended up being a one-shot. There is a 15-page Kid Colt/Rawhide Kid team-up by Lieber that might have been done around this time and which was ultimately published in Giant-Size Kid Colt #1 [January 1975]. If anyone out there can confirm or deny either of my guesses, I’d love to hear from you.

I wrote about “The Rawhide Kid Meets The Two-Gun Kid” back in October, 2012. You can read my comments here.

The “Marvel Bullpen Bulletins” page for this issue had the return of “Stan Lee’s Soapbox,” but it wasn’t one of Stan’s better ones. It was a puff piece touting Marvel’s various higher-price titles: the 35-cent Giant-Size comics, the 60-cent Super-Sized comics and the 75-cent black-and-white magazines. Stan also boasted that the FOOM fan club now had more than 25,000 members and invited all of those members to send in ideas and suggestions to make the fan club even better.

The second part of the bulletins page was clearly written before some plans for the Super-Giants and the Giant-Size titles changed. There are plugs for Super-Giant Spider-Man, Super-Giant Avengers and Super-Giant Conan. There is a plug for Giant-Size Creature #1, starring Werewolf by Night and introducing Tigra. (Okay, that one turned out to be accurate.) There was a plug for Giant-Size Super-Teams #1 starring the Defenders, which became Giant-Size Defenders #1 before it hit the newsstands.

Sidebar. I wrote the Werewolf by Night/Tigra story mentioned above. I also wrote the new framing sequence for Giant-Size Defenders #1 and picked the reprints for the issue. I don’t remember why Marvel had to go mostly reprint for that debut, but it was likely due to the usual insane deadlines we faced. I do remember my work on the issue was a rush job all around.

More plugs and shout-outs filled the third section of the Bullpen page. Deathlok would be launched in Astonishing Tales in “a story concocted and drawn by Rich (Swash) Buckler, and dynamic dialogue by Devil-May-Care Doug Moench.

Other items:

Lethal Larry Hama was the new artist of the Iron Fist feature that was running in Marvel Premiere.

Peerless Paul Gulacy was the new artist on Master of Kung Fu. Like Crafty Craig Russell and Valiant Val Mayerik, Gulacy was a protégé of Dapper Dan Adkins.

Dauntless Don Perlin was drawing Werewolf by Night in both the 25-cent standard-size comic and the 35-cent giant-size comic.

Debonair Dave Cockrum would be returning as the embellisher of the Avengers.

Other dropped names: Affable Al Milgrom and (Santa) Klaus Janson. Considering some of these nicknames, I really lucked out when I was christened Tony (the Tiger) Isabella.

There was no “Mighty Marvel Checklist” this time around, not even in this issue’s “Bullpen Bonus Page”

Speaking of that “Bullpen Bonus Page”...

What a waste! The whole page is a plug for the Marvel Value Stamps and the Marvel Value Stamps Stampbook, which, along with a “special bonus poster,” was yours for fifty cents...to cover the postage and handling. From day one, I hated the concept of these value stamps. What they really did was decrease the value of Odin-knows-how-many comic books that they were cut from. 

On this page, it’s announced that fans would get MVS discounts from Phil Seuling’s New York Comic Art Convention in July and the San Diego Comics Convention later that summer. I wonder how many fans got their MVS Stampbooks stamped at those events.

As long as I’m ragging on this idiotic notion, let me ask how many of you have bought an old issue from this era and, on reading it, discovered there was a Marvel Value Stamp-size hole in your comic book. During my years as a comics retailer, I probably came across dozens of these damaged comic books. Sigh.
                                                                             
This issue’s non-series reprint is “Growler Joe Meets the Stranger” (4 pages) from Kid Colt Outlaw #14 [May 1951]. Possibly penciled by Myron Fass, this story is so gosh-darned awful that I consider it my civic duty to spoil it for you.

It’s 1880. Former Sheriff Clay Barker drinks in disgrace. When a stranger to the town asks how the lawman lost his badge, he learns that Barker backed down when he called out by a bad hombre named Growler Joe. The stranger walks over to Barker’s table and tells him he would like to help.

Barker tells the stranger Growler Joe hangs out at another saloon in town. The stranger goes to the Big Strike Saloon and calls out Growler Joe. He has a prior beef with Growler Joe on account of Joe tried to back-shoot him in Texas.

The two men draw. The stranger shoots the guns out of Joe’s hands. Why does the story not name the stranger? Patience. I will reveal every bit of awfulness in this story.

The stranger tells Barker that Growler Joe has been dealt with. But the former sheriff figures there’s no coming back from the cowardice he showed. The stranger has a plan. The sheriff agrees to it.

Back at the Big Strike Saloon, when discussing fast draws with the clientele, the stranger says:

Down in Yuma they say thar’s a fella by the name of Clay Barker who’s greased lightnin’ on the draw. That’s one hombre I ain’t hankerin’ to draw on!

Told Barker is the town’s ex-sheriff and asked if he’s funning with the barflies, the stranger double down and says:

No, sirree! There’s many an hombre down Rio way who’ll steer plumb clear of Barker if they get wind that he’s around.

That’s when Barker enters the saloon and proclaims that, sheriff or no sheriff, there ain’t gonna be any blood-spilling in this town. Barker calls out the stranger and outdraws him. The stranger stands down and leaves town, leaving the townspeople stunned:

Jumpin’ Jackrabbits! Barker out drawed the man who gunned Growler Joe! I reckon thar ain’t a man west of the Pecos who deserves that badge more than Barker does!

Let’s review. Barker was too cowardly to face Growler Joe. So the stranger took out Growler Joe. Then Barker and the stranger conned the townspeople into thinking Barker must have just been having a bad day or something when the sheriff left them all to the mercy of Growler Joe. So the townspeople gave Barker back his badge and his job. What could possibly go wrong in the future?

On the outskirts of town, Barker thanks the stranger for his help. He asks the man what his name is. Brace yourselves:

Folks up New Mexico way call me Billy...Billy the Kid!
                                                                              
Comics writers of the 1950s and 1960s loved to use real historical figures in their western stories. Usually they get the details as wrong as wrong gets. However, save for the fact that this version of Billy the Kid is insanely generous to the old sheriff, the Kid’s timeline actually works for this story. From Wikipedia...

Billy the Kid, born Henry McCarty and also known as William H. Bonney (September 17, 1859–July 14, 1881) was an American Old West gunfighter who participated in New Mexico's Lincoln County War. He is known to have killed eight men.

His first arrest was for stealing food in late 1875, and within five months he was arrested for stealing clothing and firearms. His escape from jail two days later and flight from New Mexico Territory into Arizona Territory made him both an outlaw and a federal fugitive. After murdering a blacksmith during an altercation in August 1877, Bonney became a wanted man in Arizona Territory and returned to New Mexico, where he joined a group of cattle rustlers. He became a well-known figure in the region when he joined the Regulators and took part in the Lincoln County War. In April 1878, however, the Regulators killed three men, including Lincoln County Sheriff William J. Brady and one of his deputies. Bonney and two other Regulators were later charged with killing all three men.

Bonney's notoriety grew in December 1880 when the Las Vegas Gazette in Las Vegas, New Mexico, and the New York Sun carried stories about his crimes. He was captured by Sheriff Pat Garrett later that same month, tried and convicted of the murder of Brady in April 1881, and sentenced to hang in May of that year. Bonney escaped from jail on April 28, 1881, killing two sheriff's deputies in the process, and evaded capture for more than two months. He ultimately was shot and killed by Garrett in Fort Sumner on July 14, 1881. Over the next several decades, legends grew that Bonney had not died that night, and a number of men claimed they were him.


One more thing for today. Around this time, Marvel was running one-line house ads at the bottom of most (but not all) story pages in an issue. I have a vague memory of having seen something like this in British comics weeklies and of maybe having done something like it in Marvel’s British weeklies during my time as the editor of those produced-in-America titles.

Here are the one-liners from Rawhide Kid #121:

WHO IS THE TARANTULA? FIND OUT IN SPIDER-MAN #134!

FANTASTIC FOUR VS. FRIGHTFUL FOUR - AND IT’S HAPPENING NOW!

FIRE VS. GOLD! THE HUMAN TORCH VS. ICEMAN - IN MARVEL TEAM-UP!

(Fire vs. Gold? Clearly, the proofreading of these one-liners left much to be desired.)

DIG “THE EXORCIST”? TRY THE SON OF SATAN - IN MARVEL SPOTLIGHT!

AT LAST! THE MAN-WOLF STARS IN CREATURES ON THE LOOSE!

WHO IS THE FIRELORD? THE ANSWER’S IN THOR #225!

KUNG FU THRILLS! THE COMING OF IRON FIST - IN MARVEL PREMIERE!

DON’T GO CRAZY! BUY CRAZY - NOW ON SALE!

SIMON GARTH, THE ZOMBIE, STALKS AGAIN! BELIEVE IT!

Though I wrote similar one-line notices somewhere along the line, I’m fairly certain I didn’t write any of the above! Then again, I did so many odd jobs for Marvel during my time there that it’s in the realm of possibility that I did write these and don’t remember writing them. Those were wild times.

That’s all for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with another blast from the past. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

TUESDAY TRIPLE FEATURE

Kong: Skull Island was one of the highlights of last week for me. Giant monsters. Big screen. Exciting story. Terrific acting. This is my kind of movie all the way. Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts from a screenplay by Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein and Derek Connolly and a story by John Gatins, this re-imagining of King Kong is set at the end of the Vietnam War and that is an inspired choice.

In the movie, the discovery of Skull Island was not possible until the invention and deployment of surveillance satellites in space. That the Russians also have such satellites gives the U.S. military and scientists reason to visit the island without knowing exactly what they’re getting into. Except scientist Bill Randa [played by John Goodman] who has a pretty good idea what awaits them on Skull Island. The other characters are at the mercy of Randa and Colonel Preston Packard [Samuel L. Jackson], another commanding figure who has his own reasons for accepting this mission and bringing along American soldiers who were one day away from going home.

Avoiding spoilers as much as possible...

Kong is impressive. His back story is powerful, ultimately making him one of the film’s most sympathetic characters. Also impressive are the island’s other creatures and the ever-present threat they post to the human characters.

The movie takes the time to introduce us to many of the scientists and soldiers who go to Skull Island. Some of the deaths come as a real shock, as do some of the survivals. Once the film takes us to the island, the story flows wonderfully. There are moments of sheer horrifying action and moments quiet, even reflective.

Sidebar. The make-up effects on the islanders are amazing. Worthy of Oscar nomination. Worthy of an Oscar win.

There are several outstanding performances. Tom Hiddleston’s jaded mercenary finds his true self on the island. Samuel L. Jackson is frightening as a man who finds his purpose only in war. Brie Larson is great as a feisty anti-war photographer.

The best performance? That would be John C. Reilly as a World War II pilot stranded on the island for decades. Even while serving to explain the inexplicable, he brings so much heart to his character. It’s a performance worthy of Oscar nomination.

There is a scene at the end of the credits. It’s great fun. Stick around to see it.

Kong: Skull Island is as fine a film as any I’ve seen in the past few years. I recommend it highly.
 
                                                                             
Suicide Squad (2016) is a terrible terrible movie. Which was pretty much what I expected. Friends whose opinions I respect didn’t care for it, which is putting it mildly. My son Eddie reacted in horror when I borrowed the film from our local library. But, like Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which I haven’t seen yet, it was a movie that I felt I should watch. I have a long list of movies like that. Sigh.

I’ll start with the very short list of things I liked about Suicide Squad. I liked Katana. I kind of liked Croc. I thought El Diablo’s tragedy and search for redemption was well played. I could kind of relate to Deadshot’s wanting to be a father to his daughter. Thus ends the short list.

I have always considered Amanda Waller to be one of the vilest of villains and she’s more vile than ever in this film. She scares the government into her “Suicide Squad” program telling them they need to protect themselves from the next Superman if the next Superman is a bad guy. However, the menace that threatens all mankind in the movie is a menace of Waller’s making. Oh, yeah, she also murders a room full of government workers because they don’t have the proper clearance to know about the debacle she created. If I’m Rick Flag, I pop a cap in her ass right then and there.

Flag is no hero either. He’s a mindless soldier who enters into an inappropriate relationship with a member of the Squad. His mistakes of action and judgment get people killed.

The Joker? Let me check. Yeah, I still hate this overused villain. Put him in the ground already. Forever.

In a scene that runs during the credits, Bruce Wayne helps Waller in exchange for information on the heroes who will presumably join the Justice League. He tells her to shut down the Suicide Squad or he and his friends will do it for her. Yes, please. And while you are at it, give the authorities and the press enough on Waller that she can be tried, convicted and tossed into a cell for the rest of her life. Unless, of course, Midway City is in a state that still has the death penalty.

Hey, when it comes to overused villains who keep getting away with their heinous crimes, I’m all for revving up Old Sparky.

                                                                           

Central Intelligence (2016) was a Redbox rental. My daughter Kelly and I had wanted to watch it when it was available “On Demand” and missed that opportunity. Since she had bravely sat through Suicide Squad with me and since I was still feeling under the weather from a weekend of aches and pains, I was more than happy to watch this movie with her. Here’s the IMDb summary:

After he reconnects with an awkward pal from high school through Facebook, a mild-mannered accountant is lured into the world of international espionage.

Central Intelligence is your basic silly comedy-adventure movie. It works because its two stars - Dwayne Johnson as the awkward high-school friend turned buff CIA agent and Kevin Hart as the student of the year turned office drone - are just so darn likeable. Yes, the actors and their characters have annoying quirks, but you want to root for them. The comedy action scenes are fun. The character growth is mildly moving. There are solid supporting performances by Amy Ryan, Danielle Nicolet, Justin Bateman and Ryan Hansen. There’s even a surprising, very funny uncredited cameo near the end of the movie.

Central Intelligence isn’t an award-winner. It’s not a movie I’ll ever watch again. It was simply an amusing, entertaining, relaxing way to spend a little over an hour-and-a-half. Sometimes that’s all I need from a movie.

That’s all for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with a new installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” See you then.
    
© 2017 Tony Isabella

Monday, April 24, 2017

TONY'S TIPS #206

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Power Man and Iron Fist, Nightwing, The Avengers Steed and Mrs. Peel: The Comic Strips!

COMICS REVUE #371-371

Comics Revue #371-372 [Manuscript Press; $20] arrived in my mailbox last week. As veteran bloggy thing readers know, this is one of my favorite magazines bar none. Dated April, 2017, this double-issue is 132 pages of some of the best comic strips of all time. Here’s what editor Rick Norwood presents this time around:

Complete in this issue:

THE PHANTOM by Lee Falk and Wilson McCoy
TARZAN by John Celardo and Dick van Buren
SIR BAGBY by R&D Hackney

Serials:

RICK O’SHAY by Stan Lynde
CASEY RUGGLES by Warren Tufts
FLASH GORDON by Mac Raboy and Harry Harrison’
ALLEY OOP by V.T. Hamlin
BUZ SAWYER by Roy Crane
TARZAN by Russ Manning
GASOLINE ALLEY by Dick Moores
STEVE CANYON by Milton Caniff
STEVE ROPER by Allen Saunders and William Overgard
FLASH GORDON by Harry Harrison
MODESTY BLAISE by Peter O’Donnell and Romero

Subscriptions are $59 for one year, $118 for two years (outside the US, $89 per year sent airmail). For more information, write:

Manuscript Press
P.O. Box 336
Mountain Home TN 37684

ISSN #1552-5848

FANTASTICON LANSING (APRIL 29-30)

My next convention appearance is Joe Nieporte’s FANTASTICON, which will be held Saturday and Sunday, April 29-30, at the Causeway Bay Hotel and Convention Center, 6820 South Cedar Street in beautiful (I assume) Lansing, Michigan. The show runs 10 am-6 pm on Saturday and 10 am-5pm on Sunday. Admission prices for Saturday are $8.50 in advance and $12.00 on the day of the show. Bargain-priced admission on Sunday is $5.50 in advance and $8.00 on the day of the show. A two-day pass (advance only) is $12.50, and kids five and under are free. I’m looking forward to this event.

Besides my own beloved self, the Fantasticon guest lists includes Misty Knight co-creator Arvell Jones, comics artist Jason Moore, the comics legend who am William Messner-Loebs, comics artist Scott Rosema, actor/singer/activist Eugene Clark, makeup special effects artist Daniel Phillips, sketch and tattoo artist B.C. Hepner, Tugg the Superhero Dog and Midwest Droid Builders. I believe those are the droids you were looking for. The show’s artists alley will have over a dozen participants and the vendors area will have over two dozen sellers of fine and wondrous items.

Panels and events will include nerd trivia, musicals, two cosplay contests, droid building, makeup special effects. Arvell and I will be doing a panel on Saturday at 2:30 pm:

Creating an iconic Comic Book Character Q&A
Participate in a Q&A session with long time comic book creators Tony Isabella (Marvel/DC) and Arvell Jones (Marvel/DC). Hear how they collaborated on creating the character, MISTY KNIGHT, now an important part of the Marvel Netflix Universe


This panel will be fun because Arvell and I remember the creation of Misty Knight in significantly different ways. Which is all good on account of we love each other like brothers. Fans who come to our panel can ask us about other characters and comics, too. No comics fans will be harmed during this presentation. Maybe.

I’m particularly excited about the convention’s cosplay contests. This will be the first convention where I’m handing out my sure-to-be-esteemed CERTIFICATE OF COSPLAY while giving qualifying costume players an actual American dollar bill for their efforts.

Here’s the deal on that...

WEAR A COSTUME, GET A DOLLAR

I have made no secret of my love for cosplay. Seeing fans in their costumes is one of the things I like best about appearing at comics and other conventions. However, because of the way some conventions arrange their artist alleys or exhibitors areas, I don’t always get to see many of the cosplayers. So I decided to take matters into my own hands. My own cheap-ass hands.

At every one of my remaining convention appearances in 2017, I will have money and a certificate for cosplayers. Here’s how that will work...

I have a list of cosplay I’d like to see at my 2017 appearances.  Many are characters that I created or co-created (Black Lightning, Misty Knight and Tigra). Others will be characters I wrote, such as Hawkman, Hawkwoman, the Johnny Blaze Ghost Rider and others. Some will just be characters I love like the Blonde Phantom, Cosmo the Merry Martian, Herbie Popnecker, the original Sugar and Spike, the classic Zatanna, Mademoiselle Marie, and others. If you come to my convention booth/table cosplaying as these characters, I will give you a dollar and a special certificate.

A dollar? Yeah, but it’s the thought that counts and I will have at least fifty bucks on hand to hand out at each convention. If this frivolity is as successful as I hope it will be, I’ll up the bank to seventy-five or a hundred dollars per event.

The certificate? It’s a thing of beauty that I will be unveiling at Fantasticon Lansing.

Here’s the character list...

Bandette
Batwoman (1960s)
Batwoman (modern-day)
Black Lightning
Black Widow
Blonde Phantom (Golden Age)
Chalice (Alters)
Cosmo the Merry Martian
Darkstar
Doc Savage
Dreadnought (novel by April Daniels)
Emma Peel and John Steed
Faith
Ghost Rider (Johnny Blaze; 1970s)
Godzilla or other giant movie monsters
Grim Ghost (Atlas)
Gwen Stacy (1960s)
Hawkman
Hawkwoman
Herbie Popnecker
Icon
IT! The Living Colossus
Jimmy Olsen (1960s)
Kitaro
Kite-Man
Koro Sensei (Assassination Classroom)
Lady Killer (Dark Horse)
Little Lulu
Lois Lane (1960s)
Luke Cage
Mademoiselle Marie
Magicman (ACG)
Mary Jane Watson (1960s)
Misty Knight
Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan)
Ms. Tree
Nemesis (ACG)
Pat Savage
Rawhide Kid (1960s/1970s)
Richie Rich
Rocket (from Icon)
Rocket Racer
Sara Lance
Sugar and Spike (1960s)
Tigra
Top Cat
Usagi Yojimbo
Vixen
Zatanna (1960s)

Now that I’ve written it down, it sounds like I’m the kid who could only get a dog to play with him by tying a burger around my neck. But I’m willing to come off as pathetic to see some great cosplay. If it works, it’ll be grand fun. If it doesn’t work, well, it won’t be the first time a plan of mine went awry.

Feel free to spread this bloggy thing cosplay contest all over the Internet. Just this weekend, I bought a new phone that will allow me to take decent photos of the cosplayers who visit my table. You best believe I will share them with my readers here and elsewhere.

At my convention table/booth...

I will be selling the Black Lightning trade paperback reprinting my first series as well as other Isabella-written items. On request, I will sign these and other Isabella stuff. There will be no charge for my signature or, for the most part, any limit on how many items I will sign for you. However, in the unlikely situation in which I have a line of folks waiting for my signature and you have a large stack of things for me to sign, I’ll sign a few items for you and ask you to step to the back of the line until I’ve signed for the other people in the line. I’ll do my best to make sure everyone who wants signatures gets them as quickly as possible.

I’ll be selling other things as well, but I never know what those things will be. There’s an excellent chance I’ll have two boxes of recent comic books priced at just a dollar apiece. There will be a few surprises in those boxes.

Other possibilities include: the 1988 two-sided Superman poster I have been selling at other conventions, a box of trade paperbacks and hardcovers priced at two and five dollars each, and maybe some other stuff. What I have depends on how much time I have to prepare stuff for the convention in between finishing some writing things for various clients.

While I’m at my table, I’ll be happy to answer your questions about comics and my career in comics. However, keep in mind that, due to agreements I’ve signed, I might not be able to answer all of your questions at this time. I’ll answer what I can.

While I’m not at my table, I’ll be chatting with friends and making my way around the vendors areas. Among the comics I’ll be looking for are issues of Charlton’s Nurse Betsy Crane, Marvel’s Kathy and The Mighty Marvel Western. If you have any Alan Class reprints from England or other interesting British comics - and if I’m making a few bucks at my table - I might buy some of those.
                                                                                   
Having been to one of Joe Nieporte’s shows before, I can’t imagine anyone there could feel threatened or uncomfortable. But, if you do, feel free to hang out around my table for as long as you need to. My table should always be considered a safe space for fans and pros alike. We are always stronger together.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Thursday, April 20, 2017

OLD COMICS: NURSE BETSY CRANE #13

Welcome to “Old Comics” where I write about random comic books from my legendary Vast Accumulation of Stuff. For the most part, I’ll be talking about issues that predate my entry into the professional comics industry in late 1972. However, if I come across comics from the 1970s through the 1990s that I find interesting enough to write about, I’ll write about them. 
 
Today’s comic is Nurse Betsy Crane #13 [Charlton; October 1961], a standard 36-page, all-in-color-for-a-dime comic book edited by Pat Masulli. Its numbering continues from Teen Secret Diary, which ran 11 issues from October 1959 to June 1961. The first Nurse Betsy Crane story was an eight-pager that appeared in the final issue of Teen Secret Diary. That story was pencilled by Joe Sinnott and inked by Vince Colletta.

It was the cover of Nurse Betsy Crane #13 that made me want to buy a copy of the issue for myself. Pencilled by Charles Nicholas and almost certainly - in my estimation - inked by the legendary Dick Giordano, the cover shows Betsy and her fellow nurse Diane walking on a wooded path and talking about Jeff, the man Diane says she’s in love with and who is in love with her. She wants Betsy to meet Jeff. In case you haven’t figured it out, Jeff is the guy with the huge eyes lurking behind the tree. The copy I bought came from the U.K., probably crossing the ocean and returning to the U.S. for the first time since its original journey to England. A smeared “three pence” label is pasted over the original U.S. price. Besides that, the comic is in excellent condition.

Charlton, likely because their comics were part of a vast “empire” of cheaply produced magazines, had paid ads that you rarely saw in the comics of the better comics publishers. The inside front cover of this issue pitched the “amazing new TUMMY-SLIM” which featured “interlocking hands of firm support.” This was an abdominal belt and “designed especially for women who need extra flattening at the front.” Sold by the Ward Green Co. Of New York City, the COD cost was $3.98 plus postage. If a customer wasn’t satisfied, they could return the belt within ten days for a full refund of the purchase price. Of course, they’d still be out the postage.

“Scratch of Death” [20 pages] was more than likely written by Joe Gill, Charlton’s workhorse of a writer. It’s a well constructed and suspenseful story that shows Gill’s skill with stories longer than the countless non-series anthology stories he wrote for the many genres published by Charlton.

The Grand Comics Database identifies Nicholas as the penciller of this story and opines he also inked it. I’m going to pass on that latter identification. I think the primary inker is Giordano with possible assistance on the backgrounds and some secondary figures. There are just too many Giordano “tells” on the faces and figures of the more important characters.

SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD


Young nurse Diane gets in literally over her head when she takes a dip in a surprisingly deep pond. She’s rescued by handsome widower Jeff Wilson and also meets Jeff’s daughter Joy. Romance blossoms. Until something goes wrong.

Betsy Crane is working on a polio van serving the rural suburbs of Dale City. She gives a polio shot to Joy, but an angry Jeff refuses his shot. Betsy tells him that’s a mistake and cautions him about the angry-looking scratch on his...well, I’m going to say his arm. Because the art isn’t real clear about this.

Another man says that Jeff’s not usually like that. He doesn’t know what’s gotten into Jeff over the last few days.

Off-duty, Betsy and the just-arrived Diane talk about the latter’s new romance. Imagine Betsy’s surprise when Diane’s boyfriend turns out to be Jeff, who is as surly and unpleasant to Diane as he was to Betsy.

Betsy and Diane find Joy at the edge of town. She’s running away. She says her dad doesn’t love her anymore and that even their dog Shag won’t have anything to do with her. Joy adds Jeff won’t even let her into the house.

Betsy knows they have to get to the bottom of this. They all go to Jeff’s house, promising to look for Shag after Diane talks to Jeff. When Jeff opens the door, he’s more out of sorts than ever. Besides being surly, he appears dizzy and says he can’t stand the light and the draft.

Joy tells Betsy that Shag wants to be left along and is hiding from her. Her dad is now afraid of the water. He won’t take Joy swimming and wouldn’t even let her take a bath.

Betsy figures out. She tells Joy to lock herself in her playhouse and not come out until the nurse calls her. She also tells Joy not to let Shag into the playhouse.

Jeff goes into convulsions as Betsy enters the house. She realizes the man is suffering from hydrophobia and has rabies. They call for the doctor. The doctor confirms Betsy’s diagnosis and asks her how she was so sure:

It was a combination of things...his unreasonable behavior, his sensitivity to light, drafts, and then I learned of his recent fear of water...

The doctor isn’t sure he can save Jeff, which is probably because we still have seven more pages to go. But those remaining pages are filled with plot developments.

The invisible scratch is where the virus entered. It seems likely Jeff got the scratch from Shag, whose immunization could have worn off. The dog probably just licked his master’s open scratch and the animal’s saliva transmitted the rabies.

A team of hunters go looking for Shag. They come across a rabid fox who also suffers from being badly drawn. They kill the fox and then find Shag. The old dog has died.

Jeff revives, but has to go to the hospital for treatment. Diane takes care of Joy during this ordeal:

In the next few days, Jeff was swallowed up in a whirlpool of terror and anxiety! He was fighting, but the disease was not easily conquered! There were sleepless nights and momentary spasms...but Dr. Kiel and Betsy were always there giving their medical skill and tireless sympathy!

Three weeks later, Jeff has recovered and is released. He gets some kissy-face from Diane. He is then introduced to Shaggy, a properly-immunized puppy bought for Joy. All is swell, though Betsy has to decline an invitation to the celebration because she’s on duty. The story ends with a smiling Betsy watching the soon-to-be-new-family leave the hospital:

Tragedy had almost struck Jeff, Diane and Joy...they had come dangerously close to never becoming a family! They had been saved and so another case was closed in the life of Nurse Betsy Crane!

SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER


I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the medical stuff in this story, but I thought it was well-written. It made me want to read more Nurse Betsy Crane comic books. Romance comic books had a mostly female readership and a good many of those readers were older women. Therefore, it’s not surprising that some of this issue’s paid ads were directed towards girls and women. Among the products and services offered:

An Italian-style mesh ring and bracelet said to be the latest teen-age craze. They each cost a dollar.

A “professional-type electric manicure set for $1.98.

Free nurses booklet and sample lessons - “Learn practical nursing at home in only 10 short weeks - from the Post Graduate School of Nursing in Chicago.

Personalized silk scarves for only one dollar each.

Other paid ads included a “test your talent” contest with a prize of a $495 scholarship in commercial art. This ad was placed by Art Instruction Inc. of Minneapolis.

For a mere dime each - shipping and handling - you could get free genuine color photos of 52 popular stars like Annette, Perry Como, Tab Hunter, Ricky Nelson, Connie Stevens and others. These photos - no size was given - were from Album Color Photos of Hollywood.

A juke box bank that “actually plays real music” could be yours for $1.98 from Medford Products of Bethpage, New York.

You could watch the miracle of birth and see an egg become a chick with a Chick-Chick Egg Incubator. The price was $2.98.

A safety deposit bank vault that came with a burglar alarm and a genuine combination lock was $6.34 with shipping.

Charlton itself had a two-page house ad for their “Charlton Comics Monster Contest.” Caveboy Hunk was the star of his own comic book. Readers had to name the lad’s monster and explain their name in 15 words or less. The winners would be chosen by the editorial staff on the basis of originality and neatness.

The first prize was an E-Z-Do swimming pool, but did not include  instillation of same. Second prize was a Columbia bicycle. I’m not sure what Charlton got out of this contest, but I suspect that they got more than the name of Hunk’s monster.

Also in this issue was “Don't $ell $hort on Love” (2 pages), which was a prose romance story. A powerful and wealthy widow wishes to break up her granddaughter’s relationship with a young man who she believes is only after the girl’s money. She offers him a hundred grand to walk away. He refuses. He loves the girl and, even the old widow should disinherit her, they will be married. They will live in his small apartment and make a life together. Moved by the real love she sees in the man, she relents and tells her butler to set another place at the dinner table. Even if I excuse the manner in which the granddaughter’s own wishes are ignored and how her love proclaims he doesn’t care whether she has brains or not - the story was, after all, written almost six decades ago - it’s a plodding, cliche-ridden mediocrity. There’s a reason I don’t usually read the text stories in old comic books.

Wrapping up the editorial content of this issue was the three-page “Nursing - A Career.” Likely written by Gill, pencilled and maybe inked by Nicholas, this comics feature discuss the various kinds of  nurses and describes some of their duties. As with the lead story, I can’t attest to the accuracy of the material, only that it reads well and no errors of fact leaped out at me.

The back cover ad proclaimed that boys, girls, ladies and men could win a beautiful new photo ring (with compartment for your favorite photo) by identifying silhouette figures of four famous Americans. If the contest seems too easy to be true, you’re pretty much on the mark. If you won, you got the ring...and 14 packages of Cloverine Brand Salve which you had to sell at fifty cents a package and in thirty days. If you failed, you still had to pay. If you succeeded, you got either a premium or a cash commission. The ad was placed by the Wilson Chemical Company of Tyrone, Pennsylvania.

Though the ad itself is pretty shady - you have to read the small print in the coupon to find out about the salve - the company and its salve was moderately respected. The salve even won the coveted Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. You can read more about Wilson Chemical here.
                                                                         

Two more items. Both the Nurse Betsy Crane story and the secondary, non-fiction story were reprinted in Charlton’s Soap Opera Romances #1 [July 1982] with a Dick Giordano cover that was reprinted from Nurse Betsy Crane #12 [August 1961].

Nurse Betsy Crane ran for sixteen issues (#12-27) from August 1961 to March 1964. Gosh, I just need fifteen more issues to complete my collection. Or it could just be the rabies talking.

I’m taking three days off from the bloggy thing to give me time to go see the new Kong movie while it’s still on the big screen and to surf the web for late-night comedy on the horrible Bill O’Reilly’s fifteen-years-too-late firing from Fox News.

See you on Monday!

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 107

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, honor and fighting skills - Johnny Clay speaks to me.  After rereading the Kid’s earliest adventures when Marvel 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. We’re currently in the extended twilight of the title. We’ve seen the last new Rawhide Kid story that will appear in the title, which is now a bimonthly. This is the 107th installment in my “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” series.

The Rawhide Kid #120 [May 1974] reprints “The Menacing Masquerader Strikes Again!” from issue #50 [February 1966]. The original cover was by Larry Lieber with inks by Carl Hubbell. This issue’s version of that cover was heavily retouched by John Romita, showing more of Kid Colt’s face, adding extra weight to the figures of both kids, and adding detail to the background. The original cover copy gets moved around a bit in the process.
                                                                           

The Rawhide Kid story was written and drawn by Lieber with inks by Hubbell. The original 17-page story was cut down to 15 pages here. Former Marvel writer and editor Scott Edelman discussed the cutting of pages - my least favorite job when I had to do it - in his own blog. You can read his remarks here...and you can read my previous comments on the uncut story here.

Whoever cut the original story by two pages kept the first panel of page 9 intact, but replaced the second panel with the sixth panel. The editor - more likely, an assistant editor - rewrote the sixth panel copy to make the truncated reprint flow better. The original second panel was cut along with panels three, four, five and seven. The first two panels of page 10 were also cut. If this sounds like a lot of production work, it’s because it was a lot of production work. I’ll get back to that in a bit.

The first three panels of the original page 13 were cut. The first two panels of the original story’s page 14 were cut. The original story’s third and fourth panel of page 14 were expanded to include rewritten copy that kept the story flowing, albeit poorly. Finally, the last panel of the original page 14 was cut.

Four pages of the original story were edited and spliced together to eliminate two pages from the page count. This was done to make room for a four-page second story. Unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of two-page western stories available. Almost none, in fact. It would’ve been relatively simple to find a three-page story from the 1950s - they were common - but Marvel needed to make room for its annual “Statement of Management, Ownership and Circulation.” That statement only took up a third of a page with two third-of-a-page house ads filling the rest of the space. We’ll talk about that in a bit.

My own solution to the page count problem would have cost Marvel a few bucks, but saved the production work on the lead story. I would have filled the remaining two pages of editorial content with pin-ups of the Rawhide Kid and Kid Colt in the style of Fantastic Four Annual #1's “Gallery of the Fantastic Four's Most Famous Foes!” During my time as editor of Marvel’s British weeklies, which were prepared in our New York offices, we did some pages like that...and they were relatively fast and inexpensive to produce.

My suggestion was not approved. No one wanted to expend much effort on Marvel’s reprint books, even though my solution would have eased the load of our always overworked production department. I can see why my suggestion was nixed, but I always felt we could and should have done a better job on the reprint titles. Those comics cost the same quarter as our original material titles.
                                                                               
In this issue, Hallmark Minting Service had a full-page ad for “The Big Three.” These were the “official Marvel solid-bronze collectors medallion-coins” featuring Spider-Man, the Hulk, and Conan. Each of the coins was one-of-a-kind with its own mint serial number. Each cost $2.50 with postage and handling adding another sixty cents to the total. The ad also offered various holders:

Lucite Holder ($2)
Key Chain ($1.25)
Neck Chain ($1.25)
Money Clip ($1.25)
Bolo Tie ($2)
Small Belt Buckle ($3.50)
Large Belt Buckle ($4.50)

This issue’s Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page featured “Roy’s Rostrum” with editor-in-chief Roy Thomas filling in for the globetrotting Stan Lee. Roy mentions new magazines Crazy and The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, both edited or associate edited by Marv Wolfman. He says there will be more on the latter title on the Bullpen Bonus Page. Which doesn’t appear in this issue. However, there is a half-page house ad for Deadly Hands several pages down the line.

Roy gives shout-outs to secretary and proofreader Carla Joseph, assistant editors Don McGregor and Doug Moench, and some freelance writers who were considered contributing editors. I’m listed with the latter since this was written during the brief time I had left staff and before I returned to take over the editorship of several of the black-and-white titles.

Other items:

Marvel would be doing a full-color comics adaptation of The Golden Voyage of Sinbad movie. It ran in Worlds Unknown #7 [June 1974} as adapted by Len Wein and George Tuska.

The next item claimed “Marveldom Assembled” loved the Marvel Value Stamps. I’m thinking that’s an alternative fact. By the way, there was no Marvel Value Stamp in this issue.

Coming from DAW Books: Mindship, Gerry Conway’s second paperback novel. The item also claimed “Ger” was the envy of the whole blamed Bullpen and said art director John Romita was drawing Ger’s latest issue of Spider-Man.

Mike Ploog was the new artist on Man-Thing.

Don McGregor and Herb Trimpe revealed what happened to the missing Watergate tapes in their new “War of the Worlds” story for Amazing Adventures.

There was also a special Marvel shout-out to Vincente Alcazar, the fine Spanish artist sent to us by Neal Adams. I liked Vincente and his art, so I was thrilled when he was assigned the Man-Thing story I wrote for Monsters Unleashed. Just don’t ask me why I wrote that story instead of Steve Gerber. Because I don’t remember.

The final item was another FOOM code message. It concerns another new Marvel 75-cent magazine that would be published in the spring. The secret was in two words: LIDG ALZO

I’m going to take a wild stab and say that code message translates to “Iron Fist.” However, since the character was appearing for the first time in this month’s issue of Marvel Premiere, that seems way premature to me. Maybe Marvel just meant the character would make appearances in The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, as he eventually did.

The “Mighty Marvel Checklist” had 24 different titles on it. Among them was Sgt. Fury #119 with the second last new Fury adventure to appear. The next issue would have the last new story, though Fury would continue for several years as an all-reprint title.

The last thing on the page was a small hand-lettered, text-only house ad:

This is the month of MARVEL GIANT-SIZE SUPER-STARS! See our awesome ads for details! A magnificent new comic-mag from Mighty Marvel!
                                                                              

“His Back to the Wall!” (4 pages) was written by the prolific Carl Wessler and drawn by Jack Keller. It was reprinted from Gunsmoke Western #46 [May 1958]. This tale has a WTF? ending that still has my head spinning. However, to tell you about it, I have to activate the usual spoiler warnings...

SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD


Lawman Frank Cody is chasing Brod Bodin, who has robbed the local Wells Fargo Express office. Cody and Bodin were once the closest of friends. As Bodin shoots at the lawman, Cody holds back from firing back. You see, in a further complication, Julie, the woman Cody is in love with, loves Bodin. The lawman figures Julie will hate him if he finishes off the outlaw.

Bodin takes cover in a cabin. Cody needs to find a way to capture him without killing him. Spotting the rocks and boulders on a hill above the cabin, Cody starts shooting at them.

Cody triggers a landslide that crushes through the cabin’s roof and pins Bodin beneath some beams. Bodin dares him to finish him off, but the lawman takes him to jail instead.

After Bodin is behind bars, Julie bursts into Cody’s office. Enter the absurd surprise ending...

Julie isn’t in love with Bodin. She turned down Cody’s proposal of marriage and pretended to love Bodin, hoping there was a chance of straightening Brod out. If her plan had worked, she would’ve eased out of marrying Bodin to marry the only man she ever really loved. Lawman Frank Cody.

You were just tryin’ to help a man who didn’t want to go straight! Oh, Julie. What I went through! But, honey, you’re worth it.

No, no, no, Frank! Stop thinking with your little pistol! Julie’s messing with you could have gotten you killed. I don’t know if you have 99 problems, but, trust me on this, this, ah, crazy woman is definitely one of them.

SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER

                                                                                   

The last editorial content page in this issue was split into three sections. The first was a house ad for  Giant-Size Super-Stars #1  [May 1974]. The 52-page, 35-cent issue starred the Fantastic Four in a new 24-page story by Gerry Conway, Rich Buckler and inker Joe Sinnott. Filling out the issue were text pieces on the genesis of the new giant-size line and Roy Thomas’ thirteen-year-old fanzine review of Fantastic Four #1...and reprints of several of the ““Gallery of the Fantastic Four's Most Famous Foes!” pages mentioned above.
                                                                           

The second section of the page was a house ad for Marvel Premiere #15 [May 1974] featuring the origin of Iron Fist by Roy Thomas, Gil Kane and Dick Giordano.

The third section had the “Statement of Management, Ownership and Circulation,” also mentioned above. The Rawhide Kid was selling an average 138,720 copies per issue with 74 paid subscriptions.

That’s all for now. It’s time for ol’ Bloggy Tony to saddle up and ride into the sunset. But I’ll be back tomorrow with a look at yet another blast from the past.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

TONY'S TIPS #205

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Take That, Adolf! The Fighting Comic Books of the Second World War!...Batgirl and Batgirl and the Birds of Prey...and Star Wars' Poe Dameron by Charles Soule and Phil Noto!

IN THE MATTER OF ARDIAN SYAF

Online comicdom got quite a shock last week when it was discovered that Indonesian artist Ardian Syaf had put anti-Christian and anti-Semitic elements into his art for X-Men Gold #1, the current reboot du jour of the X-Men Universe. Though Syaf was described in several stories as a “superstar artist,” I confess that, while I’d seen his name in various credits, I never knew he was considered a star of any magnitude. A search of this blog and my “Tony’s Tips” columns didn’t turn up any mentions of him.

From the New York Times:

On Saturday, Marvel said that it would remove artwork from the first issue of X-Men Gold, part of a reboot of the X-Men franchise, after readers in Indonesia raised alarm bells on Reddit and elsewhere on social media about what they said were anti-Christian and anti-Semitic messages in some panels of the comic.

The messages that jumped out to readers in Indonesia appeared to refer to political frictions there over Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is the first Christian governor of Jakarta, the capital, in more than 50 years. He is up for re-election this month.

Some images in the comic appeared to refer to hard-line Islamist opposition to Mr. Basuki, who is also known by the nickname Ahok. Others seemed to have less to do with Indonesian politics and more to do with anti-Semitism, the critics said. The artist who sneaked the messages into the images was Ardian Syaf, an Indonesian citizen.


NOTE: I’m not going to discuss the actual images in today’s bloggy thing. Rest assured you will be able to find such discussions all over the Internet.

Syaf’s Twitter responses seemed to be more expressions of his take on his own faith rather than apologies for or even realizations his sneaky little political messages were offensive. When Marvel kicked Syaf to the curb, he moaned about how his career was over, blamed the oversensitive Jews who run Disney - Marvel’s parent company - and claimed he wasn’t a racist. According to Heatstreet, Syaf also deleted a Facebook photo of the artist meeting with Rizieq Shihab, the leader of the Islamist organization Islamic Defenders Front (known by the acronym FPI).

From Heatstreet:

The group has been involved in numerous acts of violence against non-Muslims in Indonesia, and was one of the organizers of the 212 protest. In the post, Syaf says he accepted an invitation to meet with the group’s founder.

One of Syaf’s earlier attempts at diverting attention from himself was to raise the question of whether his situation would adversely affect other Indonesian artists working for Marvel. It hasn’t and, honestly, it never would. Save for the very occasional brain fart, today’s publishers have evolved well past blaming entire groups of people for the sins of a few.

The usual alt-Nazi comics fans laid the blame for Syaf’s actions on the “Social Justice Warriors” who put their “lib-tard” beliefs into their own comic books. These morons have never realized that, for a great many of us, “Social Justice Warrior” is a title we gladly accept because, in our own small and large ways, we are quite proud to be fighting for justice.

These unenlightened dregs of the right-wing cesspool are likewise not bright enough to understand there’s a difference between what Syaf did and what creators like me do. I will explain the obvious without any expectation of the trolls understanding it.

If I’m writing a work-for-hire story with a political message, as I’m currently doing, I don’t hide my intent from the client for whom I’m writing the story or series. In this specific case, it was right there in my initial proposal for the series. I didn’t attempt to sneak my message into my work. I was up front and center about it from the get-go.

Syaf wasn’t the writer of the story into which he was inserting his hateful messages. He was sneaking them into the story. Amazingly, he did this in an X-Men story, the Marvel franchise that has always been about inclusion and tolerance and has brought comfort and hope to members of diverse “outsider” groups of readers. He did this in an X-Men story featuring a team leader who is Jewish. Rather than decline the assignment, as a “superstar” artist could have done, he chose instead to attempt to subvert the story with his own racist views. He deserved to get shit-canned.

That’s everything I have to say on this subject. Come back tomorrow for another installment of “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Monday, April 17, 2017

MONDAY MOVIES

Comic books will always be my first fan and professional love. My second: monster movies, horror movies and B-movies in general. Here are my thoughts on two films I’ve watched recently.

Christopher R. Mihm is one of my favorite filmmakers. What he does is make 1950s-style horror and science fiction movies that appear to be incredibly low-budget 1950s-style horror and science fiction movies. I’ve watched four of his movies to date and fully expect to watch them all sooner or later. These are not movies that will win awards unless there’s some award for “gooey nostalgic fun,” but I keep coming back for the fun, so it’s all good.

Weresquito: Nazi Hunter [2016] is my least favorite of those four Mihm movies I’ve seen. The premise is wonderful:

Horrific Nazi experiments have left a surviving WWII soldier with a terrifying condition: at the sight of fresh blood, he transforms into a man-sized, blood-sucking killer insect. Refusing to let his affliction destroy him and all he loves, he instead commits himself to using his "powers" for good-by finding the people responsible and bringing them to justice.

But the execution was lacking in a few key areas. I’ll cover those once I activate the spoiler warnings...

SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD


Near the end of the World War II fighting in Europe, Corporal John Baker [played by Douglas Sidney] is captured by Nazi mad scientist Schramm [James Norgard] and turned into a “weresquito,” a man who transforms into a humanoid mosquito when he sees blood. Schramm is attempting to create an army of monstrous super-soldiers for Adolf Hitler, but Germany falls before he can accomplish that and he is forced to flee to America.

Baker is rescued and tracks down and kills Schramm’s creations and associates. Sidney plays him as a truly haunted man, a performance that might well be the best in any of Mihm’s films. Sadly, Norgard plays the Nazi scientist way too big. I really couldn’t wait to see him receive his just fate.

Baker’s quest leads him to the small American town of New Berlin, a village founded by post-war German immigrants. In a diner that’s not at all convincing as a diner - it’s clearly just a room with a table, some chairs and a makeshift counter - he meets Leisl Schmidt [Rachel Grubb] and rescues her from an abusive ex-boyfriend. Leisl offers him her home’s spare room while he searched for his wartime friend Schramm. When the ex-boyfriend shows up at Leisl’s home and knocks Leisl out, Baker transforms and dispatches the guy in more permanent fashion.

Leisl is not your typical “pretty girl” heroine, but Grubb portrays her with a realism that was quite attractive. Leisl will not allow herself to be owned by any man, which makes her final fate all the more tragic. Oh, yes, there will be tragedy.

The main problem with this movie is that it’s way too talky. There are too many flashbacks for a movie that runs but one hour and 18 minutes. Discussion scenes overwhelm the handful of action scenes. But the time I got to the climax of the movie, I feel like I’d been watching a more longer movie.

Okay, to no one’s surprise, Schramm is Leisl’s father. Since coming to America, he has kept a low profile. He clearly yearns to return to his experiments and he has already done so...with his daughter. Unbeknownst to Leisl, he has turned her into another were-creature,  a humanoid black widow spider whom he controls. The monster special effects are absurdly low-budget from the start, but they work well for a “homage” movie like this.

When Schramm recaptures Baker, he offers the ex-soldier a chance to join him and Leisl in continuing his work and building an army of his own. When Baker refuses, the Nazi sics Leisl on him. But, even in her monstrous form, Leisl will not be controlled by any man. She turns on her father.

Baker transforms and kills Leisl. Schramm laughs. Leisl’s blood is toxic and will kill Baker. The doomed man hangs on long enough to end Schramm’s life. It’s an effectively tragic ending, marred by the movie then concluding with yet another flashback, this time showing Americans rescuing Baker from Schramm’s lab in Germany.

SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
 
As noted above, Weresquito: Nazi Hunter had a good story, but told it poorly. There are fun moments in the movie, but the flashbacks and all that talking hurt its sense of fun and wonder. It’s not a movie I’d watch a second time, but it hasn’t diminished my interest in past and future Mihm projects.

Two more comics-related notes. Long-time comics fan, comics dealer and art collector Joel Thingvall plays a customer in the makeshift diner. Long-time comics fan and professional Tony Isabella appears in the end credits because he backed the Kickstarter project that funded this movie. Next time out, Mihm should set his Kickstarter goal higher. I have no doubt he would put the extra money to good use. Maybe even rent out a real diner.                                                                                     

Based on the story "The Adaptive Ultimate" by noted science-fiction writer Stanley G. Weinbaum, She Devil [1957] is this quietly scary horror movie that, because of its low-key approach, is all the more unsettling. Directed by and with a screenplay by Kurt Neumann, the movie was originally released on a double-bill with Kronos, another sci-fi thriller also directed by Neumann. The story credit goes to Weinbaum - and the movie definitely captures the major plot points and tone of the original prose story - and Carroll Young also gets a screenplay credit.

The movie stars the haunting Mari Blanchard, future Maverick Jack Kelly and genre veteran Albert Dekker. It runs a tight 77 minutes. Here’s the Internet Movie Database synopsis:

Doctors Scott and Bach inject the dying Kyra Zelas with a formula which saves her life - but also renders her almost immortal and wickedly evil.

SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD


Dr. Dan Scott [played by Kelly] is frustrated by the bureaucratic process of getting his new serum approved for human tasting. Though Dr. Bach [Dekker] initially rejects Scott’s plea to be allowed to test his formula on a terminal patient, he relents when faced with the certain demise of Kyra, a plain young woman of no means who is drying from tuberculosis.

The serum cures Kyra and more. She becomes beautiful and vital, but turns into Ayn Rand, a woman who cares only for herself and her own desires. When she commits a crime and a brutal assault, she changes the color of her hair to escape the police. She moves in with Dr. Scott, so that he and Bach can allegedly study her. They learn she can heal from any injury. Scott falls in love with Kyra. Even knowing what Kyra has become, he can’t bring himself to turn her in.

At a party, Kyra seduces a wealthy man and then murders his wife. She marries the man, but, ultimately, he fares no better than did his previous wife. The soulless beauty returns to Scott’s house and shows no remorse for her killings.

Scott and Bach manage to render Kyra unconscious. They then perform surgery on her to reverse the serum’s effects. However, the surgery also restores Kyra’s terminal illness. She dies as the plain young woman she had been.

SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
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Blanchard is amazing in her role as the immortal and inhuman Kyra. Kelly portrays the hopeless desperation of the prideful scientist who created this monster. Dekker comes across a man who so wants to help his patients that he crosses ethical lines to do so. This is a terrific movie that I plan to watch again soon. It’s been decades since I last saw Neumann’s Kronos, but it’s another film I need to track down and watch again.

I hope you enjoyed today’s cinema comments. I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Sunday, April 16, 2017

MY CONVENTION AND APPEARANCE SCHEDULE

I spent a little time looking over my convention schedule and looking at some of the possibilities for additional conventions. These are the definite appearances...

Saturday, April 29: Fantasticon (Lansing, MI)

Sunday, April 30: Fantasticon (Lansing, MI)

Saturday, May 6: The Toys Time Forgot (Canal Fulton, Ohio)

Friday, May 19: East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention

Saturday, May 20: East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention

Friday, July 14: G-Fest

Saturday, July 15: G-Fest

Sunday, July 16: G-Fest

Sunday, August 20: NEO Comic-Con

Friday, October 20: Grand Rapids Comic-Con

Saturday, October 21: Grand Rapids Comic-Con

Sunday, October 22: Grand Rapids Comic-Con

Saturday, November 4: Akron Comicon

Sunday, November 5: Akron Comicon

Outside of G-Fest, I'm leaving July closed because it's not entirely outside the realm of possibility I could make an unexpected appearance at San Diego's Comic-Con International.

If you are a convention promoter who would like me at your show, contact me as soon as possible. You'll have to cover my expenses (travel, hotel, food) and provide me with a booth or table. I might need some volunteer assistance as well.

Beyond those expenses, what I would be looking at is who else is on your guest list. Are there old friends of mine? Are there guests I would like to meet and, in some cases, sit down with for a brief informal interview?

E-mail your questions and invitations to me and I'll respond as quickly as possible.

Best wishes,

Tony Isabella


              

EASTER GREETINGS

The First Church of Godzilla celebrates the Great Scaly One who protects us from monsters, alien invaders and Man's own folly with his fiery atomic love. The Church respects all other faiths because Christian or atheist, Muslim or Jew, all people sound pretty much the same as they are crushed in his righteous path.

As the pastor of the First Church of Godzilla on Facebook, I extend Easter greetings to those among my readers who celebrate this day. Whether you celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ or consume your way into a candy coma, we hope you have a day filled with joy and sweet treats.

I was raised a Roman Catholic, but became a lapsed Catholic in my late teens. I left the church of my birth family entirely when I found I could no longer stomach its vile bigotry towards gays, its discrimination against women and, especially, its countenance of its priests molesting children and others and its attempts to cover up those crimes. It’s unlikely I will ever come back to the church. The church needs to come back to me.

I believe there are valid lessons to be learned from The Bible, but  don’t consider it or the books of other religions to be holy books. They were all written by human beings and so reflect the agendas of those human beings. At best, these books are “alternate facts” and, at worst, propaganda designed to get other human beings to follow the dictates of a few.

Do I consider myself an atheist? Not really. I believe in good and evil. I believe good is preferable to evil and have faith that, in time, it can and will triumph over evil. You can certainly put a name on “good” if you like, but I think you should make sure that it is, indeed, “good.”

Which brings me to the main subject of today’s message...

People who called themselves “Christians” and yet voted for Donald Trump and other Republicans. There’s a serious disconnect there and I think it can be shown by asking the simple question “Christians” are called upon to ask themselves:

What would Jesus do?

Do you think Jesus would use the “me, me, and only me, screw you” philosophy of Ayn Rand as a template for governing?

Do you think Jesus would work to destroy health care to give huge tax cuts to the already wealthy?

Do you think Jesus would discriminate against gays and minorities?

Do you think Jesus would work to disenfranchise voters unlikely to vote for his political party?

Do you think Jesus would strip programs vital to the poorest among us to build up the already largest military in the world and, yes, give tax breaks to our most obscenely wealthy citizens?

Do you think Jesus would have white supremacists among his trusted advisors and thus empower such racists?

Do you think Jesus would choose cabinet department heads who clearly want to destroy the departments they run?

I could continue with these kinds of questions for a thousand words and not cover all the disconnects between your so-called “Christian” faith and what Jesus would do.

So I’ll end this with an observation. If you think Jesus would do any of the above, then I submit it is not Jesus you’re worshiping on this day. 
 
It’s the other guy.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

Saturday, April 15, 2017

JULY 1963: BATTLEFIELD ACTION #49

Welcome to the start of what I’m now considering “Volume Two” of my 136-part series on the comic books that arrived on the newsstands in July 1963. As I have explained in previous installments of this series, that month was pivotal to my own comic-book career because it was the month when Fantastic Four Annual #1 ignited my desire to write comics.

I’m thinking in terms of “Volume Two” because the previous columns in this series are, even as we speak, being collected in July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella Volume One. The previous columns have been rewritten as needed with all kind of new bonus material added to the mix. Keep watching the bloggy for ordering and release information.

We resume this series with Charlton’s Battlefield Action #49, dated September 1963. The Sam Glanzman cover consists of panels from one of the interior stories. This was a common cost-cutting practice of  Charlton, known for having the lowest rates and cheapest production values in the industry. Even so, their comics featured an amazing array of talents and are fondly remembered by myself and many other readers of the era. This issue and the other contemporary Charlton titles were edited by Pat Masulli.

The inside front cover of this issue offers a reward of $11,750 for the coin shown. The advertisement is from the Best Values Co. Coin Department. We’ve seen it in other comic books released this month. Charlton had the same low-rent paid ads as the other smaller comics publishers. The come on here was that you could buy the company’s coin catalog for a buck and use it to discover if you had any coins worth from $250 to $35,000.

That I know of, only one of the stories in this issue has ever been reprinted in the U.S. and that was in a Charlton comic from 1980. For that reason, I’m going to dispense with any “spoiler warnings” to give you a more complete look at this issue.

“Return to Siena” (6 pages) was the first story in this issue. It was drawn and signed by Charles Nicholas and Vince Alascia. If you were reading any Charlton anthology title, the odds were it would have at least one story drawn by this prolific team. The writer was almost certainly Joe Gill and I’ll tell you why I think that in a bit. Here’s the quick summation of this never-reprinted-that-I-can- see story.

It’s World War II. Lieutenant Bart Grey is clearing a tiny Italian village for the advancing U.S. Army. He doesn’t like that our side had to destroy the village to take out a German rear guard. Neither does his immediate superior, but both believe it was necessary. The story opens with Bart rescuing a pretty wounded Italian girl of no more than 15 or 16 years old. He’s hoping to get her to the medics in time to save her life.

At the medical station, the girl Maria tells Bart how the Germans came to her village twice and killed her parents. They become pen pals with Bart sending her letters as he fights his way through the war. His deeds are heroic, but he downplays them when he writes to her. When he is wounded severely enough to be sent home, he tells he’s being reassigned for being goofing off. His absurd modesty is a plot thread that’s never developed.

This is why I believe Gill wrote “Return to Siena.” The reportedly hard-drinking Gill wrote a lot of stories and he wrote them fast. With many of his scripts, I don't think he had much more than a general idea of what would happen in them and where they would end. He just seemed to go until he reached the allotted page length and then wrap things up quickly.

Bart returns to civilian life, but Siena is always on his mind. He and Maria have continued to correspond. He travels to Italy to see her. All the World War II action in this story is in flashbacks that he has while waiting for Maria in a restaurant. She shows up in the last panel, all grown up and as beautiful as ever. Bart says they have a lot of catching up to do.

Despite the abrupt ending, “Return to Siena” is an uncommonly sweet story. Not the usual blood-and-thunder war story normally published in Charlton war comics. I like it a lot.

“Minefield” (4 pages) was penciled and maybe inked by Bill Monlo, another Charlton regular. It may have been written by Joe Gill, but it is not one of his better efforts.

Several American soldiers are trapped in a ravine, surrounded by a division of German troops. The one path of escape open to them is through a minefield. One of the Americans sneaks his way into the German camp and kidnaps a German officer. Coincidentally - because it’s only a four-page story - the officer is the guy who supervised the laying of the mines. Fearful of being killed by his captors or the mines, the German officer leads them to safety.

Some more paid ads. You can get 102 “smash hits including the top twist tunes” for $3.49. I’m guessing the songs came on cheap floppy records that didn’t last for more than a few plays.

If you wanted to “stop stooping,” the Piper Brace Company would be thrilled to send you the amazing new Pi Peer Shoulder Brace. The price was $4.95. In 2017 dollars, that would be $39.36.

Ten king-size latex toys featuring Walt Disney characters are only $1.75 (including shipping). They range in size from a foot to three foot. Characters shown: Mickey Mouse, Jiminy Cricket, Cinderella, Dopey, Donald Duck, Sleepy Beauty, Peter Pan, Davy Crockett, Zorro and Pinocchio.

From World Wide Specialities, a 1963 comics reader could purchase a genuine shark’s tooth necklace of beaded chain for $1.89 apiece. A Flippy the Frogman toy was $1.98.

That 1963 reader could get 100 toy soldiers for $1.25. Or be “the life of the party” with a selection of tricks that cost one dollar each. Or learn how to hypnotize for $1.98.

“Jungle Passage” (8 pages) was the afore-mentioned cover story. It was drawn by the great Sam Glanzman, whose work was always the best in any Charlton war comic, and probably written by Gill.

Three American soldiers are separated from their squad on a Pacific island. They fight their way across the island, causing havoc among the Japanese who hold the island. When it looks like their luck has run out, they are rescued by their fellow American soldiers. Mostly because it was the last page of the story. Many of these tales just bounce from action scene to action scene until they reach that last page. Character development was something you saw in the war comics published by DC Comics or in the rare Charlton story like “Return to Siena.”

“The Art of Warfare” (2 pages) was a prose article about a book it calls an “ancient famous Chinese classic.” The unknown author says he got it on a trip to Taiwan. In discussing it, he applies some of its tenets to the Cold War. He concludes by opining that, even as the world seems to be heading towards push-button warfare, we will still have living soldiers to fight. It’s 2017 and the author has not been proven wrong.

The text piece is followed by a full-page contest announcement from Bonomo, the makers of Turkish Taffy. I could never finish a piece of Turkish Taffy, which was a hard candy that tasted like flavored chalk dust. 
 
The grand prizes were two Westinghouse portable, 19-inch TV sets. There were ten Columbia Torpedo bicycles for second-place winners. The fifty third-place winners would get Bar-Zim Family Game Chests that contained chess, checkers, dominoes, roulette, horse-racing and many other games.

“Flying Eye” (6 pages), the final story in the issue, is drawn by the Nicholas-Alascia team and likely written by Gill. The setting is North Africa early in World War II. The American artillery has been taking its lumps because the Germans move around too much for them to target them. So the brass sends in Piper Cubs to help the artillery guys improve their accuracy. So we get resentful banter from the artillery guys until the seeing-eyes prove their worth and save the soldiers on the ground. Then it’s all smiling banter and mock insults. Because war brings people together.

Palmer-Jones Publishing sprung for a full-page advertisement. Some creepy-looking guy says “Give me just one evening and I’ll teach you to hypnotize easily!” Of course, he also wants you to give him $1.98, but he gives you a choice of hypnotic powers. Just check the ones you want from this list:

Influence Others
Self-Hypnosis
Cure Bad Habits
Lose Weight
Stop Smoking
Perform Stunts, Tricks
Do Mind Reading
Relieve Tension
Make Money

The last one is the easiest. Just convince dumb people to send you $1.98 to learn hypnotism.

The remaining full-page ads were placed by...

International Correspondence School, which would send you “How to Succeed” and an opportunity booklet before you signed up to get your high school diploma or schedule vocational courses in such fields as automobile, art, building trades, electronics, engineering, air conditioning, drafting, business, chemistry and radio-TV.

Mike Marvel System, in which Mike would teach you his secret new Dynaflex method to build you a magnificent new he-man-muscled body in just ten minutes a day with no exercise. This is what got Victor Frankenstein in trouble.

Dean Studios. This company fascinates me. The ad featured four “no cost” ads from the Dean Studios of Des Moines, Iowa. The “no cost” items were a male or female miniature dog that you could 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.
 
Battlefield Action #49 is not a comic I would have bought back in 1963. My interest in war comics was pretty much limited to Marvel’s Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandoes, DC’s Our Army at War (because my younger brother had a subscription to it) and Star Spangled War Stories (because it had soldiers fighting dinosaurs). But, clearly, Charlton’s war comics were profitable for the company and, now that I’m older and wiser, I can appreciate Sam Glanzman’s terrific art and storytelling...and the occasional Joe Gill gem. I’ll be writing about three more Charlton war comics before I reach the end of this July 1963 series.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2017 Tony Isabella