Unearthed from my Vast Accumulation of Stuff, today’s “blast from
the past” pitch was written in 1976. I almost didn’t look at the
file folder because, at first glance, I thought it was for another
“Starboy,” the alien teen character I created and wrote for my pal
Carl Gafford’s Minotaur fanzine. What it was instead was a spinoff
from the Legion of Super-Heroes.
My memory isn’t 100% clear on this pitch, which leads me to believe
it was written quickly. Here’s what I think was the situation when
I wrote it...
I was having a conversation with Jack C. Harris, who was or would
be my editor on Black Lightning (first series). Knowing there was
a strong Legion fandom out there, we were trying to think of which
Legionnaires might be able to carry their own books. This spinning
off from the Legion wasn’t a blindingly original concept as DC was
already publishing a Karate Kid title.
My focus was on the strongest names. Timber Wolf wasn’t as strong
in my mind as the character’s original name of Lone Wolf. Cosmic
Boy sounded a little too psychedelic for me. However, just as the
Star Boy name had appealed to me when I used it for a character in
my fanzine days, it sounded good to me in this instance. At some
point in the writing, Star Boy became Starboy.
I remember my starting point was to do a sort of Black Lightning in
the future - I had already created that character - and have Star
Boy fighting a vast criminal organization that stretched from one
end of the galaxy to the other. Somewhere along the line, perhaps
with input from Harris, that changed somewhat.
Harris definitely helped shaped the pitch because the original has
some proofreading marks that must be his. The writing doesn’t seem
to be all mine either, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on that. While
preparing this pitch for publication in this blog, I have rewritten
some lines to make them more clear or just because I really hated
what was written originally. However, what you’ll be reading is a
mostly authentic presentation of the pitch.
THE NEW STARBOY
Presenting...All-new wonder and excitement in the Legion of Super-
The Interstellar Adventures of Starboy!
The time: the 30th Century, one thousand years in our own fantastic
The place: Metropolis! Capital of the Earth and central hub of the
mighty United Planets!
It is here that the peacekeeping force of the United Planets, the
Science Police, maintain their headquarters. With knowledge that
makes them famous galaxy-wide for their ability to keep order, the
Science Police are most proud of their young auxiliary, the Legion
Brought together by multi-trillionaire R.J. Brande, the Legion of
Super-Heroes is comprised of the youth of the 30th Century. Each
member has proven himself worthy of membership by displaying a
super-power different from any other member’s power. With these
matchless powers, the members of the Legion aid the Science Police
in their efforts against the evils that still lurk a thousand years
from our own time.
The Legion’s ranks are filled with the most powerful teens in the
universe: Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy, Shadow Lass and
many others! Joined by the common cause of justice, the Legion has
sworn to uphold the law justly and without undue force. Sacred to
them is their honor code against killing!
One time - and only one time - this code was broken by Legionnaire
Thom Kellor. Born in an orbiting space-observatory, his parents
were astronomers from the planet Xanthu. Due to the unusual place
in which he was born - a “starlight” research center - Thom has the
ability to draw mass from the stars and impose it upon any object
or person, making it super-heavy.
In later life, Thom piloted his parents’ one-man space ship through
the tail of a comet. This temporarily gave the power of electrical
vision and other abilities that were similar to those of Superboy.
With these increased powers, he joined the Legion.
When his temporary powers faded, Thom (or Starboy as he now called
himself) proved his mass-increasing ability was also an asset to
the Legion and was allowed to remain in the group.
Then came a dark day for Starboy and the Legion. In self-defense,
he killed a man. In a spectacular trial, Starboy became the first
Legionnaire to be expelled from the Legion.
After many months and eventually proving his worth once more,
Starboy was readmitted into the Legion along with his girlfriend,
the beautiful Dream Girl. From the planet Naltor, Dream Girl has
the power to predict the future in her dreams.
And what is the future for Starboy and Dream Girl?
Deep within the shadows of Metropolis, there lies a lurking danger.
A secret empire in the underground plotting to overthrow the United
Planets and replace it with an evil and unjust rule. Contemptible
earthmen and aliens alike plan unspeakable deeds. Diplomatic ploys
and subversion are their weapons. Both the Science Police and the
Legion are almost powerless against them.
With unequaled evil cunning, the Underground kidnaps Dream Girl to
force her to predict the political sway of the universe. Because,
with their evil puppets in power at the right time and place, the
Underground could take the universe as their own.
The life of Starboy changes! Turning to his friends in the Legion,
he seeks their assistance to find and rescue Dream Girl. But the
Legion is powerless. Interference in this situation could cause an
interplanetary incident and destroy the increasingly fragile union
that is the United Planets!
Angered, embittered, Starboy seeks to rescue Dream Girl on his own
and fails! His mass-increasing power is not enough to challenge the
vast might of the mysterious Underground. Even his failed attempt
has dire consequences.
Making Starboy an example of what happens when they are defied, the
Underground uses its ultimate weapon against Xanthu, Thom Kellor’s
home planet. They wipe out every man, woman and child in Xanthu,
leaving behind a cold dead world.
Starboy stands alone! The Legion unable to stand by him! The world
and people he called his own dead! The girl he loves in the hands
of an incredibly powerful enemy!
Starboy makes a final appeal to the Legion to fight these enemies
to the death. The Legion will not change its code against killing.
More alone than he has ever been, Starboy seeks out the very stars
from which he has taken his name. He seeks the comet that gave
him his Superboy-like powers. In his old one-man rocket, he again
exposes himself to the mysterious forces swirling within the tail
of the runaway comet.
Forces that alter and change him.
Strange forces that mutate Starboy in a dramatically different way
than in his first exposure.
From the heart of this shooting star comes a new Starboy!
Starboy now possesses a more potent density-increasing power he can
also turn on himself. It can make him nearly indestructible while
increasing his strength to an astonishing degree. He has regained
his electrical vision, also more powerful than before.
Starboy begins his campaign of vengeance against the Underground.
One super-powerful youth against a galaxy-wide network of cunning
alien and human criminals. It is a battle that will range to the
farthest reaches of space.
Expelled from the Legion of Super-Heroes once again, alienated from
the Science Police and the United Planets, Starboy stands alone as
a grim vigilante pitted against enemies who can topple governments
and destroy worlds!
Can he succeed? Can one young man outwit the Underground and keep
surviving to continue the fight? What will be the ultimate fate of
Dream Girl? Those are the compelling questions to be answered in
issue after issue of...
THE NEW STARBOY!
ADDENDUM: The more I read this pitch, the more I am convinced that
it was written very fast. Maybe in as little as an hour. There’s
some very clumsy writing there. Indeed, I must confess, I rewrote
the last few paragraphs of the above because I just couldn’t stand
the writing. Not my finest hour.
I’m not sure what I had in mind for this series. I’m gonna guess
it was Mack Bolan of the 30th Century, inspired by the Executioner
novels of Don Pendleton. But it’s just a guess.
I don’t think this pitch was actually ever submitted to publisher
Jenette Kahn. I remember access to her decreasing as DC added all
sorts of unnecessary bureaucracy and levels to the creation of the
comic books. It may have been stopped somewhere along that chain
of command or, as I said, may never have gone beyond the two typed
pages I found in my files.
I’m working on a couple non-comics pieces at the moment, but am not
happy with either of them. Whatever I end up writing, I’ll be back
tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2013 Tony Isabella
Saturday, March 30, 2013
Sorting through old files, I came across two pitches I made to DC
Comics in 1976. Neither was dated, but I remember writing this one
during the three weeks I was in Cleveland creating Black Lightning.
I was back and forth between Cleveland and New York a lot that year
as the new regimes were coming together and/or falling apart at DC
By way of further preface...
When DC was recruiting me, assignments on top titles like Justice
League of America and Batman were being offered...as well as a page
rate a few bucks higher than my Marvel rate. When I was fired from
Marvel on the day I came into the Marvel offices to quit - having
already told DC I was accepting its offer - certain ranking people
at DC decided DC was no longer obligated by what they’d offered me.
The top titles were off the table and my DC page rate was actually
a few bucks less than my Marvel rate. Yes, I was a colossal idiot
for ever trusting DC again.
Since I wouldn’t be writing Batman, which I had really wanted to do
back then, or Justice League of America, which I was willing to do,
I figured I might as well create my own assignments rather than be
stuck on the dredges of the DC roster...especially given that the
roster was mostly dredges back then. I also figured I would stick
to mostly existing DC characters until I knew if they would honor
whatever deal we struck for Black Lightning.
Spoiler alert. They didn’t.
On to the pitch...
THE SEVEN SOLDIERS OF VICTORY
as recreated by Tony Isabella
World War II...and to combat the Axis menace, the United States of
America summons seven of its bravest super-heroes. Banded together
under the command of the mysterious Agent X (James W. Gordon), the
super-heroes are our nation’s first and last lines of defense...and
THE SHINING KNIGHT
AIR WAVE (Larry Jordan)...this wizard of the wireless’ super-powers
give him mastery of the sounds that travel through space. He can
travel along electrical waves by means of his special boots and can
also “tune in” on any metal anywhere. He’s the leader of the team,
the straight man.
JOHNNY QUICK (Johnny Chambers)...a scientist who has discovered a
formula which gives him super-speed. This power is activated by
his mental recall of the mathematical equation which contains - in
code - the secret of his formula. He is the group’s glamour boy,
but also has a very quick mind.
LIBERTY BELLE (Libby Lawrence)...non super-powered heroine who uses
her war correspondent job to get to the fight. She’s a feisty, knowledgeable
and capable young woman.
THE SHINING KNIGHT (Justin)...a super-strong knight who, along with
his flying horse Winged Victory, was frozen in an iceberg circa the
time of King Arthur and survived to our time. His armor affords
him amazing protection from harm. His sword is able to cut through
almost anything. He’s gallant, somewhat naive and, befitting his
background, perhaps a bit too proud.
THE TARANTULA (John Law)...essentially the same basic super-powers
as Spider-Man, though artificially created. He’s a wise guy, probably
because his powers are artificial.
THE VIGILANTE (Greg Sanders)...When his dad was gunned down by a
gang of criminals, Greg decided to take the law into his own hands
in the guise of the Vigilante. He’s a master of all western skills
and he speaks with a very cool “cowboy” speech pattern. Instead of
a horse, he rides a motorcycle.
WILDCAT (Ted Grant)...This is the Earth-1 Wildcat, who was in those
Batman/Brave & Bold issues that couldn’t be explained expect by the
presence of a Wildcat on Earth-1. He’s a heavyweight fighter and
not yet the champion he would become. He is hot-headed and won’t
get along well with the other members.
The SUPPORTING CAST would initially consist of only “Agent X.”
However, I am considering adding a behind-the-scenes scientist to
create various gadgets to help our heroes stomp out the Nazis. In
this role, I could use Professor Ira West, the Flash’s absent-minded
father-in-law, Professor West. Since this is years before the coming
of the Flash, the professor would be younger, but no less absent-minded.
The OPENING STORY would be 34 pages long with the title “Assault on
Fortress Europe.” This fortress would not be merely some figure of
speech, but a super-fortress built by GENERAL IMMORTUS. The same
one who would fight the Doom Patrol in our time. In World War II, he’s
allied with Hitler. This huge fortress is guarded from all forms of attack -
air, land or sea - by deadly creatures of the General's creation. A fourth
monster lurks within the castle. These creatures are roughly based on the
ancient elements of air, earth, fire and water.
This story would have Agent X captured by Immortus to prevent the
government man from whipping our heroes into a team. They try to
rescue him. This will be your basic “get to know the heroes” book
and filled with plenty of action, characterization and background
From time to time, our team will meet other heroes. My list at this
time consists of:
BOOMERANG...an Australian super-hero
CONGO BILL...jungle explorer from the old DC series
CRIMSON COSSACK...a Russian super-hero
FLYING TIGER...a Chinese super-hero
GUARDIAN...slum super-hero from the old DC series
HOP HARRIGAN...daredevil pilot from the old DC series
LITTLE BOY BLUE...boy hero from the old DC series
MANHUNTER...from the old DC series
SARGON THE SORCERER...from the old DC series
TNT...from the old DC series
WHIP...western super-hero updated from the old DC series
ZATARA THE MAGICIAN...from the old DC series
Some of the other villains the Seven Soldiers would face within a
few issues of the origin story would be:
CAPTAIN SWASTIKA...super-powered Nazi
BLITZKRIEG...super-speedster, the fascist man alive
ATTILA THE HUN...the original returned to life
THE SAMURAI SQUAD...seven very deadly swordsman
Considering the success of both The Invaders and its Liberty Legion
spin-off, it couldn’t hurt for us to have a group of World War II
super-heroes going for us.
ADDENDUM: I’m of two minds about this pitch. I think it would have
been a fun book for me to write and for the fans to read. Rereading
it today, it strikes me as too derivative. Is that because it was too
derivative in 1976 or because it seems that way in 2013? I’ll
let you decide.
I was absolutely talking out of my ass when I mentioned the success
of Marvel’s Invaders and Liberty Legion. I didn’t know if the two
books were selling well or not. What I did know was the quickest
way to get publisher Jenette Kahn’s attention and approval was to
compare something to something being done at Marvel Comics.
I think she liked their books better than DC’s.
She did okay this series, but it was put on my back burner because
I was concentrating on Black Lightning, because I had accepted
the editor’s position she had offered me and because I was pissed
at DC cutting the page rate I had originally been offered and which
I’d accepted. When I left the editor’s position, I never returned
to this or any of the other pitches Kahn had liked. Beyond Black
Lightning, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. But I was certain I
wanted out of New York and away from the people who lied to me
on a nigh-daily basis.
ADDENDUM TWO: Just before posting today’s bloggy thing, I looked at
my handwritten notes for the pitch and discovered I had worked out
the creatures of General Immortus and which heroes would do battle
with them. Here’s the breakdown:
1) AIR (Air Wave and the Shining Knight)...The Thunderbird
2) LAND (Johnny Quick and the Vigilante)...The Yeti
3) SEA (The Tarantula and Wildcat)...The Octo-Man
4) FIRE (entire team)...The Burning Man
I had previously written about two of these creatures - the Burning
Man and the Thunderbird - in one-page fillers I had written for the
Marvel black-and-white horror magazines. Creatures of legend are,
after all, in the public domain.
I will have a second DC Comics pitch for you tomorrow. It’s a spin-
off from the Legion of Super-Heroes.
© 2013 Tony Isabella
Friday, March 29, 2013
I have two more of my What If pitches from 1990 for you. Quoting
from Wikipedia, here’s the background you need for the first of the
Acts of Vengeance is a crossover storyline that ran through several
titles published by Marvel Comics from December 1989 to February
1990. It was centered on the Avengers and Fantastic Four after
three consecutive fall crossovers were built around the X-Men and
related mutant teams. Promotional materials teased the idea of a
wide array of super-villains facing heroes they had never met (or
at least were villains that weren't part of the heroes' regular
The core titles include Avengers, Avengers Spotlight, Avengers West
Coast, Captain America, Iron Man, Quasar, Thor and Fantastic Four.
Major tie-ins included Amazing Spider-Man among other Spider-Man
titles, Uncanny X-Men and the second Damage Control limited series.
An epilogue features in Cloak and Dagger, Web Of Spider-Man and in
an Avengers Annual.
Here’s the pitch...
WHAT IF THE ACTS OF VENGEANCE HAD SUCCEEDED?
Acts of Vengeance was the major comics crossover of 1989, involving
as it did virtually every Marvel super-hero title. It would be the
perfect vehicle to try something different in the pages of WHAT IF:
a four-issue series within a series. Covers would tie these four
BOOK ONE: The villains succeed in eliminating most of their targets
in the first wave of attacks. The Fantastic Four do not go to
Washington D.C. to speak against the Super Powers Registration Act,
but remain in New York to coordinate the efforts of the surviving
heroes. Damage and loss of life has been considerable. Public
opinion is turning against the heroes. The villains launch their
second wave of attacks as Congress prepares to vote on the SPRA.
BOOK TWO: The heroes and villains clash once more with both sides
taking heavy losses. The cosmic-powered Spider-Man defeats Loki in
a battle to the death, breaking the back of the villain conspiracy.
The heroes can hardly claim victory. Public opinion has turned
against them. The SPRA, grown into a document with far greater
application than in its original form, is signed into law by the
BOOK THREE: Post-SPRA America. Super-powered activities, unless
initiated by the federal government itself, are illegal. The Joint
Chiefs of Staff are creating their own version of the Avengers with
membership restricted to those super-powered individuals who are
American citizens, who have no criminal records and with identities
known to the government. The new team is a virtual army in number,
but lacking in experience and raw power. They have some success in
putting down the common criminal variety of super-villain, but they
are not prepared for what happens next.
Magneto reappears with a mutant army to establish a mutant homeland
on American soil. The Kingpin seizes complete control of New York
City, the opening move in an all-out assault on the United States
by his vast criminal network. It’s total war on two deadly fronts.
BOOK FOUR: The war rages on. The two-front struggle doesn’t go well
for the United States. Peace is made with Magneto. The mutants get
their homeland in exchange for help against the Kingpin. The tide
turns against the Kingpin. He dies at the hands of a mutant, one
of his own men. The war is over...for now.
The United States and the world watch the new mutant homeland with
fear and suspicion. Persecution of mutants is on the rise in the
non-mutant world. The remaining super-heroes fare no better. They
suffer the same fear and suspicion as the mutants. They must live
in guarded camps under government supervision. They are prisoners
of the country they risked their lives to defend.
ADDENDUM: If this pitch seems a little thin for four issues of the
What If series, it’s because I figured the editor would want me to
use or not use certain characters...and also have a list of those
characters who could die in the course of the story. If the pitch
has been green-lighted, I would have done more detailed synopsis.
When those synopsis were approved, I would have then done my usual
page-by-page panel-by-panel plot for the artists.
The second pitch wasn’t based on any specific storyline, but it did
take off from some long-forgotten-by-me sequence that appeared in
some Punisher story prior to 1990.
WHAT IF THE PUNISHER BECAME A GOVERNMENT AGENT?
Our starting point is the first time the Punisher was arrested and
put in prison. Jigsaw plans to dose him with mind-altering drugs.
But never gets the opportunity. A high-ranking federal official
offers the Punisher a pardon and support for his personal crusade.
The price? The Punisher must agree to undertake covert missions for
the government. The deal is made.
The Punisher’s first jobs for the government give him no qualms. He
eliminates several international criminals that couldn’t be reached
by legal means. But succeeding missions seem less clear-cut to him
and he wonders if he’s being used to keep evil men in power simply
because they are friendly to our government’s interests.
When the Punisher refuses a mission, the official who recruited him
decides the Punisher must be terminated. The Taskmaster, who has
studied the Punisher in action, is given the assignment.
The Punisher is lured into the trap by the official - maybe Henry
Gyrich - and killed by the Taskmaster. The official has only the
slightest regrets in this matter. As he sess it, the security and
secrets of the nation must be protected. The Taskmaster rephrases
the sentiment: what the public doesn’t know can’t hurt the people
in charge of these operations.
Cut to the officers of The Daily Bugle where J, Jonah Jameson has
just received a very interesting manuscript.
It’s titled The Punisher’s War Journal.
ADDENDUM: I’m not as wild about this pitch as I was when I wrote it
over two decades ago. I’m not sure the Punisher would have struck
such a deal. On the other hand, so many writers have portrayed the
Punisher in so many ways, I’m not even sure about not being sure.
I’ll be back tomorrow with the first of two DC Comics pitches that
are even older than these. If my memory is correct, the DC stuff
dates back to 1976.
© 2013 Tony Isabella
Thursday, March 28, 2013
My ongoing assault on my Vast Accumulation of Stuff has involved my
going through several boxes of file folders. Some file folders get
tossed. Some get filed in my new office file cabinet. Convention
and column folders get re-boxed for storage.
One of the joys of going through these files is finding cool stuff
to share with my bloggy thing readers. Recently, I came across the
files to the apazines I did for a semi-professional apa. In one of
those issues, I found a pitch I had made to Marvel for an issue of
the company’s second What If? series.
From that apazine, here’s the introduction to the pitch:
This issue’s special feature is one of several What If springboards
I submitted to editor Craig Anderson in January of 1990. He never
responded to these submissions, not an unique occurrence. Since
some of you have asked what a springboard is and since What If has
now run a story based on the concept of my springboard, I thought
I’d publish the springboard for your edification and enjoyment.
Had Anderson okayed the springboard, I would have written my usual
detailed panel-by-panel plot for the artist.
Before we get to the springboard, here’s some important information
I lifted from Wikipedia:
The Tri-Sentinel is a fictional robot who appeared in the superhero
comics of Marvel Comics. The Tri-Sentinel's first appearance was in
Amazing Spider-Man #329, which followed on directly from the Acts
of Vengeance storyline. In that storyline, several superheroes
including Spider-Man, Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, and Cloak
and Dagger came together to fight the Asgardian trickster god Loki.
After Loki's defeat at the hands of Thor, Loki engaged in a final
act of vengeance by creating a robot known as the Tri-Sentinel. He
did this by merging three Sentinels together. The Tri-Sentinel was
sent by Loki to attack a nuclear power plant and thereby destroy
New York City. It was defeated by Spider-Man, who at that time
possessed the powers of the Captain Universe entity.
Now that you know that...
“WHAT IF SPIDER-MAN REMAINED COSMIC?”
Spider-Man’s battle with the Tri-Sentinel results in the Uni-Power
being bonded permanently to Peter Parker.
Knowing that with greater power comes greater responsibility, Peter
begins rethinking his role in the world. Crime doesn’t seem as
big a problem as poverty, ignorance, hatred, decaying environment
and a thousand other concerns facing the human race. He sets out
to solve them all.
The problems are too big for even a cosmic hero to solve. He can’t
create wealth for the poor without changing the world economy. He
can’t cure fear and hate because they don’t have a physical form.
He can cure the sick, but there are too many sick people for even
a healer of his powers. The strain of being a “god” among mortals
threatens to drive him mad. The world demands more than he can
give and hates him when he fails to deliver.
Mary Jane, the wife he had all but forgotten, brings him back to
reality. Aunt May is dying. Spider-Man goes to his aunt at Peter,
planning to restore her to full health. But he finds May is ready
for death, her life as full as she could have wished. After all,
her guidance led a shy young boy to become the man he is today.
May passes gently into that good night, her passage guiding Peter
into a new direction for his own life.
The cosmic Spider-Man drops out of sight. It seems he’s abandoned
mankind. And yet...
In New York City, during a particularly harsh winter, a condemned
building is inexplicably restored - overnight - to shelter homeless
families. The city follows suit with other buildings.
In South America, two warring factions are brought together by a
mysterious peacemaker to discover the common ground that will lead
them to a lasting peace.
In Africa, a small section of barren land becomes fertile and its
inhabitants are given the will to not only survive but to reclaim
more bounty from their desert home.
The miracles continue. They are not as large. They are not at all
common. But they restore two precious commodities to the race of
man: hope and courage.
Nearly eighty years past. A still youthful Peter Parker is at Mary
Jane’s bedside as her life draws to a close. She is proud of the
way her husband has quietly guided mankind. This world has become
a better, gentler place. He credits Mary Jane and May for making
Afterwards, he will mourn for a time and then resume the work once
more. It is a responsibility that now weighs lightly on the hero
who has come to accept and understand his great power.
With rare exception, I hold no grudges against editors who couldn’t
be bothered to respond to pitches like this one. Those slights are
well in the past. The only time I get even mildly annoyed is when
one of these editors comes up to my table at a convention and tells
me how much he loved my writing. Even then, I simply accept such
compliments while resisting the urge to remind the editor that he
had an opportunity to work with me. Simple courtesy towards what
I’ll kindly call “veteran comics professionals” has rarely been a
requirement for editors in this field. It is what it is and it no
longer bothers me. Well, maybe just a little, but this definitely
goes into the “no biggie” file.
What If...? #31 [November 1991] featured “What if Spider-Man Had Not
Lost His Cosmic Powers?” [27 pages] by Glenn Alan Herdling. It’s
doubtful I ever saw or read that issue, but I hope it entertained
those who did read it.
That’s all for today. Come back tomorrow for two more of my 1990
What If springboards.
© 2013 Tony Isabella
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
The Rawhide Kid - the one created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, then
continued by Larry Lieber - is my favorite western character. So,
inspired by Essential Rawhide Kid Volume 1, which reprinted all the
Lee/Kirby issues and then some, I’ve been writing about the Rawhide
Kid most every Wednesday. When I ran out of the issues reprinted
in the book, I tracked down some owlhoots, brought them in and used
the reward money to buy more issues of the title. Because that’s
what the Kid would have done.
If Larry Lieber’s Rawhide Kid stories had been western movies like
those I watched as a kid, I think they would have been my favorite
western movies of them all. I can feel a kinship to Johnny Clay I
never felt with Roy Rogers or Hopalong Cassidy or any of the other
Hollywood cowboys. Every Lieber story had great roles for actors.
They would have made great movies.
Case in point: The Rawhide Kid #52 [June 1966]. The Lieber cover
- the Grand Comics Database lists Sol Brodsky as its inker - shows
rip-roaring action as the Kid takes on four owlhoots. But the eye
is drawn to the blonde woman standing in the doorway with a rifle.
Is she friend or is she foe? Turns out she’s both.
“Revenge at Rustler's Roost” [17 pages] opens with Duke Jordan and
a gang of rustlers looking down on a small ranch. Lieber is both
writer and artist on this one with Carl Hubbell providing fittingly
rugged inking to Larry’s pencils.
The Logans are older folks, no match for Jordan and his men. When
the rancher tries to stop them from making off with his cows, they
gun him down.
New ranch hand Johnny Clay is fixing a fence out in the field. He
hears the shot and comes running. The Logans have been good to him,
hiring him without questions and paying decent wages. If anyone
has harmed them...
Mr. Logan is still alive. Johnny and Nightwind ride to town to get
the doctor. The rancher is weak, but will recover from the wound.
Johnny wishes he’d been there when the rustlers came. Things would
have worked out different.
Mrs. Logan doesn’t understand what he’s talking about. Johnny does
not carry a firearm. She’s surprised when he pulls his shooting
irons from a suitcase. She asks who he is and Johnny tells her:
I’m a fugitive from the law. I’m the Rawhide Kid! But there’s a
mile wide difference between me and muh rep! Try to believe that,
ma’am, if yuh can!
I don’t need to! I’ve seen you up close, Johnny Clay! I know that
you’re a kind, decent human being! No one will ever make me believe
Johnny is hellbent on revenge. He trails the rustlers to a small
town. The sheriff gets the drop on him when Johnny is questioning
saloon patrons about the owlhoots. He leads him to the town jail,
then holsters his gun.
The Rawhide Kid isn’t wanted in this county. The sheriff’s hoping
Johnny will help him nab these rustlers. They cook up a ruse that
has the Kid allegedly fleeing from a posse. Hiding in the hills,
the outlaws spot the fleeing Rawhide and drive the posse off with
Johnny is taken to “Rustler’s Roost” where he is recognized as the
Rawhide Kid by Jordan. Duke doesn’t think the Kid looks like much
and picks up a fight. Even when the other outlaws gang up on him,
Rawhide is holding his own.
The fight comes to an abrupt end when the blonde-haired Ruby enters
the house and fires a rifle in the air. Driven by her hatred for
the railroad company that cheated her family out of their land and
left them penniless, Ruby runs this criminal operation. She don’t
aim to die poor like her folks did.
Lots of tension in that room. Ruby is Duke’s girlfriend, but she
thinks the Kid is “kinda cute.” Duke has a fiery temper and seems
as much or more in control of the gang as is Ruby.
Ruby and the Kid share a moment. He tries to steer her away from
her life of crime:
Lots of folks get handed a rough deal! But they don’t turn to
crime! They overcome their hardships by honest hard work!
When Ruby says that was a “right impressive speech” coming from an
outlaw, the Kid says he’s “not a run-of-the-mill owlhoot.” Ruby’s
not buying it. She figures they’re “both the same seamy breed” and
accepts Johnny into her gang.
The gang’s next caper will be to rob the Sunset Falls bank where a
shipment of railroad money is coming in. Rawhide slips away in the
night to warn the sheriff. A trap is planned. In town, Duke and
the gang won’t have the advantage of the high ground. The sheriff
figures he can take them without losing any men.
Ruby always stays at the Roost - she does the brain work and leaves
the muscle to the “big men with fast guns.” Hmm...reading this
story again four decades after its first publication, I’m wondering
if Duke might not have been that great in the sack. But I digress.
The trap almost works. The Rawhide Kid and the gang ride into the
town and enter the bank...where every teller and customer gets the
drop of them. But Duke has a trick concealed in his spur, a smoke
pellet that explodes on contact. The smoke conceals the outlaws’
escape. They ride out of town and back to the Roost.
The Rawhide Kid goes after them, not waiting for the sheriff to get
his posse organized:
No! Innocent people would get hurt! Besides, I do this kind of work
best by my lonesome!
Back at the Roost, Duke realizes the Rawhide Kid was never on their
side. Ruby can’t believe the betrayal, not until Johnny busts into
the house and starts shooting:
This is for a couple of nice old folks whose cattle you rustled!
It’s down to the Rawhide Kid and Duke when Jordan surprises Johnny
by grabbing Ruby and using her as a shield. If the Kid won’t drop
his guns, Duke will shoot Ruby.
Duke prepares to gun down the unarmed Kid, but Ruby leaps between
them and gets shot instead. Jordan’s next shot goes wild and the
Kid grabs one of his gun. Johnny doesn’t miss. Then the anguished
young man races to the dying Ruby’s side, not understanding why she
sacrificed her life for his. She explains:
Couldn’t let him kill you...told you before that you’re too cute to
be hurt! Listen, Kid...money from our jobs...buried by boulder
behind house...you return it...start a clean new life...
The Kid tells her to save her strength, that he’ll get her to the
doctor. Ruby knows otherwise:
No...it’s too late...I wish it could have been different...I wish
I could’ve been like other gals! Now it’s too late...too late for
beaus and parties...too late for everything...
His head bowed, the Rawhide Kid gives Ruby a eulogy:
She was the leader of a gang of ruthless outlaws! But she was also
a woman! And in the end when it counted most...she was all woman!
Goodbye, gal! I’ll never forget you!
That’s how to end a story with a wallop! When you imagine a scene
like that on the screen and played by good actors, you can see why
I say Larry Lieber’s scripts could have been filmed. He packed a
lot of story into 17 pages of comics. Every time I read these old
gems, my estimation of my pal’s ability goes up a notch. He was as
good or better than almost any other writing riding the comics road
in the 1960s.
This month’s “Marvel Bullpen Bulletins” was filled with news items
and other commentary. Marvel Tales would be joining the successful
Marvel Collectors’ Item Classics as an ongoing bi-monthly, annual-
size reprint book. There’s a list of “famous disc jockeys” who are
“full-fledged Marvelites” and a report on Federico Fellini’s visit
to the Bullpen.
The actual name of Sub-Mariner and Iron Man artist Adam Austin is
revealed. He’s Gene Colan! Meanwhile, over in Daredevil, Spider-
Man is guest-starring. As we now know, it was Stan Lee trying to
see if John Romita would be able to replace Steve Ditko on the web-
slinger if Spidey’s co-creator should leave Marvel.
The final item is the kind of thing that would later appear in the
“Stan’s Soapbox” feature. Some Marvel readers are concerned that
Marvel is openly criticizing its competition. This item explains
it’s because some competitors are now trying to imitate the Marvel
style and doing it so badly that they making the whole comics art
form look bad. I totally believed that in 1966.
Also on the page is “The Mighty Marvel Checklist” of comics on sale
this month and the names of 26 members of the MMMS (Merry Marvel
Marching Society). No future comics professionals among those 26
names that I could see, but I’ll keep looking.
This issue’s non-series reprint is “Yak Yancy, the Man Who Treed a
Town” (5 pages) by Stan Lee and Dick Ayers. It originally appeared
in The Rawhide Kid #29 [August 1962]. I wrote about it in my blog
for June 6, 2012. Check out my comments on it there.
The reprint is followed by a full-page ad for Marvel merchandise we
have seen before: the two-sided Hulk sweatshirt [$2.98], the six-
foot-high Spider-Man pin-up ($1.99), the super-hero stationary kit
($1) and an Avengers t=shirt ($1.50). I had them all, but they’re
long gone. On the other hand, I did recently find my MMMS card and
the two records the club issued. Score!
The “Ridin’ the Trail with Rawhide” letters page has four letters.
Earl H. Dill Jr. of Baltimore wants a western annual. Gail Worden
of Waterbury, Connecticut wants more romance for the Rawhide Kid.
Robert Liepa of Ottawa compares Lieber’s art - favorably - to that
of Jack Kirby and praises Larry’s writing as well.
The bizarre letter of the issue is from Berry Castillo of Hawaii.
She complains that Marvel portrays Jesse James in a negative light.
Chicks always did dig the bad boys.
Happy trails to you, my friends, until our next Rawhide Wednesday.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2013 Tony Isabella
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
hopefully be only three parts of the worst root canal of my life.
I came home a hurting puppy, though not a butt-ugly hurting puppy
like those in Chupacabra vs. the Alamo, which aired Saturday night
on the SyFy Channel. I had to take two Vicodin and was reduced to
a barely sentient creature for the rest of the night, sort of like
Erik Estrada in Chupacabra vs. the Alamo.
Saturday morning and afternoon. I wrote a whole bunch of stuff for
a whole bunch of projects before running out of steam. The timing
was perfect for me to watch Chupacabra vs. the Alamo. My Sainted
Wife Barb even watched about half of the movie with me, horrified
by my love for cheesy monster movies. But I think she also began
to understand my love for these underachieving flicks.
I’m hurting. I’m tired. I don’t want great art. I want the movie
equivalent of comfort food. Give me a bowl of popcorn. Sit me in
front of the TV watching a monster movie and I am once again that
relatively carefree boy who watched Ernie “Ghoulardi” Anderson beam
Attack of the Crab Monsters and Beast From 20,000 Fathoms into my
dark Cleveland living room and into my brain.
The movie’s quality or lack thereof isn’t what matters to young/old
Tony sitting in his much bigger dark family room and watching the
film on a much bigger flat-screen TV. What matters is whether or
not I enjoyed the movie. Which I surely did.
My friends, I give you the good, the bad and the ugly of Chupacabra
vs. the Alamo. Pass the popcorn amongst yourself.
GOOD: The basic concept of a pack of chupacabras making their way
from Mexico to Texas via a tunnel used to transport illegal drugs.
However, just so there’s no question about this, I am not in favor
of a path to citizenship for these particular illegal aliens.
BAD: That freaking tunnel was too big to be believable. If he were
a federal agent, Mister Magoo could have found that tunnel. As it
was, the DEA didn’t seem to be at all surprised by it. Was someone
being paid off by the drug cartel?
GOOD AND UGLY: Though their CGI movements were jerky at times, the
chupacabras looked good and ugly to me. Like really ugly underfed
dogs. One at a time, they could be dealt with. It was their vast
numbers that made them honestly scary.
DISAPPOINTING: Erik Estrada just didn’t seem to be feeling it as he
shot the movie. His character had plenty of dramatic opportunities
- his grief for his late wife, his frustration with his children,
his acerbic nature - but he stumbled through them. What I assumed
was supposed to be his big line - “Chupa this!” - was embarrassing
as soon as he said it. If an actor isn’t going to have fun with a
movie like this, he should pass on the role.
DISAPPOINTING AND DUMB: All those scenes of Estrada on a motorcycle
with the bargain-basement green screen background flashing by. We
know he was the star of CHIPS and understand the obsession to pay
homage to that, but a motorcycle isn’t exactly the best vehicle for
DEA or most other police work.
SO-SO: That would be almost all the actors. The best of the bunch
were Stargate veteran Julia Benson and Vanesa Tomasino.
COMICALLY BAD: They sure went through the dispensable characters in
a hurry, didn’t they? After they killed off all the high-schoolers
save for Estrada’s daughter, they had to recruit a new bunch of red
shirts in the form of fellow DEA agents and Estrada’s son amazingly
STUPIDLY BAD: Chupacabras are eating people like San Antonio was an
all-you-can-eat buffet and how do the various authorities respond?
Estrada’s boss bitches him out for violating protocol, the locals
whine about Estrada crossing their crime scene to save his daughter
and the National Guard can’t get to one of Texas’ biggest cities -
where they most likely have a base - until the next day. Oh, yeah,
and nobody bothers to alert public buildings like the Alamo about
the blood-sucking monsters in their midst.
GOOD: Points to Estrada’s daughter and her doomed best friend for
holding their own for a time when the chupacabras followed them to
BAD: Estrada sends his daughter and her doomed best friend to his
house which is only two miles away from where their classmates got
eaten. What was he thinking?
GOOD: Lots of action and even suspense. Hundreds of monsters will
do that for a movie. The plight of Estrada and crew was compelling.
Goofy as it might have seemed at first, their desperate last stand
at the Alamo made for an exciting conclusion.
GOOD: I can’t find his name in the credits, but I got a kick out of
the actor who played Crockett, that surprisingly competent Alamo
tour guide. I pegged him for another red shirt and he turned out to
be so much more than that.
QUESTION FOR DENIZENS OF SAN ANTONIO: Does the Alamo in this movie
look anything like the real thing?
GOOD: Somehow the movie makers managed to resist the urge to have
a stray chupacabra flash across the screen before the closing fade-
out. That last “gotcha” can work on occasion, but it’s an overused
ending for a movie. The film ended just fine without it.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Chupacabra vs. the Alamo entertained me throughout
its two-hour broadcast time. It wasn’t great art, it didn’t make
me think deep thoughts, it just entertained me. I’ve seen lots of
great art in my 61 years on this planet, thought lots of deep and
occasionally disturbing thoughts. I’m good on both counts. It’s
goofy monster fun I can always use more of it.
I’ll be back tomorrow with another “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” Saddle
up, amigos. Let’s ride!
© 2013 Tony Isabella
Monday, March 25, 2013
for laughs in the mid-1970s, but one strip in The Complete Funky
Winkerbean: Volume 2, 1975-1977 [Kent State University Press; $45]
was unexpectedly sobering. Dated July 26, 1975, its three panels
show the teenage Funky watching TV. The unseen commentator on the
Finally, in tonight’s news...
...and this’ll kill ya...
...Congress has given up in its attempt to pass strong gun control
That was 38 years and so many senseless school and public shootings
ago. That was 38 years and so many innocent lives cut short by gun
violence ago. I had to stop reading the book for a while before I
could continue to enjoy the collected strips.
There was always a contemporary feel to Funky Winkerbean. Subjects
such as school busing and the anxiety over segregation were touched
upon so gently that the reader barely notices the edge Batiuk was
able to bring to these topics.
The book contains the staples of high-school-based comedy. There
are the perky cheerleaders, the nerds who pine for them, the coach
only slightly less pathetic than his incompetent players, teachers
trying to prepare their students for a life in uncertain times and
all the rest. But there are also those insane touches I remember
fondly almost four decades later: the cheerleader who sets herself
on fire via flaming baton with alarming frequency, the kid living
in a locker that must be some form of Tardis and the all-powerful
computer who screws up class scheduling because it is distracted by
its love for Star Trek. Fun stuff.
Amazon is currently selling the book for a third off its list price
and that works out to about ten bucks apiece for each of the three
years collected in this book. Go for it.
Two of my Marvel Comics stories are scheduled to be reprinted later
this year. Captain Universe: The Hero Who Could Be You #1 [$7.99]
reprints the short story in which a toddler, based on my son Eddie
at that age, gains the power of Captain Universe. It was drawn by
Steve Ditko and features some surprise guest stars. This special
104-page comic book also collects Marvel Spotlight #9-11 from 1979
plus material from Marvel Fanfare #25, Web of Spider-Man Annual #6
and What If? #31. The other writers are Captain Universe creator
Bill Mantlo, Gerry Conway and Glenn Herdling. In addition to the
stories drawn by Ditko, there are Captain Universe tales drawn by
June Brigman and Scott McDaniel.
More expensive is Marvel Masterworks: the Fantastic Four Vol. 15
[$69.99] featuring stories written by Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, Len
Wein, Marv Wolfman, Chris Claremont and, for one tale, yours truly.
The volume collects Fantastic Four #151-163, Giant-Size Fantastic
Four #3-4 and Marvel Treasury Edition #2 with art by Rich Buckler,
Bob Brown and John Buscema.
That’s all for today as I work on some other projects. If you come
back tomorrow, you’ll find me rhapsodizing about Chupacabra vs. the
Alamo. Because someone has to fall on that grenade for you.
© 2013 Tony Isabella
Sunday, March 24, 2013
horror comics launched in the early 1950s. Edited by Roy Ald, the
comic ran 14 issues from October 1951 to December 1953. Charlton
continued the title after Fawcett stopped publishing comic books.
The Grand Comics Database tentatively identifies the cover artist
as Sheldon Moldoff. The GCD has not yet identified the writers of
the issue’s stories. It’s possible editor Ald wrote some of them.
Here are the issue’s contents with credits and story synopsis from
the wonderful GCD:
“The Green Hands of Terror” (13 pages), drawn by George Evans. Jenk
and Slezak, two killers on the run, hide in a house where a chemist
is experimenting with “synthetic protoplasm” – thus creating
aggressive body parts which attack any intruder.
“The Devil’s Due” (9 pages), artists unknown. Sadistic Nazi colonel
kills his prisoners of war single-handedly. The dead return to take
“The Weirdest Corpse of All Time!” (8 pages), possibly penciled by
Moldoff and inked by Ed Moline. Exterminator George Harris is
troubled with his profession. All the killing gets to him. Things
turn for the worse when mice start stalking him and he mysteriously
begins to shrink.
As my fascination with comic books that arrived on the newsstands
in my December 1951 birth month continues, keep reading this bloggy
thing of mine for more vintage covers from that month.
Let’s talk about some more recent comics...
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #212 [DC; January 2007] is one
of the little gems I’ve come across as I’ve been reading some old
(but not real old) Batman comics. Written by Adam Beechen with art
by Steve Scott (pencils) and Nathan Massengill (inks), “A Legend of
the Dark Knight” is a terrific done-in-one story in which Batman is
more supporting cast member than protagonist. This is a Batman who
inspires a young citizen of Gotham City and is neither a dick or a
psycho. It’s a Batman who makes me remember why I once considered
him my favorite comics hero. Unfortunately, this story hasn’t been
reprinted in any Batman collection. It should be.
I have another Batman revelation to share with you. I skipped over
a lot of Batman comics because of the ever-darkening nature of the
character. I have recently been reading Batman collections mostly
written by Ed Brubaker and enjoying them quite a bit. His Batman
is compassionate, intelligent, occasionally fallible and someone I
think I could meet without soiling myself. I’m calling it here and
now: Brubaker is the finest Batman writer of the past two decades.
Jim Starlin wrote and drew two Breed series, which were published
by Malibu Comics in 1994. I don’t think I read either. But I did
recently read the seven-issue Breed III [Image; $2.99 per issue),
which came out in 2011.
Ray Stoner, the protagonist of Breed III, is a half-human and half
something else. The something else is from his other-dimensional
father. Daddy and kin basically take over planets, eat everyone,
then move on to the next planet. Stoner may be the only chance our
world has of not being on the buffet table. That’s as much plot as
you’re getting out of me.
Right from the start of this third series, Starlin makes it pretty
easy for a new reader to get with the program. Though there are a
lot of flashback sequence, they serve to propel and not slow this
story. The writing and art are excellent and Starlin fans will get
a kick out of seeing several characters from earlier Starlin works.
I know I did.
Breed III presents a solid story with a satisfying ending. None of
the Breed series have been collected in trade paperback and that’s
a shame. Somebody ought to correct that sad situation.
I’m not entirely lost in the past. This week, I caught up on three
of DC Comics’ “New 52" titles. I’m warming up to Dial H, cooling
on Earth 2 and finding Green Arrow unreadable.
China Mieville’s Dial H is clever and imaginative stuff. I’m also
liking the two main characters. Yes, I still think this concept is
more suitable for an all-ages animated series, but I suppose I can
be okay with this version in the meantime.
Earth 2 has become tiresome. Outside of the eager young hero that
is the Flash, I find the other characters unpleasant. I can and do
enjoy some titles whose leads are just as and even more unpleasant.
This isn’t one of them.
Green Arrow? The Ann Nocenti issues were unreadable. The one issue
I’ve seen from her successor on the title was readable but not very
interesting. Reading DC “New 52" titles doesn’t cost me any money
because a friend loans them to me, but my time is valuable as well.
Month after month, the DC titles are proving themselves to be not
worth the time to read them. Even for free.
Kudos to IDW for not one, but two very cool Popeye comics series.
While I confess my preference for the Bud Sagendorf adventures in
Classic Popeye, I also get plenty of laughs from Roger Langridge’s
stories in Popeye. What with Popeye being one of the most important
beings in the known universe, two comic books seems quite fitting.
DC Comics may be “flies in mine zupe,” but IDW’s Popeye comics are
almost as good for me as spinach!
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2013 Tony Isabella
Saturday, March 23, 2013
to November 1954. Published by Charlton Comics, the title doesn’t
seem to have had an actual character or host named the Thing. The
title may have been inspired by The Thing From Another World, the
1951 movie based on John W. Campbell’s “Who Goes There?”. The film
is widely considered to be one of the best science fiction movies
of all time.
The Thing #1 [February 1952] was wholly drawn by the artistic team
of Albert Tyler (pencils) and Bob Forgione (inks). However, their
inside cover contents page art has the signed credits reversed and
the Grand Comics Database opines that the duo might have switched
jobs for that page.
The GCD lists no writer credits for the issue, but it is known that
Walter B. Gibson, author of over 300 pulp-magazine novels of The
Shadow and also an incredible number of other works, wrote for The
Thing in 1952. Here are the GCD contents and synopsis of the first
“The Creature From Dimension 2-K-31" (9 pages). Soldiers fight an
otherworldly shape-shifting alien creature during the Korean War.
That sounds more than a little like The Thing From Another World,
which bolsters my speculation as to the origin of this comic book’s
“Grunwald” (7 pages). Three men fight to maintain their sanity when
they are trapped in a lighthouse and besieged by thousands of
hungry, murderous rats.
“Nightmare” (7 pages). A serial killer randomly decapitates his
“Hellfire of Doom: (7 pages). A killer blackmails a city by causing
people to spontaneously combust.
To the best of my knowledge, these stories have not been reprinted
anywhere. Later issues would feature some interesting early work
by Steve Ditko, but the future co-creator of Spider-Man and Doctor
Strange would not make his first appearance in the title until The
Thing #12 [February 1954].
Keep reading this bloggy thing of mine for more vintage comic-book
covers from my birth month of December 1951.
My reviews of cheesy monster movies have proven very popular among
my bloggy thing readers. When I reviewed Spiders and mentioned the
lead actress also appeared in Mansquito, Ty Kieth insisted I review
the film. Feeling a sudden deja vu, I checked my “Tony’s Online
Tips” archives and found I had already reviewed Mansquito way back
on March 24. 2005. Here’s what I wrote...
"Hey, Mansquito! Take this!"
...says the police detective with the unkempt hair as he sends an
armor-piecing bullet into oxygen tanks at a hospital savaged by the
blood-sucking title star of this 2005 sci-fi movie. It would
probably be impolite of me to mention this early in my review that
only *female* mosquitos suck blood.
Mansquito  made its debut on the Sci-Fi Channel earlier this
month. The set-up goes like this:
Deadly virus carried by mosquitos. Scientists - including the
principled heroine played by Musetta Vander - try to find a cure by
manipulating the DNA of other mosquitos. Typically callous head of
research lab gets a mass murderer sprung from death row to test the
serum on, this without the knowledge of the heroine. Oh, yeah, her
detective boyfriend is the one who busted the murderer.
Murderer escapes in lab. Kills guards and heroine's assistant
before some sort of nuclear rotisserie blows up. Murderer catches
the worst of it and changes quickly Into...Mansquito! Heroine gets
smaller dose and starts changing slowly.
The creature suit isn't bad and there is some creepy fun to be had
at first. Near the movie's end, director Tibor Takacs goes too
heavy on the gore; heads and limbs go rolling all over the hospital
where the heroine is being cared for.
The hair of Corin Nemac - he plays the detective - has a life of
its own with a clump of it constantly falling over his forehead. I
guess he had to do something to get noticed. That Mansquito is such
The funniest moment in the movie - and you can only watch this
movie for laughs - is when I realized where I'd seen Vander before.
She played the mantis-lady on the first-season episode of Buffy the
Vampire Slayer wherein Xander Harris nearly got eaten. Is this not
the worst possible typecasting? To be the actress directors think
of when someone turns into a giant bug?
I was going to give away the ending, but, what the heck, this
stupid movie is actually worth seeing just for the fun you can have
making sport of it. If I rated it on any other basis, it wouldn't
get more than one Tony (for the creature suit). But, as your very
own Mystery Science Theater 3000 home game, I give it a respectable
three Tonys. Hey, Mansquito!
Back then, I was still rating comics and other items on a scale of
zero to five Tonys. I don’t do that anymore.
There’s something I should make clear since it’s obvious I will be
reviewing more cheesy monster movies in future bloggy things. Yes,
I make mockery of many of these films. But I mock them with love
in my heart. Cheesy monster movies are one of the great pleasures
of my life and I like to share them with you.
Though I may disparage their works, I have nothing but love for the
makers of these movies. They are the heroes of their small budgets
who do remarkable things with what little money they have, filming
scripts that aren’t exactly Shakespeare. Most of them are just as
sincere in their love of these kinds of movies as I am. They are
brothers from another probably monstrous mother.
Though I’m not a big fan of Facebook groups, I recently requested
membership in and was accepted by the Fans of SyFy Original Movies
group. There’s all sorts of news and lots of love for the movies
on that page and I’m enjoying the heck out of it. I recommend it
to all of you who enjoy my monster movie reviews.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2013 Tony Isabella
Friday, March 22, 2013
by the comic books that appeared on newsstands in my birth month of
December 1951. Those 60-year-old comic books are a mystery to me.
I don’t own any of them and precious few of them have been reprinted. I
love looking them up on the Grand Comics Database and learning what
I can about them. Sometimes, they lead me to additional surprises.
That’s the case today.
The Texas Kid #8 [Atlas; March 1952] was one of a bunch of westerns
published by Martin Goodman because westerns were hot at the time.
It ran ten issues from January 1951 to July 1952. The masked hero
looked familiar to me...and then I did a bit more digging. We’ll
get to that in a moment.
Joe Maneely drew the cover of this issue. The GCD doesn’t have any
credits for the interior stories, but it does list titles for those
Texas Kid: “Payment In Lead” (7 pages)
“Sheriff's Bluff” (2-page text story)
Texas Kid: “Bloody Saturday” (7 pages)
“Bait For Boot Hill” (4-page non-series story)
Texas Kid: “Hoofs of Death” (5 pages)
A quick visit to the International Catalogue of Superheroes, which
utilized information provided by the amazing Jess Nevins, told me
more about the character:
Zane Temple had been a Texas Ranger who had retired following the
Mexican-American War of 1846 to become a rancher near the border
town of Caliber City. He and his family lived a peaceful life until
the day outlaw Link Cado and his gang came to town, seeking revenge
on the Ranger who years before had sent them to jail. They attacked
the Ranch and slew Lucy Temple, Zane's wife; Zane retaliated,
killing many of them before Link shot him in the back. Lance tried
to fight too, but Link shot the gun out his hands and was about to
finish him off when two of Zane's friends, Emilio (a Mexican) and
Red Hawk (an Apache) arrived and scared him off.
Though Red Hawk managed to save Zane's life, the former Ranger was
permanently blinded. Emilio and Red Hawk vowed to look after both
of the Temple men, and help them work the ranch. As Lance grew,
they tutored him in ranching, hunting and fighting, so that he
became an expert in each. Reaching adulthood, Lance sought to hunt
down Link, but his father made him swear to forebear violence and
seek peace instead. Rather than disappoint his father, Lance
decided to create a new identity so he could fight anonymously. He
was supported by his two other friends in this venture, with Emilio
giving him a costume he had worn as a young caballero, and Red Hawk
gifting him a horse and Winchester rifle. Lance became the Texas
Kid, and rode the range in the service of justice.
“What in the Sam Hill?,” I exclaimed. A hero named Lance Temple?
Hiding his other identity from his father? Where had I seen that
The Outlaw Kid. Drawn by Doug Wildey. Reprinted by Marvel Comics
in the late 1960s and early 1970s and, reportedly, one of the most
successful of their western reprints. Here’s what Wikipedia says
The Outlaw Kid is a fictional Western hero in comic books published
by Marvel Comics. The character originally appeared in the
company's 1950s iteration, Atlas Comics. A lesser-known character
than the company's Kid Colt, Rawhide Kid or Two-Gun Kid, he also
starred in a reprint series in the 1970s and a short-lived revival.
The Outlaw Kid was Lance Temple, an Old West lawyer and Civil War
veteran living with his blinded father on a ranch. Though promising
his father he would never take up a gun, he'd nonetheless felt the
need to right wrongs expediently on the near-lawless frontier, and
created a masked identity in order to keep his gunslinging secret.
The Outlaw Kid first appeared in 1954. The Marvel Database claims
this Lance Temple is not the same as the Texas Kid, but the origin
is the same as the earlier character. Simple logic tells you that
Atlas simply relaunched the earlier character with a new name and
pretty much the same look.
But, wait, there’s more...
There was a Texas Kid that predated the 1951 version. That Texas
Kid was an unmasked, unnamed hero who billed himself as the “Robin
Hood of the Plains” and protected ranchers from criminals. He was
created by Ben Thompson and only appeared in Daring Mystery Comics
#1 [January 1940]. One and done.
But, wait, there’s even more...
I couldn't shake the memory of another Atlas comic book that I owned
once upon a time. It took some stretching of my brain cells until
I remembered it and another visit to the GCD to confirm the memory.
That Atlas comic book that I once owned was The Kid from Texas #2
[August 1957], the second and final issue of the title.
The cover was by Fred Kida, though I did not know this back then.
Inside the issue were four short “Kid From Texas” stories drawn by
Joe Sinnott, who I did know from his work for Treasure Chest, some
Atlas era mystery comics, some early Thor stories, and, of course,
his magnificent inking of Jack Kirby’s pencils on Fantastic Four.
There was also a non-series comics story and the usual text story.
I remember the Sinnott art, but nothing else about this comic book.
Not even after I read this brief summation at the International
Catalogue of Superheroes:
After his Texas Ranger father was killed at the Alamo, young Dan
Hawk was raised by Cactus, his deceased parent's best friend.
Cactus taught the boy to ride, shoot and survive in the wild, and
as soon as Dan felt he was old enough, he tried to follow in his
father's footsteps and join the Rangers. Rejected because they felt
he was still only a boy, Dan nonetheless proved his worth when he
intervened in a battle between a group of Rangers and renegade
Indians, rescuing the lawmen from certain death. In gratitude for
his bravery, Dan was made an honorary Ranger, but he declined to
join full time, deciding instead to ride the land and see more of
America, lending aid where it might be needed.
Still drawing a blank. There were a few more Kid From Texas tales
that showed up in other Atlas westerns of the era. I figure they
were originally done for The Kid From Texas and put into inventory
when that title was cancelled.
I don’t know if anyone reading my bloggy thing is as fascinated as
I am by this stuff. But it excites me to learn that the Texas Kid
begat the Outlaw Kid...and that there were two other western heroes
who essentially had the same name.
And one more thing...
The Kid From Texas was a 1950 movie about Billy the Kid. The title
hero was played by Audie Murphy in his first western. Moreover, my
uncle Tom Rocco served with Murphy in World War II and, until the
actor’s death, my uncle would receive Christmas cards from Murphy.
Circles within circles.
Keep reading this bloggy thing of mine for more vintage comic-book
covers from my birth month. I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2013 Tony Isabella
Thursday, March 21, 2013
After a Soviet space station crashes into a New York City subway
tunnel, a species of venomous spiders is discovered, and soon they
mutate to gigantic proportions and wreak havoc on the city.
Spiders [Nu Image; 2013] was also known as Spiders 3D. According
to my Blu-ray box, it features both “Blu-ray 3D and Blu-ray on one
disc.” The box’s art is one of the precious few good things about
this surely destined for the SyFy Channel movie...and that’s coming
from a guy who loves giant monster movies.
Spiders is almost completely lacking in suspense as it proceeds in
its utterly predictable telling. We see a dead Soviet spacecraft
filled with spiders and dead Soviets. We see a meteor. What are
the odds of the meteor hitting the spacecraft and causing part of
the craft - a small part with incredibly hardy spiders - to crash
into the New York City subway system?
Subway gets shut down. Spiders start building a nest undetected.
Military asshat and former Soviet scientist conspire to make folks
think the area is quarantined due to a virus. Because they see the
spiders as weapons of war. What could possibly go wrong?
Patrick Muldoon, who also starred in Ice Spiders, plays a divorced
transit official obsessed with making the trains run on time. His
ex-wife is a health department official. They have a daughter and
she has a babysitter. Which one of these characters is expendable?
When a transit worker is killed after being bitten by spiders and
implanted with spider-eggs, it is thought that he was electrocuted
on the third rail of a subway line. An autopsy recovers the eggs,
including the “Queen Spider” egg. Military asshat man wants that
egg and sends black ops hitmen to get it. Though they get the egg,
the former Mrs. Muldoon escapes with her life. The ex-wife is
played by Christa Campbell, whose credits include Hyenas, Kraken:
Tentacles of the Deep and Mansquito.
The former Soviet scientist pauses to admire the fully-grown Queen
Spider at one point. Is she flattered enough not to impale him on
one of her arms? You tell me.
Is there any good in Spiders? Actually, a couple things.
The spiders themselves are decent enough. We get some okay action
sequences when they leave the nest to explore the territory they will
be conquering for their queen.
The daughter of the stars escapes from quarantine with her doomed
babysitter. She features in the only truly suspenseful moments in
this movie when she tries to hide from the spiders and the queen in
first a toy store and then underneath the city streets.
The Queen Spider is pretty awesome in her size and strength. But,
unfortunately, she suffers from something common to giant monster
movies. Her size changes depending on what the script needs her to
do. Once she makes her above-ground appearance at about the size
of a two-story building, she shouldn’t be able to fit back into the
Back to the bad...
Colonel Asshat has a particularly creepy black ops assassin on the
job. The guy is scarier than most of the spiders. Given the task
of destroying any trail leading to the military, he’s efficient and
ruthless...and then disappears from the movie as if he were never
there. I admit it, I wanted to see him die in a horrible manner.
That’s how I roll.
Queen Spider is chasing the hero and his family through the subway
tunnels. This is her big death scene. I figured the transit guy
would use the third rail to fry her. He doesn’t. How he does kill
her depends on the subway system being used to store a buttload of
explosive gas. Because what danger could that possibly pose to the
millions of people who ride the subways daily?
Transit guy, ex-wife and daughter reunite. Maybe there’s hope for
their family. Military units are cleaning up the damage from the
spiders, presumably either killing or capturing surviving critters.
We can all rest easier knowing the menace is over. Care to guess
what the last shot of the movie is?
Spiders will almost certainly air on the SyFy Channel before long.
Even if its 89-minute running time gets cut for extra commercials,
I don’t recommend buying or renting it. Even if you’re as obsessed
with cheesy monster movies as I am, you can wait and watch it for
free. I sure wish I had.
Spiders was the last of three monster movies I watched while under
the weather this past weekend. I’m still feeling off my game, but
I think the bloggy thing will move on to other stuff on the morrow.
See you then.
© 2013 Tony Isabella
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
MONSTER FROM BIKINI BEACH is the story of a primordial fiend who
rises from the murky depths to quench its insatiable lust for
Monster From Bikini Beach [Bayview Entertainment/Widowmaker; 2008]
is a good movie trapped in the body of an awful movie. Deep, deep,
deep, deep inside the body of an awful movie. Which is not to say
the movie isn’t fun for all the wrong reasons.
Darin Wood, who you’ve never heard of before and likely would never
have heard of at all were it not for my insatiable lust for cheesy
monster movies, is the writer and director of this attempt to poke
fun at and recapture the drive-in creature features of the 1950s.
He’s filled the movie with actors you’ve never heard of before and
likely would never have heard of were it not for my insatiable lust
for cheesy monster movies. Yet, despite the manifest inability of
cast and crew to perform any of their jobs in a remotely adequate
fashion, there is a good movie underneath the bad writing, acting
and special effects. Deep, deep underneath.
You’ve got your sleazy ocean side community of Camaroville. What
passes for the law is a crooked detective who regularly shakes down
the low-rent criminals of his town, including a showman preparing
to open a new oceanfront club with a go-go dance contest. On the
other side of town, you have the high-rent criminals and, when the
detective tried to get a share of their take, they broke his knees
and sent him scurrying back to his side of the tracks. The cop is
looking for one big score so he can split for Mexico with his none-
too-bright-but-somehow-adorable young girlfriend. Add to the mix
an attractive TV reporter always looking for a big story, a tabloid
photographer always looking for monsters, and a slutty gang girl
who ran off with millions of dollars worth of the syndicate's heroin.
Those aren’t bad human elements for a story, not that the movie’s
cast can make them believable. Still, there’s humor in the truly
teeth-grinding deficiency of their performances.
The monster itself is even more laughable. It’s a shambling lump
in a costume that looks like it’ll fall off at any minute. I have
to give Wood some credit, though. He clearly knows the monster is
sad looking and doesn’t attempt to hide this. The creature makes
its first appearance before the opening credits and starts right in
with the gory mayhem.
The special effects rely heavily on bloody rubbery entrails. One of
the creature’s victims trying to crawl away on the beach with her
guts hanging out is dragged back into the water by her intestine.
How’s that for yummy fun?
Though Monster From Bikini Beach seemed to run much longer than its
stated 95 minutes - the DVD box has it at 85 minutes - it did make
me laugh out loud several times. To its credit, it has a creature-
killing method I don’t recall seeing in any other monster movie,
cheesy or otherwise. The special effects fail that closing scene,
but the idea was still a clever one.
Better, well, better everything could have made Monster From Bikini
Beach work. In its present state, it’s still worth renting for a
buck or maybe even buying if you can get it for ten bucks or less.
Come for the boobies - yes, it has several exposed breasts - stay
for the mockery you and your friends will visit on it. That’s not
a terrible way to spend an evening.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more monster movie mayhem.
© 2013 Tony Isabella
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
up, spits you out and then stomps on you just because it can. Some
days, the beat can be a real dick. That was the past several days
of my life. Laid low as I was, the only rational treatment was to
sit back and watch a bunch of monster movies.
The Blood Beast Terror (Tigon; 1968) concerns murder most horrific
in 19th century England. What makes it a monster movie is that the
blood-sucking killer is a were-moth. By day, the man-made creature
appears to be the beautiful daughter of a scientist. By night, she
is a humanoid Death’s Head moth who preys on young men smitten by
Tigon was Tigon British Film Productions, a film distribution and
production outfit. They did TV movies, sexploitation films and a
bunch of horror movies. The company was founded in 1966 and, save
for a sexploitation film in 1977, seems to have released its final
movie in 1973.
The star and shining light of the film is Peter Cushing, who plays
a police inspector investigating these murders. He’s very proper
and determined and thoughtful. The only time he loses his cool for
even a moment is when his daughter is in jeopardy. Of course, even the
villainous members of the cast - Robert Flemyng as the mad science
guy who creates the were-moth and Wanda Ventham as his “daughter” -
are well-mannered and well-dressed. Watching this movie at a time
when salaciousness and sensationalism are the key components of our
entertainment, I rather enjoyed the gentleness of the era in which
the film was set. A bit of all right there.
The were-moth is about as terrifying as a Mexican masked wrestler.
It’s a silly looking monster, crippled by what I assume was a very
low budget. The transformation scenes, few in number, are all done
with a quick dissolve. The were-moth attacks are glimpsed and not
clearly seen. The carnage is modest in screen time and severity.
No surprise the movie has a “G” rating.
The script skips over how the scientist created the were-moth and
requires the audience to simply accept that he did. In more than
a few places - such as when the scientist exhibits amazing powers
of hypnotism - I felt as if I had missed scenes. Maybe the budget
didn’t allow them to be filmed, maybe they got left on the cutting
room floor, maybe they didn’t fit the 87-minute running time. I’ll
have to leave that for more knowledgeable monster movie buffs than
myself. Your comments would be most welcome.
The bottom line...The Blood Beast Terror fits nicely into my insane
passion for often-cheesy monster movies. It entertained me and it
could have been one of the Ghoulardi-hosted monster movies shown on
Cleveland televsion when I was a lad. I’ll probably look into acquiring
and/or borrowing other Tigon films in the future.
Side note. Every freaking time I tried to type “Tigon,” it would
initially come out “Trigon.” I blame Marv Wolfman and George Perez
for that...and I remember fondly the years when Teen Titans comics
weren’t the utter pieces of shit they’ve been in more recent times.
Missing three days of work has thrown my schedule into chaos-mode,
so I’ll be continuing in short-form bloggy things for the rest of
this week. That means no “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” tomorrow. On the
plus side, I have received a communication from Larry Lieber, the
creator of so many great Rawhide Kid stories. I hope to add my old
friend’s comments to future “Rawhide Kid Wednesdays.”
I’ll be back tomorrow with more monster movie mayhem.
© 2013 Tony Isabella
Monday, March 18, 2013
comic book built around a real-life cowboy star. In this case, it
was the amazing Tex Ritter. A popular country western singer and
movie actor, Ritter has a Wikipedia entry that made my eyes go big.
He studied government, political science and economics. He was a
country music pioneer. He appeared in Broadway plays and on radio
programs, including a kids cowboy program he wrote and starred in.
He appeared in dozens of movies, recorded over a dozen albums and
over two dozen singles, toured Europe, appeared on many TV shows, was
a Grand Old Opry regular and even ran for the Senate once. If all
that wasn’t enough, he was the father of actor John Ritter and the
grandfather of Jason Ritter. He died on January 2, 1974 at age 69.
And that’s just the short version of a life lived large and really
well. Wow. Just wow.
Ritter appears with his horse White Flash on the cover shown above.
The lead feature of the issue is the three-chapter “Lawless Furnace
Valley” by artist Pete Riss and a writer yet to be identified. The
chapters are summarized on the Grand Comics Datebase.
Chapter 1: “Ambush” (8 pages). “Lucky Marlin is the law in the boom
town of Furnace Valley until Ranger Tex arrives.”
Chapter 2: “Death's Grip” (7 pages). “Tex is bushwacked by Lucky's
killers, but he beats them off and they shoot one of their own.
Then they hire a big wrestler to take on Tex.”
I interrupt this bloggy thing for a suggestion to the Grand Comics
Database. Especially given the title of this chapter, perhaps it
might be better to say Ritter *chases* them off. Think about it.
Chapter 3: “Showdown” (8 pages). “A wrestling and boxing match
between Tex and Crusher, and a showdown with the gang of robbers.”
Also in this issue:
“Riding The Range With Tex Ritter” (1 page). This letters page has
an opening illustration by Riss and is supposed written by Ritter.
It has “some words on horses and of using horse sense.”
“Loonie Les” (1 page). A western gag page by unidentified creators.
“Pinto Pete” (1 page). Another western gag page, this one drawn by
“Cowboy Cal” (1 page). A third western gag page. The GCD synopsis
says “Cal has been experimenting with breeding snakes and parrots.”
I hope he wasn’t breeding them together. We really don’t need any
more Faux News personalities.
“Incident By The Creek” (2-pages). The text story is signed by Dick
Kraus, who was a Fawcett editor and writer.
“Stage Struck Stewart” (0.5 page). Another western gag strip. The
other half of the page has a “Fleer’s Dubble Bubble Gum” ad written
and drawn by Ray Thompson.
Keep reading this bloggy thing for more vintage comic-book covers
from the month of my birth. As always, if you have information to
share on these issues, please send it to me and I’ll share it with
your fellow bloggy thing readers.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2013 Tony Isabella