Friday, September 30, 2011
When the movie Return of the Living Dead hit the theaters way back in the 80's I was distinctly not interested. That kind of movie did not appeal to me back then, and I have to say that while I've warmed to the zombie concept since, it's still not the my favorite horror genre by any stretch. I find the gore which dominates many of these productions not so much nauseating as dull.
That said, when I found a collection of movies (the same set that featured Swamp Thing) the other day and found this older zombie fest on it, I was not displeased. Dan O'Bannon was the director and as I discovered William Stout was the production designer. Both men were featured on the commentary track of this movie and did some interviews to support the effort. O'Bannon has since passed away but happily William Stout is still very much around. Here's a link to his website.
One bit of trivia that Stout mentions is that it was the cover to Alien Worlds above from Pacific Comics which got him this gig as designer. O'Bannon liked Stout's talent for drawing decayed zombies, but wondered if he could handle technology and the space suit showed him he could.
I found the movie not what I expected. It was a comedy, which helped immensely, and the connection to the classic zombie original Night of the Living Dead was cleverly done. I liked the fact the movie was stocked with solid veteran actors able to handle the shifts from fright to fun, but next to them unfortunately was a gang of younger actors less nimble.
By nimble, I don't mean lack of physical skills, but their range is and ability to do the subtle shifts required to keep the viewer in the story is less developed. Some of the kids do some great gags and one young lass spends nearly all of the movie mostly naked, her perky butt wiggling through several tromps across the rain-soaked screen.
The story is a hoot, and I must confess the relentless way the zombie threat slowly but surely develops is internally sensible and once unleashed it's clear the zombie threat will likely not abate. The ending isn't all that shocking nowadays, nor at the time of release I'd suspect. It does tie in nicely with the nihilistic finale of the original Romero flick, at least thematically.
Overall, I find I liked this movie more than I found things to cringe over. I don't feel lesser for having ignored it all these years, but it's nice to finally get a glimpse.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Seeing the Swamp Thing movie recently got me to hankering to read those vintage Len Wein and Berni Wrightson stories again. Though I missed out when they first hit the stands and only picked up one issue of the run at the time.
By the middle 70's I was plugged in and got all the stories in reprint form when they were run on a sort of annual basis more or less in the DC Special issues.
Several years ago I picked up a copy of the Dark Genesis trade. More recently I found a digest reprint of all the classic Wein-Wrightson issues. It's this one I'm going to toss into my briefcase for some downtime distraction at work. These visits to the swamp might be just the dose to relax a weary soul on a hard day.
I have my main computer online again. This time it cost me some decent bucks because the hard drive got gobsmacked something awful and I had to replace both disk drives. My fixit guy thinks lightning might've been the culprit, but it's a mystery.
The trouble is I lost it all again, so I'll have to wait a bit to restart the Yang Reports, which I will finish I promise. Until then expect smaller posts for a while.
Glad to back! I hope to keep Mother Nature at bay for the foreseeable future!
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
One of the eras of Charlton collecting I like is the short burst of activity in the company's final throes during 1985 and 1986. These books aren't very expensive, but they can be hard to find.
Some of the gems from this time are three issues of Dr.Graves, which picked up the numbering of The Many Ghosts of Dr.Graves one of Charlton's most successful ghost books. These three reprint issues from 1985 and 1986 reprint a wide range of material from several issues of the old series. There is art by Steve Ditko, Pat Boyette, Sanho Kim, Don Perlin, and Ernie Bache. One story even features Boyette inks on Ditko pencils.
Much of the debut issue gets reprinted. Some of Doc's earliest adventures from the pages of Ghostly Tales are also sprinkled through these three comics, featuring great artwork by Ernie Bache.
Perhaps the best story is "The Ultimate Evil" by Steve Skeates and Steve Ditko which pits Dr.Graves against a magical threat to the whole of Earth. It evokes those classic Marvel Dr.Strange stories but shows off Ditko's more muscular style of the period. Any story that showcases the complete destruction of Earth as part of the prologue has got some real beans.
This Charlton revival sputtered out after a few months. But editor John Wren with the help of Robin Snyder and Steve Ditko among others gave it a yeoman's try. Artist Tom Christopher even produces a new cover for issue #74. But it was to no avail.
On a fun note, take a look how they blended Pat Boyette's cover for issue #1 with Rocke Mastroserio's artwork lifted from issue #4 for the cover of #73.
And here's Rocke's original cover for issue #7 which got flipped for later use on #75.
The logo for the series was derived from Dr.Graves debut story by Ernie Bache from Ghostly Tales #55 -- part of that Charlton tradition of letting nothing go to waste.
With the passing of these final Charltons, the company was dissolved and the assets sold off. Soon the storied printing plant would become a parking lot.
All we have now are the comics, which linger like the very ghosts Dr.Graves battled so valiantly.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
I've owned Swamp Thing on video for years, but my copy is very dark and it made enjoying the movie rather difficult. I've noticed the same problem on television. I found the flick on DVD combined with some other horror flicks, none of which I own, so I took a flyer on it.
This widescreen version is much brighter, and much easier to see. That alas doesn't necessarily make the movie better. I am now able to detect the weakness of the Swamp Thing suit through most of the flick and that really pulls you out of the movie a bit.
As a movie, I've always thought this one was just okay. It does a decent job of translating the comics story to the screen but alas it must do so with a meager budget. The monster suits were marginal in their own time, and look downright cheesy today. There is a smidge of that old-fashioned movie-making charm, but it's minimal unfortunately.
Adrienne Barbeau is fine in her role as Cable, she bounces around the swamp sufficiently to keep my interest up when little else seems to be going on. The kid who plays Jude, a smarmy teen sidekick for Cable is pretty annoying throughout. Louis Jourdan as Arcane is pretty much stock Jourdan, a reliable villain. The other actors perform their functions adequately, and that says it for me.
This is merely an adequate flick, with a decidedly A-Team feel to the action sequences. There's nowhere near the level of mystery and weirdness needed to really give the movie a Swamp Thing feel. Part of that is the relentless daytime shooting which magnifies the flaws.
Wes Craven really tries to stretch here and comes up quite short in my opinion. I'd have loved to see more of the classic Craven suspense.
Swamp Thing is a diverting flick and a relic of the time, but little else. I do love the poster by Richard Hescox though.
Monday, September 26, 2011
I just finished reading Marvel Boy's original run from the 1950's just this morning in the Atlas Masterworks volume.
I first ran across Marvel Boy in Marvel Tales alongside Spidey, Thor, and Torch. He was a cool looking hero as rendered by the slick Bill Everett. I liked the hokey adventures then, but I have to confess reading a whole batch of them, the weaknesses in the storytelling really show up.
The thing is that Marvel Boy was a series that seemed to almost have a new premise each issue and often each story. He began as a space warrior, a displaced Earther from Uranus who came back to his home planet to save us from ourselves and from alien threats. But the desire to put out horror material changed Bob Grayson into a battler of ghosts, ghouls, and vampires. Some of those were real, some were bogus. He had a partner in the beautiful circus performer turned secretary Starr Ryder, and then she just disappeared. He was an insurance investigator and then that background seemed to fade. Even his name as Marvel Boy dissolved as the series developed.
He was drawn by greats like Russ Heath and the aforementioned Bill Everett. But despite the handsome gloss of the stories and some really genuinely exciting moments, the series was seriously uneven.
It seemed torn between slamming the Commies in one tale about water on Uranus and then finding for real vampire queens in another set in Italy. Each story had its charms and weaknesses but taken as a whole the mind boggled as the reading unfolded.
I still adore Marvel Boy, he's a character in search of the right circumstances, but he appeared at a time when sadly he was not allowed to become all he might have been. Or perhaps they were just trying desperately to find a formula that worked, but alas none of them seemed to have time to catch hold.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
The Yang reports will sadly be delayed until I can get yet another computer problem taken care of. Despite numerous attempts to keep them at bay, I've been struck by yet another virus on my main computer. While I might be able to do minor posts from a back up, I won't be doing any large reports.
Hopefully full service will be returned soon.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
My first thought when I saw the ad below, was what a supreme nerd I must be to immediately recognize the source as the classic DC ad above announcing the arrival of Jack "King" Kirby to the National Comics stable. Of course I must be a nerd among a targeted many other nerds for such an ad to even be thought to be effective. Cool ad though.
I found the ad at this location by the way. Thanks Richard.
Yang Volume 3, Number 8 is dated June, 1975 and was published by Charlton Publications Inc. The editor is George Wildman. The cover was painted by Warren Sattler who is also the artist on the interiors. The script was supplied by Joe Gill. Here's an amazing link with a glimpse at the newsstands when this issue of Yang arrived.
After a two-page reprise of the story of how Yang came to America, "Night of the Wolf" begins right away with an attack by gray timber wolves on a miner. Yang intercedes and is attacked himself. The wolves are controlled by a woman wearing a wolfskin mask, shirt and cape. Yang fends off the wolves and is about to unmask his attacker when he is struck from behind by a gun butt wielded by the Wolf woman's partner named Blackman. The pair ride away leaving the wolves to kill and consume Yang, but he awakens and takes to the trees to escape the voracious beasts.
The woman resumes her real identity of Miss Rebecca a seamstress who lives with her Aunt Edith in a local boarding house. Other miners arrive and Yang climbs down from the trees and tells them of the attack. He then seeks refuge and goes to Miss Rebeccas' boarding house and surprisingly is given a room. He recognizes his attacker when he sees a wolf whelp in the house. Nonetheless he stays and gets a bath and a some sleep. But the tea he had earlier seems to give him nightmares about wolves and his sleep is restless, especially when Rebecca and her wolf peek in on him.
The next morning he seeks information and learns that Rebecca's father was a gambler who was found cheating and was hanged by the local miners. Rebecca couldn't stop it. Yang hears a wolf and heads out of town to investigate and finds Rebecca seemingly being attacked by a large wolf.
"The Killer Wolves" begins as Yang finds that Rebecca tricked him and she holds him down as the wolves gather. He though is able to turn the tables and gets her in a hold and uses her as a hostage to return to town. But meanwhile Blackman has been talking down Yang and making it seem he might the villain. When Yang and Rebecca return to town Yang is arrested. He soon learns the Sheriff is in on the conspiracy with Blackman and Rebecca. A Yang languishes in jail the wolves prowl the town. Eventually Rebecca in her wolf gear appears and goes to the jail to set her wolves on Yang yet again. She leaves as the wolves stalk the hero in his now open jail cell. Rebecca changes clothes, gathers up the gold she has stolen and leaves town. Yang climbs into the rafters to escape the wolves while Blackman and the Sheriff have a laugh while they listen to the attack.
But Yang is able to fend off the wolves one more time and locks them in the cell. He then gets a horse and goes after Rebecca. Blackman and the Sheriff realize they've been double-crossed but the miners of the town overhear their talk and take the pair into custody for a miner's court which seems likely to end in a hanging for both of them. Yang pursues Rebecca but her wagon comes under attack by wolves she does not control and she, her panicked horse, and her wagon full of stolen gold tumble over the cliff. Yang realizes the wolves will get to her body before him and he heads back to town and meets the miners who have taken back control.
"Yin-Yang Mail" offers up three letters this time. One comments on how foolish Yang is to allow Yin Li to constantly get the drop on him. One appreciates the complexity of their romance. And the third purports to be from the sister of a young boy who reads Yang. She is upset by the Yin-Yang legend which paints women as evil and she plans to tell her mother and so stop her brother from learning such vile things.
This issue of Yang has never been reprinted, though you will find it in its original form at this groovy link.
We have another issue of Yang in which Yin Li plays little part. It is again a nice change of pace as Yang does find himself battling another evil woman for sure, but this one is certifiable. Once again Yang finds himself getting drugged by a woman, and you would think he'd learn eventually.
The action in this one is nicely varied, but Yang never really gets into much of a real fight with the wolves, as he usually uses his acrobatic skills to merely evade them. Having Rebecca wear a wolf skin outfit does sell the idea of this series as something akin to "superheroes", but not all that much really.
I did like that Yang recognized Rebecca as his attacker pretty much immediately, and so saved us pages of him seeming to be dunce. But then that does bring back that conundrum of his taking tea from her. I guess we are just supposed to accept that the dark spot in Yang's mostly white soul just can't say no to drugged concoctions from shady women.
The Yang universe is about to get bigger later in the summer of 1975. More to come next time for sure.
Friday, September 23, 2011
Yang Volume 3, Number 7 is dated April, 1975 and was published by Charlton Publications, Inc. The editor is George Wildman. The cover is a beautiful painting by Warren Sattler, the artist on the interior of the comic too. The script is supplied by Joe Gill. Here's an amazing link to see what else was on the stands when this issue arrived.
The story "Queen of Evil" begins in Chinatown with Chao Ku, Yang's enemy, issuing a bounty on Yang for $50,000 dollars. He also comments that while he wanted a son, his lovely Yin Li's evil is all he could've hoped for. Yin Li and a one-eyed assassin find Yang at a temple and get the drop on him. The hog-tie the hero and carry him through the street to Chao Ku. But Yang when confronted by a swordsman ready to take his head, is able to have the blade cut his bonds instead and gets hold of the massive sword and throws into the body of Chao Ku, killng the the slaver and opium overlord. Chao Ku's body is pinned into his chair and Yin Li overcome with grief and anger attacks Yang but gets caught by him and they go to the basement together where she tries to trick him with a basket of cobras. Yang throws the cobra on the henchmen, evades Yin Li's poison ring one more time and jumps out the window. He picks up a rifle and shoots a guard and then makes good his escape from the compound.
Chao Ku's body is laid out and then Yin Li takes charge. Her first act is to poison Huk Hui a ruthless killer she does not trust. She orders Captain Keegan to bring in the myriad creatures he's brought from Borneo and elsewhere. Meanwhile Yang is being hunted by hounds.
"The Valley of 1000 Deaths" begins as the hounds are replaced by cheetahs who Yang can only evade by running them into a cactus field. Momentarily safe from the hunters Yang ponders his situation being hunted by Yin Li's men. Meanwhile Yin Li continues to solidify her position by killing off more untrustworthy men. She hires three Apache Indians led by Three Arrows to hunt down Yang. These killers though relentless hunters are nonetheless dispatched quickly by Yang when he kicks two of them from a high cliff. He then runs to confront Yin Li, but she is prepared and he is taken prisoner and put into a cage with ferocious Komodo Dragons. Chained Yang is helpless but he soon breaks a chain and battles the giant lizards, and eventually they threaten Yin Li too. Yang sweeps up his beloved and they fight off the dragons, Yin Li shooting her pistol to assist their escape. Outside they share anther kiss before Yang leaves and Yin Li leads her killers in another direction.
"Yin-Yang Mail" features two letters one being somewhat critical of Yang for being too like other martial arts heroes in other comics and the second wanting Charlton to do away with some of its romance books to make room for Sanho Kim's Wrong Country feature. The editors reject both opinions.
This issue has not been reprinted to my knowledge.
This was my very first issue of Yang, and it's a dynamite example of this series. Warren Sattler's artwork always reliable and his wonderfully atmospheric cover for this issue might the best the series ever enjoyed. The death of Chao Ku was a good move for the series, clearing the way for desperately needed character development,but it's strange how this killing of Chao Ku by Yang is so similar to a scene from the previous issue where Chao Ku's fate was left open somewhat. There's no doubt in this issue that Yang kills him though.
In fact Yang is quite bloodthirsty in the series. He shoots a rifle this issue and kills a guard, and just a few issues back he killed a man with a pistol. He also kills the two apaches and various of Yin Li's guards this issue. Yin Li too is given two scenes which serve only to show how ruthless this new "Queen of Evil" will be. This is a surprisingly rugged series when it comes to violence, though Sattler's warm and inviting art style masks over much of that lethal mayhem.
We've moved into the second half of the original Yang run and the series has been solid but a bit static. With the death of Chao Ku, hopefully things will open up a bit.
Much more to come.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
I've not read a single story featuring Sonia Sato, the current "Judomaster" of the DC Universe. She first showed up in Birds of Prey and has since appeared in Justice Society of America and JSA All-Stars. Here are all the covers with the distinctive miss Sato that I can locate. What her status is in the new DCU I don't have a clue.
The design of Judomaster is a fantastic look and looks pretty good adapted on a lady for sure. But this stuff about an "aversion field" which protects her from direct attacks seems silly to me. (Reminds of Black Canary's oddball sonic powers.) Judomaster, girl or boy, should be a master of martial arts only in my mind. But then I'm biased to the classic original Hadley "Rip" Jagger. He sadly appears to be currently demised at DC, but you never know in the wacky world of comics where getting killed off can really kick-start a career sometimes.
You can barely find her on some of these covers. She must not be very popular. Sigh.