OK, here’s an odd one, Okay Adventure Annuala British hardcover featuring a hodgepodge of boys own adventure prose stories and a very odd grouping of Golden Age American comic book reprints in color and black and white. By which I mean there are stories which are, for no apparent reason, in black and white and color. They clearly didn’t stint when it came to the cover.
And the end papers sure were pretty as well.
First up is an Invisible Justice story from Quality’s Smash Comics.
There was a couple of Golden Age heroes named The Voice, but the one who appeared in Quality Comics Feature Comics is undoubtedly the strangest. Secretly a 150 year old man calling himself Mr. Elixir who survived a 150 years of being shipwrecked on a desert island thanks to a steady diet of herbs which gave him long life, vitality and super strength. It seems to me that all of that would make him a unique character but maybe all those years on the island made him a little weird because he decides he also needs to use ventriloquism to fight crime.
And a page of Mickey Finn just because I like the strip so much.
So, as you can see, most of the American reprints which from Quality Comics, but that doesn’t explain this Dennis the Menace comic book story being here. It’s especially odd since the UK has its own Dennis the Menace who first appeared in the pages of The Beano in 1951.
And finally here’s a reprint of “The King of Blackhawk Island” from Quality’s Blackhawk#76.
Back in the day (I’m old enough now that I use that expression daily) comic books were considered cheap, low-brow entertainment for morons and young children. When you see big-budget blockbusters like The Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy it’s easy to forget that comics weren’t always fodder for hit movies. At best, comics were fodder for rip-off record albums designed to separate well-intentioned parents from their hard-earned cash. (“I’ll get this cheap record for Timmy. He’s just a dumb kid, he won’t know the difference.”) Especially after the Batman craze hit in 1966, there were more ways to cheat children than you can shake a Batarang at. Enter The Capes & Masks, a group so phony they make Milli Vanilli seem sincere. Holy hoax, Batman! The Capes & Masks didn’t actually exist, nor did 11 songs about comic book heroes. But did that stop them? No! This was the Sixties and comics were the latest fad to be cashed in upon (or the latest bandwagon to be boarded, if you prefer that metaphor). Some savvy record producer found a bunch of tapes lying on the floor, changed the titles of the tracks to sound vaguely comic-booky, and released an entire LP of disingenuous and fraudulent comics music on an unsuspecting public. And they sold like hotcakes. (They probably would have been better with butter and maple syrup.)
If all of this sounds familiar it’s because I’ve told this same story several times including here, here, here, here, here and here. Hey, there are 11 tracks on the album, so I’ll tell it a few more times before I’m through. As promised, here’s another song from Comic Book heroes.
Click the link below and feel ripped off once again!
This week I’ll be revisiting Popular Comics, a particularly strong looking anthology title that had always featured wonderfully designed covers. For most of it’s run its breads and various butters were comic strip reprints but for a time it had it’s own stable of original characters. Most of these were surprisingly well written and drawn and even gave original takes on tropes that were pretty well trod even by the early 1940′s.
Take, for example, the awkwardly titled Professor Supermind and Son. Handsomely drawn by Maurice Kashuba the feature concerned Professor Harmon (“America’s Supermind” was apparently his nickname; apparently all the good ones were already taken) and his son. One of his inventions temporarily turned junior into a kind of a minimalist, generic superhero (no pseudonym, no chest insignia, etc.) but instead of fighting crime they meddled into the affairs of sovereign nations. Captain America and Johnny Canuck may have punched Hitler in the jaw, but Dan Harmon did some real damage by shaming him with a misogynistic slur. Either that or he was outing Hitler as a female crossdresser; I’m not sure which.
I’ve covered The Hurricane Kids, Alan and Dave Burnham, are a couple of All-American kids who generally had pretty prosaic South Sea style adventures, in a previous installment. But thankfully they did veer over into the fantastic elements lane as we see where they go from battling Zulus to blowing up a dinosaur real good.
But there were still comic strip reprints like Herky. Man, I love me that Herky.
Heere’s an episode of Martan the Marvel Man who sadly isn’t from Mars to make the alliteration complete. Not that you could tell from his his outing which is heavy on the spy vs spy stuff but along with a hot wife he possessed super powers and a alien/super suit. It was a sweet like number that was vaguely faux Roman with kickass shoulder pads (lots of 40′s superheroes fought crime with bare legs but Martan was the only one I know of who did it in a skirt; a skirt that shorter than his wives).
Wally Williams was one of those college boy heroes whose minor key “adventures” fill the middle of many a 40′s anthology comic. Most of them were super student athletes battling jealous rivals, shady gamblers and Nazi spy rings that they conveniently found operating in the closest conveniently located haunted house; essentially endless pressings from the Frank Merriwell template. It’s the sort of thing I usually leaf through to get to something more substantial but creators Victor Boni and Tom Hickey happily foreswore such trite antics and created something nicely homey and ordinary.
On the other hand The Masked Pilot was just another aviator with a domino mask. Pass.
And finally there’s The Voice who was more Invisible Man as a low rent superhero than a factory second Shadow. But he was also kind of that as well.
As your resident self-proclaimed expert on all things comical and musical, I know a lot about the nexus of records and comics. But even I, D.J. David B., don’t know everything. Shocking, isn’t it? I will pause now while you catch your collective breath and compose yourself. Go ahead, take a minute.
But it’s true. There are still a few musical mysteries that I have yet to solve. Today, one of my favorites.
As I’ve said on this blog before, my favorite comic strip ever is Pogo, by the absurdly talented Walt Kelly. I’ve collected and shared some of the records Kelly made himself (yes, he sang). But here’s one that I don’t quite get.
Made by Percy Faith, whose biggest hit was “Theme from A Summer Place” (literally the theme song from a film called “A Summer Place”) this was the flip side of that inescapable MOR smash. It’s called “Go Go Pogo” and it’s about Pogo Possum, star of the aforementioned comics.
Or is it?
Percy Faith in 1949.
Maybe “Go Go Pogo” is about the fad of pogo sticks. Or maybe ol’ Perce (I call him “Perce”) just needed a B side and decided to title this catchy composition with syrupy strings “Go-Go-Po-Go” simply because it rhymed. Perhaps it was just the first thing that popped into his head.
So here is your challenge, my loyal I.T.C.H. readers: Close your eyes and listen to the record. What do you see? Does the melody call to mind the adventures of Pogo Possum and Albert the alligator in the Okefenokee Swamp? Or do you picture the neighborhood kids hopping on pogo sticks and screaming until you want to stick your head out the window and yell, “Hey you kids! Get out of my driveway!”? Or maybe it conjures abstract images of swirling nothingness orbiting the very eyebones of your noggin.
For now, I’m going to presume that the song was inspired by Walt Kelly’s inspiring comic strip and share some cool related images. Enjoy!
Click to enlarge this gorgeous piece of Kelly art.
Magnificent wallpaper by famed cartoonist Jim Engel. Click to enlarge.
I haven’t seen the new movie, but they tell me it’s good. Personally, I’m more interested in the classic original which was not called “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” (or as I preferred to call it “Sherman & Peabody”) but rather “Peabody’s Improbable History.” Using great writing, excellent voice talent and crummy animation, these short cartoons told the amusing stories of a smart dog and his pet boy as they travel through time. Who knew in 1959 that one day these filler segments from The Bullwinkle Show would be beautifully animated in a lavish feature-length film? And who could have predicted that kids who were 10 years old in 1959 would grow up to be 64-year-old grandparents and bring their grandchildren to see a movie based on fairly minor characters they enjoyed (somewhat) in their youth? I’m betting DreamWorks did!
So let’s climb into our WABAC machine, turn back time, and listen to the classic theme song from the original series. Ah… memories. Sing along! You know the words!
I’ve already dealt with Smash, the British weekly comic that ran 257 issues between 1966 and 1971 that featured an oddball hodgepodge mix of British and American comics, but there’s several points of interest in this 1969 Annual edition of the title. Like, the way the cover doesn’t feature your standard symbolic, iconic image. Instead, it’s first of a three page color story featuring the characters from the humor features (Grimly Feendish, Percy’s Pets, the Swots and the Blots, Bad Penny, The Man from B.U.N.G.L.E., The Nervs, Charlie’s Choice, Ronnie Rich) engaging in a game of footie. While these kinds of crossovers weren’t unknown in British comics they were definitely pretty rare.
First up there’s a nicely drawn outing of undoubtedly the dullest stretchable hero in comics, Rubber Man, formerly James Hollis whose “powers” was actually a cruse given him by an Indian fakir.
Next up the first of two stories featuring the Legend Testers, Rollo Stones and Danny Charters who worked for the Museum of Legend of Myth in the 40th Century and traveled in time to test artifacts to discover whether the legends around them were true. People who know more than me about British artists tell me the art here was done by the series regular artist Jordi Bernet. Like Rubber Man the Legend Testers make a cameo in Albion, the 2005 limited series published by DC.
This one off science fiction story Inferno which appears to be a Spanish origin.
Lieutenant Lightning may very well be the goofiest British superhero of the 60′s, and that’s saying something. For the record his chest insignia reads “Tin”, which is the name of the future organization that emplows him.
Whenever we run out of ideas here at Comics Tunes Headquarters, we always return to the sure-fire, tried-and-true, can’t-miss-with-this show that spawned more comics-related music than anything else I’ve found – the 1966 Batman TV series. No one really knows how many bat-songs there are, but it’s a bat-load!
This time we’re presenting a real treat. Rather than the “Batman Theme” which has been na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-ed to death, feast your eyes (and soon your ears) on this: An actual record of the real Adam West sort of singing. To tie in with the staggering success of the twice-weekly TV series, this gen-you-wine 45 RPM record was actually released, along with all kinds of other bat-merch. And now, you can listen to it and (try to) enjoy it.
You may very well consider this week’s installment of whatever the hell this is supposed a deviation from it’s designated mission station, that being to read all the comic books I’ve always wanted to read before I died. Not to mention the fact it’s a new all-time low in my over reliance on what I generously like to thin of as the cut and paste school of journal (pick a subject, do some research, collect images, read other peoples posts then do a bit of cut and pasting; rewrite and you’re done). But truthfully I am just as over fascinated with comic strips as I am comic books and that goes double for Hugo Hercules, William H.D. Koerner’s short-lived strip. It ran for five months, September 1902 to January 1903 in the Chicago Tribune and is thought by many to be the funny pages very first superhuman. Albeit one who didn’t wage an never ending battle against evil so much as wander around aimlessly sans agency or visible means of support looking for cool stuff to do. The strip itself was admittedly pretty meh; like a lot of early strips it relentlessly stuck to a repetitious single theme and rarely deviated from it. In this case Hugo getting mixed up in stock situations that require a demonstration of super strength, punctuated by his not particularly catchy catch phrase.
Not being what you’d call a success Koerner left cartooning to become a painter. In a lot of ways it’s still ahead of its time; as much as the trope of the superhuman has been, often brutally, deconstructed, no one to my knowledge has created so casual a ‘crimefighter’; maybe it’s time for someone to dust Hugo off and see what they could do with him..
I finally saw Guardians of the Galaxy and it was thoroughly enjoyable. I’m not going to review the film except to say that Marvel Studios did a great job of bringing to the big screen a bunch of characters and stories that very few people care about. This is a big departure from the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man films, which had accumulated millions of fans over several decades. It proves that Marvel’s movie department has what it takes to make a hit, regardless of the popularity of the source material. Next year: Ant Man.
And I would be remiss (and who needs that?) if I didn’t give a shout-out to my childhood friend Keith Giffen who is credited as co-creator of Rocket Raccoon. How cool is that?
WARNING: If you haven’t seen it yet, there are spoilers ahead.
The villain of the film (or one of the worst ones, anyway) is Ronan The Accuser, whom we first saw in Fantastic Four #65, looking very much the way Jack Kirby drew him, with his weird hammer-thing and that wild hat he wears. Also very cool.
Naturally I’m building up to a song. It’s the same song as the past two weeks, but this is the wackiest version of all. Enjoy Jack Sheldon singing and Benny Goodman swinging this recording of “Rocky Raccoon.”
Click the link below and swing!
P.S. I wanted to acknowledge the tragic passing yesterday of the wonderful Robin Williams. His connection to comics was already explored a while back when we were spotlighting Popeye. You can see those entries here and here.
I wish I could explain how my brain works because frankly it’s inner workings are a mystery to even me. Perhaps it’s just a symptom of my ADHD driven obsessive-compulsive nature but I tend to get “over fascinated” (which is probably the most polite thing you could call it) with certain things. For example, Henry Brewster, a short-lived teen comic from 1966 drawn (and presumably written) by Golden Age artist Bob Powell, a.k.a. Stanley Robert Pawlowski. Powell is know for his work on Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, Mr. Mystic and the Mars Attack cards and while those credits clearly show he was an incredibly versatile artist seeing him do teen comics is still a little strange, not to mention a bit unsettling. These comics are are drawn in a distinctive loose, scratchy style, which would make these comics oddball enough but Henry(no relation to Punky) Brewster is plenty peculiar in a lot of other ways.
First off there’s the format; a 25 cent, bimonthly comic of entirely original material (which they should have made much more of; for once a cover banner reading No Reprints wouldn’t have been out of place) just seems kind of ambitious for a neophyte publisher like Myron Frass’s M.F. Enterprises Especially seeing as how it’s only other title was much maligned (for good reason) even shorter-lived version of Captain Marvel – the android version who could dissect himself by yelling “Split!” .
Then there’s the fact Henry Brewster wasn’t yet another pressing from the well worn Archie Comics template. The cast consisted of standard All-American boy Henry, the super strong and literally soft spoken (his dialogue was always lettered at roughly half the size of everyone else’s) Animal, professional weirdo Weenie and “the girls”, who were sadly mostly easily defined by their hair color, prematurely silver haired rich girl Melody and dark haired girl next door Debbie, Though Melody did develop some depth over the course of the series; in #1 she coldly rejects the hapless, love struck Weenie so often”Go away!” threatens to become her catch phrase, but by #6 she actually appears to be going out with him (or at least willing to be seen holding his, ew, hand). Which is odd seeing as how along with being a hardcore goofball who sometimes seems like he’s stolen an middle schoolers clothes as drawn Weenie is grotesque he could easily be a background character in a Gilbert HerandezLove & Rockets story.
While the adults in Archie Comics were frequently spectacularly exasperated to the point of hair pulling by the Riverdale Gangs innocent antics grown ups in Henry Brewster instinctively get that Henry and company were basically good kids who just wanted to be helpful. But after more or less ignoring anything specifically 1960′s (except for a story in #1 where the gang gets into a Beatles analog band called “The Baldies” which leads them, including some of the girls, to shave their heads, placing them several decades ahead of their time) this issue gets hip deep into super secret agents and supervillains.
Admittedly this was what got me over fascinated in Henry Brewster – that and it’s cover. I mean, seriously, what the hell is that thing standing behind Henry supposed to be? Some kind of African cat god? An extraterrestrial bent on world domination? I had absolutely no clue and ached to know, though I knew in my heart that chances were I’d never get to read it. But then I didn’t reckon with the internet; almost all things are possible with the internet.
Before they get to the super spies and villains the gang has a positively Scooby Dooesque encounter in a haunted house. But here the mysterious figure isn’t trying to scare them off because he’s searching for hidden treasure or running a counterfeiting ring out of it’s basement but just some poor schlub testing amusement for a spook house. Though instead of wearing a creepy rubber mask for some reason he decides to dress like a minor league pre-1965 Marvel villain.
And here the gang gets involved in 60′s style super spy stuff…
And finally they face an actual supervillain, well, kind of a supervillain, a broad parody of a TV Batman villain anyway. One Tome B. Bukwurm.
He’s…well, I don’t properly know exactly what he’s supposed to be. Is he a mole man (one crossed with Professor Kelp from The Nutty Professor) or just a guy dressed up like a mole man? Albeit a mole man dressed in a Transylvanian space outfit for a showing of The Rocky Horror Show. And that goes double for his henches, who look like mole man members of The Rat Pack? Are they a crime gang or do they represent an incursion by a race of subterranean creatures bent on world domination? After all that anticipation I was frankly disappointed by Bukwurm’s unnecessarily exaggerated goofiness, making me wish even harder that the creature on the cover actually appeared in the comic. Which is only when it finally occurred to me…
Bukwurmis the creature on the cover! As the saying goes, if it had been a snake it would have bit me. But this raises even more questions. Is it suppose to be one of those ‘symbolic’ covers or did Powell forget what the character was originally supposed to look like, or did he change his mind about his appearance after the cover was drawn?
And finally, here’s a couple more stories without any fantastic elements that manage to be quite a bit of fun.