She’s Wanted And On A Great Cover

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Returning to my weekly blog (did you miss me?) just in time to showcase another great comic book cover as part of my monthly series focusing on some of the great covers in the history of comic books. This month I stay with DC Comics (last month I did a Superman: The Man Of Steel cover) to examine the cover of Wonder Woman #240 from February, 1978.

This cover is a little unusual for a super-hero comic. There’s no battle. Wonder Woman isn’t shown to be in any immediate danger. The villain, if that is what he is, seems to be either moving quickly or nervously. It’s difficult to tell if those motion lines depict rapid movement or a shaky hand. I think it’s a shaky hand.

And is that a star on the cuff of the man’s coat? Is this man a general? Does his military status, the top secret file, and the wanted poster mean the American government is after Woman Wonder? What has she done?

So many questions brought up by the cover.

The artwork is top notch. Drawn by one of DC’s best artists Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and inked by DC’s inking machine Dick Giordano. Garcia-Lopez’s style is crisp and clean. His linework is simple and elegant. And his action and anatomy drawing is terrific.

There’s an attention to detail on this cover that is very impressive. The perspective drawing is solid as the artist shows us the top secret file and stamp, the wanted poster, the drawer, gun, and even the everyday items found on a work desk. Right down to the paper clips in the cup and the wood grain on the drawer. There’s even a nick in the drawer to show the desk have been lived in.

Even with all those details, the reader never loses sight of the cover’s action.

I think it’s a great cover.

Packing Peanuts!

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Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books.

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TV Guide: Some Bought It For The Pictures

My hiatus continues as guest contributor Michael Noble returns with a tribute to TV Guide and how it had more than one use.

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Why?! Why won’t I see those documentaries?

When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to do was head to the grocery store with my mother, especially in the middle of the week. Wednesdays and Thursdays were prime days for those treks. Because that was the time of the week the new TV Guide hit the newsstands.

You see … I collected them. With one in my anxious little hands, I scoured from cover to cover for pictures and listings of upcoming horror, monster, and science fiction programs. And, if I was lucky, those listings would be accompanied by a picture or photo of the upcoming program.

The most prized were those of the giant monsters (known as “kaiju”): Godzilla, Rodan, Gamera, King Ghidorah and the like. The thrill of finding new images was electric and it didn’t happen very often. But when it did, I used to carefully cut out the pictures and laminate them and take them to school to share with friends.

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This little exercise was huge among the lot of us. You see, not only did I provide a service to some of the kids who didn’t get TV Guide – those few whose parents didn’t believe in purchasing a program listing just to have it tossed out with the following week’s trash, poor souls – but we used to gawk and swoon and comment over the latest, glorious black and white quarter-page shot of Godzilla looming over a soon-to-be-destroyed Tokyo.

And let me tell you, it was a massive competition among us acquiring those pictures and showing them off. Week in and week out, the first kid to display his TV Guide treasures was pretty much the cock of the walk at school going into the weekend. You jutted out your chest and strutted the playground with an exaggerated confidence on a Friday knowing you were the only one with a Baragon or Ebirah tucked away in your pocket.

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The masked Mr. Sardonicus.

Of course, the Universal monsters and other horror nightmares were prized acquisitions as well. In fact I think TV Guide was the first place I saw an image of the hideous Mr. Sardonicus and his ghoulish mask offering that bedtime’s nightmares. (Note: My first glimpse of Mr. Sardonicus sans mask was in Famous Monsters Of Filmland years later. And I could see why that particular image wasn’t showcased in the Guide. Middle of the night horror visions, indeed!)

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Yikes!

You can well imagine as the years went by the group of us collected fine examples of creatures and horrors galore, each one carefully guarded and displayed during recess and weekend sleep overs. I still have my assortment safe in a box somewhere with my glow in the dark Aurora model parts, Odd Rod bubble gum cards and other treasures.

The 1970s were good times with some pretty fond memories …

Thanks, Michael! You can read more by Michael Noble at Hotchka.com.

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The Man Has Died. Stan Lee (1922-2018)

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Last December, with the input of a few friends, I had written a post commemorating Stan “The Man” Lee’s 95th birthday. Today I’m writing a brief post to acknowledge The Man’s death and his impact on my life.

I was a Marvel kid in the 1970s, when I started collecting comic books. All of my comic collecting friends were at the time. Although, I grew to appreciate DC Comics later in life, I’m still a Marvel kid at heart. Marvel Comics were just so much more exciting than DC Comics. The artwork was better. The action was better. The characters were better.

The characters were better, in large part, because they were so much more relatable than DC’s. Marvel characters had real world, often mundane, problems. Spider-Man had to figure out how to defeat Doc Ock and protect Aunt May, all while keeping his identity secret and his homework done. OK, I wasn’t fighting super-villains, but I did have homework. That relatability was one of Stan’s greatest contributions to comic books. His characters were people.

I’m aware there have been criticisms against Stan for what appeared to be his desire to be thought of as the sole creator of The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, The Hulk, Iron Man, and a whole litany of other exciting super-heroes. But I think those criticisms are a little unfair. Later in his life, he was certain to acknowledge the massive contributions of such creative giants as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko in those extremely creative years in the early 1960s. (And, let’s face it, without Stan Lee, how many of us would have ever heard of Kirby and Ditko?)

Stan Lee had a “gee whiz” kind of quality to his personality. He could seem a little hokey at times, but his optimism and exuberance were undeniable. It was that personality that made him the perfect cheerleader for Marvel Comics and for comic books in general. And that cheer-leading was an equally important facet to his contribution to the world of comic books, super-heroes, and, eventually, tent-pole super-hero movies. The Man not only changed comic books, he had a hand in changing Hollywood.

Throughout my youth, I would spend hours and hours reading, looking at, and studying comic books, most of them Marvel. Comic books inspired me to keep drawing, when other kids gave up and moved on to other things. I became an artist, a cartoonist. No, I never did get work drawing comic books, but no matter. It was comic books, Stan Lee’s comic books, that put me on the road to gaining this skill.

For that and the thousand of hours spent battling Dr. Doom with The Fantastic Four, or Ultron with The Avengers, or Magneto with The X-Men, I am eternally grateful to Stan “The Man” Lee.

Packing Peanuts!

No. Make that…

Excelsior!

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Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books.

(This post has been corrected and updated on 11-16-18.)

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Great Album Retro Review: The Partridge Family Album By The Partridge Family (And A Few Other Musicians)

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Yes, I know what you’re probably thinking. You’re thinking I’ve lost my mind, right? How could I possibly think the ’70s sit-com musical family’s first album is great?

Well, it’s not great the way the previous great albums (The Who’s Quadrophenia, Genesis’ Abacab, Suzanne Vega’s self-titled debut, and Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water) that I’ve reviewed were great. But, as an example of pure, pleasurable, playful ’70s pop it’s hard to deny this album’s appeal.

I suppose there’s a good deal of nostalgia for my youthful innocence of that time period, from which this album and sit-com arose, that influences my opinion, but when you compare this first album, The Partridge Family Album, to later releases, there’s just something special about it. The Partridge Family, or rather members of the group of studio musicians collectively known as The Wrecking Crew and the pop vocal group The Love Connection, were firing on all cylinders on this album.

It was discovered that David Cassidy, who played the oldest Partridge son, could sing, so he provides lead vocals for most of the songs. And Shirley Jones, who played the mother of the talented brood, was also a fine singer and she provides some backing vocals. The rest of the cast were required to lip-sync… for the show, not the album.

I think the album is great. The sit-com? Well… No.

The Tracks:

Brand New Me – The lush, string-filled opening song starts off with a nice warm guitar riff. There are horns and soaring backing vocals and Cassidy demonstrates he has quite the range to his voice.

Point Me In The Direction Of Albuquerque – The lushness of their sound continues as Cassidy sings of a young, female hitchhiker trying get home. The song builds and descends again and again in its just under four minutes. Nice piano throughout and the “cha! cha! cha!” vocal bursts at the end are a nice touch.

Bandela – Cow bell! Lots and lots of cow bell! The Wrecking Crew cook on this one, my favorite track.

I Really Want To Know You – This one is a bit sappy, but the vocals are very sweet and sincere and completely David Cassidy-less. It’s kinda fun trying to determine which of the male voices is supposed to belong to Danny Partridge.

Only A Moment Ago – Where did all the happy people go? Did the Partridges just become the Omega Family? Or is David lamenting a lost love and how the world changed after losing her. I prefer to think it’s a post apocalyptic tale. But then I’m a bit fatalistic.

I Can Hear Your Heartbeat – Time for a rocker! A song of new found love and heartbeats and being a man of your word. Nice guitar riffs and excellent building to a quick cut to end the song.

I’m On The Road – Another song without David’s vocals. (Again which one is Danny?) It’s a fun travel the countryside song. They needed a travel song. The family got around in an old school bus, after all.

To Be Lovers – Mostly without David’s vocals, he does sing a little lead in the middle bit, this song is a little creepy. Creepy if you consider the story on the TV show had this song being co-written by Danny, who was – what? – ten at the time. A song about lovers who aren’t in love? Jeez! The kid’s been around.

Someone Wants To Love You – Well, it was the 1970s and the hippies’ message of love and peace had been co-opted by TV executives, so, of course, there had to be a song hinting at free love, right?

I Think I Love You – This was their big hit. It reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It’s a pretty rockin’ tune about a fellow who woke up from a good dream realizing he might just be in love.

Singing My Song – Another song touching on Hollywood’s notion of hippie culture and their love of singing. It’s a nice quick rollicking singalong end to a good collection of ’70s pop. The “bah-dah-dee-dum” chorus is irresistible.

Packing Peanuts!

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Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books.

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This Month’s Great Cover Has A Lantern Jaw

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Just look at that!

In the January, 1993 issue of Superman (#75), our hero from the planet Kryton had died defeating what seemed to be an unstoppable foe: Doomsday. In the months that followed, as Superman lay “dead,” four characters stepped in to fill his sizable shoes. They were Eradicator, Superboy, Cyborg Superman, and Steel. Eventually, the real Superman rose from the dead (hardly anyone stays dead in comic books for very long) to take up the task of once again fighting for Truth, Justice, and the American Way.

This month’s great cover is from Superman: The Man Of Steel #25 (September, 1993). It was drawn by Jon Bogdanove and inked by Dennis Janke. Bogdanove had started working for Marvel Comics in 1986, then he hopped on over to DC Comics in 1991 and became part of the team that created the Man Of Steel title in an expansion of the titles featuring our hero from another world. Then, in the wake of Superman’s death, the team created a new hero named Steel to take over the title.

1993 was part of th23188at awful time period when comic book art began to drown in unnecessary linework. Lines! Lines! Lines! Marvel and Image Comics led the way in this era in which some artists forgot to leave room for color, adding more and more lines, while some inkers also abandoned the use of varying line weight to show the shape of things. Look at the cover of The Incredible Hulk #341 (March, 1988), drawn and inked by Todd MacFarlane, one of the artists who issued in this flood of undisciplined linework. Now, imagine there’s no color, it’s a black and white line drawing. Without the color it would be difficult to tell just what the hell is going on. So many unnecessary lines, which all have more or less the same weight to them.

Compare MacFarlane’s cover to this month’s great cover. Bogdanove and Janke use plenty of lines for shading, but the lines are disciplined. They are loose in their execution, but they are placed right where they are needed. There are thick and thin lines. They make sense. You can tell exactly what is going on. And they leave room for color, which was masterfully provided by Janke.

I love a good close-up and Bogdanove and Janke nailed this one. This, my friends, is how you draw an angry, determined, about-to-kick-your-butt Superman!

Packing Peanuts!

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Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books.

Correction (12-5-18): I had the scope of the Superman: Man Of Steel title wrong. When the series started in 1991 it featured Superman. I had originally indicated the series was created to fill the void of the missing hero. The correction has been made.

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Horror Incorporated Didn’t Need A Host

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“Lurking among the corpses are the body-snatchers, plotting their next venture into the graveyard…”

Those were the first words that welcomed Twin Cities viewers to the weekly night of terror offered by the local TV station KSTP, back when I was a kid in the 1970s. The show was called Horror Incorporated.

There were many such creature feature offerings on local television stations all over America in those days. Our horror movie showcase was a little different than most. Ours had no host.

No Vampira. No Ghoulardi. No Mister Lobo. No Sir Graves Ghastly. No Doctor Creep. No Sharon Needles. No Grimsley.

No host.

But my research does show that Horror Incorporated did indeed, however briefly, have a couple of hosts. First was Dr. Paul Bearer (get it?) in the early 1970s. There also appears to have been a second host in the mid-70s, who went by the name Graves. Neither host lasted very long. For the majority of its run from the fall of 1969 until sometime in the later 1970s (I’m not certain when it ended) there was no host.

And having no host was good, because…

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Not a great Dracula.

In the 2000s, the show was revived with hosts. There were two attempts at a revival, in fact. I don’t know which came first, but one was hosted by Count Dracula, who stood in front of a green screen and did a not so great Bela Lugosi impression. He would make puns and tell a few facts related to the featured horror movie. He would then tell viewers to “OBEY!” and come back next week. Lame, but the actor did his best with what he had to work with.

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Not the Addams Family.

The other attempt had a small cast of young actors doing sort of a take off on the Addams Family. In fact, the main character, Uncle Ghoulie (center in above photo. No, not the wolf!), was a cross between Gomez Addams (as played by the great John Astin on the ’60s TV show) and Svengoolie, a current and longtime horror show host. They did skits and tried their best to insert humor into the proceedings. They had varying degrees of success.

Neither incarnation lasted long.

I might have a bit of nostalgic bias here, but I prefer no host. That’s the way I saw the Friday night creature feature when I was a kid. There was no silliness, except what might have been in the movie. The way that version was presented was to absolutely creep you out. You were supposed to be scared. It set the tone for a scary movie. And if they had a good one to show, one with Lugosi or Karloff, perhaps, the viewer would be in the proper mood for a scare and not a giggle.

The show featured a simple open and close which often times were far more frightening than the featured film. They consisted of a sparse set: Black with only a coffin in a spotlight. And, of course, there was fog. The lighting would change from harsh white to yellow, blue, purple, green, red. There were sounds of creaking doors, shrieks, groans, and cries of anguish. And then the lid of the coffin would begin to open and two pale, claw-like, almost skeletal, hands would come into sight. The occupant was rising from his coffin to head into the night in search of blood… I’m guessing.

And there was the voice-over provided by Jim Wise, who was also working for KSTP radio. He sounded excellent as he welcomed viewers to that week’s “excursion through Horror Incorporated…” Chills! Good old-fashioned, blood-curdling chills, folks!

When the feature was complete, the scene returned to the coffin. This time its occupant was returning from a night of terrorizing innocents. And the voice-over told us…

“Next week, I will be back again with another venture into the chamber of horror. Come along for another experience through the unknown, into Horror Incorporated.”

Now just try to get some sleep, kids!

You can watch the opening and closing at this link. See if you don’t agree that it is very effective. Also, visit The Horror Incorporated Project. It’s a fun site that really helped me in my research.

Packing Peanuts!

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Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books.

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How Awesome Was Game 6 In 1991?

In short, it was super-awesome! But allow me to expand…

In 1987, the Minnesota Twins won their first World Series since moving to the Twin Cities from Washington, DC in 1961. The win, admittedly, was a bit of a fluke. The Twins benefited from winning a weak division, but comported themselves very nicely when facing the Detroit Tigers, whose regular season record was 98-64, in the American League Championship Series (ALCS). The Twins, with a regular season record of 85-77, beat the best team in baseball that year in five games. They went on to beat the St. Louis Cardinals (95-67) in the World Series in seven games, winning their four home games. The boys really did enjoy home field advantage that season, with a record of 56-25 at homeĀ (best in the majors in 1987) and 29-52 on the road.

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1987 World Champion Minnesota Twins

And for Twins fans, which I am one, it was glorious!

It had been decades since Minnesota had a championship-winning professional team. It was 1954 when the Minneapolis Lakers won their last NBA Championship. They moved to Los Angeles in 1961, taking the greatest team name in all of sports with them. (I know whenever I think of Los Angeles, I think of lakes, don’t you?) The Minnesota Vikings had lost four Super Bowls by 1977 and have never been back. The Minnesota North Stars had lost the one Stanley Cup Finals they had been to in 1981 (they would make it back in 1991 and lose and then left the state in 1993). The Minnesota Timberwolves wouldn’t begin their futile existence until 1989. The Minnesota Wild wouldn’t begin theirs until 2000. (Minnesota did get a consistent championship-caliber team with the Minnesota Lynx in 1999. That Women’s National Basketball Association team has won four championships. Kudos!)

So, in 1987, Minnesotans were pretty damned pleased with the Twins. In fact, after the boys beat the best team in baseball in the ALCS, there was an impromptu gathering of fans in the Metrodome, the home of the Twins and the Vikings. The word went out earlier that day that the doors would be opened at the “Dome” and fans could come in to greet the returning American League Champions. The team was told they would be heading to the Dome for a fan celebration, but they did not anticipate the number of fans that would be there and the shear outpouring of love and gratitude. The greeting brought third baseman Gary Gaetti to tears. It was a beautiful thing. It’s even getting me a little misty as I write this.

Four years later, the Twins were back in the post-season. This time it wasn’t fluky at all. With a regular season record of 95-67, they were a team to be reckoned with. They still had a few of the core team from 1987 on the roster: Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Greg Gagne, Al Newman, and Dan Gladden. They had added an outstanding rookie, Chuck Knoblauch, and a wily veteran pitcher, St. Paul (my hometown) native Jack Morris. Morris had been one of the most dominating pitchers in the 1980s and he still had some gas in the tank.

When the Twins faced the Atlanta Braves in the World Series in 1991, both teams having finished in last place in their respective leagues the season before, no one knew just how great that series would be. It’s legendary! I’ve seen it ranked as the greatest World Series of all time, beating out the 1975 series between the Cincinnati Reds and the Boston Red Sox. And, like the ’75 Series, it had one of the greatest Game 6s of all time.

The Twins were down three games to two when the series returned to the Metrodome. As in 1987, the two teams involved had won their home games. Twins fans (and some of the players) were a little worried about this must win Game 6, but Twins great Kirby Puckett told his teammates to climb on his back. He would see them through to a win.

He was true to his word. He had multiple hits, drove in a run and scored a run, and made a spectacular catch at the wall, which prevented a multi-base hit and at least one run from scoring. As was the case with most of the previous five games (only one game was a blowout), this one was a nail-biter. It went into extra innings and Kirby wasn’t done.

In the bottom of the eleventh, Kirby came up to hit against Atlanta’s left-hander Charlie Leibrandt. Puckett told his teammate Chili Davis that he thought he might be able to bunt for a hit. Davis said, “Bunt, my ass!” and encouraged the slugger to put the game away. Puckett worked the count to two balls and a strike, which is unusual for him being a free swinger and all, when Leibrandt hung a change-up right where Kirby wanted it.

Then came six of the most memorable words in baseball. The baseball announcing legend Jack Buck said, “And we’ll see you… tomorrow night!

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And that tomorrow night brought us possibly the greatest pitching performance in World Series history, and I’m including Don Larsen’s perfect game in Game 5 of the 1956 Series. A perfect game is a marvel to behold, but being Game 5, the series was not on the line. In 1991, Jack Morris’s brilliant 10 innings of shut out baseball in the final game of the Series was phenomenal, considering the game was scoreless until the bottom of the tenth, when Gene Larkin drove in Dan Gladden. And the Minnesota Twins won their second World Championship. (Third if you’re pedantic and include the Washington Senators‘ only World Championship win in 1924.)

Great story if it ends there (apologies to the Dana Gould Podcast), but there is more to tell.

I worked evenings in those days, so I would hurry my way through work to catch as much of the games as I could. However, Game 6 was on Saturday night, so I could head on down to the local watering hole and take in the entire game. I was sitting next to one of the elder regulars, a fellow named Chic. Chic was known to all the bartenders in the area. He didn’t do much other than drink. I think he was in his 60s, but he appeared to be at least twenty years older.

Oh, well.

At the same time, down in a sports bar in Florida, was a group of Twins fans taking in the game. This group included the sister of a friend of mine. The group were the only ones in the bar cheering on the Twins, Florida being so close to Georgia, the rest of the patrons were pulling for the Braves.

As I said, the game was a nail-biter. Until, we fans of the Twins saw that Leibrandt was being brought in to pitch against Kirby Puckett. You see, the Braves’ pitcher had played for the Kansas City Royals, a team in the Twin’s division, and our boys were familiar with Charlie. They knew how to hit against him very well. They had had good numbers against him already.

As Kirby stepped into the batter’s box, the Minnesota contingent in the Florida sports bar began to cheer. The Braves fans looked at those Minnesotans as though they were crazy. In Minnesota, I turned to Chic and said, “We’ve got this game!”

After making my declaration to Chic, I turned back to the TV and saw Puckett hit the ball out!

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It was fantastic! I hope we are all in store for another outstanding Game 6 in this year’s World Series.

Packing Peanuts!

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Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books.

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