October’s Great Cover is a Howler

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I mean it’s a howler in the sense that it is October, the month of Halloween, and I chose a comic book cover with a werewolf on it. And werewolves howl, so…

When I was a kid, one of my favorite Marvel titles was Werewolf By Night. I was and still am into Universal Studios’ classic monster movies: Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), and The Wolf Man (1941). And the Werewolf By Night series went hand in hand with those movies. I especially liked the first few issues with the incomparable Mike Ploog’s artwork. However, my favorite single issue is still Werewolf By Night #9, which was wonderfully draw by Tom Sutton. I wrote about that issue a long time ago.

As you have probably noticed, this month’s great cover isn’t an issue of Werewolf By Night. I did one of those covers as my first great cover of the month blog. No, this one is an issue of Moon Knight (#29 – March, 1983). It’s drawn by one of comic books’ most intriguing artists: Bill Sienkiewicz.

I first saw Sienkiewicz’s work in this Moon Knight series. I thought he was good, if a bit of a Neal Adams look-a-like. But, soon, much like Barry Winsdor-Smith, John Romita Jr., and Mike Mignola, Sienkiewicz stopped trying to draw in the fashion of most comic book artists and allowed his own style to emerge. This cover is from the beginning of that emergence.

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More man-like version.

There was also a change in how the Werewolf was depicted. The decision was made to move away from the Lon Chaney Jr. Wolf Man look to a more wolf-like monster. It would still walk upright like a man, but its face would be that of a wolf. More like Marvel’s character Man-Wolf.

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More wolf-like version.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m a bit torn by that change. I really like the early version, but this version is more horrifying and much more monstrous. Especially the way Sienkiewicz draws the creature on this cover and in the book.

There are five elements to this cover illustration: The eyes, the fangs, the blood, the crescent blade, and black. The use of black is brilliant. It can’t help but create a mood of horror and dread. This creature isn’t human. It can’t be reasoned with. The earlier version of the Werewolf could, at times, look almost cuddly. This version is poised to bite your face off.

This cover certainly caught collectors’ eyes back in 1983. It’s still eye-catching now.

It’s such a great cover.

Packing Peanuts!

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It’s Time For Another Curse

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Photo credit: NY Times

The Minnesota Twins have made the playoffs! They clinched the second Wild Card spot when the Chicago White Sox beat the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of Orange County of California last night. Yeah, it would have felt better for the Twins to have beaten the Cleveland Indians to win the Wild Card spot, but I’ll take it.

This is the first time the Twins have been in the postseason since 2010. Since 2003, they have made the playoffs and lost in the Division Series five times. Four of those losses came at the hands of the New York Yankees (2003, 2004, 2009, and 2010). The Evil Empire has just had their way with my beloved team. The Twins manage make the postseason only to come up against those guys and zip! out of the playoffs.  Oh, how I hate the Yankees!

Well, Twins fans are girding themselves for facing the Bronx Bastards once again in the postseason. This time it is very likely the Twins will meet those postseason killers in a one game Wild Card playoff. It’s one game. One chance to finally beat those jerk faces! Some Minnesota fans are saying, “Bring it on! It’s one game. The Twins can win one game.”

Man, I hope so, but I have that sinking feeling baseball’s most vile team is just going to do it to us again.

You know what baseball needs? Another curse.

This curse needs to be placed on the Hated Yankees. It’s been eight years since they won a World Series and that’s a good start. They need to not win another one for, oh, let’s not be greedy, 100 years! Yeah! A century of the damn Yankees not winning a World championship would be good for baseball.

The Chicago Cubs went longer than that between World Series championships, it needs to happen to the Hated Yankees.

Oh, they can get close. They can make the postseason as many times as they like, but they just can’t win it all. Wouldn’t it be great if they made it into the fall classic, but somehow managed to blow it? In fact, they should be poised to win a World Series in a game six. They should be down to the last out, the last strike even, from winning the series, but somehow the National League champ finds a way to win that game and then beats the hated ones in game seven.

How great would that be?

It’s time the Evil Empire and their fans learn the heartache of getting so close and not winning. Again and again and again.

But what will cause the curse? Perhaps this Wild Card game against my Twins (assuming the Boston Red Sox win the AL East) will provide the moment Yankee fans point to as the beginning of the curse. It could be a boneheaded play, a missed call, fan interference, a llama running onto the field. Anything that can be blamed for helping the despised team lose.

If only the MN Twins could win this one. I know the odds are against them. But if they could pull it off, no matter how well they do the rest of this postseason, they would be heroes of the baseball world.

And maybe, just maybe, the progenitors of baseball’s next curse.

A boy can dream, can’t he?

Packing Peanuts!

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Daa-aaaaa-aad!!

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Michael Noble returns this week with a guest blog. Last month he related a story of an odd school experiment he was part of as a kid. This time he relates an odd thought experiment he did on his kids. The story is from about eight years ago and he swears this conversation really did happen…

“So how was school?” I asked the younger of my two daughters.

“Okay,” she responded.

“Do you have a lot of homework today?”

“Yeah…”

“Tough stuff? Or is it pretty easy?”

“It’s not that big of a deal. But I need some colored markers to do a project. I have to color in some things for a history assignment.”

“We have plenty of crayons…”

“No. I need markers. Colored ones.”

“Oh. Well, there are colored pens you can use. I saw them in a drawer just the other day.”

“I can’t use those. I need markers. The big ones. And they need to be colored.”

“Why do they need to be colored?”

“For my project.”

“Did your teacher tell you this project needed to be colored?”

“No. That’s just the way I want to do it.”

By this point, my older daughter was intently listening to our conversation.

“Do you have money to purchase markers?” I continued.

“No. It’s your responsibility as the adult to buy them for me.”

“No, it’s not! My parents never bought me markers. I never needed to color anything for a project. Matter’a fact, we didn’t have markers with colors back when I was in school. We only had crayons if we wanted to color anything. And they were pretty expensive at the time, if memory serves. A lot of us couldn’t afford them. And those who couldn’t, like me, managed by creating our own primary colors.”

“Really? How did you do that?”

“Well, it was interesting and creative. We picked our noses and used the boogers for the color green. We poked our fingers with stick pins ’til they bled for the color red. And we peed to get the color yellow. Green, red and yellow. Primary as primary colors get.”

Boogers.

“Need more green!”

Dad… !!!” exclaimed my daughters in unison.

“Wow, that trumps the walking two miles uphill to and from school story,” the elder one noted.

“Hey, waitaminnit!” my younger daughter interjected. “Green isn’t a primary color! The primary colors are blue, red and yellow!”

“Well, that just goes to show you how old I am. When I was a kid, the color blue didn’t exist. Green was one of the original primary colors. When blue was invented it took over for green…”

Dad… !!!” they exclaimed in unison once again.

“I know!” I responded. “I was rather impressed people were willing to do that. Come to think of it, green was a very popular color back then.”

Thank you, Michael. And eeewwww. You can read more of his writing at hotchka.com.

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Grant Hart (1961-2017)

The mid80s were my time. I’m stuck there. I was in art school. I was young. And I found the music that became so very important to me. There was The Who, of course. They pretty much opened my eyes to what I considered more important music than what Top 40 radio had to offer.

The mid80s were also the Twin Cities’ (sure, mostly Minneapolis) time when it came to that important music. There were so many great local bands then. And there was the greatest concert venue First Avenue & the 7th Street Entry. First Avenue was the stage for those great local acts as well as national and international artists producing that important music.

3574812918_996a569d07_bHusker Du (from St. Paul) was one head of the three-headed Minneapolis Sound monster. The other two were The Replacements and Prince. I was a mild fan of Prince, a big fan of The Replacements, but Husker Du was my favorite. I used to say I liked The ‘Mats’ albums (slightly) better than Husker Du’s, but I liked Husker Du more when seeing them play live. Their shows were consistently more intense and fun. Husker Du still feels more like my band than The Replacements. I like them both, but somehow I always felt more connected to the Huskers.

Sometime in 1985, they played an in-store show at the record store just a couple blocks away from where I lived. I went to that store every week. One weekend, I walked in just as they were finishing putting away their equipment. Marty, one of the fellows working at the store, said, “Oh, Jim! You just missed it! You should have gotten here earlier.”

Up to that point, I had only heard of Husker Du. I didn’t know any of their music, but I didn’t want to look uncool, so I feigned disappointment.

It was about a week later when a friend bought Zen Arcade. We listened to it and loved it. That’s when I felt the disappointment.

Grant Hart, co-lead singer, co-songwriter, and drummer of Husker Du, died earlier today at age 56.

Hart was the one local musician I would see regularly hanging out at First Avenue. I remember the first time I spotted him there.  He was wearing a gold lame shirt and was in the area back by the pool tables, playing pinball. I nudged my friend and pointed out that a local musical giant was in our presence. I think my friend told me to settle down and be cool.

I spoke to Grant Hart only once. It was just before their final LP, Warehouse: Songs And Stories, was to be released. Word was that the album was going to be two disks. I was drying my hands in the restroom, when Hart walked by. I stopped him and said, “I hear the new record is going to be a double album.”

“That’s what they tell me,” was his answer and he walked on.

I’m sorry I don’t have anything more exciting to say of my experience with Grant Hart. I wasn’t an insider of the scene.

I was just a fan.

Packing Peanuts!

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Warning! This Great Cover Might Make Some People Feel Queasy

Those of my readers who suffer from trypophobia, fear of holes, will want to skip this week’s blog. It’s OK. I understand that this month’s great comic book cover, Harvey Comics’ Little Dot #160 (August, 1975), might be difficult to look at. You are excused. The rest of you – read on!

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There’s not a lot of information I can give about this cover. I can say I think it’s a great example of Pop Art, but I don’t know who illustrated it. I can say the person who inked it is obviously one of those old hands at using the brush. Those artists with that kind of inking skill always impress me. So precise and so flowing. It looks simple, but the skill level has to be way up there.

Look at how simply Little Dot’s mouth is done. And her hands. I’m certain the artist also worked quickly. He or she cranked this whole cover out in the time it would take me to ink a few of the dots on the page. Very few. Dang, those artists were good.

Harvey titles were never anything I was interested in. I always thought it was kids’ stuff. Not like the sophisticated super men and women in tights fighting the bad guys comics I was collecting. I never cared about Richie Rich, Little Dot, Little Lotta, Hot Stuff, Spooky, or dead Richie Rich. What was he called? Oh, right. Casper. But I do appreciate the skills of Harvey’s artists. They had to work fast, that’s just how comic books had to be made, and, at Harvey, the artists had to conform to a certain look. That may have changed in more recent years, but back in the day when different artists worked on Little Dot, Little Dot still had to look exactly like Little Dot. No variation! It’s not easy shedding one’s own personal style. At Marvel or DC, the artists could express their own style. At Harvey, they had to follow the template. Those were the rules.

Harvey also didn’t do much to identify their artists. So many worked in anonymity. That’s a shame, because I’d really like to give credit to the artist who created this great cover.

Update: I’ve been informed that it is likely that the artist for the cover is Warren Kremer. He worked for Harvey for many, many years. So, excellent work, Mr. Kremer!

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Some Nitpicks Of ‘To Serve Man’

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Warning! There will be spoilers!

Of course, Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone was groundbreaking television. And, of course, it is universally loved and respected. As it should be! The show cleverly addressed sensitive social issues without much of the audience even realizing it. Science fiction is sneaky and very useful that way. And it was also pretty darned entertaining. Most of the shows still hold up today.

There were plenty of memorable episodes that commonly get rated among the best of the series. There was the one with William Shatner being the sole passenger to see the creature damaging the wing of the plane. There was that episode in which a misanthrope and book-lover, played by Burgess Meredith, survived a nuclear attack and was left alone with all those books. Finally, able to read as much as he wanted and not be disturbed by the nuisance of people, he stumbled and broke his glasses, rendering him unable to read with no one around to fix them. And the show with the beautiful Donna Douglas playing a woman who didn’t match society’s view of physical attractiveness. Oh! And who can forget that nasty kid (Billy Mumy) who wished people into the cornfield?

Classics all.

I think what is probably the most memorable show, however, is To Serve Man, written by Serling, originally airing March 2, 1962. It is the story of the arrival of a super-intelligent and seemingly benevolent extraterrestrial race. These rather large aliens, played by the rather large Richard Kiel and voiced by Joseph Ruskin, have come to Earth to end disease and famine. And to save us from ourselves by making it possible to end war. They bring us peace, safety, and prosperity. They also offer the wonderful opportunity to visit their home world.

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When their representative addressed the United Nations, the alien was told that delegates from “most of the important countries” were present. Really? I wonder how that made the “unimportant countries” feel. And just which ones are unimportant? Canada? Belize? France?

Well, yeah, France. But still!

(Incidentally, the UN Secretary General, in his address to the assembly, mentions that the first alien spacecraft to land on Earth landed outside of Newark, New Jersey. I’m certain that was Serling’s nod to Orson Wells’ infamous 1938 radio broadcast, War of the Worlds. In that show, the first spaceship landed in Grover’s Mill, New Jersey. A small, rural town near Princeton University, not far from Newark. Eh? See what he did there?)

At that meeting with the UN, the alien left behind a book. A book written in their language, which was turned over to code-breaker named Michael Chambers (Lloyd Bochner), and his team to see if it could be translated to English. Midway through the episode, after the world had become peaceful and relaxed, we learn that the title of the book had been translated as “To Serve Man.”

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Um. Hang on. How did they translate it? As was pointed out in the book The Twilight Zone Companion, they weren’t breaking a code. This was a completely alien language. Without any kind of a guide, a Rosetta Stone, there would be no way anyone could translate that book, let alone its title. It simply would be impossible.

Well, never mind. Translate the title they did. And the title just reinforced the good feelings everyone had about these nice, accommodating beings from another planet. Still the challenge of finishing the translation was too hard to resist for the code-breaker’s assistant, played by Susan Cummings. Just as Chambers was to board the alien spacecraft for his trip to another world, she came to warn him not to go.

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She desperately called out to him that the book was… a cookbook! Dun dun duuuhhhh!

Classic Rod Serling twist!

Here’s where I scratch my head, though. Why would these super-intelligent beings come here with the intention of surreptitiously wrangling people to take back to their planet as food, give us a book detailing how they would cook (or serve) us? That don’t make no sense.

Packing Peanuts!

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Who Was That Masked… Kid?

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Photo: Paul Moore/Getty Images/Hemera

Warehouse Find welcomes back guest blogger Michael Noble. Just in time for back-to-school, he relates the unusual tale of a strange (and would never be done today) experiment he was asked to take part in by the officials at his new school. Those were the days.

It was the mid-1970s. My family and I had recently relocated from the Los Angeles County suburb of Covina, California south by some dozen miles to the more upscale city of Hacienda Heights. It was summertime and we were at the tail end of a move, still in the middle of adjusting to a new home and excited about the the promise of a pool being dug into our new backyard. Soon my sister and I would be starting out in brand new schools. A rather exciting, somewhat anxious time.

The weeks went by, the pool was completed (we could hardly wait to make new friends at school and invite them over to swim!) and it was finally the first day of the new school year. I was entering the 8th grade at Mesa Robles, a mere couple blocks distant. My mother, sister, and I walked to school that morning.

My first day was something I’ll never forget, something you’ll never believe, something you’ll never hear word of ever again. Because in today’s day and age there is no possible way something like what I’m about to tell could ever take place again in the public school system.

Arriving at school with my mother, it was discussed with the principal, my new teacher and a few other adults I was to be the protagonist in a little school experiment, if I was willing. I was told I would don a hat, put a bandana across my face and brandish a toy pistol that shot caps. Dressed and brandishing these items I would run through my classroom firing the gun along the way from one end right on through to the exit opposite the room. The reason for this little display was to see how much of the excitement the students in the classroom could retain when a pop quiz was offered right after the stunt. What was I wearing? Did I say anything? How many times did I fire the gun?

I was positioned just outside the room and burst through the door five minutes after class had begun. Flinging open the door I yelled out “Nobody move!” and ran my way from one side to the other, continuously firing my pistol in the air. The time of completion for this little display couldn’t have been more than ten or fifteen seconds tops. Outside the other door was an assistant who ushered me to another room while the surprised students were given their quiz by the teacher.

Later, I was escorted back so everyone could see what I was wearing (one of the questions) and who I was. I was introduced as a new student and told to take a seat. I remember I was slightly embarrassed after all was said and done. But I’d made an impression to be sure.

Now … can you imagine such a scenario played out today? Not in the least. Such an event would be absolutely verboten. It was forty years ago I was made to participate in that little exercise, something that will never be done ever again.

School in the ’70s was a simpler, more innocent affair, devoid of cell phones and internet, where drama played out as above was an event to be shared when you got home over dinner with your family.

I rather miss those days …

Thank you, Michael. You can read more of his work at hotchka.com.

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