Saturday, March 15, 2014

Geek TV: Electra Woman and Dyna Girl!

Concept: Female crimefighters use advanced technology to battle villains while lampooning the Caped Crusaders.

Total Episodes: 16

Original Air Dates: September 11, 1976 – September 2, 1977

Original Network: ABC


Electra Woman (Diedre Hall): Senior member of the crime-fighting team, a magazine reporter in her spare time. In her civilian identity, her first name is Lori.

Dyna Girl (Judy Strangis): Junior member of the team, also a magazine reporter; had a tendency to say things were Electra-something, i.e. “Electra-blinding,” “Electra-cool,” and so forth.

Frank Heflin (Norman Alden): Scientist who stayed at the ElectraBase, operating the CrimeScope computer and keeping in touch with Electra Woman and Dyna Girl via the ElectraComs.

Geek Pedigree:

Prior to this show, Diedre Hall's only geek role was in an episode of Rod Serling's Night Gallery in 1971. Judy Strangis had previously appeared in episodes of Twilight Zone (“The Bard”), Batman (“The Cat's Meow/The Bat's Kow Tow”), and Bewitched (“Serena Stops the Show”). She also voiced Groovia on The Roman Holidays, Merilee on Butch Cassidy, and Rota Ree on Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch. She later did the voice of Goldie Gold on Goldie Gold and Action Jack, Pauline on Saturday Supercade, and did the voice of Tammy Vance in the Batman animated episode “Baby-Doll”.

Norman Alden could previously be seen playing a football player in The Nutty Professor, heard as Sir Kay in The Sword in the Stone, played two different roles in his guest roles on My Favorite Martian, a Joker Henchman in two episodes of Batman (“The Joker Trumps an Ace/Batman Sets the Pace”), a guest role on Mission: Impossible (“Double Dead”), Kung Fu (“The Praying Mantis Kills”), voiced Aquaman and Green Arrow (among others) on Super Friends, Henry McSummers on Devlin, played Zako in an episode of Planet of the Apes, and continued to voice Aquaman afterwards. He passed away in 2012 at the age of 87.

Marvin Miller was the narrator on the show, he'd previously been the narrator on the original Gerald McBoing-Boing, played Arjenian on Red Planet Mars, Mr. Proteus on Space Patrol, was the narrator for Godzilla Raids Again, King Dinosaur, The Deadly Mantis, voiced Robby the Robot in The Invisible Boy, and many, many other voice roles, including Aquaman on Filmation's series and multiple roles in the animated version of Fantastic Voyage. He later voiced Robby again for the movie Gremlins, and narrated Police Squad!

Geek Guests:

Peter Mark Richman played The Pharaoh in four episodes. He'd played a lot of genre guest roles prior to this, and voiced The Phantom in Defenders of the Earth. Claudette Nevins, who played the Empress of Evil in two episodes, voiced the characters Judy Franklin and Nova in Return to the Planet of the Apes. Malachi Throne played Ali Baba in two episodes, you may rember him better as False Face in two episodes of Batman, or his guest roles in episodes of The Time Tunnel or Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Noah Bain on It Takes a Thief, or War Lord Brack in two episodes of Ark II. He later played Senator Pardek in two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and did other voice work until his death in March of 2013.

Jeff David, who played Side Man in two episodes, later did voice work for animated shows such as Jana of the Jungle, Godzilla (the voice of Captain Carl Majors), and the 1981 Spider-Man, plus he provided the voice of Chrichton on 11 episodes of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Sid Haig played the Genie in an episode, but for me, he'll always be Dragos on Jason of Star Command, although he had plenty of other genre roles as well. H.B. Haggerty appeared in an episode as a security guard, but I remember him more as laying Tigerman in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.

DVD Release: One episode in a compilation DVD.

Website: claims to be the “largest, definitive site on the Internet” for the show, so you can check that out, but many of the links are broken there.

Notes: Diedre Hall's twin sister, Andrea Hall, guested in two episodes, playing Electra Woman's double and clone, plus the Spider Lady! A pilot for a revival was produced in 2001, starring Markie Post as Electra Woman and Anne Stedman as Dyna Girl, very different from the original, and available on YouTube.

Book and Record Set: GI Joe - Secret of the Mummy's Tomb

Friday, March 14, 2014

Geek Memories #3: GI Joe!

As far as my childhood memories are concerned, GI Joe was always around. I was two when the initial line was released, so obviously once I had an interest in toys, they were there.

gijoe_capsule1Naturally, I'm referring to the original 12” line of figures that focused initially on the military, but by the time I got my first Joes, this had expanded to include things like the Mercury Space Capsule (which was one of the items I'd wanted but never got).

gijoe_landadventure.JPGMy first Joes may well have been purchased at garage or yard sales; when I was a kid, we got more toys there than we got brand-new in the store. These would have been the original figures with painted hair, although the flocked hair versions that came out starting in 1970 would become more of the standard for my collection.

My Joes, even from the beginning, didn't have military-styled adventures. Although the comic book ads pictured kids playing war games with their Joes, the lack of military vehicles made this impossible for me. I was definitely primed for the Adventure Team concept that ran from 1970 to 1976, as this fit in nicely with the adventures I remembered playing. It was this line that provided most of the accessories I remembered having, such as the Adventure Team Headquarters, which opened up and expanded very nicely, as well as the Turbo Copter backpack toy.

I don't recall if we had any of the vehicles, other than the Sea Wolf that my brother Jeff got one Christmas. This was a “real working submarine,” but it didn't meet my standards of what a submarine was supposed to be. For starters, it wasn't watertight by any means – your Joes got wet when using it, as only the upper body and head were enclosed within a dome. I believe it used a pump of some kind to pump air out of the dome to allow it to submerge, and then subsequently pump air back in to cause it to surface.

gijoe_atheadquartersSpecific adventures of my Joes are lost to memory at this point. I do recall that my Joes were given individual names, a pattern of play that also matched what the next door neighbor kids did with their Joes (they also had many more of the toys, including the previously mentioned military vehicles).

I do remember that since I didn't get all the various accessories that I wanted, I attempted to make up for it by creating new items for my Joes. There was one summer that, before I got the Adventure Team Headquarters, I made my own headquarters from a cardboard box. The major feature of this was a trap door on the roof that I could open or close by pulling on a string. Another summer, the kid next door and I worked to create a roller coaster of sorts, although this worked out to just be a ramp going down, made from cardboard with popsicle sticks to guide the vehicle (which I recall being a plastic dune buggy that wasn't a Joe vehicle, but somehow managed to accommodate the figures).

gijoe_seawolfThe next phase in my creative play with my Joes was to make new costumes for them. Yes, that's right, costumes, and not uniforms. I had to have been aware at least subconsciously of the previous Captain Action toy line, with a main figure that could be dressed up as various comic book superheroes and the like, because in the 1970s, I began making superhero costumes for my figures. It's telling, I think, that for the most part, I didn't attempt to re-create any superhero costumes that were already represented by Megos in my collection. The only Mego costume I tried to duplicate was the Captain Marvel costume, and this one I used to make what I called “movies,” although they were really just a series of still pictures (so it appears that in some ways, I was trying to reproduce the View-Master or Give-A-Show experience, although I don't know that I tried to maintain a seven-image limit. More likely I was just trying to tell my story within the limits of the number of photos per roll of film. None of these exist any more, although I wish I had them still.

gijoe_talkingcommanderAnother costume I recall making is Marvel's The Patriot, whom I'd been introduced to through Roy Thomas' Invaders comic book; another was Iron Man, as I didn't have the Mego figure. I made most of it by sewing, but the chestpiece was made from a used McDonald's french fry cup.

I should mention here that my sewing skills had been previously developed during my interest in puppetry. It was a skill that most boys my age didn't have, that's true – but how can one make proper hand puppets if one has to ask their mother to do all the sewing for them? I would later use this skill to make a mascot for the Star Trek club I joined in junior high school, and much later to make my Superman costume from a number of Halloweens ago.

I'm sure there were other costumes I made for my Joes, as I do remember the concept I had of some costume pieces being useable by more than one hero, but I don't recall any specifics.

So, back to the Joes I remember having... as I said, the Adventure Team is the series I most recall having, and among the ones we had were the Talking Adventure Team Commander (instead of a loose dogtag on a chain, his AT dogtag was connected to a string you could pull, which caused him to say various things, like “Mission accomplished, good work, men!” Not that I could ever get him to say what I wanted him to say when I wanted him to say it! I also had Eagle Eye GI Joe, who had a lever in the back of his head that made his eyes dart back and forth. My brother Jeff got Mike Power, The Atomic Man (Hasbro's response to The Six Million Dollar Man, after they failed to get that license) and Bulletman (no relation to the Fawcett Comics' superhero, other than the name, although he also had the power of flight, thanks to two grommets sewn into his costume you could run a string through in order to let him slide down in flight position, much like the dummy of Captain Marvel flew in the classic Adventures of Captain Marvel serial). The last one I remember adding was The Intruder, which was the only enemy created for GI Joe. The Intruder resembled a Neanderthal Man wearing a metallic harness right out of John Carter, and there were two different ones released. They were supposed to be aliens, and they had arms and legs that were missing articulation aside from moving at the shoulders and hips. They also had a button in the back you could push to make the arms grasp together, so you could put your Joe in a bear hug.

gijoe_bulletmangijoe_atomicmanHonestly, I was starting to outgrow playing with GI Joe at this point, and when Hasbro ended the original line and started a new line called “Super Joe,” which came out in 1977. This was a scaled down line, about eight and a half inches tall, and were not articulated that I recall, but rather had wires in a rubber body, like Gumby toys (although Wikipedia denies this, saying that they were articulated). I had no interest in this line, as it went too far away from what I considered to be “true” GI Joe figures, and apparently most kids felt the same, as that line lasted only a year. This was probably a move initially made because plastic prices were starting to go up dramatically (thanks to the oil crisis of the 1970s), and given the release of Star Wars, science fiction was getting popular again (the Super Joe line was sci-fi based, even moreso than the last Adventure Team figures).

gijoe_intruderIndeed, when Kenner started producing the Star Wars figure line, it definitely replaced not only GI Joe but also the Mego line of figures for dominance in the stores. I even purchased the initial figures in the line, but not for playing with, but instead for collecting (much as I'd later do when Mattel produced the later first release of Secret Wars figures).

But that was it for my collecting GI Joes in any scale. I'm guessing that my Joes were all sold at yard sales or just lost, and I wouldn't encounter them again for some time.

It was the early 1980s that I next encountered GI Joe. There was a store that opened in Lakewood, Washington (next to Tacoma) called Warehouse Toys that opened for a very short time. This store appeared to be humungous to me (we hadn't had Toys R Us at this point), and the entire store was filled with toys that had been discontinued. They had shelves of original Joes, as well as Megos, and if I'd had the money, I would've bought up all they had. Even then, I had the idea that these toys were valuable to those who wanted them. I'd imagine that if I had $100 to spend at the time or more, I'd be able to sell them now and have enough money to pay off a good chunk of my house!

So I didn't buy any of those, sadly. Then about 10 years later, I'd started being a toy collector, although Joes weren't a part of my collection (which focused on Megos, Secret Wars, Super Powers, and monster action figures). When the Hall of Fame figures were released (12” figures of some of the Real American Hero characters) of Duke and Cobra Commander, I picked up a couple of each, figuring that once they were gone from the shelves, I could resell them (I was selling at comic book and toy shows at the time), but I don't remember making much of a profit on them. I completely missed out on the Classic Collection that came out in 1995-2004, or the Masterpiece Collection or Timeless Collection, which were more like re-releases of the original Joes.

A few years ago, I made my first purchase of Joes in decades, and I'd imagine I wrote about it here at the time. My wife and I had a rare day without our kids, and we hit a large rummage sale where I found a rather large box of original Joes and assorted other items, which I purchased for the amazingly cheap sum of $20 (which I'd had to get from my wife, as I'd spent the cash I had buying vintage children's books at the same sale). I sorted these out and auctioned them on eBay, and used the money I made from that to pay for my son Tristan's birthday party that year.

So, I didn't even become tempted to keep those Joes, although I still have fond memories of them from my childhood. I do have two Joe-related items in my collection, but they are both Hallmark ornaments based on the classic toys.

Feel free to share your Joe memories in the comments!

Fandom Library: The Rocky and Bullwinkle Newspaper Strip, Second Story!


Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Fleischer Popeyes #14: Axe Me Another!

popeye14_01This Popeye cartoon opens with Popeye singing his theme song as he's building a rowboat, which he's using a LOT of nails for! He's interrupted when he hears Olive Oyl calling for help. He runs to the end of the dock his workshop is at, pulls a telescope out of his hat, and looks for her. Olive's floating down the river, surrounded by logs also going downstream! Popeye drops his telescope in the water (it's okay, it was starting to droop on him anyway) and rushes into his boathouse, but his boat doesn't have a bottom yet. Quickly, he puts glue on the bottom of the boat frame, then places it on the floor, where he cuts around the boat. Then he tries pushing the boat out, but it's too big for the doorway. Meanwhile, Olive continues to scream for help.

popeye14_02Popeye still tries to get the boat out, and failing to make it fit through the door, he grabs a hammer and knocks the ceiling and walls away before grabbing the boat and running it down the dock to the water. He rows after Olive, who's passed out over one of the logs. Popeye pulls her from the water and then uses her leg like a handle to pump the water out of her lungs. Olive revives, and tells Popeye that Pierre Bluto threw her in the water. Pierre Bluto runs a logging camp upstream, and he didn't like Olive's spinach. This makes Popeye mad, saying, "Anyone who doesn't like spinach is my emeny!" (no, that's not a typo, that's how he says it).

popeye14_03Popeye rows upstream, going right over logs in the way, rowing up the shoreline to the logging camp, where Bluto uses his whip to pull Olive out of the boat. Popeye pulls Olive away from Bluto, then pulls his cap down over his face before boinking him in the chin. Pierre Bluto gets mad, but Popeye blows smoke in his face. Popeye then sees a sign reading "Pierre Bluto champion lumberjack challenges all comers." Popeye can't resist a challenge, and says, "I'll do anything that you do!" And so it's on!

popeye14_04Bluto takes a huge axe and throws it at a tree, where it lands. Popeye throws a smaller axe, which not only lands in a tree, it cuts it in half! Bluto then climbs a tree to the top, branch by branch. Popeye does the same to another tree, one hand at a time. Bluto laughs, and pulls out an axe, chopping each branch off on his way down. Popeye starts sliding down the tree, punching away the branches as he goes! Bluto chops his tree down, pushing it over. Popeye starts punching sections out of the tree, one at a time.

popeye14_05Bluto then throws logs away, causing them to land in a stack by the slide to the river. Popeye grabs the root of a nearby tree, pulling the whole tree up (causing the branches to break off), then uses it as a bat to knock sections of logs to the slide, where they land and go to the river. Olive says Popeye beat the champ, but then Bluto knocks Popeye down the slide! Olive gets so mad at this she knocks Bluto after him! The two enemies end up on a log, and get to the river.

popeye14_06As they float down, each stands on a log, and Bluto punches Popeye into the water. As Popeye sinks, he pulls out his spinach and eats it! Surfacing, Popeye lands on a log behind Bluto's log, and as Bluto approaches, Popeye jumps up and down, causing his log to strike Bluto in the jaw and sending him to the front of his own log. This happens a couple of times, and then Popeye hits Bluto far downstream, where he hands with one foot each on two logs next to each other. The logs separate, causing Bluto to fall in the water, whereupon the logs come together to bean him in the head. Bluto gets up and it happens again.

popeye14_07Finally, Bluto picks up a log and starts running back to Popeye, but before he can hit Popeye with the log, Popeye punches Bluto again, sending him flying to a raft downstream (maybe Popeye built it while Bluto was away)? The log lands in pieces, forming a high chair, which Bluto lands in, crying like a baby. Popeye and Olive start feeding him spinach.

A fun cartoon, but the reliance on repeating some gags makes me wonder if it was originally running a bit short.

Comics They Never Made!

Time for another mini-gallery of comic book covers I've mocked up, based on TV shows that never had a comic book of their own!
I'm not really sure that Gold Key would've actually done a Charlie's Angels photo with one of the Angels in a bikini on the cover, but it would've sold some books, wouldn't it?

This Groovie Goolies cover was one that I'd done some time ago, with help from a fellow blogger, Patrick Owsley!  You can find his blog on my "Random Blogs of Geekery" list.

I'm not sure how well Chico and the Man would translate into comics, but it would be interesting to see what it would be like!

This last one is a complete cheat, I have to admit... the coloring on the image I found for this does not match what would've been done in this era, but the image was too good to pass up!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Government Comics!

This time around, a Government-sponsored comic featuring Li'l Abner! At least, it looks that way, but he disappears very shortly!

Comic Book Ads: Marketing the Marvels, Continued!

The first ad this time around features a number of items that would be considered highly collectible today, although I have to admit, I've only seen the Captain Marvel statue show up on eBay when I've searched!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

My Latest Pitch: Yellow Submarine II!

Yellow Submarine II
A treatment by Jon B. Knutson

Yes, my friends, it's time once again for me to share with you my treatment for a movie that will likely never be made. This time around, it's a sequel to the classic Beatles' animated film, "Yellow Submarine."

For years, there's been rumors flying around about doing a sequel to this movie (probably my favorite animated movie of all time), but I've never come across any outline or treatment anywhere that would give some idea of what might be... So here's my own offering!

Comic Reading Library: Amazing Man Comics #25!


Monday, March 10, 2014

Fandom Library: The Star Wars Album!


Character Collectible Spotlight: Wacky Races!

The Wacky Races was a favorite show of mine when it was on CBS Saturday Mornings, and I wish I'd had some of these items when I was a kid! I should mention that a few of these were probably more tied to the later Perils of Penelope Pitstop and Dastardly and Muttley and Their Flying Machines.

First up in the parade of Wacky Races collectibles are these Slurpee cups!

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Puzzle Time!

As promised, this week we start with puzzles from a new issue!

Old Time Radio Spotlight: The Fred Allen Show

200px-Fred_allen_1940s_NBC_photoFred Allen is one of my favorite radio comedians. His radio show, which lasted from 1932 to 1949, was absurdist as well as topical, the latter of which may make it rather inaccessible to modern-day listeners who aren't familiar with the history of the times; in my own case, I believe I've listened to enough old-time radio myself that it's not been an issue.

For fans of old-time radio, he's probably best remembered for his long-running mock feud with Jack Benny, who was in reality a close friend. Another close friend of his was Groucho Marx.

Fred was born John Florence Sullivan on May 31, 1894. As a boy, he took piano lessons, but only learned to play two songs. It was when he took a job at the Boston Public Library where he read a book about the origin and development of comedy, making him interested in learning more about that while also developing a skill in juggling. It was in 1914 when he began his stage career, taking the name Fred St. James and working the local vaudeville circuit, eventually changing his stage name to Freddy James. His early comedy style had him billed as "the world's worst juggler," purposefully juggling in a clumsy manner. As his performing career went on, he did less juggling and more comedy, and by 1917, he'd finally arrived at the stage name of Fred Allen. He went from vaudeville to Broadway in 1922, and met his future wife, Portland Hoffa, while performing in The Passing Snow.

Fred and Portland first performed on radio in the late 1920s, guesting on a Chicago program called WLS Showboat. From there, he and Portland went on to other radio programs, none of them lasting more than a year until 1935's Town Hall Tonight on NBC, which lasted until 1940. This hour long show featured news satires, parodies of popular musical comedies and films, and interpretations of well-known lives. In 1940, he changed networks to CBS, and changing the show's title to Texaco Star Theater. In 1942, the show was cut to half an hour. However, this same year Fred introduced his most long-running and famous feature, "Allen's Alley."

"Allen's Alley" was featured in the program after the initial monologue, a comic segment with Portland, and a musical segment. The segment began with Portland asking Fred what question they'd ask the residents of Allen's Alley that week, and then they'd meet the citizens, asking each of them the question of the week (usually relating to some topical event). It took a while before the characters in Allen's Alley would be fully developed, with some characters tried and discarded. The most famous characters were Jewish housewife Pansy Nussbaum, New England farmer Titus Moody, and Southern senator Beauregard Claghorn (who served as at least an inspiration for the Warner Brothers cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn).

In 1945, he returned to NBC with a new show, The Fred Allen Show, which lasted until 1949.

As I noted, the mock feud between Fred and Jack Benny was a long-running feature on Allen's shows, and also took place on Benny's show as well. This feud began by accident in an 1937 show, when a child prodigy performed a violin solo that caused Allen to wisecrack about "a certain alleged violinist" who should hide in shame over his own poor playing. Benny, who was a regular listener, burst out laughing when he heard the gag, and responded on his own program. This led to the feud, which convinced some listeners the two (who were close friends) were really enemies!

One of my favorite bits of the feud was an episode of Allen's program which was announced at the beginning as a tribute to Jack Benny's career, but featured very little about Benny at all. Another favorite was in a 1946 episode in which Benny guested, disguising himself as Myron Proudfoot so that he could be a contestant on Fred's new quiz show so he could win money and prizes.

After his own show ended, Fred was a semi-regular on The Big Show, hosted by Talluah Bankhead, appearing on little over half of the episodes. It was on this show that he made his most famous joke about television, "You know, television is called a new medium, and I have discovered why they call it a medium -- because it is neither rare nor well done."

Fred tried to get a television program going on his own, but his program ideas either never made it to air, or failed quickly. He did make guest appearances on some shows (including one on Jack Benny's TV show, where he tried to convince the sponsor to replace Benny with him), and landed a two-year stint as a panelist on What's My Line? from 1954 until 1956, when he died. During this time, he also wrote newspaper columns and books, most notably Treadmill to Oblivion, that covered his radio and TV years.

Fred Allen was very influential on many other comedians, although in some cases I doubt that anyone was aware of the influence. One example would be on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show, where Carson featured "The Mighty Carson Art Players" in his sketches -- Fred's radio show featured sketches starring "The Mighty Allen Art Players." He was a master ad libber, and his fans included President Franklin D. Roosevelt. His radio shows, in whatever form, are well worth a listen.