Saturday, October 08, 2011

Geek TV #6: The Avengers!

Concept: British Intelligence Agent John Steed and a series of partners battle the (sometimes bizarre) forces of evil in the UK in a stylish, witty manner.

Total Episodes: 161

Original Air Dates: 1961-1969

Original Network: ITV in the UK, ABC in the USA

Geek Factor: 10

Steed and Cathy Gale
John Steed (Patrick MacNee): An agent of MI5 ½, Steed operates more or less autonomously, choosing to work with a series of partners, most of them female. Originally, Steed dressed in traditional secret agent garb (including trenchcoat), but eventually shed that persona, preferring an Edwardian look, including his ever-present bowler (which was steel-lined) and umbrella (which concealed a saber inside). Steed rarely carries or uses a gun, despite being quite adept with them.

Dr. David Keel (Ian Hendry): Dr. Keel was investigating the murder of his wife when he first encountered Steed, who was impressed enough with Keel that he asked Keel to continue solving crimes with him.

Venus Smith (Julie Stevens): Steed's second partner, apparently attracted to Steed. Venus was a singer when she wasn't assisting Steed, which may be why she only assisted Steed six times.

Steed and Mrs. Peel
Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman): Venus' replacement, a self-assured, quick-witted anthropologist who is skilled in judo and fond of wearing leather. Dr. Gale lived in Steed's flat, according to Steed the rent was to keep the fridge well-stocked and to cook for him, although neither appeared to ever happen. Cathy Gale broke off ties with Steed to take up with a different British agent (okay, that's a joke... Honor Blackman left The Avengers to be in “Goldfinger”).

Emma Peel (Diana Rigg): The partner best known to US Avengers fans. Mrs. Peel's husband went missing while flying over the Amazon prior to her teaming up with Steed. Beautiful, self-assured, intelligent, and an accomplished martial artist, Mrs. Peel lasted the longest of Steed's partners.

Tara King (Linda Thorson): Tara teamed up with Steed and Mrs. Peel, fresh out of training in the British Secret Service, and shortly became Steed's new partner (Mrs. Peel's husband had been found alive and rescued – and was apparently Steed's physical double). More innocent and inexperienced (though better trained) than Mrs. Peel or Cathy Gale, Tara seemed to have much more of a crush on Steed than his previous female partners.

Tara King
Geek Guest-Stars: Terence Plummer (who appeared in a few episodes) was a goon in the 1989 “Batman,” and also appeared on Blake's 7 and The Saint. T.P. McKenna appeared in a few Avengers episodes, and was also Captain Cook in the Doctor Who serial “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy,” as well as a few episodes of The Saint. Christopher Lee played Dracula for Hammer Films, Count Dooku in Star Wars: Episode III, played Saruman in the Lord of the Rings, and many other genre films and TV shows. Michael Gough later played Alfred in the Batman movies, and also had roles in Doctor Who, Blake's 7, and The Saint. Brian Blessed, probably better known for playing Prince Vultan in Flash Gordon, also had parts in Space: 1999, Blake's 7, The Black Adder, Doctor Who, “Star Wars: Episode I,” Disney's Tarzan, and is rumored to be appearing in the Hobbit film.

From the "Touch of Brimstone" episode,
Geek Pedigree: Patrick Macnee returned to the role of Steed for The New Avengers, but he also appeared in episodes of Night Gallery, Alias Smith & Jones, Battlestar Galactica, The Return of the Man from UNCLE, Automan, War of the Worlds, and NightMan. Diana Rigg later appeared in “The Great Muppet Caper” and “On Her Majesty's Secret Service.” Honor Blackman, of course, was in “Goldfinger,” but also appeared on Doctor Who. Linda Thorson later appeared in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

DVD Release: Complete box sets.

The New Avengers, a later revival.
Notes: This was probably the first British TV series I ever watched and became a fan of – at least, that I was aware it was British (I'd been a fan of Thunderbirds). Mrs. Peel is my favorite of Steed's companions, although I have to admit liking Tara King, too!

Countdown to Halloween: Monster Trading Cards!

Here's more of those Shocking Laffs cards!

Of Mice and Magic: The Cartoons #6

In 1915, Hearst International Film Service was started to produce cartoons based on popular King Features comic strips. Among them were Krazy Kat, and like the Mutt and Jeff cartoons mentioned last week, the creators of the strips got all the credit!

Specifically mentioned in Leonard Maltin's book was "Krazy Kat and Ignatz Mouse - At The Circus," and here it is!

If you've ever read the original Krazy Kat comic strips, you can see how it didn't adapt very well to cartoons.

The Katzenjammer Kids were a more successful adaptation, as you can see from the cartoon below!

There were other King Features adaptations done at this time, but I haven't had any luck finding any of them to share here!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Cool Stuff!

Still dealing with mixed bag stuff... I've got to double-check my sorting when I start a new volume of photos!
And first up this time are these Hulk and Captain America Mad-Libs books! I must say, doesn't it look like the art from these were traced from existing art? Why couldn't they have just used the original?

The Indexible Hulk #6!

Hulk 006Issue: The Incredible Hulk #6

Title: “The Incredible Hulk Vs. the Metal Master!”

Credits: Story by Stan Lee, Art by Steve Ditko, Lettering by Art Simek.

Supporting Cast: Thunderbolt Ross, Betty Ross, Rick Jones, Teen Brigade (first appearance)

Villain: The Metal Master

Hulk Intelligence: Clever Savage

Guest-Stars: None

Plot: All is ready for the launch of a space probe designed by Bruce, but since Bruce is nowhere to be found, the countdown is being held at 15 minutes. Ross is furious, of course; Rick thinks Bruce has had plenty of time to change back from the Hulk. Unfortunately, the Hulk is being cut off from his hidden lab by soldiers, but fortunately the soldiers are recalled to the base, allowing the Hulk to get to the lab, where he changes back to Bruce – except that it's a mighty strong Bruce he changes into! He sits down and turns on a TV viewer, where he sees his space probe being melted! On the base, the Metal Master introduces himself, and tells that he's from Astra, where all can shape metal via mental commands, but he was the only criminal, so they sent him into space, where he waited until he found a world worthy of being ruled! Ross doesn't believe his power, so the Metal Master causes helmets and tanks to melt and reshape themselves into a cage to trap Ross, Betty, Rick, and some soldiers temporarily. The Metal Master leaves so they can discuss his terms, and Ross decides to shoot a missile at MM, but MM merely redirects it back to the base. Rick heads off to the lab to get the Hulk, but Bruce is already using the Gamma Ray Machine, but although he changes to the body of the Hulk, his head is still Banner! Fortunately, Banner had made some plaster casts and molds of the Hulk's head for study (I'm not sure what good it would've done... unless he was planning to sell a line of Hulk masks), and uses it to protect his other identity. The Hulk confronts the Metal Master, and they fight almost to a draw, when the Metal Master offers an alliance, which the Hulk turns down. The Metal Master, infuriated, manages to stun the Hulk and leaves. Soldiers arrive at the scene and find the stunned Hulk, and realize he's wearing a mask, but when they remove the mask, they only see the Hulk's face! The Hulk is delivered to a special building Ross prepared to hold him in, but Rick tries to convince Ross that the Hulk is the only one who could defeat the Metal Master... but Ross isn't buying it. Rick manages to get to a window to talk to the Hulk, but the Hulk is convinced Rick betrayed him, telling the army about the mask, and swears revenge on everybody when he gets out! Rick walks away, wondering what to do next. Meanwhile, the Metal Master roams the Earth demonstrating his power! Later, Rick is talking to some friends of his, and learns one of them has a ham radio – this inspires Rick to form the Teen Brigade to be ready to help out when needed. Back at the Hulk, the constant pounding of the massive fists of the Hulk finally break through the wall, and the Hulk heads to Banner's lab to change back. Just after the change, Rick enters, finding the weakened Bruce, and realizing that Bruce isn't responsible for the Hulk's actions. Bruce says he has a way to defeat the Metal Master, but he needs help, so Rick calls on the Teen Brigade! Instantly (or nearly so), the Teen Brigade gathers items Bruce needs from all over (it must've taken days to get it all shipped out to where all this takes place!). Bruce decides he's rested enough, and changes back into the Hulk, who finishes preparing the machine Bruce designed,and takes it to Washington, DC, where the Metal Master is preparing to take over the USA! When the Metal Master spots the Hulk, the Hulk taunts him, saying that MM can't destroy his weapon! No matter what he does, the Metal Master doesn't seem able to affect it! Unaware of this development, the Army advances on the scene! Then the Metal Master decides since he can still control the steel plate he's been standing on, he'll use to attack, but the Hulk is too fast, and grabs the Metal Master and forces him to undo everything he's done. The Hulk lets the Metal Master escape the planet, and then some of the kids on the scene ask the Hulk what kind of metal the weapon was made of, and they discover that it was a fake weapon, made of plastic and cardboard and painted to look like metal (this despite the fact that a few pages back, the Teen Brigade was sending condensers, tubes, and circuits to Bruce – all of which contain at least some metal in them). Just then, the Army moves in, and Rick and the Hulk leave, returning to Bruce's hidden lab, where they use the Gamma Ray Machine to turn the Hulk back to Bruce, but it doesn't seem to work! Then, minutes later, a delayed effect happens, and he is Bruce Banner once more. Later, at his home, Bruce is called upon by Betty and Ross, both of whom wonder about Bruce!

Invention Exchange: Bruce Banner's Space Probe, Ross' custom-built Hulk holding cell

Reprinted In: Marvel Collector's Item Classics #11-13, Marvel Masterworks #8, Essential Hulk #1, Pocket Books Incredible Hulk #1, Marvel Visionaries: Steve Ditko, and Hulk: Transformations.

Notes: This issue was adapted as episodes 25-27 of the 1966 Hulk cartoons. It's amusing that the Hulk borrowed a plan that was used against him in issue #4 by the Russians! I know an episode of the 1970s Fantastic Four cartoon used a similar gambit to defeat Magneto. This issue ended the first Hulk series.

Countdown to Halloween: Adventures Into the Unknown #113!


Wednesday, October 05, 2011

A Couple of Rants...

It's not really a this 'n that, but similar format, as I get some stuff off of my chest!

Item the First: College Diploma and Certificate -- So the quarter finished about a month ago, and I'm all done with school. Now, to officially show that I've completed my training, I'm supposed to have a Certificate of Specialization as well as my ATA diploma. As of this time, I have neither. I heard that there were issues to be dealt with (a few forms to be filled out and turned in) in order to get these taken care of, but I had been given the impression back in the spring that all the necessary paperwork had been taken care of. Obviously, it was not the case. What's really confusing to me is that I had filed for early graduation (in case I wanted to walk in the ceremony; I decided against it) and it had been approved, yet apparently there were classes at my first school that hadn't been applied to the second school yet! Last week, I got the forms I needed and drove up to Bremerton to the main campus (pretty much taking up a whole morning) to make sure the forms didn't get lost. Then, they tried to charge me for the wrong stuff twice before getting it straight! At this point, I have neither piece of paper in my hand, with no word on when I'll be receiving them.

Item the Second: Job Searching -- Longtime readers of this blog will recall that I used to be a graphic designer. In fact, I'd worked in the desktop publishing field pretty much since about 1983, until I was laid off by the newspaper I'd been working at for five years... so until about 2 1/2 years ago, I was a graphic designer. Now, graphic design is a non-demand field right now, so I was offered the opportunity to go back to school and get training in a high-demand field. Of the list I had to choose from, I chose Medical Assisting. Olympia has two hospitals plus a LOT of doctors offices and medical complexes, so I figured that should be a good plan, right? Well, to date I haven't even managed to score an interview, despite the applications I've put in as well as the resumes and cover letters I blind-mailed. In fact, of all the jobs I've applied to, there's only been four times I actually got a rejection letter (well, email), whereas the others didn't contact me at all to even say "no, thank you." Apparently my fellow classmates aren't doing a whole lot better (although some of them got good enough externship sites that they were hired by the externship site; the location I was at wasn't hiring at all, nor do they have plans to hire at all), so it's not just that I'm a male in a female-dominated field. Apparently, there are just too many Medical Assistants out there looking for work right now, so the demand isn't nearly as high as I'd been informed it was. It's very frustrating... I'm not even sure that I can call myself a Medical Assistant, to be honest, because I have yet to actually work as one. It kind of feels like I've now got yet another set of skills that I'm not able to use in any kind of employment. Hopefully, this will change in the near future, but I don't really know.

Item the Third: Modern Comics and Digital Pricing -- Maybe this should be two different rants, but in my mind, they're connected. I forget how long it's been since I bought a new comic book off the stands; it's been since even before I was laid off by the newspaper, so probably 3-4 years. What I've been hearing about the new DC Universe titles hasn't really gotten me too worried that I should be buying new comics again... because once again, they're trying to start things all over again, and throw out the entire past. To be honest, with the arbitrary changes, this sounds like Marvel's Heroes Reborn, except that it's company-wide, and we all know how that worked out, right? Sure, some of the books are selling well, but it's monthly numbers that matter. Nothing I've heard about current Marvel titles has gotten me thinking about buying anything they produce, either! Since I stopped buying floppies, the only new stuff I've bought has been Essentials and Showcase Presents volumes, because at least I know what I'll be getting out of those -- and that's darn good comics that were able to tell a story in less than a year and only using two titles maximum.

So, on Tuesday Newsarama asked about the pricing of digital editions of comics, and I weighed in, but I wanted to actually say a bit more than I did there, and make it clearer what I wanted to say. First of all, let's look at the similarities between Digital and Print editions, cost-wise:

Writer, penciler, letterer, colorist, and editor all need to be paid
Scheduling needs to be handled
Files need to be delivered for whatever distribution method is used (presuming that everything's being done electronically, i.e. the penciler scans their pages and sends them off, coloring is digital, lettering is digital, etc.).

Now, let's focus on the differences in costs:

Printing (includes preparing separations, running of the press, ink, paper, staples, binding, packaging)
Shipping to distributor
Distributor packages for shipment to comic book shop
Shipping from distributor to comic book shop
Comic book shop unpacks and displays items

That's a lot of costs involved there!

Conversion of digital files to comiXology or other format(s)
Distribution of digital files to comiXology (or other source)
Distribution of digital file to end users

The costs here are significantly less. Realistically, only the first of those steps needs to actually involve a person, who must separate each panel out and determine where pans and scans need to occur, as well as zooming in and out. Once that's done, the prepared format could be dropped into a "hot folder" to be automatically sent to the digital distributor, and the digital distributor can be set up to automatically list it. I have comiXology on my iPhone, and every week I get the new list of books available digitally listed.

OK, so that's the costs -- I know, we don't know what the actual costs are, but I think we can agree that print is significantly more expensive than digital, right?

Now, let's consider the money to be made!

Advertising - this may not be as much as it used to be, years ago, but is still a vital part of the profit margin of a book.
Sales - For a $3.99 cover-priced book, let's say that 40% of the cover price goes to the publisher, or about $1.60 (that's probably way more than it really is, because it doesn't take into account the cut that the distributor gets on it)

Let's also not forget that many print titles are returnable these days... plus sometimes comic book shops will over-order on some titles so that if it hits big, they can accommodate larger than expected sales.

Sale of the book. Now, I really doubt that comiXology is only paying 40% of the sale price to DC, Marvel, or whoever, especially since the exact same books are available on the DC and Marvel apps (and probably other publishers' apps, too). But let's say that there's the possibility that comiXology is paying 75% of the cost back to the publisher, or about $3 on a $3.99 book.

So, with both digital and print on the same price point, clearly digital has the possibility to be much more profitable, because there's fewer middlemen involved. The only real difference between the two formats (so far as cost is concerned) is the advertising. None of the digital comics I've read on my iPhone have any ads at all -- which kind of surprises me.

Is this going to be a case where someone other than the bigger companies has to do some thinking? OK, here's what the comics companies need to do with their digital stuff: Sell advertising in it. And it doesn't even have to be pay for the ad for the November cover-dated books, and that ad stays there every time the book is read, because that's really short-sighted. Instead, sell the ad space for ALL digital editions for a specific timeframe, such as a month. Let's say that they make the digital books include five ads... this would mean that every month, if you open up that file and read it, there could potentially be five different ads in the book, and not the same ads that there were. Naturally, these ads would have to be pretty basic, but would need to include a "click here for more information" option... where you'd then have the browser open on your device to go to whatever website is needed.

Consider the possibilities... someone wants to sell a comic book collecting app? Advertise for a month with the digital books. Maybe Coca-Cola wants to try a new product? Promote it in a digital ad, and when you click the link, you go to a website where you can print out a buy one, get one free coupon for a 2-liter bottle or something. Restaurants can do the same. New movie coming out? Link to the trailer. New games for smart phones could be easily promoted this way, too.

If they get really clever, they can even target the advertising -- there's no reason that they can't figure out what part of the country you're in (push notifications and the like to determine this), and they could sell ads by location! Jack-In-The-Box could promote a new burger, but only in the parts of the USA that has Jack-In-The-Box locations. Companies outside the USA can buy ads just for the readers in their countries.

All this means that the ad revenues from digital comics could end up potentially becoming more than print comic ad revenues, because you'd make it seem like it's more cost effective to do the digital ads, but maybe get them to advertise more! And you'd be able to reach advertisers who aren't even considering print comic advertising in the first place.

It would mean getting some advertising teams (salesmen and tech/designer guys) put together and working like crazy on it, but I think it would work. And then the price of digital comics can come down significantly... like no more than 99 cents... or even cheaper! If you could get the entire series of your favorite comic book on your smart phone or other device for a quarter an issue, purchased in blocks, wouldn't you consider it? Think about having the first 12 issues of The Avengers for three bucks!

The other thing they need to do is offer subscription options with digital books, too, as well as work on the trade paperback in digital form -- think about digital versions of Essentials or Showcase Presents!

And there's no physical storage of these items needed... other than on the file servers. Get going on this, people!

Countdown to Halloween: Castle of Frankenstein #15!


Comic Book Advertisements!

This week's ads come from Gold Key's Hanna-Barbera Fun-In #1, although as always, they likely appeared in all this month's Gold Key comics! The first ad, from the inside front cover, is for a Hot Wheels set. As I've noted before, Mattel's biggest toy successes were Barbie and Hot Wheels, probably the two longest-lasting toy lines of any kind (well, I'd imagine Matchbox comes in close, too). Have I mentioned before how I get some sticker shock whenever I shop for Hot Wheels stuff for my son Tristan these days? I have no idea if prices on the track sets are overall higher (relatively speaking) than they were back in the 1960s and 1970s or if they're the same, but if they were the same, I can see why I never got the number of sets you'd need to make this kind of layout when I was a kid!

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Kirby Kovers #5

This edition of Kirby Kovers begins with Rawhide Kid #22, featuring the Kid battling a monster not too much unlike the type of monsters that had been drawn by Kirby and others in books like Tales of Suspense and Tales to Astonish! I'm not sure what Stan Lee (or whoever wrote this issue) was thinking, unless they wanted to see if having a monster on the cover would boost sales!

CBT: Space Ghost BLB "The Sorceress of Cyba-3" Chapters 10 & 11!


Countdown to Halloween: Original Horror Comic Art!

And the original comic art feature makes a brief return this month, as I try to wind up my back-files on horror comic art! Above, we have page 30 from Tales From the Crypt #38, by Graham Ingels!

Monday, October 03, 2011

Dog of the Geek: White Fang!

SoupyShow-LPBreed: Puppet

Original Appearances: The Soupy Sales Show

Other Appearances: Cover of a record album, perhaps others.

Biography: White Fang is the biggest and meanest dog in the USA, who appeared on the Soupy Sales Show only as a giant white shaggy paw with black triangular felt claws jutting out from the corner of the screen. Fang spoke with unintelligible short grunts which Soupy would repeat back in English. White Fang was often the pie thrower when Soupy's jokes bombed.

Powers: None

Group Affiliation: None

Miscellaneous: Clyde Adler and Frank Nastasi performed both White Fang and Black Tooth at different times.

Countdown to Halloween: Monster Monday!

Wait, I just had monster cards for yesterday's Countdown to Halloween post, and now I'm starting off Monster Monday with more monster cards? Well, at least there's different stuff, after the jump!

Sunday, October 02, 2011