Friday, March 28, 2014

Retro-Review: The Twilight Zone #89

56236Time for another retro-review, where I pull out a comic from my collection and read it, blogging about it as I go! This time around, it's Gold Key's Twilight Zone #89. The cover of this issue, as you can see, features a beautiful painting, artist unknown.

The first story in this issue is called "Star Pupil," and features Ed Crane, an honor student at a university. He's arrived early to conduct some personal experiments. He's a 99-pound weakling, and he's trying to improve his entire body chemistry through science! His experiments produce a potion of body building proteins that are supposed to give him the "strength of Atlas," but when he drinks it, there's a change, and he becomes basically a Neanderthal Man, or perhaps a Mr. Hyde if you prefer. He goes amok in the lab, smashing everything in sight. But before long, the potion wears off, and he changes back to normal, just before Professor Higgins arrives. Higgins assumes vandals broke in over the weekend and caused the destruction. Ed, for his part, can't remember anything about how he created the potion, and as Rod Serling's head informs us, "Whatever it was has been destroyed! Ed remembers nothing! What were the ingredients? The answer lies in... The Twilight Zone!"

Yeesh... someone was asleep on the job when this four-pager was written, eh? I don't know who wrote it, but the art was by Jack Sparling. There's really nothing about this tale that really fits the whole TZ theme... it feels more like a tale for some of the latter-day issues of some lesser comic book.

After a full-page ad with Richie Rich hawking Hostess Fruit Pies, we have "The Prettiest Child," with art by Mike Roy. This opens with George and Katherine Shuster, a wealthy couple who have arrived at an orphanage with the intent to adopt a child. The one they choose is Linda, who was abandoned by her parents, and nothing else is known about them or her. They take Linda home with them.

The next week, the Shusters hold a party, and everyone tells them how lovely Linda is. When asked about the necklace Linda's wearing, the Shusters say they were told she was wearing it when she arrived at the orphanage. As she grows up, Linda goes from being beautiful to being merely ordinary. One day, she overhears her adoptive parents talking. It seems that Katherine has been ignoring Linda because she had expected a girl who would become a sophisticated young woman, not a plane Jane. George insists that she shouldn't treat Linda that way, and that Linda is suffering for it.

As a teenager, Linda gets even more unattractive, becoming a social zero at school. On the other hand, her grades make her the top student, and is asked by a professor to work with him on a side project involving inter-galactic travel. The professor believes aliens have visited Grove County in the past, and he wants Linda to research it further. I'm guessing you can already see where this is going, eh?

A week later, Linda arrives at a spot nearby the orphanage, where Professor Lacey believes aliens had visited before. Taking out a geiger counter, she searches for traces of radioactivity. Suddenly, two people in odd purple clothing spot her, and call her Zendra! Linda starts to run away, but one of them says, "Zendra -- daughter! Don't be frightened!" It seems these two are aliens and Linda's real parents, and when they took her with them to Earth on an expedition, she wandered off, and they couldn't find her before the tele-port ray appeared to transmit them back to Knorgg, their home world. The proof is the necklace that Linda's continued to wear, and they tell her that she's even more beautiful than they could've imagined. Indeed, on Knorgg, she'd be regarded as the loveliest woman in their society! Linda... er... Zendra agrees to go back with them. Rod appears to wrap the story up: "'Beauty,' as the saying goes, 'is in the eyes of the beholder'! Linda Shuster, known to her true parents as Zendra, is about to find out how beautiful she is -- at least to the people of Knorgg -- long-time inhabitants of... The Twilight Zone!"

Now, that's more like it! Although I really think that this story would've benefitted from a few more pages to more fully flesh things out, like the four pages wasted on "Star Pupil." Still, a much better story, even if the twist is telegraphed rather early.

Next, we get to "Overly Charming," with art by Sparling. This is the story the cover is based upon. Dressed like a Hindu, Rod Serling appears in the first panel to set it up: "Not even the wisest fakirs in Indian know when or where the ancient art of snake charming originated! For its secrets, as you are about to discover, are locked in... The Twilight Zone!" A rather overweight couple from England (they could be the Durseleys from Harry Potter) are touring, and rather disgusted at all the snake charmers they're coming across, especially Lal, the latest one they've encountered. Overhearing this are some of Lal's fellow charmers, who tease Lal about it, saying he's not a fakir but a faker.

Lal wanders off, grumbling, "Ignorant fools! Enjoy yourself while you can... for it is I who shall one day laugh the loudest!" Wandering aimlessly through the jungle, Lal suddenly hears weird music, and comes upon an old fakir who's charming six snakes at once with his playing. The fakir introduces himself as Zakar, and he controls the snakes with a magical pipe, given to him long ago by a wise old fakir. Lal offers to buy the pipe, but it's no sale, so Lal hits Zakar and steals the pipe. Zakar warns him that he's tampering with forces he doesn't understand, but all Lal can think of is the wealth he can get with this pipe.

Hmm... off-hand, I'm guessing Lal is going to be transformed into a snake by the time this story ends? We'll see.

Some days later, Lal appears at the royal palace of a neighboring province, which is beset by a plague of snakes. Lal offers to rid the province of the snakes, and the ruler says if he's successful, he'll be rewarded with enough gold for three lifetimes. Lal hits the streets and begins to play, and cobras start coming out from every crack and crevice, following him through the streets. Leading them to the forest, Lal figures he can stop and they'll go about their way, but when he does, suddenly a gigantic cobra appears, and encircles him angrily. Lal realizes that the only way to save his life is to play the pipe again... and he'll only live so long as he keeps playing! Rod appears to say, "I'm afraid the only place where Lal can get rid of those snakes is in... The Twilight Zone!"

Well, that was a surprise ending! Much more TZ-ish than the first tale, isn't it?

Sparling does the art chores again on "The Hangman's Noose," the final tale in this issue. Rod introduces the tale: "Bowie Ramston is being tried for murder! And if convicted, he will have a difficult time, for sentences aren't light in... The Twilight Zone!" The era appears to be the old west, based on the clothes. Bowie, who killed in self-defense, is nevertheless found guilty, and is sentenced to be hung in two weeks. Bowie is returned to his cell, very upset at the verdict and sentencing, as he's long hated hangings since his father took him to one as a child! He can even see the gallows being built for his execution outside of the window of his cell, and the deputy even taunts him by showing the rope he'll be hung with!

The day of the hanging, Bowie decides to take it like a man, but when the lever is pulled, the trap door won't open! Bowie's given an extra day of life while it's being fixed, but his dreams that night are plagued by images of giant nooses that he's running through. The following morning, Bowie awakens to find that the hangman's sick, and his hanging has been postponed indefinitely! Later, the marshall visits the prison to announce that the territorial governor's reviewed Bowie's case and commuted his sentence, but when they get to Bowie's cell, Bowie is dead, with rope burns around his neck as though he'd been hung! Rod comes into the panel to say, "Bowie Ramston was so afraid of being hanged that he couldn't take it anymore! His mind hanged him to put him out of his misery and into the realm of... The Twilight Zone!"

Huh... well... I didn't see that coming, but on the other hand, it doesn't really fit things too well the way the story was constructed. If I were to rewrite it, I'd get rid of all the stuff where the trapdoor doesn't work or the hangman being sick, and focus those pages on Bowie spending those two weeks obsessing over being hung, including a flashback to the hanging he saw as a boy (rather than just having him mention it), building up the tension on the last night before his hanging, and then cutting away from the cell to the last page, with the marshall arriving with the news that the sentence has been commuted, but too late.

Fandom Library: Batmania #19!


Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Beatles Cartoon, Episode 13!

beatles13-01The first story in episode 13 of the Beatles' animated series is "I'm a Loser," and obviously features that song, which was on the Beatles' album Rubber Soul. It opens at the Hollywood studio of Incredible Pictures, where Ringo plans to be discovered. Ringo tells his bandmates that it's been fun, but now that he's made it to Hollywood, he doesn't know if there'll be a place for them. Ringo sneaks past the studio guard. Inside, in a Producer's office, they need a new stuntman desperately.

beatles13-02Outside, Ringo finds a mechanical horse that he rides as the other swatch, and then John finds a lever that changes the speed of the horse. The producer arrives just as Ringo is tossed from the horse, and manages to catch him. He immediately offers Ringo the stuntman job. Ringo's first stunt is for a football movie, where Ringo's standing in for the quarterback, and gets tackled. Next, he's in a boxing movie, and he gets knocked out. The song begins.

beatles13-03Next, Ringo's a swashbuckler who gets his sword bent and then he's hit twice with a rolling pin by the Queen before her guards go after him. Ringo races up the steps of the castle tower, running out of the window by accident, then falling to the moat below, where he lands in the open mouth of an alligator... or does he? Because the next cut has Ringo safely hanging from the poleaxe of a guard. The next shot has Ringo as the pilot of an airplane, then jumping out with a parachute... except that it's an umbrella that collapses, sending poor Ringo plummeting into a barrel of water. Between these shots, we see Paul, George and John performing the title track, and the animators even include a harmonica for John to play the solo with! Next, Ringo's on a horse, which goes berserk when it sits on a cactus, eventually throwing Ringo off his back. Then, Ringo's playing a spy whose gun only pops out a flag that says "bang," while his opponent as a working tommy gun that fills Ringo's trenchcoat full of lead (fortunately Ringo's wearing a bullet proof vest, but then we see that's full of holes, too, as is Ringo). Next, it's Ringo as a bullfighter, and as you can expect, Ringo gets butted by the bull.

beatles13-04The final scene (as the song fades out) has Ringo playing human cannonball. Ringo ends up bandaged in the hospital, as the Producer gives Ringo a bonus of $12.38, while the star of the picture (whom we're now seeing for the first time), Rory Rock, gets a million! Ringo is upset about Rory not even being in the picture, and manages to knock loose the weight holding his leg up, which causes him to dangle from the ceiling. The Producer says he wants to use Ringo in his next picture, but Ringo doesn't like that idea!

Next, it's singalong time, with the first song being "No Reply." Paul introduces this one, and when he calls Ringo the prop man, Paul says they're doing a tender, romantic love song, and Ringo appears in a Cupid outfit (I think we've seen this before). Ringo shoots an arrow that flies around the stage and cuts the rope Ringo's hanging from, breaking it. Paul asks Ringo if he's Cupid or Stupid, and Ringo says he's Cupid with a "K."

beatles13-05The singalong is accompanied by pictures of two turtles, one smoking a cigar, the other hiding in its shell. The first turtle drops its cigar and walks off, while the other takes the cigar and smokes it in the shell. This causes the first turtle to come back to see the second turtle sick. Most of the second verse is cut out. Interestingly, when they get to the middle eight, the word "realize" is spelled in the English fashion, as "realise"! We continue with the turtles on the second verse repeat (complete this time), as one turtle calls the other, but the other doesn't answer. Kind of silly, if you ask me.

Paul comes out for the second introduction, and criticizes Susan and Adam for not singing. Ringo's called again and told the next song is a torch song, and Ringo comes back as the Statue of Liberty on roller skates (I know we've seen this before).

beatles13-06The second song begins, "I'm Happy Just to Dance With You," and actually starts out with actual animation, as Paul is dancing with a bear at a circus, but when the lyrics start, we're back to stills (I'll bet that this animation pops up again when there's a story using the same song). Paul doesn't seem too thrilled by this. We also get other shots of clowns and the like, as well as the Beatles playing bumper cars and posing behind cut-outs of different people. By the end of the song, Paul seems to be enjoying his dance more. There's no error in lyrics at all.

The final segment features "I Wanna Be Your Man," which you may recall my writing about before. The story behind this song is that the Rolling Stones, when they were just starting out, asked John and Paul if they had a song they could use, and 15 minutes later, they presented this to them. The Stones' version was a bit different, musically, than the Beatles' version, which featured Ringo singing the lead.

beatles13-07This story opens in Rome, where the Beatles are eating pizza at an outdoor cafe. John and Ringo discuss ideas for souvenirs to bring back. George is reading the "Daily Pasta," which has a story about a million dollars in gold coins being stolen (good thing George found an English language edition).

beatles13-08We see the thieves have taken the stolen gold and melted it down, forming it into a statue of the goddess Musica. One of them is painting the statue white so it resembles a sculpture. They figure they can sneak the statue out. They start rolling it out, but when they spot a policeman, they take a turn into a statuary, where of course the Beatles are marveling at the statues, and planning to buy one. They spot the statue of Musica, and immediately want it. The owner of the statuary doesn't know where it came from, but sells the statue to them anyway. As Ringo is wheeling it out, he sees a giant bust of an old emperor that strongly looks like him.

beatles13-09As the Beatles leave, the thieves are spying on them, and start after them on a scooter, swiping the statue as they pass. The Beatles start chasing the thieves on foot, and when the scooter rides over some rubble, the statue comes loose, rolling down the street back at the Fab Four... or rather, bouncing on the wheel it's being hauled on. It bounces over them and into the city, and the Beatles give chase, and the song begins.

So, as the song goes, we see the statue bouncing, followed by the Beatles, the thieves, and a policeman. (he joined the chase after the thieves zipped past him). Everyone they pass ends up being affected in some way, such as a man eating spaghetti who ends up with it on his head, or the pizza chef tossing dough that ends up on his head. The policeman also tends to be run over quite a bit, too.

beatles13-10The chase finally ends when the statue lands in a fountain, which washes off the paint, much to the thieves' chagrin, and they're hauled off. They return to the statuary, where they show the reward they got for their part in capturing the thieves -- a miniature music box, featuring miniature figures of the Beatles in ancient Roman gear, and when they turn it on, it plays the song again in superspeed.

So, another fun episode! I think my favorite part was the second story, myself.

Comics They Never Made!

This time around, it's four mocked up covers for nonexistent comics based on the TV show CHiPs!


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Government Comics!

An examination of naval history in graphic form this time around!

Comic Book Ads: Miscellaneous Fawcett Ads!

This time around, rather than a group of themed ads, I'm featuring some miscellaneous ads that were too interesting not to save and share!

These first three ads feature different sets of opaque projectors that were offered for sale. I'll have some actual photos of the Comicscope coming up in future Cool Stuff installments.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Essays on Comics Characters: The Original Captain Marvel!

dcsh_studio1_classicamericancovs_07It was the ultimate wish fantasy for young comic book readers: A young boy, orphaned, with nobody in his life, gains the ability from an ancient wizard to speak a magic word and be transformed into an adult with super-powers. The idea was immediately accessible and appealing; it was the easiest way in the comics at the time to become a superhero! As has been pointed out by others before me, you couldn't be Superman unless you were born on another planet and rocketed to Earth as a baby; in order to be Batman you had to train for years and years and be a millionaire; to be the Human Torch you had to be built as an android.

I first encountered Captain Marvel through the all-too-short reprint of his origin in The Great Comic Book Heroes, as well as the chapters on Captain Marvel and the Fawcett heroes in All in Color for a Dime, both of which I purchased at the same time on with birthday money many, many years ago, and were both read that same day for the first of many, many times. Those original copies were lost long ago, but have since been replaced. These books made me look forward to DC's revival of Captain Marvel in Shazam! as well as the subsequent Saturday morning live-action show made by Filmation.

Comic Reading Library: Mister Mystery #10!

I figured there'd been enough of a break from horror comics, so I'll be putting them back in the rotation!

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Indexible Hulk #58

Tales to Astonish 101Issue: Tales to Astonish #101

Title: Where Walk the Immortals!

Credits: Written by Stan Lee, penciled by Marie Severin, inked by Frank Giacoia, lettered by Sam Rosen.

Supporting Cast: None

Villain: Loki

Guest-Stars: Heimdall, Odin, the Warriors Three (Fandral, Hogun and Volstagg)

Plot: As Bruce Banner starts to regain consciousness on the beach where he washed ashore in the aftermath of the Hulk's battle with Sub-Mariner, he's suddenly transformed back to the Hulk by Loki, who spotted Banner while using a mystic orb to find Thor. A second spell transports the Hulk to Asgard, where he appears on the fabled Rainbow Bridge, between Heimdall's post and Asgard itself. Heimdall spots the Hulk and tries to stop him from getting to Asgard, but a two-fisted slam on the bridge by the Hulk (who's very confused by what's happening here) sends Heimdall reeling long enough for the Hulk to leap into Asgard.

Loki's plan is that Odin will be distracted by the Hulk's presence in Asgard enough to forget about Thor's current situation, giving Loki the opportunity to kill the Thunder God. Inside Asgard, the Hulk first encounters the grim Hogun, followed shortly by the others of the Warriors Three. The Three attack the Hulk, but quickly it becomes apparent to Fandral that the Hulk has no evil in him, and must be bewitched. As other Asgardians join the fray, Fandral tries to tell them to stop attacking, but they can't hear him, so he throws his sword into the ground between the Hulk and the Asgardians. Loki shows up and tries to get the fight renewed without success.

The Warriors Three decide to take the Hulk to Oldar, the Oracle to seek guidance, but they first must cross a bottomless chasm. The Hulk starts to leap across, but halfway over, Loki turns the Hulk back into Banner, sending him plummeting down the chasm.

Invention Exchange: None

Reprinted In: Marvel Super-Heroes #55, Essential Hulk #2, Warriors Three: Dog Day Afternoon (not numbered, 2011)

Notes: Apparently Loki forgot that the last time he tried to use the Hulk, it didn't work out so well, as that led to the formation of the Avengers! This was the last issue of Tales to Astonish, as the book was retitled The Incredible Hulk with the next issue. At the same time, Tales of Suspense, which had been co-starring Captain America and Iron Man, also ended, the numbering continuing with Captain America's new solo comic. Sub-Mariner and Iron Man would share a one-shot title before each got their own solo books. Elsewhere in the Marvel Universe, in Avengers #51, the Collector was attacking the Assemblers; he notes that the Hulk, whom he wanted to collect, is in Asgard.

Fandom Library: The Amazing World of DC Comics #17!

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