Wednesday, March 08, 2006

AND THE WINNER IS. . . . ME!!! The following is a transcript of my acceptance speech at the recent Oscar ceremony: "First of all, I would like to thank all my fans for showing the incredibly prescient good taste to support me all these years. And to the members of the Academy I'd like to say, Well Duh, like there were ANY other SERIOUS contenders!!! I was a no brainer, after all. Why the suspense? You shoulda MAILED me the damn statuette and been DONE with it. However, it was quite an honor to be presented this award by the inimitable and delectable Angela Arden. I've been a huge fan of yours, Angela, for five or six minutes! Thank you, Angela. I hear Kraft is naming a spread after you! Of course, Tom Cruise WOULD have presented me with this award but he couldn't be here tonight - he was deep inside a script reader. I think his name is Ken. I see Katie Holmes is here tonight, though. Hiya Katie! Isn't that cute. She's being escorted tonight by the turkey baster. Nice cumberbun, T.B. Well, far be it from me to leave a cutting word unslung but I see that cunt in the orchestra pit has started playing music so I'll make it brief. I'd like to thank my director whose sycophantic scraping and crawling towards me was much appreciated. I'd like to thank my leading lady for the clap. And, as always, I'm very grateful to my creative muse. It's about time it paid off! 'Night, also-rans!" As an extra added treat, here is a photo of me accepting my award in my Oscar gown: "Who are you wearing?" asked Joan Rivers. "Imhotep", says I. And at the press conference following the ceremony, I memorably paraphrased Sally Field when I uttered the line: "You're BENEATH me! You're REALLY BENEATH me!!!"

Saturday, March 04, 2006

THE SHOCKING DOCS -- Part 4 in a series of Comix Mania Ramblings!!! From E.C.'s Tales From the Crypt to Marvel's Tomb of Dracula to DC's Haunted Love (Hiya Crazy Cuz!), comic books have had a long flirtation with horror. However, comix which featured continuing characters in a horror genre were another matter. Of course, Alan Moore's Swamp Thing and Neil Gaiman's Sandman are both pinacles of the genre. DC'S Night Force was another gem. As a matter of fact, I even have a soft spot for Andrew (I...Vampire!) Bennett. But my 2 favouritest continuing horror characters in comix were both doctors and were fairly low on the radar. One had a comic of his own but it was from Gold Key/Whitman Publishing, of all places: the haven of kiddie comics. The other character was from Marvel's House of Ideas but was either a guest star in more established books or had scattered continuing series in anthology titles. Of course, the two horror gentlemen to which I refer are Dr. Adam Spektor and Dr. Michael Morbius. Both flourished during the "horror boom" of the early 70's. Spektor has his own series ("The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor") which ended before the decade was out. Morbius (The Living Vampire) debuted opposite Spider-Man and then has scattered continuing series in titles such as "Adventures Into Fear" and "Vampire Tales" before belatedly getting his own (largely forgettable) title in the 90's as part of Marvel's so-called "Midnight Sons" line of titles also featuring a revived Ghost Rider. Let's take a look at the living vampire. Dr. Michael Morbius was experimenting in his lab to help his fellow man. As all well-intentioned (but naive) scientists do, he used himself as a guinea pig and became a "living vampire" that needed to drink blood to survive, wasn't too fond of getting a tan and could fly due to his now-hollow bones. Morbius was a great tragic figure; all his attempts to regain his humanity were doomed to failure and even those who fought him found themselves feeling sorry for the poor bloodsucker. He also had a boss outfit! His run in "Adventures Into Fear" was great and his series appearing in the black and white large format "Vampire Tales" was absolutely amazing! Plus there was a terrific guest appearance in a Giant-Size Werewolf By Night tale utilizing the La Brea tar pits (Plap!) In the 90's, I was glad to see Marvel give Morbius his own title but it never recaptured the old magic. All in all, though, I love this character. Now onto Dr. Spektor. Not much is known about the good doctor's origins but he's got this terrific old mansion in the middle of nowhere and a boss frock coat and string tie. Dr. Spektor runs around investigating supernatural activity (shades of Scooby-Doo or The Night Stalker but without the humor). With his love interest Lakota Rainflower (who can be seen right down there in bed being menaced by Count Dracula. . .nice to know she's ready for action; sleeping in her Lakota headband), Adam Spektor fought everything from Frankenstein's Monster, Lovecraftian Old Gods and Nessie-like sea serpents to the vampiric Baron Tibor (who was sometimes his enemy and sometimes his ally). That's Tibor in the background up there in the "Brain of Xorkon" cover! The Occult Files of Dr. Spektor was frankly the best thing Gold Key ever published. Which isn't going out on too much of a limb. The series was created and written by horror vet Donald F. Glut and superbly illustrated (in every single issue) by Jesse Santos. If only they would gather THIS series into a bound hardcover edition, I'd give my left bat!!! In my youth, I greedily sought after every issue of "Spektor" and every scattered appearance of Morbius. If you've never read them, seek them out. It'll be worth it! Trust me! They're personal fiends of mine.

Friday, March 03, 2006

DICK DILLIN: MAESTRO OF THE JUSTICE LEAGUE -- In Part 3 of these "March is Apparently Comic Book Month" ramblings (I promise this nostalgia phase will wear off), I wanted to praise someone who has largely been ignored in the comic book field since his untimely death exactly 26 years and two days ago (March 1, 1980). This man, Dick Dillin, WAS the JLA for me. He was the only JLA artist I knew for most of my formative years. Whenever I think of the Justice League of America, it's always as drawn by Dick Dillin. Dillin pencilled the Justice League of America monthly for an unprecedented 12 year run (115 consecutive issues). It was only his untimely death (in the middle of 1980's annual JLA/JSA team-up) that allowed George Perez to take over the book. Dillin's art was not flashy but was perfect for the JLA; his storytelling was exceptional and his style captured both the straight-forward charm of silver-age artists as well as the new slick style pioneered by Neal Adams and his followers (seen here with a Neal Adams cover on JLA # 122 which appeared over Dillin's artwork inside the book). No offense to Mr. Adams but I'd take Mr. Dillin hands down. Adams (who actually did do occasional pencils for the JLA in the late 60's) didn't really capture the spirit of the Justice League the way Dick Dillin did. Some of my favourite JLA stories appeared during Dillin's tenure (how could they not -- since Dillin's tenure went from the 60's to the 80's) and the covers seen here represent some of my most beloved reads. To the best of my recollection, "The Parallel Perils of Adam Strange" issue picture below (it's the one with the sea-green cover below -- 3rd from the left) was the very first "current" issue of the JLA that I bought hot off the rack (actually off the spinner rack at Thor's Drug Store on Westfield Avenue in Pennsauken. . .I wonder if THAT'S still there???). It is a low-down dirty shame that the name of Dick Dillin is practically forgotten by comics fans; he defined the JLA's look in the 70's and, when George Perez left the JLA to create the New Teen Titans with Marv Wolfman, the lackluster artwork that followed shined a glaring light on Dillin's absence. (Don Heck, anyone???) Dick Dillin was one of the most important creators ever to work on the "World's Greatest Super-Heroes" and I think it's about time he was rightly celebrated for it.
LITTLE LULU'S HALLOWEEN FUN -- This probably goes along with my previous Hembeck post because I'm still remembering back when I was a little kiddiewinkies and all those comic books I used to be into. But this time I'm focusing on my Pa. You see, as a kid in the early 70's I got my comic books where all the other kids did: at the local convenience store. Then my grandfather started taking me to the venerable old Pennsauken Mart (which just recently closed after 700 years) where a used book store also provided me with those comic books that had their covers ripped off. (Gee, I don't think that was quite kosher but hey I was a little kid what did I know). Behind the counter, though, were ACTUAL comic book back issues that still had covers (I remember one of the first bagged back issues I ever bought was a Marvel Collectors Item Classics reprinting the Fantastic Four's battle against the Molecule Man). But I digress. For it was my good ole Pa that first took me to an actual comic book store (Eldorado Comics on Westfield Avenue in Pennsauken) as well as my first real comic convention in Philadelphia (it must have been around 1977). But you see, he had a sinister ulterior motive. It turns out he was also searching for long lost comics from his youth; specifically all those Little Lulu's he loved. And most of all, those Little Lulu giant Halloween specials which came out once a year. Pa had always been a big fan of Little Lulu (as well as all those Carl Barks' Donald Ducks) and together we hunted comic book stores and conventions until he eventually found all those Halloween Little Lulus he remembered. Fred Hembeck also has immense praise to heap on those old Little Lulu Halloween extravaganzas (scroll down to the October 26th entry) and, thanks to his website, I can provide a link to his favourite story from the 1959 Little Lulu Halloween Giant (click here). I know its nowhere near Halloween but it's always a good reason to enjoy classic Little Lulu!!! And remember to click on each page because the WHOLE story is there for your pleasure. So this goes out to my Pa: for his enthusiasm in enabling my early comic book mania as well as for his love of classic Little Lulu. Those magical days of childhood were that much more magical with super-heroes, crypt-keepers and, yes. . .Halloween with Little Lulu!
TALES OF THE BIZARRO HEMBECK!!! OK, I'm feelin' kinda comicbooky lately. Not what passes for comic books these days. I'm talking the OLD comix I bought as back issues when I was a kid. Well, I don't know what put him into my mind but I suddenly remembered Fred Hembeck. Now, Hembeck was a fan boy from before I was born (who began reading around 1961 I think). However, ole Fred made good by developing a cartoony drawing style and a humorous way of looking at the comic books he loved so well. I first encountered his work probably in the late 70's when all DC Comics featured one page of upcoming DC comics news (fittingly called the Daily Planet) in each one of their issues. Usually at the bottom of the page I'd find a little Hembeck strip (like this Aquaman one). They were cute and I appreciated poking fun at my favourite characters. However, the stuff that REALLY got me was Hembeck's comic-style pages from the Comic Buyers' Guide which reviewed comics or mostly reminisced about the long history of the medium (and why Fred loved comix so much). Around 1980, these pages were reprinted in larger format magazines (with titles like "Bah, Hembeck", "Dial H For Hembeck" and "Jimmy Olsen's Pal, Fred Hembeck"). Sometimes Fred would draw in actual comic book panel form (click here for an example) and sometimes he would "redo" classic comic book covers from the past (click here for an example). Other times he'd actually conduct interviews with the characters themselves (click away!). Needless to say, Fred Hembeck's nostalgic and funny reminiscences really appealed to an old comics fan like me. They were done with a great sense of love for the medium as well as a firm grasp on the minutest of comic book continuity. I hadn't seen anything by Fred Hembeck since around 1990 so I looked around this ole internet and lo and behold found his website. (Another webside called The Hembeck Files collects some of his strips.) I sure would love to see all his stuff collected into a book. Oh well, at least I can reread those old Hembeck collections.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

FLOOR SCRUBBING OLD HAGS UNITE!!!!! Darling, are you fabulous??? But the world around you (and those PEEEEEEEEEople!) just don't measure up to your standards??? Well, don't spill your martini, doll. Have we got the place for you. Announcing the launch of the new "Queen Bee" support group. Joan Crawford wannabes welcome! We meet Wednesdays and Saturdays and. . . . . . .hell, we meet whenever the hell the mood strikes us!!! A rope of pearls in NOT optional, everyone. It's a MUST!!! Cocktails served only two times a day: AM or PM. Meals are served, however, simply in order to provide our FABULOUS divas (like YOU, dear) the opportunity to push their plates away in disgust or simply to place ground glass in someone's champagne. Get RID of the DEADWOOD!!! We provide corpse disposal services for any riff raff you just HAVE to dispense with. But darling, make sure what you're wearing doesn't clash with any spattered hemoglobin. We DO have certain standards to uphold, you know. So tool your Rolls on over and get in on the ground floor (so you can sneer at all those who join AFTER you). You'll love yourself (even more) when you do!
  • GAZE AT THE TOP TEN LIST AND DESPAIR!!! Here are the top 10 most played songs of February 2006 in the Dark Forest!

  • 1) Come On In My Kitchen (Take 1) - Robert Johnson
  • 2) Crazy Mary (Live) - Victoria Williams
  • 3) The Harder They Come - Jimmy Cliff
  • 4) It's All In the Game - Barry Manilow
  • 5) Metaphor - Sparks
  • 6) Polish Those Shoes - Victoria Williams
  • 7) Sick 2 Def (Acoustic) - Plan B
  • 8) Sincerely/Teach Me Tonight - Barry Manilow & Phyllis McGuire
  • 9) Supreme - Robbie Williams
  • 10) Tymps (The Sick in the Head Song) - Fiona Apple