Wednesday, March 31, 2010

1980's Flashback: Six From Sirius

Six From Sirius was a mini-series created by Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy and published by Marvel's Epic Comics imprint in 1984. It was later followed by a 1985 sequel mini-series, Six from Sirius II. The plot featured the intergalactic adventures of six agents working for a governmental organization of the Planet Sirius-6. Set against the backdrop of outer space, the well-liked series was chock full of action, intrigue and suspense!

The team consisted of leader, Jakosa Lone, Grod, Starn, Zematin-Lar, Skreed and LaMasque, with major supporting characters Phaedra and Collator Jaquandor. The Sirius Six are tasked with locating five beings with crucial information (The Five Elders) who have to be found quickly or the galaxy will be plunged into total, final war! There was only one problem though, the five were dead!

I remember enjoying each of the two Six from Sirius minis, in particular the witty buddy-style banter between several of the characters seemed lifted from any number of big budget genre blockbusters. Gulacy's richly painted artwork on these books was so intricately detailed that some panels appeared almost to be photographic in execution.

Having regularly scaled back large portions of my personal collection for extra dough as I was raising a family, I haven't actually had copies of these issues for many years. My memory of them isn't quite what I would like it to be, but needless to say I have never completely forgotten these very fine books. I am a bit stumped to find so little written about them online, so if you are interested in reading them, you will just have to take my word for it that they are worth tracking down and if it helps, Dynamite has reissued a collected volume of at least the first mini-series.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sheena, Queen of the Jungle in "Blood Hunger" (Fiction House;1942)

Sheena, Queen of the Jungle was the first female comic-book character with her own title, and the character inspired a wealth of similar comic-book jungle queens. She possessed the ability to communicate with wild animals after having grown up with them since being orphaned in the jungle. She was fiercely proficient in fighting with knives, spears, and bows, and improvised with other makeshift weapons. She was deeply in love with Calum McConnell.

Following her publishing debut in Joshua B. Power's British magazine Wags #1, in 1937, Sheena first appeared stateside in Fiction House's Jumbo Comics #1, and in every subsequent issue (Sept. 1938 - April 1953), as well as in her groundbreaking, 18-issue spin-off series, Sheena, Queen of the Jungle (Spring 1942 - Winter 1952). Sheena was created by Will Eisner and S.M. "Jerry" Iger.

This is the first story of several from Sheena, Queen of the Jungle #1 (Spring;1942). The interior artwork is credited to Robert Webb and the cover art is credited to Dan Zolnerowich. The Catacombs is grateful to Don "Zu-Gogo" Falkos for providing the scans for this story. Note: The copyright for this issue, its contents and artwork belong to the original publisher and/or the creators and is reproduced here solely for entertainment purposes.


Monday, March 29, 2010

Retro-View: Heavy Metal #v8#03 (June 1984)

In the mid-1970s, publisher Leonard Mogel was in Paris to jump-start the French edition of National Lampoon, while there he discovered the French science-fantasy magazine Métal Hurlant which had debuted in December 1974. The original French title literally translates as "Howling Metal."

Mogel licensed an American version, renamed Heavy Metal, and began publishing it in the U.S. on April, 1977 as a glossy, full-color monthly magazine. Initially it ran translations of graphic stories originally published in Métal Hurlant, including work by Enki Bilal, Jean "Moebius" Giraud, Philippe Druillet, Milo Manara and Philippe Caza. Since the color pages had already been shot in France, the budget to reproduce them in the U.S. version was greatly reduced. Heavy Metal became known for its blend of dark fantasy/science fiction and erotica.

This issue from June 1984 features "Rock Opera II: The Rise and Fall of Rocky Starzborne" painted by Rod Kierkegaard, Jr.; Drew Friedman's single page "The Lord of Eltingville in What I Like"; a beautifully illustrated eight-pager from Pierre Christin & Enki Bilal called "The Hunting Party"; a Howard Cruse single page tale entitled "June 2050"; Philipe Druillet's surreal "Salammbo II: Carthage", Alexandro Jodorowsky & Jean "Moebius" Giraud's Incal chapter "The Door of the Transfiguration: The Further Adventures of John Difool" and "A Matter of Time" painted by Juan Gimenez; "The Railways" by writer Claude Renard and artist Francois Schuiten [all three stories reprinted from Metal Hurlant]; plus a chapter of John Findley's long running Tex Arcana, "Meets the Toast of Europe" and the existential "Butterfly" by painter Herikberto closes out the issue. There are a number of other short subjects, including a Jeff Jones piece called "I'm Age", plus various articles and interviews. All beneath an excellent cover by Esteban Maroto.

My two personal favorites from this issue, even with the great stuff I've already mentioned, were Charles Burns outstanding detective short "Living in the Ice-Age" starring El Borbah and Part I of Frank Thorne's sexy serial starring sci-fi babe Lann, which sadly never finished its run in Heavy Metal (it vanished incomplete after part 5 appeared in the November issue). I scored this copy from my brother, David. With the exception of a cluster of 1981 issues (which he is actively seeking out), he has an unbroken run of Heavy Metal through 1986. Apparently this rather solid copy doesn't live up to his usual high grade standards, so he passed it along to me and I'm really not one to complain about such trivialities.

Neither of us purchase publisher Kevin Eastman's current version of Heavy Metal. It is barely a shade of the 1970's version and really ought to go the way of the dodo, but you can always track down back issues like this and bask in the familiar and unfamiliar, comfortable and uncomfortable fringe of the comics industry.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

In Memorium: Dick Giordano

The reaper has been particularly busy this month with the loss of notable television actors Peter Graves, Fess Parker and Robert Culp already. Now comes the sad news that the month of March has claimed veteran comics artist & editor Dick Giordano who passed away this morning at the age of 77.

Giordano began his career as a freelance artist and worked his way up to editor-in-chief during the 1950's & 1960's at Charlton Comics, where he also revamped the company's superheroes in their "Action Hero" line. He later moved to DC Comics as an editor in 1967. As an artist, Giordano is best-known as an inker, where his realistic brushwork and eye for detail helped define the Bronze Age style. His inking is particularly associated with the pencils of Neal Adams, for their influential run in the late 1960s and early 1970s on the titles Batman and Green Lantern/Green Arrow. Giordano also inked the large-format, landmark DC/Marvel Comics intercompany crossover Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man (1976), over the pencils of Spider-man artist Ross Andru. Giordano also inked Adams on the one-shot Superman vs. Muhammad Ali in 1978. Throughout the late Seventies and Eighties, Andru and Giordano were DC's cover artists of choice, providing cover artwork for almost every title in the DC line at that time.

Giordano was a frequent guest of the Heroes Convention in Charlotte, NC and I am very glad to have had the opportunity to see him on several occasions and that I finally took the plunge to acquire a nice Batman sketch from him last year. The Catacombs expresses its sincerest condolences to his family, friends and many fans.

Friday, March 26, 2010

"Gal" Friday! "Combat Barbie"

Lance Corporal Katrina Hodge of the British Royal Anglian Regiment was challenged by her older brother to join the Army, so Hodge signed up at the tender age of 17. After her basic training she reported for duty wearing kitten heels, false eyelashes and carrying her clothes in a pink suitcase, earning her the nickname "Combat Barbie".

She later competed in the 2009 Miss England pageant and was named first runner-up to the winner, Rachel Christie, who was the first black woman to ever win the Miss England crown.

"Combat Barbie" is known for possessing tough fighting skills as a soldier. She was posted to Iraq for seven months and while there she received notable commendation for disarming and detaining a suspected rebel fighter with her bare hands.

Following Rachel Christie's recent resignation as Miss England, following a public bar brawl debacle, Cpl. Hodge was named as her replacement. Released from active duty in order to fulfil her obligations as Miss England, Hodge has quickly garnered the interests of fans worldwide. As a Air Force veteran myself, let me express my deepest appreciation for our lovely British ally.

Now if the good Corporal would back away from her efforts to eliminate the swimsuit aspect of the competition the Catacombs would be happy to issue its own salute. Aw, who am I kidding?

I've been giving her an earnest one-gun salute for several days now.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Worldbeater in "Trapped in Topsy-Turvy Land"(Prize;1945)

This post fills a recent request for more adventures of the odd trio of characters Worldbeater, Unggh and Jo-Blo from Prize Comics golden age series, Headline Comics #14 (Jul-Aug. 1945).

This tale follows our wacky trio who have landed in a world called Topsy-Turvy Land where everything is somewhat askew. In the previous issue, Worldbeater inadvertently jailed the planets real policemen and foolishly elevated their criminal counterparts into an exalted status. In fact for his efforts on their behalf, Worldbeater has been elected head of the worlds crime syndicate.

The artwork is by August Froehlich and I've also included the issues unrelated cover by artist Henry Kiefer.

The Catacombs is grateful to Don "Zu-Gogo" Falkos for providing the scans for this story. Note: The copyright for this issue, its contents and artwork belong to the original publisher and/or the creators and is reproduced here solely for entertainment purposes.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

In Memorium: Robert Culp

Mere days after loading my "From the Dust Bin: Spectre (TV)" feature, I have to say that it is very weird to have to add this item.

Actor Robert Culp died today at the age of 79 in Los Angeles as a result of a fall. Culp was the popular star of several television series, including the Spectre pilot for Gene Roddenberry. Along with Bill Cosby, Culp starred as Kelly Robinson on the espionage series, I Spy (1965-1968) and in 1981 he starred in The Greatest American Hero, as tough-as-nails FBI Agent Bill Maxwell.

His genre credits comprised only a portion of his hundreds of performances, but Culp appeared on The Outer Limits, Target: The Corruptors, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Name of the Game and he almost won the lead role on Space: 1999.

The Catacombs expresses its sincerest condolences to his family, friends and fans. Strange indeed, in the wake of two other iconic television stars passing (Peter Graves & Fess Parker). They always go in threes!

Things That I Hate About the X-Men (Part I)!

I admit to being bored today, and the solicitation for the David Finch variant cover for an upcoming issue of New Mutants over at Newsarama prompted me to think about all of the things that have "alienated" me from an old favorite for the past twenty years. Man, I miss the All-New, All-Different X-Men!

Apocalypse (En Sabah Nur) was born nearly five thousand years ago on the outskirts of Egypt and he has spent millennia roaming the planet, encouraging civilizations to worship him as a god, and testing their strength by manipulating them into fighting wars of conquest.

Exodus (Bennet du Paris) was a Frenchman who fought in the Crusades, then set out to explore a legend of the lost pharaoh in Egypt known as Apocalypse, who helped unleash Bennet's own mutant powers. Apocalypse christened him "Exodus" and made him his servant.

Onslaught was created when Prof. Charles Xavier, after an intense battle with his archenemy, Magneto, reached into his enemy's mind to "shut it off," however a portion of Magneto's mind similarly entered Professor X's. This essence remained dormant and later combined with the Professor's repressed "dark side" to create a separate personality that called itself "Onslaught."

Vulcan (Gabriel Summers) was the unborn child of Christopher and Katherine Summers (parents of Cyclops and Havok). Katherine Summers was pregnant when the Summers were abducted by Emperor D'Ken of the Shi'ar. Young Gabriel was artificially aged into adolescence inside a Shi'ar incubator after being removed from his mother's dead body to be used as a slave. Sent to Earth to serve Davan Shakari, the Emperor's hand on Earth, Gabriel escaped and was found by Moira MacTaggart with no memory of who he was or where he came from. She took him as her ward, and instructed him in the use of his nascent powers. He chose the code name of Vulcan from a book on Roman mythology.

X-Cutioner (Carl Denti) was an agent working for the FBI who discovered case files loaded with information on many mutants of the United States as well as a stockpile of pilfered weapons and technology. Believing it necessary to take extreme measures against mutant perpetrators, Denti fashioned the X-cutioner identity using the collected technologies and information for hunting down and killing mutant criminals.

Deadpool (Wade Wilson) possesses a superhuman healing factor derived from that of the mutant Wolverine, that allows him to regenerate damaged or destroyed areas of his cellular structure at a rate far greater than that of an ordinary human. He can regrow severed limbs or vital organs but the speed at which this healing factor works varies in direct proportion to the severity of the damage Deadpool suffers. This healing factor also affords Deadpool a virtual immunity to poisons and most drugs, as well as an enhanced resistance to diseases and an extended life span.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Rulah Jungle Goddess in "The Devil's Daughter" (Fox; 1949)

In 1949, Fox Comics repackaged several of their earlier books into a one-shot volume called All Great Jungle Adventures [nn#]. The book contained previously published stories from Jo-Jo, Phantom Lady and our own personal favorite, Rulah Jungle Goddess.

"The Devil's Daughter" had originally appeared in Rulah Jungle Goddess #17 (Aug. 1948), illustrated by Matt Baker. The Grand Comics Database lists this story from All Great as "Man-Eater", but that's not the correct title.

The Catacombs is grateful to Don "Zu-Gogo" Falkos for providing the scans for this story. Note: The copyright for this issue, its contents and artwork belong to the original publisher and/or the creators and is reproduced here solely for entertainment purposes.


I've had a request for another World-Beater story, so I've got that golden age classic in the queue for this Thursday.

Monday, March 22, 2010

"The First Avenger:Captain America" Has Been Cast!

Ain't It Cool News is reporting that actor Chris Evans has accepted the role of Steve Rogers, Living Legend of WWII aka Captain America.

If so, then I am comforted by the selection of Evans. He was really terrific in the thriller Cellular, the science-fiction actioner Sunshine and he was easily the best thing about Marvels recent Fantastic Four and it's sequel, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer as wiseacre hero Johnny Storm, The Human Torch (not too hard considering how crummy those two movies ended up being overall).

He has also stretched the genre envelope by appearing last year in Push, and upcoming comic book adaptations Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and The Losers.

For me, Evans handily stood out among the narrowing field of performers that were being considered for the part. Hopefully, everyone will have the same reaction now that Cap has finally been chosen and with shooting slated to start fairly soon for the film to be in theaters next summer.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

From the Dust Bin: Spectre (TV)

Last year I ran a series of posts on the late Gene Roddenberry's aborted 1970's science-fiction television pilots. If you will recall, post-Star Trek, Roddenberry produced and/or wrote Genesis II, Planet Earth, Strange New World and The Questor Tapes in an effort to launch another ongoing TV series. For one reason or another, all of these efforts failed to take off, but one final attempt by the "Great Bird of the Galaxy" was made to initiate a show and this time it was set within the world of the occult detective sub-genre. If you ever have an opportunity to see this terrific obscure film, it will be well worth your time.

Spectre may have been the best of Gene Roddenberry's busted television pilots. By abandoning his efforts to repeat the success of Star Trek, Spectre became the exception to his earlier cycle of cliche ridden variations on sci-fi themes. Interestingly, Spectre's lead characters William Sebastian and Dr. "Ham" Hamilton were originally meant to be played as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Despite this being changed before going to air, one of the strengths of Spectre is how effectively the action immediately picks up at the start and then continues unabated until the film's conclusion. The exceptional teleplay was written by Roddenberry and his former Trek partner, Samuel A. Peeples.

Renowned criminologist and occult investigator William Sebastian (Robert Culp) has been cursed on one of his adventures, leaving him in constant need of medical attention. Sebastian recruits his old friend Dr. Hamilton (Gig Young) to aid him in his current case, investigating strange happenings in England involving a mysterious Satanic cult and the demon Asmodeus. Anitra Cyon (Ann Bell), the sister of prominent British businessman Sir Geoffrey Cyon (James Villiers), has summoned the famous pair in order to determine if her older brother is dabbling in the black arts. In turn, Sir Geoffrey claims that she is mentally unfit. As Sebastian and Dr. Hamilton travel to the Cyon estate to investigate the matter, they are repeatedly attacked by dark forces. Complicating the issue is Sebastian's debilitating heart condition that was induced by his own early experimentation's with the black arts. The cast is rounded out by recognizable character actors John Hurt as Mitri Cyon, Majel Barrett as Lilith (Sebastian's housekeeper & a practicing witch who cures "Ham" of his alcoholism through a spell of aversion therapy) and Gordon Jackson as Inspector Cabell.

The story is a really entertaining supernatural thriller in the classic Hammer Films mode from director Clive Donner. Of note is that after its rejection by American television, an extended version of Spectre was released in the United Kingdom as a theatrical film with additional footage that included nudity during its black mass finale. This additional footage built upon scenes shot within the Cyon Estate where numerous buxom women were utilized as maids or sexual appendages of Sir Geoffrey's hedonistic lifestyle.

The cinematography was also above par for a standard 1970's telefilm and it's too bad that this never went to series. There was much to like about Spectre, and it should have been better received. This was also the last significant role for Gig Young before his tragic death the following year.

I highly recommend this film to anyone who is willing to track it down and gladly thank Catacombs visitor Jeff McFadden for sending me a copy to watch and review.

Friday, March 19, 2010

"Gal"Friday! Emmanuelle Vaugier

In the halcyon days before I consolidated my cheesecake posts primarily into my weekly "Gal" Friday featurette, I had done a brief post on this smoking hot, incredibly sensual, beauteous actress and am now taking the time to "officially" induct her into the Catacombs.

Emmanuelle Vaugier has appeared in a number of television roles and minor feature films since 1992 when she debuted in a guest role on Highlander: The Series. Her extensive resume of genre fare includes roles on Charmed, Smallville (recurring), Andromeda, Masters of Horror, Supernatural and currently Human Target (recurring). Films that she has appeared in include Mind Storm, Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell, Painkiller Jane (pilot only), Cerberus, Saw II, House of the Dead 2, Unearthed and Saw IV.

She had a long running recurring role on CSI: NY as Detective Jessica Angell until the season five finale episode, during which her character was fatally shot during a kidnapping at a diner.

Ms. Vaugier is one of those women that will make your eyes melt just by looking at her, and kudos to the producers & casting agents who scored her spot on Human Target (a series that seems determined to feature the hottest ladies in the business every week). They worried me this week when it looked like her character had bought the farm, but fortunately it was only a tease and she will be back soon. Thank god! There's not one inch of her that I wouldn't eat breakfast off of, or lunch, or dinner. Mid-day snack?
Oh yeah.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

In Memorium: Fess Parker

Actor Fess Parker, a baby boomer idol in the 1950's & 1960's for his portrayals of legendary frontiersmen Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, died today from natural causes at the age of 85.

Parker had retired in 1970 after Daniel Boone went off the air and later become a major California winemaker and real estate developer. His motion picture debut was in Springfield Rifle in 1952. His other films include No Room for the Groom, The Kid From Left Field, Them!, The Great Locomotive Chase, Westward Ho, the Wagons!, Old Yeller and The Light in the Forest.

The 6-foot, 6-inch Parker was quickly embraced by youngsters as the man in the coonskin cap following the debut of "Davy Crockett" in 1954 on the popular Disneyland television series. Boomers gripped by the Crockett craze scooped up Davy lunch boxes, toy rifles ("Old Betsy"), buckskin shirts and his trademark fur caps. "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" which began "Born on a mountaintop in Tennessee..." became a No. 1 hit for singer Bill Hayes.

The Catacombs expresses it condolences to his family, friends and fans.

Tiger Girl in "Out of the Murky Past" (Fiction House;1945)

Princess Vishnu (aka "Tiger Girl") makes a long overdue return to the Catacombs today in a lushly illustrated story with vibrant colors from Fight Comics #39 (Aug. 1945), originally published by Fiction House and written by "Allan O'Hara" and drawn by the illustrious Matt Baker.

Thrill to killers crocs, vicious women-warriors, pit vipers, lethal death-traps and assorted other jungle perils; all stemming from Tiger Girl's timely rescue of a chick that isn't quite as innocent as she appears.

The Catacombs is grateful to Don "Zu-Gogo" Falkos for providing the scans for this story. Note: The copyright for this issue, its contents and artwork belong to the original publisher and/or the creators and is reproduced here solely for entertainment purposes.