Thursday, December 31, 2009

Rayboy's Year End Recap!

It is the final day of calendar year 2009, so let's take a brief look back at just a few of the momentous events, losses and highlights that we experienced here in the Catacombs.

One of the sad facts of life is that it eventually comes to an end. This year the world of comics lost legendary artists Frank Springer (age 79), Ric Estrada (age 81), George Tuska (age 93), Irving Tripp (age 88), Frank Borth (age 91) and Dave Simons (age 54). Hollywood celebrities that passed away include Patrick McGoohan (80), Ricardo Montalban (88), Lost in Space robot Bob May (69), David Carradine (72), Shek Kin (96), Farrah Fawcett (62), Marilyn Chambers (56), Edward Woodward (79), Gene Barry (90), Dan O’Bannon (63), Brittany Murphy (32), Dr. No Joseph Wiseman (91), Tarzan's Jane Brenda Joyce (92) and Swamp Thing actor Dick Durock (72).

Genre fans lost a few extras this year when the brilliantly re-imagined Syfy channel version of Battlestar: Galactica ended its four season run on television. The long-running print edition of Starlog magazine left newsstands and went online only this year. Here in the Catacombs, I completed my "1970’s Flashback’s" and rolled over that frequent feature into 1980's coverage and for the sake of argument, Disney bought Marvel Comics, which didn't really look like its old self anyway, and who knows what this corporate merger will bring forth down the road?

Moviegoers got some terrific genre fare this year, and in some ways it truly was a banner year for big-budget effects extravaganzas like Avatar, 2012, Paranormal Activity, Zombieland, 9, Knowing, Watchmen, Star Trek and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I know that some of these may not have been to everyone's taste, and that there are major omissions from this list. I enjoyed most of the films listed here, and comics movies that aren't here simply didn't pull me into the theater.

I am very grateful to those comic book creators who agreed to my profile/interview requests this year, even more of these profiles are coming at you in 2010, but let's thank the following fine folks who visited the Catacombs in 2009: Axel Medellin, Michael T. Gilbert, Danielle Corsetto, Guy Davis, Philip Dean Gray, Rachel Freire and James Ritchey.

I am very appreciative of Don "Zu-Gogo" Falkos for providing me with the fruits of his golden age jungle comics stories. These scans allow all of us the opportunity to read stuff that may otherwise never be seen, unless you have serious disposable income to purchase the originals off of eBay or some hoity-poloity auction house.

Thanks also to my regular followers and those anonymous readers who only stop by occasionally. I do appreciate your patronage and hope to continue to amuse you for some time to come.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Retro-View: Hi-School Romance #68

Harvey Comics released a wide variety of material during their long publishing career. Today's Retro-View focuses on Hi-School Romance #68, which was originally published in October 1957. This comic is chock full of extras such as ads for free photos of your favorite movie stars, flashing simulated diamond rings at fabulous savings, there are pages devoted to developing fuller calves, shapely thighs, hips and ankles, instructions on how to quickly & safely remove blackheads, the requisite text story and a snippet about strange romantic customs.

The first of the four featured interior stories, "Odd Girl Out" is illustrated by Al Avison & Warren Kremer (this tale was originally titled "3 on an Island" and the splash page was redrawn from the original story page). Avison artwork is used again on "My Sister's Husband", where the original art shows some Comics Code-mandated story and dialogue changes. John Sink provides art chores on "My Answer!", and artist Tom Hickey's "Not Good Enough - for me!" also has Comics Code-mandated story and dialogue changes.

Of course Warren Kremer went on to his greatest fame on Harvey's line of all-ages comics material including Casper the Friendly Ghost, Spooky the Tuff Little Ghost, Wendy the Good Little Witch and Richie Rich, among many others.

The artwork on this issue is really not bad at all and if you've never had any interest in this type of material, you are missing out on some great entertainment by giving these classic romance comics a pass. Books like this populated the stands for at least a couple of decades, and most of them featured artists who became widely acclaimed for adventure material. I'm talking about greats like Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, John Romita, Nick Cardy and many more.

In this issue, Al Avison's lead story somewhat threw me at the outset, when I initially thought that the splash page was drawn by Milt Caniff, but learning the truth didn't detract from my enjoyment of this story about Enid, the school's champion swimmer (who has always liked Brad), but he is going steady with Sally. During a school outing on a boat, a freak accident leaves the threesome stranded on an island. After Sally sprains her ankle, Enid takes charge, providing food and shelter for the trio until handsome Steve Bruckner arrives in his river patrol boat to rescue them. As they board the rescue boat, Brad professes his love for Sally, however Enid isn't left out in the cold, as she turns her eyes to the strong and heroic Steve (who appears to be equally excited to be with her).

You won't find any new stuff like this on the specialty comics store racks ever again, and that's too bad, but follow my example and occasionally troll the offerings on eBay. You might find an affordable issue now and again. I picked this one up for two bucks, and it sure beats the hell out of the fourteenth iteration of Wolverine or Superman's origin any day.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Dr. Voodoo in "The Treachery of Okoro" (Fawcett; 1940)

The golden age Dr. Voodoo returns in this adventure from Whiz Comics #10 (Nov. 1940), originally published by Fawcett Comics. Treachery is a theme that has been on my mind lately, so this is an editors choice selection to snap me out of a particular funk (and a terrific comics story always helps alleviate mental burdens here in the Catacombs).

Hal Carey (aka Dr. Voodoo) discovers that his girlfriend Maxinya's father is still alive after having been believed lost in the jungle many years before. Of course none of that impresses the village medicine man, Okoro, who tries his best to take advantage of the situation.

The story is written by John Hampton, who is also credited with providing the coloring, and fully illustrated by the great Mac Raboy. This issues original cover featuring the Big Red Cheese is tossed in as a bonus. 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 creators and is reproduced here solely for entertainment purposes.


Monday, December 28, 2009

Rayboy's Review: Batman Unseen

The Christmas holiday specializes in bringing unexpected pleasures into your life, and this year it also allowed me to catch up on some neat comics that were passed along to me by my brother.

Batman Unseen was a recently ended, twice-monthly, 5-issue miniseries written by Doug Moench and illustrated by Kelley Jones. In this excellent mini, a series of vicious murders have been occurring throughout Gotham City by an unknown perpetrator. Some of the crimes have even been committed in full-view of witnesses by a weird, skinless "meat-man" who seems to fade away after the crimes. It's left up to Batman to deduce the identity of this all-new foe, Dr. Glass, and stop his killing spree.

When Bruce Wayne himself becomes the latest target of the unseen Dr. Glass, Batman must use the invisibility serum on himself to battle the Invisible Man on his own terms. Will The Dark Knight succumb to the same madness as the Invisible Man?

Moench and Jones are considered to be a fan-favorite pairing, and this superb mini-series demonstrates exactly why. Well-written with topnotch dialogue by Moench and featuring eerily-atmospheric artwork by Jones, Batman Unseen left me wondering why DC constantly chooses to release stuff like this in a standalone format. If this tale had been run within the main Batman title, it surely would have been considered a memorable event. As it is, Batman Unseen must struggle for shelf space among the dozens of other plebeian Bat-books, and that is sadly unfortunate to me. This out of continuity mini-series is probably one of the best Batman books that you will read this year - if you managed to find it among the mountain of product obscuring it on the stands. The three-part battle between the Dark Knight and King Tut in Batman Confidential earlier in the year was also this good, and popular or not, Morrison's All-Star Batman truly pales in comparison to these two outstanding efforts starring the real Batman.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

1980's Flashback: Jon Sable, Freelance

Jon Sable Freelance was created, written and drawn by Mike Grell for fledgling publisher First Comics, beginning in 1983. Jonathan Sable was a bounty hunter and mercenary who had previously competed as an athlete in the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. After witnessing the terrorist outrages at those games, he married a fellow athlete and they relocated to Rhodesia, where Sable became an organizer of safaris for tourists, and later a game warden. It was during this time that his family was murdered by poachers. After avenging his slain family, Sable returned to the USA and became a free-lance mercenary.

Sable also maintained a double identity as a successful children's book author under the name of "B.B. Flemm." Unlike many such characters, his literary agent was aware of his other identity's activities, but was most persuasive in enforcing his writing contract obligations as well. The character was heavily influenced by Ian Fleming's James Bond novels as well as drawing on pulp fiction crime stories. Jon Sable Freelance lasted 56 issues from June 1983 to February 1988 before being cancelled. While Grell wrote and drew all of the covers, he stopped drawing the interior stories after #44. After the title's cancellation (and Firsts ceasing operations), the character made occasional cameo appearances in some of Grell's other titles over the years.

Friday, December 25, 2009

"Gal" Friday! Denise Milani

Merry Christmas! Before we get started it pays to remind everyone that even at the holidays you should take care not to holler "ho-ho-ho" at a really hot chick. (Okay, it's a bad joke!) Denise Milani is a mega-babe, no doubt about it. Thanks to frequent updates and revealing (but sadly, non-nude) photos, her website attracts regular visitors and her fan base is growing exponentially.

Originally born in the Czech Republic, Denise decided to abandon her career as a trained physical therapist and try modeling instead -- maybe her natural 32DDD chest had something to do with that momentous decision. After starting out with small bikini and car shows, she gained wider attention and subsequently became a model for the online sports site SPORTSbyBROOKS.

Since 2007, Denise has been the owner of her own popular website, posting videos and personally responding to e-mails from fan club members. Nicknamed "the new queen of eroticism,” Denise Milani's fabulous figure has made her one of the world's top new pinups despite online chatter that she is nothing more than a tease for not posting fully nude stuff. (I do feel your pain on that position, fellas.) The copyrights to all of these photos belong to Denise Milani and were selected from a web image search. There are tons online, but I highly recommend that you visit her official site.

I say why quibble, and since it's Christmas, don't you just envy the guy that eventually gets to unwrap that? She is smoking hot, awesome and currently available. That's three out of three and well worth a spot in the Catacombs as the final "Gal" Friday of 2009.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tom-Tom the Jungle Boy (Magazine Enterprises; 1947)

The twelve days of Christmas continues in the Catacombs with another Editors Choice feature, Tom-Tom the Jungle Boy along with his friends, Itchi and Tree-Trunk, return in this tale from Tick Tock Tales #24 (Dec. 1947), originally published by Magazine Enterprises.

I have no credited information on who the writer or artist was on this well-drawn strip. 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 creators and is reproduced here solely for entertainment purposes.

As a bonus, I've included a few Christmas covers in which Tom-Tom appeared, although none of his jungle stories featured any actual holiday elements. Following the brief four-pager (above) is the issues cover from December 1947, then in descending order, The Pixies #5 (Dec. 1948), The Adventures of Koko and Kola #6 (1946; a recycled cover from an earlier issues of Tick Tock Tales) and Tom-Tom #2 (a 1957 reissue); all by Magazine Enterprises. I am taking some time off for the rest of this week, but I will be back for my regular "Gal" Friday. Happy Holidays!


Monday, December 21, 2009

Juanda in "Jungle-Venture" (Fox Comics; 1948)

The twelve days of Christmas continues in the Catacombs with this Editors Choice golden age story selection from the Fox Comics series, Jo-Jo Congo King #21, which was first published in Nov. 1948. "Jungle Venture" is a fast paced four-pager starring Juanda. The artwork by A.C. Hollingsworth simply oozes sensuality. Just look at the curves on these chicks, boys. That is how they drew 'em back in the days of femininity. The bad guys in this one try to swipe a secret elixir that will allow them to become immortal, but they eventually fall flat. As a holiday bonus, I'm including this issues great cover by Jack Kamen!

Like Matt Baker (who is perhaps better known), Alvin Hollingsworth was an African-American comic book artist, active within the industry during the 1940s and 1950s. He was born in New York City and was also a classmate of Joe Kubert's at the High School of Music and Art. By the age of twenty, Alvin was working as an assistant at Holyoke Publishing Company, where helped out on Catman Comics. A year later he began doing illustrations for various crime comics. Hollingsworth drew for several companies until the mid-1950s, including Fox ('Bronze Man', 'Rulah Jungle Goddess'), Fiction House ('Suicide Smith'), Feature Comics (romance), Spotlight (war), Story Comics (crime) and Trojan (crime and romance). Beginning in the mid-1950s, he worked on newspaper comics like 'Kandy' (Smith-Mann Syndicate), 'Scorchy Smith' (Associated Press) and 'Martin Keel' (with George Shedd). Hollingsworth eventually left the comic strip field to pursue a career in the world of fine art and from 1980 until his retirement in 1998, Hollingsworth was a full Professor of Art at Hostos Community College of the City University of New York. He passed away in 2000.

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 creators and is reproduced here solely for entertainment purposes.


In Memorium: Brittany Murphy

Actor Brittany Murphy passed away due to cardiac arrest yesterday at the age of 32, and folks that's just way too damn young. She made a name for herself in popular films and on television from the tender age of fourteen, but some of her lifestyle choices also made her an easy mark for comedians. Considering her unfortunate death this weekend, it's really sad to read that just within the last few weeks, her supposed addiction to drugs was again parodied on Saturday Night Live.

Despite being raised in New Jersey and California, Brittany Murphy was a true Georgia peach having originally been born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1977. I wanted to say farewell to this lovely lass for her fine (but brief) performance in Sin City and her voice work on the animated series, King of the Hill, but since Christmas falls this week, I didn't want a downer-style post for this weeks "Gal" Friday; so many condolences go out to her family, friends and fans. She will be missed!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

At the Movies: Avatar

I watched director James Cameron’s Avatar in awesome 3D and really can not strongly enough stress how incredible it was seeing this film in that format. Even more astonishing was how quickly this science-fiction story flew by, despite clocking in at two hours and forty minutes long.

Cameron’s singular vision and dedication in getting this movie made over an extended period of years from when he first thought up the basics of the storyline is truly mind-blowing, and it’s too bad that a handful of snobby genre critics feel the need to minimize Avatar with comments that the story utilized here is nothing new under the sun (as if much of anything really is) or that there are clich├ęd elements present. Maybe so dumbasses, but the difference here is also remarkably obvious. There are terrific characterizations by a topnotch cast underneath the landmark performance capture techniques that have helped bring the fictional world of Pandora to life. At the films conclusion, I realized that I could have sat through it even if it had run twice as long. I just didn’t want to leave the world of Pandora behind.

What the actual dollar cost of making this film supposedly totals matters not to me. I’m just in awe that something like Avatar also made it into theaters in the very same year that brought us a phenomenally successful reboot of Star Trek. Blockbuster genre features have become an accepted staple of our times, with each one ramping up fans expectations, and these movies never fail to attract naysayers whose only desire is to flaunt their own limited opinions on the rest of us.

But enough of that, before I forget, let’s just agree with those folks who HAVE praised the outstanding cast which includes Sigourney Weaver, Sam Worthington, Michelle Rodriguez, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel David Moore, Zoe Saldana, Wes Studi, CCH Pounder and perhaps the real lynchpin of an already great group, Stephen Lang as the villainous Col. Miles Quaritch. Lang (pictured above; middle) is devastatingly effective in his role and the film is superior for having him onboard as the heavy.

I hope that Avatar finds a huge audience to recoup some of the cost of making this gem of a flick, and then justifiably takes its place as an instant classic. It really is that good, but try to catch it in 3D. You really will feel like you’ve visited an actual alien planet.

Friday, December 18, 2009

"Gal" Friday! Holly Weber

As promised, here is this weeks sultry "Gal" Friday selection. Holly Weber is a 25 year old actor and model who has appeared on the big screen in such films as Click, You Don't Mess with the Zohan, Frost/Nixon, Tropic Thunder, Fast & Furious, Crank: High Voltage and The Ugly Truth.
Holly's television appearances on such shows as CSI: New York, Las Vegas, Life, Shark, Nip/Tuck, Criminal Minds and the premiere episode of the cancelled sitcom, Cavemen, have earned her additional fans.

Ms. Weber funded her undergraduate education by go-go dancing at popular venues in Hollywood and Las Vegas. She has either graced the cover or pages of over 25 different calendars and was featured in magazines such as Glamour, Muscle and Fitness, and FHM.

It's almost sad to say that this luscious lass was displaced for an entire week by Penelope Cruz, but as you can see, she was well worth the wait.

Tom-Tom the Jungle Boy (Magazine Enterprises; 1947)

The twelve days of Christmas continue in the Catacombs as we switch over to some lighter comics fare for the final run to the holidays, and don't worry, my regular "Gal" Friday feature will be posted later today.

Tom-Tom the Jungle Boy ran in numerous issues of Tick Tock Tales, published by Magazine Enterprises during the golden age of comics. In today's featured story from Tick Tock Tales #15 (Mar. 1947), Tom-Tom and his friends, Itchi (a monkey) and Tree-Trunk (an elephant), look after a lost baby hippo who ends up saving them from a tiger. Tom-Tom also had his own self-titled series and appeared in a spin-off book from Tick Tock Tales called The Pixie's.

I have no credited information on who the writer or artist was on this well-drawn strip, so if anyone knows, please speak up. 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 creators and is reproduced here solely for entertainment purposes.


In Memorium: Dan O'Bannon

Dan O'Bannon passed away yesterday at the age of 63. O'Bannon began his influential motion picture career in 1974 when he and fellow movie veteran, John Carpenter, adapted their student film Dark Star into a cult-favorite, feature-length theatrical movie. As either a writer, special effects technician, editor, or director, Dan O'Bannon worked on the following genre-busting favorites: Star Wars, Alien, Dead & Buried, Heavy Metal (animated), Blue Thunder, Lifeforce, The Return of the Living Dead, the 1986 remake of Invaders from Mars, Total Recall, The Resurrected and Screamers.

O'Bannon was also the writer of the influential comic book story "The Long Tomorrow", which was originally published in Metal Hurlant (and later in Heavy Metal) magazine, with art by Jean "Moebius" Giraud. This work heavily influenced director Ridley Scott's science-fiction film Blade Runner, director John Carpenter's film, Escape From New York and cyberpunk author William Gibson's stories.

Condolences go out to O'Bannon's family, friends and fans.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen in "The Bride of Jungle Jimmy!" (DC Comics; 1966)

The twelve days of Christmas continues in the Catacombs with even more non-holiday specific gifts from yours truly. Today's classic story is taken from Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #98 (Dec. 1966). This fun tale was written by Leo Dorfman and drawn by the great Pete Costanza. This wacky story is a typical example of the kind of goofy stuff that the Superman universe characters were mired in for many years, and these days that certain level of charm is deeply missed by older fans who've grown tired of the darker, endlessly angst-driven, supposedly "mature" drivel that passes itself off as comic books.

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 DC Comics and/or the original creators and is reproduced here solely for entertainment purposes.