Friday, November 30, 2012

The Lone Wolf Of The Void!

My favorite Golden Age space hero - one almost as bugnuts bizarre as Dick Briefer's Rex Dexter of Mars - was Basil Wolverton's Spacehawk, who appeared regularly in Target Comics from Novelty Press back in the early 1940s. He only appeared on one cover, but his adventures were outright brainbatshit crazy.

Wolverton's art style was delightfully grotesque and meticulous. His work was wildly imaginative and his aliens & monsters were just indescribable. His hero was completely unique, a sci-fi adventurer who didn't follow in the goody two-shoes traditions of Buck Rogers & Flash Gordon. No, Spacehawk was astonishingly brutal - and mysterious (he had no name other than "Spacehawk," and didn't even show his face until the third story!) - an 800 year-old, technologically-advanced, psionic humanoid from another solar system who patrolled the interplanetary spaceways acting autonomously as judge, jury and executioner whenever he detected the "evil thoughts"of cosmic criminals.

After nine adventures in space, the editors at Novelty Press insisted that Wolverton bring his hero to Earth to battle America's wartime enemies. So Spacehawk orbited the Earth in his spaceship, monitoring the planet for evil Axis schemes to violently thwart. These WWII adventures aren't quite as much fun as his planet-hopping capers, but they're still good, and did introduce a continuing archenemy for our hero, the evil scientific genius, Dr. Gore!

Back in the 90s, Dark Horse reprinted some of Wolverton's Spacehawk stories in a B&W miniseries, but didn't finish the run. Now, though, Fantagraphics has released the entire Spacehawk canon in one gorgeous, oversized volume. I received my copy yesterday, and I'm really impressed.

Considering that the art had to have been shot from the ancient printed comics, it looks remarkable. Clearly a lot of work went into the restoration; blacks are solid, whites are white (not yellowed), fine lines (and there's a lot of them!) are reasonably sharp & clear, there's no significant break-up in the lettering... overall, it's a terrific looking book, and I highly recommend it!

Spacehawk (like Rex Dexter) is one of those Golden Age characters that has fallen into the public domain. I don't want to be one of those guys who makes a habit of constantly exploiting old PD characters, but I must admit... I'd like to try my hand at a Spacehawk story one of these days. Just a one-off adventure - a tribute to Wolverton's mad genius and his one-of-a-kind space hero.

You can buy it from Amazon here: Spacehawk

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Godzilla Vs. Biollante!

Next week, Echo Bridge entertainment will be releasing one of the two remaining Godzilla films not yet available in the U.S. on DVD and Blu-ray: 1989's Godzilla Vs Biollante.

I've already preordered my Blu-ray copy, and I'm hopeful that Echo Bridge put in a little extra effort on this title, seeing as they generally specialize in cheap, no-frills "budget" releases aimed at the K-Mart and Wal-Mart consumer. Little things like audio-visual quality and presenting movies in their correct aspect ratios tend to be unimportant to them - at least, based on some of the EB titles I've seen.

Still, they've done okay jobs on some of the other films they've licensed from Miramax, and the advance word on this disc is fairly encouraging. It's supposed to be in the correct 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and includes the original Japanese audio (my preference) as well as the English dub. There's supposed to be multiple subtitle options and even a couple bonus features. I'm hopeful, and eager to add this one to my kaiju eiga library.

Now if only someone would manage to clear the U.S. video rights to Godzilla 1984/1985 - preferably both the original Japanese cut and the American edit released by New World in '85 with Raymond Burr reprising his role from the American version of the first Godzilla film in 1954.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wednesday Cover: STAR SLAMMERS!

 
This is the cover of Marvel Graphic Novel #6, Star Slammers, written and drawn by the legendary Walter Simonson, and published in 1983. This is one of the earliest American "graphic novels," which tended to run less than 100 pages and be printed in an oversized, 8 and 1/2" x 11" album format.

Star Slammers, a space opera epic about interstellar mercenaries, was a pet project of Simonson's dating back to before he was a comics professional. In the 90's he wrote & drew a 5-issue continuation, published by Malibu (& Dark Horse Comics). I don't have those issues, but maybe someday I'll track 'em down.

This Just In...


Monday, November 26, 2012

New Old Stuff To Read

Every once in a while, I make a little money off my blogging. Recently, I got a tidy little kickback from the ads on my DVD Late Show and Space: 1970 sites, and decided to use it to order a few older graphic novel/comics collections online.

Having recently enjoyed re-watching the 1938 Universal movie serial Red Barry, starring Buster Crabbe, I became curious about the Will Gould newspaper comic strip that it was based on. After a little hunting around online, I discovered a 1989 Red Barry strip collection from Fantagraphics. I ordered a copy, and am more than halfway through it. Terrific stuff!

I then went through my Amazon wish list to see if anything I had on there had gone down in price. I've long wanted a copy of DC's The Warlord: The Savage Empire trade paperback by Mike Grell & company, but it's long out of print and used copies tended to be prohibitively expensive. Surprisingly, I was able to find a reasonably-priced copy listed and ordered it. It hasn't arrived yet, so I have my fingers crossed that it arrives in the "Very Good" condition advertised by the seller.

Another collection from the same time period that I ordered was DC's Cosmic Odyssey trade paperback by Jim Starlin & Mike Mignola. I missed the original 4-issue miniseries when it came out back in '88 and never got my hands on it after that. But it popped up on my radar recently thanks to Rip Jagger's Dojo, and since I've always loved Mignola's art, I decided to get it. I'm especially looking forward to his handling of Jack Kirby's Darkseid and The New Gods characters.

I also ordered the IDW hardcover edition of The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures, which collects the handful of Rocketeer tales that creator Dave Stevens actually produced in the 80s. I bought all the original comics (& the old Eclipse album) when they came out and have them stashed away somewhere in a longbox, but I figured it was past time to get all the Stevens' material in one nice bookshelf edition. Fortunately, I found an cheap copy online. Should be here sometime this week.

The last of the graphic novels I purchased was the new Fantagraphics collection of Basil Wolverton's Spacehawk comics, originally published in the 1940's as a feature in Target Comics. Back in the 90s, Dark Horse reprinted many of these bizarre and brilliant adventures in B&W comic book reprints, with a few new stories about the character produced by various artists and writers. I have four of five of these issues, but I'm missing at least one, and I'm not sure if Dark Horse actually got around to reprinting the entire run. This new collection is both complete and in color. I love Wolverton's work, and I love the character - he's sort of like Clint Eastwood's "Man With No Name" in space, an unfathomable and unstoppable entity with a vast array of weapons and gadgets at his disposable.

Finally, in the non-comics category, I placed an order for an early Andrew Offutt sword & planet papernck novel. Chieftain of Andor. I read a lot of Offutt's fantasy novels in the 80s - primarily his Robert E. Howard pastiches and Thieves World stories - and look forward to reading this one, too.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wednesday Cover:VARIETY DETECTIVE

I swiped this from Paul Bishop's blog. I don't know who the artist is, but it's now one of my favorite crime pulp covers ever! Not only is that fantastic painting dynamic, but the cover copy may have just given me the name for a future Femme Noir villainess - "Lady Loot!"

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Go Go Gorgo

One of my favorite monster movies is Eugène Lourié's, Gorgo. The third of Lourié's triptych of giant monster flicks (following The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and The Giant Behemoth), 1961's Gorgo is a terrific entertainment, with good performances, a solid script. and excellent "suitmation" (man-in-suit) creature effects and miniatures.

The film tells of an English salvage vessel crew that captures a thirty-foot tall reptilian creature off the coast of Ireland. They dub the beastie "Gorgo" and haul it to London and put it on display. Unfortunately, despite his primeval proportions, Gorgo's just a baby, and it's much, much larger mother of a monster is coming to retrieve her purloined offspring... and all the King's forces are no match for her maternal fury.

I watched the film again a couple weeks ago on the DVD released by VCI Entertainment back in 2005, and while the movie held up to my fond memories of it, the audio-visual quality was atrocious. Colors were faded and blurry, contrast was terrible, and there was a fair amount of wear and tear evident on the source print. To add insult to injury, the 1.78:1 widescreen transfer wasn't anamorphically enhanced for 16x9 displays. Fortunately, I've heard rumors that VCI will be remastering the title in HD from new, much-improved source materials for a new release sometime in 2013. I really hope that's true.

Not only was Gorgo a movie star, but Charlton Comics published an ongoing tie-in comic that chronicled the juvenile lizards further adventures. Several of these stories were drawn by the legendary comics creator Steve Ditko. IDW Publishing has announced a special hardcover collection of these tales, to be released in February, 2013.

Here's their solicitation copy:
The genius artist Steve Ditko is a towering monster of awesomeness, and so is the character he chronicled... GORGO! If you love Godzilla - and who doesn't - you'll love Gorgo, who ravages London, New York City, and HOLLYWOOD! Gorgo goes head to head with the British Navy, atomic bombs, Communists, and aliens from the planet Corpus III! This is the complete Ditko Gorgo, 200-pages of comics, including six pulse-pounding covers all drawn during the height of Ditko's prowess concurrent with his Spider-man and Dr. Strange creative explosions. Scripts are by the fan-favorite writer Joe Gill. Introduction by Eisner award winner Craig Yoe with fascinating insight into the comics and the monster movie that inspired them. Every page is lovingly restored and the book is a large format hardcover to showcase the monstrous Ditko art.
 I'm almost certainly going to want to get this book, even though I only remember Ditko drawing a couple of the Gorgo comic books. I didn't think there would be enough material to fill 200 pages...

In any case, it looks like 2013 might be Gorgo's big year.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Wednesday Cover: SHAZAM!

Technically, this is Limited Collector's Edition C35, a "Treasury Sized" collection of Captain Marvel comic book stories reprinted by DC Comics in 1975. This photo cover features actor Jackson Bostwick who portrayed the World's Mightiest Mortal for two seasons of the Filmation Saturday morning Shazam! television series. I've been revisiting the 1974-76 series on DVD this past couple of weeks, and I remembered having this oversized comic when I was a kid. (FYI - I'll be reviewing the newly-released Warner Archive Shazam! DVD set over at my DVD Late Show and Space: 1970 blogs shortly.)

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Super Friends To The Rescue!

Amazon had them on sale for less than $10 each, so last week, I ordered the last two incarnations of Super Friends from the early 1980s - The Legendary Super Powers Show and Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians -  on DVD. These two seasons were tailored to tie-in with Kenner's popular DC "Super Powers" action figure line, hence the prominence of the term in both titles.

Both shows featured Jack Kirby's Darkseid as the major villain and had slightly more sophisticated stories than previous incarnations of the Super Friends franchise. In the Galactic Guardians run, Hanna-Barbara's artists switched from the original Alex Toth character designs to new ones by Jose Garcia-Lopez, giving it a fresher look; it was also the first Super Friends show to have full half-hour (well, 20 minute, really) episodes each week instead of two 10-minute stories per installment.

I missed these seasons when they originally aired on Saturday mornings (I was in Art School by then), but I'm looking forward to enjoying some Old School super-hero 'toons over the next week or two.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Three Years In SPACE

My 1970s sci-fi nostalgia (or, as I prefer to call it: pop culture archeology) blog, Space: 1970, just celebrated its third anniversary. Three years of  writing about the science fiction films and television shows - and related memorabilia - of the 1970s and early 80s (closing rapidly on 700 entries now)... and people seem to like it. Stop by if you get a moment.