Saturday, April 25, 2015

Stuntman - Split-Second Action Take Three!

The third issue of Stuntman came out and it didn't. The series was cancelled with the second issue, but a third was published (sort of) in black and white and mailed out to subscribers. That issue featured one sole Stuntman story. The original unused cover art can be seen in the ad above and in a revised form as the cover for Joe Simon's The Comic Book Makers.

"Rest Camp for Criminals" begins with the Stuntman gang of Don Daring, Sandra Sylvan and Fred Drake doing research on the old west for a possible script. They are looking particular for a story about the scar-faced outlaw Windy Hill who supposedly lived in a town called Roaring Gulch. The gang head there for more details not knowing that the near ghost town is actually a rehab for mobsters who have lost their edge and need some re-training to become functioning thugs once again. But soon enough they stumble on the truth and Stuntman (Fred Drake) must don his costume and save the day with wild fisticuffs.

This story was ultimately published in color in the thirty-ninth issue of  Harvey's Green Hornet Fights Crime.

Harvey also published another remaining Stuntman story in the thirteenth  issue of All-New Comics.

"The Diamond's Curse" begins with Fred Drake, Don Daring, and Sandra Sylvan all at a party at the home of Adele Hoppat who famously owns the "Hoppat Diamond" and is having the party to celebrate the completion of her fancy new fish pond. But villains are in the shadows and soon robbery is afoot as Stuntman dons his costume to rescue Sandra who was kidnapped by the thugs as they attempted to speed away by car. He does so, but a ferocious crash kills the hoodlums and despite that the diamond still is missing. Don Daring investigates of course and suspects Banker Burns to whom Hoppat owes a great deal of money. The fish pond becomes an item of interest and when Sandra naively catches a rare fish for dinner the diamond turns up in its stomach. But things are not what they seem still and Stuntman must still make an appearance to save the day.

A fourth issue of Stuntman must have been underway since so much artwork exists of unpublished stories. The art above appears to a cover for issue four (some sources say the second issue), but the story doesn't seem to connect any existing material.

Some of the greatest and most tantalizing Stuntman artwork was discovered in 1980 and existed for many years only in the personal collection of Joe Simon. One example is this utterly fantastic two-page spread for a story featuring "The Panda". Love to have read that one.

Here's an ad with a smidgeon more on the character. 

Likewise this story titled "The Evil Sons of M. LeBlanc" seemed exciting. Looks like some great derring-do by the whole Stuntman gang.

This artwork (in magnificent color) made the cut into the Titan reprint volume which I've been using for these reviews. Likewise is complete but largely un-inked unpublished story "Stuntman Crowns a Jungle Lord" to the African jungle to film a movie. They quickly run up against dangerous cannibals but press ahead nonetheless. The film is not successful because of Don Daring's less than convincing portrayal and the antics of Ozzie Meeker who wants the role for himself. Ultimately Stuntman must put in an appearance to fend off dangerous African animals including a leopard and a gorilla.

There is one more Stuntman tale that got published, a two-page text piece which showed up without notice or fanfare in, of all places, the ninth issue of the highly successful Joe Palooka comic. Not at all sure who the author might've been. I suspect it was not Joe Simon nor was it Jack Kirby.

And that was that.

Stuntman, for all his brief glory has long taken his place among the great creations of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby -- the only costumed hero they created for an entire decade, from 1942 (Golden Guardian) to 1953 (Captain 3-D). The lighthearted tone of the stories offers a nice reprieve from the density of many of comics great characters who are often dealing with mighty weighty things. Simon and Kirby characters smile an awful lot, showing that while they are most often dealing with danger they nonetheless enjoy the thrills and life itself. A good lesson for us all, fight the good fight, but don't forget to grin from time to time.

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Justice Swiped!

While I likely am not going to be getting this Justice Inc. series, I might pick up the debut issue sporting this delightful Alex Ross swipe of Joe Kubert's exceedingly memorable cover for the "1st Sensational Issue!" of DC's brief but potent attempt to put Street and Smith's The Avenger into comics form.

Justice Inc. was written by Denny O'Neil and drawn by the Jack "King" Kirby, something the powers at DC weren't interested in hyping at this time. Oy vey.

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Nighthawks Of Riverdale!

I adore this modern interpretation of Edward Hopper's classic "Nighthawks", one of my favorite pieces of fine art. The Riverdale gang are pop culture icons, ideally suited to blend with Hopper's famous tableau.

Ironically, or perhaps not,"Nighthawks" was painted in 1942 and Archie Andrews first saw publication in Pep Comics #22 in 1941, so both instantly recognizable creations are of the same era.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Super Funds!

It's Earth Day, and naturally the first thing which pops into my comic-soaked consciousness was Joe Simon's offbeat blend of Richie Rich and the Newsboy Legion, dubbed in their one and only Bronze Age appearance "The Green Team".

These are four teenage millionaires who wear trippy jumpsuits filled with cash and fly the globe looking for thrills which will apparently momentarily dissolve the ennui which dominates their existences. These jet-setting one-percenters are every boy's dream and their superpower is cold hard cash.

In the face of the many hard-scrabble boy teams Joe Simon concocted with his once-upon-a-time partner Jack Kirby, these millionaire mopes are hard to love. Lacking the brashness which attaches to upstarts like the Newsboy Legion's Gabby or the Boy Commandos' Brooklyn, this team is a gaggle of over-soaked haves who evoke no sympathy and precious little empathy.

Ironically the Green Team debuted in the second issue of the awkwardly named "First Issue Special", which in its sixth issue featured The Dingbats of Danger Street, another kid gang by Simon's former partner Kirby, but this gang was much more in keeping with the classic street urchin model.

It's not fair of course to hate the Green Teamers for their money, that would be just plain jealousy. But it's hard to root for these overdogs, and that's just the way it is. I have a general rule to never feel sorry for millionaires. They of course have many if not most of the problems the vast majority of mankind faces, but then they have at least a million dollars to help them cope with it, so there.

The book was drawn by the great Jerry Grandenetti. I love his work, so that's something. 

How's that for an uplifting environmental message? Ah well, maybe next year.

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The Last Lovecraft!

Well at least it didn't lie on the box. It was "equal measure" of "laughs and scares" in that it had exactly zero of each. The Last Lovecraft - Relic of CThulhu is pretty much a bomb of a movie. I found this flick for tiny money at Half-Price Books and was sufficiently intrigued by the apparent attempt to bring a comedy angle to the Lovecraft Mythos that I actually thought this might work. It still might, but not here.

It's a pretty good premise. The evil acolytes of C'Thulhu are intent on bringing back the Great Old Ones to rule the Earth and need only the second half of an ancient icon after its mate was discovered hidden in the desert. To that end they attack the keepers of the icon who quickly dispatch it to the last heir of H.P. Lovecraft himself, the one man who demonstrated the apparent genetic ability to stave off the madness nearly always created by the presence of the agents of the Elder Gods. That last living Lovecraft turns out to be a tweny-something slacker who along with his best bud are given charge of the icon and seek to escape the Star-Spawn and Deep Ones who chase them. They round up an even nerdier Lovecraft afficianado from high school and the trio then seek out some old sailor who once upon a time battled the Deep Ones and lived.

I frankly surprised myself that it took that long to sketch out the plot, since I didn't detect that much happening at the time in this supremely boring movie. The heroes are singularly unfunny and powerfully unlikeable. The actors here are clearly trying to evoke the down-on-their-luck loser charm emitted by Simon Peg and Nick Frost in their buddy movies, but utterly fail at it. In point of fact the movie seems to kill of some dopplegangers of Peg and Frost at the very beginning of the movie; I couldn't tell if this was a valentine or a middle finger to the team, but it's almost the highlight of this movie and that's the first few minutes.

To be fair there are some decent special effects in the movie, but it's the live action stuff which hamstrings the proceedings. The cast, with a few exceptions, is simply not very good. Wooden acting is the most apt description. The final battle which takes place in a RV is a cluttered mess with no tension and barely sufficient blocking.

This movie had little budget, that's clear. I don't hold that against them, but when it comes to these endeavors the cheapest thing you have as a creator are the humans who are willing to showcase themselves and frankly it just doesn't work. This movie is the worst thing an entertainment can be - dull. See this one at your own peril.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Dick Books!

I have bought a number of Dick Tracy books over the years. Not all of them by any means, but plenty of the vintage offerings.

Just added these two volumes to the pile.

I always find these Dick tomes discounted and cheap so I make off with them, but lord only knows when I'm going to get around to reading them. Sigh.

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Faltered States!

Altered States: Doc Savage might well have the distinction of being the single worst Doc Savage story I've ever stumbled across. It's lousy. The story lies under a Billy Tan cover which seems unduly ugly and gives us one of weirdest renderings of Doc I've ever seen. What's Doc looking at? It ain't the caveman and the two girls. Is it the logo? Did he just fart? Odd!

The one-shot comic is written by David Avallone and drawn by Dave Acosta. I'll address Avallone's script in a moment, but first let me talk about Acosta's artwork which is typical of much stuff at Dynamite, harmless, hapless, but lacking depth. Characters, even those as visually distinctive as Doc's aides are hard to tell apart, but that's become normal for the Dynamite Doc outings. These are five of the most distinctive individuals in pop culture, designed to be recognized instantly at a distance, yet constantly in comics they end up looking much the dreary same. Pitiful!

The story pretty much rips off the plot of the movie Altered States. (I assume this where they got the title for this four comic promotion which features Doc along with the Shadow, Vampirella, and Red Sonja, though I don't remember reading that in the promos.) Doc  uses drugs obtained from the Mayans to cause himself to regress psychologically into a primitive state. But the drugs do more than that and actually change him physically and while under the influence of hallucinations in which he imagines himself to be wandering a prehistoric landscape he escapes the care of his aides and rampages through the city, much to the dismay of the locals.

And that's pretty much it. I knew it wasn't going to be a very good adventure, but the sheer aimlessness of the endeavor surprised me. The ending left me nonplussed and seemed totally out of character for Doc Savage, who despite his name is actually a pretty civilized guy.

The story has Pat Savage (she's in every Dynamite Doc story don't you know, even one like this in which her presence is completely pointless) ordering the "Fab Five" around as if she were Doc's second-in-command or something. Save as an excuse to showcase her bosom, I cannot imagine why they included her in this already crowded yarn. But for a company which has made a cottage industry out of the Barsoomian boobs of Dejah Thoris, I guess that's reason enough.

Don't waste your time or money on this one. It's just terrible.

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