Sunday, October 22, 2017

Monsters Of The King - Grogg!

The mighty Grogg proves to be one of the mightiest weapons against the Soviet machine. The monster dragon Groog is first roused from the secrets of Russian folklore in the pages of Strange Tales #83 with the intent to use him as a weapon for the Soviets, but when he proves unreliable the top agent in charge attempts to sacrifice the learned man who has raised Grogg against his will. That fellow turns Grogg against the machinery of the state. Later in Strange Tales #87  the monster created by Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers the mighty Grogg is revived and this time sent to the depths of space, Mars to be exact to forestall the expansion of Soviet power.

Grogg is a dragon and flails a bit in the shadow of the more famous Fin Fang Foom. But there's no doubt he's a doughty foe himself. More Kirby monsters tomorrow.

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The Heap - Volume Three!

In volume three of The Heap from PS Artbooks under a handsome cover from Stephen Bissette, we get some of the very best Heap stories from the hand of Ernie Schroeder who produced these for Airboy Comics from  Hillman Comics way back in the early 50's. After years of struggling for a premise and constant revisions of the approach to the strip, finally there's a focus and a formula which works wonderfully. The Heap's origins as long dead German flying ace Baron Von Emmelman is not forgotten but is relegated to the background and the Heap sprawls the globe finding interesting people and stories. Clunky mechanisms like gods and goddesses are dropped and The Heap is merely allowed to be, a ubiquitous force for good or at the very least a rough justice. In these final days, The Heap finally gets some  cover attention and  is the focus of several.

As can be readily seen The Heap contested with a broad array of monsters and creatures, some of the natural world others from the depths of a magical evil. He beats them all, his prodigious strength and indefatigable power winning the day.

The Heap served as an inspiration for many a swamp creature which rose up later at comic shops all over, but these Heap stories have an elegance and cohesion which often tops the best the later rivals. Man-Thing in particular owes much to The Heap. But The Heap itself would be revived in a many of speaking in later years and we'll take a look at that next week.

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Saturday, October 21, 2017

Monsters Of The King - Gargantus!

In the pages of Strange Tales #85 Gargantus appears in a story featuring artwork by Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. The mighty undersea monster was roused when a man and his boy descend into the depths and encounter the mighty monster, just one of many such creatures living deep beneath the sea and who had imagined that the surface world was of no interest. That changes but being topside cause the enormous creature to suffocate and he has to return to the safety of the depths.

In Strange Tales #90 in a story by Kirby and Dick Ayers, mankind again disturbs the mighty beast and he once again heads up to the surface.

But this time the same scientist who had defeated him before challenges him and is able to at long last electrocute him or something akin to that and the great beast is again defeated.

More mighty monsters from the mind of Kirby tomorrow.

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Essential Man-Thing - Volume Two!

The Man-Thing proved to be most durable during the horror craze which erupted at Marvel Comics in the early 70's. The character unlike Dracula, Werewolf, and Frankenstein was not part of an immediately recognizable cache of creatures apart from Marvel and for whatever reason seemed to fuse more easily into the MU. That helped when Steve Gerber left his baby and it fell into other hands.

Man-Thing had always been centered in the swamps of the Everglades but in his finale Gerber and new artist Jim Mooney tried to fish him out of the swamps and put him on the move with longtime loser Richard Rory who also happens to commit kidnapping in one of the most stupid crimes ever recorded in the Marvel Universe.

They send him to Atlanta where the swamp critter fights evil, psychic vampires, and such like things with gusto.

Eventually though the plug gets pulled and the when Gerber retires from the series, the show ends its run with a tale infamous for including the writer in a significant way. This fourth-wall breaking stuff has a certain charm I admit, but I've always found this instance somewhat self-indulgent and overwrought. Appreciated it better on this reading than I remember it, but still it seems a bit much.

Man-Thing then enters a phase of guest-starring around the Marvel Universe, but not before getting one solo tale in the back pages of The Rampaging Hulk, spelling Bloodstone for an issue.

Manny's not the best guest-star, but he fits in well enough in stories in Marvel Team-Up and Marvel Two-In-One.

In the 80's, Jim Shooter and his new cadre bring the murk monster back in his own comic and a new The Man-Thing number one.

Chris Claremont takes over as writer on the series as Don Perlin settles in as artist and the Man-Thing becomes part of Claremont's mystical mini-verse alongside Doctor Strange, even crossing over into Doc's own comic.

When it comes time to bid farewell to Man-Thing once again, Claremont pulls the same stunt that Gerber had done and writes himself into the story in a major way. It's not as annoying this second time as I realize he's just riffing on Gerber's earlier take, but still it allows the series to end with a whimper and not even a small bang. It just sort of shuffles off quietly, which is weirdly appropriate I suppose.

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Friday, October 20, 2017

Monsters Of The King - Groot!

Everybody knows Groot. After his star turn in the Guardians of the Galaxy comic books and two (count 'em two) big time Hollywood movies, Groot is a household name, likely the most famous of the Kirby monsters. 

But it was not always thus. Originally the cute Groot was merely another alien invader, a monster who fell victim to the enemy of most wooden thing -- termites. Since then, he's been revised as an ongoing character. As cute as little Groot is, I find a soft spot in my heart for the deadly original.

 More monsters are coming tomorrow.

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Dojo Classics - The She-Creature!

The She Creature is yet another of those vintage monster flicks which has eluded me until I got hold of a copy and enjoyed it recently. The monster, designed by Paul Blaisdell, has been part of my imaginative world since I first got a look at on an old issue Famous Monsters of Filmland with a wonderful cover which I recently learned was by Ron Cobb.

This was another look at some artwork he'd done for an earlier Warren Magazines project dubbed Monster World.

The story is purports to be based on true event,  not quite what I expected. It has elements of The Mummy, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, with a dash of Mandrake the Magician thrown in to boot. The story concerns Dr. Carlo Lombardi,  an unscrupulous tuxedo-wearing stage hypnotist (Chester Morris) who has under his thrall a lovely  young woman named Andrea Talbot (Marla English) and is somehow able to tap into her long-ago life as a prehistoric sea-monster and bring that monster into the modern world.

The notion is that we all have lived many many lives over the eons, and some of those lives were not human. A rather severe and forlorn looking scientist, Dr. Ted Erickson (Lance Fuller) slowly discovers the situation, especially when Lombardi uses the beast to commit murders. The infamy of the murders cause mildly greedy publisher Tim Chappel (Tom Conway) to try and make Lombardi a celebrity and sell books on the back of that. Both men do quite well financially, but eventually it all goes to smash.

It's a much more complicated story than you'd actually expect for a monster movie. That is likely due to its source, the story it's based on, a notorious news item of the day in which a woman Virginia Tighe claimed to have been reincarnated many and once was known in years previous as Bridey Murphy. To be fair to the movie, there is some strong attempts to bring out some distinctive characters and explore some odd relationships. They fall short, but they try. But the story really picks up when the monster appears out of a hazy mist and wreaks whatever havoc is called for. The monster design is an oddity. It's not really good, but it's incredibly memorable and while there's little time explaining it all, the whole of the yarn does add up.

This isn't by any means a bad movie, but it's not really a good one either,not in any objective sense. But it is entertaining at times. It performs as genre flicks of this kind ought, supplying the necessary distractions at the proper moment.  It's well worth checking out.

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