Wednesday, December 20, 2017

My Spidey Sense is Jingling


Over on one of my other blogs (Texas Pop Culture), I like to look back to when our favorite comic book superheroes visited my home state of Texas to punch, fly, swing and smash their way across familiar landmarks in the search for justice.  With the holidays fast approaching, I thought the most recent issue I looked at would be nice to feature here as well so let's take a trip back to 1983 to when our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man spent "Christmas in Dallas"!

This one was another freebie from the Dallas Times Herald and the once great newspaper gets a cameo on the first page by setting the scene and kicking off the story.  A mysterious and sinister set of hands peruse the news of the day in a conspicuously evil manner...

This issue is a sort of sequel or follow-up to a previous story where Spider-Man teamed up with the Dallas Cowboys and Dallas millionaire Stanley Mudge.  On this particular yuletide season, Mudge is throwing a party to raise money for orphans and wanted to treat his old pals J. Jonah Jameson and Peter Parker to the festivities.  He and his son Mark (also from the previous story) even show up to the airport to greet the traveling New Yorkers.

Don't forget about that anti-gravity might be relevant down the line.  So while the gang heads back Mudge's ranch, those sinister hands from the first page reveal that they belong to none other than the Kingpin!  The sinister crime boss frequently finds himself to be Daredevil's perennial punching bag in Hell's Kitchen but he's come to Texas to pick on someone his own size:

What?!?  He cold cocks Santa?!?  Now that's how you establish evil intent from an antagonist.  Although there is the possibility that the unconscious Kris Kringle is just a Santa impersonator.  The story never really makes it clear.  But what is clear is that he was on his way to the Charity Ball and that the Kingpin (who has been steadily climbing up the rankings on the naughty list for many years now) will be taking his place...and it won't be to spread holiday cheer.

Well things go pretty much how you'd expect them to go.  The Kingpin attacks.  His henchman take hostages.  But before the rich party goers were able to be ransomed off, Spidey swings into action!  Even Mudge pitches in with the help of the new version of his anti-gravity invention (remember that thing from before?).

Looks like the Christmas party can resume.  Alls well that ends well: J. Jonah gets flummoxed, Peter gets a free ride home in Mudge's private jet to spend Christmas with his aunt and, I assume, a lot of money was raised at that charity ball for the orphans and whatnot (remember that thing from before?).

While it was a fun adventure, I have to say I was a little disappointed with this one.  Dallas (and by default, all of Texas) was really only a part of the story in name only.  Not even a quick skyline panel.  But at the time it was free so I can't really be too hard on it.  And in the spirit of the holiday season I'll leave you with a present...the Spider-Man Christmas Tree Word Hunt that was toward the back of the book!  Happy hunting! 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Top 5 at the Harryhausen Exhibit


The smART Space section of Science Museum Oklahoma is committed to showcasing the convergence of art and science.  New exhibits rotate throughout the year and bring unique works of imagination and innovation to Oklahoma city crowds.

The most recent exhibit to inhabit the space is "Ray Harryhausen – Mythical Menagerie" which celebrates the work and innovation of legendary special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen.  If you don't know the name, I can guarantee you that his talent has influenced the work of some of your favorite filmmakers.

So without further ado, here are my picks for the Top 5 pieces on display in this menagerie of monsters:

5.  Skeleton Soldier (Jason and the Argonauts, 1963)

One of the most famous visuals of Harryhausen's work may the the sight of the sword wielding skeleton army in "Jason and the Argonauts."  A few of these guys survived and are on display as well as some partial pieces.  They were a part of an incredibly ambitious action sequence:

4.  Storyboards (Various)

Storyboards are one of the more underappreciated pieces of the artistic processes in film making.  A lot of time, effort and talent go into creating them and then they aren't seen by the movie audience.  This one is from "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad" but there are several more on display.

3.  Medusa (Clash of the Titans, 1981)

The incredible details of the Medusa model doesn't fully come across in the movie.  So this is a great opportunity to really get a close look at the work that goes into a piece like this.  Just don't look at her'll turn to stone.

2.  Bubo (Clash of the Titans, 1981)

Our friend Bupo here stands out from the pack since he's not your typical Harryhausen "monster," but instead, he is kind of/sort of a robot.  Or at least he's a mechanical creature created by one of the gods to be comic relief.  This model was used for close ups (something different was used for the flying effects seen below).

1.  This Crazy Walrus (Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, 1977)

This is another example of of an uncommon type of "monster" in Harryhausen's body of work but I knew as soon as I saw it that it would be my #1.  Look at this thing.  We typically think of walruses as essentially big sea sloths but when you lay eyes on this guy you know you wouldn't want to meet him in a dark alley.

The exhibit runs until Dec 3rd so there's plenty of time to go see Hollywood history live and in person.  Take the kids and show them what movie monsters used to look like before computers took over.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

About a Boy


We all know that portly young lad who hoists a hamburger to the heavens as he beckons travelers to stop and enjoy some comfort food.   Don't ask me why, but Big Boy restaurants (which have various names in various parts of the country) always seem like the place where people eat when they're on vacation or away from home. And that makes a road trip the perfect story for a Big Boy comic:

As you can probably imagine, this 16 page comic packed with coloring pages, puzzles and a kid's menu doesn't have a strong plot.  The story involves Big Boy and his friends Katie and Tripp heading out to camp at an unnamed National Park.  They head there in what I'm calling the "Big Boymobile," which I think is a huge missed merchandising opportunity.  Here's a couple of looks at BB's sweet ride:

Why weren't we all playing with toy Big Boymobiles as kids?  If they ever made any of these things, I never saw them.  So when the gang gets to the park, Big Boy essentially lectures the other two about how great National Parks are and then (I assume the next day) they put out their campfire.  And of course, for Big Boy's more fervent fans, we get this beefcake tease:

That's it.  That's the story.  It may not seem like much to you but I think it's the perfect "keep the kids busy" length for a family restaurant.  And if you were a kid at Big Boy's in 1981 who was perusing this comic issue, what would you be eating?  Well, these were your options:

Looks pretty good to me.  But before we pay the check and pile back into the car, there's one more thing that's worth noting.  In this issue, Big Boy pays a somewhat arbitrary yet seemingly long overdue homage to...sticks:

Yep, sticks are awesome.  You can't deny that.  They can do anything from scratching an itch to holding a venous snake at bay.  Let's hear it for sticks!

So with that, it's back on the road to the next roadside attraction, National Park or restaurant that's just not in your hometown.  Keep an eye open for Big Boy, he'll be holding up that hamburger for ya.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Sunset in Gotham

Yesterday we lost a legend when 88 year old Adam West passed away.  For many his portrayal of Batman, while unique in its own right, was seminal.  He also helped introduce many of us to the world of super heroes and comic books.

Scores of tributes came through on Twitter, Facebook and other social media avenues and I thought I'd share some of my favorites:

Click on any of them to go to each individual social media account and if you have any tributes of your own feel free to let us know.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

2017 Free Comic Book Day Wrap Up

 Another year, another stack of free comics!  The 2017 Free Comic Book Day included Wonder Woman, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Barbie, Doctor Who, the gang from Riverdale and a whole lot more of your favorite characters.  I wanted to hit a handful of stores so my first stop was at Titan Comics.

There were several artists lined up outside doing sketches and selling their work.  You can see Jedigoddess above starting a painting of Gamora.  I think she did several Guardians characters but I couldn't stick around to watch.  It was time to hit the next location:

 The local CW station was at Zeus Comics promoting the 800 comic book TV shows that the network has.  They were giving out posters and were sponsoring a CW inspired costume contest.  Among the Jugheads and Firestorms, you could also find Anna and Elsa giving out temporary tattoos:

 After loading up on another stack of freebies, it was time to head to the next location.     At the Mockingbird location of Keith's Comics.  They took they opportunity to have a half off sale on some of their back stock:

 This was my last stop for the day so after I got a hold of my freebies it was time to assess my haul for the day:

 The goal was to load up on kid friendly titles since these guys are going to be given away to the kids of friends and family.  I doubled up on a few titles, especially DC Super Hero Girls since that's my daughter's favorite.

So if you've got some extras from this year's FCBD think about encouraging the next generation of comic book readers.  After all, that what the day is all about.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Batman Top 10 at the Museum

You may remember that one of our shooting location for the Comic Book Literacy documentary was the Toy & Action Figure Museum in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma.  It's a great collection of toys and served as a great backdrop for several interviews.  I recently made a quick stop there while I was on the road in the area.

 They still have tons of great rotating exhibits but, just as before, the biggest collection was of Batman memorabilia which is housed in the museum's very own Bat Cave.  So here's a look at what I thought was the Top 10 pieces in the Batman Collection.

10.  Batman Outdoor Fun Pack

You get a yo-yo, a kite and a "flying disc" (Frisbee is a brand name) in this kit.  Not to mention kite string.  You're going to need that.  What's not to like?  Now go outside and play!

9.  1874 Batman Talking Alarm Clock

Nothing will get you out of bed faster than the stern, forceful voice of the Dark Knight.  You can hear it HERE.  And as a bonus you get the Boy Wonder speeding by in a purple Batmobile.

8.  The Adventures of Batman & Robin Whitman's Sampler

Lots of choices in this candy kit between characters and, I assume, candy fillings.  What will you get?  Robin?  Nougat?  Poison Ivy?  Caramel?  Joker?  Smilex Fudge?  Take a bite and find out!

7.  1973 Batman Paint by Number Set

Let's face it, painting is hard.  Not as hard as crime fighting but, similar to crime fighting, it takes years of study to master.  Or you can just take the easy route and paint by numbers.  I mean, who's gonna stop you?

6.  1969 Big Little Book - Batman: The Cheetah Caper

Lot's of different characters appeared in types of books over the years and, of course, it was only a matter of time before the World's Greatest Detective got his shot.  You can check out some page scans HERE which seem to indicate that this Cheetah is not the Wonder Woman villain but some other weirdo instead.

5.  Batman Returns Happy Meal Display

Every time I see one of these in a fast food place I always think to myself that I should ask the manager if I can buy it once the promotion is done.  And of course, I never do.  When I see one in a collection it reminds me of the shame of my inaction.  That's why it's not higher than #5.

4.  Giant Lego Batman

There's no Batman like Lego Batman and thankfully this one was saved from the sad fate of rotting in a movie theater dumpster.  As a Lego, it falls into both the "toy" and "Batman" categories and a case could be made for calling Lego people "action figures" so this guy is right at home in the Toy & Action Figure Museum.

3.  The Adventures of Batman & Robin Colorforms

No character collection is complete without the obligatory box of Colorforms.  I would have thought the old school toy stopped being made by the time of this TV show but apparently they are still alive and well to this day.  I'm not sure what to do with that little let's move on.

2.  Batman Comics!

This may seem like a no-brainer to you and me but let's not forget that in the sea of toys, movies and cartoons, some of the youngsters might not even be aware that comics exist, much less that Batman is one of their top guys.  It's always nice to have a little reminder of his old school origin.

1.  Batmobile Coin-Op Kiddie Ride

There are a few different types of collectors and what separates the real deals from the wannabes is a piece like this.  I think this is the Batmobile from Batman Forever and it's made its way from outside the grocery store and right into our hearts.  I don't know what usually happens to these things after they are no longer wanted but I think we can all agree that this museum is the right place for this beauty.