Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Sinew & Sandal Comics by Dave Goode

I'm a huge fan of " sinew & sandal " flicks. Or if you prefer "sword and sandal " movies. It's just that in my favorites from the genre the heroes rarely use swords. Just their muscles. Or like Steve Reeves in HERCULES (1957) the very chains the villain thought to bind him with. I'm talking about the movies starring the strength heroes Hercules, Maciste, Ursus, Samson and Goliath.

It was during the muscleman movie cycle (1957-1967) that the urban myth that George Reeves and Steve Reeves were brothers sprung up. After all George played Superman and Steve played Hercules. It seemed believable to anyone incapable of searching for facts. In any case during this period Superman met both Hercules and Samson on several occasions in DC Comics. Over at Marvel Comics Hercules became a supporting character in the Thor and Avengers features.

Charlton Comics published a Hercules comic book beginning in 1967 by Joe Gill and Sam Glanzman. The comic ran for 13 issues and focused on the hero's legendary twelve labors.

Dell Comics had previously published adaptations of the Steve Reeves' movies HERCULES and HERCULES UNCHAINED illustrated respectively by comic book legends John Buscema and Reed Crandall. For the latter they used the poster art from the movie for the comic's cover. One of the coolest things about the sinew & sandal genre was the poster art for the movies. They could have easily been used as covers for comic book adaptations of the movies.
Faux cover idea by Dave Goode art by Vance Capley

One of those things that I don't understand, and there are many, is why no American publisher looked at how popular these flicks were and thought to put out a Maciste comic book. Nope. Nothing. More's the pity.*
*Maciste has appeared in various Italian comic books for many years but sadly never in the U.S. He appeared in a Turkish comic adaptation of of the film Cabiria (1914).
A version of Maciste more accurate to the 1914 film from Albi of Audacia no. 28, 1938
The Bartolomeo Pagano silent Maciste films established the character as someone who could appear at any place and at any time. A series of comics in the 1940s presented a version much like these films.
   During the mid 60s, the grandson of Maciste, Kolosso who is "Kolosso nipote di Maciste piĆ¹ forte di Ercole" ( grandson of Maciste stronger than Hercules - most U.S. websites mistranslates it to "nephew to Maciste and nephew to Hercules"), and like the silent era films, Kolosso's stories could take place anytime and pretty much anywhere.
The Cave of Slaves with Maciste from  Albi of Audacia no. 38 1938

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

There's Only One Race Bannon by Dave Goode

Actor Jeff Chandler...the perfect Race Bannon
TV Guide ad
I was seven years old when JONNY QUEST premiered in prime time on September 18 , 1964. At the time I thought it was the coolest cartoon I had ever seen. And there has been nothing in the ensuing decades to challenge that opinion. Sure SPACE GHOST was cool. But it wasn't Jonny Quest cool. After all ,as any fan-boy will tell you ,the real star of JONNY QUEST was Race Bannon. Much in the same way Pat Ryan was the true star in the early days of Milton Caniff's classic adventure comic strip TERRY & THE PIRATES.

Race Bannon
JONNY QUEST followed the pulp-like adventures of 11 year-old Jonny who travelled the world with his scientist father Dr.Benton Quest , adopted brother Hadji and bodyguard Roger "Race" Bannon. Because of the nature of Dr. Quest's work and it's importance to world security Bannon was assigned by " Intelligence I " as a permanent bodyguard to the Quests as well as a tutor for Jonny and Hadji. By the way publicity material claimed that Hadji was adopted by the Quests. But this was never mentioned in any of the original 26 episodes.
Race Bannon's "voice" Mike Road
EAST OF SUMATRA 1953 Universal
As far as Race Bannon he was a secret agent , expert pilot , and expert with firearms. He is also a martial arts expert with a third degree black belt in judo. He was voiced on the series by actor Mike Road. And his physical design was based on Hollywood he-man actor Jeff Chandler. I can't watch a Jeff Chandler movie like EAST OF SUMATRA without imagining it's a Race Bannon adventure prior to his assignment with the Quests.
THE LADY TAKES A FLYER 1958 Universal-International
Chandler was born Ira Grossel in Brooklyn NY where he attended Eramus Hall High School. After the U.S. entered WW Two Chandler entered the army and served for four years earning the rank of lieutenant. After being discharged from the army and began a notable film career. He was even nominated for the Academy Award for portraying the Apache chief Cochise in BROKEN ARROW (1950) . When fan-boys think of casting a JONNY QUEST movie their first choice is Jeff Chandler as Race. Unfortunately Chandler would die tragically young at age 42 three years before JONNY QUEST first aired. I suppose Peter Graves might have been a good second choice. But as Race's love interest on the cartoon, Jezebal Jade, said "There's only one Race Bannon."
JONNY QUEST is available on DVD
Faux book cover idea by Dave Goode - graphics by Vance Capley

What was your favorite episode of Jonny Quest? Let us know in the comments below. Also, don't forget to click the "Link" to see our books and comics.


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Incredible Hulk Movie '62 by Dave Goode

Incredible Hulk #1 art by Jack Kirby

I like super-heroes as much as any fan-boy.But that doesn't mean I think every comic book flick has to be about men in tights and capes. For instance I think a Challengers of the Unknown movie from the teams purple jumpsuits days would have made a great sci-fi movie. Or a Nick Fury , Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D movie made during the secret agent film cycle of the '60s would have been very cool. And another cool movie made in the 60s would have been an adaptation of The Incredible Hulk No.1 cover dated May 1962.
From the Incredible Hulk #1 Lee & Kirby
In the early 60s when Marvel Comics was transitioning from "monster of the month" stories found in titles like Tales to Astonish , Tales of Suspense and Journey to Mystery to super-heroes Stan Lee & Jack Kirby created the Hulk,a Jekyll & Hyde like anti-hero. As the cover blurb for that first issue read " Is he man or monster or is he both?
The first story was like so many sci-fi flicks of the period with the monster created by radiation. Think The Amazing Colossal Man (1957) or The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961). And there was the threat of the "Red Menace" that turned up in so many early Marvel comic books.
Anthony Perkins
Rereading the story recently I couldn't help but notice that Kirby's pages looked almost like storyboards. This got me to thinking about a Hulk movie made in 1962 starring Anthony Perkins as Bruce Banner , Carolyn Craig as Betty Ross , John Ashley as Rick Jones and Morris Ankrum as General Thunderbolt Ross. As for the Hulk I picture pro wrestling great Richard Afflis a.k.a Dick the Bruiser.
Carolyn Craig from House On Haunted Hill

Morris Ankrum
Dick the Bruiser
Known as the "one-man riot squad " and the " world's most dangerous wrestler " Afflis had been an offensive lineman for the Green Bay Packers in the 1950s. It was as a football player that he earned the name the Bruiser. As well as a reputation as being one of the strongest men in the NFL. An avid weightlifting enthusiast since his youth Afflis' steak & potatoes built physique was a perfect match for the early Hulk. He would have been great as a pre-CGI " Gray (soon to be green ) Goliath ".

Faux movie poster idea by Dave Goode art Vance Capley

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

TV's Teen Jungle Star by Dave Goode

One of my favorite ersatz Tarzans was Bomba,the Jungle Boy. The character appeared in 12 movies beginning in 1949 with Bomba , The Jungle Boy and ending in 1955 with Lord Of The Jungle. The series was loosely based on books by the Stratameyer Syndicate. As loosely based as the MGM and RKO Tarzan movies starring Johnny Weissmuller were based on the books of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Strangely enough the actor who portrayed Bomba was the same actor who played Tarzan's son opposite Weissmuller. Johnny Sheffield didn't play John Clayton a.k.a Korak. Instead he played "Boy" , the adopted son of Tarzan and Jane. A creation of the MGM studio. Sheffield would be written out of the Tarzan series after the Tarzan series after the movie Tarzan And The Huntress (1948) from RKO. He simply grew to large to play a character called "Boy".

I remember watching and enjoying the Bomba movies on television as a boy. The stories played like something out of Fiction House's Jungle Comics. And Sheffield was believable as the athletic Bomba. Built along the lines of a high school running back.

In 1962 WGN-TV repackaged the Bomba movies as a prime-time Summertime TV series.* DC COMICS would publish 7 issues of Bomba , the Jungle Boy comic book from 1967 to 1968 and for the first two issues sub-titled it TV's Teen Jungle Star. Seriously? Repackaged B-Movies from the 40s and the 50s aired on TV in 1962 and you're marketing the comic book as if the "television series" was still being run. No wonder they dropped that " TV's Teen Jungle Star " tag by the third issue.
* "WGN in Chicago started running them once a week in the early evening under the umbrella title “Zim Bomba,” with the films cut from their original 65- to 70-minute lengths to fit a one-hour timeslot with commercials. The huge reaction from viewers caused Allied Artists, the successor to Monogram, to recut the 12 pictures into 13 TV episodes also designed to run in one-hour timeslots with commercials. This “Zim Bomba” package remained in syndication through the 1970s" - 2010 Johnny Sheffield obit

Want to know about Zim-Bomba?
 Speaking of jungle fun...let's see what the Golden Adonis is up to...

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

King Tut's Gorilla by Dave Goode

Of all the Bat-Villains that were created specifically for the Batman television series of the swinging sixties my favorite was King Tut. I could easily picture the character in the comic books. Actually I would have loved to have seen him in the comics. A King Tut would be added to the list of Bat-Villains in the comics. But that would be decades after the series was canceled. And that Tut had very little to do with the over the top character portrayed by Victor Buono on the 60s TV show. That of schizophrenic William Omaha McElroy,professor of Egyptology at Yale who when conked on the noggin imagines himself the reincarnation of King Tut.

Buono's leering and lecherous Tut set a new standard for scenery chewing on a series that was known for over the top performances. I personally thought he would have been great playing Nero or some other decadent despot in an Italian costume melodrama.

One of the things that I found sorely missing from the Batman series was a gorilla. Think about it. This show was aired during the Silver Age of Comics. But it never featured one of the Silver Age's most popular tropes. Now I'm not suggesting that there should have been episodes that featured Karnak,the Living Beast-Bomb from Detective Comics No.339. But one of the Bat-Villains could have owned a pet gorilla. The logical choice would have been the bad guy who thought himself the reincarnation of an Egyptian pharaoh. The only question would be who would play the beast. George Barrows or Janos Prohaska?


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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

I CAN! I MUST!! I WILL!!! by Dave Goode

A couple of years back I came across an article debunking that old chestnut about how humans only used 10% of their brain power. And that if we could unlock that unused 90% we would be able to perform super-human mental and physical feats. Say it ain't so! That theory was the basis for any number of comic book heroes. Including one of my Silver Age favorites Peter Cannon...Thunderbolt.

Peter Morisi (aka PAM)

Created by moonlighting NY City police officer writer/artist Peter Morisi under the pseudonym PAM , Thunderbolt's origin told the story of Peter Cannon the son of two American missionaries in Tibet. Combating the Black plague in a Himalayan monastery Peter's parents succumb to the disease themselves. Taken in by the monastery's High Abbot he is taught the knowledge of the " Sacred Scrolls " which teach him how to utilize the dormant portion of his brain. By the time he reaches manhood he achieves mental and physical perfection. Returning to America with his boyhood friend Tabu, the pacifistic Peter reluctantly uses his powers to fight for justice while costumed in his training outfit from the monastery with a mask attachment.
Years later when Marvel Comics introduced the martial arts hero Iron Fist I couldn't help but notice how similar his origin was to that of Thunderbolt's. Later I would find that Morisi borrowed a bit from the origin of the Golden Age hero Amazing Man created by Bill Everett. And Thunderbolt's costume was reminiscent of the Golden Age Daredevil*.
One of the coolest things I found about the feature was how Morisi would subtly display Thunderbolt's powers through a series of workouts between Peter and Tabu. For instance they have a judo randori session where Peter beats his companion 6 ippons to 5. Reading the dialogue you learn Peter spotted Tabu 5 points. On another occasion Peter knocks Tabu out in a boxing match with one arm literally tied behind his back.
Thunderbolt made his first appearance in January 1966 taking over the numbering of the discontinued Son of Vulcan title from Charlton Comics and ran from issue No.50 to No.60. Writing this blog installment I started to think who I would cast as Peter Cannon in a 60s Thunderbolt movie. I'm throwing a change-up here. Instead of Ron Ely I'm going to go with 60s "teen idol" Troy Donahue. From the neck up Donahue looked like quite a few blond comic book heroes. Unfortunately from the neck down he looked like Jimmy Stewart. But hey! Get him into the gym and give him a steady diet of T-Bone steaks and protein shakes and you'd have your Peter Cannon.
*Morisi, who'd done work for Lev Gleason Publications in 1940s, reported in Comic Book Artist #9 (August 2000) that he had attempted to buy the rights to 1940s superhero Daredevil in the early 1960s. Gleason gave him his okay, but the character's primary writer-artist, Charles Biro, balked, requesting a percentage of future profits. Morisi declined and went on to create Thunderbolt in a scaled-down version of that Daredevil's symmetrically divided, red-and-blue costume. - Wikipedia
Now ju know Thunderbolt...but do ju know the Phantom Gorilla, Mr. Incognito, the Golden Adonis, and Dr. Judo? Ju don't?! Well, pal, now you ju do! ju-do as in judo...JUDO COMICS!! (Dave Goode did NOT write this pun...nobody in his right mind would write a pun this bad.) 
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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Elvis,The King of...Karate! by Dave Goode

Faux poster by Vance Capley
 Though you can make the argument pro or con that Elvis Presley was the "King of Rock & Roll. There is no denying that he was a pioneer. Nor should there be any doubt that he was a pioneer of the martial arts in America. Elvis was using karate in his movies long before Bruce Lee became a household name in the United States.

 Elvis was introduced to the martial arts via a judo demo at Ft. Hood , Texas shortly after he was drafted. While stationed in Germany he discovered karate through a book that many believe to have been written by kyokushin karate master Mas Oyama. Tales of Oyama's feats of strength and stamina must have seemed like having super-powers to Presley who had been a member of the first generation of comic book fan-boys. No doubt part of what inspired him to study the martial art.


After leaving the service and reentering show business he began incorporating martial arts moves into the fight scenes in his movies. This began in the movie BLUE HAWAII (1961). And still later when he went back to performing on stage he would punctuate a number of his songs with a quick karate kata.

  Though he never starred in a martial arts movie during the era of "kung fu-mania" he was involved in a martial arts movie project during this period. In 1973 he helped to finance a karate documentary titled THE NEW GLADIATORS. Unfortunately it wouldn't be released during his lifetime. And the footage that was filmed was believed to have been lost. In 2001 the footage was found and THE NEW GLADIATORS was released on video in 2002. In 2009 Elvis Presley Enterprises released a version of the film that included footage of Elvis training. If you're a fan of Elvis or the history of American martial arts you should seek this documentary out.
-Dave Goode

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