Thursday, November 19, 2020

Marvel Monsters digital trade is on Comixology!

Comixology is now offering a digital 'trade' version of Marvel Monsters, collecting all of the books from that series, including my title Marvel Monsters: From the Files of Ulysses Bloodstone. In fact, the cover of the trade is taken from my book!
Marvel's monsters unleashed in four timeless tales by today's hottest creators! In MONSTERS ON THE PROWL, it's the Hulk, the Thing, Giant-Man and the Beast vs. a tidal wave of classic creatures when the Collector inadvertently lets loose Droom, Grogg, Goom, Rombuu, Grattu and more on New York City! In DEVIL DINOSAUR, two young Celestials debate prehistoric Earth's superior life form. But when the ferocity of Devil Dinosaur proves no match for the opposition, a savage from the future is brought back for a battle you thought you'd never see: Hulk vs. Devil Dino! In FIN FANG FOUR, four giant monsters - incarcerated for years for their crimes against humanity - now find themselves shrunk to human size and working at the home of the very people who captured them: the Fantastic Four! Meet Googam, Son of Goom; Elektro; Gorgilla; and Fin Fang Foom! But when Goom's mad plan to rescue his father goes awry, the quartet must put aside their differences and become - the Fin Fang Four! And in WHERE MONSTERS DWELL, witness the terror of Monstrollo, the horror of Manoo and the fright of Bombu!

You can purchase the trade here.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

The Biblical Influence in Wyllis Cooper's Quiet, Please

Quiet, Please was a radio drama series created by Wyllis Cooper which ran from 1947-1949. Each episode starred Ernest Chappell as the lead performer, usually framed with Chappell speaking directly to the audience. Cooper had previously created the radio series Lights Out; Quiet, Please was at times a horror program like Lights Out, but at other times it leaned towards dark fantasy... or even defied genre!

Unfortunately we don't have much of Cooper's Lights Out episodes to compare with Quiet, Please; the vast majority of surviving episodes of Lights Out are those which were written & produced by Arch Oboler. But comparing Oboler's Lights Out to Cooper's Quiet, Please there is one obvious difference between the two men's styles: Cooper's interest in religion.

Oboler's Lights Out told stories which emphasized a rough (disproprtionate) sense of karma and/or hubris. A man wants to capture a big spider; he dies. A woman dances on a grave; she dies. A woman likes jazz music; brother, she dies! Perhaps the Lights Out episode "Nature Study" is the definitive Oboler morality play as the actual spoken aloud text of the story is that everyone who dies is being punished for their misdeeds.

Even in what little we have of Cooper's Lights Out, his evident Christian upbringing is noticeable. In "Uninhabited", three soldiers returning from World War I realize they are the veritable reincarnations of the three wise men from the story of Jesus' birth.

Many episodes of Quiet, Please have Biblical elements. Some are very subtle such as "Let the Lilies Consider", which is titled after the passage found in Matthew 6:28 & Luke 12:27. "Kill Me Again" features the Devil himself. "Calling All Souls" is a rare Halloween story which emphasizes All Saints' Day instead. In "Adam and the Darkest Day, a man named Adam who survives the near-destruction of all human life is told his name is an appropriate one.

But then there are other stories which delve much deeper into the Bible and Biblical characters.

"The Third Man's Story" features Ernest Chappell as the Biblical character Abel, recounting the story of Abel's murder (Genesis 4:1-8).

"Very Unimportant Person" features Ernest Chappell as an airplane pilot who has just survived a nuclear holocaust when he finds a stowaway on his plane who is God himself in an outcome which seems drawn from Revelation 21:1.

"Berlin, 1945" features Ernest Chappell as Jesus Christ, who visits lonesome soldiers in Berlin at the end of World War II; Chappell's identity is never spoken aloud and is only revealed in the last line of dialogue.

"Portrait of a Character" features Ernest Chappell as St. Gabriel the angel, who has just received a 'gig' to play his horn. Gabriel as a horn blower isn't directly from the Bible (wherein he appears to Zacharias and to Mary in Luke's gospel), but the tradition is derived from verses such as 1 Corinthians 15:52.

"A Time To Be Born and a Time to Die" is easily the most directly drawn from the Bible as it features Ernest Chappell as a man whose life directly follows the lines of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

Finally, "Shadow of the Wings" is a warm Easter tale starring Ernest Chappell as the Angel of Death, who helpfully recounts his tale from Exodus 12:23-30.

Wyllis Cooper's strong Christian influence in his writing definitely sets him apart from Arch Oboler as well as his contemporaries in radio horror/fantasy stories. It's yet another interesting aspect of Quiet, Please.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Review: Boxers and Saints

Having recently read Gene Luen Yang's Dragon Hoops, I felt spurred to check out a pair of books of his which I had missed: Boxers and Saints, which were published in 2013. Although each graphic novel has a different protagonist, they have the same setting (during the Boxer Rebellion) and not only do characters appear in both books, but events are repeated from different perspectives.


Boxers
concerns Little Bao, a young man who gradually becomes the leader of a rebellion which is determined to kill all foreigners in China as well as those Chinese who have converted to Christianity. Little Bao becomes more zealous and fanatical as time carries on.


In Saints we meet Vibiana, a neglected Chinese girl who converts to Christianity after seeing a vision of Joan of Arc, then finds herself in the path of Little Bao's army.

It's only now that I've read my fifth Gene Luen Yang title that I'm beginning to see recurring patterns in Yang's work -- like, he really, really likes dream sequences. They figure into everything I've read so far, including Boxers and Saints.

But I'm kind of mixed as to how I feel about Boxers and Saints. I love the idea of telling the same story from two different perspectives and the Boxer Rebellion is a pretty fertile setting and one which I was interested in learning more about. But I feel like these two books would have been stronger as one single graphic novel.

You see, the division between Little Bao and Vibiana is not equal. Boxers is exactly the length of Saints! And for that, while Vibiana appears only briefly as a character in Boxers, Little Bao gets a lot of new material in Saints. It feels like Yang is more strongly drawn to the mysticism of Little Bao and less comfortable writing Christianity (strange that, as in Dragon Hoops I learned he was working at a Catholic school). Or perhaps he was simply more comfortable writing about a male protagonist than he was a female one.

I do recommend the two books and definitely think if you're going to read one you really should read both.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Five Dummies That Couldn't Be Silenced

In writing about old-time radio I've mentioned that comedy programs are frequently the most difficult for me to appreciate. One of the big comedy stars of old-time radio was Edgar Bergen with his ventriloquist dummy Charlie McCarthy. Much has been made of how unusual it was that ventriloquism could be a hit on the radio when audiences couldn't even see Bergen & McCarthy. Bergen cast a pretty large shadow, considering he lived long enough to make a cameo (with Charlie) in The Muppet Movie (1979). I think it's fair to say that when people tell fictional stories about ventriloquists and their dummies they tend to be inspired by Bergen.

One unusual trend in fiction about ventriloquists is the idea of the ventriloquist developing a split personality, engaging in a conflict with his dummy over which of them is the dominant personality. It has been played out in a few different places and I thought it would be fun to look at the most prominent instances. However, I'm not going to consider stories where the dummy is simply an independent force (ie, Twilight Zone's "Caesar and Me"), the dummy has to be in some way a part of the ventriloquist's personality.

As ventriloquist dummies are pretty creepy, each dummy will graded on the Charlie McCarthy scale. A rating of '1 Charlie' means the dummy is as creepy as Charlie McCarthy, '2 Charlies' means twice as creepy and so forth.


OTTO

From: "The Rival Dummy" (1928) a short story by Ben Hecht; also adapted into The Great Gabbo (1929), a film directed by James Cruze, as "The Rival Dummy" into an episode of the radio series Molle Mystery Theater (1946) and as an episode of the television series Studio One (1949).

Creep factor: 1 Charlie

What's His Deal?: As best as I can tell, Hecht's story is the originator of the 'evil dummy' genre and he wrote it 8 years before Bergen's breakout success! (Bergen was in vaudeville at the time) This dummy is not exactly evil and there is nothing supernatural about the story, but the ventriloquist Gabbo (played by Erich von Stroheim in the picture) finds himself over-indulging in his dummy, losing his own identity. Later writers took this concept, added a bit of Bergen and a lot of terror!


TOBY

From: Dead of Night (1945), a film directed by Alberto Cavalcanti; also adapted into an episode of the radio show Escape (1947)

Creep factor: 1 Charlie

What's His Deal?: This is easily the most famous 'evil dummy' story. Maxwell Frere (played by Michael Redgrave in the picture) finds his dummy Toby keeps saying things against his will. It might be the work of a rival ventriloquist -- or the dummy might have a life of his own. Note that the radio adaptation goes in quite a different direction from the movie.


RIABOUCHINSKA

From: "Riabouchinska" (1947), written by Ray Bradbury as an episode of the radio series Suspense; subsequently published as a short story "And So Died Riabouchinska" (1953), adapted to television's Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1956) and to television's Ray Bradbury Theater (1988).

Creep factor: 0.5 Charlies

What's HisHer Deal?: Riabouchinska is the female dummy of John Fabian (played by Claude Rains in the picture), a ventriloquist who previously used a Charlie-esque male dummy but later modeled a new dummy on the assistant he had been infatuated with. This is an interesting reversal of the usual evil dummy stories -- in this case, Riabouchinska is the embodiment of good while Fabian is evil!


WILLIE

From: "The Dummy" (1962) an episode of television's The Twilight Zone written by Rod Serling.

Creep factor: 2 Charlies

What's His Deal?: Ventriloquist Jerry Etherson (played by Cliff Robertson in the picture) is having a lot of trouble in his act; he has two dummies: the Charlie-esque Willie and the Mortimer Snerd-esque Goofy Goggles. But, as in Dead of Night, the dummy has a big ego, one which is overwhelming the ventriloquist -- however, it leads to a much more horrifying outcome than that film!


FATS

From: Magic (1976), a novel by William Goldman; also adapted into the film Magic (1978) directed by Richard Attenborough.

Creep factor: 5 Charlies

What's His Deal?: Corky Withers (played by Anthony Hopkins in the picture) is a frustrated stage magician who suffers a mental breakdown when success keeps eluding him. He reinvents his magic act by adopting Fats, a ventriloquist dummy. He cleverly uses Fats as a distraction to help him execute magic tricks and soon he gains all the success he wanted -- but Fats has developed into a separate personality and he's on the verge of a much more dangerous mental breakdown.

Monday, November 2, 2020

RIP: Sean Connery

You might find it hard to believe, but I grew up thinking James Bond movies were boring. Although my parents were (and are) both big fans of the movies, I don't recall any positive memories about seeing the films in my childhood. Positive memories of spending time with my parents, but nothing else.

Casino Royale changed my perspective on Bond, largely thanks to that film's attempt to be a Bond film for people who don't like Bond films (ie, me). Since then, I've learned to appreciate the Bond franchise history.

But is Sean Connery my favourite Bond? Nope, I'm for Daniel Craig.

To me, Sean Connery's greatest role was Daniel Dravot in The Man Who Would Be King (1975). I enjoyed many of Connery's roles -- heck, my parents dragged me to see Medicine Man -- but Connery's performance as a scoundrel who makes himself a godlike king then is undone by his own passions remains my personal favourite of his films.

Rest in peace Mr. Connery.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

The Marvel Westerns collection is on Comixology!

Comixology is now offering the collected version of Marvel Westerns. It contains all of the Marvel Westerns titles from the 2006 event -- including my book, Marvel Westerns: Outlaw Files!

The Solicitation:

Marvel's masked men ride again in all-new tales by a posse of today's most talented creators! It's the raucous return of Two-Gun Kid, Hurricane, Red Wolf, the Man From Fort Rango, Kid Colt, Arizona Annie, the Black Rider, Gunhawk and more! And introducing the Philadelphia Filly and Spender! Plus: re-presenting the origin of Rawhide Kid by Jack "King" Kirby and other classic Marvel Western tales.

Check it out here on Comixology!

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Inner Sanctum Halloween Month, day 31 of 31: "The Corpse Nobody Loved"

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

To conclude my month-long look at hightlights from the series Inner Sanctum, I'm featuring "The Corpse Nobody Loved," an episode originally broadcast on September 21th, 1952. This was among the earliest episodes of the series I heard and it has a strange dream-like quality to it. A young woman catches a taxi, then finds herself seated next to a corpse!

"The Corpse Nobody Loved" was hosted by Paul McGrath.

You can listen to this episode at archive.org by clicking here.

Thank you for joining me during this month's theme! I hope you enjoyed it!