Saturday, October 31, 2009

Dr. Madblood

I never had my own local horror host growing up. This isn't exactly a big market, and I'm just out of reach of the areas that did have their own hosts. I knew they existed, and even got to see a few here and there. The closest I ever managed to latching onto someone as "my" host was on my visits to Ohio. That was where I encountered Channel 43's Superhost. But I only saw him a couple of times a year at best, so even that doesn't quite count.

I owe Prattle-master Lewis Smith more debts that I can ever fully recount, and one of the lesser ones was his turning me on to the horror host called Dr. Madblood. Dr. Madblood was born in Virginia, and yet, I've become so taken with what I've seen of his program that I've adopted him as my personal horror host of choice.

Dr. Madblood's outfit isn't especially outrageous, and he doesn't have that made stars out of Vampira and Elvira. No, what made his hosting segments so memorable was the genuine wit on display. There was a certain level of ambition and creativity in what was realistically a penny ante show. I'm kind of amazed the things they tried to do sometimes with no money at all. Plus, there was an impressive cast of supporting players backing up Doc.

I've seen 5 episodes of DR. MADBLOOD'S MOVIE (theme music is Sugarloaf's "Green-Eyed Lady!) and I liked all of them. Particular standouts were a parody of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and the 1990 15th Anniversary shindig. And heck, you can't beat a show that incorporates a wrestling storyline and satirizes actual working wrestlers in the local regional promotion. I never thought I'd see a parody of Blackjack Mulligan away from the squared circle.

Regular TV gigs for horror hosts are scarce these days, but Dr. Madblood keeps the flame alive at his website If I've piqued your interest, one click will introduce you to a treasure trove of knowledge about Pungo's most famous resident.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

It's Update Time, My Friends

Yep. I'm throwing in the towel right now as far as putting together any more content for my site. Oh, there'll be more, no worries there. I just need to do a little regrouping, especially since some of my backups weren't quite as up-to-date as I'd thought. Oooops.

So, if you go to the far-famed Return of Jetman website, you will find a brand-new set of Notes for Episode 12 from back in 2003. More than a bit belated, but hopefully worth reading.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ghastly Grooves

One of my favorite stores is Big Lots, but probably for all the wrong reasons. I like to call it "The Store That Sells The Things Nobody Wants". That's not entirely fair, of course, but it's probably a lot more accurate than its upper management would like to admit. Closeout stores are ALWAYS the shopping equivalent of visiting the Island of Misfit Toys, and that's why I like them. Plus, you can often find cool stuff that fell through the cracks. I own a lot of music thanks to the Big Lots chain.

A fine example of a Big Lots gift that keeps on giving is the CD GHASTLY GROOVES. Clicking that Amazon link (which does not profit your humble blogger, by the way) will immediately reveal one of the things I love about this compilation. Yes, friends, it is a latter-day K-Tel album! Ye Gods, I love me some K-Tel. Seeing that stylized "K" logo is almost enough to make the sale right there.

But there's more. This may be one of the best collections of "Halloween" music ever assembled. It obviously can't be THE greatest, since it lacks both "Monster Mash" (is that legal?) and Zacherle's "Dinner with Drac" (often forgotten, but a favorite). But how many other Halloween CDs include both Donovan and Santana? Or a track from my boys BOC? Or the nigh-forgotten Redbone?

I'm genuinely impressed with the thought put into this album. For the traditionalists, you have things like "Haunted House" and "The Blob". For those looking for big songs, you have "Ghostbusters", "Spooky", and "Frankenstein" (which qualfies solely due to its name, but it rules so no one cares). You even get quality cult acts like Screamin' Jay Hawkins, the Ventures, and Roky Erikson.

Find it. Get it. It will make your Halloween party that much cooler. I promise.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Two Titans Team-Up

If you're a comic book fan, you might have heard that George Tuska passed away last week at the age of 93. He had a long career in the industry, and drew a ton of comics. I really liked his work.

For a time in the late 1970s, Tuska drew World's Finest Comics as scripted by Bob Haney. I've made no secret of my affection for Haney's writing over the years, so I get a kick out of revisiting these old comics. One in particular caught my eye, and that was issue #251 (June-July 1978). I've been meaning to post these panels for ages, and paying tribute to Mr. Haney and Mr. Tuska simultaneously with them feels right. And the fact that the inking is by Vince Colletta actually sort of adds to that.

I should mention that there's a chance this dialogue was rewritten by someone. But I don't think so, and really, I hope not.

Et tu, Batman?

Et tu, Batman?

Oh snap!

Oh snap!

Thanks for the memories, Bob and George.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I am a big fan of this guy

I was watching the movie BRUCE THE SUPER HERO (which deserves an entry all its own, seriously) one night, and I noticed this.

Screenplay : Poon Fan

Ironically, I go by this name sometimes, too.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Find China

I have never been to China Grove, Texas, but I wouldn't mind being able to claim that I have. My worry is that it either has changed a lot since the heyday of the Doobie Brothers, or that they took some artistic license in their famous tune. If I do visit China Grove, I want the sheriff and his buddies to be singing a samurai song.

I have, however, been to China, Texas. It is not down around San Antonio, but rather outside of Beaumont. Not a bad little hamlet by any means, but they weren't really looking to the East there. At least not as far as I could tell.

Interestingly enough, if you're traveling U.S. 90 westbound out of Beaumont, you will see a road sign that reads "China 9, Liberty 37". No one but me seems to think this is cool.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tales of Michael Ellis & Ted P. Skimmer

The magical world of comic books is filled with innumerable mysteries, both major and minor. Over the last few weeks, I've played a bit part in solving two of the minor ones. This is that story.

I am currently working on putting together a lengthy run of the original Justice League of America series. To complement this, I've also completed the 8 issue Index series put together by Murray Ward for ICG/Eclipse back in the 1980s. Thanks to the virtues of good timing, it covers the entire original run of the book, complete with tryouts and special issues. Since I'm not worried about the relaunched Justice League book that began in 1987, this is perfect for my needs.

During my perusal of the index issues, I noticed that Justice League of America #255 had a bit of an oddball credit. The plot was from Gerry Conway (his last involvement with the comic he wrote for more issues than anyone else), but the scripter was one "Michael Ellis". The text indicated that this was a pseudonym, but did not identify the writer in question. Considering that the issue was still relatively recent at the time of publication, I wasn't surprised by this. I figured the Internet would clue me in immediately.

As it turned out, I was wrong. All my search initially yielded was more questions about who "Michael Ellis" really was. That is, until I found the Amazon blog of J. M. DeMatteis. In the comments section of an entry about his new work The Life and Times of Savior 28, he makes this statement :

...and that's why I decided to use the "Michael Ellis" pen name [for Captain America #300]. (The name, by the way, comes from a Monty Python sketch and was suggested by Mark Gruenwald.)

Well. That certainly put a different spin on things. It was especially interesting because the only credits for a "Michael Ellis" on the GCD were that issue of Captain America and the JLA book. Plus, DeMatteis took over as full writer for the League with #256 and shepherded the book through its finale (setting up his far more memorable run on the relaunch with Keith Giffen).

I put the knowledge I had gained up on the GCD mailing list, and fellow member Allen Ross took the initiative to ask Mr. DeMatteis directly on his blog. You can read that exchange on this entry. As you will see, Mr. DeMatteis confirms that he was "Michael Ellis" in both instances. That knowledge has since been added to the GCD's entry on the comic.

I was pretty proud that I had helped unearth this little bit of secret knowledge. Little did I suspect I was about to do it again!

A few days later, I was reading some of my new JLA comics, and noticed a letter from a "Ted P. Skimmer". This rang a bell for me, and I was reminded that Ted later was putting together the lettercolumns for the JLA book and other DC titles. However, unlike others in that position, he hadn't really gone on to do a lot besides lettercols. Tamsyn O'Flynn had put together a decent number of writing credits after breaking in doing lettercolumns; Ted only had (as far as I could find) ONE. Whatever happened to Ted P. Skimmer?

As I again fired up the Google Search, there was something nagging at the back of my memory that I couldn't put my finger on. Then I found an answer, but it wasn't quite what I'd expected...

Bob Rozakis worked for DC Comics in a variety of capacities for a number of years. More recently, he masterminded a series called "Secret History of All-American Comics" that appeared in Alter Ego and Back Issue magazines. It proposed an interesting "alternate reality" wherein, among other things, Flash and Green Lantern became the iconic multi-media stars, rather than Superman and Batman. This fun little exercise in "What If?" led me to this particular entry on Mr. Rozakis' blog during my search for Ted.

Why? The entry jogged my memory of where I had seen Ted's name before my lettercolumn nostalgia : many installments of the "Secret History" were built around interviews with AA Comics staffer Ted P. Skimmer! At the time, I just brushed it off as my comics-filled mind playing tricks on me. Now I had seen for myself that the names were identical. What's more, something about Bob's wording turned on the proverbial light bulb over my head. In fact, it was just one word that explained so much.


The Ted in the "Secret History" segments was obviously fictional. But if Ted P. Skimmer had also been a real person working for DC, Bob wouldn't have gone to such lengths to concoct details for a fake Ted. There would surely have been an acknowledgment of the REAL Ted P. Skimmer somewhere. Unless...unless there was NO SUCH PERSON as "Ted P. Skimmer" at all!

You can read the rest in the comments section of that entry and in Bob's follow-up to my question, "Ted P. Skimmer and Me". As it turns out, Bob Rozakis himself had been the "real" Ted P. Skimmer in those old comics, and had dusted off the old pseudonym for the "Secret History". And apparently, I'm the first person that put two and two together about the truth. Wild.

(There's also this amusing footnote.)

Neither of these are earth-shaking revelations, but I feel really good knowing that I've added a small bit of knowledge to comic book history.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Head East

As I've mentioned before, the history of pop music is not entirely written in the Top 40 Singles chart. A good example of this would be the band Head East. They were entirely absent from the Top 40, despite the fact that their song "Never Been Any Reason" has become a staple of classic rock/oldies stations. This in itself is slightly ironic, in that it reached the lowest position of any of their charting singles.

(To save you the trouble, it peaked at #68. "Love Me Tonight", its follow-up, peaked at #54. The forgotten except by hardcore fans "Since You Been Gone" beat them both out by getting as high as #46!)

"Never Been Any Reason" is a fascinating song. The lyrics are intelligible, but unforgettably odd. So odd, in fact, that I once used them as fodder for a cut & paste comic strip. It is also remarkably synth-happy for a song from 1975 that isn't considered "progressive" rock. Or disco, for that matter.

Head East's major label debut album FLAT AS A PANCAKE was still in print the last I checked, and it's loaded with interesting, catchy songs. It's not enough to make you wonder why Head East didn't become a Major Big Deal, but it's entertaining. There's also a "20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection/Best of" compilation which samples the best of that album and their later releases from A&M Records. I own them both, so I guess that makes me something like an expert on the band in these parts.

The real experts out there are behind the official Head East website. Yes Virginia, there really is such a thing.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Moon Mask Rider

While researching this movie, I have come across a number of instances of it being compared to THE LEGEND OF THE LONE RANGER. Although it has been almost 30 years (oh God, really?) since I saw the American movie in a theater, that sounds like an apt comparison to me. Both were released in 1981. Both updated classic heroes. And both were box office disappointments with top-lining "stars" that faded into obscurity shortly afterward.

THE MOON MASK RIDER is the English-dubbed version of 月光仮面 (Gekko Kamen; "Moonlight Mask") from Nippon Herald. Thank goodness the copy I have is in English (from Greece, if you can believe it), because this movie would have been a total snoozefest otherwise. It's not difficult to understand its rejection by Japanese audiences. I think it would have been a hard sell even if the main hero had been brand-new. As an ostensible revamp of a beloved cultural icon, it falls even flatter. There are none of the familiar GEKKO KAMEN characters at all, and the considerable charm of 1950s-style Japanese heroes is only evident in brief flashes.

(Aside : Why is it called THE MOON MASK RIDER? Well, the hero definitely tools around on a motorcycle, so there's that. Most likely, it was Nippon Herald attempting to piggyback on the success of KAMEN RIDER. Were the Riders big enough outside of Japan in the 1980s for this to work? Seems like someone thought so.)

There are some narrative choices that I question in this film that drag it down. The "mystery" of the Moon Mask Rider's identity is not a bad idea, but the execution leaves something to be desired. I mean, if it's not going to be an ACTUAL mystery, why be coy about it? Mixing tongue-in-cheek elements in the same cinematic stew with a religious cult storyline inspired by Jonestown also feels like two diametrically-opposed ideas colliding violently. It leaves me unsure how I'm supposed to view the action. Is it serious? Is it funny? The movie itself doesn't even seem to know.

But by far the most maddening aspect of this movie is that it wastes the talents of Etsuko Shiomi. That's not unusual, to be fair, but this flick could have desperately used her skills to spice things up. As it stands, she does get to show off some of her abilities, but the movie is way more concerned with the "drama" of her character. IF things had played out differently, I might've been OK with this. The results are just a big ol' cheat.

There are some funny bits here and there in this movie, and Gekko Kamen/Moon Mask Rider cuts an exciting figure when he gets to be on-camera. And yes, any picture with Etsuko Shiomi will have some value. It's just that I really wanted to like this movie. I can't say I hate it, but it isn't something I'm going to have the urge to revisit anytime soon.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

So Long, And Thanks For All The Sushi

So, one night a couple of years ago, my pal Lewis showed me something. No, not that, you gutterminds. He showed me this catalog page and told me to pay special attention to no. 25. My reaction was, "Wait, that's...What?"

It's Machine Dolphin, from the mid-1980s superhero series MACHINEMAN, complete with a Machineman action figure. All these years, I had no idea that such a toy had managed to make it to our shores. I mean, why MACHINEMAN of all things?

MACHINEMAN, if you don't know (and why should you?) bears no relation to either the Ideal toy or the Jack Kirby-created Marvel character. It's one of many series created by Shotaro Ishinomori. It's not, however, one that made his legend. MACHINEMAN is pretty lightly regarded by those that even know about it. I can't disagree. From what I've watched, MACHINEMAN is just OK at best. I've seen episodes dubbed in Portuguese from Brazil, and my one-time Brazilian penpal was aghast when I wanted MACHINEMAN rather than some more memorable show.

The show does have a cool intro though.

(If you're reading the Facebook feed, you can watch it here.)

Monday, October 5, 2009

30 Days In The Hole

If you're a compulsive follower of OWARI (entertaining dozens since 1995), you might have noticed that there was no September update to last month. This was despite my heavy implication that there would be just such an update. Well, much to my consternation, time has been my worst enemy in putting together material for the site.

I should point out that I have made some progress on the ROJ front. However, that was before the computer issues which meant I needed to be focused elsewhere. Now, none of my work was lost, but a lot of potential time to do MORE work was. This was coupled with several real life concerns (including one in particular that is as unlikely as it is promising) that diverted my attention. The end result is that what was projected as a lock for September will now be either October or November, depending on how a few things break down.

This entry isn't just about explaining/excusing the habitual tardiness that has been a hallmark of ROJ since the dark days post-Hurricane Rita. Nope, I've got a little preview of some of the notes for ROJ Episode 12 - "Know Your Enemy". This is, in my humble opinion, one of the better stories I've concocted for this whole enterprise. If you haven't read it, might I suggest following that link now before you continue?



"Know Your Enemy"
(Episode 12)
Production Notes
by Christopher Elam
© 2009 Christopher Elam


Episode 12 - "Know Your Enemy" wrapped principal writing on May 6, 2003. The title (probably the best of the ROJ series) has a double-meaning which should be obvious after reading the episode. The operative phrase is "Know Your Enemy, Know Yourself," but going with that as the full title would have tipped my hand fairly early.

I'm quite happy with the way this episode turned out, though it was not universally beloved. It does sort of backpedal a little from the rather insane cliffhanger of the previous episode, but that was something I knew would happen ahead of time. I just felt all the elements managed to tie together in a completely satisfying way.


The revelation that Gai (and Kei!) knew about Ken's duplicity in Episode 7 adds to the almost unbearable level of tension among the remaining Jetmen. It takes Reiko's outburst and confession of her true feelings for Gohan to cool Ken and Kei's tempers - at least temporarily.

"I mean, what's a traitor, after all?"/"A traitor is a dirty motherfu..." - This exchange is based on a similar one in the martial arts films THOUSAND MILE ESCORT. And yes, its English dubbing defines "traitor" in just such colorful terms.


Hopefully, this will entice some of you who haven't sampled the series to give it a shot. If not, you can't blame me for trying!

Oh, and since I've been asked by some of the few hardy souls who read ROJ - yes, I have every intention of finishing the current "New Return of Jetman" storyline. I haven't talked much about it since April, but it is never far from my mind. Although in retrospect it might have been a mistake to launch this series (possibly more on that someday), I am very determined to finish what I've started. Besides, I think NROJ (as I like to call it, even though it makes me think of NRBQ) contains some of my strongest and most interesting fiction writing. It may have some of my weakest fiction too, but we won't talk about that! (Shhh!) I feel like I have made a few sacrifices in my quest to get that darn thing wrapped up, and suffered a few personal losses that might not owe directly to the project but which are connected to it in my head nonetheless. The least I can do is actually finish the silliness, whether with a bang or a whimper.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Timely Reviews

Well, they're actually not timely at all, considering all these comics have been out for awhile. However, if you'll recall this post, today we'll be doing a follow-up. Referring back to the earlier entry to refresh your memory might be an excellent idea.

Looking back, I didn't review individual issues in the first entry on these books. Perhaps this is a good thing. Instead of trying to think of something to say about each comic, I'll just tell you that Young Allies Comics #1 and All Winners Comics #1 run neck and neck as my favorites of all 11 comics in this series. I'm a sucker for the Invaders, so the All-Winners Squad naturally comes along for that ride. It didn't hurt that the story made me smile in all the right places. But then, I think Karl Kesel is highly underrated. As for the Young Allies, such a smart revamp of the kid gang can't be ignored, especially when it made me cry. Yes, seriously. It also had one of my favorite art jobs on these titles, outdistancing All-Winners by a mile and giving the Sub-Mariner book a run for its money.

In a change from the schedule as outlined in June, Mystic Comics #1 was delayed until September 2. That meant that its release coincided with the last of these specials, which was indeed Daring Mystery Comics #1. That comic, which ties into the long-delayed mini-series The Twelve deserves special kudos for making me care a LOT about a character like the Phantom Detective. What a pleasant surprise, and a nice capper to this run of titles.

With one exception, none of these books did anything at my local shop. I have a feeling this might have been commonplace, but I'll be quite happy to be proven wrong. The only anomaly was USA Comics #1, which sold out the same day despite being ordered at identical levels as the rest of the later books. Was this because of the MAX Destroyer series that was running at the same time?

Anyway, two sort of related books bear mentioning here, too : Marvel Comics #1 (the very first Marvel comic from 1939 rendered with modern computer coloring - surprisingly effective!) and Marvel Mystery Handbook : 70th Anniversary Special #1 (profiles of characters from Marvel's first year - haven't seen this yet). Neither is part of the "official" series of one-shots, but they are spiritual cousins so I thought they deserved a nod.

If you missed these books, or don't like having individual books lying around, Marvel has an oversized hardcover collection of all of them due in January. It's to be called "Timely 70th Anniversary Collection", though I'll be darned if I can find its page on Marvel's website. It is scheduled to have a SRP of $39.99, so if that sounds too rich for your blood, I'd recommend waiting on the inevitable standard-sized trade edition.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Black X

Black X

Black X (also known as "Dark X") is the latest member of my fabled Secret Society to get the full-color portrait treatment. As for the rest of them, well, we'll see.

Now, Black X is one of my better-looking hero designs. His name is pretty boss, too. There was a strip from Quality Comics in the 1940s called "Black X" (created by Will Eisner!), but I knew nothing of that when I created my hero.

I think Black X got consigned to my parallel Earth Secret Society because I had a "Black" character in my Legion (Black Knight) and an "X" character, too (Avenging X). Still, that didn't stop him from looking way cool. Check out the number he's doing on that crook! I don't know if I'd give him a gun that shoots out X's now, but I JUST MIGHT.

Like Bat Eater, Black X was a challenge because of his color scheme. I decided giving him a grey jumpsuit would be fine, particularly since it could emulate the graphite look he had for most of his life. I ended up redoing my inks digitally in addition to doing some corrections on the picture. Plus, the pose was a bit of a happy accident.

I'm quite pleased with the way this one turned out, and I think it makes a worthy companion to the Conehead and Bat Eater pictures. I hope you folks like it, too.