Chrissie

Darkseid

As promised! This is a portrait of Darkseid (of the New Gods, to the uninitiated!) I did back in May, which I just scanned in as I had something else—a quite important, all-new something else—to scan… more on which soon!

2021 Viewing (Q2)

Continuing what is now a tradition, albeit a month late, and following the previous post back in April (sorry to be gone so long, but I promise there’s a bunch of new posts coming up!), here are the viewings from the second quarter of 2021… some of which were obviously started in Q1 but completed in Q2!

The Rebel (Johnny Yuma) season 2 (DVD)
Alfred Hitchcock Presents season 5 (DVD)
Have Gun Will Travel seasons 1-2 (DVD)
Department S series 1 (Blu-ray)
Star Trek: The Original Series seasons 1-2 (Blu-ray)

Was very sorry to see The Rebel end. What a great series it was. But as soon as it did, we started watching Wanted Dead or Alive, with Steve McQueen—and Nick Adams showed up in the very first episode!

Current viewings-in-progress also include the third season of Have Gun Will Travel (more on that below), Alfred Hitchcock Presents season 6, a slow burn on Naked City season 2 and the single season of Orson Welles Great Mysteries… and after watching random episodes of The Phil Silvers Show, aka Sgt Bilko, we’re now working through the complete first season.

Old westerns have become a bit of a running theme, but I’m okay with that. Some of these shows are superb, with an ever-interesting array of old skool acting talent… and none better than the aforementioned Have Gun Will Travel, starring the excellent Richard Boone.

I can recall Boone from my childhood, but I don’t think I ever saw an ep of Have Gun until recent years. I seem to have vague memories of Hec Ramsey (1972-74), as well as his presence in lots of movies. But what a memorable performer… with his granite features, weather-beaten, pock-marked complexion and commanding, gravel voice, he’s a compelling figure on screen, and Have Gun‘s Paladin is tailor-made for him.

Paladin

Just as Paladin is a mercenary with an interesting (sometimes ambiguous) set of values, who happens to be highly cultured and well-read, as well as a crack shot, Boone himself was something of an educated polymath. After dropping out of University, he went on to work “as an oil-rigger, bartender, painter, and writer” (quote from Wiki) before joining the Navy!

Richard Boone & Christine White in Have Gun Will Travel, 1958
Richard Boone & Christine White in HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL, 1958 (from Wiki).

Have Gun ran for six seasons (1957-63), and having just started the third, I’m pleased there’s four more seasons ahead! It’s worth noting that Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry wrote a couple-dozen episodes, and Mission Impossible creator Bruce Geller was also a semi-regular. The writing talent on the show was generally first-rate. On the directing front, the most common name in the chair (116 of the 225 episodes!!) was Andrew McLaglen—son of veteran Western regular Victor McLaglen, one of whose final roles was in the extremely memorable first season episode “The O’Hare Story” (1958; directed by Andrew, of course). Boone himself directed 28 episodes!

And it’s definitely worth noting—per the references in the previous post!—that the main bad guy in the very first episode of Have Gun was none other than…

JACK LORD!

Have Gun Jack Lord
Jack Lord in the first episode of HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL, 1957.

It had to be, really. 🙂

Recent viewings film-wise: several classic films noir have been digested in the form of the remarkable Too Late For Tears (1949; amazing performances from Lizabeth Scott and Dan Duryea! Highly recommended!); Fritz Lang’s Scarlet Street (1945); Otto Preminger’s Fallen Angel (1945), Where the Sidewalk Ends and Whirlpool (both 1950); and Jack Arnold’s Universal western-noir starring Jeff Chandler and Orson Welles, 1957’s Man in the Shadow (which led to Orson making his 1958 classic, Touch of Evil). All but Too Late For Tears were rewatches, but great stuff all round.

Non-noir films—and more recent fare—were covered with 2005’s Johnny Cash biopic, Walk the Line, and the 2014 Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy. I am not a great fan of biopics in general, but these are definitely amongst the better ones… and the Wilson picture, in particular, is truly an impressive achievement. While John Cusack as middle-aged Brian is somewhat miscast, Paul Dano as young Brian is simply mind-blowingly good, and the recreations of the 1960s studio sessions & video clips are absolutely superb. Liking the Beach Boys (as I do!) helps a lot, but this film is well worth your time.

Finally, a rewatch of the 1958 low-budget chiller by Albert Band, I Bury the Living—starring a certain Mr R Boone!

And that’s all. See ya very soon (definitely, this time)!

2021 Viewing (Q1)

As a follow-up to this post, let’s look at the viewing from the first quarter of this esteemed, classic year we’re currently honoured to be enduring experiencing…

The Loner season 1 (DVD)
The Rebel (Johnny Yuma) season 1 (DVD)
Stoney Burke season 1 (DVD)
Alfred Hitchcock Hour seasons 1-2 (DVD)
Naked City season 1 (DVD)

A bit of commentary…

Stoney Burke (1962-53) is notable as being the other series headlined by the great Jack Lord (just after playing Felix Leiter in the first Bond movie, Dr No). Lord plays the titular rodeo star, and there are some interesting pre-echoes of his performance as Steve McGarrett in Hawaii Five-O (especially his largely abstemious stance on alcohol)—but the show is often more-or-less stolen by the always-entertaining Warren Oates, playing Stoney’s sleazy-but-kinda-okay childhood friend, Ves Painter. Overall a strong series, but marred by an apparent string of backdoor pilots towards the end, and a couple of closing episodes which appear to be alternate/variant season endings (the finale itself, “The Journey”, is actually quite surreal). Very pleased to have finally seen it, anyhow.

Jack Lord and Warren Oates in Stoney Burke
Jack Lord and Warren Oates in STONEY BURKE.

Trivia #1: Producer Leslie Stevens would go straight from Stoney Burke to the classic SF show The Outer Limits, which was a part of the 2020 viewing schedule!

Trivia #2: In the possible backdoor pilot episode “Point of Entry”, you get William Smith playing a cop and sharing scenes with Lord some 16 years before he joined McGarrett’s final season Five-O team as James “Kimo” Carew.

Jack Lord and William Smith in Stoney Burke, "Point of Entry"
Jack Lord and William Smith in “Point of Entry”.

On a similar note, The Loner (1965-66) is notable as being the series legendary genius Rod Serling created directly following the cancellation of The Twilight Zone, filling the gap between that and his TV movies and work on the original Planet of the Apes film (1968). It stars Lloyd Bridges, who is excellent as William Colton, a former Union captain trying to find himself after the end of the Civil War. There is an interesting link between this show and the earlier The Rebel (more below). Interestingly—though not surprisingly, because at this time he was in damn near everything—the aforementioned Mr Lord appears in episode 2, “The Vespers”.

Jack Lord in "The Vespers", episode 2 of The Loner
Jack Lord in "The Vespers", episode 2 of THE LONER.

Onto The Rebel (1959-61). This stars Nick Adams as Johnny Yuma, a Confederate soldier… trying to find himself after the end of the Civil War. Although he’s a young man and on the other side of the fence, as opposed to Bridges’ grizzled veteran on The Loner, the similarities are striking in a number of ways. Not least, their conciliatory approach in the aftermath of the bitter struggle, not always shared by various characters they encounter. Yuma is an aspiring writer and keeps a constant journal of his travels and adventures, which is an interesting (perhaps intentional) parallel to Adams himself, who apparently was an avid journal-keeper. One of his (few) surviving manuscripts, dealing with his friendship with Elvis Presley, was published in 2012 as The Rebel and the King. This series is really good; it’s a pity Adams’s career didn’t pan out so well. His life ended tragically in 1968, aged only 36, from a prescription drug overdose which may or may not have been accidental.

Trivia 1: Country God Johnny Cash, who sings the show’s theme song, “The Rebel – Johnny Yuma”, also appears in the season 1 episode “The Death of Gray”, as Pratt, a somewhat dimwitted criminal.

Johnny Cash in The Rebel, "The Death of Gray"
Johnny Cash in “The Death of Gray”.

Trivia 2: The season 1 episode “Fair Game” sees Yuma encounter a group of people at a stage depot, including Patricia Medina as an alleged murderer being taken to justice by a bounty hunter. Said bounty hunter is poisoned—but by who? The basic plot for this inspired Quentin Tarantino’s Hateful Eight (2015).

The Hateful Five in The Rebel, "Fair Game"
The Hateful Five in “Fair Game”.

Meanwhile… currently working through Alfred Hitchcock Presents season 5, The Rebel season 2, Have Gun, Will Travel season 1, Orson Welles Great Mysteries series 1, Naked City season 2 and Department S series 1, amongst other stuff. Look for the Q2 update whenever.

Film-wise, not so much, but amongst them some great films noir such as The Killers (1946) and Brute Force (1947)—Burt Lancaster’s debut movies, incidentally, and a terrific way to start a memorable screen career—and The Glass Key (1942) and The Blue Dahlia (1946), featuring the famous pairing of Alan Ladd & Veronica Lake.

There isn’t much “new” stuff amidst all this, but let’s be honest—new stuff is almost always completely rubbish.

More blogs forthcoming.

Richard Corben

Speaking of the passing of greats, I was not actively blogging last December when Richard Corben died unexpectedly, after heart surgery. Very sad loss—I was certain he had another ten years of great stuff in him. He was one of those artists whose work never really bowed to the passage of time.

Most people would only know his work because he did the iconic cover for Meat Loaf’s 1977 classic album Bat Out of Hell. And, sadly, a lot of those folks doubtless don’t even know his name.

Bat Out of Hell

From my own collection, here’s a few other things he did. We’ll probably be talking some more about his work soon. RIP, Corb…

Corben Comics

David Bowie’s Toy

As it was the fifth anniversary of DB’s death last month (according to the Nu-Time of the sim we’re now in, at any rate), I was moved to fiddle with an old design idea for his unreleased 2001 album Toy. You can read some background detail on the project here.

I did a version of this cover concept back in 2005, actually six years before the full Toy bootleg leaked… we already had several of the tracks via 2002’s Heathen and its various B-sides. My earlier effort (which I can’t locate offhand) actually used the same source photo I’ve used here (taken by legendary photog Mick Rock circa 2001), but it was very amateurish. So I had a 2021 go at it.

There is a concept to this design, loosely. Because most of the album was new versions of 1960s songs, with just three original songs (two of which later appeared on Heathen), it seemed to me a mixture of retro and early noughties was the ticket. The retro is the slightly trippy feel—I decided the ball bearings David has up to his eyes are actually “Orbs of Insight” or somesuch, generating that trippy effect of past colliding with (then) present. The 2001 aesthetic comes from the overall simplicity—and it seems to me those orangey hues were quite popular at the time. Why, I don’t know. The font is a variant on Barnbrook’s title font for Heathen—Priori.

I hadn’t done any straight design work for ages, so it was fun, and I was happy with the result. For a change. See below also for Mick’s original foto for contrast.

David Bowie - Toy

David Bowie - Toy

Comics: The Dying Craft Of Lettering

I no longer mind being called a Luddite. It might’ve bothered me once. Now, it’s become a lazy catchall slur meant to target anyone who has any kind of reservation about technological ‘progress’—because, after all, progress is an unalloyed good which everyone must believe in like obedient cult members.

(The concept of progress, and/or something being progressive, is not, semantically or in actuality, a good of any kind—or a bad of any kind. It’s a neutral idea that can/should be assessed on a case-by-case basis. For instance, in the negative, pretty much every terminal disease is ‘progressive’.)

Anyhow. I was all for digital tech and online stuff back in the day. And by that, I mean 15+ years ago. Maybe you have to be immersed in something for a while to start seeing the dangers properly. Digital has an insidious tendency to slowly, creepingly replace everything it touches with a digital facsimile. Often as not, the craft or physical actuality it replaces gets killed off completely… or, in cases like, for instance, film being made on film, a few stubborn holdouts will keep the organic original alive (Tarantino, Nolan, etc).

In comics there are a number of aspects you could mention, but let’s focus on LETTERING. To be blunt, digital lettering requires no craft. It’s a form of typsetting. And to any digital letterers out there, SORRY—BUT NOT SORRY. I accept that there’s skill in it—but there’s no craft.

To underline this point, take me. Give me one of those Comicraft fonts, some balloon templates, etc, and my work is indistinguishable from anyone else using same to do their digital lettering.

But hand lettering? I’m absolutely terrible at it. I just don’t have that craft. Don’t tell me this isn’t meaningful. Of course it is.

On top of that, digital lettering kind of SUCKS. It’s so damn sterile. Like so many other digital techniques, it largely or completely removes the human aspect. Some professional digital letterers actually do make two or three variants on their fonts so they can try to fake the letter variations seen in real hand-lettering. It’s superficially effective but it’s also a bit crazy and kinda lame—if you want that imperfection, USE YOUR FUCKING HANDS!

The results of hand-lettering require genuine craft as well as a physical interaction between the artist and the art surface. It’s a tactile thing. I don’t understand why so many people are obsessed with removing that component… from just about… everything. If we’re heading for a post-physical world, you can count me out.

Let’s end with some lettering examples. I don’t have my scanner to hand, so I grabbed a couple off the Web and cropped them down a bit. Firstly, one of the all-time greats in comic book lettering is Artie Simek. He did beautiful, bold, clear work, great sound effects, imaginative titles. He’s a gold standard. This is two tiers of page two of Fantastic Four #102 (1970), lettered by Art. The drawings are by Jack Kirby & Joe Sinnott; if you didn’t know that, for shame…

Fantastic Four 102

Secondly, two tiers from Fantastic Four: Antithesis #2 (2020). I don’t even care who did the lettering. It speaks for itself. There’s no comparison. A similar case could be made for the colouring. The artwork itself is fine; it’s by Neal Adams & Mark Farmer… this, BTW, was the nearest Marvel Comics came to publishing a half-decent comic in 2020.

Fantastic Four Antithesis

Thoughts? If you disagree, lemme know!

Inking Gil Kane’s Green Lantern

This is a bit of a reblog from when I first did this inking, back in 2018. (Legacy blog content; not currently online!) I was pleased with how it came out, but this time I thought I’d add the other versions for comparison. My source for Gil’s pencils was Kevin Nowlan’s blog (this post specifically). I really like Kevin’s work but I wanted to try my own spin—which I think came out somewhere between Gil himself and Ralph Reese.

Anyhow, more recently, I found a version actually inked by Gil, too! So that’s an extra interest factor—there are four versions of this piece to look at here! Lemme know what you think!! 🙂

In order: Gil Kane’s pencils; Gil Kane’s own inks; Kevin Nowlan’s inks; my inks.

Green Lantern Gallery cover pencils

Green Lantern Gallery cover GK inks

Green Lantern Gallery cover inks

Gil Kane's Green Lantern Inked by Me

2020 Viewing

I may write in more detail about some of the stuff I watched last year—undecided. But meanwhile, here’s a list of all the vintage episodic TV digested during those long 2020 months of deadly viruses and government scum placing everyone under house arrest.

(And, of course, there is much vintage episodic TV being digested during the unfolding long 2021 months of deadly viruses and government scum placing everyone under house arrest… but more on that later.)

2020 complete viewings…

Hawaii Five-O seasons 1-12 (DVD)
The Twilight Zone seasons 1-5 (Blu-ray)
Night Gallery seasons 1-3 (DVD)
The Outer Limits seasons 1-2 (DVD)
Alfred Hitchcock Presents seasons 1-4 (DVD)
Peaky Blinders series 3 (Blu-ray) (token non-vintage item!)
The Abbott & Costello Show seasons 1-2 (download)
Adventures of Superman seasons 1-4 (DVD)
House of Cards (1990) (Blu-ray)

And much less completely…

Dragnet various 1950s episodes (DVD)
Doctor Who various Hartnell & McCoy episodes (DVD)
Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans season 1 various episodes (DVD)

Quite a few films were viewed too, but perhaps most notably, the original James Bond films from Dr No through to Live and Let Die, on Blu-ray. Sadly, the great one, Sean Connery, passed away halfway through this… he had a good innings, but he’ll be missed (and had been missed from the screens since 2003).

More ramblings & viewing lists soon! (Maybe.)

2021

It’s been a while. After a flurry of activity on here back in August, following a blog reboot that I thought might spark my mind a bit, it kinda went dead. I’ve had that sort of on-off relationship with blogging for a long time, especially since social media started consuming everything like a hyperactive malignancy. The Internet—which IMO has always been a questionable means of communication—has really taken a dark turn in the last decade… whatever fun was once to be had (frankly, not a lot), it’s pretty much gone.

It remains a useful tool in some ways, but the more the Powers-That-Be try to push us into an all-digital existence, the less and less I want to depend on it. Simply put, it’s gotten to be too much. It has not made a healthy impression on people or society. Quite the opposite. The impact is disheartening.

And then, of course, there’s the endless, ubiquitous COVID rubbish. Whatever the nature of the sickness, it can’t be doubted by anyone who chooses to use their brain that it’s provided a number of people with a means to grab more power and influence. Individuals such as Bill Gates and Klaus Schwab—these are truly horrible people. I couldn’t possibly hold them in lower regard. So I haven’t been feeling good about any of this. Has anyone? But I don’t want to talk about it very much. It gets politicised in ways that I find asinine and depressing. Believe me, I have no use whatsoever for mainstream political notions at this point. It’s laughable and meaningless.

I do wonder how history will record all of this—assuming history as we know it survives at all.

Still. I’ve done a spring-clean and a bit of a redesign. So maybe I’ll try to write on here a bit more again. I need to revamp the Portfolio content soon. It could be more effectively presented. Overall, I think the new look is more ‘modern’ (even if the concept growingly makes me shudder).

Question: should I make the ‘legacy’ blog content available again?! I do have about 20 years of on-off blog content now, but have kept much of it offline in recent years. I don’t know. There’s a lot of rubbish in there—but it’s also two decades of my life, for better or worse. I’m thinking it over.

See ya soon! Probably!

Comics: The Ring Of The Nibelung

Written by Roy Thomas. Drawn by Gil Kane (w/assist by Alfredo Alcala). Lettered by John Costanza. Coloured by Jim Woodring. Edited by Andrew Helfer. Published in 1989-90 by DC Comics.

Summary: A squarebound, four-issue mini-series adapting Der Ring des Nibelungen, Richard Wagner’s epic musical drama, aka the Ring Cycle, based on Norse Legend and the German epic poem Nibelungenlied.

Read more about Der Ring des Nibelungen on Wikipedia. (Saves me writing a synopsis!)

The Ring has also notably been adapted in comics form, at much greater length and more faithfully to the Wagner source, by P Craig Russell in 2000; and of course, there is the two-part 1924 silent movie by the great Fritz Lang, Die Nibelungen. The Thomas & Kane version is perhaps not so different from their work on various Conan projects—it has an old school adventure comics feel. If you like those books as much as I do, you won’t see that as a drawback.

The Ring Book 1
Epic Kane art from THE RING Book One.

One of the key visual differences from the older Thomas/Kane comics would be Jim Woodring’s painterly colours. Jim is, of course, a well-known underground cartoonist, but from the mid-to-late 1980s he also worked for the Ruby-Spears animation studio, at the same time as did Gil Kane. Woodring, I believe, did get to work on some of Kane’s conceptual drawings for R-S (as well as some of Jack Kirby’s), either as inker or colourist or both, and this connection was likely the reason he got this gig for DC Comics, which was his first mainstream comics credit.

(Side note: I used to own the original art for a conceptual drawing Kane did during his R-S period, which he’d inked himself and which was hand-coloured, possibly in marker. I emailed Jim to ask if the colouring was his; he promptly replied that it wasn’t. Maybe Kane did it himself. I digress.)

Jim’s colour work is pretty interesting here. It’s a little more “bright” than you’d expect from a DC book of the period—a deceptively simple yet artsy feel well-suited to fantasy, which Kane no doubt appreciated a great deal, being famously critical of mainstream conventions. Personally I think it makes Gil’s work look a little more cartoonish at times, but it does fit the subject well enough and gives it a more unique look.

The Ring Book 3
Gil Kane at his best from THE RING Book Three.

Gil’s work is, overall, superb, and the best visuals in this series are amongst his very best work, period. But it is a little inconsistent. To be fair, there are major mitigating factors. While working on this series, Gil got sick with lymphoma (which would plague him on-and-off for the rest of his days), which necessitated a bit of uncredited inking assistance from Alfredo Alcala (also a Conan stalwart, not to mention another Ruby-Spears alumnus) (I’m unsure if Alfredo inked any of Gil’s R-S work—though it’s very likely—but he did ink lots of Kirby’s stuff). It’s been said a number of times that Alcala only assisted on Book Four of this series, but IMO while I see little trace of his hand in Book Three, I’m sure he is nominally present in Book Two (see below). He does a reasonable job of suppressing the full extent of his own, florid style and emulating Gil’s trademark forthright inking, but it’s not a perfect match… better than I’d have expected, though.

The Ring Book 2
These panels, especially the third, show traces of Alfredo Alcala’s work, from THE RING Book Two.

I love the visuals in this series. It’s worth it for the drawings alone. Luckily, Thomas does a great job with the script, too—Roy’s real niche has always been fantasy more than superheroes, I think, even though he has done some excellent hero work (the Kree-Skrull War arc in Avengers may be his pinnacle)… his best work on Conan is unsurpassed in the comics adaptations. The Ring isn’t quite up to those peaks, but it’s very good.

Of interest to Thor fans, too, would be the Norse Mythology link. Wagner naturally used the Germanic variants, so one-eyed Wotan is of course one-eyed Odin, and Donner is not meat from a kebab but none other than Thor himself—brother of Wotan’s wife, not his son! The differences are curious and fascinating, but it’s easy to spot who the various folks are. (Similar fun can be had from reading of the Roman variants on Greek mythology.)

The Ring is a pretty typical fantasy adventure, really, but it does have adult themes which are not spared in this deluxe, mature readers format—Gil gets to draw naked breasts for the first time since his work on Blackmark in the early ’70s, and the ill-fated lovers depicted in book two (“The Valkyrie”)—Siegmund & Sieglinda—are long-lost twin siblings who don’t think twice about their union when they realise their true relation.

The Ring Book 4
Title page art from THE RING Book Four.

If you haven’t seen this series, it comes highly recommended! There was a TPB collection which is now OOP; buying the individual issues may be cheaper.

While I’m here: I’ve owned a number of Gil Kane originals over the years… currently, I own this (signed!) splash page layout for Savage Sword of Conan #8, which I think is pretty neat.

Savage Sword of Conan 8 pg1
Gil Kane original layout art for page 1 of “Corsairs Against Stygia”, SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #8, 1975.