Saturday, December 10, 2011

Reading Room: SANTA CLAUS FUNNIES "How Santa Got His Red Suit"

Didn't you ever wonder...
Well, here's the answer, from Four Color Comics #61 (1944)!
After being published annually as it's own title in 1942-1943, Santa Claus Funnies became a Four Color Comics feature, publishing annually from 1944 to 1961.
This tale was written and illustrated by Walt Kelly, before he created the classic comic strip Pogo.
Beginning with a two-part adaptation of the novel Gulliver's Travels in New Comics in 1935,  Walt began an almost two-decade run in comic books, almost all of it for Dell Comics, where his distinctive style quickly developed into the "house style" for humor and funny animal stories that other artists would try to emulate.
Walt was the primary artist on the ongoing Santa Claus Funnies and Mother Goose series, and we'll be presenting several of those stories this Christmas season.
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Friday, December 9, 2011

Problem with Images on Picasa...

I just discovered that my image host, Picasa, has changed it's policy and software implementation.
Images I deliberately scaled to 750 pixels high for reasonable readibility and small file size now automatically-default to only 512 pixels high!
To demonstrate, here's an example from what would've been today's post...
 The way it used to be.

The way it is now...
As a Google employee explains HERE...
If you manually edit our embed URLs to remove the size parameter, we now default to using a 512 pixel width image. We made this change to help us continue working to improve how we serve photos across Google, including on Blogger and other sites.
It would've been nice if they gave us a heads-up before doing this.
(And, it's the height, not the width that defaults to 512!
A 512-pixel width wouldn't be that bad for most of my post images, which are usually 510-550 pixels wide!)
As it stands, I've fixed the most recent posts on all the other RetroBlogs™, but it's going to be a little while (probably after the holidays) before I can go in and fix older entries!
This particular blog is being redesigned, but I'm not implementing the change until after New Year's Day, 2012, when things slow down enough for me to begin refitting older entries to look better in the new format.

I apologize if this impacts your enjoying the RetroBlogs™.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Jerry Robinson 1922-2011

Another great from the Golden Age of Comics has passed.
Jerry Robinson, a versatile writer/artist who co-created the Joker, Two-Face and Alfred, as well as naming Robin, for the Batman series, passed away yesterday.
After beginning his career as an assistant to Bob Kane (during which he did the work listed above), he became an in-demand penciler-inker, first collaborating with, then becoming studio partners with, Mort Meskin.
Together, Robinson & Meskin created the characters AtoMan and Golden Lad for Spark Publications.
Much like the team of Joe Simon & Jack Kirby, they also collaborated on various already-existing strips, including The Green Hornet, The Vigilante, Fighting Yank, Johnny Quick, and The Black Terror, often switching penciling and inking duties to keep things interesting.
But his comic book work was just the tip of the iceberg for the amazingly-talented Robinson!
For much more about both the artist and the man, visit his official website HERE.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Remember Pearl Harbor!

70 years ago today...
...a sneak attack on our naval base in Hawaii forced America's entry into World War II.
But around six months before that, a comic book story was created, based on that very concept!
Cover art by Reed Crandall
The December 1941 issue of National Comics, featuring Uncle Sam himself as a superhero, predicted it!
Remember that comic books were cover-dated 2-4 months before the actual on-sale date, and that the actual production time for a comic is anywhere between 1-3 months!
So this comic was on sale in September or October of 1941, and the story was written by Will Eisner and drawn by Lou Fine sometime between May and August of that same year!
Eerie, eh?
Note: they didn't get some of the details quite right...
Guam is hit at the same time as Pearl Harbor.
This one is weirdly close to reality!
Guam was attacked and conquered the very next day, Dec 8th!
Uncle Sam himself addresses Congress, warning them these attacks are just a trick to leave the continental US unguarded!
Uncle Sam was right!
A German invasion fleet heads for New England!
Plus, the attacks on Pearl Harbor and Guam were part of a coordinated plan by Japan and Germany!
In reality, Germany had no such trans-Atlantic fleet available.
Hell, they couldn't even invade England, only 35 miles away at it's closest point to Axis-occupied France!
And the Germans were less than happy to discover they now had to deal with America, along with England and Russia!
However they did honor their pact with Japan and declared war on the USA.
For the complete comic tale, check out our "brother" RetroBlog™, War: Past, Present & Future™, on Friday!
In the meantime, you can see another pre-WWII comic that predicted the then-upcoming entry of the US HERE!
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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

IN THEATRES: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians!

Back in a digitally-restored "Special Edition"...
This cinematic Christmas stocking is loaded with retro-cool presents of all kinds.
There are two cartoons from the brilliant Fleischer Brothers, Max and Dave - Christmas Comes But Once a Year (1936), in which that whimsical inventor Grampy creates a whole Santa's workshop worth of toys for some poor orphans; and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1948), the first animated version of this classic tale about the outcast little deer who saves Christmas.

But there's more!

From a Christmas adventure starring that sensation of Fifties TV Howdy Doody to a couple of visits with Ozzie and Harriet to a holiday salute from ventriloquist Shari Lewis and her hand puppet Lambchop.
These - as well as a bunch of "Greetings From The Theater Management" trailers made for movie theaters (they are actually dated by year and its fun to see color ones introduced in the Sixties) - will inspire a kind of unsettling nostalgia among Baby Boomers who'll surely remember this when they were kids.
For their kids and grandkids these mind-boggling artifacts will seem either surreal or cheesy - or both.
That's the real fun of this show.
The biggest, most brightly-wrapped gift under this gaudy and colorful Christmas tree is the unforgettable (even if you try) 1964 feature film, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.
Of course, connoisseurs of bad B-movies consider this one of the worst, which means it's one of the funniest, as we pointed out HERE.

Click HERE to go to the re-released movie's website for dates and theatres in your area!
PLUS: our "brother" RetroBlog™, Secret Sanctum of Captain Video™ is re-presenting the comic book tie-in for the movie HERE!
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Monday, December 5, 2011

Design of the Week--Public Defender in Action!

Each week, we post a limited-edition design, to be sold for exactly 7 days, then replaced with another!
This week...He's the man who defends those who can't afford a defender!
He's the Public Defender and he's obviously in Action! (It says so in the title!)
While district attorneys and criminal lawyers tend to get all the attention in fiction, Legal Aid lawyers usually get short shrift, most often as easily-disposed courtroom opposition for lead characters in various Law & Order series.
There's only been one radio series (Roger Kilgore: Public Defender) and a single tv series (Young Lawyers) about them*.
Oh, and this short-lived comic book series about Richard Manning, who defends those the law has wrongly-accused!
It didn't set the world on fire during it's six-issue run (In fact, it's never been reprinted!), but it did offer a contrast to the usually-infallible police and DAs who never prosecuted an innocent person!
We're promoting our addition of Public Defender in Action to our Crime & Punishment™ line of comic collectibles which includes his across-the-aisle counterpart, Mr District Attorney with a one-week special including items that won't be offered in the regular store!
If you have a friend/relative/loved one who is a Legal Aid lawyer or legal aide, one of these kool kollectibles would make a great kitschy Christmas gift!
Be there for Public Defender!
He'd be there for you!

*The long-running TV series The Guardian, starring Simon Baker, was about a lawyer from a high-end firm forced to perform community service as a Legal Aid consultant after a drug conviction.
Not the same thing. ;-)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Good Will Must Originate in the Industrial Plant!

It's amazing how the solutions to current problems can be found in old comic books!
...as shown in this strip from Picture News in Color and Action #3 (1946)
Considering how Republican 2012 Presidential candidates are publicly throwing around ideas like eliminating minimum wage and child labor laws and Republicans are actively backing labor-busting initiatives, it's frightening to consider how far we've regressed!
Are debtors' prisons next?
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