Saturday, August 1, 2015

Reading Room STRANGE TALES OF THE UNUSUAL "Man Who Said 'No' "

Here's one more Atlas/Marvel ant-themed story predating "Man in the Ant Hill"...
...about another scientist who developed a formula to shrink living beings!
Unlike Henry Pym, Max (whose last name remains unknown), never realizes his idea works...but the arrogant financier who refused to bankroll him certainly does...
This story from Atlas' Strange Tales of the Unusual #10 (1957) is illustrated by Angelo Torres, who started as one of EC Comics' sci-fi and horror-illustrating "Fleagle Gang", but found greater success when he switched to humorous cartooning for MAD Magazine and Esquire!
The writer is unknown, but might be Atlas editor Stan Lee.

Friday, July 31, 2015


"The Man in the Ant Hill", which spawned Ant-Man, was not Timely/Atlas/Marvel's first ant-themed tale...
...but I'm betting this never-reprinted tale from Adventures into Terror #43 (1950) is the first!
So there's elements of what would later be "Man in the Ant Hill" as well as the 1957 novella "The Fly" by George Langelaan, which became the basis for movie series in 1958 and 1986!
GCD attributes the art to Mike Sekowsky, but it doesn't match his work on Speed Carter: Spaceman only a couple of years later as shown HERE, HERE, and HERE.
Either he radically modified his style within a very short timeframe (which is possible), or the guys at GCD got it wrong, which happens occasionally.
In any case, I'm going to stay with both the writer and artists of the story as "unknown", until somebody can provide proof otherwise.

Though this issue of Adventures into Terror was listed in the indicia as #43, it's actually the first issue since the book was previously-known as Joker Comics!
Apparently, the Post Office caught on, since by the third issue, the numbering was corrected to #3, indicting a new second class mailing permit had been issued.
The classic example of this sort of bait-and-switch by comics publishers to avoid paying for a new second class mailing license (which each periodical needed) was EC's Moon Girl series.
The first issue was Moon Girl and the Prince.
As of #2, it became just Moon Girl.
When #7 came out, it became Moon Girl Fights Crime, adding true-crime tales narrated by Moon Girl. (The lead stories were still Moon Girl adventures.)
Two issues later (#9), the book became a romance title, A Moon, A Girl, Romance! (The final Moon Girl story appeared in the back of #9.)
Finally, as of #13, the book shifted gears into science fiction and became Weird Fantasy which ran from 13-17.
Then, since it had five issues under the Weird Fantasy title, the Post Office forced EC to buy a new mailing permit for the series, and continue the numbering with #6.
It ran until #22, when it merged with Weird Science into Weird Science-Fantasy.
(This explains why Weird Fantasy has two #13, #14, #15, #16, and #17 issues a couple of years apart!)
Since both Science and Fantasy ended with #22, it's uncertain which series' mailing permit was used from that point until Weird Science-Fantasy became Incredible Science Fiction as of #30!
Got it?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Reading Room ASTONISHING "Unknown Ones!"

The story's title has a double meaning to graphic literature aficionados...
...since it also covers the fact this story hasn't been seen in color since 1957!
It was reprinted (in b/w) in Dark Horse's Al Williamson: Hidden Lands TPB (2004), but that OOP tome had a very limited print run.
Written by Carl Wessler, this Williamson-penciled and Roy Krenkel-inked tale from Atlas' Astonishing #57 (1957) was done after the horror comics purge of the mid-1950s reduced EC Comics to just MAD Magazine, and the majority of now-unemployed artists were scrambling around for work.
Besides Atlas, Williamson was freelancing for ACG and Harvey, doing full pencils and inks, inking others like Jack Kirby and Matt Baker, or, as in this case, penciling for others (usually fellow Fleagle Gang members*) to ink.

*The "Fleagles" were a group of artists including Williamson, Krenkel, Frank Frazetta, Wally Wood, Angelo Torres, and George Woodbridge who would help each other out on tight deadlines by doing a "jam" with individuals penciling and inking different pages and even different panels on a single page, producing some absolutely amazing visuals!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Reading Room PLANET OF VAMPIRES "Long Road Home" Conclusion

Art by Pat Broderick and Neal Adams
...well, that kool cover says it all, doesn't it?
BTW, though the cover says six astronauts, we only see five, including Dr Ben Levitz, who was killed by savages when the crew first reached shore after crash-landing off Coney Island!
The "sixth astronaut" is never mentioned by name...or even shown in the background...anywhere in the issue!
In 2008, a team of astronauts exploring Mars lose contact with Earth.
After a two-year voyage, they return to find most of the planet devastated and the survivors apparently devolved to primitive savages!
However, some people in Manhattan managed to keep technology functioning and a relatively-civilized society going under an impenetrable dome...but at what cost to their humanity?
This never-reprinted first issue of Atlas/Seaboard's Planet of Vampires (1975) was Larry Hama's intro to comic scriptwriting.
Hama had been a penciler/inker apprenticing under Wally Wood before landing his first ongoing gig; penciling Iron Fist in Marvel Premiere.
But when John Byrne was given Iron Fist (which moved into it's own comic), Hama was without steady work.
The brand-new Atlas/Seaboard company welcomed the young creative with open arms, giving him two books: Planet of Vampires, which he scripted, and Wulf the Barbarian, which he both wrote and penciled.
Larry ended up leaving both the books (and the company) when the publisher refused to allow leeway on the deadlines when Hama's mother was dying, forcing the young writer/artist to bring in a host of pro friends to meet the deadlines while he dealt with the personal loss and handled funeral arrangements.
Hama went on to much bigger things like GI Joe, while Atlas/Seaboard went out of business within a year.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Reading Room PLANET OF VAMPIRES "Long Road Home" Part 1

Remember when vampires took over the world in 2010?
No, I don't mean the Twilight or True Blood franchises...
The early 1970s was one of the more pessimistic periods in pop culture.
Between pollution/ecology concerns, potential overpopulation, and possible war, fear was running wild in pop culture, in particular, movies.
The near-future was believed to be a potential Hell on Earth, with movies like A Clockwork Orange (crime and violence held in check only by mind-control), Soylent Green (overpopulation and food shortages relieved by using humans as food), ZPG (controlled breeding to avoid overpopulation), and Omega Man (man-made plague kills most of humanity and leaves remainder as mutant ghouls).
Even films about the distant future like Zardoz and the Planet of the Apes series showed humanity as either decadent and collapsing, or under control of other species!
Writer Larry Hama and penciler Pat Broderick combined several of the concepts in Seaboard's Planet of Vampires #1 (1973).

Monday, July 27, 2015

Reading Room KIDNAPPED BY A SPACE SHIP "Part 7 - A Mountain Explodes!"

Trapped on an alien world, a group of humans and their alien allies fight to survive...
...fighting savages and the clock as a rogue planet hurtles towards them!
Ah, the classic Daffy Duck "Scarlet Pumpernickel" trope; when you're stuck for a climax to your story, unleash a volcano, even if it's totally-unrelated to anything else in the story!
This tale from Treasure Chest V14N17 (1959) is the penultimate chapter in the serialized storyline, so writer Frances Crandall and artist Fran Matera decided to "go for broke"!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Now Available: 2016 12-Month Pop-Culture Calendars!

Classic comic book and pulp magazine covers and movie posters, scanned from the originals and digitally-remastered and restored!
NOT available in stores, only on-line! Order now...before time runs out! ;-)