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Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot
Friday, October 21, 2005
A Relaxing Day Off? No.
Got up at 8:00am and spent the next 2 1/2 hours on the telephone, talking to various insurance companies, tow guys, body shops, car rentals, etc. I carry only liability coverage on my car, otherwise my insurance company, Country Companies, would take car of a lot of this business for me. As it is, they were pretty helpful and answered a lot of my questions.

I mostly spent time talking to the woman at USAA General, the coverer of the girl who hit me. I was the first to report the accident to them, and the agent interrogated me over the phone in a recorded conversation. To be somewhat fair to her, she only had my word as to what happened, but I felt she was dragging her feet a bit to help me. I'm confident that the girl who hit me is 100% liable and that USAA General will be responsible for the entire tab.

Hopefully they'll live up to the deal. For instance, she told me that she could not begin an investigation into the matter until I had my car moved from the tow place to which it was taken last night to another location that would not charge a storage fee. That sounds like a load of b.s. and the Catch 22 is that, if my car is deemed totalled and no body shop can do repairs, then any body shop will charge for storage. If they do the body work, no, but if there's no body work to do, then they probably will charge. However, there's no way an appraiser can look at it and deem whether or not it's totalled until the car is towed to the body shop. I had little choice--I had it towed to a local body shop this morning. If there's work to be done, they'll have to do it anyway. If there isn't, I'll just have to fight that battle later.

I also picked up a rental vehicle this morning. It's a gigantic 2005 four-door Dodge Ram pickup. I think most people need a vehicle like this like they need a hole in the head, but I admit it is fun to drive. From what I understand, USAA General should be responsible for this too. Of course, that's only if their client is found to be liable, and I suppose there's no guarantee of that, despite what actually happened on the road last night. A call to the officer who wrote the report last night, so I could determine whether or not he ticketed to the girl, went unreturned, as did two followup calls to the USAA General agent I talked to this morning. On the other hand, I did receive a message from a local auto body appraiser who said they had received word from USAA General to give my car a look on Monday. I assume this means the investigation is complete and that USAA General is starting to figure up how much of a settlement I'm owed.

I also made a trip to the ER this afternoon. I wanted to see my regular physician, but I was refused by officials who made me go to the emergency room. I suppose that's SOP for car crash victims. I think it's probably because my co-pay is $25 to see my doctor, but it's $125 to go to the ER. I was only there less than 25 minutes. What is that, five bucks a minute? And probably for nothing. I feel okay, but I do have a bit of tension in my neck and back today. Nothing too serious or even painful, just a tightness. The ER doctor didn't seem too worried about it, but he prescribed me some muscle relaxants. I took one, but it doesn't seem to have done much for me yet.

Thanks to those of you who posted or sent email (the Z-man is still out there!). It feels like overkill, since the crash wasn't really a heavy one, and no one was seriously hurt. My pain is mostly in my ass now, as I have to make all these arrangements and eventually figure out how I'm going to buy another car. If my Altima can be fixed, that's fine with me and I would prefer that, but I have to face that I might have to find something else, and I can't in reality afford a car, even a used one. I'm keeping all my medical and car rental receipts in hopes I can be reimbursed for all that.

Eventually I'm going to have to post about the WALKER, TEXAS RANGER reunion movie. Norris is The Man.

Posted by Marty at 4:59 PM CDT
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Thursday, October 20, 2005
I was involved in a car accident on my way home from work tonight.

Don't worry--everyone is okay, it was just me in my car and the girl who hit me with hers. I call her a girl; well, I thought she was a teenager, she looks so young, but she's actually 20 years old.

At any rate, I was driving home on Springfield Avenue, just a few blocks from my place, when it happened. She was stopped at a stop sign, and, for whatever reason, she pulled right out onto Springfield in front of me to cross the street. She said she thought I was turning because I slowed down, which I may have done, because the four-lane street bottlenecks into two lanes right at that intersection. I certainly didn't have my turn signal on, and it still wouldn't have been my fault if I had.

I saw her pull out, braked, and tried to swerve away, but I couldn't. She T-boned me right on the passenger side, caved the whole side in, and spun me around about 200 degrees so I was facing the opposite direction. I've never been in an accident like this before, one where there was actual damage and where someone could have been seriously hurt. In fact, if anyone had been riding with me, I believe they could have been hurt badly. I suspect my bitchin' '94 Altima is totalled. For sure, it would cost more to fix than what I'm paying my brother for it, and quite likely more than its Blue Book value. I don't expect to ever drive it again.

So I'm taking tomorrow off of work, at least in the morning. I'm inexperienced at this, but I'll call my insurance agent tomorrow morning. The girl who hit me has insurance, and I'm pretty positive her company will be picking up the tab. The policeman who wrote up the report sent me home (with the tow truck guy who came to get my car), but kept her behind, and I presume he ticketed her, probably for Failing to Yield or something like that. I wonder if I can get a free rental car, but that won't last forever.

I might see my doctor tomorrow too. Oddly, no police officers even asked us if we needed medical attention, and probably we didn't. I feel a bit of soreness tonight, kind of like if I'd played basketball or something. Just a bit in my neck, my calf, upper back, and chest where my seat belt was. I think I'm fine, but for a $25 co-pay, I might as well make the just-in-case effort.

What's really scary is that she couldn't have hit me very "hard". In that she was accelerating from a stopped position, and moved only the width of one traffic lane before hitting me. She sure packed a wallop though--Mass x Acceleration = Force or whatever it is. It's been a long time since Mr. Hendricks' high school physics class.

Posted by Marty at 11:51 PM CDT
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Wednesday, October 19, 2005
George Kennedy Is A Nazi
Now Playing: TOP LINE
With all the postseason baseball and new TV shows, I've had little time to watch crappy movies, so I literally picked up a DVD-R off the top of one of my many piles and tossed it in the player. It was TOP LINE, a 1988 Italian science fiction movie starring Franco Nero of DJANGO and ENTER THE NINJA fame. I didn't know a damn thing about it, and a half-hour into it, I still didn't know anything about it. It picks up a little bit at that point and turns into a typically fucked-up Italian movie with lame special effects and a wonky sense of logic.

Nero is an alcoholic Italian author named Ted who discovers a 500-year-old spaceship buried in a Colombian cave. George Kennedy, who could have filmed his whole part in a day, is a Nazi who chases a barefoot Nero across a cactus field. He vanishes from the film pretty early, and Nero is then chased by the CIA, the Russians, and a human-looking robot (!) with a melted face. The robot is vanquished when a charging bull knocks off its head (!), and Nero contacts his bitchy publisher ex-wife in the States and has her fly down to meet him in the jungle. Turns out she's one of the aliens, and she shows Nero her true colors, stripping off her nude skin to reveal her slimy, gooey, misshapen, sharp-toothed self. She also reveals that her race has been visiting Earth for 16,000 years and that they have infiltrated world government at the highest posts. Franco's new girlfriend ices the bitch by firing a spear into it, and the film ends with Nero "gone native", wearing a loincloth, sitting in a grass hut, writing his expose of the alien invasion that will likely never be published.

Don't you wish you could be the guy who slaps the cuffs on Tom DeLay? With DeLay under arrest, Bill Frist under investigation, Karl Rove and Scooter Libby facing possible indictment, and a new New York Daily News story that reveals that President Bush may have lied to Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in charge of "Plamegate", is there any question that the current administration is the most corrupt since Nixon? And we all know what happened to that asshole. One thing is for certain: either Bush lied to Fitzgerald and lied to us when he claimed he didn't know anything about the leak of Valerie Plame's name or Rove lied to Bush about being involved. Something else for certain: Scott McClelland, Bush's press secretary, is absolutely a liar. There are also rumblings that Dick Cheney could be involved. I say round up the whole damn bunch and toss 'em into the hoosegow. They've certainly caused us enough trouble, pain, money and lives.

And if Bush lied to Fitzgerald, I wonder if we'll hear the same hypocrites who hollered "perjury" at Bill Clinton holler "obstruction of justice" at the President. I doubt it. It's interesting that Bush agreed to speak to Fitzgerald only after a long negotiation that ensured Bush would not be under oath. Why would the President demand to not speak an oath to tell the truth? Unless, of course, he planned to lie.

And just when you think these guys couldn't fuck up any worse than they already have, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the fuckup Michael Chertoff, admits that the federal government--NOT the state and local governments--are to blame for the disastrous aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Much of what Chertoff testified to was in the name of throwing former FEMA head Michael Brown (as in, "Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job.") under the bus, but it certainly will be hard now for the Republicans to continue covering their asses with untruths.

I hate to say anything nice about Bill O'Lielly, um, I mean, O'Reilly, but he does demonstrate a nice sense of humor in this appearance on THE DAILY SHOW. Yes, he's full of shit, and I don't know how a sexual harasser like him has the nerve to denigrate anyone else's morals, but I think he comes off looking okay here, not that Jon Stewart tore into him or anything.

Posted by Marty at 9:54 PM CDT
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Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Shag Undercover

I know, it looks like a MAD parody, doesn't it? I've posted here before about the woes NBC faced in the late 1970's, putting shows on the air like QUARK, A MAN CALLED SLOANE, SUPERTRAIN and other notable bombs that left the network a perennial third-placer. But this show was dead meat right from the opening titles. After all, how could anyone take seriously a tough crime drama called...DAVID CASSIDY--MAN UNDERCOVER?

You can't really blame executive producer David Gerber for trying it. After all, the show was a spinoff of an episode of the acclaimed anthology series POLICE STORY, aired May 28, 1978. In "A Chance to Live", David Cassidy, the former PARTRIDGE FAMILY front man, guest-starred as a youthful cop who went undercover in a Los Angeles high school to ferret out drug dealers. The episode received a high Nielsen rating, and Cassidy was nominated for an Emmy. So, what the heck, why not have Cassidy bust bad guys every week?

Well, what the hell, DAVID CASSIDY--MAN UNDERCOVER? Reportedly, the titles UNDERCOVER and MAN UNDERCOVER were already taken or under copyright or some such rot. It seems as though there are a million other titles better than the one Gerber and NBC chose to go with, but...

DC--MU premiered on NBC in the fall of '78, but not to overwhelmingly optimistic ratings. Cassidy reprised his POLICE STORY role as undercover detective Dan Shay with the great Simon Oakland (KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER) as his police boss and Wendy Rastatter as his wife. It was unusual then and now for a leading man in a cop show to have a happy married home life.

Best I can remember, the plots were standard '70s cop fare, chasing arsonists, bank robbers, drug lords and bikers. WGN-TV reran some episodes around 1990. Unfortunately, I recorded them (and episodes of the equally shortlived RIKER with Josh Taylor) on a Beta machine, and the VCR and tapes are long gone. Cassidy, of course, co-wrote and recorded the theme song, which was never released on vinyl or CD.

Check out this totally bogus publicity still of Cassidy and co-star Oakland. Posed? Ya think?

Since my memories of the series are fuzzy, I relied on, believe it or not, a DAVID CASSIDY--MAN UNDERCOVER Web site for some information. So if you don't believe me that this show actually existed (I wouldn't), check it out for yourself.

Posted by Marty at 11:08 PM CDT
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Monday, October 17, 2005
Billy Bob's?
It's true--there really is a place called Billy Bob's. Chicken and Darcy discovered this little bar/restaurant last weekend called Billy Bob's, which is located in a tiny town about 15 miles from here called Ogden. Population less than 1000. I don't know how they found this place, but they found out Billy Bob's served $1.25 tacos and $1.50 beers (in a can) on Monday nights, so they were obsessed with going there for MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL. We actually ended up mostly watching the Astros/Cardinals in Game 5 of the NLCS, an exciting come-from-behind victory for the Cards on a 3-run 9th-inning homer by Albert Pujols. I had a steak sandwich and fries, which was pretty good, but Chicken had eight fucking tacos and Darcy pounded ten. He was ready for two more, but the kitchen ran out of meat. He thought he could have done 15 altogether. I was ready to bet him after ten tacos that he couldn't do 50 situps (he also had about six beers). He was willing, but I drove us out to Ogden, and I was afraid of projectile vomiting from the backseat on the way home.

Over the weekend, I was able to watch crappy movies for the first time in two weeks. Most of my viewing has been limited to baseball and TV series since then. I first watched A STRANGER IS CALLING, which I was reviewing for The Hub. I'll post my review here next week after it runs in The Hub, but I'll say that it's a pretty decent little thriller with tight direction by Sean Cunningham (FRIDAY THE 13TH), a terrific score by Lalo Schifrin, and nice performances by Rip Torn (as the psycho) and a young Kate Mulgrew, later Captain Janeway on STAR TREK: VOYAGER.

I also watched Mondo Crash's DVD of DEATH DIMENSION, which is no more than an unremastered videotape source (complete with creases and rolls). It's directed by Al Adamson, one of exploitation cinema's dullest filmmakers, although this one is pretty watchable by his standards. It still sucks though. Jim Kelly (ENTER THE DRAGON) is a cop named Ash who is assigned by his boss (former 007 George Lazenby) to investigate a plot by an archvillain known as The Pig (Harold "Oddjob" Sakata) to detonate a "freeze bomb", a weapon that turns the landscape to ice. It's nothing more than a McGuffin that never impacts the story. The Pig can't use the bomb until he gets the formula for it, which is lodged inside the head of the pretty assistant to the dead scientist who created it. The great stuntman Bob Minor is The Pig's vicious henchman (who gets hit by a car), Kelly is partnered with a Chinese actor who calls himself Myron Bruce Lee (!), and there's plenty of boring action sequences and unexceptional '70s tits to keep you mildly interested. DEATH DIMENSION is probably about as good as BLACK SAMURAI, Kelly's other film for Adamson, although that one had jet packs and midgets in it.

Posted by Marty at 11:31 PM CDT
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Saturday, October 15, 2005
Brushes With Greatness
A couple of co-workers were talking the other day about their "brushes with greatness" (didn't Letterman invent that term?), their encounters with celebrities, and I thought it might be a good way to fill some space here.

My favorite one is the sit-down interview I had with actor Robert Forster. He was in Champaign as a guest of Roger Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival, and I chatted with him about the film he was presenting, the excellent DIAMOND MEN. It was to be for MICRO-FILM, a publication devoted to independent movies, so I talked to him mostly about DIAMOND MEN and a film he directed, produced and starred in back in the '80s for Cannon called HOLLYWOOD HARRY. We touched on some of his other work too, like his films for William Lustig and his TV shows. It never ran in MICRO-FILM, but you, dear readers, can find it right here at Mobius Home Video Forum. Forster was a very nice man, a great storyteller, and a real thrill to chat with, especially since I had admired him since I was a kid.

I'm really proud of my sit-down interview with director Bert I. Gordon, since, outside of a piece he did with VIDEO WATCHDOG, this might be the only career-length interview the octogenarian has ever given, making it somewhat important in the realm of cult movies (and I think mine is better than VW's, absolutely no offense intended towards the makers of that excellent publication, some of whom are friends of mine). Gordon, the director of such sci-fi favorites as BEGINNING OF THE END, EMPIRE OF THE ANTS, EARTH VS. THE SPIDER, ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE, THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN and many others, was a guest of the University of Illinois' annual Insect Fear Film Festival, where they showed three of his films about giant bugs. Again, it was to be for MICRO-FILM, but never ran there, so go back to Mobius to read it. Gordon was a nice man, though a bit vain, and talking to him was a delightful way to spend an hour or so.

One of these days, I'll get around to transcribing my telephone interview with Troma president Lloyd Kaufman. This article actually did run in MICRO-FILM. It was about Troma's then-new release TERROR FIRMER, and I spent nearly two hours on the phone with Kaufman chatting about it and several other things. It was the first "celebrity" interview I had ever done, and, boy, Lloyd made it easy. I did it from the production studio of the radio station I was working at then, and recorded the whole thing on both reel and cassette tape. Well, we chatted so long that I ran out of tape (!), so I only have about 90 minutes. He was in a hotel room in Dallas, and a couple of times, I said something like, "Well, I'll let you go, because I'm sure you're a busy guy" (our talk went from after 10pm to just past midnight), but he was all, "Nah, don't worry about it, I'm having a good time." Kaufman is a crude, cantankerous, mischievous man who is surprisingly erudite, funny and entertaining. I'm not much of a Troma fan, but Kaufman definitely charmed me.

I chatted on the phone one afternoon with Fred "The Hammer" Williamson. John Riley and I were doing a TV show called THE ONLY THING ON, and he mentioned that his friend Doug Bryan was a film editor in Dallas, and was then working on Williamson's new movie (STEELE'S LAW, I think). So John called Doug at work and said, "How's Fred?" "Fine, he's sitting right here, wanna talk to him?" So I rapped with The Hammer for ten minutes or so, partially about Super Bowl I and mostly about THREE THE HARD WAY and its "sequel" ONE DOWN TWO TO GO, which Fred claimed was the world leader in being stolen from video stores or something like that. Again, a very charming fellow and it was great of him to say hello.

M*A*S*H star Larry Linville made a promotional appearance for a radio station I worked at in Bloomington-Normal. I only worked there for about four months, and most of my memories are lost, but I think this took place at Bombay Bicycle Club, and all I recall is that Larry was pretty hammered and had a good time putting his arms around all the women. I shook his hand, said hi, and that was about it, although when he visited the station the next day, he recorded a funny "drop-in" for me to use on the air.

I never met comedian Marty Allen face-to-face, but when I was doing overnights at WCIL-FM in Carbondale, my "producer" Dave Crome would get Marty on the phone in Las Vegas, and I'd interview him on the air live. I think we did this about three times, for no other reason that we loved HOLLYWOOD SQUARES and we thought it would be fun to talk to Marty Allen. Which it was. For us, not the teenagers in the audience.

In Carbondale, I also got to meet Jim Hart many times. The former St. Louis Cardinal quarterback and NFL Hall of Famer was Southern Illinois University's athletic director for several years. I also knew (barely) his daughter, and I think I met Dan Dierdorf down there, but I can't recall for sure.

I briefly met Letterman sidekick Paul Shaffer at the DuQuoin State Fair. WCIL-AM and -FM were broadcasting live from there, and I was standing at the AM booth waiting to go on after Steve Farkas went off the air. Shaffer was performing that night with The World's Most Dangerous Band, and happened to get off a golf cart in front of our booth and wander over to us while Steve was on the air. I don't know if it was set up or if Shaffer just wanted to be on the radio, but he came over to us, shook our hands, and talked to Steve on-air for a couple of minutes.

ESPN's Dan Patrick was very nice to us. He came to Carbondale to broadcast an SIU basketball game and then partied at my friend Dave's house afterwards. All night. I got off the air at 6:00am, and everyone was still there. He ended up driving straight to St. Louis around 8:00 and boarding a plane for Connecticut. Somewhere exists photos of Patrick shaving our friend Wendy's legs. Not long after that, he did another Saluki game in St. Louis, and we went out with him again to an establishment called P.T.'s that provided, um, adult entertainment. That was a fun night and another all-nighter.

We first met ESPN's Gary Miller when he was at CNN. For some reason, we were planning a road trip to Atlanta, and, since Miller was an SIU grad, we thought we'd see if we could meet him and get a tour. So we called him at work. He wasn't in, but CNN gave us his home number (WTF?). He eventually called us back, and when Brad, Dave, Michelle and I went to CNN Center, he graciously took us around and gave us a tour of CNN studios. A couple of years later, we hooked up with him again in Chicago during the Bulls/Suns NBA Finals, and had a terrific time staying out late, drinking and chatting. I think he appreciated not having to talk sports all the time, since he was also an appreciator of bad TV like us. Yes, I will always cherish our conversation about the merits of Vic Mizzy. I remember Chris Fowler was also around that night, but didn't say too much.

My first (brief) brush with greatness was with one of the Bellamy Brothers, I don't know which one, when he called the radio station in Farmer City I was working for to talk to my boss, I think about setting up an on-air interview. I just happened to answer the phone. I remember, when I later worked at WCIL, musical acts like Vixen, Winger, Tora Tora and others coming in. I saw them, but I can't honestly remember if I officially met them or not. And, really, who could remember meeting these guys?

I suppose it doesn't officially count, but with my background in broadcasting, several of my friends are "greatness", since they work in the radio and television industries and are celebrities of a sort. The list includes, but is by no means limited to, Steve Stewart, Hall of Famer Marty Brennaman's partner on Cincinnati Reds radio broadcasts; Dave Crome at the WB in Dallas (his colleague Bob Irzyk is also an old college acquaintance and a nice guy), one of my best friends; Beth Galvin in Atlanta, married to another close friend from school, Brad White; Amy Brooke in Phoenix and many others.

Yeah, I know, none of these stories are on the same level as "snorting coke off Tia Carrere's backside", but, hey, I live in downstate Illinois, it's the best I could do.

Posted by Marty at 9:56 AM CDT
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Thursday, October 13, 2005
Yeah, I Know
I've been slow on the updates lately. Sorry 'bout that. I've been spending my nights watching postseason baseball, which has provided a lot of very exciting games. They hardly get more exciting than last night's American League Game 2, where the umpires booted a call in the bottom of the ninth, giving the White Sox a second chance. Joe Crede took advantage of it by lacing a double to left, scoring A.J. Pierzynski with the winning run. Sox 2, Angels 1. The umpiring crew should get a job with the Bush administration the way they denied the obvious after the game.

Anyway, get off my back, shut up and look at this screen grab of Fred Willard. 1967's TEENAGE MOTHER is one of the most frightening flicks I've seen lately. Not that it's a horror film--it most certainly isn't--even though it gave me the willies just the same. Just make sure you don’t screen this one in mixed company.

What plays for its first hour or so as a routine but outdated (by at least ten years) juvenile delinquency drama decrying the effects of sex education on horny teens takes a turn for the bizarre when director Jerry Gross splices into it an actual birth of a baby. It’s quite jarring to suddenly, without warning, have a close-up of a spread vagina pushed right into your face. Especially one that has been shot with a grainy 16mm camera and the color has faded, leaving an unappetizing pink...mess. Now I'm getting nauseous again. I won't even think about when the baby's head comes out, and the doctors use these giant spaghetti tongs to grab it and yank it out, leaving globs of baby goo in its wake. Can you tell I'm not a parent? Seriously, this movie makes childbirth look like a Nazi experiment.

Erika Petersen arrives in a regular American town from Sweden (!) to teach sex ed at the local high school. Meanwhile, good girl Arlene is dating baseball star Tony, but sometimes flirts with bad boy Duke, who attempts to rape Erika. When Arlene announces that she’s pregnant, her indignant dad blames the school system for teaching her about sex, leading to a town council meeting where the beautiful/horrifying birth film is shown. Now I know why fathers used to hide in the waiting room pacing and smoking cigars.

As usual for this type of film, the performers are much too old for their roles. However, it’s fun to see Fred Willard, later of FERNWOOD 2-NIGHT and many fine film comedies (I most recently saw him in HAROLD AND KUMAR GO TO WHITE CASTLE), playing it straight as a baseball coach. I can't wait to meet Willard someday, just so I can say, "Hey, man, you totally kicked ass in TEENAGE MOTHER."

Posted by Marty at 7:55 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, October 13, 2005 7:56 AM CDT
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Saturday, October 8, 2005
Dammit, Toler, You Had To Ask
Read Tolemite's comment in the previous posting to get where this is coming from. Like anyone needs to justify posting pics of a robot Batman. Both covers drawn by Sheldon Moldoff.

Posted by Marty at 2:30 AM CDT
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Friday, October 7, 2005
Holy Crap! Invisible Robots?!

I think this comic book cover just made Tolemite, the world's biggest fan of robots, explode.

In the 13-page story "The Wizard of 1,000 Menaces", the Dynamic Duo does indeed fight foes that are not only robots...but also invisible! Incredible! Long-time Batman artist Sheldon Moldoff drew this cover for DETECTIVE COMICS #306 (August 1962) and pencilled the story, which was inked by Charles Paris. The backup story was a 12-pager starring John Jones, the Manhunter from Mars, who eventually became known as J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter.

Many of today's Batman fans are stunned to see these Silver Age stories, which were a long way from the Dark Knight characterization they're familiar with. It was not unusual for Batman to battle robots, aliens, extra-dimensional beings, monsters, giants or other fantastic foes. Some of them are a lot of fun and are certainly better than the so-called "New Look" Batman created in the mid-'60s.

Those stories, which mostly coincided with the campy ABC TV show, were limply written and drawn, and it wasn't until creators like Denny O'Neil, Neal Adams, Irv Novick, Bob Brown, Frank Robbins and others brought the character back to Earth around 1969 that Batman stories, in BATMAN and DETECTIVE COMICS, were worth reading again. I think the character hit its peak in those stories of the early- to mid-1970's, when Batman was both a grim avenger of the night and an appealing character with a sense of humor. Batman actually enjoyed his "job", and the writers often created intricate mysteries befitting his nickname of the Darknight Detective. I don't think Batman has done much actual detecting in comics in decades.

For Batman at his best, seek out stories like "Moon of the Wolf" (written by Len Wein and adapted as an episode of BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES) in a 100-page BATMAN or "Red Water, Crimson Death" (by O'Neil/Adams) in an atmospheric THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD that featured a "teamup" between Batman and the House of Mystery. The only stories that come close to capturing the atmosphere, scope and mystery of the '70s Batman (later in the decade, Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin did an incredible job drawing the character) are the first handful that appeared in DETECTIVE in 1939 and 1940, although Bob Kane's crude artwork, effective as it was at the time, doesn't stand up next to Adams, Brown, Novick, Dick Giordano et al.

Posted by Marty at 11:51 PM CDT
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Thursday, October 6, 2005
Swamp Thing Fights A Robot!

I thought Tolemite especially might get a kick out of this. If you love monsters and you love robots, you'll doubly love SWAMP THING #6, published by DC Comics in 1973. Swamp Thing falls off a cliff and finds himself in a believed-abandoned New England mining town that has been redecorated to resemble a 17th-century Swiss village. It turns out that a scientist who fled Switzerland when the Nazis invaded escaped to the U.S., where he built a town full of benevolent, human-looking androids for company. His peaceful existence ends tragically when The Conclave, a vast criminal organization, tracks Swamp Thing to the town and tries to kidnap the scientist to aid in its own robotics experiments. The old man refuses and is murdered by Conclave goons, who are led by a talking robot controlled from Gotham City by the organization's leader. Swamp Thing kicks the robot's ass, but not before the Conclave goons are murdered by the town's pissed-off androids, which are all destroyed in the process.

As written by Len Wein, drawn by the great Berni Wrightson, and edited by Joe Orlando, the creative team that created Swamp Thing a couple of years earlier in HOUSE OF SECRETS #92, this story, "The Clockwork Horror", is damned good, as were all of the Wein/Wrightson collaborations. I think Wrightson left the book after ten issues and Wein after eleven.

I don't believe SWAMP THING was ever a great seller, but it was excellent and attracted a lot of attention for its high quality. Sales dropped off after Wein and Wrightson left the book, and it was cancelled after #24. The character continued (and still does) to pop up in DC stories, including some oddball, but fun and well-illustrated, teamups with Deadman and the Challengers of the Unknown in the Challs' late-1970's title penned by Gerry Conway and penciled by a young Keith Giffen.

Posted by Marty at 12:28 AM CDT
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