Monday, May 29, 2006

Alex Toth R.I.P.

Though I know he had been ill for some time, to actually read the words that he has passed on still comes as a shock. The regrettable news comes to us from the official Alex Toth website. He was 78. The legendary artist/designer was born in New York City on June 25th, 1928. While his design work became well-known through association with a number of comics/animation properties spanning nearly 5 decades, a whole generation will remember him for his work with Hanna-Barbera in particular. Although I should point out that some of my favorite work of his was always 1960's Space Angel (which used the same snycro-vox lip-superimposing process as Clutch Cargo ). This show had a overall design sense much closer stylistically to 1950's EC space adventure comics than H-B. The animation, what little there was, was more along the lines a pop-up book than anything else...but we loved it anyhow. However, I didn't actually start seeing Space Angel cartoons until I was around 10 or 11. My earliest memory of a show I made a point to watch was Space Ghost. Loved the Ghost, Jonny Quest, Mightor, The Fantastic Four, the Herculoids,---every show he designed for in the 1960's, basically --even ol' Birdman. Later he also worked on Josie and the Pussycats, Super-Friends and a TON of other shows. In fact a few years back H-B alumnus Darrell McNeil published a 360 page book featuring nothing but Alex's model sheets he did while at Hanna Barbera. (It wasn't authorized, though --so good luck finding it now.) Alex in essence, nearly single-handedly created the animated Super-hero look of the 1960's. His fans number in the millions and his artistic influence is undeniable by almost anyone who grew up in the 1960's & '70's and draws Superheroes for a living. (or even part-time, like me.)
According to a statement by on Saturday morning by Toth's oldest son Eric "My father did pass way this morning (may 27) drawing/writing at his table. I do not have any further details at this time other than I will forward an adress for those interested in sending cards. We will arrange something appropriate at or around the convention in San Diego this Summer..."
He actually went while he was working...That's our Alex. Any real artist should be so lucky.
Alex was a prolific artist who made it all seem easy and effortless. (And as someone who had to follow in his artistic footsteps and try to live up to his standards --directing the new animation on Space Ghost Coast to Coast--I'm here to tell ya, it ain't!) He was a true original.
One of the greats --he'll be sorely missed.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Way, Way, Way out West

I've always thought the combination of cowboys and sci-fi was a good match. (Just look at The Valley of Gwangi.) Jack Kirby apparently thought so too since stories appeared in some of his and Stan's old west comics that could've almost just as easily seen print in one of the same era monster titles like Tales To Astonish. So just for the hell of it, here's some choice covers only the King coulda thoughta!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Even Bigger Blockhead

A Boy Named Charlie Brown. The very first Peanuts movie, released in 1969.
A few years ago I bought a technicolor print of this film on 16mm off eBay. While I was inintially perturbed that the print was not in as good a shape as had been described, when I watched it and realized maybe I didn't know this movie quite as well as I thought. Charlie Brown's struggles with the kite seemed to go on a for a lot longer than I had remembered ...and I bacame more and more sure I was looking at animation that --one way or another-- I had never seen before. After the kite sequence things seemed the same as ever...Charlie loses the Ballgame ...Snoopy dreams of fighting the Red Baron (in footage clipped from the Great Pumpkin). However the next sequence opens with Charlie Brown wandering the streets dejected with filmic direction that's almost Bakshi-esque. He winds up at Lucy's Psychiatric Stand and she shows him the slides of his faults like always... But THEN she produces a football, talks him into trying to kick it, and proceeds to show Charles he's the loser of the world by replaying his vain attempt for him on closed-circuit television --in slow motion no less! Once Chuck staggers back home, stares at his piggybank and sez "These psychiatric sessions are going to bankrupt me" the movie goes back to the familiar cut --But I was stupified. I figured since nobody else I knew had ever seen these scenes either I'd eventually have to get it transferred. A lot less of a need now since THEY'RE ALL ON THE NEW DVD! Woo-Hoo! So --the excised footage does eventually surface after all...but completely without fanfare. Nothing on the DVD says "containing extra scenes bla bla bla" But they're on here...almost 5 minutes worth! I can only assume they were cut for time because it does seem like it takes a really long time to get to the spelling bee, which is the meat of the picture. (In fact the spelling bee doesn't even come up in this version for a full 30 minutes!) I just wish I could whole-heartedly reccommend this release...Being a much nicer print that it's VHS predesessor n' all...But it does have a rather MAJOR flaw. It's "widescreen". FAKE WIDESCREEN!! --That is, Black bars slapped on the top and bottom of a TV ratio print! (AAUUGH!!) Definitely worth having for the extra scenes but a real pisser nonetheless.
Thanks anyway, You CBS Video Blockheads.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Meet The Flintstones--Animators!

Back 10 or 15 years ago, before anyone had ever heard of a DVD, Laserdisks were at the top of the heap, technologically speaking. Every hard-core video connoisseur I knew had one--even me. It was a great time for the industry. Where else could one see every Tom and Jerry or Tex Avery Cartoon (99%) UNCUT --and in Cinemascope for the very first time--all in one place. Lots of disks were available then that will more than likely NEVER see the light of day on DVD because of changing ownership rights issues, political correctness of the day or the ever-changing demographic --and taste of the consumer. Here's one such case. For The Flintstone's 35th anniversary Cartoon Network in a joint effort with Spumco put out a great 4 disk box set called "THE FLINTSTONES COLLECTION" which featured the first 14 episodes uncut and a TON of extras. (I got excited to see "Flintstones Rarities" listed on the 5th season DVD that came out recently, but when I looked at it today it's just like 2 Welch's commercials) Here we're talking like an entire side of toys and commercials. But the BEST feature came in the form of a 24 page booklet crammed full of great 'Stones factoids by John K. and Earl Kress. Below is one of my favorites --John K.'s guide to recognizing and differentiating between the series' best animators. Enjoy!
(PS - If you can't read the type click on it twice and it should open bigger in a new window)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Say It Ain't So, Pete!

Long before the Green Goblin had his way with Gwen Stacy, "Puny" Parker had to deal with "the most unexpected guest-villian of all!"--namely Skip --An "older boy" with white hair and er... rather strange sexual leanings.

Incredible as it may seem, the book was a goofy one-shot team-up put out in 1984 by a joint effort of Marvel and the National Committee for prevention on Child Abuse. A worthy cause, but Gee Whiz!! --Talk about going a long way to make a point!

Legitimized by the team of Spider-Man regulars Jim Salicrup, Jim Mooney and Mike Esposito, (Hell, John Byrne did the cover) our man Pete attempts to console a young boy who is really distressed because his older (and hot) babysitter came onto him(?). In his attempts to make the lad feel better he relates a tale that on first reading made my jaw hit the floor. I'm still blown away that Marvel decided to portray their top-tier character Spider-Man as a victim of sexual abuse, but nonetheless, here's the three pages that changed the web-slinger forever...

Though I've won several bets concerning the existence of this little tale it still staggers the minds of the unsuspecting. Don't get me started on how Mooney only drew Skip's head from like three angles at most-- and how prespective makes little sense in some panels (exactly where is Skip standing when they're playing pool?). Plus Skip goes from condesending wise-ass to homosexual predator with a taste for little nerdy boys in less than half a page. Also I love that despite Pete's painful confession of being buggered, ol' Uncle Ben never puts down his paper. (And such a nice couch, too --ick.) But like I said... I won't go into it.

Skip of course later discovered his mutant abilities and changed his name to Magneto.

Next time --The story of Johnny Storm's chance encounter with Chuck Berry.
'Til then--face front, True Believer!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Grandpa "digs" Drag-u-la

ad by Vince Colletta

The "bigger surprise" the 5 foot asian cat from AMT is hinting at probably concerns the lack of a floorboard.
Looks like Al just got back from the test drive in panel two according to this blurb from the book simply titled "The Munsters"...

"Dying" to drive it indeed. (No disrespect meant to the King of Custom Cars!)
More when I get back from Detroit (appropriately)...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Motor City Meglomania!

For those interested, I'm getting ready for my first trip to the
Detroit area this coming weekend when I visit MOTOR CITY COMICON
(MAY 19, 20, 21)! I'll be there drawing and signing autographs all 3 days
with my mortal enemy (on tv at least) George "Space Ghost" Lowe. We'll be there with the likes of Adam West, Burt Ward, Tony Dow, Bud Bundy and Seka(?) --and presumably talking ADULT SWIM past and present at some point. Hope to of you ...there ...or...something. (Providing ANYONE that reads this that can actually use this information.)

I'll start posting some better stuff next week -- but for now, here's a little tidbit.
As I recall this little gem actually sold on ebay a couple of years ago.
(I love shit like this.) Ah, there's nothing quite like outsider cartooning to liven up the kid's room is there? Bugs shows off his giant two headed swamp-chicken. Super. (And what the hell is going on over there with Elmer and Sylvester anyway?) It went really cheap...I shoulda bought it.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

No Time --for Sargeant!

Well, nertz. I had intended on on putting up something really cool, weird or controversial by now, but I've been slammed helping out my pal Ward Jenkins with some animated viginettes for the History Channel's R. Lee Ermey show MAIL CALL. (Nice work if you can get it...) As soon as I wrap things up with this gig I'll have something really kick-ass to post.