Hallowe’en Countdown IV, Day 30

« The world will come to an end, but the monster models will still be around. » — James Bama, who went on to paint artwork for over twenty of Aurora’s kit boxes.

Well-executed comic book ads were often just as enticing (and sometimes more, depending on the title) as the contents proper. A prime example, this lovely Aurora Monster Kit campaign, announcing the epochal model maker’s forays out of the Universal ménagerie of misunderstood fiends with Toho’s Godzilla and RKO’s King Kong.

The first Aurora monster model advertisement, it appeared in various DC Comics titles dated November and December, 1963.
The ad ran on the back cover of various DC titles in late 1964. In this case, House of Secrets no. 69 (Dec. 1964). The artwork is almost certainly that of Mr. Murphy Anderson, who goes uncredited, but is betrayed by the characteristic finesse of his inking.
A couple of the models that usually received considerably less attention got their turn in the spotlight in this ad that appeared on the back cover of select DC titles cover-dated October, 1965.

Incidentally, if you were wondering, indeed, the giant monsters cost more… 50 cents more. A bunch more empty bottles to collect, son.

In the late ’60s, a new twist was added: phosphorescence! A cool idea, it however made painting the models, a tricky task to begin with, even less rewarding, as opacity was a bitch to achieve. It worked okay if you had mostly light-coloured The Mummy, but otherwise… This advert appeared on the back cover of DC Comics dated October, 1969… and thereabouts.
The Spring, 1970 collection.
Here’s where Aurora’s close business relationship with Warren Magazines became most evident, with the appearance of a Vampirella model kit. Controversy ensued, once moms caught a glimpse of Junior’s new model kit, the heirloom of his bedroom. Speaking of controversy, Vampirella’s quip about New York was likely a barb about the infamous Kitty Genovese case. This pitch showed up in various DC titles, again, in and around June, 1971.

Warren sold a lot of Aurora kits via his mail order business, and a decision was made to include his character in the line rather than risk dissolving a partnership. Unpainted, she appeared to be virtually naked. Her counterpart, the Victim, sported hot pants and a halter top; a dress or flowing skirt was deemed impractical in order to have her fit on the torture rack. [ source ]

This beautifully-designed ad showed up in October, 1971 DC titles.
At this point, the diluted message is a hint that the bloom is off the rose. An ad from November, 1971.
As a bonus, here’s Big Frankie, the seldom-seen, long-unavailable Aurora grail (until its relatively recent reissue). As the largest Aurora model of all, BF fetched, at the time, an astronomical $4.98; now it goes for a hundred smackers, so don’t complain. Take a look at the big fella!

Though the original Aurora issues of these classic kits are mostly rare as hen’s teeth, enterprising contemporary kit companies have reissued these babies, and you now can actually afford to free the monsters from the confines of their box and assemble and paint ‘em. Mint in Box? Pfui!

– RG

Hallowe’en Countdown IV, Day 24

« Catholicism is not a soothing religion. It’s a painful religion. We’re all gluttons for punishment. » — Madonna Ciccone

Here’s a seasonal goodie from gag cartoonist Marvin Townsend (1915–1999) and his adorable “Ali” pantomime strip, which appeared, beginning in 1962 in, of all places, the Catholic comic book anthology Treasure Chest of Fun & Fact (Geo. A. Pflaum Publisher), distributed to parochial school students between 1946 and 1972.

Originally published in Treasure Chest vol. 21, no. 4 (Oct. 21, 1965). For more Townsend in a spooky vein, look no further than this post from our previous countdown.

Denominational and religious concerns aside, Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact, a publication generally avoided like any of the Ten Plagues of Egypt by your average comic book fan, was, wouldn’t you know it, chock full of excellent work by the likes of Bernard Baily, Fran Matera, Bob Powell, Reed Crandall, Joe Sinnott, Graham Ingels, Joe Orlando, Murphy Anderson, Jim Mooney, Paul Eismann… and these are some of the artists. The material was also engagingly written and often truly captivating. And they weren’t above paying a bit of lip service to that ol’ Pagan Holiday, Hallowe’en.

This was one in a highly-entertaining series of studies of classroom “types” by Frank Huffman. It appeared in Treasure Chest vol. 22, no. 12 (Feb. 9, 1967).
A piece by E. B. Wagner, this one saw print in Treasure Chest vol. 23, no. 4 (Oct. 19, 1967). Note the Leroy Lettering!
The back cover of Treasure Chest vol. 22, no. 4 (Oct. 20, 1966, Geo. A. Pflaum). Artist unknown, regrettably. Love that stylish auto-gyro witch!

-RG

Hallowe’en Countdown IV, Day 20

« When the mind is thinking, it is talking to itself. » — Plato

The waning years of the 1950’s marked the beginning of the monster craze, which coincided with Mad Magazine’s ripest period of influence. Here, then, is a publication that sought to capitalize on both occurrences. Alas, chasing fads too eagerly always did land you all-too-promptly in the cultural ditch. Still… Thimk had its moment.

This is Thimk no. 3 (Sept. 1958, Counterpoint). Edited by Alan Whitney, cover by Sam Hayle (1911-1996), who later did a bit of work for Cracked.
This is Thimk no. 4 (Dec. 1958, Counterpoint); cover by Sam Hayle. Elvis finds out first hand how fickle teenyboppers can be, and how a two-year army hitch might as well be an eternity, as far as they’re concerned. Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown!

Thimk was a short-lived (6 issues, 1958-59) would-be Mad, also in the black and white magazine format.

One holiday gleefully bleeds into another… this is Thimk no. 5 (Feb. 1959, Counterpoint). “Free… for 25 cents!”
Thimk no. 5‘s back cover… a well-aimed barb at Viceroy Cigarettes.
And some samples (there were many, many more!) from the object of parody, Viceroy’s The Man Who Thinks for Himself ad campaign. Lookit all them deep thinkers! (Martin Fry, cancer survivor, bottom left)
And it wasn’t to be the last Viceroy parody, either: the brand was also an early Wacky Packages target. This entry hails from Series 1, featuring a rough concept by Art Spiegelman painted by Norman Saunders (1973, Topps).
Heads up, Marlon… some… thing is about to cut in for a dance. Is his date dismayed or delighted? Last call: Thimk no. 6 (May 1959, Counterpoint) was the final issue. Cover art, again, by Sam Hayle.
From Think to Thimk in one easy step. What began as a ubiquitous IBM slogan soon, inevitably, led to parodic counterpunches.
During the late 50s, it spread seemingly everywhere.
Legendary Detroit DJ Paul Winter (station WXYZ) got in on the act early (1957). Here’s a sample, Fallout, featuring Charlie Byrd on guitar!
And of course, the great Steve Ditko took the slogan to heart (and mind), famously making his own sign. I wonder where it is now.

-RG

Hallowe’en Countdown IV, Day 9

« It was the spookiest horror ride anywhere! Mr. Awrus… a charming little old man, really… made it that way, because he liked to entertain people! But then the snake-thing arrived… and the others… heh-heh… and people went in… and didn’t come out… » — Horror Beasts Dine Tonight

Forrest J. Ackerman and James Warren’s Famous Monsters of Filmland, despite its own humble beginnings (or partly thanks to them!) went on to inspire quite a spate of imitators of… varying quality.

First out of the gate was Irwin Stein’s Magnum Publications, with Monster Parade (four issues). It was soon followed by Monsters and Things (two issues).

Define ‘Tunnel of Love‘… This is Monsters and Things no. 2 (April, 1959). Edited by Larry Shaw, with a cover by Stanley ‘Bob Powell’ Pawlowski (1916-1967).

As for the magazine’s grimy guts, there’s regrettably nothing outstanding: a couple of reprints of pre-Code material that was pedestrian to begin with… Curse of the Living Crossbones, illustrated by Ken Rice (a retitled Spectres of the Jolly Roger and True Tales of Unexplained Mystery #44, a one-pager about vengeful German gargoyles, illustrated by Sy Grudko, both plucked, minus colour, from Web of Mystery no. 22 (Jan. 1954, Ace Magazines).

The issue does contain a couple of fun wash illustrations, including this one by the esteemed Mr. Powell, also (along with the cover), accompanying the main feature, Horror Beasts Dine Tonight. “And will that be your usual table, sirs?
A sample of the classifieds. Do I, er… detect a certain pattern? One clear advantage of the Pin-Up Ghouls calendar is that you can reuse it next in 2026, so keep an eye out for gently-used copies!

Of further interest: An intriguing article about M&T’s predecessor, Monster Parade: http://frankensteinia.blogspot.ca/…/covers-of…

Still, it must be said that the dank, meandering back alleys of sleaze magazine publishing of the era are oddly fascinating, if decidedly disreputable places.

– RG

Hallowe’en Countdown IV, Day 7

« Stop! Please, I need a jump start! » — the good doctor F.

From the pages of Playboy (Oct. 1990), a seasonal (well, soon to be!) cartoon by Texan Rowland Bragg Wilson (1930-2005).

You have to expect these things whilst motoring through the Carpathians.

In addition to his magazine work (the cream: Playboy, Esquire, The Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s, The New Yorker), Wilson made his mark in the animation field with Schoolhouse Rock! (with Phil Kimmelman & Associates) then as a concept designer with Disney Studios (The Little Mermaid, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Tarzan…). Quite the impressive waybill.

One more, on the same classic theme? Sure.

This one goes: « If I can bring this lovely creature to life, she will bring me lasting immorality! », and it appeared, of course, in Playboy (Nov. 1981). Ah, the difference one letter makes!

-RG

Hallowe’en Countdown III, Day 29

« Sharon… Marilyn… Jayne… Eva… Claudia… plus bits and pieces of bit part actresses. » — Prof. Shelley recites Cadavera’s recipe

In the early 1990s, Seattle-based publisher Fantagraphics were in choppy financial waters. To save the ship, they went commercial… in their own fashion. Two speciality imprints were launched, most famously Eros Comix, but also the lesser-known Monster Comics.

My own contender for the finest of Monster releases adroitly straddled both the erotic and the monstrous (and a few other genres besides): a two-issue wonder, Cadavera, was the hallucinatory, disembodied brainchild of Memphis cartoonist auteur John Michael McCarthy. Sadly, this raunchy-in-all-the-best-ways, rollicking saga-in-the-making, fireball of jolting ideas did nothing to help its publisher climb back into the black. But hot damn, did it ever give its all. However, in the speculator-frenzied, Image Comics-happy US marketplace of ’91? Oh, just forget it.

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This is Cadavera no. 2 (Nov. 1991); artwork by John Michael McCarthy, who helpfully tells us that the « cover car is a35 model Ford Model ’48 3-window coupe, original price $570. ». And isn’t that a doozy of a catchy slogan?

I know I could pull striking samples from these skinny pamphlets all the live long day, such is their level of visual craft and quotability, but I’ve checked, and you can still get copies for a song, so why spoil your eventual pleasure?

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Meet Prof. Shelley’s hulking robot helper, Googog. From Cadavera no. 1 (March, 1991).

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Cadavera no. 2, page 4.

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Cadavera no. 2, pages 22-23. No-one could accuse Mr. McCarthy of being a slouch.

Anyway, all the gooey goods are accounted for in this « unofficial death certificate for unpopular culture »: punk rock, tabloid journalism, fascism, hot rods, hillbillies, Nazis (the original and the currently popular Neo (in)breed), mad science, robots, bunnies, Vice-Prez Chas. Manson…

Cadavera02BackA
Oh, and model kits! This painting by Gary Makatura appeared on the back cover of Cadavera no. 2. « … and thanks to the Holland Company for allowing me ‘the look’ of authentic Aurora, here’s to a new world of plastic and glue! »

The amazing Mr. McCarthy, after giving comics his more-than-game try (with Eros entries Supersexxx and Bang Gang, the one-shot movie tie-in Damselvis Daughter of Helvis and one of my all-time favourite series, Kid Anarchy, written by his pal George Cole), went the Roger Corman route and became a micro-budget filmmaker. There may be zero bucks in it, but that’s still a rosier financial situation than comics could offer.

« To hell with all those near-fatal quests and celebrity body parts! »

-RG

Hallowe’en Countdown III, Day 12

« Egad! This looks like it’s straight out of a horror movie! »

How deep and searing a trace the Universal Monsters cycle has left on popular culture: you see its mark on everything from literature to breakfast cereal. It’s nothing new in the cartoons, of course: Warner Bros, with the Looney Tunes, had their lugubrious fun with, for instance, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre archetypes. So it’s no great shock to eventually witness DePatie-Freleng‘s The Pink Panther getting in on the monstrous act.

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Nice bit of mood setting, isn’t it? This hails from The Pink Panther no. 31 (January, 1976). This being Gold Key, writer and artist uncredited and unknown. Any ideas?

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The issue in question… interesting colouring touch, most likely accidental: the only white space on the entire cover is the “PINK POWER” title.

Incidentally, we’ve checked out The Inspector in an earlier post.

– RG 

 

Hallowe’en Countdown III, Day 3

« Apparently, no one could credit such a grotesque being with any sense of kindliness, and so the wounded monster limped along his way, his hatred of humanity grew in proportion to his size. »

Unleashed upon the world in 1965 by Wonder Books, this generously-illustrated volume of classic adaptations is a collaboration between fellow prolifics Walter Brown Gibson (1897 – 1985), the writer most closely associated with Street & Smith’s The Shadow, and artist Tony Tallarico, a journeyman who produced a bounty of work, as artist and packager, for just about every publisher in the business… save DC and Marvel, and who, upon leaving the mainstream comics field in the mid-1970s carved out a lucrative little niche for himself putting together scads of illustrated books, mostly for children, on just about every subject under the sun.

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TallaricoDracA
« Dracula’s form had materialized now, His long-nailed fingers were gripping the window bars, and the mist had become a swirl of moths behind him. »

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« The man’s  ugly, fiendish look chilled Enfield, but the crowd threatened the ruffian, who finally said that his name was Hyde… »

Tallarico would, the following year, revisit some of the fiends depicted here for a short-lived but infamous trio of series for Dell: Dracula, Frankenstein and Werewolf. Ah, but don’t be so dour: it’s just light, campy fun.

-RG

Hallowe’en Countdown II, Day 27

« It only hurts when I exist »

Another astonishing madman from the Playboy magazine stable, Bernard Kliban (1935-1990) is mainly remembered for his much-merchandised « Cat » cartoons, but he was a true master of a vein of absurdist humour that few mine with such success. It’s high time for a collected œuvre or at the very least a comprehensive anthology. Fantagraphics, are you listening?

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« Since when do we use the red thread on a green monster? »

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« I’m the monster’s wife… can I help you? »

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« Harry, you startled me! »

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« I spend twenty-seven years making monsters and what does it get me? A roomful of monsters! »

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« Look, Igor, the monster lives! … and not badly, either! »

These pieces were gathered in the Playboy’s Kliban collection (1979) and its sequel, Playboy’s New Kliban (1980). Every single one of the man’s books (of which only the Cat books remain in print, I believe) is assuredly worth seeking out, but fair warning: left to his own devices, and away from the Playboy ethos, Kliban goes much farther afield into (extremely inspired) absurdity and abstraction.

-RG