Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ride the Halloween Night with The ORIGINAL Ghost Rider!

He began life in the late 1940s as The Calico Kid, a masked hero whose secret identity was a lawman who felt justice was constrained by legal limitations. (There were a lot of those heroes in comics and pulps of the 40s including our own DareDevil and Blue Beetle!)
But, with masked heroes in every genre doing a slow fade-out after World War II, and both the western and horror genres on the rise, the character was re-imagined in 1949 as comics' first horror / western character!

The Ghost Rider was not a supernatural being.
He wore a phosphorescent suit and cape, making him glow in the dark, appearing as a spectral presence to the (mostly) superstitious cowboys and Indians he faced.
Since the inside of the cape was black, he'd reverse it, and appear in the dark as just a floating head, usually scaring a confession or needed information out of owlhoots.
Note: some covers, like the one here, show the inside of the cape to be white! Chalk it up to artistic license (and face it, it looks damned cool).

BTW, the artistically-astute among you can tell that cover was by the late, legendary Frank Frazetta!
He did several of them, three of which are included in our collection!

In the series' early days the villains were standard owlhoots or, like the Rider, people pretending to be supernatural beings.
That changed around 1952, when he started facing real mystic menaces including Indian spirits, vampires, and even the Frankenstein Monster (though not the one from Prize Comics.)
Unfortunately, it was about this point in time that Dr. Wertham began his crusade against comics in general and horror comics in particular...
By 1954, the Ghost Rider had lost his series. The next year he disappeared entirely.
But, over 50 years later, Atomic Kommie Comics™ brought him back, digitally-restored and remastered on a host of kool kollectibles to go with our other masked Western heroes including The Lone Rider, The Red Mask, The Black Phantom, and The Masked Ranger.

If you're a fan of horror, masked heroes, Westerns, or all three genres, take a long, lingering look at The Ghost Rider!
You'll not see his like again!

Monday, September 27, 2010

"Om Mani Padme Hum!" So Speaks...the Green Lama!

In the 1930s-40s The Shadow was big!
We're talking "Harry Potter"-level popularity here!
Between a bi-weekly magazine (and hardcover reprints), a radio show, b-movies (and a serial), a newspaper comic strip, a comic book, big little books, and lots of collectible merchandise, He Who Knows What Evil Lurks was one of the FIRST multi-media and merchandising phenomenons!
It was inevitable that rich playboy-turned-cloaked avenger imitators would pop up.
Some were obvious and blatant like The Whisperer.
Some were obvious, but had a really distinctive style, like The Spider.
And some were...well...unique, like The Green Lama!

The Green Lama was rich playboy Lamont...I mean Jethro Dumont who spent a decade in a lamasery in Tibet learning how to become a Buddhist priest (or Lama).
This training gave him amazing mental powers including the ability to cloud mens' minds. (This is not to say all Buddhist priests go around doing that sort of thing. Jethro apparently took some extra-credit courses.)
Jethro also picked up radioactive salts which gave him physical enhancements as well, including super-strength and enabling him to fly.
Upon returning to America, Jethro resolved to use his abilities to right wrongs, punish evildoers, and in general, fight crime.
Like The Shadow, who had several other identities besides "Lamont Cranston", Jethro also used the identity of "Dr. Pali" to go places rich playboy Dumont couldn't.
Unlike The Shadow, he never used a gun, instead depending on his mental powers (and, if necessary, his physical prowess) to deal with villains.

That's his fictional "origin".
The creation of The Green Lama in the real-world was a little less exciting.
Experienced pulp writer Kendell Foster Crossen was hired by pulp publisher Munsey Publications to create a character to compete with The Shadow on the newsstands.
He conceived The Green Lama and penned, under the name "Richard Foster", over a dozen tales about him for the Double Detective pulp magazine from 1940 to 1943.
(While The Lama was always the cover feature from his first appearance onward, he never had his own pulp, like The Shadow.)
The Lama also appeared in comic books, first in Prize Comics from #7 in 1940 to #34 in 1943, then moving into his own comic for eight issues until 1946.
Crossen wrote most of the comics, which were illustrated by Mac Raboy, one of the best artists of the period! (Raboy was the only choice to take over the Sunday Flash Gordon strip from creator Alex Raymond and Mac continued it until he passed away!)
Three years later, the character was revived in a summer-replacement dramatic radio show which ran only 11 episodes starring Paul Frees, who sounded eerily-similar to Orson Welles, who had played The Shadow on radio!

In all these incarnations, efforts were made to portray Buddhism sympathetically, if not always accurately.
For example, The Lama's primary incanation to invoke his powers; "om mani padme hum", is a mantra used while praying or meditating, not going into battle!

After the radio show ended, the Lama faded away except for the occasional reprint...until 2007, when Alex Ross revived the character as one of the major players in the new Project SuperPowers line of comic books using long-lost comic book characters.
In addition, Dark Horse Publishing recently published high-quality hardcover reprints of his long out-of-print comic!
And Moonstone Publishing will be including Jethro Dumont's emerald alter-ego as one of the characters in new stories in the upcoming comic book anthology title Return of the Originals.

We at Atomic Kommie Comics™ want to do our part in re-presenting The Green Lama to the pop culture world with a line of kool kollectibles including t-shirts, mugs, even a Classic Green Lama 12-Month Calendar for 2011!

So have a look at The Green Lama, today!
And "om mani padme hum" to you! ;-)

BONUS! A pre-Halloween "treat" for our faithful fans: a link to FREE mp3s of some of the Green Lama radio episodes!

And remember...pick up Project SuperPowers, where The Green Lama LIVES!

Note: I'm reminded by writer Adam Garcia that modern pulp publisher Airship 27 is releasing NEW Green Lama prose tales both in short story anthologies and full-length novels! You'll find them below!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Video Fridays: THE GREEN HORNET in "Programmed for Death"

Continuing our weekly feature "Video Fridays"...
Frank Miller tries to kill The Green Hornet!
No, not THE Frank Miller, writer-artist of 300, Daredevil, Dark Knight Returns, and other comic classics!
This guy was a criminally-oriented gemologist who tried to freeze the Hornet in today's episode "Programmed for Death", the third show aired on ABC in 1966, but the first episode filmed.

There's a number of differences between what you'll see here and our previous two posts.
It's slower-paced since it had to introduce the various elements of the show to an audience unfamiliar with the character.
The last Green Hornet radio show was 14 years earlier, and an entire generation had grown up with no idea as to who he was!
Unlike Batman, there were no ongoing Green Hornet comic books or licensed products during this period, except a couple of lp record albums of radio shows, which, ironically, were released along with The Shadow, the Lone Ranger, and others due to the success of the Batman tv series!
The heroes have different masks (see photo) that actually work better to hide their identities, but obstructed peripheral vision. After this episode, molds were taken of their faces and new, form-fitting masks were created and used for the remainder of the show's run.
Note that Kato does all the hand-to-hand fighting in this episode.

While the 60s tv series is not yet available on official dvd, it is available on YouTube.
Here's the THIRD broadcast episode "Programmed for Death" in three segments.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Feast of Film Heroines--Luana & Gwendoline

In our ongoing search for pop culture coolness, Atomic Kommie Comics™ has come across posters for two of the funkiest flix of the 70s-80s for our line of kool kollectibles including t-shirts, mugs, messenger bags, and other tchochkies...
Luana (aka Luana - la Figlia della Foresta Vergine [Italy], Luana - Der Fluch des wei├čen Goldes [West Germany], Luana, the Girl Tarzan [USA]) was an Italian jungle flick featuring the only Eurasian jungle princess I've ever seen, a little-known actress named Mei Chen who looks really good in a fur bikini!
Produced in 1968, but not released in the US until the mid-70s, the flick is best known for two American posters featuring art by none other than the late, great fantasy art legend Frank Frazetta!
There was also a novelization by Alan Dean Foster [who did a helluva lot of them in the 70s] using the Frazetta art on the cover!
The key art was also used as the cover for Vampirella #31, which featured a comic adaptation of the movie!
Needless to say, we've found BOTH of the posters (along with a non-Frazetta European one) and are offering them all at our Menacing Maidens section of Seduction of the Innocent™.

PLUS: we've added the Indiana Jones-style poster for the 80s Just Jackln movie version of John Wilie's Sweet Gwendoline strip called Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik Yak, featuring video vixen Tawny Kitaen.
The film is perhaps the classiest R-rated sexploitation film ever done, with a real sense of visual style, and actors who can actually act, despite truly awful dialogue!
(The director also did the 1980s movie versions of Emmanuelle and The Story of O.)

Mix in posters for both Cleopatra Jones blaxploitation flix, SuperChick, the pre-Charlies' Angels Ebony, Ivory & Jade team, The Domino Lady, and Barbarella, and you'll see why Menacing Maidens is a must-see site for the SERIOUS schlock fan!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Video Fridays: THE GREEN HORNET in "Give 'Em Enough Rope"

Continuing our weekly feature "Video Fridays"...
Followers of this blog are well aware of how much of a fan I am of The Green Hornet (and Kato, natch) in his various incarnations.
While the 60s tv series is not yet available on official dvd, it is available on YouTube.
Here's the second broadcast episode "Give 'Em Enough Rope" in three segments.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Coming of...Cave Girl!

In the 1940s-50s, one of the most popular genres in comics was the "jungle hero", the most famous one of all being Tarzan.
A horde of imitators followed, with some interesting variations, including an entire sub-genre--the "jungle heroine"!
While many had weird names like "Sheena", "Rulah", or "Zoot", one of the best-illustrated was known only as "Cave Girl"!

Beginning as a backup in Frank Frazetta's Thun'da comic, Cave Girl was a little girl named Carol, whose explorer parents were killed by natives in the jungle they were mapping.
Before Carol could also be put to death, an eagle swooped down and took the child to it's nest.
There, the eagle and a wolf raised the girl to young adulthood, teaching her how to survive and communicate with other animals.
Though in the first couple of stories, the jungle was shown to be home to timelost creatures like sabretooth tigers and Neanderthals, by the time she got her own title, it was pretty much a generic jungle heroine strip...with one notable exception!
Legendary "good girl" and romance artist Bob Powell handled the art as Cave Girl cut a svelte path thru Africa's villains from backup feature to four exciting issues of her own title!

The Atomic Kommie Comics™ crew has found a home for two of her best covers on shirts, mugs and other stuff in our Heroines™ section.
As a cool retro-styled gift, she appeals both to guys who enjoy seeing an attractive woman in dynamic action, and gals who like viewing an empowered woman who stands tall and proud in a male-dominated world!
Talk about the best of both worlds!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Fear...the Fantom of the Fair!

The 1939-1940 Worlds Fair in New York City was a BIG event whose influence was felt throughout pop culture, in particular, fantastic fiction;
The first science fiction convention (NyCon 1) was held on the fairgrounds!
Charlie Chan caught a murderer in the Worlds Fair-themed film Murder Over New York!
Doc Savage fought "The Worlds Fair Goblin" in the pages of his pulp magazine!
DC Comics launched a book called Worlds Fair Comics. (After the Fair closed, it was retitled Worlds Best, then Worlds Finest) This tied-in with "Superman Day" at the Fair, featuring the first actor to play Superman in costume, Ray Middleton!
And a super-hero was created specifically to protect the Fair and fairgoers!

Appearing in Amazing Mystery Funnies, The Fantom of the Fair was dedicated to defending those who walked the grounds of the exhibition, battling evil within it's boundaries.
The covers and stories incorporated elements and locales of the Fair.
While the Fantom's real name and the reason he fought crime were never revealed, readers did learn a number of things about him during his two-year run:
He had above-normal strength and agility, plus the ability to hypnotize people and alter their memories.
He operated out of the labyrinth of service tunnels under the fairgrounds, which enabled him to travel unseen, and had a secret headquarters within them (inspired by similar elements of the Phantom of the Opera)
His face was never revealed. When he wore civilian clothes, his visage was obscured by a fedora.
Despite changing his name to FantoMan when he received his own title, and expanding his operations to the whole of NYC, the character's series ended a couple of months after the Fair closed.

While he inspired the similarly-named Phantom of the Fair who was integral to the retconned origin of DC Comics' Golden Age Sandman, he hasn't popped up yet in Alex Ross' Project SuperPowers, where most of his publisher's other characters have already appeared. But, it's probably just a matter of time.
Meanwhile, the crew at Atomic Kommie Comics™ felt a kool hero like the Fantom should not be forgotten, so we incorporated a pair of his best covers into the Lost Heroes of the Golden Age of Comics™ line, giving him his own section!

If you want to show that special pop-culture-oriented someone (who's into Worlds Fair kitch) that you want to share their interests with them, do a 1939 Worlds Fair-themed present!
Combine one of our cool Fantom of the Fair collectibles with a copy of a World's Fair-themed book, the Images of America book 1939-1940 NY World's Fair or The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon, or Doc Savage "The Worlds Fair Goblin" by Kenneth Robeson! All titles are in-print and currently available!
Then party like it's 1939!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Video Fridays: THE GREEN HORNET in "The Silent Gun"

We're introducing a new weekly feature "Video Friday"
Followers of this blog are well aware of how much of a fan I am of The Green Hornet (and Kato, natch) in his various incarnations.
While the 60s tv series is not yet available on official dvd, it is available on YouTube.
Here's the first broadcast episode "The Silent Gun" (but NOT the pilot, "Programmed for Death", which was the third episode aired) in three segments.

Next week: "Give 'Em Enough Rope"

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Silver Age Green Hornet by Gil Kane

As The Green Hornet tv series went into production in June, 1966, the producers realized that there was no existing art showing the title character or his sidekick, Kato.
Actually, there was plenty of art, but it was of the previous, differently-costumed, 1940s version...
So, the producers commissioned new "key art" for promo and licensing purposes.
They chose noted comic book artist Gil Kane to produce the new graphics.
Using early costume-test photos (above: showing different masks used only in the pilot episode "Programmed for Death" and no gloves) as reference, Kane did several pieces which became the basis of almost all the merchandising art on various tie-in products including the Captain Action costume, playing and trading cards, and the sole paperback novel based on the tv show, Green Hornet in the Infernal Light (used on the back cover as seen below).
We've acquired 1966 original posters of the primary key art piece and digitally-remastered and restored them both on collectibles in our Icons line and as limited-edition posters Pop-Art #5 (Hornet) & Pop-Art #6 (Kato)!
With a new feature film set for January, now's the time to get the latest Secret Chic items to wear to screenings (or to class) or put on your bedroom, dorm room, or den wall!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Frankly, It's Frankie! (Frankenstein, that is!)

As Halloween approaches, we thought we'd take a look back at one of the best horror comics series of all time (and toss in a free plug while we're at it!)
Prize Comics' Monster of Frankenstein began life in Prize Comics #7 (the same issue that introduced The Green Lama to comics) and continued over several years going from a relatively-straight sequel to the Mary Shelley novel to all-out comedy, all drawn by the same artist, Dick Briefer (who also created the series The Target & the Targeteers.) and continuing to the point when Prize Comics became Prize Western Comics.
By then, he had his own title, also played for laughs, which ran for 17 issues.
Of particular note was Prize Comics #24, where The Green Lama, Yank & Doodle, The Black Owl, and other Prize Comics heroes teamed up as "The Prize Fighters" to deal with the assumed threat of the Monster, much as various Marvel heroes tend to team up to try to tame the presumed threat of The Incredible Hulk!

By the mid-1950s, with horror comics a hot genre, The Monster was revived as a straight horror title with #18 and running thru #33, with Dick Briefer still at the artistic helm.
This is the period Golden Age fans still speak of in respectful hushed tones (although technically, it's not the Golden Age).

Old-timers may also note the logo was adapted for the first (and only) issue of Calvin Beck's Journal of Frankenstein, a b/w magazine which was retitled Castle of Frankenstein for the remainder of it's run. (It was one of the better competitors to Forrest J. Ackerman's long-running Famous Monsters of Filmland).
There have been several reprints of the Briefer material including Ray Zone's 3-D Zone, Michael T. Gilbert's Mr Monster's Hi-Shock Schlock, and AC Comics' Men of Mystery, and most recently, Idea Men Productions' trade paperback (ISBN-10 1419640178, ISBN-13 978-1419640179)
AC Comics also did an updated, villainous version of the character, called "Frightenstein"* in a number of their titles, and Dynamite Entertainment's Project SuperPowers has incorporated him as the conceptual basis of the "F-Troop" reanimated-corpse soldiers.

Knowing you can't keep a good monster down, Atomic Kommie Comics™ has revived The Monster as part of our Lost Heroes of the Golden Age of Comics™ collectibles line just in time for Halloween with six classic covers (including #18, his first horror-era appearance) adorning such items as tote bags (perfect as trick-or-treat bags), mousepads, blank sketchbooks, mugs, and, of course, shirts.
In addition, we now have a Frankenstein 12-Month calendar featuring the a dozen of the best of both the humor and horror versions!

Personally, I'm gonna be wearing one of them on Halloween.
Only question is, which one? ;-)

*"Frightenstein" was also the name of a short-lived 1970s syndicated tv series called
The Hilarious House of Frightenstein. Vincent Price did a number of intros to segments.