Friday, October 29, 2010

Video Fridays: THE GREEN HORNET in "The Ray is For Killing"

NOTE: Fixed the YouTube links to provide bigger images.
Continuing our weekly feature "Video Fridays"...
The Green Hornet and Kato face art thieves armed with a laser rifle!

Except for the two-part series finale, "Invasion from Outer Space", this was the most outlandish episode of the series.
Usually, the show was a straight "detectives with masks" format, dealing with gangsters, extortionists, etc.
No flashy costumed villains.
No super-weapons (except The Hornet's, of course).

Curiously, there's no explanation as to how these criminals got their hands on a laser, who taught them how to use it (or who's gonna fix it if it breaks), or why they're not using it for more lucrative crimes.
We don't know who built the laser. These guys didn't have the scientific background to do so. Was there a mad scientist running around the city?
Why didn't The Hornet take the laser and incorporate it into his weaponry? As it is, leaving it for the police left open the possibility that they could adapt it and use it against him and Kato!
The laser itself is shown to be powered by simply plugging it into an electrical outlet! 110 or 220 volts? It also conveniently fits into a suitcase.
There's location shooting in the Los Angeles storm drain system, both inside the tunnels (where the Black Beauty's green headlights really glow with an eerie effect unseen any other time in the series), and outside using some of the same viaducts seen in Terminator 2 and THEM.
Though it's the ninth episode aired, this was the second episode shot, after "Programmed for Death".
We're using a new YouTube provider, HornetNest1000, so you'll notice a slight difference in the openings of the individual segments, though the picture and sound quality are equal to Michelle66's work.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Call Her Miss Masque...Call Her Masquerade!

Debuting in Exciting Comics #51, Miss Masque was another of the line of rich socialites-turned-masked crimefighters in the Golden Age which included The Shadow, The Batman, and The Green Hornet!
Diana Adams had no superpowers or abilities, just her keen deductive mind and a pair of .45 automatics. And, unlike her male contemporaries, she didn't have a sidekick or aides!
Clad in bright red cape, mini-dress, gloves, and slouch hat, she pursued criminals and saboteurs thru several issues of Exciting Comics, appearing on the cover only once (#53) during her run, before transferring over to America's Best Comics, where she teamed up (on the covers) with other heroes, most notably The Black Terror, even though they didn't appear together inside the comic! (They all had seperate strips!)
Also, she seemed to lose parts of her wardrobe when she changed homes, as her fedora disappeared along with the midriff of her costume (see left), making her predate the trailer-trash look of Britney Spears by decades! (Maybe it was her summer ensemble!)
When superheroes faded away after the end of World War II, so did Miss Masque.
Since the 1990s, she's been revived by several publishers, most notably, by writer Alan Moore (of Watchmen fame) in DC Comics' America's Best Comics imprint (ironic, eh?), and artist Alex Ross in Dynamite Entertainment's Project SuperPowers series as well as a mini-series under her new code-name of Masquerade!
In this revival, she's part of a trio of  psychically-linked, red-garbed superheroines (including The Woman in Red and Lady Satan) called The Scarlet Sisters!
We at Atomic Kommie Comics™ have also "revived" Miss Masque / Masquerade by digitally-restoring and remastering several of her best Golden Age cover appearances (including her first) on a line of t-shirts, mugs, and even calendars as part of our Lost Heroes of the Golden Age of Comics™ line of kool kollectibles!

She was a woman ahead of her time...but her time has finally come!

PS: Pick up the Project SuperPowers and Masquerade comics! They're the best Golden Age revival books out there!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Video Fridays: THE GREEN HORNET in "Beautiful Dreamer I & II"

Continuing our weekly feature "Video Fridays"...
Since The Green Hornet was a weekly show, rather than twice-a-week like Batman, the producers wanted to avoid two-part or continued stories.
However, whether the original concept was to do an hour-long show, or the story editors were unaware of the edict when they solicited scripts, there were several shows that ran an hour.
This was the first one.
Peter Eden is a criminal posing as the owner of a health spa to the rich and famous called The Vale of Eden. Using subliminal motivation via "sleep teaching" to make his clients steal from their own companies and families, turn the loot over to him, and then forget all about it, he's created the perfect method to commit crimes and let others take the blame.
The Hornet (as Britt Reid) and trusty Girl Friday Lenore Case go "undercover" to investigate the spa. Eden becomes suspicious of them, and "programs" Casey during her spa treatment to shoot Reid.
When Casey tries to carry out her programming, only Kato's quick action saves Reid from being killed by his own secretary.
This is the only episode written (actually co-written) by one of the Batman tv series writers.
The basic concept of a spa being a cover for a criminal operation hypnotizing/programming innocents to commit crimes was also used in the movie In Like Flint and the final Batman tv series episode "Minerva, Mayhem and Millionaires"
It's also the only episode we see The Hornet and Kato's gas masks (which they just test, but not use). Considering how often they use gas, either from the Black Beauty's grille-gun or the Hornet's pistol, I'm surprised the masks weren't seen more frequently. You'll note in the photo above they're also color-coordinated for the Hornet (green) or Kato (black/midnight blue).
There's lots more location shooting since the finale involves stealing the proceeds from a racetrack and the duo, in Black Beauty, pursue Eden's henchmen in an armored car all over the place; thru the stables and onto the track itself!
Here's the SEVENTH and EIGHTH broadcast episodes "Beautiful Dreamer I & II" in six segments.
There's no "teaser" for part 2 at the end of part 1, and no "synopsis" of part 1 at the beginning of part 2, which starts at the opening credits with no pre-credits sequence. They do exist, and I got them on audio tape, when I recorded them off tv in the days before VHS and DVD. The syndicated prints that HronetsNes1000 digitized his files from probably omitted them since most stations ran the 26-episode series as a one-hour block once a week, thus the preview and synopsis were unnecessary since the eps ran back-to-back, and by leaving them out, a couple of minutes of commercials were added without cutting into the episodes themselves.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Glittering is...Golden Lad!

One of the few Golden Age teen heroes both with his own comic book and not an established hero's sidekick, Golden Lad had a five-issue run in 1946-47 featuring art by comic art legends Jerry Robinson (who created Batman's foe, The Joker) and Mort Meskin!

High-school student Tommy Preston discovered an ancient Aztec artifact, the Heart of Gold in his grandfather's antique shop. (Wonder if grandpop discretely-handled some of Indiana Jones' transactions?)
The Heart of Gold had been empowered by "the blood of a thousand martyred Aztecs" to grant power to anyone who fought for justice.
Holding the artifact and saying its name, Tommy was transformed into Golden Lad, with the abilities of flight, super strength, and size-changing.

Trivia: unlike the Golden Age Captain Marvel, who changed from a kid into an adult hero when he said "SHAZAM!", Tommy still looks like his teenage self as Golden Lad, just in green tights, yet no one who knows him as Tommy recognizes him when he's Golden Lad! Go figure!

As part of our Lost Heroes of the Golden Age of Comics™ line, he's one of the more obscure characters since he hadn't been revived since 1946 until Alex Ross brought him back for a cameo in the first Project SuperPowers mini-series!
Digging thru the Atomic Kommie Comics™ archives, we found all five issues, and decided on the three best covers (including the first and final ones) for Golden Lad, giving him his own section for his collectibles!

If you're looking for a kool, affordable, Golden Age comic collectible for your pop-culture-fan loved one, you can't go wrong with a Golden Lad goodie (unless you happen to find the Heart of Gold in an antique shop)!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Video Fridays: THE GREEN HORNET in "Eat, Drink, and Be Dead"

Continuing our weekly feature "Video Friday"...
In a plotline probably based on one of the original radio show's scripts, the Hornet and Kato take on liquor bootleggers operating out of a local dairy, using it's pasturizing equipment to ferment booze on a massive scale! (Why, by 1966, bars would even need illegally-produced liquor is not explained.)
In an interesting modern twist, the criminals use a helicopter to bomb any who oppose or betray them. Effective, and leaves no ballistics!
When The Daily Sentinel begins a series exposing the racket, the gangsters grab reporter Mike Axford, threatening to kill him if the articles are printed.
To save Mike, The Hornet cuts himself in on the racket, agreeing to turn Sentinel publisher Reid over to them in exchange for a percentage of profits.
Once inside, Reid sabotages the operation, rescues Mike, and defeats the helicopter bombing-baddies.
Side notes:
The Green Hornet series did quite a bit of location shooting during it's run. Last week it was a marina. In this episode, a huge local dairy.
The Green Hornet likes to make use of darkness to make dramatic entrances. He does it twice in this episode!
Another on-screen costume change as Britt Reid changes in the back seat of Black Beauty, this time donning his Hornet garb.
Lots of play for The Black Beauty as more of it's gimmicks are introed, including built-in loudspeakers (with tape player so The Hornet and Britt Reid can seem to be in two places at once), smoke projectors (probably the gas projector seen in "Crime Wave" using harmless smoke instead of knockout gas), and the (rare for the time) mobile telephone. Plus, both the flying Hornet Scanner and the car's rocket weapons get a healthy workout.
This is the only episode where the villain's lair is blown up, James Bond style! (And, no, they didn't blow up the actual dairy!)
While the 60s tv series is not yet available on official dvd, it is available on YouTube.
Here's the SIXTH broadcast episode "Eat, Drink and Be Dead" in three segments.
Next week: a two-part episode in one blog entry!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Coming of...the Purple Claw!

The name that strikes terror into the hearts of least to the minds of an impressionable 9-14 year old audience!
Technically, it's the name of the metal glove that imparts mystic powers to it's wearer, but some refer to the user himself (or herself) by the name, much the way they do Green Lantern...
The user in this 1950s series, which mixed horror with heroics, was Dr. Johnathan Weir, a former US Army doctor who acquired it when he crashed his plane in Africa.
The Claw's origin and history, which Dr. Weir tried to trace, is somewhat cloudy, since it was all word-of-mouth. (It didn't come with a user's manual.)
What is known is that it's an ancient mystic artifact of Great Power When Used For Good. (Those who attempt to use it for Evil usually come to a Bad End!)
The bearer becomes a Defender of Humanity Against Occult Evil...whether they want the job or not!
The Claw's exact abilities and limitations are unknown, and Weir had to experiment to see what would and wouldn't work, always stumbling upon the right way to use it before being killed/dismembered/disintegrated by a foe. (Talk about "on the job training"!)

The series ran for only three issues, but Weir continued to fight evil as a reprint in Tales of Horror, until the Great Comics WitchHunt of the 1950s killed almost all horror/occult-themed comics titles.

As you might have guessed, we at Atomic Kommie Comics™ found it to be a perfect fit for our Horror Comics of the 1950s™ collection, even giving The Claw it's own section!

We think any of the collectibles we offer with The Purple Claw on them would make a kool Halloween-themed (or birthday) gift for the horror/occult pop culture kitch aficionado in your life!
But, remember...Use Them For Good...not Evil! ;-)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Video Fridays: THE GREEN HORNET in "The Frog is a Deadly Weapon"

Continuing our weekly feature "Video Friday"...
 The Green Hornet faces off against The Shadow!
Well, sorta...
The villain of this episode, gangster Glen Connors, is played by Victor Jory, who portrayed The Shadow in the 1940 movie serial based on both the pulp and radio show!
Connors is impersonating millionaire recluse Charles Delaclare, and slowly draining his assets.
Britt Reid wants to expose Connors/Delaclare, not only because Connors evaded the law by faking his own death and replacing Delaclare, but Connors was part of a conspiracy that framed Reid's father years ago!
Side notes:
The frame-up of Reid's father is never pursued beyond this episode. Was dear old Dad the 1940s Green Hornet? We'll never know...
The idea of the villain replacing a reclusive millionaire is later used in the film version of Diamonds are Forever.
The idea of fighting a flock of frogmen (say that five times fast) was probably inspired by the box-office success of the then-current James Bond flick Thunderball!
Lenore "Casey" Case, played by the lovely Wende Wagner, finally gets serious screen time in this episode as she does some investigating for Reid, but gets caught by Connors' henchmen. As clever as she is beautiful, she keeps herself alive by bluffing the criminals until The Hornet can rescue her!
For the first time we see The Hornet change from his costume to civilian garb in the back seat of the Black Beauty. He does this a couple of times during the show's run to appear as both Reid and The Hornet to criminals within a short time-frame.
This is the first appearance of Barbara Babcock (Hill Street Blues) as Elaine Carey, a competitor with Casey for Britt Reid's affections. Barbara performed on the original Star Trek five times (twice on-screen, three times doing voiceovers), each time as a different character!
While the '60s tv series is not yet available on official dvd, it is available on YouTube.
Here's the FIFTH broadcast episode "The Frog is a Deadly Weapon" in three segments.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fear the Fury of...Miss Fury!

She wasn't the first superheroine, but she was the first to be created by a woman!
Conceived, written, and illustrated by cartoonist Tarpe Mills (who dropped her first name "June" from her published credit), Miss Fury started life in 1941 as a newspaper comic strip.

Wealthy socialite Marla Drake was preparing for a costume ball when she discovered a friend was going to wear the same costume as her!
Horrors! Social ruin!
Francine, her maid, hastily suggested an alternative--she instead wear a black panther skin sent to her by her uncle, which had previously been used as a ceremonial robe by an African witch doctor.
Strangely enough, it fit Marla perfectly!
En route to the party, Marla encountered an escaped criminal and kicked his, well, you know...
Police and reporters initially referred to her as "Black Fury", but she called herself "Miss Fury" in notes attached to crooks she caught. (The name "CatWoman" was already in use! ;-) )

Two items of note:
1) The panther hide didn't give her any super-powers, as such items tend to do in comics!
Marla was a gifted athlete, and, that combined with the visual shock value of the costume, enabled her to defeat foes. (ask another wealthy socialite, Bruce Wayne, about his similar, equally effective, strategy!)
2) Unlike most Golden Age heroines (Wonder Woman, Black Cat, Phantom Lady, et al), who seemed to wear skimpy swimsuits to battle evil, Miss Fury's costume totally covered her (but extremely tightly)!

The series spun off into comic books in 1942, but only as reprints of the newspaper strips (albeit with new covers by Mills).
Sadly, unlike most other adventure strips, there were no other spin-offs like movie serials, radio shows, or even a Big Little Book or two!
The newspaper strip ended in 1952, but Tarpe Mills continued to work as a comic illustrator for various publishers, including Marvel Comics! Her last published work was a new cover for a graphic novel reprint of Miss Fury in 1979. She passed away in 1988.

We at Atomic Kommie Comics™ felt such a unique character would make a great, empowered role model for today's girls, so we gave her a section of her own in Heroines!™, where the so-called "weaker" sex RULES!
She'd make a cool pop-culture-themed birthday or holiday gift for your sister, daughter, or girlfriend!
Perhaps it'll inspire them to create a character of their own...

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Fly the Halloween Skies with Sky Wizard!

In the 1940s, superheroes were the primary genre in both comic books and pulp magazines. The skies seas, and streets of pop fiction were filled with people in capes, cowls, leotards, or some combination thereof.
And, of course, a superhero had to have a super-power or gimmick that would set him (or her) apart from the crowd.
Which leads us to our feature character today...
Though he hasn't yet appeared in either Alex Ross' Project SuperPowers (except in a pin-up in the collected edition) or Erik Larsen's Next Issue Project, we at Atomic Kommie Comics™thought enough of Sky Wizard that we added him to the Lost Heroes of the Golden Age of Comics™ lineup without hesitation!
1) He's "the Master of Space"! Catchy, eh?
2) He's a scientific genius! (Funky weaponry and modes of transport a speciality!)
3) He can't make up his mind about what costume to wear!
He wore a different costume in each of his four cover appearances!
No fashion victim he! (And you thought Marvel's Janet Van Dyne-Pym and Henry Pym had bulging wardrobes!)
4) He appeared in Miracle Comics! ("...and if it's a good comic, it's a Miracle! Thank you! We'll be here thru Sunday! Try the veal...")
With a name like that, you know we had to find a spot for him, and his book, in our kitchy lineup!
So, if you're looking for a unique, Golden-Age superhero-oriented birthday or holiday gift (shirt, mug, blank sketchbook) for your pop-culture craving sweetie, you can't go wrong with Sky Wizard!

And, c'mon Alex, stick him in Project SuperPowers (The best Golden Age revival on the market! BUY IT!)!
Of course, then you'll have to decide which costume to put him in! ;-)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

How Do You Spell "Adventure"? H-A-Z-Z-A-R-D!!!

Mentioning Airstrip 27 in my recent Green Lama post reminded me of their first revamping of a 1930s-40s pulp character...Captain Hazzard!
An interesting combination of elements from already-established characters: wealthy globe-trotting adventurer with team of aides (Doc Savage or Avenger), training in para-psychic abilities (Green Lama or Shadow) and tendency to kill opponents (Shadow or Spider); Hazzard (he doesn't have a first name as far as I can tell) can also communicate telepathically with his men and senses danger with a forerunner of Spider-Sense, due to the fact he was blinded, sharpened his senses, and then had his eyesight restored thru an experimental procedure, but kept the hightened abilities (Black Bat)!
He faced the "Python Men of Lost City", and...well, that's it!
He only made one appearance!
There was no second issue!
Pity, since he had a lot of potential.
At least he left behind a cool cover, which we've digitally-restored and remastered onto a plethora of products including shirts, mugs, etc. at Capt Hazzard: Adventurer for those with an Indiana Jones/high adventure yearning!
But that's not the end of the story...
Much like Alex Ross has done with old comics characters in Project SuperPowers, noted writer Ron Fortier is reviving the Capt Hazzard pulp series, both with a rewritten version of the original novel "Python Men of the Lost City" and a series of new novels.
The books are linked below, and they'd make a great gift set in conjunction with any of our Captain Hazzard collectibles!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Video Fridays: THE GREEN HORNET in "Crime Wave"

Continuing our weekly feature "Video Friday"...
It's a 1960s version of cybercrime as The Green Hornet faces a computer that can predict his crimes in "Crime Wave",  the fourth broadcast episode! (A neat trick since The Hornet is just pretending to be a criminal!)
There's double-crossing, a couple of elaborately-planned robberies, and a kool all-out fight scene as The Hornet and Kato take on several foes at once!
We also get to see The Black Beauty's built-in gas-guns in operation for the first time!
Side notes:
Despite being computer whizzes, the criminals in this episode can't construct a pistol-sized gas gun like The Hornet, and have to lug a huge canister of knockout gas around with them!
There's a costume party scene where a number of costumes contain elements (helmets, tunics, sidearms) from various Irwin Allen shows (Lost in Space, Time Tunnel, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea)
Next week: The Green Hornet meets The Shadow! (No lie!)