Friday, September 24, 2010

Make Mine Marvel: Dr. Strange

An arrogant surgeon who was unable to work after a terrible auto accident, Dr. Stephen Strange searched the world for a cure, ending up in the Himalayas asking advise from the mysterious Ancient One. Believing he could restore Strange, the old mystic declared him unworthy of the task, which left the doctor wandering aimlessly, before he discovered a plan to overthrow the ancient sage by his star pupil, Baron Mordo. When Mordo's plot is deftly defeated by Strange, the Ancient One relented and agreed to instruct and repair his soul rather than his hands, and eventually take on his mantle as Earth's next Sorcerer Supreme. Created for Marvel Comics anthology book, Strange Tales #110 in July of 1963, writer Stan Lee and illustrator Steve Ditko made this "Master of the Mystic Arts" not your usual superhero. Older and more worldly, the good doctor could travel the many realms of the universe in these surreal morality tales to accomplish amazing feats, that could even rock worlds with his new found sorcerer skills. Setting up in Greenwich Village area of New York City, assisted by his man servant Wong and lovely student Clea, there is no limit to the magical adventures Dr. Strange and his associates can encounter.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Tatsuo Yoshida's...Speed Racer

Tatsuo Yoshida was a popular 1960s manga artist and co-founder of Tatsunoko Productions, who wanted to make a animated TV show based on his hit comic series, Mach Go Go Go. Little did we know as children that the catchy title was a clever pun on the Japanese word "go" which meant "five". The series revolved around Go Mifune, the dashing young driver for the Mach Go racing team, his elder brother and fellow driver, Kenichi, a beautiful girlfriend Michi, and the rest of the enduring cast members. Being one of the first Japanese series to be shown in America, Translux obtained the rights to adapt the characters and scripts with the help of talented voice actor and screenwriter Peter Fernandez. He created some snappy new names like Speed Racer, even though he still had a "G" printed on his shirt to confuse us for decades.

Racer X, Trixie, Spritle, Chim Chim, Sparky, and Pops Racer never failed to please its younger audience everyday after school, and not to forget that fabulous wonder car, the gadget laden Mach 5. Influenced heavily by the "spy craze" of the Sixties, Speed and his family traveled the world racing, having fun, and helping foil dasterly villains with the help of his spy brother, Racer X, and a gotee wearing Interpol agent, Inspector Detector. All fifty-two unforgettable episodes were aired on syndicated television in 1967, and continued for many years until MTV helped developed an even larger fan base. It was just about impossible not to love Speed Racer's fast-paced action/adventure stories sprinkled with colorful villains like Cruncher Block, Tongue Blogard, and Ace Duecey, just to name a few.

Later relaunched in various new television and print versions, they all paled in comparison to the original series whose impact on our young memories were hard to follow. Volkswagon even developed an animated commercial using the characters and the Children's Safety Network sponsored the construction of a full-sized real Mach 5 that toured the States with Fernandez and other members of the cast. A big budget live action motion picture that was recently released also failed with the critics and the public as well, since they strayed to heavily away from the original source material, but fortunately the original manga series and TV show has been issued on DVD for new fans to enjoy.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

My Greatest Adventure: The Atom

Physics Professor Ray Palmer was trying to find a way to reduce matter to aid farmers in increasing their crop yield, but in his studies in size reduction, the altered matter would always explode. Palmer finally found the secret to the problem in fragments of a white dwarf star that helped produce his reducing beam, though the objects continued to remain highly unstable. Sometime later, trapped in a cave with a group of students, Palmer turned the experimental beam on himself and saved the party from a sudden disaster. A combination of ultra violent rays, cave water, and his own physiology now mysteriously allowed the professor to safely reduce his six foot frame to even a subatomic size. Developing hand controls and a costume using the star matter, Palmer can control his weight and size, and fights crime in his new alter ego, The Atom. With his first appearance in DC Comics Showcase #34 in 1962, the Atom has learned to master his size controls to great advantage, including travelling through phone lines allowing electronic impulses to propel him, or even aid doctors in medical procedures coursing though a patients bloodstream to discover the cause of their malady.

Monday, September 6, 2010

National Cartoonist Society Profile: Bob Montana

Name? er...Montana. Born? yes sir! Stockton, California, 1920. Male? yes, six dailies and a Sunday every week!Color? just a blue pencil. Scars? no thanks, don't smoke. Sex? went on first National cartoonist Society U.S.O. tour ...slept with Bill Holman, Al Posen and Dick Wingert. Education? art school drop-out. (Boston Museum, Phoenix Institute and Art Student's League) Service? bus boy New York hotel, Sgt. United States Army. Decorated? yes! murals for Fort Monmouth latrine. Occupation? Wife and four children. Hobby? "Archie" since 1941. Nine hundred and fifty papers (give or take four hundred and fifty) Awards? four children Home? seldom. Live in Rome, Cuernavaca, London, Meredith New Hampshire Pet Peeve? yes, but it died. Work Tip? if you drink don't ink! If you had your life to live over? I'd marry a rich cartoonist!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Foreign Favorites: Barbarella

In 1962 the French publication,V-Magazine, was intoduced to a new sexy astronaut who traveled the universe righting wrongs and chasing all the handsome males from the planets she encountered. Jean-Claude Forest's Barbarella was an instant hit with fans, but failed to find any favor with the French authorities, who in the later years banned her saucy reprint book versions. As an early forerunner to space-heroines in comics, Barbarella had numerous bizarre adventures that often left her skin-tight spacesuit in pieces, whether fighting off villains like the sadistic hunter Strikno, or using her ray gun on weird, gelatinous creatures. One thing though was for certain, Forest's elegant fine line drawings helped set the mood for the haunting and evocative romantic exploits she had with both man or machine. When the campy film adaptation starring Jane Fonda in the title role arrived on the silver screen in 1968, Forest tried desperatly to revive the feature in both France and Italy. It was not until years later in 1981, when the strip resurfaced in the pages of L'Echo des Savanes with Jaen-Claude now just providing scripts and Daniel Billon the illustration, but unfortunately the liberated heroine tales did not survive long.