3/29/18

FOOM #21 (Marvel, Spring 1978)


Marvel took a few stabs at fan clubs over the years, and probably the most successful and widespread was FOOM (Friends of Ol' Marvel).  This fancinest incarnation of the fan club featured a very nice, quarterly, magazine-sized publication that lasted for 22 issues.  Items associated with the fan-club, including poster sets, command very high prices to this day.

The 21st issue included a feature that showcased the rise in popularity of science fiction (I wonder why), and included interviews with each Marvel artist or writer who worked on a current Marvel title, such as SEEKER 3000, STAR-LORD, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, as well as a splendid Jack Kirby interview where he details his joy at being offered 2001 and taking it to the next level--which he certainly did (and creating Machine Man in the process!).
But one of the best moments in the magazine is the Roy Thomas article about bringing STAR WARS into Marvel comics.  The interview is worth reading for several reasons (in fact, there are a couple of tidbits I was looking for that will go into the next edition of THE CANTINA COMPENDIUM, see sidebar), but one of the coolest revelations that I have never heard mentioned anywhere is that he was present at the infamous "rough cut" screening at George Lucas' home, where the first, non-dynamically-edited version of the film (which still included WWII dogfight footage in place of space battles) was shown to Lucas' friends and colleagues.  This event is often referenced as a major turning point in the development of the film, and it's probably one of those moments where, if it hadn't existed, I wouldn't be typing about this film today.  It was this showing--often referred to as "confusing," or even "disastrous"--that caused Lucas to think about re-jiggering the pacing of the film, adding some much needed inserts that would be filmed in the US, and--most importantly--re-editing the film with Richard Chew and, most crucial of all, his wife Marcia Lucas. 
Interestingly, Thomas doesn't give us a single adjective to let us know his opinion of how that screening went.  Instead, he uses the event as an example to show how much Marvel was required to come up with on their own, having only that viewing, the novel, and some black-and-white stills to work from!

There is also a mention of Marvel's weekly UK comic titles, which included Star Wars, and necessitated some new cover art, since the stories were broken up into weekly (and black-and-white) segments.

It's interesting to look back on the mid-to-late 70's, when Marvel was riding high with TV adaptations of super-heroes, and, as mentioned, a certain science fiction film that changed everything.  FOOM as a magazine was recently revived as a glossy, comic shop-publication (which included a Marvel Value Stamp, there's a blast from the past!), so it will be interesting to see if it continues.

3/19/18

Godzilla vs. Megalon "Big Box" VHS (Star Classics, 1985)

Godzilla vs. Mecha...Lon...
In the earlier days of VHS, you may recall, there existed over-sized packaging which is today often referred to as the "big box."  Most likely, this was primarily done because manufacturers were worried that most VHS were shoplifter-sized, and could fit into a coat pocket.  (If you remember this, then you also remember that when compact discs hit the market, they were also over-packaged, for the same reason, in "long boxes".)


Today, we are looking at what is probably the only Godzilla film to be released in the big box format, and of course it would be GODZILLA vs MEGALON.  Issued by Star Classics in 1985, it's infamous for a few reasons, of which the packaging is the first.  Secondly, you will notice that they mistakenly used a cover photo from GODZILLA vs MECHAGODZILLA, which is bad enough, but thirdly, on the back of the box, they list the release date as being "1940."


Interestingly, Star Classics--the very same year--also produced a regular-sized edition of MEGALON, this time in a yellow box rather than the light gray seen above...and, even though they flipped it,  still retained the same Mechagodzilla photo! They did fix the year, though.


I've attempted to catalog all of the Godzilla VHS releases in the USA here:  Godzilla VHS Chronology.

3/6/18

From THE GOLDEN MAGAZINE (October, 1969)

Recently, in the bottom of a box of random crap I got from a relative, there was a coverless copy of a kids' magazine called THE GOLDEN MAGAZINE, from October of 1969.  Even though it's several years before my time, interestingly, there's an ad AND an article about the new Saturday morning cartoon season, which was just beginning.  You will note some big names that were just being launched, in the scans below...

Note that in the ad above, H.R. Pufnstuf is revealed to be a "dragon." I certainly never got that out of the show...I don't know what I thought he was.  I was a Krofft fan overall, but that show always weirded me out as a kid.
Also note a couple of things that never stood the test of time, like "Here Comes the Grump" and "Jambo." Live-action on a Saturday morning...!

THE SPHINX ACTIVITY CORNER

Kids! You can color along at home!
Here is the article about the October 1969 Saturday Morning Cartoon scene:

The use of mostly "production art" to illustrate these shows is interesting. That would never fly today; there's too much money at stake (I mean, they cut off the star character's FACE on the Scooby-Doo picture!!!).  Here are some observations:
*Smokey the Bear had a cartoon show? What was it, a 30-second PSA stretched out to 30 minutes?
*HOT WHEELS - The only thing I ever remember reading about this show is that it was pulled because it was discovered to be "a 30-minute toy commercial." What did they expect?
SKY HAWKS - Yawwwwn. That sounds about as boring as JAMBO.
SCOOBY-DOO - Hard to imagine a time that this was DEBUTING and wasn't a staple...notice that the description mentions that the gang are all "high-school students."  I certainly never remember that being referenced....how in the world would THAT have worked, with them driving all over Creation in a van all day to solve mysteries????

Overall, ABC's schedule looked dreadful, but I would've had a hard time choosing between CBS and NBC.  I guess I would have flipped back and forth for the likes of Underdog, the Pink Panther, Looney Tunes, Hanna-Barbera goodness, and Superman...or I could have done an Elvis and just had multiple TV's going!

2/22/18

The Lowdown On This "GODZILLA vs THE SMOG MONSTER" DVD...

Have you seen this DVD, in places like Amazon or Ebay? Have you wondered what was up with it? I had wondered for a long time, and I broke down and spent a whole four dollars and 80 cents to find out...here goes:

1) Could it be a copy of the American version of the film, on a factory-made DVD?  Nope. Firstly, the cover says "GODZILLA vs THE SMOG MONSTER," and shows Godzilla 2000...that's a little bit like putting Harry Truman on the front of your George Washington biography, but I suppose we can overlook it for the time being.  Nevertheless, it's our first clue that something is amiss.
2) I should point out that the title of "SMOG MONSTER" is incorrect here.  SMOG MONSTER can mean only one glorious thing, and that is the AIP dub that played in American theaters and on American TV for years.  This, my friends, is GODZILLA vs HEDORAH, specifically, Toho's (inferior) International dub of the film. 

3) Even though the tiny screenshots on the back cover are a convenient 4:3, this film is letterboxed...I haven't done a subtitle comparison, but it looks to me that this is a complete bootleg of Sony's 2004 DVD, which was re-released by Kraken in 2014, and is still available! In short, this disc should not exist.

4) Finally, since this film is one of a handful that is unavailable on DVD in its classic American version, if you want the AIP dub, you have two choices:  track down one of two VHS versions, OR, there are some fan-made projects out there that sync the AIP dub to a widescreen print of the film:  seek, and you shall find!
Orion Home Video's official 1989 release of the AIP dub!
The following year, Simitar released a legal (or semi-legal?) budget version. I've always assumed it was at least semi-legal, because eight years later, they were allowed to license a whole pile of Godzilla films!

2/20/18

Jimmy Castor's Godzilla Songs...and Their Releases (1979-85)

We all know that Blue Oyster Cult wins the award for "Best Godzilla Song" (and really, how can you beat that?), but there are lots of lesser-known Godzilla-themed songs out there that never get talked about.  For some years now, I've been gathering songs about Godzilla to put into a chronological project, and I kept running into a song called "Godzilla" by 70's funk-master Jimmy Castor; in fact, it pops up more than once in the timeline (as you will see).  Frustratingly, you can't just pull up the different versions on the YouTubes to compare (it seems only one version--the 1985 12-inch--is even on there).  You also can't find a CD release of them, or streaming Amazon versions to hear.  SO, I had to just track them down and buy them all.

There are two versions:  the 1979 version, and the 1985 version, which has some variants:

The 1979 Version
Release #1: 1979 -  One caviat to this project is the little-known 1979 kids' record I LOVE MONSTERS, where Castor took his most famous song, "Troglodyte," and built an album, adding some other odes to monstrous characters including Godzilla, The Mummy, and even embracing Star Wars mania with a song about "Vadar" [sic].  This is a very expensive album, and also, just not out there for downloading anywhere, from what I can see.  "Godzilla" is listed as running 3 minutes and 58 seconds.
12-inch single
Release #2: 1980 -  LP, 7-inch, and 12-inch: Apparently, the MONSTERS album wasn't distributed too well, and Castor liked his Godzilla song (and the Mummy one too), enough to carry them over to his next album, called "C," which came out in 1980.  "Godzilla," also listed at 3:58, was released as a single, backed with "The Mummy."  
LP label
7-inch single
(Note that the title on the LP & 12-inch labels is written as the Japanese characters for "Gojira," which is also the way it's written on the album's sleeve, which must have confused some buyers!)  For our purposes here, the song is taken from the 7-inch single.  My 12-inch copy was a little skippy, but I can confirm that they are identical releases.

The 1985 Version:
Release #3 - 1985 (7-inch):  I was actually confused for some time as to why there were two versions of the song, until the "1985" year jumped out at me, and I realized it was an attempt at a cash-in for GODZILLA 1985...and why not? I think this is really more of a re-mix with some new bits added, than a straight-up remake of the song, but either way, it created another version.  The label says it runs 3:45.
The B-side gave us yet another version, "Godzilla (Instrumental)," which is a little misleading, because it really only omits Castor's verses, and all the other spoken and sung parts are present.  Listed as running 4:05.
Release #4 - 1985 (12-inch): As you probably know, 12-inch singles exist so that you can have more of a certain song to dance to, so therefore, the song on this release runs longer.  Listed at 4:28, in fact.
And, therefore, the B-side (also "Godzilla (Instrumental)") is longer as well.  Listed at 4:12, oddly...for some reason, the instrumental versions run longer than their A-side.

Okay, you've made it this far! Are you one of the seven people in the world who think this is significant? If so, read on for your reward!

Let's have a quick recap of the different versions of this song that exist:

1) 1979 version: I LOVE MONSTERS  (3:58)
    1980 single/12-inch/"C" LP:   (3:58, believed to be exactly the same as above)
2) 1985 version: 7-inch A-side (3:45)
3) 1985 version Instrumental: 7-inch B-side (4:05)
4) 1985 version: 12-inch A-side (4:28)
5) 1985 version Instrumental: 12-inch B-side (4:12)

Now, I suppose you'd like to hear them all? Click below:

The Jimmy Castor Godzilla Songs

Two footnotes:  First, I threw in "The Mummy." I know if I had slogged through an article like this, I'd have been interested to hear it too...such as it is.  It's a bit like "King Tut" without the Steve Martin.  Also, you will notice that the tracks are all shorter than the listed times...I did some extensive speed testing of my turntable this weekend, and these are correct! What can I say? Labels lie.

2/16/18

The Godzilla Artwork of VIDEO TREASURES (1987-89)

I've been working on a chronology of all of the Godzilla (and friends) VHS releases in the USA...which turned out to be a large project.  We will get back to this topic soon.  

Today, however, we take a moment to remember Video Treasures.  In the over 150 Godzilla-&-related tapes that were produced, from the early 1980's to 2002 or so, the releases of Video Treasures stand out, because they commissioned artwork that was not only original, but striking and well-done! This wouldn't be repeated on a large scale until the 1990's, from a "big" player, Paramount. 

(Video Treasures, 1987)

(Video Treasures, 1988)
(Video Treasures, 1988)
(Video Treasures, 1989)
(Video Treasures, 1989)
In 1995, Video Treasures was combined with a competitor, Starmaker, and merged together, creating Anchor Bay Entertainment, which in 2016 was "folded into Lionsgate."

2/14/18

From the FLIGHT TRAINING HANDBOOK (F.A.A., 1965)

Here's the "short version" of the FLIGHT TRAINING HANDBOOK.  I read it over the weekend, and so I now know how to absolutely fly an airplane.

There's a lot of talk about fire extinguishers and parachutes, but I thought I'd share some of the really important details, in case any readers are looking for a new career path:
First, study all of these diagrams carefully!  When you first fly an airplane, you'll notice a guy who looks like Mr. Game & Watch appearing on all of the runways.  He is easily recognized by his giant hands.  You will see them, because he will be waving them at you constantly, as if he's trying to tell you something.  

To this day, I still don't know what "chocks" are.

Oh! And here's one they don't tell you is on the test, but it is:
They kept asking me what is important about the signalman's position...and it's a trick question, because from the diagram, he has obviously fallen out of the airplane! He's in no position to signal anybody, except for help of course.
They also make you study diagrams of a landing, and identify it as such.  I will be honest with you, I knew what a landing was before I even read this book.  Notice that, at the end there, you get three points for doing it.  This is important:  make sure that you always remember to record these points in your pocket scorebook, or else you won't be able to redeem them for prizes once you are inside the airport.
The test-givers also drone (a little flying joke, there!) on about take-offs, and make you memorize this diagram.  I will save you some valuable time:  all you have to do to take off is to do the complete opposite of what a landing is.  It's just that easy.
Also, there's about forty pages of stuff that looks like this page (above).  None of it is important, really.  During your exam, point to one of the dials that has lots of numbers on it (maybe the "Attitude" one), and tell your instructor that you can't fly this plane, because "the clock is broken." They usually laugh so hard, they will pass you just out of delirium.  

If you do decide to take any of my advice, or even read a book like this, and become an actual pilot, good luck to you!

2/8/18

KING KONG vs GODZILLA Movie Theater Flyer (1963)

This cool item is a very well-preserved flyer from the Bel-Air Theatre, in Bel Air, Maryland.  All three of the films listed above came out in the summer of 1963 in the USA!

2/2/18

Even More Bootlego Minifigures!

Woah!!!

A while back, we looked at some of the various "bootlego" minifigures that are available inexpensively from China (seen here).  

Now, before we continue, there are two kinds of Lego collectors:
1) Purists who say they will only support Lego, and anyone else making Lego-compatible items be damned.
2) Collectors who don't mind buying another company's product, when it's something that Lego just doesn't make.

I'm not here to argue, but admittedly, both my categories are simplified.  The sticky part of the issue is that the Chinese companies that make these new items are usually also bootlegging real Lego sets, and therefore taking away from Lego intellectually, monetarily, and so on.

But, you can guess which camp I'm in...so here we go with more proof:

Okay, let's talk about this Walrus Man for a moment.  You may know that Lego just released their third attempt at a Mos Eisley Cantina, and their third failure.  When I first saw this Walrus Man, I assumed it had been leaked, and therefore copied ahead of time.....wrong.  While the new Cantina did give us the bartender, there were no new aliens.  It almost isn't a type-able sentence to say that you could even fathom to put out a Cantina without any new aliens.  But it happened. We will come back to this in the near future, when I finally do an article about my version of what the Lego Cantina should look like.  Stay tuned.
Yes, it's the Colonel. There is also a hilarious Ronald McDonald that I don't have a photo of.

Golden Age Batman.
Clayface.  This is what he looked like in the Lego Batman video games!
Back to Godzilla, this one is actually available in a ridiculous amount of variations and colors, including transparent colors*.  I can only assume that the intention here is for this to be the PLANET OF MONSTERS Godzilla from the new anime film.  In that case, the one at the top of this post is the correct color!

*Like this