10/18/17

Strange Arabic Pirate SUPERMAN Comic! (c. 1980'S)

Ugh, look at that smug face.  "Hello, ladies..."
Today, another odd mystery. I recently stumbled upon a hardcover book, which is the same size as a children's storybook (think of any Dr. Seuss book, for example).  There is no printing on the spine, and the book reads backwards (right to left). It's packed with dozens of comic stories, printed in pairs of pages, alternating in green or blue ink.  What's more, the stories are from both DC and Marvel! Oh, and it's completely in Arabic!

The very oddly-designed back cover. They couldn't even pirate enough art to keep from re-using any.
Before we go any further, here is what I have learned through research:  In the 1960's, a deal was struck between DC and Illustrated Publications, a publisher from Lebanon, to bring Superman comics to the Arabic language (here is one article that tells the story).  They renamed Clark Kent as "Nabil Fawzi," and all of the printed artwork was reversed, for the same reasons that Japanese comics are reversed when they are translated into English.  (Note that on the front and back covers, Superman's "S" is not reversed, which is the only time in the entire book this happens!)

The few examples of these comics that can be found online are completely in color.  This book is not.  Furthermore, most of the artwork appears to be obviously traced, as you shall soon see.  The pages are printed on a cheaper, thinner paper than normally done.  All of these factors, including the odd mixture of Marvel stories that are included, add up to my conclusion that this book is a bootleg, a pirated edition.  And to that, I say............. Hooray! That's even better than finding a legitimate foreign comic!

I'm not a Superman expert. I have much more experience with Spider-Man comics, and I can point out a few sources for the stolen material as we go along...

Title page of the book...
Our first story is a Golden Age one.  Take a look at that third panel. Good grief, can you even tell what is going on there?
More craptastically traced Golden Age Superman...
We then switch to a Spier-Man story (any splash pages are skipped herein), where a crow brings Spider-Man a note (as they do).  I can tell you that this story was cribbed from SPIDEY SUPER STORIES #21 (February 1977).
By the next pair of pages, our ink is green again, and Kraven the Hunter has captured Spidey and the useless character Tigra.
The next page is a one-page feature illustrating Spidey's powers (probably also from SSS).  Just take a minute and soak in all of the artwork.  It's pretty amazing, especially this panel:
I'm not sure what to say here...even the pirates didn't bother to fill in the balloon, which should probably say HELP ME. Is Spidey coming or going here? You decide.
Next, one of the myriad Superman origin stories.
Next, we...wha? Puzzles and games? What is this, HIGHLIGHTS suddenly?
As we progress in the book, the artwork becomes a little more solid...perhaps better-traced, maybe with an actual lightbox this time? This looks Curt Swanish to me.
Next is another Spidey story, where Iron Man helps him at an auto show.  This story is stolen from SPIDEY SUPER STORIES #43 (November 1979).
Next, there is suddenly an odd Western story, where an Indian youth tames a horse...? No idea.
Next, a weird sci-fi story about a guy with an alien mask.  No idea.
Then, a cowboy Western story (looks Marvel to me) that must've confused lots of readers.
This is another one-page SSS feature, explaining who "Captain Britain" is to some more confused readers.  I wonder if they still translated his name as Captain Britain?
Whoops, another missed empty balloon here...
Aha, the Captain Britain nonsense is from SPIDEY SUPER STORIES #56 (January 1982), where he helps Spidey fight the still-Steve-Ditko-syle Jack O'Lantern!
I've always been partial to the Jack O'Lantern.  He's no Green Goblin though.
So there you have it.  I don't have much to go on, but at least we can laugh at the artwork.  Besides--if this blog has taught me anything--once you have been though the entire SUPER DICTIONARY, you can handle anything.

10/5/17

GODZILLA Promotional Television Film Frames (Hanna-Barbera, 1978??)

Here is a cool item, but it is a little confusing.  What I have is a strip of two adjacent 35mm film frames, bearing a cool promotional-art image of Godzilla and Godzooky.  One frame includes the title, and the second doesn't.  
The seller had examples from several other shows from the same time period, including THE NEW SHMOO, CASPER AND THE ANGELS, TV movies, game shows, and even a MACY'S THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE.  In each case there were two frames, one with and one without titles. I am not sure that in every case, the two frames were connected, but they were in this example.

According to the seller's description:  "these would be projected onto the TV screen while the announcer commentates."  
Kick him off the cliff! Now's your chance!!!!
I recall these sorts of things being used on shows, but usually they were syndicated shows, where the local station was in control of the timeslot.  ("BATTLE OF THE PLANETS, at 3:30 today, on Super Station 7.") Also, they would add their own station information to the stills.

I don't believe that the Hanna-Barbera Godzilla was ever syndicated, (back in the day) but someone please correct me if I'm wrong on that.  It seems like that their agreement with Toho allowed for two Saturday morning seasons, used for a while (repackaged a couple of times, grouped with different other shows)...and then the show disappeared for several years, until Turner was able to show it again in the mid-to-late 90's.  

So, lots of questions here:
1) Would these frames really be sent out to tons of TV stations, or would it make more sense for these to have originated from the source, such as NBC (via HB)?
2) Are they 35mm format specifically so that they can be made into slides? And why?
3) Is it suspicious that the two frames are together...meaning that they could have been clipped from a continuous piece of film, perhaps a short film of a bumper? Or, perhaps instead meaning that  this was the procedure for mass-production, and that two-frame segments were cut and sent out (going back to the theory that tons were sent out to local stations)?

Any insight into 1970's television production techniques, or any other relevant ideas at all, are greatly appreciated!

10/3/17

When Godzilla Isn't Godzilla (continued)

Do you remember Scholastic Book orders? If you don't, they were book order forms that elementary school kids would take home.  They would then choose items, beg their parents for those items, and order them.  One of the joys of elementary school was the day that your Scholastic Book orders came in.  Scholastic had a regular magazine called DYNAMITE that you could get this way.  It ran for several years, and covered all sorts of entertainment (and more) stories that a young kid would be interested in.  Occasionally, it included a pull-out poster, which is where we find ourselves today. 

From a 1976 issue, this poster occasionally appears on Ebay, and I'd wondered if I needed to add it to my collection of vintage American Godzilla items....until I looked at it a little closer:


Okay, we've got the Incredible Shrinking Man, the cabbage-headed aliens from INVASION OF THE SAUCER-MEN, The Fly, the monster from IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA, something from THE REPTILE, what I assume is King Kong, and...yeah, that's not even Godzilla at all!
In fact, it's another old friend.  Take a look at this photo:


Poor Gorgo.  It's not the first time he has been mistaken for Godzilla...but keep in mind, somebody purposefully airbrushed out his fins, and added a "beam" coming out of his mouth.  That's a little devious, DYNAMITE!

It's no more Godzilla than this....oddity.  Take a look at this photo of a monster-themed deck of 1970's "Top Trumps" cards from the UK:


I know, the whole thing is pretty dodgy, but all I can compare the "Godzilla" to is Reptilicus...and that still doesn't explain why he is wearing a purple bow tie!

9/20/17

Jack Benny, Vol. II (Radio Spirits, 2002)

I seldom run across these sort of CD's, amongst all the gospel, Christmas music, and out-of-fashion pop music that gluts the shelves of thrift stores.  But when I do, it's always worth it.  Here are two very entertaining episodes of Jack Benny's 1950 radio show.  The first one includes cameos by Frank Sinatra, Rosalind Russell, and Gene Kelly.  The second stars none other than Jimmy Stewart. Enjoy!
  
LINK:  Jack Benny, volume II

9/15/17

Megalon in PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN (#2, Jan. 1977)

"Jerk"? Not very nice...but, New Yorkers, whatta you gonna do.
I was doing some reading last weekend, and ran into this panel, which is from PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #2...I immediately thought of the "lost" bumpers from the NBC prime-time airing of GODZILLA vs. MEGALON, which, as every Godzilla fan has heard, featured host bumpers by John Belushi, wearing a Godzilla suit.  (I use the term "lost" because, apparently, recordings of this one-hour airing have never surfaced, and if someone has them, they aren't sharing.)
Note:  Even though on the cover, they are fighting above a marquee for THE OMEN (released June 25, 1976), in the actual comic this can't be seen.  Typical of comic covers.)

The weird thing is, though, the cover of that comic is dated JANUARY 1977.  That got me thinking, which is always perilous at best.  I did some digging, and read lots of the various kaiju and monster forums...which reminded me why I don't read various kaiju and monster forums anymore.  Lots of bloviating and know-it-all-ing--not to mention arguing--by some of the same people who are still around today.  Anyhow, somebody had attached a scan of a TV GUIDE issue from 1977, which unfortunately had long since disappeared.  That led me to a listing at this website, which reproduces TV schedules for the entire decade of the 1970's.   It says that the special in question aired on Tuesday, March 15, 1977 (simultaneously to the debut of both EIGHT IS ENOUGH and THREE'S COMPANY on ABC, interestingly enough).  With the air date finally nailed down, I remembered the discrepancy in comic book cover dates.  Here is what Wikipedia says (from this article):

"The general practice of most mainstream comic book companies since the creation of the comic book in the 1930s was to date individual issues by putting the name of a month (and much later the year as well) on the cover which was generally two months after the release date. For example, a 1951 issue of Superman which had the cover date of July would have been published two months earlier from that date in the month of May, generally speaking. In 1973 the discrepancy between the cover date and the publishing date went from two months to three months."

That certainly muddies the water quite a bit, meaning that the issue was published in the fall of 1976, which means it wasn't a reference to the Belushi broadcast at all, but to exactly what the woman in the panel says:  a movie promotion.  The marketing push for GODZILLA vs. MEGALON was very big, and was actually quite successful (you can see the Cinema Shares pressbook in this post.)  IMDB says that the film was released in the USA in April of 1976 (before the days of summer "blockbusters.")  With everything else that Cinema Shares was doing, and encouraging theater personnel to do to promote the film, they also apparently must have done some costumed publicity appearances.  (If I had access to newspaper archives, I would love to find a photo of one of those.)  So, that explains that.


Incidentally, the Godzilla suit used in the Belushi host segments was reportedly made by Robert Short, and used in the movie HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD (1976).  It was also used in Saturday Night Live, the very same week of the MEGALON broadcast, on the March 19, 1977 episode, in a skit where Godzilla (again, Belushi) is interviewed by Gilda Radner's Barbara Walters character.  I had also remembered an additional Godzilla appearance from a later show, in a skit that was a fake promo for KRAMER vs. GODZILLA (February 16, 1980), but that was an entirely different (and lesser) suit, just in case anyone was wondering, like I was.  


9/1/17

The Things That I See (continued)


We haven't done one of these in a while, and I still see things, so here are a few:
Seen recently at a Goodwill, right between 12 copies of HOME ALONE and 40 copies of the 1998 American GODZILLA.  I don't know what to make of this.  Surely it must be, uh, educational, but it's lost on me.  The cover art isn't helping, either....I mean, somebody got paid to work on this. Probably.  Everyone has to eat, but this doesn't strike me as something you put atop your resume.  Of course, when I returned to that particular Goodwill, this tape was long gone! So we will never know.
I am also stumped at this one...what does it do? What is it for? "It shoots aluminum jerky, silly!" is the answer I keep getting when I ask people.

Now, this one is just dumb.  We all know that his name is Mickey! I am calling obvious bootleg on this one.

"Hey, Kids! It's Flamey!"  "Hiya, kids!"
It has recently come to my attention, in opening my gas bill, that my gas company has adopted a "mascot" who is nothing more than an open flame.  Is this really a good idea? Yes, I hear you cry, there is such a thing as a "pilot light," but how many random people that you run into on the street even know what that refers to? Therefore, when I paid my last bill, I submitted my own humble idea to them:
"Gassy" makes much more sense, if our goal is to anthropomorphize natural gas, don't you think? Meaning, "Gassy" is much less likely to get people blown up.  
So far, no response from the gas company regarding my suggestion.  And, the gas at my house is still on, so...so far, so good.

8/28/17

Godzilla 1985 CED (New World Video, 1986)

Even though you can't buy this exact version of this exact Godzilla film on DVD or Blu-Ray, you can find it in several formats that aren't supported anymore, like Betamax, VHS, Laserdisc, and CED, which is pretty ironic. 

Also interesting is this fact:  from researching the various databases online regarding the CED format, only three Toho kaiju films were even offered on CED in America, during the 1981-1986 time period that these discs were produced.  They are Godzilla - King of the Monsters, Rodan, and this disc!

Another fun fact is that the seller that sold me this disc also sold me a very clean copy of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK for $1.50...you can't beat that! 

8/8/17

1980-something Spaceman Reunion!


7/28/17

Petster Godzilla: The Electronic Pet Movie Monster (Axlon, 1987)

Everyone remembers the "electronic pet" craze of the 1990's, and it never really has gone away!  However, there are two kinds:  the "virtual" (or, digital pet, that you can never actually hug) and the "plush."  Motorized stuffed animals were nothing new, and have been around for decades, but in the mid-1980's, the Petster entered the fold:

According to a website I will link to momentarily, Axlon was a company that grew out of a startup founded by Nolan Bushnell of Atari & Chuck E. Cheese fame.  In 1985, they released their first batch of Petsters, complicated electronic pets with dome-shaped bodies, that were like nothing ever seen before.  Two years later, the Deluxe Petsters arrived, including our friend here. In the late 1980's, they went out of business, and were believed to be acquired by Hasbro.

Now, I will direct you to this excellent website for more technical information.  You can read more details about the sensors and gearboxes that made the Petster work, and even see naked Petsters, fur removed, revealing a confusing mass of circuit-boards, wires, and gears! They have a Petster Deluxe manual that can be downloaded for free, and also a page on the Petster Godzilla, showing his inner workings!

For our purposes here, though, we are primarily concerned with the "Godzilla" part of "Petster Godzilla," so back to that.  Here is Axlon's Toy Fair Catalog for 1987:

Introducing, a "screaming Godzilla monster!" ...What?
The catalog page gives a good description of what the toy does. How ahead of its time was this toy? A couple of years ago I received an R2-D2 as a gift that is basically identical in its abilities...you would hardly know 30 years had passed. By now, shouldn't our robot toys be washing our cars or something?
 Here is the side of the box, which also runs down the abilities of your new pet, including "Protects your home from invading alien creatures"! Points for that!

The write-up on the back of the box is also excellent, and the "filmstrip" down the right side shows you exactly how to operate your Petster Godzilla.  The look on this girl's face is...interesting:
I'm not sure that her head hasn't come dislodged, and is slowly sliding off of her body.
Some differences between the prototype pictured on the box, and the actual toy as released, are:
  1. The original prototype has glued-on toenails, to simulate Godzilla's clawed feet.  These were probably deemed unnecessary, and I'm sure it was realized that they would begin falling off after some use.
  2. The teeth of the prototype were pointed and nearly separated, and for the actual release, they went with solid rows of "bridgework."  I'm sure that it was hard to ensure that the pointed teeth all faced the same direction, but I think I prefer them to the released version.
  3. The prototype appears to have stitching around each dorsal fin, which makes me think they were double-layered, and probably enabled them to stand up better.
 You probably noticed that my new pet (my wife has a pug, so this is now my pet) will need FOUR "C" batteries, and TWO "AA" batteries.  (Going back to the new R2-D2 as a comparison, nothing has changed in this regard, either.)  These days, that is quite an investment, just to see if a toy still works!

I haven't tested him yet, but I have to know.  It's encouraging that this Godzilla Petster is super-clean, and appears unused, and I believe that the seller said that he still worked!

It would be pretty nice to have him roaming around the house.  I could fire up R2, and have them meet....or, duel to the death! I'm getting some great ideas.