Comic Books #2: Lois Lane Comics

I take back what I said in an earlier post about there not being much in the way of "bad comic book cover" galleries out there. I found a good deal of them, and one of the best may be Superdickery.com. One thing I've found while grazing through some truly awful covers is that Lois Lane comics were easily one of the worst and weirdest comics ever made. Take a look at just the tip of the iceberg.

This one is bad for a multitude of reasons, the first being that Wonder Woman is beating the crap out of Superman's girl friend and he's laughing about it (what an ass). Second, where's the Wonder Woman outfit we know and love? Instead we get some sort of sleeveless bell bottomed unitard.

Apparently, Lois whacked Superman's ladyfriend and not even Batman can save her from the "Death House"!

I'm tempted to use a horrible pun here like "Lois Lane comics are Lois LAME", but I just can't. In all honesty, they were probably well worth the 15 cents.


The Groovy Age of Travel #1: Flight Attendants of Yesterday

I was recently meandering around the blogosphere when I came across an excellent post entitled "The Glamour of Flight" by Dark Roasted Blend. It featured images of stewardesses from from the early days of commercial aviation, and I couldn't help but be startled by how amazingly different things were. This couldn't possibly be how they really dressed, how they really looked.... could it?

These women were obviously dressed in a manner to please a customer base that was almost exclusively male. When the airplane ceased being a sort of gentleman's club in the late 1970's, the role of the stewardess quickly changed.

Goodbye, cocktail waitresses of the sky. Hello, passenger care and safety professionals.


Fads #1

From Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
Brian Fantana: So the team pancake breakfast is tomorrow morning at nine, instead of eight.

Ron Burgundy: Oop... I almost forgot. I won't be able to make it fellas. Veronica and I trying this new fad called uh, jogging. I believe it's jogging or yogging. it might be a soft j. I'm not sure but apparently you just run for an extended period of time. It's supposed to be wild.


Comic Books #1: Bad Covers

I was perusing a good blog on really bad comic book covers (Comic Coverage), and found myself laughing out loud. There is a laundry list of web sites featuring bad album covers, but bad comic book covers are a relatively uncharted territory.

The Rifleman cover is bad for obvious reasons, but for my money, the worst cover of all time has to be the Superboy issue where he is literally being laid over his father's knee and spanked! They might as well have put out a special bed wetting issue. How humiliating.

And, as with The Rifleman, sometimes the cover itself may be okay - it is just our modern day jaded and cynical minds that make it bad. Shame on us!


Opinions and Rants #1: Get Your Greedy Hands Off My Reruns!

I don't know about you, but I'm getting a bit tired of these greedy bastards messing with classic TV shows. If a song is included in an episode, you better believe the company who owns the rights to that song will be collecting a big check. A single piece of a song can cost upwards of $40,000, so many of the shows being released on DVD are opting to change the original music. Here's a few examples:

  1. WKRP in Cincinnati took forever to get on DVD because of all the licensing problems, and still came out with a bunch of songs missing. Before, Johnny Fever cranked up some Foghat, now he cranks up some nameless nothing.
  2. The Wonder Years is still being held up. Music played an integral part in the show, so substitution is not an option (at least let's hope not). Before, Kevin Arnold sees Winnie Cooper on the beach to the sound of "Good Vibrations" by The Beach Boys - who knows who'll be providing the music to this scene on DVD (pray it's not Kenny Loggins).
  3. No other show has been completely gutted more than The Fugitive. Not even the background instrumental music is the same. Good Lord, those greedy bastards have no shame!

Variety has a good article on the subject. The whole debacle reminds me of when The Rolling Stones sued The Verve for the sampling in "Bittersweet Symphony". The Stones' tune was virtually unrecognizable within the song, and yet they took The Verve for every penny (as if Mick and the boys didn't already have enough money)!

Don't get me wrong, I believe you should be compensated when your song has been used for profit. But, like so many other things, it has been taken to a greedy extreme. Sometimes, the artist should be complimented by the fact that their song was used on a TV show or sampled in a song. And if it was okay for The Wonder Years to include songs in the shows twenty years ago, why is it not okay now? Just wondering.


Creepy Kids

I understand why clowns are often considered creepy - they're horrifying in their own right. But children? Why is it that nothing can scare the living daylights out of me better a child in a horror movie? Maybe there's a good psychology dissertation on the subject out there that explains it.

At any rate, here's a few of the creepiest kids I've seen in film:

1. The Shining twins: Put two teenage boys in the hallway of the Overlook, or a couple of adult women, and it's no big deal. Put a couple of little girls in pretty dresses in the hallway, and it'll have you sleeping with the lights on.

2. The boy from the George C. Scott film, The Changeling

3. The boy from The Grudge (or the Japanese original, Ju-On)

4. Gage Creed from Pet Semetary (my Achilles tendon hurts just thinking about it)

5. The girl from The Ring (those Japanese sure know their creepy kids!)

6. The girl from Mario Bava's Kill, Baby Kill (Operazione paura)

7. Damien from The Omen (1976)

8. The boy with the mask in The Orphanage (El Orfanato 2007)

9. Michael Myers (Halloween, 1978): the opening scene where little Mike kills his sister

10. The Three Men and a Baby ghost: I know they say it's a cardboard cut out, but I don't care. When the urban myth got out that there was a real ghost captured in a lousy Steve Guttenberg film, it was a horrific rush. It was just grainy and sinister enough to be the real deal!

I'm sure there's a bunch I'm leaving out, but these stuck out the most. If you can think of any others that should be on the list, let me know.

Update: I was trying to think of some more to add to this list lately and I was reminded of that demonic girl from Little House on the Prairie. I think her name was Nellie Oleson. I got this picture from retrocrush. Man she was bad.


Ads #2: My, How Times Have Changed

Want to see how things have changed since the 1950's? Just take a look at this lunchbox advertisement from 1956 I found on Lunchboxpad.com. It is simply amazing to reflect on how vastly different things are today - I could literally write a book just on this one single advertisement, but I'll spare you and take note of just a few:

  1. "Mom-prepared" is simply way too politically incorrect to appear in an ad in today's world. What makes dad so damn special that he can't prepare a lunch for the kids?
  2. Take a good look at what the boy is wearing. Today, a sports jacket with matching shorts and socks is a perfect way to ensure your little boy develops a complex from the relentless ridicule and beatings he will receive at school.
  3. The lunch box themes of Daniel Boone and Wild Bill Hickok appear so quaint as compared to the Bratz and X-Men lunch boxes of today.
  4. Take a gander at how mom is dressed. She doesn't have pearls on like Mrs. Cleaver, but she's decked out pretty good (and we can probably assume she's not dressed for work).
  5. "The Highest Standard in Vacuum Ware" - what the hell is vacuum ware? I looked it up in Wikipedia and came up empty. I can tell you it's not cheap plastic crap made in Taiwan that will be busted on your kid's first week of school.
  6. What's in the lunchbox? Let me guess... a sandwich, maybe a pickle, perhaps a thermos of soup. I can tell you what's not in the lunchbox: Fruit Roll-Ups, Gogurt, Cheetos Paws, Capri-Sun, and Lunchables.

Look, I know it was no utopia, but it's still fun to make the comparisons.


The Strangest Evening in TV History

There's been a ton odd moments on the boob tube over the years, so I know it's strong words to single out one as the "strangest"; however, compared to this one, all others simply fall short. I am speaking of The Paul Lynde Halloween Special. What makes this one so wonderfully odd? Let me count the ways:

  1. Florence Henderson (Mrs. Brady) does a rendition of "Ol' Black Magic" to a disco beat in such a way that it simply has to be seen to be believed.

  2. This is the first television performance of KISS; the band does three songs and awkwardly interacts with Lynde - one of the most surreal and off-putting moments in the history of television.

  3. This was literally the first time that Margaret Hamilton donned the Wicked Witch of the West costume since the Wizard of Oz was filmed.

  4. Paul Lynde dresses up as a rhinestone trucker and fights Tim Conway over a scantily clad Pinky Tuscadero.

  5. It features guest appearances by Donnie & Marie, Betty White and Witchipoo from H. R. Pufnstuf... need I go on?

It's now available on DVD, which is great for all of us who saw it when it originally aired and thought maybe it was just a nightmare or some kind of hallucination brought on by lack of sleep. No, it was real, and now we have proof.


Will Ferrell and the 70's

I could take or leave most of Will Ferrell's movies, but I've got to give props to a guy who keeps coming back to the 1970's - he simply can't help himself. On SNL he exhibited his 70's flair as a cowbell player for Blue Öyster Cult and was reportedly obsessed with Jerry Reed (Smokey & the Bandit) and showed up to work for an entire year dressed like him (my kind of guy!).

Then his film career began, and we are treated to a series of 70's based films including: Dick, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Starsky & Hutch, and Semi-Pro. If that weren't enough, he chose the name Marshal Willenholly for his character in the Jay and Silent Bob movie (a loving reference to "Land of the Lost").

Which brings me to his next film, Land of the Lost, which is due in theaters in 2009. I have a slight concern: Ferrell has certainly earned his 1970's street cred, but this indicates the movie is taking a comedic angle. Let's not turn "Land of the Lost" into another comedy like Starskey & Hutch, please. The stories on that show were not your typical Saturday morning fare - it was actually quite complex and thought provoking (and the Sleestack scared the crap out of me as a child) - but the best thing about it was that it was played straight. Like "Dr. Who", it may have suffered from lousy special effects, but the show never let itself turn into camp. My generation rooted for the Marshalls, we got to know the characters, and got hooked on the show's mythology. This was not H. R. Puffinstuf, this was legitimate sci-fi. I'd like to have faith in Ferrell's love for retro culture, but I saw what happened with Bewitched and I must admit, I'm a bit cynical.

I guess we'll see in '09. Until then, "Stay classy San Diego".
7/5/08 addendum: I just saw the preview for the new Will Ferrell movie, Step Brothers, and he's prominently wearing a Pablo Cruise shirt. That's my man - he's still keepin' that 70's thing alive! See it here.


The Horror Comedy Ratio

There's been a surprising amount of horror comedies over the years, most of them bad... real bad. Student Bodies (1981) claimed to be the first horror comedy, but Abbot and Costello were doing it in the 1940's, and Young Frankenstein was released in '74. I think the calculations amount to approximately nine awful horror comedies for every good horror comedy released. Let's test our hypothesis.
I submit to you Young Frankenstein, an undeniably good horror comedy. Accordingly, we have nine bad ones: Love at First Bite, Saturday the 14th, Haunted Honeymoon, Transylvania 6-5000, Little Shop of Horrors (1986 version), Vamp, Student Bodies, Once Bitten, and National Lampoon's Class Reunion.

Next, I give you Shaun of the Dead, a good horror comedy. The nine crap horror comedies are as follows:Bordello of Blood, Scary Movie 2, Scary Movie 3 (I'm being generous not classifying the first one as bad), Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, My Best Friend is a Vampire, Dracula: Dead and Loving It, Repossessed, Club Dread, and Bride of Chucky.

Of course, I'm being completely facetious, because the 1:9 ratio could be used for basically any genre. But it was fun anyway!


Who Killed Freaks and Geeks?

Freaks and Geeks is the perfect example of a brilliant show cut down in its prime, cancelled after a measly one season. There's no question the show was overflowing with talent: Judd Apatow has become a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood, and Seth Rogan is also making his mark. If that weren't enough, Busy Phillips wrote the hilariously idiotic Blades of Glory screenplay. Add to the mix James Franco (Spiderman), Jason Segel ( Forgetting Sarah Marshall), and the veteran actor Joe Flaherty, and you begin to wonder why exactly this show got canned.
Okay, maybe the writers and cast were talented, but the show still sucked, right? Well, it won Emmys and countless other awards, gained a massive cult following, praised hither and yon by critics, and still sells quite well on DVD. So, what's the problem? Why was it cancelled? Sadly, I can't really answer that. According to http://www.brilliantbutcancelled.com/ it was a lack of love - no one cared enough to try to make it work.

Thinking of the untimely death of "Freaks and Geeks", it got my mind wondering about other shows cancelled before their expiration date. "Arrested Development" comes immediately to mind. "Star Trek" supposedly couldn't stack up against "Laugh-In" and was yanked. Everyone tells me the new "Battlestar Galactica" was a piece of sci-fi heaven, but got 86'd. I know there's a bunch more, but I'm way too busy (i.e. lazy) to try think of some more, so may need a little help.


What's on Your TV Set: Fantasy or Reality?

You've had a long day in your cubicle, your boss won't leave you alone, the coffee maker is broken, and on the way home you notice your engine is making strange noises (a new carburetor could be costly, but you don't have the funds right now because you just had to buy a new water heater), and on and on it goes. What would be therapeutic right about now? A reality show which is basically just a miserable extension of your day, or a good entertaining diversion like "Sanford & Son"?

Sure, you could take heart in the fact that your day was bad, but not as bad as those miserable saps on the reality shows. But it's not really an escape is it? It's a chance to mock or ridicule others on the TV set, or watch the judges on "American Idol" or "Dancing with the Stars" ridicule the contestants, and perhaps that makes you feel a bit better, but it simply can't be very good for you. Which brings me to my point: television can be used for good purposes, and it can also be used for bad. To be specific, I think its use falls into three categories:

1. Personal Enrichment: Keeping abreast of current affairs (news channels), learning something useful ("This Old House", "The Joy of Painting", etc.) or intellectually stimulating ("Cosmos", "The Electric Company", PBS documentaries), or watching something of artistic and cultural merit ("A Christmas Carol", "Roots", "Anne of Green Gables", etc.).

2. Diversion Entertainment: In the same way a good Stephen King novel or magazine can take your mind off things, let you relax, take your guard down, and perhaps laugh a little, so can a good sitcom or movie. Just try to be depressed after watching a good episode of "The Bob Newhart Show" or a movie like "Meatballs". Even a good scary movie can cure the ills of a typical work week.

3. Shame Enjoyment: Taking delight in other people's failures and misery via celeb watching, reality shows or the latest talking heads crusade (i.e. O.J. Simpson, Lacy Peterson, Monica Lewinsky).

I wish I could say that I primarily utilize TV for enrichment, but alas I am generally too brain dead after a long day to participate in a whole lot of mental activity. I can say, however, that I never use the TV for number 3. I think I'm better off for it, how about you?


Finding a Rerun in a Haystack

So, you're tired of "Dancing with the Stars" and "CSI:El Paso" and you want to check some good TV from yesteryear... where do you turn? Nick at Nite used to provide a healthy supply of classic TV, but now it's mostly "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air", "The George Lopez Show" and "Home Improvement". TBS and WGN used to be our main source for "Gilligan's Island", "I Dream of Jeannie", "The Brady Bunch", and "Family Affair", but these shows have vanished in favor of "The Family Guy" and "Everybody Loves Raymond". Where to look?

1. The Retro Television Network is available in most decent sized cities. Their lineup is in the hands of the local stations (RTN is a digital sub-channel of a network station). So, they may cram it full of "Matlock", but you'll still probably find a good helping of "Happy Days", "Love American Style", "Buck Rogers", "Battlestar Galactica", "Hawaii 5-0", and "Ironside".

2. The American Life Network shows some great 1960s classics that haven't been available for a while such as "Land of the Giants", "Batman", "That Girl" and "Lost in Space".

3. WGN has started playing the classics again (I knew they'd come around). Sure, it still airs stuff like "Scrubs", but it's a start. A few classics like "WKRP in Cincinnatti" and "Newhart" have come back.

4. TV Land is a good source, although the channel has upset me with some of their idiotic programming. They are actually showing reality shows about home makeovers and other things that have absolutely nothing to do with the theme of the channel. However, they still play "The Brady Bunch" (set your TiVo because they play it around midnight!) and "Hogan's Heroes".

5. Unfortunately, the best place in today's world to watch these shows is on DVD. In other words, if you have a hankering for shows like "The Bob Newhart Show" and "The Fall Guy", the best thing to do is buy 'em on DVD or sign up for Netflix. Of course, not everything is available yet - I'm still waiting on the TV shows "James at 15" and "Logan's Run" to come out.


Heavenly Harmonies

I was thinking about how certain voices just harmonize so perfectly together. Each individual voice may not be fantastic on its own, but accompanied by just the right singer, they create pure sonic heaven. The flip side is that two singers may have incredible voices on their own, but together they sound like crap.

I would have to say my favorite harmonizing duo is Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson of The B-52's. From bombastically boppy to ethereal, their voices fit together perfectly.

Other duos that come to mind: Lennon and McCartney, and ABBA's Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Agnetha Fältskog could be argued as the best of all if they hadn't been so highly overdubbed. There's probably some singing duo that blows everyone away that I've forgot (no, it's not Hall & Oates), so I welcome any suggestions.


I Want My Original MTV

If you recognize the folks in this image, chances are you're like me and miss the good ol' days of MTV when they just played videos. Everytime I turn on the channel now (which has become rarer and rarer), they're playing a reality show or the "Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous" for a new generation (i.e. "Cribs"). Sure, you have MTV2, VH1, and so forth, but they're hardly any better. This same sort of dynamic has played out on mainstream Top 40 radio stations recently (wonderfully expressed in the song "The Last DJ" by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers).

Back in '83, I could tune in and catch Martha Quinn playing The Fixx, Hall & Oates, The Waitresses, Scorpions, and Men Without Hats - a heavenly hash of early eighties music with low budget video productions. Now, when you happen to actually catch a video being played, it's a bunch of bling, bleeps and booty shakin'. I guess "It's all good in the hood" as they say.


Still Waiting for the DVD #1

The logic eludes me as to why entire lame TV series like "The L Word", "Brisco County Jr." and "Third Watch" are on DVD, yet certain great movies are still stuck in VHS limbo. Case in point: Skatetown USA starring Scott Baio and Maureen McCormick - how is this not on DVD? Hell, you've even got a special appearance by Horshack ("Welcome Back, Kotter"), so what's not to love?

Another movie I'm waiting for is Pretty Maids All in a Row starring Rock Hudson as a demented high school coach and Angie Dickinson. The film was directed by Roger Vladim (Barbarella) and produced by Gene Roddenberry (the "Star Trek" creator!), and it has to be one of the most socially irresponsible movies ever filmed (read another post to see why).

Other great movies that haven't made it to DVD for some unknown reason: Piranha, the TV series "James at 15", Saturn 3 (starring Farrah Fawcett), and I Was a Teenage Werewolf! I know there's a lot more that I'm leaving out, and I'm sure they'll arrive one day, but I'm not getting any younger DVD makers!

[Note: I've since written another post ranting and raving about horror films not yet released on DVD here.]


Fact or Fiction? #1: A True Retro Ad?

Somebody please help me on this one. I found this seemingly innocent copy machine advertisement buried somewhere on the web, and noticed one of the picket signs spells out "LSD" in an obviously intentional way. Now, I understand that things were different in the late 60s and 1970s, but this seems to cross the line. My question is this: is this ad legit, or am I another sucker for Photoshop fraud?


The Future of Horror Movies

I find it interesting to look at the ebb and flow of horror movies through the past century. After Universal monsters of the 1930s (Frankenstein, Dracula, etc.), horror movies declined. Genre movies in the 1950s, were primarily science fiction themed with very little in the way of horror (The Fly, Invasion of the Body Snatchers). With drive-in classic I Was a Teenage Werewolf in the late 1950s, and the advent of Hammer Studios, the horror genre made a comeback. By the 70s, things started getting gritty (The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Last House on the Left), only to become glossy and tame again by 1990s (Jason X, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scream). Then came the J-horror (The Grudge, The Ring ), the remakes (The Hills Have Eyes, The Omen, Texas Chainsaw Massacre), and torture porn (Hostel, Saw, The Devil's Rejects) in the new century. What does the future of horror filmmaking hold in store for the next few years, and what will be its defining characteristic? If movies like The Strangers (2008) are any indication, it will be a very dark (but interesting) ride.

If you enjoy movies like I Was a Teenage Werewolf, I strongly recommend Filmfax as a great resource. However, if you are bent towards the more horrific types like Hostel and The Exorcist, I would recommend Rue Morgue. And finally, if you enjoy the more obscure varieties (Mario Bava films, for example), check out Cinebeats.


Dazed and Confused

There can be no denying that Dazed and Confused belongs in any retrophile's library. Its greatness doesn't need to be explained, but I'll put it out there for those still in the dark.

It is a perfect slice of the time (1976). Unlike most modern recreations of the era which tend to exaggerate, this one hits it dead on with intricate details that you'll easily miss if you're not paying attention. The soundtrack, the clothes, the antics all come together to create a completely accurate snapshot of life in your average town in the 1970's. Only Freaks and Geeks (for the very early 1980's) and The Ice Storm come to mind as other fine examples of time capsules.

Much like American Grafitti, it focuses on the characters and the setting much more than the plot. Wooderson's lines are reason enough to watch the movie again and again.

An interesting thought: Are there any movies which were actually filmed in the 1970s which would make a better time capsule than Dazed and Confused? Sure, any early After School Special or Saturday Night Fever will surely supply a healthy dose of the 70's. But, in my mind, there's no other movie that encompasses it all, the whole enchilada - pop tops, school dances and Foghat, better than Dazed and Confused.

Album Covers #1: Bad Album Covers

The compact disc, in my humble opinion, is a huge reason album sales are continuing to plummet. If the record were still around, your local Tower Records or Sam Goody might still be open. You can blame downloading all you want, but people download because they don't want to shell out hard earned money for something that can be utterly destroyed with a thumbprint.

An article in Classic Rock Magazine (April 2008) makes a great case for vinyl. "You could make an exact replica of them [CDs] with two keystrokes, obliterating any chance of the rare and exotic..... Sure it costs $16, but buy it and you'll be a cool kid with a cool record and a cool poster. Buy the CD version, and you're just another jerk with a CD...." and on it goes. You get the point.

This principle holds true for collecting records with bad album covers. There's a sense of fun in stumbling across an obscure album with a cover so horrifically bad that it demands your attention.

Check out The Museum of Bad Album Covers for a tour of the worst of the worst.


Ads #1

There's nothing I love more than a good ol' politically incorrect print ad from days gone by. The Chesterfield ad with President Reagan is one of my favorite. He literally has piles of cigarette cartons tied up with Christmas ribbons to be sent to all his friends! It's so incongruous with today's world that it almost seems made up.

I highly recommend you check out Politically Incorrect Ads of Yesteryear at Asylum.com.


Where Are the Reruns?

Gilligan's Island, I Dream of Jeannie, Charlie's Angels, Love Boat, Welcome Back, Kotter, etc., ...I guess I took them for granted and thought they'd always be there. Sure, you can find a Three's Company wedged in between The George Lopez Show and Home Improvement, but you have to do your homework to find it. For fifteen to twenty years, The Brady Bunch was on on some channel every afternoon, and I turn around and it's buried on TV Land at midnight! I guess there's no longer the widespread love of 60's and 70's TV as there used to be.

....Or, is that shows like WKRP in Cincinnati, Barney Miller, and The Mary Tyler Moore Show are now hot commodities to be sold on DVD and not to be wasted on weekday afternoon TV? In other words, does the absence of classic TV from the airwaves mean that, in fact, their stock has gone up?
Click here to check out some great classic TV pictures in my Picasa Web Album.