Sunday, April 29, 2012


So our May celebration of prolific Golden Age cover artist Alex Schomburg continues.  So far we have focused on Schomburg's cover art for the Standard/Nedor/Better publishing company.  This is where Schomburg did some of his best work.  So far we have shown some of his Judy of the Jungle covers from Exciting Comics and some of his work on Black Terror who was featured in his own title as well as in Exciting Comics.  This week I want to focus on some of Alex Schomburgs "KKK" covers as well as some more jungle girl art featuring Princess Pantha from "Terrific Comics".  Next time I'll be focusing on some of Schomburgs sci fi fantasy covers for Standard/Nedor's Wonder Comics, some more "Good Girl" cover art for titles such as Startling Comics and Fighting Yank and some of his covers for Harvey Comics.  Enjoy!

Saturday, April 28, 2012


One of the things I love about Turner Classic Movies is their various oddball marathons. For example, it’s not surprising to see a marathon of films with the word “Ice” in the title. This often leads me to watching films that I might not normally seek out, even though I’m a huge fan of classic films.  A while back  they had a marathon of films where Boarding Houses figured into the plot. And thank heaven they did, otherwise I might not have watched the charming and hilarious film It All Came True (1940). This is one wildly entertaining musical comedy with a great, rare early comedic performance by Humphrey Bogart. This movie is  extremely charming and very funny. I belly laughed multiple times on top of having my heartstrings pulled.

Ann Sheridan getting ready to wow the audience in "It All Came True"
Una O’Connor and Jessie Busley are elderly women who inherit the boarding house that they work and live in. They inherit it from the previous and much beloved owner but also inherit the home‘s financial problems. Una is the house keeper and cook and the more level headed one. Busley is an eccentric dreamer, always thinking up stories that she is certain will come true but never do. Ann Sheridan is Una’s daughter, a sassy, bawdy nightclub singer, down on her luck. Jeffrey Lynn is Busley’s son whom she hasn’t seen or heard from in 5 years.

Bogart gets Jeffrey Lynn into trouble in "It All Came True"
Lynn has been working for a gangster/nightclub owner (Bogart) as a piano player. Bogart likes having Lynn around and likes his music. He constantly promises Lynn that he will hook him up with big time music producers but really has no intention of doing so. Bogart has also taken out a gun permit in Lynn’s name. A gun he uses to murder a stool pigeon. Lynn wants nothing to do with Bogart but given that the gun is in his name, realizes that they are joined at the hip until he can figure out a way to be free of him and prove the gun wasn’t his. 

Jessie Busley(L) and Una O'Connor(R) feed Humphrey Bogart

With the cops on their trail, Lynn and Bogart decide to hide out at his mothers boarding house. Here is where the fun begins as Busley and Una smother the horrified Bogart with love and affection. There is one hysterical scene when Una forcibly spoon feeds Bogart some beef stew.  It's a brilliant bit of comedy with Bogart.

Ann Sheridan and Humphrey Bogart face off in "It All Came True"

Meanwhile, Lynn and Sheridan, who grew up together, are now reunited and Sheridan immediately becomes his muse. Sheridan hopes that Lynn will write songs for her to sing to help jump start her failed singing career. Una and Busley hope that Lynn and Sheridan can use their musical talents to pay off the taxes due on the boarding house. What Lynn doesn’t know is that Sheridan once worked for Bogart. When Sheridan finds out Bogart is in the house she fearlessly bullies and badgers him into paying off the taxes on the house.
Felix Bressart and Zasu Pitts in "It All Came True"
Sheridan is able to convince Bogart (who has been trying to remain unseen and pretending to be recovering from a nervous breakdown) to come have dinner with the other boarders, including the ditzy, pulp mystery reading Zasu Pitts, Grant Mitchell as a failed poet and Felix Bressart as one of the worst magicians ever with a pet dog who constantly upstages him (something that Bogart finds hilarious). After watching Sheridan sing Lynn’s songs and after watching Bressart do his magic act, Bogart gets the idea of turning the boarding house into a nightclub with 1890s vaudville themed entertainment.
This is actually very cleverly executed as the gay 90s theme is given a sort of edgy, witty contemporary tweak. I’m not a huge fan of musicals (I tend to like the more oddball and obscure stuff such as Mickey Rooney’s The Strip and Leslie Caron’s Glory Alley.  The music here is very entertaining and not at all heavy handed or intrusive. It’s an organic part of the plot. My favorite was the chorus of sassy singing grannies known as the Elderbloom Chorus.

The lovely Ann Sheridan

This movie is just great. Bogart has many amusing scenes throughout the film. There’s one funny scene where Bogart is staying in a room that use to belong to Busley’s dead husband who was a zoologist. The room is filled with stuffed monkeys and owls and other creatures that just freak Bogart out. During one moment of boredom, Bogart lays in bed and pretends to shoot the various dead animals that decorate his room. Another good scene is when Sheridan catches Bogart cheating the other tenants in a friendly game of gin. Sheridan is also fun. She reminds me of the slightly less talented, slightly awkward kid sister of Rita Hayworth. But I mean that in a good way. She’s got some fun scenes with mother Una O’Connor. But the interplay between Bogart and O’Connor and Busley is just priceless. These three steal every scene they’re in. The movie kind of reminds me of Arsenic And Old Lace only without the various homicides. Bogart and Sheridan would team up for a total of five films and the two became great friends.  Just one year after this film was released, Bogart would see his star rise significantly with films such as High Sierra and Maltese Falcon.
It All Came True is showing on Turner Classic Movies this Tuesday, March 19 at 12:45 PM Eastern.  Don't miss it!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


So I wanted to continue on with posting some more Alex Schomburg art as we get closer to his birthday on May 10th.  I wanted to post some more of Schomburg's work with Standard/Nedor.  Last time I posted Schomburgs "Judy of the Jungle" covers for Standard/Nedor's "Exciting Comics".  This week I want to focus on some of Schomburg's "Black Terror" covers.  There is a nice mix of some of Schomburgs tradmarks such as violent nazi deaths and some of his bondage covers.  These are some of my favorite works from Schomburg.  Enjoy!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

REVIEWS: The Secret Service, Conan, Saga, Fatale, Glory

I’ve been a dyed in the wool Superhero comics reader for most of my comic reading life, rarely venturing out beyond those borders. But lately, cape free comics have never been better. There is so much diversity in comics today as compared to 20 or even 10 years ago and this weeks pull list is a bit of a testament to that...

Saga #2 from Image Comics

Case in point: Saga #2 by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples. I had just assumed that there was no way that Vaughan and Staples would top their balls to the wall sci-fi fantasy romance debut adventure that began in Saga 1. But they did it. Boy did they ever do it. Issue 2 continues and exceeds the level of excitement set in issue 1. Our two star crossed lovers Alana and Marko and baby Hazel are still on the run, trying to make it off world while avoiding capture by their own people as well two free lancers sent to find and or kill them.
As in the first issue, Alana has the best lines. One laugh out loud moment not to be missed is when Marko needs Alana to tell him a secret, the secret being part of an ingredient to a magical spell he must cast to save their lives. We also meet another bizarre character in “The Stalk”, one of the mercenaries sent to kill them. This is one terrific comic book, not to be missed.

Fatale #4 from Image Comics
The next example of terrific cape free comics is Fatale #4, the stunning horror/noir by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. This is so good that I reread every previous issue before reading the current one. Seemingly ageless femme fatale Josephine, reporter Hank Raines and Walter, the corrupt cop and former lover of Josephine, are up to their necks in gruesome murders and creepy goings-on’s as they continue to uncover and elude a creepy cult of killers.
Walter, dying of cancer and stinging from losing the seductive Josephine, has made a deal to turn her over to the cult. Meanwhile, Hanks pregnant wife is caught in the middle and meets a horrific fate. A nice bonus are the mini bio’s of mystery writers after each story. This weeks back up feature is about Raymond Chandler and the possible inspirations for his detective Phillip Marlowe. A top notch comic from cover to cover.

Conan The Barbarian #3 from Dark Horse Comics
As much as I love comics, it’s rare that they make me swoon. But Brian Wood’s writing in Conan the Barbarian #3 makes me do just that. I have fallen in love with this book. Wood’s writing has never been better. Wood’s gift is being able to pack an amazing amount of story into one comic and never have it be forced or rushed or in any way top heavy. Issue three is just a lovely bit of dangerous romance as Conan comes to terms with his attraction to the deadly, infamous pirate queen Belit. Belit is a complex, beautiful and terrible force of nature but as Conan discovers from one of her crewmen, it is not just her savage beauty but her intelligence and the perspective that comes with it that has earned her the respect and unflagging loyalty of her crew.
Belit wants Conan to be King to her Queen, to sail the seas with unlimited freedom. It would seem that Conan has everything he’s ever wanted. So why does the old Shaman on board make him think twice about this new course he has chosen? This comic was a bit of a bittersweet experience as I discovered that artist Becky Cloonan will not be the artist on the next three issue story arc. This is incredibly disappointing as I have been bowled over by her interiors. I wasn’t a huge fan of Cloonan going into to this series but her work on Conan has made me a believer. I look forward to her return in issue 7.

Glory #25 from Image Comics
Like Fatale and Saga, Glory is also from Image Comics, a company that is really cranking out the hits lately. Glory #25 jumps ahead 500 years and takes the story to Mars where we find out that Glory and the war she is waging is responsible for some pretty horrific things going down on Earth. A 500 year old Riley finds Glory on Mars and takes her to task for her past deeds as well as finally meeting her own destiny.
This issue is a little quieter, a little more thoughtful a story than the previous two issues. Which is fine with me as it gave me a chance to examine Ross Campbell’s art which reminds me a bit of Heavy Metal artist Richard Corben with dashes of Paul Pope. Issue 25 doesn’t have the same level of action as the previous two issues, but it’s still a fun read and shows us that Glory might not be the hero we think she is.

The Secret Service #1 from Marvel Comics "Icon" imprint
One of the most pleasant and most hilarious surprises of the week had to be Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons’ The Secret Service. This is a very fun and witty spy spoof with a little social commentary and some dysfunctional family drama thrown in for good measure.
The first 8 pages of this comic had me laughing out loud. In issue one, a mysterious organization is kidnapping various actors from Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who and Star Trek (the original series, not the JJ Abrams version). The conversation that the villains have with Mark Hamill about the Star Wars prequels more than make up for the price of this comic. The premise? Well, picture James Bond with a family who would be very much at home on the Jerry Springer show. On top of Millar’s fun dialogue, we also get the return of Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons and he is in top form here. Gibbons art is top notch as always, bold and detailed. Gibbons art is straightforward and real and his characters are all very distinct looking. I’ll be on board with this title for the long haul.

All of the above comics come highly recommended.  I'll also be reviewing Dynamite Entertainment's Bionic Man issue 8 and the debut issue of Bionic Woman later this week.  Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Over the course of May I’ll be writing periodically about prolific Golden Age comic book cover artist Alex Schomburg (May 10, 1905-April 7, 1998). Schomburg’s air brushed covers could barely contain the insane amount of surreal action he put into them. Giant machines of doom, damsels in distress, heroes mercilessly gunning down Nazi’s and other Axis powers. He often signed his work as “Xela”.  Schomburg covers were full of merciless anti axis propaganda. A prime example was the cover to Exciting #39 (pictured above). Schomburg has the Nazi’s injecting poison into candy and then offering the candy to starving war orphans. Black Terror intervenes just in the nick of time with sidekick Tim about to assassinate one of the offending poison candy carrying Nazi’s. Just one example of Schomburg's brutal caricatures of the enemy.

Alex Schomburg photo courtesy of Lloyd N Phillips
I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Schomburg at the San Diego Comic Convention in the mid 80s where I had the good fortune to be able to watch him do sketches for fans. It was an amazing experience to watch this legend at work. There are two great books about Schomburg. The first is called Chroma: The Art of Alex Schomburg by Jon Gustafson. The other is The Thrilling Comic Book Cover Art of Alex Schomburg from Vanguard Productions. I highly recommend both.

My first Schomburg comic book
While Schomburg is most famous for his WW2 era covers for Timely (aka Marvel Comics), some of my favorite Schomburg covers were those he did for the “Standard/Nedor/Better” publishing company. Most notably the covers for “Exciting Comics”. Exciting Comics covers were often graced with Judy of the Jungle and the Black Terror. Over the next couple months I’ll be breaking down Schomburgs covers into various categories such as sci-fi, jungle girls, propaganda, and so on. I’m going to start off with a few of Schomburg’s “jungle girl” covers, in particular the Judy of the Jungle covers for Exciting Comics….

The Alex Schomburg celebration contines in part 2, part 3, part 4, and part 5.  Thanks to Grand Comics Database for the cover scans.  Additional photos from the Jon Gustafson book Chroma: The Art of Alex Schomburg.  

Sunday, April 8, 2012

DRAMA IN THE CAMPER: Sometimes Billy can be a jerk

Living in a Winnebago with a teenager who can turn into earth's mightiest mortal isn't always easy...