Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

As a final treat (or trick, depending upon your perspective), I've posted my actual photo [for a short time only] over on the left hand side of this page, in my profile. Complexion issues notwithstanding, I think that it turned out all right. I'm not vain mind you, but a ghoul does prefer to look his best upon coming out of the Catacombs.

Here are a few nice adult costumes (above; Capt. Americette, Spider-Gal, Green Lantern, Silk Spectre and Exceptionally Hot Blond) that are available for some of you willing hotties to wear to the annual Catacombs bash - if you dare.

I promise to limit the number of alcoholic beverages that I consume during the evenings festivities, but make no such promises concerning my penchant for tearing off offensive garments. As a token reassurance, none of these comic book-inspired supersuits offend me at the moment, but long about midnight that is liable to change.

Take care as you troll the neighborhoods soliciting candy on All Hallows Eve, because some of us tend to offer tricks.

Thanks for your kind attention during the past month and hurry on back next Monday, I've got to rush out and have my fangs waxed. [Frankenstein illustration by George Perez.]

Friday, October 30, 2009

"Gal" Friday (& Classic Cutie)! Fay Wray

To close out the Catacombs month-long salute to Halloween, lets take a fond look back at the lovely, elegant lady that became known as, The Beauty Who Charmed The Beast!
Fay Wray.

Fay Wray's role in the classic science fiction/horror/adventure film, King Kong, would become the role she would be most associated with. Despite having an enduring acting career that spanned 57 years until 1980, it was for her appearances in various early horror films including Doctor X, The Most Dangerous Game (both in 1932), The Vampire Bat, Mystery of the Wax Museum, King Kong (all in 1933) and The Clairvoyant (1934), that many have considered Wray as the very first Hollywood "scream queen".

In 2004, Wray was approached by director Peter Jackson to appear in a small cameo for his 2005 remake of King Kong. She met with Naomi Watts, who was cast in the role of Ann Darrow (the role Wray originally played). Before filming of the remake commenced, however, Wray died in her sleep of natural causes at the age of 96. Two days after her death, the lights of the Empire State Building were extinguished for 15 minutes in her memory.

[Above, top: King Kong & Canadian Postage Stamp & above, middle: with Lionel Atwill in Mystery of the Wax Museum.]

Thursday, October 29, 2009

1980's Flashback: Hellblazer

Hellblazer is DC/Vertigo's longest running title (and the only remaining publication from the imprint's original launch), it has been continuously published since January 1988. The lead character was originally introduced in Swamp Thing, which was written by Alan Moore. The book was intended to be published under the title "Hellraiser", but this was changed before publication due to the release of Clive Barker's unrelated film of the same name.

John Constantine, the star of Hellblazer, is a confidence man who does morally questionable things, arguably for the greater good. He usually triumphs through guile, deceit and misdirection, but often makes more enemies in the process than he defeats. Indeed, it is a common theme in the book that Constantine is unable to effect any lasting change or enjoy unequivocal victories. While sometimes striving for the good of mankind, Constantine is often manipulative and a dangerous person to have as a friend, as the lives and souls of those around him become perilously involved in his misadventures. He takes pains to protect himself from direct attacks, but his friends and relatives are often endangered in order to strike at him. The spirits of deceased friends haunt him, individually or as an entourage of ghosts.

Hellblazer is set in a contemporary world, albeit a world of magic and behind the scenes supernatural conflict. Although there have been passing references to superheroes, the series has developed its own pocket universe in which the supernatural or paranormal does not play a large role in the lives of most ordinary people, and in Earth-threatening circumstances no superhero interventions are usually shown or hinted at, suggesting that superheroes no longer exist there. However, some DC Comics characters—most notably the fringe supernatural characters such as Swamp Thing, Zatanna and the Phantom Stranger have all made appearances.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Panu in "Phantom Lord of Tooth and Claw" (Fox Comics; 1950)

This neat little back-up strip comes from Fox Comics Dorothy Lamour, Jungle Princess #4 (Oct. 1950), there isn't much information listed on this title in the GCD, but they do credit the late Wally Wood with providing artwork for this feature on the previous issue of the same mag.

I thought that it would be cool to feature a couple of "creatures" battling it out for supremacy - albeit with a jungle-style twist.

The Catacombs is very grateful to Don "Zu-Gogo" Falkos for providing the scans for this story. Note: The copyright for this issue, its contents and artwork belong to the original publisher and/or the creators and is reproduced here solely for entertainment purposes.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Icons of Horror: Jeffrey Combs

For my final weekly "Icon of Horror" selection in celebration of all things Halloween this month, I took my brother's suggestion of a more recent screen terror to profile.

Veteran character actor, Jeffrey Combs has been a reliable presence in theatre, film and television for thirty+ years, with memorable appearances in horror, science fiction and animated genre series - in addition to his many performances in non-genre roles.

His resume of film and television terrors include Frightmare, The Man with Two Brains, 1985's Re-Animator [his most famous role as Lovecraft's Herbert West], From Beyond, Cellar Dweller, Bride of Re-Animator, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Guyver, Trancers II, Doctor Mordrid - Master of the Unknown, Fortress, Necronomicon, The Lurking Fear, Castle Freak, The Frighteners, I Still Know What You did Last Summer, House on Haunted Hill, Faust: Love of the Damned, FeardotCom, Beyond Re-Animator, Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy (TV), Satanic (TV), Abominable (TV), Return to House on Haunted Hill, The Wizard of Gore, Parasomnia and The Dunwich Horror (recently completed).

On television he has also appeared in genre series like Beauty and the Beast, Freddy's Nightmares, The Flash (as Captain Cold), Ultraman: The Ultimate Hero, Babylon 5, The Twilight Zone, Masters of Horror and animated series such as The New Adventures of Batman (as The Scarecrow), Spider-Man and Justice League Unlimited (as The Question). Combs has been featured in recurring roles as various alien characters on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise. He had originally auditioned for the original Star Trek: The Next Generation role of Commander William Riker (casting that would have been "ideal", since for me Jonathan Frakes was always a bit of a letdown in that critical role).

In an eerie twist on September 11, 2001, Jeffrey Combs was mistakenly identified as one of the fatalities of a plane that crashed into the World Trade Center, forcing him to publicly state that he was very much "alive", the true victim's name, Coombs - had a different spelling.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Rayboy's Review: Angel vs. Frankenstein (IDW Publ.)

IDW Publishing has released a new seasonal one-shot to try and capture a few Halloween-minded fans of Joss Whedon's former television series, Angel (which had spun off from Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

Angel vs. Frankenstein is written and illustrated by industry veteran John Byrne and it's a real doozy of a book. Set way back in the days when Angel was a treacherous, evil vampire known as Angelus, who arrives in Geneva, Switzerland in search of members of an infamous family. Soon, a towering figure begins to shadow the wanton vampires trail of blood, and eventually stands revealed as the legendary Frankenstein's monster.

It seems that the creature had originally approached Angelus in order to secure his assistance in avenging himself upon those named Frankenstein, only to have the wicked Angelus betray him for his own ends. Just as in the old black & white Universal films that regularly pitted vampires and werewolves against the monster, this issue effectively sets up the inevitable battle and then just throws in lush, atmospheric period artwork, nice bits of characterization and no-holds-barred chills at the issues denouement. This stand alone special would have passed for a decent Hammer Films plot back in the 1960's.

Byrne has busied himself on several IDW Star Trek mini-series and specials, plus an earlier Angel mini-series over the last few years and they've reaped the benefits of having his undiminished skills on tap. Unrepentant fandom critics still love to harangue Byrne's non-Marvel or non-DC titles, even going so far off-base as to suggest that the artwork featured within appears to be "unfinished", but the man can still write and draw with the best of them and such unfair criticism really amounts to anal bullshit. Give Angel vs. Frankenstein a chance, and you may be pleasantly surprised at how fun this take on the monster actually is.

Rayboy's Review: The Astounding Wolf-Man #19 (Image Comics)

The Astounding Wolf-Man #19 from image Comics is written by the prolific Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead, Invincible, Space Ace, Marvel Zombies, Image United, etc.) and illustrated by Jason Howard. I must admit that although I've been aware of this book for sometime, I had never purchased an issue until this one. Based upon what I found inside its covers, that has been my loss.

This book is terrific, and that is said somewhat sadly because on the letters page of this very issue it is revealed that the book will end with issue #25. Apparently sales aren't down sufficiently to warrant cancellation, it's just that the very in-demand Mr. Kirkman wishes to move on to other projects and he has written Astounding Wolf-Man with the intention of concluding it at that point. Well, at least I can track down eighteen back issues to enjoy.

This month, Wolf-Man is teamed up with a cadre of super-powered individuals (who may be villains, but I'm too new here to know better) in order to face off against a gargantuan threat called Gorgg (who rises out of the Earth, with what appears to be Stonehenge atop his head). It seems that the dual-featured head honcho known as The Face was in communion with the entity while incarcerated, but now he expects to control the creatures power upon its revival. Oops, that doesn't work out quite as well as The Face had anticipated. Characters called the Construct and the Eruptor get in a few licks but then quickly flee the scene, when Gorgg swallows the Face. Only Mecha-Maid stays the course to assist Wolf-Man in his transcontinental battle with Gorgg. With Mecha-Maid serving as a convenient jet-pack, Wolf-Man trails the massive beast to New York City, where the creature seeks revenge upon the ancestors of the folks who had originally entombed him.

Kirkman and Howard have produced a really fun story here that is full of thrills, chills, action and humor. This thing also actually looks like a comic book ought to look, the pages are dynamically layed out (and done so using old-school-style gutters) and Howard's draftsmanship is visually engaging enough to pull even a newbie like me into the middle of a story. The vibrant artwork is abetted by some cool color work from FCO & Ivan Plascencia. Heck, let me even give a nice heads up to Rus Wooten's lettering.

The Astounding Wolf-Man #19 was one of the nicest surprises that I've gotten at the comics shop in quite awhile, and I will definitely be onboard for the remainder of the ride. Now I've also got to hit those pesky back issue bins and track down some copies of the earlier issues too.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Profile Antics (w/interview): Guy Davis (artist on B.P.R.D.)

Guy Davis (pictured above, right; w/John Arcudi & Mike Mignola) made his name in comics with stellar runs on such titles as SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE, BATMAN NEVERMORE, METAL HURLANT, FANTASTIC FOUR/UNSTABLE MOLECULES, DEADLINE, ALIENS: SURVIVAL, THE NEVERMEN and HELLBLAZER. He is the current illustrator for Mike Mignola’s and John Arcudi’s ongoing B.P.R.D. series (work which won him the 2009 Eisner Award as Best Penciller/Inker), along with his ongoing, creator-owned series The Marquis for Dark Horse Comics.

My brother picked up an original page from B.P.R.D.: The Black Goddess by Guy at this years Heroes Convention in Charlotte, NC. Guy is also one of those really cool artists who try and get something into every fans hand by doing free quick sketches for all comers on neat little art pads. I had Davis draw me a nice head sketch of supporting character, Lobster Johnson.

With Halloween closing fast, I immediately thought of Guy Davis for someone interesting to approach for a short interview. The Catacombs is very grateful to Guy for taking the time to respond to a few quick questions. All of his work is highly recommended for fans of comic book art with a twinge of eerie atmosphere and adept visual storytelling.


Q) What was your original motivation for doing The Marquis (pictured at the top of this post & a very interesting looking work that I’m trying to catch up on)?

Mainly it was just wanting to get to draw a lot of the types of things that I wasn’t getting hired for on “work-for-hire” type books. I always wanted to do a period action/horror type story and have an excuse to draw a bunch of weird devils so that’s where it started. I always loved the feel and mood of winter and that seemed like a different setting for a horror story too, so in the end all these things just sort of fit together into the Marquis. I'm really happy it found a home at Dark Horse, and look forward to telling the rest of the story as original graphic novels.

Q) I would appreciate any comment on how you were approached to do The Zombies That Ate the World. I love me some zombie movies and was pleasantly surprised to find this listed at your webpage, now I’ve got to quickly track down a copy!

Jerry has a hilarious and sick imagination which makes drawing it great fun. Basically Humanoides approached me to illustrate the first Zombie short for the US “Metal Hurlant”, at the time I thought it was a stand alone story but hoped it might spin off to more. And it did~ readers and Humanoides both liked what me and Jerry were doing so the Zombies kept running as serial in Metal Hurlant and then as stand alone books published in France.

Q) Among your published works including Sandman Mystery Theatre, B.P.R.D., The Nevermen, Hellblazer, etc., is there a particular emotional favorite and why?

Sandman Mystery Theatre really opened a lot of doors for me and also was a great project to work on with Matt Wagner and Steve Seagle. I look back on the work I was doing and cringe a bit since it looks pretty rough compared to what I’m doing now~ but I have really good memories of working on it. B.P.R.D is definitely a favorite though, it’s a great collaboration with both Mike Mignola and John Arcudi. And I think we all have a common love for the type of stories were doing in that series~ I always tell them that this is the book I’d be happy to retire working on, and I hope to keep working for awhile. Getting to draw Mike’s roster of characters is wonderful!

Q) Let me offer belated congratulations on winning the 2009 Eisner Award for Best Penciller / Inker this year. How does that type of recognition feel?

Thanks, that was a great surprise and an amazing honor. I still find it hard to believe I won, but couldn’t be happier.

Q) Since Halloween falls this month, do you like to settle in and watch old horror films, stay in and just hand out tricks or treats or do you generally attend a seasonal party?

Usually I just stay in and watch old films and hand out candy, but we rarely get kids coming by the house. This year we’re having friends over for dinner and a party~ and of course lots of horror movies!

Friday, October 23, 2009

"Gal" Friday! (Double Feature): Adrienne Barbeau & Caroline Munro

During my month long Halloween celebration, my regular "Gal" Friday feature has brought you a celebrated Mistress of the Dark, the first modern era "Scream Queen" and an ultra-hot Latina who rocked it out of the park in a single memorable genre film. With only two opportunities remaining to make an appropriate selection, and since the very last lovely lady for this month has already been predetermined (by yours truly), I've opted to grant you folks a bonus and profile two hotties today. The first by request of my brother, David and the second to satisfy my intention to profile at least one Hammer Films lass before October expired.
That's more bang for your buck at no extra charge!

Adrienne Barbeau [Pictured above, top & on the extreme right] has logged an impressive run of film, television and voiceover work during her four decade career, which has no signs of abating. In addition to starring on Broadway as the original "Rizzo" in Grease, she has voiced the villainess Catwoman in several Batman animated series and regularly provides voice talent to various animated projects and top video games like God of War. She continues to appear on numerous television series including genre fare such as Star Trek, Sliders, Babylon 5 and The Twilight Zone.

Her most notable thrillers and chillers include Someone's Watching Me!, The Fog, Escape From New York, Swamp Thing, Creepshow, The Thing (voice only), Terror At London Bridge, Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death, Two Evil Eyes, Demolition Man (voice only), Burial of the Rats, Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island (voice only), The Convent and on the Syfy channel in War Wolves.

Caroline Munro [Pictured on the beach & above, left] started her career modeling for Vogue at the age of 17, and then appeared in twin films as the deceased wife of horror legend Vincent Price (portraying Dr. Phibes). She is the only women to have been signed to a regular contract at the famous Hammer Films studio. Like Adrienne Barbeau, Munro to a lesser extent branched out beyond genre films to other types of roles, but Caroline scaled back her film work after her second marriage to focus on her family. Both ladies aged very well and are still quite fetching.

Caroline Munro has appeared in The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Dracula A.D. 1972, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter, The Devil Within Her, At the Earth's Core, The Spy Who Loved Me, Starcrash, Maniac, The Last Horror Film, Slaughter High, Faceless, Flesh for the Beast and recently in The Absence of Light.

Next week, on the night before Halloween, we'll close out October with a look back at the famous first Hollywood Scream Queen. See you then!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Fangs the Wolf Boy" (Holyoke; 1948)

This classic eight page comics story is from Sparkling Stars #33 (March 1948), which was originally published by Holyoke during the golden age. The identity of the creative team is unknown to me, so if someone else has any idea - please post this information in a comment.

"Fangs" isn't exactly the best jungle adventurer that I've ever seen, but in trying to select stories that have a tentative thematic connection to my Halloween month posts from the massive library that Catacombs pal, Don Falkos has kindly provided, the mere fact that this Wolf Boy has prominent fangs showing gives him the edge - at least today. According to the Grand Comic Database, this is the characters final appearance.

As always, the Catacombs is grateful to Don "Zu-Gogo" Falkos for providing the scans for this story. Note: The copyright for this issue, its contents and artwork belong to the original publisher and/or the creators and is reproduced here solely for entertainment purposes.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Icons of Horror: Christopher Lee

Sir Christopher Lee has appeared in over 260 films since 1948. Lee's maternal ancestors, were given the right to bear the coat of arms of the Holy Roman Empire by the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. He is a step-cousin of Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels. He is also a veteran of WWII. Lee was close personal friends with his frequent co-star, the late Peter Cushing

His vast body of work within the horror film genre includes The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula (released in the U.S.A. as Horror of Dracula), Corridors of Blood, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Man Who Could Cheat Death, The Mummy, The City of the Dead (released in the U.S.A. as Horror Hotel), The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll, The Hands of Orlac, The Terror of the Tongs, Taste of Fear, The Gorgon, Dr. Terror's House of Horrors, She, The Skull, Ten Little Indians (voice only), The Face of Fu Manchu, Theatre of Death, Dracula: Prince of Darkness, Rasputin: The Mad Monk, Circus of Fear, The Brides of Fu Manchu, The Vengeance of Fu Manchu, Curse of the Crimson Altar, The Devil Rides Out, The Blood of Fu Manchu, Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, The Castle of Fu Manchu, The Oblong Box, The Magic Christian (cameo as Count Dracula), Scream and Scream again, Taste the Blood of Dracula, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, Scars of Dracula, The House That Dripped Blood, I Monster, Dracula A.D. 1972, The Creeping Flesh, The Satanic Rites of Dracula, Horror Express, The Wicker Man, To the Devil A Daughter and House of the Long Shadows.

Perhaps due to his extensive resume of horror roles, Christopher Lee has a longstanding personal interest in the occult, maintaining a library of over 12,000 books which is largely devoted to the topic. This is discussed in his 1999 autobiography, Tall, Dark and Gruesome. At 6' 5" he is one of the tallest leading actors.

Although Lee is known to suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis (which is one reason why his hands are rarely photographed today), at an age [87] when most performers would have already scaled back their work, Lee has virtually reinvigorated his career in the 21st century, posting featured roles in many top box office blockbusters including Sleepy Hollow (cameo), The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring & The Two Towers & The Return of the King, Star Wars: Attack of the Clones & Revenge of the Sith, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride, The Golden Compass, Alice in Wonderland and he provides voice work for the popular Cartoon Network animated series The Clone Wars (reprising his role as Count Dooku from the Star Wars films). Illustration (above; top) by Harry Akalestos.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

At the Movies: Paranormal Activity

I've got another nifty comic book creator profile, of a seasonal bent, on tap for this weekend, but since Halloween is closing fast and Hollywood is cranking out chillers same as usual, let's take a look at a new film that is worth shelling out a few bucks for, if you like having your wits frightened out of you.

Horror movies tend to inspire one of two reactions. They either effectively engages an audience to willingly suspend its disbelief and go along with the fun, or they miserably fail to capture an audience that has become all-too jaded on the requisite tricks of this well-worn trade. For creative personnel, it’s a tough road to navigate. New thrills and chills that break out of a tired genre are hard to come by, so when something comes along that seemingly rises to the challenge, its nice to actually sit in a movie theater and feel a little scared by what is unfolding onscreen.

In this age of big budget special effects and CGI-generated blockbusters, Paranormal Activity was made for less than $15,000. That is remarkable in and of itself, but even more impressive are a few of the conceits that the filmmakers dispensed with in order to help foster the illusion of reality. This film is one of those “found footage-style” flicks that have become quite popular since ‘The Blair Witch Project” broke box office records in 1999, so gone are the titles, none are present onscreen. No ‘Paranormal Activity’ wording scrolls across, no soundtrack music is present to heighten the mood (you’ll quickly see that none is necessary), no “starring so & so’s”, no “directed by’s” appear either before or after the film begins or ends, there are no eerie sets to speak of; the film was shot at the directors actual house over the course of a single week. In fact the majority of the on-camera action takes place in the bedroom of the characters, where they've set up a camera to record the ghostly goings on in the wee hours of the night over the course of a single month. The featured performers even use their own actual names in crafting their characters. Remarkable!

This is also a movie where spoilers would absolutely ruin the experience, so you will get nothing of that here other than an encouragement to go see it for yourself. Kudos to writer/director Oren Peli.

I will offer a teaser for anyone who takes me up on the challenge to go see this cool horror movie. The tension that is created continually ratchets up throughout the film by building off of everything that occurs within the young suburbanite couples home through believable, naturalistic dialogue and no nonsense special effects that are back-to-basics gems. This is something on the order of director Robert Wise’s cinema classic, The Haunting from 1963, where much of the terror is left up to the imagination of the audience. Paranormal Activity wonderfully mines the same dynamic to great effect. You will be drawn into the lives of this couple and based on what IS shown, really come to dread what is likely going to happen at the conclusion.

So hang on for a wild ride and enjoy having the living daylights scared right out of you! And "Don't See It Alone!"

Monday, October 19, 2009

1980's Flashback (& interview): Doc Stearn, Mr. Monster

When Michael T. Gilbert was asked to develop new characters for Pacific Comics he drew on Canadian artist Fred Kelly's obscure golden age one-shot hero as inspiration. The first "new" Mr. Monster story appeared in Vanguard Illustrated #7 (1984; see image, left). Gilbert's updated version was a fanatical monster hater. Gilbert maintains a tongue-in-cheek approach to all of the Mr. Monster stories which have endeared the character to fans who've become jaded on the grim & gritty fare that dominates the stands today.

Gilbert cast his "Mr. Monster" as a hereditary position, going back into antiquity and now held by the original Jim Stearn's son, Strongfort. Being Mr. Monster was not simply the driving force of Strongfort "Doc" Stearn's life, it was his destiny. Assisted by his "gal Friday" Kelly Friday (whose first name was chosen to honor the original characters creator), Mr. Monster operated from his mountaintop citadel to battle vampires, werewolves and other things that go bump in the night around the world.

Pacific Comics didn't use Mr. Monster after the Vanguard appearance, but other publishers ran with it including Atomeka, Caliber, Dark Horse, Eclipse, Fantagraphics, Image and Tundra on titles such as Airboy-Mr. Monster Special, Mr. Monster Attacks, Mr. Monster Presents (Crack-A-Boom!), Mr. Monster vs. Gorzilla, Mr. Monster's Gal Friday ... Kelly!, Mr. Monster's Triple Threat 3-D and Mr. Monster's: Who Watches The Garbagemen?. Mr. Monster has also played a "cryptkeeper" role, introducing stories reprinted from the '50s under the titles Mr. Monster's Super-Duper Special, Mr. Monster's Hi-Octane Horror & Mr. Monster's True Crime. Doc Stearn currently provides the same function on articles featured in the fanzine Alter Ego.

The longest (and most serious) Mr. Monster story to date is "Origins", which was published as an 8-issue mini-series by Dark Horse between 1988 & 1991. It was later re-worked into a graphic novel by Graphitti Designs.


Now, as a special Halloween treat for readers of the Catacombs, here is a new interview of Doc Stearn, Mr. Monster, conducted by yours truly [courtesy of Michael T. Gilbert]. Enjoy!

Q) Hey Doc! What's your favorite classic horror film?

Frank Miller's The Spirit movie, of course. Talk about a horror film! Or at least horrible.Ugh! As far as classic movies, the 4-D Man still gives me chills!

Q) Are there any particular beasties that even you dread going up against?

The blue-pencil editors of doom, of course!

Q) How is Mary Monster working out as a sidekick?

A bit green, but the girl's got spunk. Unfortunately I HATE spunk! However I suspect that she'll someday grow into a first class monster-killer!

Q) Surely you've still got some "hi-octane" horror left in you. Any plans for a return (pretty-please-with-sugar-on-top)?

Of course. No publisher yet, but Michael T. recently completed two new Mr. Monster stories. One of them features Dr. NoZoNE, and the other a sequel starring the wood-monster, Oooak!

Q) So far what 's been your favorite published case, besides Hemo-Boy, unless that's it of course?

For a longer story, Origins. Mr. Monster vs The Nazis from Mars is also a favorite!

Q) What's the derivation of your name, Strongfort?

German and English meaning “Strong as a fort!" Or so I'm told.

Q) 'War of the Independents', what's that all about and did it ever get published?

It's a project that David Ryan has been drawing featuring cameos by a variety of independent characters. I don't believe it's been published yet, though he's drawn a fair amount.

Q) Who among the current crop of whippersnappers do you think best carries on your fight against monsters and such?

The Goon does a passable job on the monster-mashing front. Ugly chap though!

Q) So, modesty aside, what's the scoop on that Vampirella liaison rumor (nudge-nudge, wink-wink)?
Harumph! A gentleman never kisses and tells! Especially since Kelly might stumble onto this!

Q) Um, sorry but there's a guy here who keeps prodding me to ask my chances for scoring a Mr. Monster con-style sketch (and don't forget the pricing)?

Don't bother me with such trivia. There's monsters to destroy! However for commissions your friend could contact Michael T. Gilbert. He's too lazy to bother killing monsters anyway. He'd rather draw.

Profile Antics: Michael T. Gilbert

Michael T. Gilbert self-published his first comic book series (New Paltz Comix) in 1973. He also began drawing comic stories for a mix of underground comix (Star*Reach, Slow Death, Bizarre Sex, American Splendor and Quack!) the same year. He also wrote and illustrated a parody of Will Eisner's golden age character The Spirit, which he called The Wraith.

Gilbert worked with P. Craig Russell on Elric, but he is perhaps best known as the creator of Mr. Monster, which has been published since 1984 by a slate of publishers including Pacific Comics, Eclipse, Dark Horse, Tundra, Caliber Press, Atomeka and Image Comics. He has also done work for Harlan Ellison's Dream Corridor, Heavy Metal, Legends of the Dark Knight, Marvel Double-shot (starring Dr. Strange) and in 2000 he wrote and illustrated a Superman graphic novel, Mann & Superman.

If Gilbert hadn't taken an interest in the 1940's version of Mr. Monster that was originally created by Fred Kelly, it's unlikely that anybody would have ever heard of him. Kelly had created Jim Stearne (aka "Mr. Monster") for a small Canadian publisher called Bell Features. In Triumph Comics #31 (April, 1946), Jim Stearne became interested in monsters, and quickly acquired "Mr. Monster" as a nickname. When he decided to put on a superhero suit as Mr. Monster, he had one adventure, in Super Duper Comics #3 (June, 1947); and it was the last appearance of the character until Michael T. Gilbert based his own loud, flamboyant, over-the-top, monster-hating superhero, Strongfort "Doc" Stearn on Kelly's version.

Since 1990, he and his wife Janet have been scriptwriters for European publisher Egmont on Disney comics like Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse. He also writes a regular editorial column for TwoMorrows Alter Ego magazine.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

In Memorium: George Tuska

Golden age and silver age great, George Tuska passed away late Thursday night at the age of 93. His artwork appeared in such golden age titles as Speed Comics, Jungle Comics, Wings Comics, Wonderworld Comics, Mystery Men Comics, Captain Marvel Adventures and Hit Comics. He also worked on the syndicated newspaper strips Scorchy Smith and Buck Rogers until 1967.

For Marvel Comics, Tuska made an entire new generation of fans in the silver age on books like Ghost Rider, Luke Cage, Power Man, Black Goliath, Sub-Mariner, The X-Men, Planet of the Apes, Captain Marvel and Iron Man. He also produced work for DC Comics on Superman, Superboy, and Challengers of the Unknown. He had a 15-year run drawing The World's Greatest Superheroes Present Superman comic strip from 1978-1993.

George Tuska retired from active comics work as of the 2000's, Tuska lived in Manchester, New Jersey with his wife Dorothy ("Dot"), where he did commissioned art. The Catacombs expresses its deepest regrets to the family, friends and fans of this great talent. I am very glad to have gotten the opportunity to speak to him in recent years on a couple of occasions at his convention appearances.

Friday, October 16, 2009

"Gal" Friday! Salma Hayek

Salma Hayek initially made a name for herself on television in Mexico starring in a popular soap opera, and granted she is not known for starring roles in horror flicks.

But, and it's a nice butt, if you know what I'm saying, she did post a singularly impressive extended cameo in 1996's From Dusk Til Dawn, as the star performer at a strip club called the "Titty Twister", in the middle of a desolate part of Mexico.

Prior to her first onscreen appearance Hayek's character is introduced as "The mistress of the macabre, the epitome of evil, the most sinister woman to crawl on the face of the Earth" and then she enters - Satanico Pandemonium - decked out in very little other than a large albino snake where, during an extended solo performance, she seductively entices every person in the club with an alluring dance that is literally smoking hot. Salma did not have a choreographer for her dance moves. Director Robert Rodriguez just told her to feel the music and dance to it and brother, did she ever!

Near the end of her set, Satanico physically transforms and stands revealed as a vampire (as do all of the strippers, bouncers and club employees). Carnage ensues, but as fun as the film gets at this point, it is these memorable few moments in length that earns Ms. Hayek her place in the Catacombs as this weeks "Gal" Friday. Heaven must be missing an angel.

Trivia: Satanico Pandemonium was originally going to be called Blonde Death, but after they decided to go for a Latino/Mexican star, the new character name was taken from the title of a gory Mexican horror movie that Quentin Tarantino had seen on the shelves of the video store he worked at in years past.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Retro-View: Nocturnals Carnival of Beasts

I was aware of Dan Brereton's Nocturnals series for quite some time, but strangely never really got around to picking up any of the various mini-series, one-shots or collected editions. Brereton was a guest at this year's Dragoncon, and while it wasn't the first time that I had gotten a chance to see him in person, I finally took the plunge and bought both the Black Planet trade edition and the Nocturnals: Carnival of Beasts convention special (both signed, of course). Today's retro-view covers Carnival of Beasts which boasts three tales written by Brereton, but only the first tale features his lushly painted signature art style, the other stories are illustrated by guest artists.

Dan Brereton's 'Beasts' finds Doc Horror suffering the early pangs of an unidentified illness or condition which has prompted him to cart his daughter, Evening (aka Halloween Girl) off to boarding school before he loses control of himself. After the group says bon voyage to regular cast members Starfish and Komodo (who are heading off on a journey of their own), Doc Horror and the silent revenant called the Gunwitch escort Eve through a dark and dreary woodland to drop her off at the Nightshade School. Along the way the ghost girl called Polychrome appears for a quick confab with Horror, and while Eve doesn't catch their exchange, she knows that Poly isn't pleased with Doc's current actions. The Gunwitch uncovers the nearby entrance to a hidden location harboring a group of evil scientists that have been turning runaway children into monstrous kids.

'The Scrimshaw Crown' written by Brereton and illustrated by Viktor Kalvachev in a style that is highly reminiscent of Brereton's, focuses on Starfish who has been asked by Eve to descend into the oceans depths to recover a haunted spear from the belly of a massive sea beast, in order to free two tormented souls that remain attached to the earthly plane by this connection.

Finally, 'Night of the Candy Butchers' (again written by Brereton) and beautifully illustrated by Ruben Martinez has Evening, Polychrome and the Gunwitch running amok through a Halloween-esque carnival taking on some demonic entities and saving a couple of innocent lives.

Brereton has filled this standalone volume with a nice mixture of seasonal atmosphere, peculiar creatures and action-a-plenty. It's just what the doctor ordered for pure reading pleasure at this time of year. I can't help but wonder if all of the Nocturnals stories are this engaging. If you've grown weary of marketing mandated crossover events at the larger publishers, then trust me on this one. Seek out Carnival of Beasts and enjoy scaring yourself silly!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

From the Dust Bin: Planet Earth (TV)

Planet Earth was the second 1970's-era effort by Gene Roddenberry to create a weekly television series set on a post-apocalyptic future Earth. The previous pilot Genesis II, featured many of the same concepts, characters, sets and props that were utilized in Planet Earth. [Thanks again to Jim Shelley for providing this film on AVI disk.]

Planet Earth, created and written by Gene Roddenberry, first aired on April 23, 1974 (this time on the ABC network), with John Saxon taking over the role of Dylan Hunt from Alex Cord. This second pilot adapted a previously proposed series episode which focused on gender relations within a post-apocalyptic matriarchal society, the Confederacy of Ruth; latter-day Amazons who dominate and enslave men.

The science-based society PAX (which is dedicated to restoring civilization and peace throughout the world) has a field team returning to headquarters, when the team is suddenly attacked by a group of militaristic, mutated humans known as the Kreeg. After an intense struggle, the PAX team escapes into a sub-shuttle station, that allows travel between settlements via underground tubes which were built during the early 1990's, but before the final conflict of the 20th century. Pater Kimbridge is critically wounded during the escape and to save his life PAX Team 21, led by Dylan Hunt, heads out to locate a missing doctor, Jonathan Connor, who is the only surgeon who can perform the delicate heart surgery in time to save Kimbridge.

As a ruse, the lone woman in the PAX group, Harper-Smythe, binds Hunt and enters the city with him posing as her captive. Once there, they encounter Marg, the leader of the women who forcibly claims Dylan as her own property. While captive, Dylan Hunt learns that the men are subjugated and kept under control by a drug that is put into their food.

After Harper-Smythe locates Dr. Connor, an exchange is bartered for the two "dinks" (the society's term for inferior males). Marg has become intrigued by Dylan's resistance to training, as the regular Confederacy males are losing the ability to procreate, due to the effects of the drug. Harper-Smythe and Connor leave for Pax headquarters, while Dylan "entertains" Marg (she is unaware that a counter agent, created by Connor, has been given to Hunt).

Soon the Kreeg attack enmasse to acquire the secret of the society's domination of men. Revealing that they have captured Harper and Connor, the Kreeg demand the drug from Marg, but in the heat of the moment, all of the now fully recovered men in the community respond in force and derail the Kreeg attack. This prompts the Confederacy of Ruth to eliminate the elixir from use in taming males, and a more unilateral approach to gender relations ensues.

This 2nd pilot is much more in line with Roddenberry's earlier Star Trek series, in that uniform costume designs are worn by all Pax personnel. The humorous sequence where Dylan Hunt seduces Marg, is definitely reminiscent of Capt. Kirk's various soirees with alien women. Saxon & Muldaur really make the most of this scene.

Just as the NBC network had previously requested Roddenberry to play down a more cerebral original pilot (Star Trek's 'The Cage'; which had Capt. Pike played by Jeffrey Hunter) in favor of a more action-oriented effort ('Where No Man Has gone Before', with William Shatner as Capt. Kirk) and which was more in line with an audiences perceived tastes; this second try proved even more to my liking. It is unfortunate that after having really delivered the goods with Planet Earth, Roddenberry was again told "No"!

Returning cast members included Ted Cassidy as Isiah and Majel Barret in a cameo as Yuloff. Two additional roles were also featured from Genesis II, but the actors were recast. Janet Margolin takes on the role of Harper-Smythe from Lynne Marta and Rai Tasco appears briefly as Pater Kimbridge. Other performers present are Jim Antonio as Jonathan Connor, Christopher Cary as Baylok and John Quade as the Kreeg Commander (with a brow ridge reminiscent of later Trek Klingons). This concept tried to get out of the gate one final time, but even though John Saxon is present for the third attempt, any viewers who remembered either of the earlier efforts get thrown for a loop when he adopts a brand new PAX identity.
We'll take a look at Strange New World soon.

The Comic Book Catacombs Gets "Ranked"!

The Comic Book Catacombs recently entered in at number 260 in the Wikio Literature blog category rankings, (this is one of the new categories created by Wikio for the month of October). Wikio is "the number 1 news aggregator and blog-indexing website in Europe, indexing nearly 200,000 English-language sources," so the Catacombs is very honored to be included so high on this list.

Charbel Sfeir, Wikio Community Executive for the US, emailed me the good news yesterday and I noticed that Karswell's THOIA blog (click & visit "The Horrors of it All" over in my links section) also ranked #116, so congratulations to him as well.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"The Coming of Tor" from 1,000,000 Years Ago #1 (Sept. 1953; St. John)

Industry legend Joe Kubert is known for his classic silver age runs on DC Comics war series like Sgt. Rock and for reintroducing fans to Hawkman, but he got his feet wet beginning in the golden age on series like the Seven Soldiers of Victory.

In 1953, Kubert became managing editor for St. John where writer Norman Maurer and artist Kubert created the enduring character Tor, a prehistoric-human who debuted in the comic 1,000,000 Years Ago #1 (Sept. 1953). Tor immediately went on to star in 3-D Comics #2 (Oct.-Nov. 1953), followed by a traditional comic series, continued exclusively by Joe Kubert, that premiered in issue #3 (May 1954). The character has gone on to appear in books from Eclipse Comics, Marvel Comics' Epic imprint, and DC Comics through the 1990s. Kubert had unsuccessfully tried in the late 1950s to sell Tor as a newspaper comic strip.

'The Coming of Tor' is from 1,000,000 Years Ago #1 and the Catacombs is grateful to Don "Zu-Gogo" Falkos for providing the scans for this story. Note: The copyright for this issue, its contents and artwork belong to the original publisher and/or the creators and is reproduced here solely for entertainment purposes.