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October, 2011

  1. Frankenstein (Assembly Required)

    October 19, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    Like  rival hobby company Revell, the mainstay of Aurora Plastics’ line of model kits in the Fifties was scale-model, unassembled replicas of military hardware, although Aurora’s were generally smaller and more affordable than Revell’s. Around 1955, Aurora expanded its line to include plastic figurines of medieval knights, clowns, and traditionally dressed people from around the world (“Guys and Gals of all Nations”).

    Meanwhile, in Hollywood, Universal Pictures realized there was still money to be made off of their old monster films from previous decades. Universal packaged films featuring Dracula, the Mummy, the Wolf Man, Frankenstein’s Monster, and other ghouls for broadcast over local TV channels. The local stations created assorted horror hosts to present these films. When the local stations began getting mail from their viewers they were surprised to find that a large percentage of those watching the old monster movies were teenaged or younger. The popularity of these films with children might be explained by the extinction of the horror comic book in 1954 when public opinion and the new Comics Code Authority deemed the horror genre to be inappropriate for children. Children with a taste for horror simply switched from reading comic books to watching “creature features” on their local television stations and maybe picking up a copy of  Forrest Ackerman’s Famous Monsters of Filmland.  Knowing that their audience was largely made up of young people, the horror hosts softened the horror they presented with touches of humor and ridicule that made the genre seem less threatening to adults, while Famous Monsters gave a behind the scenes look that assured everyone that it was all just made up.

    Sometime in early 1961, it suddenly became acceptable to directly market monsters to children (TV stations and Famous Monsters could always argue that adults were the target audience). It started with bubblegum cards like Spook Stories and Horror Monsters, however toy manufacturers were still leary. A hobby company on the cusp of adult and childhood pastimes was an ideal path to full acceptance of monsters in the playroom.  Looking to expand its line of figurines beyond little Dutch boys and the Black Knight, Aurora bought the rights to manufacture models of all of the monsters who had appeared in Universal motion pictures.  The models created under this license would prove to be Aurora’s most successful line of plastic models ever.

    Aurora’s first Universal monster model was a 1/12 scale figure model of Frankenstein’s Monster in 1961. Selling for $1.00, the 7-inch tall figurine sold so well that Aurora had to temporarily suspend production of its other models to keep up with demand. Some buyers may have been disappointed when they opened the box to find the plain white pieces of plastic that needed to be carefully twisted apart before undergoing a process that involved several hours, various paints and brushes, and mind-altering glue fumes. Helping sales, no doubt, was the wonderful artwork on the box by James Bama who would do most of the  box top art for Aurora in the Sixties.


  2. What was Lois Lane up to 50 Years Ago? (Pt. 3)

    October 18, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    Not that I ever need an excuse to revisit the goofy world of Lois Lane in 1961, but yesterday was Margot Kidder’s birthday and I feel kind of bad that I didn’t post this installment of “What was Lois Lane up to 50 Years Ago” a day earlier.  This story is one that was somehow overlooked when I posted about DC weddings a few weeks ago.

    In Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane #28 (October, 1961) we find  a story called “Lois Lane, Gun-Moll”.

    “There’s an old theory that, as in the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde — each person has two personalities — one good, one evil — and that they battle for control until one dominates the other! Theory…or fact? You’ll soon see for yourself, as you watch a familiar friend change from good to evil — from reporter to robber — to become known as the notorious… Lois Lane, Gun-Moll!

    Of course, Lois’ reaction to the ray is only delayed. When it kicks in, Perry and Jimmy are the first to observe Lois in her new “evil” persona. Lois’ sister and roomie, Lucy also notices a difference.

    While snooping around in Lois’ room Lucy discovers some stolen jewelry and realizes that Lois is moonlighting as Metropolis’ newest super-villainess, the Leopard Lady. Lois chloroforms her sister and (after punching Lucy’s boyfriend Jimmy Olsen in the nose) takes her back to the Leopard Lady’s secret lair where Lois and her gang are planning their next job.

    The robbery at the Daily Planet  is interrupted by Superman in his guise as mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent. Kent pretends to be knocked unconscious when Leopard Lady Lois cracks him in the head with the butt of a tommy-gun, and then follows Lois and her gang back to their hideout. Superman quickly takes out Lois’ two goons but Lois lays him low with a boulder made of synthetic kryptonite. While Superman struggles against the effects of the kryptonite, Lois informs him that she’s sick of waiting around for him to return her love and has found a new man…Lex Luthor! Lois and Luthor announce their intention to be married and make a quick exit before the synthetic kryptonite wears off.

    True to their promise, the next day, the self-proclaimed King and Queen of Crime are married on the steps of city hall where a force field prevents the police or Superman from doing anything about it. As the justice of the peace asks if anyone objects to the union, Superman pounds on the force field screaming, “I object! I do! If only I could batter through!” After the justice proclaims Mr. and Mrs. Lex Luthor man and wife, Lois turns to Superman and sneers, “Hear that, Superman? That makes it official! You had your chance to marry me, but you muffed it!” The force dome explodes and the newlyweds make their escape. Superman is so dejected, even Lana Lang doesn’t want to exploit the mopey superhero’s new relationship status.

    Meanwhile back at the hideout Lex Luthor and his gang are yucking it up over the look on Superman’s face at the wedding.  The merriment is short-lived as Superman bursts through the door and turns to Lois still in her bridal gown and proclaims, “There is evil in you Lois, an evil that must be destroyed — burned out!”  Superman then uses his heat-ray vision to…reduce Lois Lane to a pile of ashes!

    Relax! It was a robot Lois Lane all along!

       


  3. Dartford Station

    October 17, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    Model of a planned statue for Dartford Station to commemorate the first meeting of Jagger and Richards.

    On the morning of  October 17, 1961, Mick Jagger, then 18, arrived at platform two of Kent’s Dartford Station on his way to the London School of Economics where he was studying. A few minutes later, 17-year-old Keith Richards arrived on the same platform to catch the train to Sidcup Art College. Jagger was carrying several old blues records and Richards had with him his hollow-body Höfner cutaway electric guitar.

    The two recognised each other from when they both attended Dartford’s Wentworth Primary School. That recognition and the presence of the records and guitar sparked a conversation that would lead to Jagger joining Richard’s band, Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys. By the following year the two moved to London where they would share a flat and join a band being put together by Brian Jones and Ian Stewart. The Rolling Stones were born in 1962, but not yet the songwriting team of Jagger/Richards.

    It wouldn’t be until 1964 that the bandmates would begin their amazingly prolific and successful songwriting collaboration with the song, “As Tears Goes By”. 

    Jagger and Richards have different recollections about their first songwriting endeavours, but both credit manager Andrew Loog Oldham for suggesting a collaboration.

    KEITH RICHARDS: “ So what Andrew Oldham did was lock us up in the kitchen for a night and say, ‘Don’t come out without a song.’ We sat around and came up with ‘As Tears Go By’. It was unlike most Rolling Stones material, but that’s what happens when you write songs, you immediately fly to some other realm. The weird thing is that Andrew found Marianne Faithful at the same time, bunged it to her and it was a fuckin’ hit for her – we were songwriters already! But it took the rest of that year to dare to write anything for the Stones.”

    MICK JAGGER: “Keith likes to tell the story about the kitchen, God bless him. I think Andrew may have said something at some point along the lines of ‘I should lock you in a room until you’ve written a song’ and in that way he did mentally lock us in a room, but he didn’t literally lock us in. One of the first songs we came out with was that tune for George Bean, the very memorable ‘It Should Be You’.

     

    Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys, 1961

     
     


  4. Black Magic

    October 16, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    Black Magic was a horror anthology comic book created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby for the Crestwood imprint Prize Comics in 1950  The contents of the book were tame enough to endure little change when the Comics Code was imposed in 1954, although it’s quite surprising that the CCA didn’t demand a title change.  A total of fifty issues were produced by the time the book ended in 1961. The numbering system used by Black Magic was reset at the beginning of each year, so the final six issues published in 1961 have cover numbers of 1-6 although they are, in fact, issues 45-50.

    By 1961, Kirby and Simon had parted ways. While Kirby was laying the foundations of the Marvel Universe with Stan Lee over at Marvel, Joe Simon still had a hand in editing Black Magic (although most of his attention was given over to his humor magazine, SICK.) Joe Simon is credited as the cover artist for all of the issues of Black Magic in 1961, although it looks like most of the work was done by inker Dick Ayers who not only inked much of the interior art but also the original pencils.  Along with Ayers, Ted Galindo and Bob Powell were responsible for drawing most of the five or six stories found in each issue. Steve Ditko makes an appearance in #47 with the 6-pager “The Black Fog” (Detail on right).

    One sign that the end was near for Black Magic is that a half-dozen or more stories (but not art) that appeared in its final year were lifted from EC’s pre-code comic book, Weird Fantasy. The cancellation of Black Magic marked the beginning of a five-year hiatus away from comic books for Joe Simon who focused his efforts on SICK and freelance work in advertising. He wouldn’t return until 1966 when he was hired to create a line of superhero books for Harvey Comics.

    Black Magic would be briefly resurrected by DC in the 1970s, reprinting the original stories from the Fifties and early Sixties.

     


  5. The Beatle Haircut is Born

    October 15, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

     It was fifty years ago today, Jürgen Vollmer taught the band how to do their hair.

    The traditional story has it that former Beatle bassist Stu Sutcliffe (living in Germany) was the first to wear the mop-top style haircut  thanks to the barbering skills of his artist-girlfriend Astrid Kirchherr. The myth continues that while performing in Hamburg, Stu’s look was copied by George Harrison and soon after by John Lennon and Paul McCartney (Drummer Pete Best kept his D.A .)  The problem with this story is that when the Beatles returned to Liverpool from Germany in July 1961, they all still sported  “duck-arse” haircuts.

    The true story was confirmed by both John and Paul in the Sixties and since then has been mostly ignored. In late September and early October, John and Paul decided to celebrate John’s 21st birthday by hitchhiking to Spain. They only made it as far as Paris where they met up with a friend from their frequent sojourns in Hamburg, Jürgen Vollmer (top-left with Paul McCartney). By this time Vollmer had been wearing the style for years since he apparently stumbled upon the look after going swimming.  During a visit to Vollmer’s Left Bank hotel room, the two Beatles convinced him to cut their hair in a similar fashion.  Vollmer wrote that after the haircuts, the trio visited a Paris flea market where John and Paul were tempted to abandon their old look completely for the mod French style of attire (collarless jackets, bell bottoms, etc.) . The two eventually decided that the haircut was about as much novelty as their home town of Liverpool and their rapidly expanding fan base was ready for. On their return to Liverpool they stopped off in London where they bought some Chelsea boots, which were later to become fashionable as ‘Beatle boots.’ During the trip, John and Paul also tried to incorporate bowler hats into their new look but abandoned them before returning to Liverpool.

    Vollmer took several photographs of the two during their stay in Paris:

    When they saw their bandmates’ new look, George was quick to adopt the hairstyle and, always the outsider, Pete Best kept his old haircut. The three haircuts grew a little longer until Brian Epstein took over management of the group near the end of the year and arranged for the Beatles to have their hair cut by a salon called Horne Brothers in Liverpool where the mop-top look was finally standardized. Pete Best insisted that his hair continue to be cut in a DA. When Pete Best was fired the following year, Ringo Starr dutifully showed up for his first day of work properly coiffed.

                                 

     


  6. Peanutz

    October 14, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    I just can’t get enough of these MAD comic strip parodies; it’s the element of truth in them that makes them so wonderful. This and  fifteen more original comic strip parodies were part of a Sunday funnies pullout included with a MAD magazine collection in 1961 (The Worst from MAD #4).  This one is by Bob Clarke, who may well have been the first to point out that Peanuts isn’t about children or dogs; Peanuts is all about an adult named Charles Schulz. Click the image for a larger view.

     

    Bob Clarke 2011


  7. Marvel Monsters Roll Call for Oct. 1961

    October 13, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    Monsteroso – Amazing Adventures #5: The alien child Monsteroso accidentally presses the escape pod button of his parent’s spaceship and is carried down to Earth where the pod crashes in the African jungle.  Monsteroso’s unconscious body is discovered by an American circus owner who sells the supposedly dead creature to a New York museum.  The alien child awakes and  explores the city until the military attacks him. The frightened monster tries to flee by climbing to the top of  the UN building. The army shoots him with a tranquilizer dart and he falls into the river. His parents suddenly arrive and rescue their child warning the earthlings that, “It is fortunate he is unharmed. Fortunate…FOR YOU.” and leave Earth.

    The Spider – Journey into Mystery #73:  A physicist working at an atomic research lab in New Mexico goes into work one day unknowingly with a spider in his pants cuff. The creature becomes bombarded by the atomic rays and grows to a huge size, gaining the power to think and speak, and then attacks the humans. The physicist tricks the spider into snagging a missile test with its web and when it climbs towards it, the missile detonates and kills The Spider.

    Fin Fang Foom – Strange Tales #89: In his debut, Fin Fang Foom was merely an ancient hibernating dragon  who is deliberately awakened from his slumber in a cave by an anti-communist Taiwanese man,  Chen Liuchow, whose homeland is under threat from the Red Chinese. Chen uses a special herb to awaken the dragon, and taunts Foom with the threat of another herb that will put him back to sleep. Chen goads Foom into chasing him, and leads him straight into the Communist invasion force, which Foom destroys. With the Red threat eliminated, Chen leads Fin Fang Foom back into his cave, where the sleep herb returns Foom to his hibernative state. But that wasn’t the last the Marvel Universe would hear from Fin Fang Foom.

    The Abominable Snowman – Tales to Astonish #24: A TV producer receives a request to produce a film of the Abominable Snowman so he and his crew set off for the Himalayas. Unconvinced that such a creature exists, the producer dresses up in a costume, but one of his assistants sees him and follows behind. Suddenly, the fur-clad producer is seized by a much larger furry creature who claims that he had been searching for him. The creature (revealed to be a lizardman in disguise) takes the producer to a drill machine and the assistant sneaks in too. They travel deep underground to a city of lizardmen who have been looking for a lost explorer who wears a shaggy costume for protection from the cold. He must still be alive as they live for a thousand years. They are hostile to the producer and attempt to place him into a cage. He makes a break for it and runs into the cave of a thousand winds. While he is helplessly buffeted by winds from different directions, the assistant sneaks up behind the lizardmen guarding the cave’s mouth and lobs explosives at them which throw them into the cave’s strong winds as well. The assistant extends a rope to the producer and they escape toward the black pool which holds a ”octo-monster”. They escape from its clutches and come across the drill machine while fleeing the lizardmen. They take the machine back to the surface and destroy it with the remaining explosives.

    Bruttu – Tales of Suspense #22: A milksop scientist working on an experimental machine is thinking of a comic book monster when an accidental discharge of energy transforms him into the creature’s likeness. He goes on an unintended rampage through town because he can no longer speak and communicate his non-hostile intentions, the military authorities attack and drive him into the woods. While approaching a small house he gets the idea that he can write with an object, but the owner drives him away with a rifle. He loves his research assistant and, coming to the realization that the army will eventually destroy him, resolves to see her one last time. He approaches her home and uses a rake to write in the ground he means no harm, but since the scientist disappeared when the monster appeared, the woman jumps to the conclusion that he “has killed the man I loved.” Since he realizes now what a fool he has been for wanting to be big and strong since the woman he loved loved him just the way he was, he returns to the atomic machine and bathes in its rays once more thinking of the man he had been. He changes back and embraces his true love.



  8. Dr. Woodward, the Penny-a-Word Sexpert

    October 12, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    Robert Silverberg is best known for writing science fiction and is a multiple Hugo and Nebula award winner. His first published novel, a children’s science fiction book called Revolt on Alpha C  was published  in 1955, and he won his first Hugo for “best new writer”.  Over the next several years Silverberg estimates he wrote a million words a year, mostly for magazines and Ace Doubles. When the market for science fiction became glutted in the early Sixties, Silverberg adopted several pseudonyms and began writing in other fields.

    Perhaps the most interesting (and certainly the most unethical) of these alter-egos was the supposed psychiatrist and sex expert Dr. L.T. Woodward.  Published by Monarch, Lancer, and Belmont in cheap paperback editions, the basic modus operandi of Woodward’s dozen or more books was to write titillating soft-porn stories and compile them as actual psychiatric case studies (sexposés). 

     Sex Fiend (1961) explores the world of sex crimes. Many of these crimes end in murder like in the chapters entitled “Teenage Thrill Killers” and “The Peeping Tom Murders.”  Doctors taking advantage of their patients are also detailed. And don’t forget the ladies! The dangers presented by nymphomaniacs and violent lesbians are also addressed.

     

    Sex and Hypnosis (1961) touts the power of hypnosis to “cure” everything from frigidity to homosexuality. From the back cover blurb:

    “A frigid and frustrated woman who is now able to respond fully to her husband’s embrace…
    A once practicing homosexual who is now happily married and the father of a family…
    A desperate, impotent man, now amazingly restored to his full sexual power…
    A young wife who had her baby painlessly , but fully conscious and with no anesthetic…
    These are some of the people whose intimate stories are told in this book…People whose emotional frustrations and physical sufferings were relieved by the amazing new science of medical hypnosis — which brought them normal sexual satisfaction when every other treatment failed!”

     

    Sex in our Schools (1962) is a voyueristic tour of underaged sex disguised as a wake-up call to parents. From the back cover:

    “EVERYTHING FOR KICKS
    There is a sickness in our society today. Parents neglect their children, or else order them about so sternly that they rebel. Sexual and social mores are changing. “Everything for kicks” is the motto of our younger generation as they ignore self-discipline and flout recognized authority.
    Sexual liberty is a natural outgrowth of such rebellion. Girls who have had several lovers before they are Sweet Sixteen, boys who could give many older people lessons in love — these are the children we see so frequently today.
    There is no simple solution. BUT unless we want to be overwhelmed by a rising tide of illegitimate children and emotional cripples, we will have to start finding some answers, says Dr. Woodward in this penetrating study of what makes our young people tick.”

     

    Sex and the Armed Forces (1963) may well be the worst of the lot, beginning with the  fallacious cover blurb, “A Doctor’s [Silverberg's only degree was a BA in English from Columbia] confidential report on the sexual behaviour of men and women in military life.”

    One chapter details the rape of a young service woman described as “a tease who wanted to remain a virgin until marriage.” Due to her flirtatious behaviour the rapist was given a suspended sentence and the victim was discharged as unfit for duty. It’s a sad story that should come with a lesson about the appalling state of military justice. Instead the chapter is concluded with a summation by a noted “psychiatrist”:

    “…I’d say the best that could have happened to this girl is what Daniels (the rapist) did to her. Maybe he smashed up the complex of neuroses centering about her virginity, and left her free to live a normal life.”

     

    “Dr.” Woodward would go on to write about virgin wives, divorced women, masochism, sadism, lesbians, nymphomaniacs and suburban swingers:


  9. The Human Light Bulb

    October 12, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    I love superhero origin stories; even those that never went anywhere. My thanks to the posters at the DC Comics Time Capsule for this page scan from House of Mystery #117 (1961).  Besides the human light bulb, the George Roussos drawn story, “The Three Who Changed” also featured a human acetylene torch and a human grasshopper.


  10. Lonely Ben Grimm

    October 11, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    At the risk of muddling my online personae, I hereby confess to being the author of a short-lived Twitter character known as Lonely Ben Grimm (@LonelyBenGrimm). Lonely Ben Grimm was based on the troubled love life of the superhero, The Thing, who made his debut in Fantastic Four #1 fifty years ago. Conditions on the romantic front don’t appear to have improved much for Ben over the last fifty years, however, he doesn’t wallow in his misfortune nearly as much as he did in his earliest appearances. The self-pity in those early years was rather galling to young men like myself who had no better luck with the ladies than the Thing did, and without the silver-lining of being able to go toe-to-toe with the Incredible Hulk.

    Here are a few samples of Ben’s pity party from the early Sixties as well as a selection of tweets inspired by the self-loathing superhero.

     

     

    “The National Federation of the Blind says there’s 650,000 blind women in this country. What’s wrong with me???”

     

     

     

     

     

    “Someone change the Baxter Building’s directory in the lobby. The new location of the Negative Zone is in my heart.”

     

     

     

    “The Frightful Four broke into the Baxter Bldg last night. I won’t tell you what Paste Pot Pete did to my collection of Vampirella mags.”

     

     

    “Mail today!!! A jury summons, a package fromYancy St, and an invitation to the Latverian embassy cotillion. Jury summons is likely a trap.”

     

     

    “Nowadays, the only Marvel Two-in-One is when Johnny and I get She-Hulk really drunk.”

     

     

     

     

     

    “I tried to write a love poem but the only rhyme I can think of for ‘Alicia Masters’ is ‘malicious bastards’”.

     

     

     

     

    “Did some speed dating tonight…I think that’s what it’s called when ya walks inta a singles bar and all the women run out the back door.”