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Posts Tagged ‘Monsters’

  1. Planes, Trains, Automobiles and Giant Robots

    October 31, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    In the last few months I’ve written a couple posts on the world of plastic models in 1961 and one thing that struck me was how important it was for companies like Revell and Aurora to have impressive artwork on the boxes that contained the less than awe-inspiring unassembled and unpainted pieces of plastic inside.  That’s when I discovered the artwork of Shigeru Komatsuzaki (1915-2001). The first pieces I discovered were for two plastic models by the Japanese company Nichimo depicting floating automobiles. I can’t tell you why, but I really like the way Komatsuzaki draws cars.

    Although Shigeru Komatsuzaki’s art apparently dominated science fiction publishing in Japan during the 1950s, there is precious little of his early work available online.  Almost all of his prewar work, including his personal collection was lost to wartime firebombing and the paper used for domestic printing for a decade after the war was done on the most perishable of paper.  A fire at Komatsuzaki’s home in 1995 destroyed much of his remaining archives.

     

    The format of his most renowned work in the Fifties was a double-page tableaux with some descriptive text portraying a variety of monster attacks, natural disasters and futuristic inventions. These works were not comic books nor were they any sort of proto-manga although the influence of his style is readily apparent in modern Japanese sequential art.

    Starting in the late Fifties Komatsuzaki worked as a production designer on several Japanese films, including The Mysterians (1957) and  Battle in Outer Space (1960) designing futuristic vessels and monsters. While Manga was undergoing a huge boom during the early Sixties, Komatsuzaki stuck to single-image paintings, mostly as the artist of hundreds of dramatic box illustrations for plastic model kits of subjects as varied as floating cars, giant robots, spaceships and the entire fleet of craft featured in Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds.

         

         


  2. Marvel Monsters Roll Call for Sept. 1961

    September 26, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

     

    The Glob (Journey into Mystery #72) is an alien advance scout for an invasion from space. He lies in wait for years in an old Transylvanian castle disguised as a statue and can only be resurrected by the application of a special paint. An unwitting painter brings the monster to life but ultimately succeeds in defeating  the Glob with a can of turpentine.

     

     

     

    Klagg (Tales of Suspense #21) is an alien who visits Earth and becomes so upset with the war-like ways of humanity that he declares war upon all the nations of  Earth. A young lay-about convinces communist agents to join  forces with the free world to confront Klagg. Seeing that the various nations are able to set aside their differences and band together against him,  Klagg decides that there is hope for humanity and suspends his campaign of destruction.

          

     

    Robot X (Amazing Adventures #4) is a thinking robot who is the propaganda  target of the editor of a local paper. Robot X  builds a robot army in a secret factory and assaults the town to capture and expose the newspaper editor as a Martian in disguise. The Martians knew that they could not manipulate thinking robots and had to turn the humans against them. With the alien plot foiled, Robot X and his fellow robots deactivate themselves so that humans will not need to live in fear.

          

     

    Moomba (Tales to Astonish #23) is the leader of an alien fifth column disguised as African wood carvings (I suspect he stole the idea from the Glob’s people). Moomba gives his command to strike and all the carvings get up and begin to attack their human owners. The wood they are made from is so hard that fire and bullets can’t harm them. Eventually, an African witch doctor defeats Moomba and makes him promise to leave Earth along with all of his wooden warriors.

          

     

    Zzutak (Strange Tales#88)  was created by magic paints supplied to a comic book artist by an Aztec elder.  The artist is hypnotized by the paints to travel to Mexico and create Zzutak, but after hearing the elder’s plans, he mutters under his breath “Zzutak is your enemy” while painting a second creature. When the magic paint brings the second monster into existence,  it begins a battle with Zzutak. The elder tries to get them to stop fighting, but they ignore him. During the fight, the columns supporting the temple are damaged and the whole structure soon crashes down on all three of them. The elder survives, but a blow to the head has caused amnesia and his plans are lost forever.

     

        


  3. The Creature in the Black Bog

    September 21, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    The Jack Kirby cover of Tales of Suspense #23 depicts a scene from a Stan Lee/Steve Ditko backup story called The Creature from the Black Bog. Ordinarily, the cover of ToS would show a scene from the Kirby drawn first story in the book. The lead story that month (“I Entered the Dimension of Doom”) contained a number of features that would have made for an exciting cover; a two-dimensional world populated with frog-faced creatures and a giant “hypno-creature”.

    Kirby’s cover is strikingly threatening compared to the rather sweet and endearing story and artwork by Lee and Ditko. (I like the way Ditko draws old people!) One aspect of the cover that is an improvement is the title. The Creature in the Black Bog makes more sense than the Creature from the Black Bog.

     

     


  4. Hay Low Girl? (More Monster Cards)

    September 2, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    When I posted last month about Leaf’s Spook Stories series of trading cards, I apparently only scratched the surface of a rather prolific and competitive industry that was exploiting a craze for monsters in 1961. Studios at the time were packaging up their old horror movies and syndicating them to TV stations as Creature Features. The local hosts presenting these films may have had more to do with the craze than the films themselves, but there was enough enthusiasm generated to make a profit selling nickel packs of monster cards. The ones below, made by Nu-Cards, didn’t even come with a stick of gum! Like the Spook Stories cards, these included “horrible” jokes on the back.

     


  5. Harryhausen Creature Roll Call for 1961

    September 1, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    All four of Ray Harryhausen‘s stop-motion creatures to appear on film in 1961 were modeled on actual animals; living and extinct. Except for size, Harryhausen’s models for Mysterious Island were exacting reproductions of real species. In the film, Union soldiers escape from a Confederate prison camp in a  hot-air balloon and end up crash landing near an island where Captain Nemo is performing growth experiments on the local fauna. One by one, the castaways encounter and battle with Nemo’s freakish test subjects.

     

     

     

    The Giant Crab was not only modeled after, but created from, an actual crab. The crab was bought by Harryhausen in Harrods Food Hall and sent to the Natural History Museum in London to be humanely killed. The armature was then designed to fit inside the shells of the crab.  It was fixed to the animation table by wire and was supported on an aerial brace with wires.

    Click image to watch the scene

     

    The Phorusrhacos is one of Harryhausen’s most endearing and goofy creations. Based on an extinct predator also known as a “terror bird” the animal was meant to appear as frightening as the other creatures in the film. The result, however, resembling a giant deranged chicken with mange, provides the film’s one moment of humor. The composer thought the scene was so funny he jokingly threatened producer Harryhausen that he would score it to “Turkey in the Straw”

    Click on image to watch scene (advance to 5:30)

     

    The Giant Bees were a lot more fearsome. Although there seemed to be three giant bees there was only one.  Harryhausen used mattes to make it seem as if there were three. The set design with the giant honeycombs behind the actors did much to convince the viewer that these creatures were enormous.

    Click to watch the scene (advance to 1:45)

     

    The Giant Cephalopod resembling a prehistoric ammonite (or, depending on who you ask, an octopus in a snail-shell) was the final creature featured in Mysterious Island, although the original script also called for a giant man-eating plant.

     

    Click on the image to watch the scene (advance to 4:00)

     

     


  6. Kirby Covers

    August 26, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

     

    Here’s an interesting exercise in putting yourself in the shoes of a comic book reader fifty years ago. Pretend you have never heard of the Fantastic Four when you walk into your corner drugstore and see these Jack Kirby covers on the magazine rack. Are you immediately drawn to the new title or do you have to take a closer look before you realize it’s not just another monster book?

     

         

     


  7. Monster Pants

    August 16, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

     

    I’m not sure how Jack Kirby went about creating the monsters he drew for Marvel (nee Atlas) comics in the late Fifties and early Sixties. Did he start with a naked monster and then draw short pants on it or did each new creation start with an empty pair of patented Kirby Speedos? Kirby Speedos date back to the early 1940s when they were sported by Captain America and Bucky over pairs of long pants. The long pants were dispensed with when Jack started drawing monsters. I mean, who ever heard of a giant monster wearing long pants?

    So, crowd around the catwalk for the fashion show and try not to get stepped on by the models!

     

     

     

     

      

     


  8. Atlas Monsters: Xemnu the Living Hulk

    July 28, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    Ask any “true believer” in 1961 who the Hulk is and his answer wouldn’t have anything to do with gamma rays or purple shorts. Hulk was the cover name of a mind-controlling monster from Titan named Xemnu who first appeared in late 1960 and again in 1961 within the pages of the pre-Thor Journey Into Mystery (#62 & 66). Like the later  Hulk, Xemnu underwent an evolution of hues through the years; first a rust brown, then gray, and finally a snowy white which makes him resemble the abominable snowman from a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Despite his fur, he is apparently made out of metal.

    In his debut, Xemnu is one of several inmates on a prison planet until he escapes on a supply ship. The spacecraft runs out of fuel and he is forced to crash-land on Earth. There his unconscious body is found in a swamp by an electrician, Joe Harper. Sure that he can revive Xemnu by repairing his robot parts, Joe brings Xemnu’s body to his workshop. There he revives Xemnu through a process called electrolysis (I’m not making this up!). While recharging, Xemnu reveals that he is a convict and then uses his hypnosis rays to take control of Joe. After confirming that his hypnosis works on humans, Xemnu brings Joe out of his trance and reveals his plan to enthrall all humanity in order to build a new ship to take  him home. The force needed to launch the ship would cause a chain of geological events which would tear the Earth apart. Since Joe was the one who revived Xemnu, he is to be taken along and spared the fate of the rest of Earth. Xemnu enthralls the entire human race with his hypnosis rays, and has them design and construct a new spacecraft. Joe saves Earth by sabotaging the spacecraft. When Xemnu prepares to depart, two crossed wires cause a short-circuit which send him into a state of suspended animation. Harper then launches the spacecraft, sending Xemnu into orbit around the sun. Released from the effects of the hypnosis rays no one on Earth but Joe remembers that Xemnu once controlled the entire human race.

    In Journey Into Mystery #66 Xemnu awakes to find himself hurtling towards the sun.  He uses his telekinesis to bank shot an asteroid off the rocket changing its course back towards Earth. Once he arrives he sets about hypnotizing the residents of a small town to build a mass hypnotizing device. When the electrician, Joe Harper from the first story, cannot detect Xemnu’s rocket, he figures out the alien must be back on Earth and deduces his location from the blackout Xemnu has imposed on the town while his device is being built. When Joe confronts him, Xemnu pursues him to the top of an oil tower where he threatens to  ”hypnotize your atoms to fall apart”.  Joe outsmarts the metal furball once again by pulling out a mirror so Xemnu disintegrates himself.

    Something as minor a not having a body anymore didn’t keep Xemnu from returning in the pages of The Incredible Hulk, The Defenders and The Sensational She-Hulk.

    Sensational She-Hulk Vol 1 7.jpgIn the She-Hulk story entitled, “I Have No Mouth And I Am Mean!” Xemnu has taken to kidnapping pregnant women so he can take over the mailable minds of unborn children (apparently the whole enthralling thing gets harder with each appearance).  Even Xemnu must have smelled the stink on this latest plan and soon abandoned it for Plan B: Transform She-Hulk into The Bride of Xemnu! She-Hulk and her friends thwart this plan and decide to turn the defeated Xemnu over to a teddy bear loving alien called Big Enilwen who promises to ”hug him and hold him and love him forever!”
     
    You may remember how Fin Fang Foom had also become satiric fodder for the chuckleheads at Marvel. May the ghost of Jack Kirby haunt them forever…


  9. Atlas Monsters: Fin Fang Foom

    July 26, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    When Fin Fang Foom first appeared on comic stands in the late summer of 1961, not even the most enthusiastic fan of the speedo-sporting space dragon had any expectation that the character had much of a future beyond his first appearance in Strange Tales #89. ST-89.jpg

    In the cover story for that comic book, 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.

    Fin Fang Foom’s story would have to wait another 13 years to be continued  in Astonishing Tales #23 & 24 (1974).  In that story, Foom is again awakened by someone who needs the dragon to eliminate a threat, this time a giant stone monster called “It, the Living Colossus” (who, like Foom, made his debut and previous appearance in 1961). Foom and the Colossus eventually join forces to foil an invasion from the planet Stonus V. Foom swims home and goes back to sleep.

    Not until a long story appearing in Iron Man #261-275 (1991) do we learn Foom’s full back story.

    It is revealed in flashback that Foom is an alien being from Maklu IV in the Greater Magellanic Cloud. Foom and his fellow Makluans arrived on Earth in ancient China, intending to conquer the planet. Using their natural shapeshifting powers to mimic human form, the aliens infiltrate human society to study it before beginning their conquest. The ship’s navigator (Foom)  is the exception, and acting as a reserve is placed in a tomb in a state of hibernation

    The Makluan vessel is eventually found  by a supervillain, The Mandarin who steals ten sophisticated rings from it. The Mandarin was guided to the cave in the  Valley of the Sleeping Dragon by a man called Chen Hsu, who is also an alien dragon and the captain of the vessel. The Mandarin finds and wakes Fin Fang Foom, using the dragon to threaten the Chinese government. Foom helps the Mandarin take control of one-third of China. With “Chen Hsu”, whose true form is also revealed, the pair begin to summon their fellows, who had been disguised as humans for centuries. Realizing he has been tricked, the Mandarin joins forces with the heroes Iron Man and War Machine to defeat the dragons.

    Foom would make further appearances in the pages of Iron Man until apparently being exiled to Monster Isle by The Fantastic Four. After a five-year legal battle, Fin Fang Foom and three other Atlas age monsters are granted release from Monster Isle. Foom decides to reform and becomes a Buddhist.  He enters a rehabilitation program with the other monsters,  the robot Elektro; the giant ape Gorgilla, and the alien Googam. Foom is shrunk down to human size, hypnotically stripped of all his powers and allowed to enter human society. Foom becomes the  head chef at a Chinese restaurant in the Baxter Building, taking time out to team up with the other monsters to defeat the size-changing warlord Tim Boo Ba. Foom also helps Doctor Strange’s servant, Wong to defeat a bunch of Hydra agents.

    And you thought Fin Fang Foom was silly in 1961…