Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday's Favorite OTR

SUSPENSE: “Finishing School”—12/30/43

I love a good whodunit. The anthology series Suspense did its share of stories in this genre and “Finishing School” is a strong example of how skillfully they could pull it off.

The story is set at a girl’s school and manages to generate quite a high level of creepiness in its tale of murder and psychological manipulation. And it manages to manipulate us listeners as well—there’s a twist near the end involving the true identity of the killer, then another twist that points us to someone else, all of which builds up to a very tense ending (with, of course, yet another plot twist). Elsa Lancaster—one of my favorite character actresses--is excellent the dean of the school and also the main object of our suspicions.

Suspense was one of radio’s longest-running shows and was, in fact, the last of the network dramatic radio shows to be cancelled in 1962. “Finishing School” is just one of many episodes that demonstrate why the show was around to long—it was just that good.

Click HERE to listen or download.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

You End Up Rooting for the Kidnappers!!!

"The Ransom of Red Chief"  was written 101 years ago, but it still makes you bust a gut laughing.  If you've never read it, click on the link and do so immediately. Then head on over the the SHORT STORY READING CLUB to comment on it.

You actually do end up rooting for Sam and Bill, even though they're technically the bad guys. Oh, well, I don't think those two had much of a chance to forge a successful criminal career anyways. They don't exactly hit Dr. Doom levels of infamy, do they?

O. Henry has been referred to as the writer most responsible for humanizing the modern short story. He also had an extraordinary command of  the English language. He had a knack for using obscure words in just the right places to make a sentence simply fun to read.

"The Ransom for Red Chief" has been filmed several times. It was one of five Henry stories adapted for the 1952 film O. Henry's Full House. Radio comedian Fred Allen and sharp-tongued pianist/actor Oscar Levant play the kidnappers and play really well off each other. It's a fun adaptation.

On a side note, that movie is narrated by John Steinbeck. He does a fine job, but it occurred to me while watching it that you never see a picture or film of Steinbeck without a scowl on his face.

He's doing a good job of praising one of the finest short story writers of all time, but gee whiz,  he looks as if he's been constipated for the last three days. He always looked like that. I guess writing something as tragic as Of Mice and Men must have left him in a perpetually bad mood.

Back to "The Ransom for Red Chief." Two of the best character actors ever--Strother Martin and Jack Elam--proved to be absolutely perfect in the roles in a 1970s-era television version. Sadly, it's never come out on DVD, but hope springs eternal.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mermaids vs. Krypton

A couple of years ago, I wrote this post praising the work of writer Edmond Hamilton both as a science fiction writer for the pulps and later a comic book writer for DC.

He must have been good--because he once came up with a potentially absurd plot that involved a civil war within the Legion of Super Heroes involving exiled Kryptonians and mer-people who weren't quite mer-people yet.  And, gee whiz, did he make it fun!

This all took place in Adventure #333 (June, 1965)

Now read along carefully, because Hamilton moves his stories along very quickly and covers a lot of plot points in just a few pages.

The Legion uncovers some ancient records in an archeology dig on Earth, revealing that there had been a Kryptonian colony here millions of years ago. To investigate, a team of Legionaries hops in a time bubble and heads back to ancient Krypton. Another team goes back in time also, but stays on Earth.

The first group discovers that a band of Kryptonian scientists is being exiled to Earth during an anti-science jihad on old Krypton. They get some help from the Legionairies.

Simultaneously, a race of human-like aliens from yet another planet has colonized Earth. They make friends with the second group of Legionaries.

When everyone shows up on Earth (which turns out to have a red sun in this time period--which is why the Kryptonians don't win the upcoming fight in about a tenth of a second--natives of that planet have no superpowers under a red sun), it's quickly decided that the two groups of exiles can't share the planet.

That's the one major plot hole in the story. Despite the overall silliness of the premise, Hamilton constructs a plot that has relatively consistent internal logic. That was one of his main skills as a writer.  But why the two groups couldn't just, say, settle on different continents or trade materials and skills with one another isn't even touched on. Nor does the Legion even attempt to get everyone to negotiate.

Oh, well. The rest of the story continues to be fun. The Legion chooses up sides and the fighting begins (though the heroes insist everyone use non-lethal weaponry).

 By the way, Superboy is shown flying despite the red sun because he has a Legion Flight Ring. Hamilton doesn't usually miss on plot points.

After a bunch of cool stuff happens (including the use of a dinosaur stampede as a battle tactic), Braniac 5 realizes the atmosphere of Earth is toxic to the other aliens. So he whips up a serum that turns them all into mer-people and Star Boy uses his gravity power to sink their city into the ocean. That is probably the oddest method anyone has ever used to stop a war, but you can't argue with success.

The Legion heads back to their own time. The mer-people turn out to be the ancestors of one of several undersea civilizations that exist in the DC Universe (the one that Lori Lemaris--mermaid and romantic interest to Superman--comes from). It's later discovered that the Kryptonians all got eaten by dinosaurs a few years after the war, which seems a bit abrupt, but it ties up an otherwise dangling plot thread.

Despite the plot hole involving everyone declaring war for no good reason at all, I love this story. I love the way Hamilton constructs his plots and lets them flow along according to their own logic. He was a man with a lot of imagination--a trait he put to disciplined use to tell very, very enjoyable stories. It's important to note that he didn't allow his ideas to run wild. Instead, he made sure everything fit nicely into the established rules and history of the DC Universe. This made his storytelling that much better.

That's it for our excursion into both the future and the past. Next week, we'll return to our chronological look at Marvel Comics.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Cover Cavalcade

More than any other comic book ever written, I think G.I. Combat in its early years built its stories around really cool visuals, eschewing realism and even characterization just to give us images like this one. I approve.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Mr. Moto OTR guide now available.

I've published another Old Time Radio Review and Episode Guide for the Kindle or Kindle app. This one covers Mr. Moto, a 1951 spy series. This show is not as well-remembered as the B-movie series from the late 1930s starring Peter Lorre, but it was still a pretty solid and entertaining offering. James Monks played the role on radio.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday's Favorite OTR

Dragnet: “Big Ben” 3/15/51

As is usual with Dragnet, this is a well-constructed police procedural. What makes it most interesting is that about half-way through the episode, Joe Friday is wounded in a shooting. His partner Ben Romero (played by Barton Yarborough) takes over the case AND the narration. Yarborough was always good in the role and he does a really nice job as the lead instead of the sidekick this time around.

Click HERE to listen or download

Thursday, April 21, 2011

I Love Me a Good Twist Ending

There's no excuse for the classic mystery novels of Ellery Queen being out of print, but most or all of them seem to have been so for awhile now.

Fortunately, a new publisher has brought a trio of Queen's novels back onto the market, along with some other classic stuff. It's about time, doggonnit.

One of them is The Door Between (1937). I hadn't read this particular one before and it (as Queen's brilliantly constructed mysteries often do) pretty much knocked me on the floor when Ellery reveals whodunit at the end.

That, of course, is followed by another twist. This second twist is then followed by yet another twist. Gee whiz, this is great stuff--the sort of satisfying denouement that only Agatha Christie did better than Ellery Queen.

It's an interesting mystery right from the get-go. A woman is murdered while in her bedroom. The only possible exit is through a door that leads to a sitting room. When the murder occurred, the victim's future daughter-in-law is in the sitting room. She can swear that absolutely no one entered or left the bedroom before or after the murder.

So the only possible person who could have committed the crime is the perspective daughter-in-law.  It's literally impossible for anyone else to have done it. She has to be guilty.

Well, we readers know she's innocent--she's the point-of-view character for much of the novel and we're symbolically sitting beside her when the murder takes place. So who did it and HOW did the crime take place?

Aside from the great plot, there's a couple of other features that make this one stand out. A supporting character--Irish private eye Terry Rig--adds a lot of fun to the proceedings. (In fact, I think Terry would have made a great protagonist in his own right.)

Also, this is one of the few times--if not the only time--that Ellery and his dad (police Inspector Queen) are working at odds to each other rather than working together. The elder Queen is quite justifiably convinced the girl is guilty. Ellery, though, has a feeling she's innocent. The realistic and affectionate father/son relationship between the two men is one of the strengths of the Queen novels, but this time around they find themselves on opposite sides of the fence.

But if Ellery can figure out who the real culprit is, he can see justice done and heal any potential rift with his dad. And if anyone can do it, Ellery Queen can.

By the way, treat yourself to watching the DVDs of the excellent 1970s TV version of Ellery Queen.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

History of the Marvel Universe: June 1966, part 2


I don’t think Gene Colan ever drew a boring panel of comic art in his life. And his debut on The Sub Mariner is a lot of fun as Namor battles the giant Behemoth. It looks great.

At first, it looks like Namor is out of his weight class. But when he summons up a bunch of electric eels to zap the thing, the feedback destroys the puppet Krang is using to control it. That allows Namor a chance to swim fast enough to cause a whirlpool and suck the Behemoth into a quagmire.

I’m not entirely sure the physics of that work out, but it really does look great, so what the hey.

In the meantime, Krang goes to his Plan B, which is kidnapping Dorma, then using the now inert Behemoth puppet to run a bluff on her and get her to leave with him and later announce their engagement. This leaves poor Namor thinking Dorma has betrayed him.

And I’m afraid we’re going to leave the heartbroken king of Atlantis behind for now, dropping him from the line-up. We will, though, continue to follow the adventures of the Hulk for a few more issues at least—because… well, because it’s MY blog and I want to.

So what’s the Hulk up to this issue? Well, he’s pretty much finished evolving into the dumb brute who refers to himself in the third person (“Hulk will break away!”) that is his best known incarnation.

Still on the run from the Army, he finds himself teleported down to the underground kingdom of Tyrannus—a despotic ruler who kidnapped Hulk back in Hulk #5 about four years earlier.

Tyrannus as been reduced to a withered old man in the meantime because the Mole Man and his forces now control the enchanted pool he needs to bathe in to remain young.

I like this issue, not just because it’s another fun chapter in a fast-paced serial, but also because it ties some disparate elements of the Marvel Universe together. At this point, we’ve seen at least three underground civilizations. (Iron Man encountered one also.) Now they are being confirmed to all exist in the same continuity and interact with each other. Mole Man is trying to take over Tyrannus’ forces to strengthen his future efforts to conquer all us hated surface-dwellers.

 Anyway, Tyrannus has also kidnapped Rick, Betty and Talbot to try to force Hulk to fight for him. Hulk is too far gone mentally to recognize his friends, but when Mole Man attacks, he fights pretty much just for the fun of it.

Jack Kirby did the layouts, with Bill Everett providing the pencils. The end result seems a little bit stiffer than what we get when these excellent artists work independently, but it still looks pretty cool. In the end, Hulk goes one-on-one against a giant multi-tentacled robot and the enchanted pool gets blow up as collateral damage. The explosion turns Hulk back into Banner for the first time in months, leaving the poor guy wondering what the heck is going on.


Lots of emotional roller coasters in this issue. Hank is stuck at ten-feet-tall and, though he still fights bravely when needed, he’s rather understandably depressed by this. Hawkeye learns that his true love Black Widow has reappeared, but she’s been brainwashed by the Commies to work for them again.

The Widow recruits Power Man and Swordsman to take out the Avengers. Several of them are captured, but Goliath shows up to spoil the villains’ plans and yet another visually fun fight follows. Widow and her allies get away at the end. Hawkeye has a chance to peg her with an arrow, but can’t bring himself to do it. In a really nice bit of characterization, Captain America sympathizes with him rather than bawling him out, making the archer feel pretty low for riding Cap all these months.

All in all, a strong story that establishes Goliath and Wasp are going to be regular, active members again.

So we’ll use this high point to drop the Avengers from our chronological reviews. Don’t worry, though, there’s far too many cool Avengers stories from the Roy Thomas and Steve Englehart eras to leave them behind for long. We’ll be looking at specific storylines from future issues from time to time.

So that leaves us with the Fantastic Four, Spider Man, Thor and Hulk. We will continue with the first three chronologically for many months to come. We’ll trail along with Hulk for a few more issues at least before dropping him.

And that’s it for June 1966. In July, the Fantastic Four will meet a certain ruler of an African nation for the first time; Steve Ditko will draw Spider Man for the last time; Thor takes a trip to the Greek underworld; and Hulk continues to make a mess of the, um, normal underworld.

But first, we'll jump a thousand years into the future--then a few million years into the past--to join the Legion of Super Heroes in an unusual adventure.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Cover Cavalcade

The artist here really manages to impart a sense of speed to the airplanes, doesn't he?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday's Favorite OTR

The Lone Ranger: “Gold for Maximillian” 3/27/43

Wow. The Lone Ranger is so cool that he can save the country from war without even working up a sweat. This episode, set right after the Civil War (and thus, presumably, set early in the Ranger’s career), involves a possible war between the United States and Mexico.

Maximillian was the puppet emperor of Mexico, placed on the throne there by Napolean III of France. The U.S. is insisting that French troops withdraw from Mexico. Maximillian, knowing he needs gold to raise enough additional troops to fight the U.S., sends a trusted agent across the Rio Grande to raise the gold and smuggle it back south.

Along the way, we get some quick cameo appearances by Generals Ulysses Grant and Philip Sheridan, as well as President Andrew Johnson.

What’s notable about is the way the plot quickly evolves to include several sets of bad guys, keeping track of the Mexican agent and several different outlaws, with double-crosses and treacherous murders coming fast and furious. The plot isn’t all that complicated, but it does require the listener to pay close attention to keep track of events.

The Lone Ranger was originally targeted to a younger audience. Though it ended up attracted a large percentage of older listeners as well, the creative staff never forgot that a lot of their fans were kids.

All the same, they didn’t hesitate to use reasonably complex plots that required attentive listeners. In this case, we had to understand the political/military situation as well as machinations of spies and outlaws. Well-written narration and dialogue explains everything clearly, but all the same, the writers and director of the show trusted their listeners (both grown-ups and kids) to follow along. It’s one of the many reasons the show is still fun—it never wrote down to its audience. Whether you were six-years-old or sixty, you were assumed to be smart enough to follow along as the Ranger both out-fought and out-thought the bad guys.

Click HERE to listen or download.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I'd take Gregory Peck as my commanding officer.

Actor Gregory Peck didn't serve in the military during World War II, kept out of the service (according to his IMDB biography) by an old back injury.

But, by golly, when he played a military man--especially a man in a difficult command position--he did it brilliantly. There are two movies in particular in which he perfectly catches the ambiance of a skilled commanding officer.

The first was the 1949 film Twelve O'Clock High. Peck is General Frank Savage, a B-17 pilot who is placed in command of a hard luck bomber group that's been taking a lot of casualties. Morale is low. Morale initially gets even lower when Savage takes a hard-line approach to whipping the group back into fighting shape.

But Savage knows what he's doing. The group becomes more efficient in its missions, hitting the targets more often with fewer casualties.

With a less intelligent script or a less-skilled actor, the movie would have been a corny mess. But, because of a literate script and a great actor, it becomes one of the best war films ever.

Peck is helped along by some great character actors, including Dean Jagger, Gary Merrill, and Hugh Marlowe. It really is a fantastic movie. What's most remarkable about it, I think, is the level of empathy it manages to generate for every character's point-of-view. We respect what Savage is doing, but understand why his men are initially bitter and resentful. We appreciate how dangerous flying a bombing mission is, but still realize why commanding officers have to send men out to die. We appreciate acts of bravery, but sympathize completely with those expressing fear and terror.

And besides, any excuse to watch B-17s land and take off is always worthwhile.

Ten years later, poor Gregory Peck is demoted to 1st Lieutenant and given command of an infantry company in Pork Chop Hill (1959).

It's near the end of the Korean War. Peace talks are dragging on, but the fighting continues. Peck is ordered to re-capture a hill taken by the Chinese. It's not a tactically important hill, but it's a bargaining chip in the talks and neither side is willing to give it up.

So Peck takes his men up the hill in the face of heavy opposition. Everything goes wrong. A company supposedly protecting his flank never shows up; some idiot turns spotlights on them as they attack, exposing them to the enemy; barbed wire that's supposed to be destroyed by artillery is still there.

The Americans take the hill, but they have heavy casualties and are running low on food, water and ammunition. The Chinese are counterattacking and they are holding only by the skin of their teeth. Their radios aren't working too well either and Peck soon discovers his superiors think the battle is over. And an annoying Chinese propaganda guy keeps telling them (via loudspeaker) that they are all going to die.

The climax is a really tense Last Stand, with Peck pulling his few remaining men into a tight circle to wait for the final Chinese assault.

Once again, Peck's strong performance as a skilled commander in an impossible situation is backed up by a band of great character actors, including Rip Torn, Norman Fell, Harry Guardino, a very young George Peppard and an even younger Robert Blake. Once again, a strong script and great acting (along with well-choreographed battle scenes) make it all work.

In both movies, Peck is completely believable just the sort of commanding officer combat soldiers need to have. That's why I was a little surprised to look him up and discover he didn't have any experience in the real military. I would have guessed he would have based his performances off someone he once knew.

Oh, well. I guess that's why they call it acting.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

History of the Marvel Universe: June 1966, part 1


Gee whiz, this is a nice story. It’s one of those that should seem corny (and, to an extent, I suppose it is). But the emotions involved come across as so sincere that it all turns out okay.

Ben is feeling down and depressed about being the Thing. That makes him a pretty easy target for an unnamed scientist, who drugs him unconscious and uses a machine to sort of switch places. Ben turns human while the scientist becomes the Thing.

The scientist is jealous of Reed Richards success and bitter about his own failure as a scientist. Now he plans to use his new identity to infiltrate the FF and kill Reed.

His chance comes when Reed is exploring the Negative Zone. Actually, I don’t think it’s called the Negative Zone yet in this first appearance of that weird dimension. But whatever the heck it is, Reed needs to explore it.

I won’t recount the details. Suffice to say that the ersatz Thing is so impressed by Reed’s bravery and selflessness—even in the face of death—that he (the bad guy) ends up sacrificing his life to save Reed.

That results in Ben being turned back into the Thing, but he’s feeling better about that now, having been reminded over the course of the story that he’s a loved part of the family.

Once again—yes, it’s corny. But it’s a well-constructed story that hits the right emotional points at just the right times. There’s plenty of action, but the story seems more leisurely paced then the non-stop rush of the last ten issues. It’s actually a nice break before the pace picks up again next issue with the return of the Inhumans and the introduction of the Black Panther.

Also, Jack Kirby obviously has fun designing the visually impressive Negative Zone.


A mad scientist finishes his prison term and immediately starts building a pair of odd-looking robots to exact revenge on the man who sent him to prison.

That man is Norman Osborne--the father of Harry Osborne, Peter's classmate who will eventually become his best friend. This is kinda, sorta the first time we've met Norman. He will--of course--be introduced as the Green Goblin's real identity in a couple of issues. For now, we learn he's verbally abusive to Harry, is a pretty rotten person in his own right and probably should have been in jail along with the mad scientist.

This is Steve Ditko's next-to-last issue on The Amazing Spider-Man. There's several different stories about why he left Marvel (and Ditko himself has always been reluctant to give interviews about any subject), so I'm actually not sure what the real story is. One story I've heard several times is that he and Stan Lee had a major falling out over who the Green Goblin really is. Ditko wanted it to be some random guy we'd never seen before. Lee thought it only fair to the readers to have it be someone connected to the main cast.

I have no idea if that story is true--it's just my favorite of those I've read over the years.

But back to the story: Ditko does some fun visual designs for the robots and (as usual) expertly choreographs the action. There's also a few scenes of Peter at college, in which we see that Gwen Stacy continues to be attracted to Peter and annoyed with him at the same time.

THOR #129

Thor pays a visit to Jane Foster and makes nice—even promising to give up his godhood and stay Don Blake forever. But first, Odin gives him a job to do fulfilling a prophesy that he must fight for another.

He also meets Jane’s new roommate, the odd but very pretty Tana Nile. Tana’s up to something, but it’ll be a few issues before we find out what it is.

Meanwhile, Hercules scales Olympus and fights a Titan to get to HIS dad—Zeus. But Zeus can’t help him—Olympian contracts are unbreakable. Herc has to find someone to fight in his stead to get him out of the “ruling the underworld” deal.

It’s a good thing for him that Thor is fulfilling a “help someone else” prophesy. The issue ends with the Thunder God offering to fight the hordes of Hades on Herc’s behalf.

This is a comparatively quiet issue, setting up the plot for the awesome battle that will take place next month. But it doesn’t drag or get dull at all. There’s several nice character moment involving several characters and wonderful Kirby visuals of Olympus and its denizens.

“Tales of Asgard” continues with Odin’s attempts to stave off Ragnarok. He tosses Loki into suspended animation, then sends Thor and the Warriors Three off to retrieve a weapon called the Warlock’s Eye. The Eye, though, has fallen into the hands of an ambition warlord named Harokin.

Like the main story, this back-up feature exists to set up the action coming in the next issue, keeping things interesting through well-constructed storytelling and imaginative imagery.

That’s it for now. Next week, we’ll finish up June with a look in on Namor, Hulk and the Avengers.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday's Favorite OTR

Philip Marlowe: "Heir for a G String" 8/25/51

As is typical for what may be the best of radio's hard-boiled offerings, the story is fast-moving and well-constructed. I do have to say, though, that Marlowe should have figured out there was something fishy about his client a lot sooner than he does.

Click HERE to listen or download.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

It's based on a book--sort of

Not long ago, I watched the 1944 Western Nevada, which featured a young Robert Mitchum in his first leading role.

It's a pretty good Western. Mitchum's character (nicknamed Nevada) is falsely accused of robbery and murder. With the help of his two sidekicks, he proves his innocence and uncovers a scheme by the real bad guy to cheat miners out of their claims.

What stood out for me about this film were the two sidekicks. A weakness that occasionally pops up in B-movies are comic-relief sidekicks who aren't that funny and serve no real purpose to the plot. You sometimes wonder why the heck the hero hangs out with this guy.

But here Nevada's two sidekicks are a lot of fun. A beefy character actor named Guinn "Big Boy" Williams plays Dusty, while Richard Martin plays an Irish-Mexican cowboy named Chito Jose Gonzalez Bustamante Rafferty. They actually do generate some laughs and they are very, very useful to the hero. They save Nevada from a lynch mob at one point by running an impromptu con on the mob. Later, they improvise another quick con to trick a gambler who hates Nevada into providing vital information. They really seem like they're fun to hang out with.

Martin, by the way, had played Chito Rafferty a year earlier as a gunner in the movie Bombardier. A few years later, he brought the character back for a total of over two dozen Westerns, usually as sidekick to actor Tim Holt.

Anyway, the movie was based on a 1928 Zane Grey novel. I've downloaded a file of over 40 of Grey's Westerns on my Kindle and I was curious to how close the film followed the original book. So I read it.

Well, the book features a main character nicknamed Nevada and both stories have the girl thinking the hero is a bad guy for a time.

But that's pretty much as far as it goes. The book is a sequel to a 1927 novel called Forlorn River, in which Nevada had forsaken a criminal past, fallen in love and whacked the bad guys to save his girl and his best friend.

In Nevada, he's on his own again, convinced he can never live down his past enough to marry the girl. But, not surprisingly, their paths cross again--just as Nevada is pretending to return to the life of a criminal in order to smoke out some rustlers.

It's a good story in its own right, though I think Grey sometimes gets a little too melodramatic in his prose. But the filmmakers at RKO pretty much went with an original script, keeping Zane Grey's name to promote the film.

But it really doesn't matter. Nevada (the film) is a good B-Western. Nevada (the book) is a good Western novel. Both serve their purposes.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

History of the Marvel Universe: May 1966, part 2


The Wasp disappears again right after being rescued from Attuma, so Hank Pym contacts the Avengers for help. He changes his superhero name to Goliath and dons a newly designed costume (which is a big improvement over the butt-ugly one he was sporting just before his retirement). He also lets the other Avengers know that changing sizes is putting a strain on his body—any change he makes could be dangerous.

It’s not hard to find out where Janet is—the Collector radios in an admission that he has kidnapped her, hoping to lure the rest of the Avengers into a trap in order to collect a complete set.

Well, one escape-from-a-death-trap is followed by another imaginative and nicely choreographed fight. The Collector uses some weapons and magical items he’s collected through the years (including some “Jack and the Beanstalk” beans that summon up a couple of giants to go toe-to-toe with Hank), while the Beetle tries to take on Cap and Hawkeye.

Those last two Avengers are still bickering a lot, but they work together smoothly in combat. The Collector escapes via a time-travel device, but Janet is rescued. But Hank only manages to shrink down to ten feet before fainting. The issue ends with the announcement that he’s now probably stuck at that size.

That’s actually neat twist for Hank’s return to the life of a superhero. Overall, the issue is another fun one, with Don Heck providing some nifty visuals.


I continue to be impressed with Stan Lee’s ability to keep up a fast pace in his shorter serialized stories and still keep the plot fairly logical. The Sub-Mariner story here includes Namor, wounded in an encounter with army troops, breaking free of the Puppet Master’s control through sheer force of will; the revelation that the Puppet Master was working for Krang (who now wants a puppet of the monstrous Behemoth in order to control that); the Behemoth itself menacing Atlantis; Dorma fetching Namor back to Atlantis in a fast sub; and a cliffhanger in which Namor confronts the giant monster. All good stuff from start to finish, though I still don’t care for Adam Austin’s design for the Puppet Master. The rest of his art continues to be dynamic as he completes his run on the book. Gene Colon will be taking over next issue.

The Hulk, meanwhile, is getting his life force sucked away by the villainous Dr. Zaxon. But Zaxon didn’t realize that the madder Hulk gets, the stronger he gets. Hulk swats the evil scientist away, resulting in Zaxon getting his OWN life force sucked away by his own adventure.

No one witnesses this and no one knew Zaxon was a bad guy, so the Hulk (who escapes from the army base) is now wanted for murder. But the rest of this issue involves an encounter with Hercules.

There’s a nice bit of continuity—Herc is on a train heading for Hollywood, where he’d been offered a movie contract in recent issues of Thor. So it fits nicely into Hercules’ current story arc in that book.

The two go at it in a fight featuring Jack Kirby layouts that were penciled by Bill Everett (the creator of the Sub-Mariner a couple of decades earlier). It’s an indecisive fight—after a few pages of trading blows and tossing multi-ton rocks, the army shows up with a barrage of artillery shells, forcing Hulk to jump away.

Kirby and Everett prove to be a good team. Kirby’s layouts make for an exciting and well-choreographed fight, while Everett’s pencil work is strong enough to do it all justice.

That’s it for May 1966. In June, someone impersonates a member of the FF; Spider Man fights a robot and adds a very, very important new cast member; Thor helps out Hercules again; The Avengers go up against an old girlfriend of Hawkeye; Namor fights a really big monster; and Hulk finally gets to turn human again.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Short Story Reading Club

Take a look at this blog:

The Short Story Reading Club

You'll find links leading you to classic short stories and questions to help stimulate discussion. Have fun with it.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Cover Cavalcade

Weird War Tales usually concentrated on World War II, but this George Evans cover about the First World War is wonderfully designed and perfectly evocative of the feel of this unusual series.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Friday's Favorite OTR

Suspense: “The Treasure Chest of Don Jose” 6/26/56

You’d think that people would learn that it’s better to leave well enough alone when it comes to cursed pirate treasure. But the protagonist in this very entertaining Suspense episode does not leave well enough alone. He finds the treasure, but he also finds a corpse and a whole lot of trouble.

Click HERE to listen or download.

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