Friday, November 25, 2022

Friday's Favorite OTR

 Jack Benny: "Phil Tries to Collect a World Series Bet" 10/13/40



Phil tries to collect money from Jack while Jack worries about the reviews of the previous week's show.


Click HERE to listen or download.



Thursday, November 24, 2022

Hok, Part 2

 

cover art by Julian Krupa

Read/Watch 'em In Order #151


In the first Hok story, the prehistoric warrior joined together several clans to fight off Neanderthals. 


Hok thus ensures the survival of mankind AND begins tribal society. But, by golly, Hok isn't the sort of man to just rest on his laurels. In "Hok Goes to Atlantis" (Amazing Stories, December 1939),  he goes exploring beyond the territory of his tribe. And, boy, does he find interesting stuff.


Hok finds a city, built along the sea, called Tlanis. This city has a Bronze Age civilization. We eventually find out they also have gunpowder, which they use to make small, hand-thrown bombs.


The author, Manly Wade Wellman, cheats a little in having the citizens of Tlanis and Hok speak the same language. But, as we see in Star Trek whenever the Enterprise visits a new planet, this is an acceptable break with reality in order to move the story along.


Hok does have to learn new words (such as "street" and "building") as well as new concepts. He struggles with some of those concepts. Why trade gold (a useless metal too soft to be used for weapons) for food? Why are there poor people who haven't enough to eat despite an abundance of food? Why are some people fat and useless, but still hold power over others?


Hok befriends a woman named Maie, who owns a large estate. He meets the king, named Cos, but is unimpressed by him. And when Cos casually decides that Hok's people need to be hunted down and exterminated, Hok's situation turns dangerous.


He's captured, tied up and tossed in a cave as a sacrifice to the local god. This god proves to be a hungry octopus. Hok, who is incapable of panic, figures out a way to get free from the straps used to bind him. Then, using several sharp and/or really big rocks, he kills the octopus.



In the meantime, Cos' desire for Maie leads to a impromptu rebellion against the unpopular king. More of a riot than an organized revolution, it's quickly put down. But Maie manages to join up with Hok and the two make what appears to be a last stand together in the mouth of a cave filled with gunpowder.. Hok, who has a talent for snatching thrown spears out of the air and throwing them back, has also armed himself with a diamond-headed club. He soon has a barrier of dead warriors in front of him.


Cos arrives on the scene with a bomb. This, in turn, leads to an extremely explosive climax to the story. And, when Hok returns to his people, he has a story to tell to his kids--a story that will form the beginnings of the legend of Atlantis. 


It's a great story. Hok's calm reaction to a new civilization and his ability to keep his head no matter what makes him a particularly magnificent protagonist. Maie is an effective supporting character and the action scenes are intensely exciting. Of the first two Hok stories, though both are excellent, "Hok Goes to Atlantis" begins to lift the series into True Epic territory. 


You can read the story online HERE.


We will continue to cover the Hok stories as part of the In Order series, but we'll also be looking at the four mummy movies made by Universal Studies in the 1940s. This makes me wonder who would win a fight between Hok and a mummy. I suppose we'll never know for sure.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Stooge Detectives

 


By 1960, the Three Stooges were having a resurgance in popularity when their shorts began to appear on television. Both Curly and Shemp had died by then and Joe Besser's brief tenure as the third Stooge had come to an end when Besser left the act to look after his ailing wife. Joe DeRita was recruited as Stooge #3 and dubbed Curly Joe, playing off the popularity of the original Curly.


No one could ever match Curly Howard, but DeRita was a skilled comedian and worked as well with Moe and Larry as anyone who isn't Curly Howard ever could. 


Anyway, the renewed popularity led to comic book appearances. A story in Dell's Four Color #1127 (August-October 1960) demonstrates that a good writer and good artist can translate anarchic slapstick into comic book form and still make it funny. The writer in this case is Carl Fallberg. The artist is Pete Alvarado.




The story begins with the Stooges, who are running a window washing business, drive to their next job. Along the way, Curly Joe jumps out of the car to knock out a guy for putting flea powder on a dog. The reason? Curly Joe can't stand animal abuse and flea powder is bad for the poor fleas.


Curly Joe's rage here sets up a reoccuring gag that will also be cleverly used to advance the plot a couple of times during the story. I called the story "anarchic slapstick," but that's an exageration. Good slapstick needs a story-structure to build on. "The Private Eye-Balls" jumps around wildly in terms of plot, but it does have an underlying structure, making the slapstick that much funnier. 



Anyway, the Stooges finally arrive at their job--cleaning the windows of a private eye's office. After accidentally breaking the windows, a beautiful woman enters and mistakes Moe as the detective.


Moe just goes with it. The girl wants her missing pearl necklace found. But she has no money and can't meet the $5000 fee Moe demands. She leaves in tears. The Stooges, feeling badly, come up with a brilliant plan. They will loan the girl the money so she'll be able to afford to pay them.



But first, the Stooges have to get $5000. Perhaps firemen make more than window washers? Well, perhaps, but their audition for the job doesn't go well.




Then their luck changes. Curly Joe sees a man not sharing his ice cream with a nearby kitten. He knocks him out, but then finds out the guy he floored is the state heavyweight champ. Curly Joe now has a chance to fight for the title that night. And the first prize, to no one's surprise, happens to be $5000.



Moe and Larry spend the rest of the day training Curly Joe. I have no idea where they found that gorilla.


During the fight, they activate Curly Joe's rage each round by telling him his opponent is mean to a different animal at the beginning of each round. But the trainer for the other guy overhears this and sticks cotton into Curly Joe's ears, so he can't hear the cruel-to-animals comments. 




Fortunately, the other boxer apparently punches one of the birds flying around Curly Joe's head after the Stooge takes a punch. The ensuing rage gives Joe the victory.



I love the story's ending. They meet the girl and give her the money. She then pays them to find the necklace, only to discover that said necklace has been in her purse the whole time. So the Stooges refund her money and she walks away happy. The Stooges feel that something went wrong with the whole deal, but can't quite figure out what. So it's back to washing--and breaking--windows.


It's a truly funny story. It follows it's own slapstick logic, cleverly uses Curly Joe's induced rage to advance & resolve the plot, and never makes the mistake of allowing the Stooges to have a rational thought or make a logical decision. The Three Stooges shine best in their short films, but they didn't do badly for themselves in comic books.


You can read this one online HERE.


Next week, we'll begin a two-part look at a story involving the Avengers, Inhumans and X-Men.



Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Sixgun Justice: WESTERN NOVELS—DESERT STAKEOUT

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Monday, November 21, 2022

Cover Cavalcade

 


November is Aviation Month! This is a 1928 cover by Stockton Mulford.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Friday's Favorite OTR

 Lone Ranger: "Death On Four Wheels" 5/19/43



Tensions between two competing freight companies leads to murder.


Click HERE to listen or download. 

Thursday, November 17, 2022

The Ship That Gets Captured a Lot

 


Until it popped up on TCM recently, I didn't know Captain Caution (1940) existed. It's the sort of movie I love and, by golly, I should have known about it. I don't know why I didn't know about it. My entire life feels like its a failure now. 


But, on the other hand, it's always fun to stumble across something that's new to me. The book, based on a novel of the same name, involves an American merchant ship named the Olive Branch, . And, if you watch this movie, keep a scorecard handy. The Olive Branch is going to get captured and re-captured at least four times before the end credits roll. 


When the movie opens, the ship has been at sea for 108 days. It's currently on its way home to the U.S., but the year is 1812 and the crew doesn't know that their country is now at war with the British.


When a British ship approaches them and fires a shot across their bow, the Olive Branch's captain is enraged and wants to fight back against what he sees as an act of piracy. His first mate, Dan Marvin (Victor Mature in an early starring role), recognizes this as foolish and urges they surrender. But the captain won't listen, fires one of the merchant ship's few cannons at the British and is killed when the warship returns fire. Dan then immediately surrenders.


This does not bode well for Dan's romantic adventures. He's engaged to Corunna, the captain's pretty daughter, who is also on board. Corunna wants revenge on the British and now considers Dan a coward.



This begins the seesaw capturing of the Olive Branch, which is retaken by an American ship, but later in the film will be captured again by the British. The climactic action scene involves Dan and survivors from the original crew using a very clever tactic to take the ship back again, despite being badly outnumbered.


Mixed in with all this is an extremely entertaining story stuffed with great characters. A Frenchman and his wife provide both comic relief and useful help for the good guys. Dan's growing father-son relationship with a boy who had been the drummer on a British ship is sweet. Corunna's self-destructive desire for revenge and her poor decision to trust a former slave-ship captain (Bruce Cabot oozing hypocritical charm in a great performance) keeps the tensions high and drives the main plot forward. We even get a small role for not-yet-famous Alan Ladd as a prisoner who desperately wants freedom, but might want vengence even more. 




This movie almost wasn't made. With the British fighting for their existance against the Nazis, making a movie in which they were the bad guys seemed unwise to many. But producer Hal Roach knew how popular stories set in the days of Wooden Ships and Iron Men were at the time, so he made it anyways.


But why didn't I know about this movie years ago? It couldn't be more solidly located in my wheelhouse and I'm very familar with movie history from that era. But I didn't know! Why, oh why? I hang my head in shame.





Sixgun Justice: WESTERN NOVELS—DESERT STAKEOUT

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Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Be Polite to the Ladies

 

cover art tentatively credited to Ray Dirgo


Quick Draw McGraw debuted as a cartoon in 1959. It wasn't long before he popped up in comic books, with an appearance in Dell's Four Color #1040 in 1959. He jumped off into his own series for seven more issues in 1960 (which were reprinted in Britain in the 1970s.) When Charlton got the license for Hanna Barbara characters, he had an eight issue run with that company. The first issue was cover dated November 1970.



The first story in that first issue was probably written by Joe Gill and has fun art by George Wildman. It starts off with bang--the bank is being robbed by a couple of ladies. 


This is a problem for Quick Draw, who is the town's sheriff. He's supposed to arrest bank robbers, of course, but the Code of the West obligates him to be unfailingly polite to ladies. What's an anthropomorphic horse to do?



The ladies don't even bother leaving town, but simply stop by the saloon for a drink. Quick Draw tries to politely arrest them, but this just gets him kicked in the butt when he bows to them.



This leads to Quick Draw slamming into one of the crooked ladies, who turns out not to be a lady after all. They were men in disguise taking advantage of the Code of the West--the cads!


That's it. The story runs just four pages. And that's its weakness. The premise is a good one and presents plenty of opportunities for good slapstick. But the short length of the story limits those opportunites. Even the gag of Quick Draw getting kicked when he bows is awkward, because there clearly needed to be another panel showing him bowing to effectively set up the actual kick. 


The issue is full of 4- and 5-page stories, so clearly there was an editorial decision to go that route. It was a mistake. With slapstick, you don't want to over-stay your welcome. But you also want to take full advantage of your story's premise to properly set up gags and keep those gags coming for a time. The Charlton Quick Draw comic book was a missed opportunity to be really funny.


I'd love to compare this one to the earlier Dell comic, but sadly I don't own a Dell issue, nor are they available online that I can find.


Next week, we'll look at slapstick done right with a 1961 comic book appearance by the Three Stooges.  

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