Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Daily Panel | 12 Dancing Princesses

Taking a very short break from Superman while I find a copy of The Superman Chronicles, Volume 2. I don't want to get too far ahead of the comic books with my reading of the newspaper strips.

This panel is from Emily Carroll's lovely adaptation of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" in the Fairy Tale Comics anthology.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Daily Panel | Hi'ya, Pooch!

Superman continues investigating suspicious disasters, this time checking out rumors that someone's poisoning the city's water supply. The guy down at the water plant doesn't trust Superman, but his attack dog has a different opinion.

[From a January 1940 Superman newspaper strip by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster]

Bigfoot movie update

So last weekend, we started shooting Coon Creek, the Bigfoot movie my brother Mark wrote and is directing. That's my other brother Matt in the foreground above, studying his lines. He's playing a trapper as well as creating the score for the movie. In the back is Mark and two of his kids. Sawyer's in white and plays a reporter investigating Bigfoot reports. Kevin's wearing black and is the sound guy, but also plays an important character. I got in front of the camera too for a cameo as Hunter #3.

I mentioned before that the inspiration for this was a couple of short skits that Mark and the kids shot as part of a monthly update they created for my folks. He's created a Minnesota Update blog to share them (along with outtakes and other behind-the-scenes stuff), but here are the two Bigfoot episodes.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Daily Panel | Leap-Frog!

Superman enjoys himself as he races to investigate some strange doings at a dam.

[From a December 1939 Superman newspaper strip by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster]

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Daily Panel | 'I'll pass up the story!'

Superman continues to grow and mature in this 1939 Superman newspaper strip by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. He never would've done this in his earliest days.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Daily Panel | 'Inspire ordinary mortals'

It was tempting to include the panel after this one to get the rest of Superman's response, but I wanna stick to one panel a day as much as possible. What I like about this one is that Lois and Superman are finally at a place where she can stop him long enough to ask him about himself (instead of just gushing over how much she's attracted to him).

She asks where he comes from and he confesses that he doesn't know (which is true at this point in his career). He just knows that he has to use his powers to "ease the course of justice" while "helping the oppressed" and "seeing that truth and right triumph." That leads into this panel where Lois identifies why Superman is such an iconic character. He inspires ordinary mortals to follow his ideals. Or, he will one day.

Because she also suggests that the best way for him to do that is to "remain among us." In other words, she feels that his being a mystery man is hindering his ability to inspire in a positive way. That needs more unpacking than I have room for in this post, but she has a point. For Superman to be a positive inspiration, he needs to be more accessible. Otherwise, people will be negatively inspired by fearing him (and indeed, the police's reaction to him in this era is to try to take him in).

Negative inspiration can also be effective (see: Batman), but that's not what Lois wants for Superman. I find it fascinating that she's the one who articulates this first, at least in newspaper continuity. I'm not sure what's been going on in the comic books during this time period. Unfortunately, the next panel has Superman finish his sentence by flying out the window and saying that he achieves best results by "playing a lone hand." He's not ready to be the kind of hero Lois believes he can.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Daily Panel | Lois is all wet

Superman pulls Lois out of a watery death trap that the crooked politician threw her into.

I like how they sound like comrades. For once, he's not chastising her for getting into trouble and she's not drooling all over him. He hasn't been playing Clark as such a pathetic coward lately, which I'm guessing is why Lois has been interested in Clark more. As Clark and Superman move closer together, it's making the romantic "triangle" less weird. Lois may be redirecting some of her interest in Superman towards Clark, which makes Superman feel more comfortable around her.

Not that it was ever her problem to begin with. He created it when he set up the radically different, dual identities. Her response to them was pretty healthy. And as those identities become less different, her responses to them become less dramatic as well.

[From a 1939 Superman newspaper strip by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.]

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Daily Panel | Plenty of spunk

He may be a jerk to her as Clark Kent, but Golden Age Superman's always had a strong respect for Lois' courage. Here she's seeking an interview with a crooked politician who's known for physically assaulting reporters.

[From a 1939 Superman newspaper strip by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster]

Tarzan 101 | Tarzan of the Films: Burroughs-Tarzan Enterprises

Celebrating Tarzan's 101st anniversary by walking through Scott Tracy Griffin's Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration.

MGM's Tarzan films did a lot for the character's popularity, but they were a mixed blessing. While Burroughs had insisted that the studio create an original story for Tarzan of the Apes, he perhaps didn't count on their also dramatically changing the character and certainly didn't foresee that theirs would become the more popular version. The MGM films overshadowed the novels in terms of public appeal and Johnny Weissmuller became the Tarzan for most people. Naturally, that irked Burroughs.

To explain what he did about it, I need to clarify something I wrote last week about MGM's interest in the series. I said that MGM "thought they exhausted themselves after Tarzan Escapes and [...] let their rights elapse [...], but changed their minds and kept going." That's not entirely accurate. Since Griffin separates each film "era" into its own chapter, it's difficult to see how MGM, Sol Lesser, and Burroughs' activities affected each other, and some details fall through the cracks between chapters. So I got the information about MGM's letting its rights lapse from Wikipedia (shame on me), which claims that:
MGM had originally let the film rights elapse after Tarzan Escapes feeling there was little more mileage in the series [emphasis mine]. Independent producer Sol Lesser obtained the rights to make five Tarzan movies, but the first of these, Tarzan's Revenge, proved to be a flop. The blame was placed on audiences unwilling to accept Glenn Morris in the role made famous by Johnny Weissmuller. (Lesser had been unable to obtain Weissmuller's services as he remained under contract at MGM.) Ironically, this opened MGM's eyes to the continuing power of Weissmuller as Tarzan and they bought out Lesser's interest in the next three films, and restarted their series.
That's almost entirely crap. It's much more complicated than that and Wikipedia is combining various events into one story. I'm getting ahead of myself by sharing some of Lesser's story, but it helps understand what Burroughs did since all of this went on at the same time. Here's what happened as far as I can reconstruct it.

According to ERBzine, MGM’s initial contract with Burroughs was signed in 1931 and was for just two pictures, starting with 1932's Tarzan of the Apes. Griffin's section on Sol Lesser (which we'll cover next week) adds that Lesser had bought out an old contract from a couple of producers who'd signed a five-picture deal with Burroughs, but never produced any films. For reasons that aren't entirely clear to me, Lesser was apparently entitled to make his film or films first, but either MGM paid him to delay production or he allowed MGM to go ahead, knowing that their budget and publicity machine would create more interest in Tarzan movies, including - he hoped - his own. No one's really sure which and possibly it was both.

Lesser's first film wasn't 1938's Tarzan's Revenge as Wikipedia claims, but a 1933 serial, Tarzan the Fearless starring Buster Crabbe. It did indeed fail, and we'll look next week at why that was. We'll also look at Lesser's second Tarzan film, Tarzan's Revenge and why it also failed.

In 1934, MGM released its second film, Tarzan and His Mate, completing its contract, and here's where we get to Burroughs-Tarzan Enterprises. Burroughs took advantage of the end of MGM's contract by forming his own movie studio and releasing a 12-episode Tarzan serial that was more faithful to the literary version. His buddy Ashton Dearholt produced and directed 1935's The New Adventures of Tarzan and also played the villain. Herman Brix played Tarzan. I reviewed it several years ago in three parts and liked it a lot, especially the character of Ula Vale, a heroic woman who gets pulled into the story, stays involved because it's the right thing to do, and even rescues Tarzan a few times. Brix makes an excellent Tarzan and while New Adventures isn't completely faithful to Burroughs' novels, it gets really close. It's well worth checking out.

Unfortunately for Burroughs' new studio, he was in desperate need of cash. Most of New Adventures was shot in Guatemala, which was more expensive than anyone foresaw. Burroughs was also in the process of divorcing his first wife and marrying his second, so he was strapped financially. To get immediate money, he re-optioned MGM's contract for a third movie, Tarzan Escapes.

He also got some dough ($25-50,000 per film) for approving the sale of some of Sol Lesser's options to MGM, but I'm not clear on the timeline for that. ERBzine says it was during the production of New Adventures, so around 1934-35, but Turner Classic Movies suggests that it was later, after the failure of Tarzan's Revenge in 1938. Regardless of when it happened, Lesser sold the three unused films from his original five-picture contract to MGM, who turned them into Tarzan Finds a Son, Tarzan's Secret Treasure, and Tarzan's New York Adventure.

Whether or not MGM already had the last three film options when New Adventures came out, it certainly didn't want want to dilute audience interest in 1936's Tarzan's Escape. So, MGM flexed its muscles and kept New Adventures out of the top-tier theaters in the United States. It did well in Europe, but Burroughs-Tarzan Enterprises wouldn't make another Tarzan film and only released three more pictures, all in 1936: a crime drama (The Drag-Net), a Western (The Phantom of Santa Fe), and an Alaskan wilderness adventure (Tundra).

We'll pick up the MGM-Burroughs-Lesser saga next week with 1938 and a closer look at Tarzan's Revenge.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Daily Panel | 'Little girl getting bored?'

Clark, you ass. And just when Lois was starting to warm up to you.

[From a 1939 Superman newspaper strip by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster]

Monday, July 22, 2013

Daily Panel | Oooh, burn!

Superman uses his words to fight political corruption.

[From a November 1939 Superman newspaper strip by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster]

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Daily Panel | Lois apologizes

Lois learns that Clark has been working undercover to reveal the assassins. It's obvious that she really likes him; maybe because he's no longer going out of his way to appear cowardly.

His response to her - and his willingness to be seen as heroic in his Clark persona - could be evidence that he likes her too and no longer wants to push her away. Interesting character development and it'll be even more interesting to see how the new dynamic affects their working relationship.

[From a November 1939 Superman newspaper strip by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.]

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Daily Panel | 'It's going to be YOU!'

Since Superman keeps getting in the way of the assassination of the royal family, the would-be killers develop a genius plan to get rid of him. It involves giant mirrors and hypnotism, but the best part is that to bait the trap, they drug and kidnap the royal family.

Let that sink in. In order to capture the man who was preventing them from killing the royal family, they non-lethally poison and capture the royal family alive.

I've been enjoying these Superman newspaper strips, but this came close to making me put them away. At least Superman gets a good line as he smashes the bad guys' hideout.

[By Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster]

Friday, July 19, 2013

Daily Panel | 'My instinctive dislike for you'

Clark is pretending to work with the assassins in order to learn more about their attempts on the visiting royal family. Lois - conflicted about her feelings toward Clark - thinks she can finally make up her mind, but it'll be interesting to see what she does when she learns the truth.

[From a 1939 Superman newspaper strip by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster]

Blue Worlders hate cephalopods, part 1

[via Pulp Covers]

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Daily Panel | A cold, brittle silence

After Superman's done messing around with rescuing and spanking psychotic princesses, he returns to the party as Clark Kent. But Lois is not happy about being dumped. For whatever reason, she's softened enough on Kent to let herself be hurt by him. Very interesting.

[From a 1939 Superman newspaper strip by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster]

Tarzan 101 | Tarzan of the Films: The MGM Era

Celebrating Tarzan's 101st anniversary by walking through Scott Tracy Griffin's Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration.

Though the silent Tarzan movies were popular and profitable, it wasn't until MGM stepped in that Tarzan became a bona fide film icon. In 1930, the studio released a wildly (pun intended) popular movie called Trader Horn. It stirred the U.S. public's interest in Africa in a way not even the Tarzan novels themselves had accomplished and was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, but it also influenced Tarzan in a couple of significant ways. The production of the film inspired Burroughs' novel Tarzan and the Lion Man, while its success inspired MGM to pursue the film rights for Tarzan movies. After all, MGM had somewhere near a million feet of location footage shot for Trader Horn and needed a way to use it. (Incidentally, the on-location safari filming of Trader Horn also inspired the creation of another movie icon, filmmaker Carl Denham from King Kong.)

MGM of course cast five-time Olympic swimming gold medalist Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan. He wasn't trained as an actor, but that wasn't a problem. At Burroughs' suggestion (insistence?) MGM didn't base their movies on the novels, but came up with a whole new storyline featuring a less intelligent (but no less clever or charming), monosyllabic Tarzan. Newly discovered Maureen O'Sullivan was cast as Jane and the rest is history. Like with the silents, I'll do a brief rundown of the MGM films, all six of which can be found in The Tarzan Collection, Volume 1.

Tarzan of the Apes (1932)

Departs from the novels in several ways, including telling the whole story from Jane's point of view. Co-stars Neal Hamilton (Commissioner Gordon from the '60s Batman TV show) as a friend of Jane's father and a (not very strong, admittedly) rival for Tarzan's interest in her. The famous Tarzan yell was created using a human voice (Griffin doesn't specify whether or not it was Weissmuller's, but there's no reason it needed to be) that was sweetened by sound engineers, possibly with the help of some sort of woodwind instrument.

Tarzan and His Mate (1934)

Apes' success yielded a sequel and continued the story of the first film with the return of Neal Hamilton's character. It stands up excellently next to the first one (some argue that it's even better and I won't fight them on it), but is also infamous for including a scene of Jane skinny dipping (using Olympic swimmer Josephine McKim as O'Sullivan's body double). The Hays Office's Motion Picture Production Code was just finding its legs at the time and used Mate to demonstrate and solidify its power. The filmmakers were forced to reshoot the scene with Jane wearing clothes and the Hays Office went on to prohibit onscreen nudity and "suggestiveness".

Tarzan Escapes (1936)

Originally titled The Capture of Tarzan, this film got toned down during production, including the removal of huge devil-bats that were decided to be too scary for kids. From that point on, the Tarzan movies were considered by the filmmakers as being primarily for kids. This is also the film that introduces Tarzan's awesome, Swiss Family Robinson treehouse, so there's nothing wrong with that; it's just that there's a remarkable difference between the first two MGM Tarzan movies and the last four.

Tarzan Finds a Son! (1939)

Cementing the series' identity as children's fare, MGM introduced a young boy character. Since Tarzan and Jane weren't legally married, the kid couldn't be theirs by childbirth, so they find him in a crashed airplane. Interestingly, he's a Greystoke heir, though that part of Tarzan's heritage is never brought up in the MGM movies. Five-year-old Johnny Sheffield was cast as Boy (Tarzan's first choice for his name was "Elephant," but Jane put her foot down). By this time, O'Sullivan was getting tired of playing Jane and wanted out of the series (she was also pregnant at the time and looking forward to starting a family). In order to accommodate her, the filmmakers included a death scene for Jane, but preview audiences hated it and the movie was changed last minute so that Jane survived.

Tarzan's Secret Treasure (1941)

Griffin doesn't mention it and I couldn't find any information on how MGM got Maureen O'Sullivan back for this film. They were obviously willing to let her go after Tarzan Finds a Son and I don't know why they couldn't have just written her out between movies. If anyone knows, please share in the comments. However they did it, she's back. Other than that, there's not a lot remarkable about this one. It's fun, but doesn't add anything new to the series.

Tarzan's New York Adventure (1942)

You can tell that MGM's running out of ideas by this time. They'd actually thought they exhausted themselves after Tarzan Escapes and even let their rights elapse at that time, but changed their minds (more on that next week) and kept going. For this one, they uproot Tarzan's family and transplant them in New York City for a fish-out-of-water adventure. They got this one last appearance out of O'Sullivan by telling her she could wear modern clothing instead of her leather dress.

It wasn't O'Sullivan's leaving the series that killed it, but other factors caused MGM to dump Tarzan. First, they truly were out of ideas for what to do next, but probably more important was WWII and the loss of opportunities to show the movies in other countries. But even though MGM was done with Tarzan, Johnnies Weissmuller and Sheffield weren't.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Daily Panel | Superman spank!

Superman repays the princess for trying to stab him with a knife when she realized he didn't love her.

There are no heroes.

[From a 1939 Superman newspaper strip by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.]

Tarzan 101 | Tarzan of the Films: Silents

Celebrating Tarzan's 101st anniversary by walking through Scott Tracy Griffin's Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration.

Griffin's book covers a lot of ground in the chapters on the movies. He details the deals that led to each picture, interesting facts about their release and publicity, and the backgrounds and later careers of the various actors who played Tarzan and Jane. There's no way I can do Griffin justice, so I'm opting for a quick checklist with some useful information about each film.

  • The Lad and the Lion (1917; lost): Not really a Tarzan film, but based on a Burroughs story and served as a sort of test run for filming actors with live animals.
  • Tarzan of the Apes (1918): Starring Elmo Lincoln as Tarzan and Enid Markey as Jane. Child actor Gordon Griffith played Tarzan as a boy. The film only covers the first half of Burroughs' first Tarzan novel and about half the film appears to be lost. The surviving parts have been edited together as a special feature on Tarzan, Lord of the Louisiana Jungle, Al Bohl's documentary about the making of the film.
  • The Romance of Tarzan (1918; lost): Again starring Elmo Lincoln as Tarzan and Enid Markey as Jane. A direct sequel to Tarzan of the Apes that tells the second half of Burroughs' first novel. The movie's production was a shady deal because the studio (National Film Corporation) was only supposed to do one film, but after the success of Tarzan of the Apes used a loophole in the contract to make Romance since it was adapted from the same book they'd bought the rights to.
  • The Revenge of Tarzan (1920; lost): Starring Gene Pollar as Tarzan and Karla Schramm as Jane. Produced by Numa Pictures, this was what Burroughs wanted to be the second Tarzan movie, an adaptation of The Return of Tarzan. It was renamed Revenge when theaters mistook Return as meaning that it was a re-release of Tarzan of the Apes
  • The Son of Tarzan (1920): A 15-chapter serial starring P. Dempsey Tabler as Tarzan, Karla Schramm as Jane, Gordon Griffith as young Korak, and Kamuela Searle as mature Korak. Adapts the novel of the same name.
  • The Adventures of Tarzan (1921; 5 chapters are lost): A 15-chapter serial starring Elmo Lincoln again as Tarzan and Louise Lorraine as Jane. Based on the second half of the novel, The Return of Tarzan. First movie appearance of La of Opar (Lillian Worth).
  • Tarzan and the Golden Lion (1927): Starring Jim Pierce (Burroughs' hand-picked actor who would go on to marry Burroughs' daughter and also play Tarzan for radio) as Tarzan and Dorothy Dunbar as Jane. Adapts the novel of the same name and features Boris Karloff in one of his earliest roles as a native chief. 
  • Tarzan the Mighty (1929; lost): A 15-chapter serial starring Frank Merrill as Tarzan. It was loosely based on Jungle Tales of Tarzan and didn't feature Jane. Instead, Natalie Kingston played a love-interest named Mary Trevor.
  • Tarzan the Tiger (1929): A 15-chapter serial again starring Frank Merrill as Tarzan. Natalie Kingston is back, but this time she's playing Jane in an adaptation of Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar. Kithnou plays La of Opar. The last silent Tarzan film, Tiger was released in a semi-sound version with dubbed sound effects, including the first Tarzan yell (not quite the Weissmuller version, but historic nevertheless).

Pacific Rim review

By way of a disclaimer for my thoughts on Pacific Rim, I have to tell a quick story. My son loves giant monsters and giant robots. He's a fiend for Godzilla movies and something like Pacific Rim would normally be right in his wheelhouse. But whenever someone's asked him if he's excited for Pacific Rim, his response has been to shrug and say, "I wish it was Kill All Monsters." I can't say I blame him.

Anytime I analyze a movie, I try to follow Roger Ebert's advice about considering what the movie wants to be instead of what I wanted it to be. That can be difficult, but it's especially so when I've already created my own take on the genre. By definition, Kill All Monsters is what I want from a story about giant robots fighting giant monsters, so to the extent that Pacific Rim mirrors that, I'm thrilled. To the extent that it's different, I wish it wasn't. That doesn't mean that I think KAM is quantifiably better than PR, it just means that I'm too close to the genre to be an impartial judge and that you should take any of my criticism with a Jaeger of salt. It would feel more weird for me not to write about it though, so - as objectively as I can make myself be - here we go:

First of all, I really like the movie. There's a ton of stuff it does well and some things it does extremely well. The world-building is excellent and I love the origin of the monsters. It marries a couple of common kaiju origins in a unique way that leaves room for further exploration if we want it. The look of the Jaegers is cool and I also dug Guy Davis' monster designs (though I wish they'd been rendered in a way that differentiated them more: different colors or something). The two scientists are great comic relief and Ron Perlman's character may be my second favorite role he's played so far (after Hellboy). It's an exciting movie with everything I wanted to see in giant robots fighting kaiju.

I didn't totally love it though. Some of my problems were just aesthetic, like the silly-looking, synchronized movements of the mind-linked pilots. But there are story elements I wasn't fond of either. We're now entering SPOILER TERRITORY, so beware. It's awfully convenient for Pentecost to be able to drift with anyone just by clearing his mind. And I never felt a connection between Raleigh and Mako. I wanted more than just a sparring match and someone telling me that they're compatible. There's no chemistry between them and their relationship doesn't earn Mako's reaction over Raleigh's death. Mako's relationship with Pentecost felt more real, but even that could have used more development. I guess the unifying element of my complaints is that the movie took some shortcuts and would have been better if it had added some run time to flesh out some characters and spackle over rough spots in the plot.

Overall though, Pacific Rim is an exciting, fun film that's better - and certainly more original - than most other blockbusters. Had it paid a little more attention to its characters, it could have been great, but it's still a worthy film and one of the best kaiju movies I've ever seen.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Daily Panel | Enraged at Superman's indifference

Superman wasn't turned into a "quivering slave," so the princess' completely reasonable response is to murder him.

[From a 1939 Superman newspaper strip by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.]

Kill All Monsters in comic shops tomorrow!

According to Diamond, Kill All Monsters, Volume 1 should be in comic book shops tomorrow (July 17)!

 If you're a Kickstarter backer, keep watching your mailbox; I'm getting them shipped as quickly as I can sign and sketch in them. That's right, each Kickstarter copy comes with a sketch by me. You'll immediately understand why I turned my creative focus to writing, but hopefully it'll be a fun, rare thing to have in your Kill All Monsters.

Regardless of how you get your copy, it would be completely awesome if you could go to Amazon and leave a review. We've got one already (5 stars!), but the more the merrier. I'd love to hear what you think and it also helps people find the book when there are lots of reviews.

Finally in this roundup of KAM news, Otis Frampton finished his Kill All Monsters piece and it's so fantastic. Thanks again, Otis! This has to go in Volume 2!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Daily Panel | A quivering slave!

The princess means to have her Superman.

From a 1939 Superman newspaper strip by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Daily Panel | Superman, you dummy...

Even after all the princess' blatant harassment, Superman's still all, "Duh! Okay! Sounds important!"

Look! She can't even keep her hands off his chest AS SHE'S TRYING TO TRICK HIM!

[From a 1939 Superman newspaper strip by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster]

Saturday, July 13, 2013

DailyPanel | 'You're so strong!'

From a 1939 Superman newspaper strip by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

The princess is remarkably quiet here. Every other panel she's all, "If you only knew how I've longed to have you hold me like this," "Frightened? I'm thrilled!" and "You're so strong and I feel so safe with you!" She's truly shameless.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Daily Panel | 'Not that I'm jealous'

From a 1939 Superman newspaper strip by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

The Daily Star assigns Lois and Clark to a gala ball in honor of the king and princess whose lives Clark has saved twice, once as Superman and once as himself. The princess is in love with Superman and thinks Clark may know how to help her meet him, so she monopolizes Clark's time at the dance. Lois - who was already softening towards Clark before he did something heroic - insists to herself that she's not jealous.

And yet...

Tarzan 3D trailer

A couple of people sent me this link and I'm really grateful. Thanks, guys!

Even though the trailer is in German, you get a great idea of what they're going for with this movie. I'm concerned by some of the slapstick, but the settings are gorgeous and I like the character designs quite a bit. It's motion capture, but they're avoiding the Uncanny Valley by going a step or two into cartoon territory.

I suspect it'll be more of a kids movie than I'm looking for (and they're definitely messing with the origin story), but if I can find parts of the Disney version to like - and I do - I'm hoping that this will be a similar experience.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Daily Panel | 'Clark -- a hero!'

From a 1939 Superman newspaper strip by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

As Superman continues investigating the attempted assassination of visiting royals, he's forced to save their lives as Clark Kent when he doesn't have time to change.

This blows Lois' mind.

Tarzan 101 | Tarzan of the Radio

Celebrating Tarzan's 101st anniversary by walking through Scott Tracy Griffin's Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration.

After the success of the Tarzan movies (which we'll start looking at next week), you'd think that radio would be a step backwards, but there were still a lot of profits to be made by serializing Tarzan's adventures for the air waves. Burroughs made the first attempt at setting up a Tarzan radio program in 1930, but it wasn't until late '31 that the same guy who'd launched the comic strips got involved and things started moving.

Burroughs was still heavily involved though and cast Jim Pierce in the lead role. Burroughs had met Pierce at a party in the '20s and immediately wanted the actor to play Tarzan in the 1927 silent film, Tarzan and the Golden Lion. Not long after, Pierce and Burroughs' daughter Joan fell in love and got married (staying so until Joan's death in 1972), so Burroughs made it a family deal and cast Joan as Jane for the radio show.

The program debuted in September 1932 on KSTP, a Saint Paul radio station that still exists today, playing adult contemporary music. The series was one of the first pre-recorded radio shows (as opposed to live broadcast) and went for almost 300 episodes just adapting the first two Tarzan novels. The show was incredibly successful and spurred sponsor Signal Oil to start its Tarzan fan club that had to be aborted when it grew too large for the company to manage.

After the two novel adaptations, writer Rob Thompson wrote two original stories, Tarzan and the Diamond of Asher and Tarzan and the Fires of Tohr. The first was later adapted by Burroughs to become the novel Tarzan and the Forbidden City; the second became one of the early Dell comics. By the time Fires of Tohr came out in '35 though, the program had run out of steam and was only playing on 10 stations.

Burroughs tried to get it going again in '38, but it wasn't until 1951 - after Burroughs' death - that a second radio show started up. This one starred Lamont Johnson as Tarzan and was sort of a mix of the novel and film versions of the character. There was no Jane, but the show featured a lot of voice artists including some of the earliest work of future Bond girl (and Riddler henchman on the '60s Batman), Jill St. John.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Daily Panel | A conciliatory mood

From a July 1939 Superman newspaper strip by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

From out of nowhere, Lois extends an olive branch to Clark and invites him over for dinner. No hidden motives; no trickery so that she can outscoop him on a story; she genuinely seems to be trying.

Of course, he sneaks out on the date to go save some foreign dignitaries from assassination and Lois goes back to hating him, but this is still a big milestone for them.

I'm helping make a Bigfoot movie

My brother, Mark May, is a talented film editor whose work you may know from such hits as the Kill All Monsters Kickstarter video. He's now working on his first short film, a Bigfoot movie called Coon Creek. It started as a small project: a serialized feature starring his kids that he could send to our parents who are currently living in Haiti. It's grown over time to become a bona fide short film, though. It'll still star his kids, but it's more than just a fun vanity project now. I've read Mark's script and its spooky, funny, clever, and just really good. I've also seen the Bigfoot costume and... wow.

Mark's asked me to be involved as an executive producer (which mostly involves proofreading the script and helping brainstorm ideas, both during the development process and on set), so that's pretty cool. The point is: I'm now helping to produce a Bigfoot movie. One more off the Bucket List.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Daily Panels | Who's more heroic?

From June and July 1939 Superman newspaper strips by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

These two panels - parts of strips from two different days, but from the same storyline - highlighted something for me in a very clear way. Superman and Lois are both trying to uncover shady doings at a state orphanage. Both use exactly the same tactic to investigate: sneaking in through a window. Only one of them has superpowers.

Draw All Monsters | Otis Frampton

My friend Otis Frampton is an incredibly talented writer and artist who not only makes comics, but also works on a lot of the How It Should Have Ended videos. So I'm thrilled that he digs Kill All Monsters enough to want to to do a piece featuring the KAM characters. He recently posted this photo of the in-progress drawing and I can't wait to see it finished. We're definitely going to have to include a pin-up section in the back of Volume 2.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Daily Panel | 'The fate you deserve'

From a May 1939 Superman newspaper strip by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Superman investigates the death of a scientist who developed "the most deadly weapon modern warfare has ever seen." Of course, the scientist was going to give it to the U.S. government only for use in a "defensive war," but he's murdered by a gang of war profiteers and the formula is stolen for sale to a foreign power.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Daily Panel | Skyscraper of Death!

From an April 1939 Superman newspaper strip by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Superman investigates a series of deaths at a high-rise construction site.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Daily Panel | That ceiling's not even glass; it's concrete

From a March 1939 Superman newspaper strip by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Clark's coverage of the boxing story gets him a promotion at the paper (the Daily Star, in those days), but at the expense of Lois' job. The (at this point in history) unnamed editor sends her back to the lovelorn column where she immediately sniffs out a story about a smuggling ring. Can't keep that woman down.

Isis hates cephalopods

[via Siskoids' Daily Splash Page]

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Daily Panel | No hollow victory

From a March 1939 Superman newspaper strip by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster

It bothered me when Superman drugged and imprisoned a football player in order to take the guy's place and beat a crooked coach in Action Comics #4. I thought the newspaper strip might be headed towards similar territory when Superman meets a washed up heavyweight champ who was swindled by his manager, but right away there were some differences. First of all, Superman acts with the boxer's full cooperation when he disguises himself and goes to work. But more importantly, while he's out winning fights in the boxer's name, he's also helping the boxer train and rebuild confidence. That way, when the boxer decides he wants to step back in at the last minute and reclaim his title for himself, Superman gladly gets out of the way to let him. It's the first real moment I've cheered for Superman since starting to read these early adventures.

Happy U.S. Independence Day!

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Daily Panel | 'Hold me tight! I'm afraid!'

From a February 1939 Superman newspaper strip by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Superman's first adventures in the newspaper strip were a mash-up of a few stories from Action Comics, including Shuster's reusing some of the art. As in the comic books, Superman goes after crooks, but Lois is more involved. Freshly out of the lovelorn columns and eager to prove herself as a journalist, she sniffs out a crime organization by herself and gets captured. This panel is right after Superman's rescued her and I like it because it's a rare moment where he's not being a jerk to her (though he goes back to that when he drops her off at the paper and tells her to "stick to the lovelorn column from now on").

Tarzan 101 | Tarzan of the Comic Books

Celebrating Tarzan's 101st anniversary by walking through Scott Tracy Griffin's Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration.

Griffin covers the history of Tarzan in comic books from the character's first appearance in Tip Top Comics #1 (above) to his current status at Dark Horse. True to the roots of comic books in general, the earliest Tarzan comics were simply reprints of his newspaper strips. United Features started running the Sunday strips in 1936 in Tip Top, while the dailies began getting colored and reprinted two years later in Comics on Parade.

In 1939, Dell got into the game with new adaptations of Burroughs stories starting in Popular Comics #38. It would also be Dell who published the first original Tarzan comic book story in 1947's Four Color #134 with art by Jesse Marsh. Four Color was an ongoing anthology series in which each issue was devoted to a single character, but Tarzan got another issue that same year with #161 (the series wasn't a strict monthly and often had multiple issues each month). Those issues sold so well that Dell gave Tarzan his own series, with Marsh still drawing it, the following year.

Marsh worked with writer Gaylor Dubois to create a new continuity for Dell's Tarzan that combined elements of the Burroughs novels with those of the Johnny Weissmuller films. The series lasted 131 issues until the summer of 1962 when it switched over to Dell's publishing partner Western and its Gold Key imprint. Gold Key kept Dell's numbering and its Tarzan series ran another 75 issues until 1972. A major change in the Gold Key era was that Marsh retired in 1965 and his assistant Russ Manning began drawing the series.

In '72, the Tarzan license went to DC. They changed the name to Tarzan of the Apes and identified the switch with a big, yellow bullet that said "First DC Issue." But like Gold Key, they kept the numbering from the old series. Issue #207 featured a new adaptation of Burroughs' first book with art by Joe Kubert. And though DC got a lot of mileage out of their five years with the Burroughsverse, they ultimately lost it to Marvel in 1977.

Marvel's Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle - with art by John Buscema - ran 29 issues until 1979, at which point Tarzan comics ceased to be published in North America for more than a decade. Malibu published American editions of some European Tarzan comics in 1992, but it wasn't until 1995 that Dark Horse got the license and began doing brand new stories again. In addition to a 20-issue ongoing series, they published numerous mini-series and crossovers in which Tarzan met up not only with other Burroughs characters like John Carter and Carson of Venus, but also Predators, Superman, and Batman.

Though Dark Horse still has the Tarzan license, it's not currently publishing original Tarzan stories. Instead, it's focusing on archival reprints of classic comics by guys like Marsh, Manning, and Kubert. I'm happy for those, but that leaves new Tarzan comics to Dynamite, who's adapting Burroughs' public domain Tarzan stories in its Lord of the Jungle series. I understand that those are very good (and have the first volume creeping its way up my reading pile), but I'm also eager for new, original tales. Hoping Dark Horse gets back to those soon.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Daily Panel | The birth of Superman

From the very first Superman newspaper strip (16 January 1939) by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

The newspaper strip filled in all the Krypton stuff that Action Comics had glossed over, so this was the first appearance of Superman's parents. I think it's interesting that his mom bears a striking resemblance to another important woman in his life.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Daily Panel | 'It was inevitable that we should clash!'

From Action Comics #13 (June 1939). Written by Jerry Siegel; drawn by Joe Shuster.

What begins as a typical story of Superman's war on a protection racket takes a surprising turn when he learns that there's a super powered mastermind behind it. The bald man in the wheelchair calls himself the Ultra-Humanite, a play on Superman's own name, but instead of being super strong, he's super intelligent.

It looks like the Ultra-Humanite dies at the end in a plane crash, but Siegel and Shuster knew that they'd hit on something special and call attention to Superman's not finding the villain's body in the wreckage. "That finishes his plan to control the earth," Superman says. "Or does it?"

Kill All Monsters is almost here!

Kill All Monsters, Volume 1 shipped from the printers last week, which means a couple of things. First, it means that it's available for pre-order on Amazon (they don't list a release date yet, but stay tuned) and since Diamond should also be getting their copies, it should also be in comic book stores soon.

The good news for Kickstarter supporters is that I just got my copies, so I'll be starting work on getting those out next week. They don't really fit with my kitchen decor anyway.

While you're waiting, enjoy this interview that Jason and I did at C2E2 with Robert Million and the fine folks at Con Men:


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