Friday, April 30, 2010

Ancient Astronauts

OK, I'm going on a little rant today. There's a new series on the history channel called Ancient Astronauts, wherein we are told that whenever our ancestors referred to gods they were really talking about aliens coming down from the stars to bring wisdom to our poor, ignorant human race. They helped us to build pyramids all over the world, levitate stones for Stonehenge and otherwise bring us enlightenment. Oh please - what a load of crap. Are we really to believe that aliens came billions of miles across the universe just so they could help us build huge stone structures? The advocates of alien visitation also seem to ignore the fact that while the Egyptians built pyramids between 2630 and 1814 BC, Mayan pyramids (for example) weren't built until at the earliest 1000 BC, and the most famous was probably built by 250 AD. So I guess those aliens were visiting for thousands of years and the best they could come up with was stone pyramids. By the way, aside from a basic form, those pyramids (Egyptian and Mayan) don't really look much alike. I suppose the aliens also taught us how to sacrifice each other in bloody rituals that were carried out on many of the Mayan, Incan and especially Aztec pyramids. One commentator suggested that here were our ancestors going along building mud huts and then suddenly they were building enormous monuments out of stone. Well, no, they also built enormous monuments out of mud brick - but when the occasional rain storm came along the mud brick tens to turn back into mud, so they probably figured if we want it to last we gotta build it out of stone. Some of the Ziggurats (also pyramidal structures) in what is now Iran and Iraq, were built of mud brick and didn't fare so well over time. If the aliens were really going to be so helpful maybe they should have taught our ancient ancestors to make plastic - our own plastic bottles will be in landfills for thousands of years. Or maybe concrete - easier on the backs. Another commentator thought that the precise cuts of the stones were beyond our poor ignorant ancestor's ability to cut with primitive tools, but again I might direct their attention to Egypt, where there's an unfinished obelisk in the ground. The Egyptians were cutting it out of a huge piece of rock when it cracked and they just walked away so you can actually see how it was being done. They were using round stones a bit larger than a softball and pounding the rock thousands of times to cut out the stone, sharp edges and all. When they were done they would then move the obelisk to the shore, load it on a boat, float it to the correct location and then erect it using ropes and sand. No laser drills or levitation devices required - just a lot of time and manpower and the will to accomplish a task. I know a lot of people like this whole "Chariots of the Gods" stuff, and it makes an interesting science fiction yarn, but I didn't expect the History Channel to be catering to this fringe element of pseudo-science. I think the bottom line here is that our ancient ancestors who built the pyramids and did many other amazing (and sometimes terrible) things were just as smart as you or I. Intelligence hasn't changed much in 5,000 years - our technology just got better as we tried to find our way in the universe.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Golden Age action Figures - Dynamic Man & Dynamic Boy

Great scientists in their respective fields are disappearing and Professor Moore realizes there are evil forces at work in the world and decides to create an artificial man who has, "The power of steel, the speed of an eagle and the wisdom of the sages." Just as the good professor is about the throw the switch to "Inject the spark of life" into his artificial creation, a black bat flies through the open window and transforms into the evil being known as - are you ready for it - the Yellow Spot!! Just as the Yellow Spot plunges a knife into the professor's chest, he manages to throw the switch and next moment the artificial man named Dynamic Man appears shouting, "Death to the dealers of death!" and the Yellow Spot flees. Dynamic Man later tracks down the Yellow Spot and beards the villain in his lair, dispatching his minions, undoing his evil and finally snapping his little bat's neck, saying, "...the Yellow Spot is rubbed from the world." Sort of like getting the urine stain out of the carpet. Dynamic Man eventually takes on the secret identity of Bert McQuade, a high school coach, and suddenly has a brother named Ricky, or Dynamic Boy, to assist him in his evil-fighting tasks. Some commentators have attempted to rationalize the brother's appearance but I prefer to think someone thought it was a good story idea to give him a brother. Dynamic Man actually had a pretty good run of about 20 issues of Dynamic Comics, published by Harry "A" Chesler between 1941 and 1948. As for the action figures, Dynamic Man was made from a Toy Biz Cloak figure with the head from an Avengers Henry Pym, while Dynamic Boy was made using a Mattel Secret Wars Spider-Man figure and the head from a Batman and Robin movie Robin figure. The cape was cut from red T-shirt material the the clasp is a brass nail.
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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wednesday's Child is full of woe

I met Jasmine Grey (real name Michelle Grayshaw) in October 2005 after my retirement in August. She was appearing at the Motorcity Comic Con in Novi, Michigan. I was immediately struck not only by how pretty she was but also what a wonderful person. She was just so pleasant and bright and enthusiastic it was a real pleasure to be around her. She was an internet and figure model and she attended a number of conventions including Glamourcon in Las Vegas. Standing only 4'11" with all-natural measurements of 34D-25-35 she was a delight to the eye and the heart. I was thus terribly saddened upon learning she had died in an automobile accident less than two months after I met her. I little light went out in the universe, but she was a wonderful person who deserves to be remembered. There are tribute sites to her memory - just google her name - with remembrances from friends and family. This is my own special tribute to a beautiful person taken too soon.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Golden Age Action Figures - Death & the Devil

Yesterday I featured Yarko the magician and spoke of how powerful he was. Today I thought I would present a couple of his villains just to show the range of his power. In one of his stories a dark man, the personification of Death, joins forces with the devil to battle Yarko and in the end of the story he defeats them. Not too shabby. Yarko gestures and sends the Devil back to his own realm, but he admits to Death that he has no power over the Dark Man. He does, however, vow to do all in his power to save men from the clutches of Death. Death only laugh and says that he eventually always wins, then disappears. The Devil figure was made from a Spider-Man 2099 and the head from a Jurassic Park Muldoon II. The Death figure was made from a Toy Biz Joker figure and the head from a Toy Biz Superman, with the top hat from a Swamp Thing Dr. Deemo figure. I sculpted the dark glasses from epoxy putty and the cloak from red T-shirt material.
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Monday, April 26, 2010

Golden Age Action Figures - Yarko

To date I've mostly been featuring superheroes or super villains as action figure projects from the Golden Age. However, there were a number of other different types of characters in Golden Age comics. These included, but were mot limited to, magicians, detectives, old western heroes and various jungle characters. Many of the magicians may have been inspired by Chandu the Magician who had a radio show and was featured on film, or Mandrake the Magician, who, along with the better known Phantom, was created by Lee Falk and first appeared in 1934. Today I'm featuring one of the magician characters from Fox Features Syndicate - a publisher I've reported on in a couple of earlier blog entries. This one is Yarko the Great, Master of Magic, and a master he was. This guy practiced "real" magic - he could levitate, walk through fire and on water, become invisible, teleport, shrink, divert bullets with a mere gesture - virtually anything he willed he could do. However, in one story he is blindfolded, which nullifies his abilities, his magic apparently being focused by his eyes. Otherwise he's one of the most powerful characters in the history of comics. The action figure was made from a Superpowers Collection Joker figure with the head from a Bruce Wayne. The turban was made from Sculpy modeling clay - since its heat cured and I don't want to put plastic figures in the over I use a blow dryer, which works pretty well. The bow tie was from a Christmas decorative small plastic ribbon bow.
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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Golden Age Superheroes - Yellowjacket

Yesterday a friend of mine and I were discussing bee projects - she was going to paint a hat - so I decided to feature one of my own bee projects in the blog today. For those of you who are avid comic book readers I want to emphasise that this Yellowjacket is not the same character as Marvel Comics introduced as one of the many faces of Henry Pym. This is an earlier Yellowjacket, secretly Vince Harley, which was published by an obscure Golden Age comics house, Frank Communale Publications. Vince Harley was a mystery writer for Dark Detective Magazine who runs afoul of some real criminals. They dump a carton of bees over Vince - who keeps bees - hoping they will sting him to death. However, it turns out that not only is Vince one of those rare types of people whom bees do not sting (I'm not one of those, trust me), but he can also mentally command his bee brothers. So what does Vince do? Well, remember, this is the Golden Age of comics - so he dons a colorful costume and takes on the secret identity of Yellowjacket, fighting crime with his horde or buzzing buddies - his only "super power." Beginning in 1944 he fought crime for ten issues of his own magazine and two other titles before disappearing into superhero limbo. Interestingly enough Yellowjacket was not the first hero of the Golden Age to fight crime by commanding bees - Quality Comics Red Bee did the same thing and he may be the subject of a future blog entry. The Yellowjacket action figure was made from a JLA Superman figure. I used epoxy putty to form the gauntlets and Dremeled off the distinctive boot markings and belt details. The paint job on the body was pretty simple, but painting the plastic cape took a while - painting straight lines on a 3-dimensional surface can be a challenge sometimes. I really do like the look of the character though.
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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Golden Age Villains - Checker

What is a superhero without a stable of super villains?? Well, in the Golden Age a lot of the superheroes ended up battling less super foes. Criminals, Nazis and Japs were probably the most popular villains of the time - and let's face it, during the war you would actually have the hero kill Nazis and Japs without conscience because the real heroes were killing and being killed by them all over Europe and the Pacific. But that didn't mean there weren't super villains and today I'm presenting one of them. I previously featured Nightmare and Sleepy from Hillman Publishing and today I'm presenting one of their costumed villains - the Checker. His name derives from his choice of games - you guessed it - checkers!! The Checker takes the mayor of "Perfect Town ... the ultra modern city in the heart of America" - hostage to play a game of checkers. When the mayor loses a piece the town loses a building, starting with the firehouse, which the citizens are then required to Ransom back with their own hard-earned savings. (Really, I'm not making this up.) In the end of course Nightmare and Sleepy triumph and it's revealed the various building were on some kind of mechanical elevator system or something and were lowered to make them disappear. The mayor's male secretary was in on the scheme and his brother was the Checker. The figure was made from a Toy Biz Daredevil action figure and the biggest problem was painting all them pesky squares.
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Friday, April 23, 2010

Golden Age Action Figures - Alandra

In one of my earlier posts I mentioned that it was not uncommon during the Golden Age for publishing houses to farm out their comics stories and art to creative houses, for example the Eisner/Iger Studio. Today's featured figure is an example of this. I had discovered the cover to Fox Features Syndicate Blue Beetle comic #10 and discovered Blue Beetle himself beating a baddie into submission, apparently rescuing the curvy blond in the red dress tied to a rack. The thing that caught my eye was the sultry brunette in gold lame' pointing a gun at the Beetle's back. Then I discovered a little text box in the upper right hand corner beneath the DEC, 10c, which read, "Alandra the temptress sneaked up behind him - would the Blue Beetle turn in time?" Well, that certainly conjured a lot of images and I was really intrigued to learn more about the sultry Alandra the temptress, so I set off on a search to find Blue Beetle #10. Since most Golden Age comics are really expensive I looked elsewhere and eventually found a site that sold comics on CD and - low and behold - they had the issue in question. I bought the CD and when it arrived I immediately opened it to Blue Beetle #10 and breathlessly, with palm sweating, started reading the Blue Beetle stories searching for the alluring Alandra - yeah, I know, I don't get out much. Well what do you think I discovered?? No Alandra!!! She's not in the book anywhere!! I felt like a grounded flounder, hooked, reeled in and lying gasping out my last on the hot dry dock planks. But I had already done the custom figure and she was pretty interesting so what the heck. The Alandra figure was made using a Toy Biz Dagger figure, with some gold material I had from another project for the outfit. The Blue Beetle figure is a little different than the one I presented with the Sparky figure in my lame sick-kick name blog arc, this one with red gauntlets and belt instead of yellow and a different belt buckle - again the costumes during this period did change a bit over time. He was still made from a Hasbro Superpowers Collection Aquaman and the head from a Toy Biz Daredevil figure. Ah, Alandra, the beautiful betrayer, seduced another unsuspecting victim.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Golden Age Action Figures - Green Giant

From the very small yesterday to the really big today, this is the first and only comic book superhero character that I know of that was inspired by the mascot for a can of peas (ho, ho, ho). He is also one of the most obscure characters in the history of comics. He appeared in one issue of Green Giant Comics that was apparently only distributed in the greater New York City area in 1940. I have never seen the comic or any of the content. Apparently he was also known as Mr. Brentwood and could grow to a maximum height of 15 stories (everything's big in New York). Otherwise I don't know much at all about him. But I decided he would be a fun character to do so here he is. I used a 10" Toy Biz Daredevil action figure and glued a piece of cord around his waist as the rope belt. Otherwise it was just a lot of paint.
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Golden Age Superheroes - Fly-Man

I'm switching gears again today with an exploration of the very small and very large. Today we go tiny - tomorrow - well, tune in for the ho, ho, ho and I don't mean Santa. Today I'm featuring Fly-Man, the powerful but little guy from Harvey Comics. Harvey decided to try a new comics format with their Spitfire Comics, which was much smaller than the standard comic book format but contained 100 pages. Harvey tried a similar experiment with their Pocket Comics and Fawcett did likewise with their own Mighty Midget Comics. None of these were very successful - too easy to pilfer off new stands. That's probably the reason that Spitfire Comics and their Fly-Man character only lasted two issues. Fly-Man himself was heavyweight boxer Clip Foster, who's father, like many in the Golden Age of comics, was a great scientist working on a project to make fighting men really small. OK, now you might ask yourself why would he want to do that, but imagine a tiny army of thousands of these miniaturized warriors aboard a single plane dropped over an enemy target. Take the antidote and - POOF - instant full-sized army!! At any rate he's experimenting with the formula and, apparently being another scientist without lab rats (PETA would be proud) gives the stuff to his own son. Of course criminals are lurking just around the corner and pick this very instant to break in to steal the formula. They kill the scientist father before he can administer the antidote and spill acid on poor little Clip, disfiguring him in the process. Swearing revenge, Clip creates a costume, complete with functional wings (which looks like a cape), and assumes the costumed identity of Fly-Man - obviously to protect his secret identity (although he's horribly disfigured and the size of a fly) and his loved ones (oh, yeah, his father is already dead). Fortunately for Clip's sake he still had the same strength as he did as a normal sized adult, although I'm not sure of the dynamics of a 200 pound fly hitting someone in the jaw. Oh well, guess it made a good story. Wouldn't really know since I've never read any of his adventures, but he was kind of an interesting, unusual character, and that's the kind I like. I made the figure from a Superior Models Captain Crusher 25mm figure - one of three they did for a limited superhero line. It was also the first time I tried to cut a cloth cape that small.
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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tuesday's Child is Full of Grace

Someone asked me what all this Monday's Child, Tuesday's Child is all about. I perhaps erred in thinking that it was more commonly understood. At any rate, according to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, it was a sort of fortune-telling song or nursery rhyme. It was first published in England in 1838, but versions of it may predate publication, and was intended to predict the possible future for children born on particular days of the week. However, it has been used a little more broadly over time as everything from an episode of Star Trek to a weekly program for adoption of special needs children. I'm using it as a vehicle to spotlight "celebrities" I've met over time. For Tuesday's child I chose Yvonne Craig, an actress who made her first appearances in the 1960s. She played Batgirl on the Batman TV series (final season), appeared as a green alien girl on Star Trek, where she tried to seduce Captain Kirk before killing him, and in a number of other TV and movie projects. She even starred with Elvis in one of his movies. She had been hired for the Batgirl part specifically because of her dancing abilities and she truly was full of grace. I met her in 1999 and again in 2001 and she was very gracious. She was one of my crushes from my misspent youth when I was going through my brunette period, which included Linda Ronstadt and a more obscure actress named Anne Helm.

Golden Age Action Figures - Master Man

Today I present my second entry in the "superheroes killed off my DC Comics legal team" blog arc. This entry was from Fawcett (who eventually sold out their comics line to DC) but this was an early casualty named Master Man, lead hero from Master Comics. Originally appearing in Master Comics #1, he ran for six issues (March to September 1940) before Fawcett saw the legal writing on the wall and with issue #7 Bulletman took over the title. Master Man is stronger than untamed horses, swifter than raging winds, braver than mighty lions, wiser than wisdom (?) and kind as Galahad. I'm not sure how you become wiser than wisdom but that sounds pretty smart. In the opening the person who would become Master Man was a weakly little kid to whom a kindly doctor gave a magic pill called Vitacap which, with clean living and good food, turned him into the strongest man in the world, off whom bullets bounced. When he reached adulthood Master Man built a huge fortress with which to observe mankind and discover evil that he could thwart. In the lead story a gang of criminals invades a peaceful town and Master Man dispatches them and saves the orphans and their nurse from the burning orphanage and rescues the mayor's daughter from the crime boss. The action figure was created using a Toy Biz Daredevil body and arms, the legs of a Toy Biz Silver Surfer and the head from a Star Trek Paris figure. Star Trek heads really fit these superhero bodies very well. The large circle on his belt was created using a hole punch on a piece of sheet plastic.
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Monday, April 19, 2010

Golden Age Custom Action Figures - Wonder Man

I'm shifting gears again and will concentrate for a couple of days on superheroes killed off by Superman's publishing house - DC Comics. That's right - the Superhero Wars!!! DC found similarities between their characters and a number of others printed by competing publishing houses over the years. They had a running lawsuit against Fawcett for the Captain Marvel character for something like 13 years - eventually Fawcett got out of the comic book business and sold the rights to their characters to DC, who ended up using many of them in their own comics lines, including Captain Marvel himself. The first one they went after was today's highlighted character - Wonder Man. Victor Fox, who established the Fox Features Syndicate, saw the success of Superman and went to the Eisner-Iger comics writing studio and said he wanted another Superman. Wrong thing to say. Later, when DC went after the character for copyright infringement, Will Eisner had to admit in court what Fox had directed and the judge ruled in DC's favor. So there was only one Wonder Man adventure published by Fox. In it Fred Carson, a mild-mannered radio engineer and inventor goes to Tibet where he is given a magic ring that endows him with superhuman powers (you know, faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings, yada, yada, yada) with which to battle evil in the world. He goes to a foreign country and beats up on the evil dictator. Along the way he saves the girl and lots of other people. I actually rather liked the character. Marvel Comics later created a Wonder Man character who had the whole good guy/bad guy thing going for him. The Fox Wonder Man figure was created using a Superpowers Collection Superman body and the head from a Superpowers Aquaman. On the cover Wonder Man does not have a mask on but inside he does so I gave him a mask. The collar on his costume was created using a similar colored piece of felt. I should say that I only use acrylic paints on plastic action figures. I've tried enamels but they never dry and remain forever tacky.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Golden Age Superheroes - Lone Warrior $ Dicky

Maybe the conclusion I'm reaching here is that most of these sick-kicks had lame names. After all, even Robin, the Boy Wonder was a little lame to partner with the dark knight. Anyway, today's offering is from Ace Publications, featuring their characters Lone Warrior and his side-kick Dicky. These were in reality brothers, Stan and Dicky Carter. Their father, billed as the "world's greatest scientist," had whipped up a "Power Elixir" before he died and inoculated his two sons with it - sure, why try it on a lab rat when you can give it to your two sons. Anyway, it all turned out OK because the elixir gave Stan and Dicky super strength and super speed (and a "W" shaped mark on their chests), so of course Stan adopted the superhero moniker of Lone Warrior and Dicky took on the secret identity of - well - Dicky. And I'm not quite sure what was up with the Lone Warrior name if he had a sick-kick to start with. In the opening story Stan joins the army as Private Carter while Dicky is part of a boys camp where he's dressed like an Eagle Scout. They also have a "Wonder Ship," also invented by their father to aid his sons in their battle against evil, which is alternately a car, an airplane and an armored tank - he really was a great scientist!! Anyway, they only appeared in three issues of Banner Comics and one issue of Captain Courageous Comics before disappearing into superhero limbo. I am not aware of any revivals. The Lone Warrior action figure was made from the body and arms of a Toy Biz Silver Surfer figure, while the arms were from a Toy Biz Captain America and the head from a JLA Superman figure. Dicky was made from a Happy Meal Spider-Man figure and the head from a Jurassic Park Tim Murphy II figure. The shields on their belts were made from pieces of paper and glued to the figures.
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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Custom Action Figures - Black Lion & Cub

Today's offering in the lame side-kick name blog arc is Cub, side-kick to the Black Lion. The Black Lion appeared in Wonderworld Comics from the Fox Features Syndicate starting in 1941. Black Lion himself was really George Davis, a successful and as a result a very bored big game hunter who decides to pursue the most challenging prey of all - human criminals (maybe he should have gone after other Golden Age superheroes). After his brother Jon is killed, George takes in his nephew Larry, who becomes his ward and side-kick, named the cub. Kind of a cuddly name, isn't it?? They don't appear to actually have super powers and in the one story I have Black Lion seems to be readily knocked out by a baseball bat. The cat-like duo also drive around in a convertible - and not really a Lion-Mobile either. As for the action figures; the Black Lion was made from a Toy Biz Daredevil torso and head, with Toy Biz Silver Surfer arms and the legs from a Hasbro Bruce Wayne figure. The Cub was made from a Mattel Secret Wars Daredevil figure with the head from a Captain America. I cut the ears on their cowls from a black piece of felt and the capes were cut from pieces of black and red T-shirts.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Golden Age Heroes - Nightmare and Sleepy

As part of my lame side-kick names I present the dashing duo of Nightmare and Sleepy. Sleepy alongside a character called Nightmare?? How about Nightmare and Creepy?? Anyway, they are in reality Bob White, who's a professional wrestler, and his young pal Terry Wake. Bob makes Terry his manager in order to, "... keep me outta the hands of phony promoters!" as he says in one of their adventures. Maybe he should have gotten involved with one of those promoters because when the story opens they're arriving in town for a match on the train. Later we see Bob wrestling a bruiser who's dressed in traditional wrestling attire of trunks and shoes while Bob is still in his business suit, which is rather strange. But not as strange as the costumes Terry comes up with so they can attend the winners ball, which turn out to be their Nightmare and Sleepy costumes. At any rate, when the town is threatened they put on the costumes and fight crime in their new disguises. I'm sure the bad guys were quaking in their boots when Sleepy called out his name. Neither of them have any actualy super powers but they're both pretty tough customers and Nightmare seems to have a knack for problem solving. Anyway, this pair fought crime in Clue Comics by Hillman Periodicals, Inc. for about 15 episodes before disappearing altogether - and I'm not aware of revivals. Nightmare started in the fright mask and glowing skeletal costume in the center of the picture but later adopted a more traditional superhero type costume shown at right. Sleepy's costume changed a little bit later and he lost the cape, but I rather liked the one depicted here. As for the action figures - Sleepy was made from the body of a Mattel Secret Wars Magneto and the head of a Toy Biz Robin. Nightmare's fright costume was made using the body of a Toy Biz Silver Surfer, coupled with a skull I found somewhere and fitted to the figure. The more traditional Nightmare was made from a Toy Biz Daredevil, to which I added more prominent horns than old horn-head possessed.
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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Golden Age Blue Beetle & Sparky

Yesterday my lame superhero side-kick featured name of the day was Spark or Sparky. Today my lame side-kick name is - are you ready for it?? - Sparky!! This Sparky was from Fox Features Syndicate and he was side-kick to Blue Beetle, one of the most popular superheroes of the Golden Age and a character who's still operative today. Blue Beetle got his start in Mystery Men Comics #1 and later got his own title. He was, in reality, rookie cop Dan Garrett, one of those incorruptible types the bad guys can never subvert. He meets another one of those mad... OK, maybe eccentric, scientists named Dr. Franz. The good doctor has been working on a strength-enhancing formula, this time called vitamin 2-X, which would give its user superhuman strength for a short period of time. Dr. Franz selects Dan as the likeliest pill-popper and the rookie cop soon adopts the superhero persona of the Blue Beetle, creating a costume made of chain mail that will deflect bullets. In the 14th issue of his own comic Blue Beetle gets his side-kick, Sparkington J. Northrup (bet this kid got beat up on the playground a lot), who adopts a similar chain mail costume and pops the vitamin pills of his mentor. I understand the character later lost the costume and called himself Spunky - yeah, that was an improvement. Fox eventually got out of the comic book business and sold Blue Beetle to Charlton Comics, who updated and gave him a different identity and costume. The character was also - very briefly - published by AC Comics before moving on to DC, where he still resides today. As for the action figures, Blue Beetle was made from a Superpowers Collection Aquaman body, which I liked because the upper part looks like scales or chain mail, and a Toy Biz Daredevil head. The Sparky figure was made from various military figure parts - basically similar to 3 3/4" GI Joe figures. Sparky appeared both with and without the beetle on his chest and I chose to represent him without - after all, there's no beetle in his name.
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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Golden Age Heroes - Captain Red Blazer & Sparky

Today's offering is a curious pair of characters: Captain Red Blazer and his kid side-kick Spark/Sparky - the latest in my lame side-kick name blog arc. Published by Harvey Publishing, a character named Red Blazer first appeared in Pocket Comics in 1941 for a short run with a kid side-kick named Sparky. Then in 1943 a second character named Captain Red Blazer started appearing in All-New Comics. In the latter stories scientist Dr. Morgan develops something called "Astro-Pyro Rays," which he uses on a cowboy named Ted, endowing him with the ability to fly and the power to generate and control heat and flames. He eventually gained a kid side-kick variously named Sparky, or Sparkie or Spark, who gains similar powers and a similar costume, except he only gets one star on his cowl. These were actually text stories (most comic books contained text stories), but Captain Red Blazer and/or his side-kick made it onto the covers of at least seven issues of All-New Comics. I've never actually read any of their adventures but I really liked the costumes so I decided to make action figures of them. For the Sparky figure I used a sort of generic superhero riding a pumped up motorcycle that I found in a discount toy store. It was very similar to the Mattel Secret Wars type figures. For Captain Red Blazer I seemed to have cleaned out my parts box - I used a Toy Biz Captain America head, joined to a Toy Biz Daredevil body and arms and the legs from a Gideon figure. Overall I think they make rather striking figures.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Golden Age Heroes - Flying Fist & Bingo

Once again the names are both a little lame and once again they originated from the Prize Comics publishing house. They appeared in about 12 issues but I've only seen one. They are touring performers who bill themselves as "The complete vaudville show," and claim to be proficiant in songs, dancing, juggling, ventriloquism and just about anything else anyone can name. Flying Fist also had a knack for solving puzzles, which inevitably involved them in battling criminal elements. In one panel of the story I've read Flying Fist is referred to as Bingo's brother so that apparently was their relationship - maybe from a performing family. They also didn't seem to have secret identities so maybe it was Flying Fist and his brother Bingo Fist. Again, I'm not sure the bad guys would cringe in fear at the mere mention of Bingo's name but they did have a fairly health run for the Golden Age of comics. Of the two action figures, Flying Fist was made from a Bruce Wayne figure, while Bingo was made using a Mattel Secret Wars Daredevil figure and the head from a Toy Biz Robin.
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Monday, April 12, 2010

Monday's child is fair of face

As I think I've said before I have diverse interests and one of those is meeting celebrities. My Webster's defines celebrated as "widely known and often referred to," which probably covers a lot of ground. Anyway, I've met a lot of the great and near-great and thought I would periodically highlight a few. My first one was Linda Blair and her charititable work. Today I thought I'd focus on a beautiful young lady, originally from my own stomping ground of Maryland. Her name is Tiffany Taylor and she was Playboy's Miss November 1998. I've met her a couple of times and recently saw her in a Lamborghini commercial - hot babe in hot car, what could be better?? She is my Monday's Child bonus offering.

Golden Age Heroes - Airmale & Stampy

Continuing with my current theme of lame side-kick names I present two of the lamest characters in the history of superhero comics - Airmale and Stampy. They ran about 10 stories in Prize Comics between 1943-44, of which I've only seen a couple. They gained their "super-powers" when biology professor Kenneth Stevens was dressing for a costume party (see the picture). Before leaving he tinkers with a previously unsuccessful experiment which, when he cuts his hand, gets into his blood stream. The result is he becomes lighter than air. He quickly whips up a gravity control device!!! Wait - he quickly whips up a gravity control device??? You think I'm making this up, don't you. But look boys and girls, I don't make these stories up I just relate them as I sees them. If I was making it up it wouldn't be this lame. So yes, he whips up a gravity control device, which he incorporates into a belt buckle because he's now permanently lighter than air. So now he decides to use his power to float to fight crime. Guess he didn't figure he could fight crime with his feet on the ground. Somehow the power to float becomes the power to fly, which I suppose has a bit more momentum if you're delivering a punch and then you could actually go somewhere rather than just floating around at the whims of the wind. Anyway, he's later surprised when his nephew Bobby is sent to live with him and we're all surprised when the kid actually wants to be a floater as well, adopting the lame superhero sick-kick name of Stampy. The pair was revived - briefly - in 1990 by AC Comics as part of their Vault of Heroes story-line. A bunch of Golden Age heroes had been placed in suspended animation until they were needed and no sooner had these two been defrosted than they had their throats ripped out by one of the great Golden Age villains of all time - Iron Jaw (more on him in a future blog). It was merciful - for all of us. I made the figure of Airmale from a Toy Biz Tombstone (Spider-Man villain) body and the head of Playmates Captain Kirk - and yes, there really are wings on the head but unfortunately they don't show up very well in this photo. I made the wings from pieces of paper glued to the sides of the head. Stampy was made from a Star Wars Imperial Commander action figure with a head from something else I can't remember. Stampy's collar was cut from a piece of cloth and the circular belt buckles were cut from a piece of sheet plastic using a hole punch.
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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Golden Age Heroes - Hydroman & Rainbow Boy

Today's entry in the lame side-kick name blog arc isn't strictly a side-kick. Eastern Color Printing was the first company to put together a package of comic stories in a format that would eventually become the comic book in the early 1930s. They subsequently joined in the superhero publishing phenomena with their own stable of heroes. Two of these were Hydroman and Rainbow Boy, but they started their careers as solo heroes. Hydroman was Bob Blake, who's friend Harry Thurston created a formula that turned his hand into a water spout - although I'm not sure what he was really trying to create. Bob ends up getting doused with the formula and finds he can control his transformations by sheer mind-control and - of course - adopts the secret identity of Hydroman to fight crime and those pesky Axis bad guys. Where ever there is water Hydroman can make his transformation and manipulate the water column to stop cars and douse those bad guys. In a totally separate story line young Jay Watson, who works for the Wizard Kid Radio Program (rather like Billy Batson of Captain Marvel fame was an announcer for station WHIZ) has strange rainbow powers whenever he is exposed to sunlight (all I do is turn red when exposed to sunlight). He can use these powers to fly and to employ a coherent rainbow effect to manipulate various forms of matter. As far as I can tell the origin of these powers is never revealed. They started in separate strips but teamed up a few times. Rainbow Boy appeared in about eight stories while Hydroman appeared in over 30. I always wondered if the big burly bad boys would blanch and declare, "Oh, look, it's Rainbow Boy! We should all surrender now!" I don't think so. Anyway, I rather liked the look of these characters - Hydroman looks like he climbed out a bi-plane cockpit while Rainbow Boy looks more futuristic. The Hydroman figure was made using the body from a Toy Biz Magneto figure, combined with the head, arms and legs of a Toy Biz Daredevil figure. Rainbow Boy was created using the body of a Jimmy Squeaks figure (bad guy figure from the CHIPS figure line) and the head from a GI Joe Laser Rifle Trooper. I sculpted Hydroman's goggles using epoxy putty and made the rainbow thingy on the top of Rainbow Boy's head from sheet plastic. Painting the rainbow colors was actually kind of fun. And before you ask - no, my Hydroman figure does not transform into water, although I could probably put him in the oven and transform him into a puddle of melted plastic.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Golden Age Heroes - American Eagle & Eaglet

Today's custom action figure offerings are the American Eagle and his kid side-kick, the Eaglet. I'm taking this opportunity to shift from my patriotic hero theme to the lame side-kick genre that was so prevalent during the Golden Age. Anyway, the American Eagle was published by Better/Standard/Nedor and appeared in about 34 stories in Exciting Comics, Fighting Yank and America's Best Comics. In his secret identity he was a scientist named Tom Standish who, along with his young pal Bud Pierce, was exposed to a mysterious "black ray," which endowed them both with the flying and fighting abilities of America's national symbol - the American Eagle. I have a few of the stories and in most they seem to get knocked on the head and rendered unconscious, but bounce back and go smashing through doors and roofs and such. In one story some big bad guy is strangling American Eagle, who flies up into the air with baddy hanging on, then finally knocking him off - presumably to his death. Superheroes could actually kill people during the war because they were the "enemy" and that's what you did. After the war the heroes got kinder and gentler. Anyway, I rather liked the characters, but always found the name "Eaglet" to be a little lame. Was it the lamest - why heck no, as you'll see as we move along. As for the figures, I made the American Eagle from a Toy Biz Daredevil figure repainted and Eaglet was created from a Mattel Secret Wars Spider-Man figure with a Toy Biz Robin head.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Golden Age Heroes - American Crusader

Continuing my chain of patriotic superheroes from the Golden Age, today I present the American Crusader - subtitled as Defender of Democracy. This was a character from the Better/Standard/Nedor publishing house, appearing in Thrilling Comics, America's Best Comics and one Fighting Yank issue from 1941 through 1946. Secretly Professor Archibald Masters, following an encounter with an atom-smasher which probably would have resulted in radiation sickness and death for most people, he becomes endowed with super strength, invulnerability and the ability to fly. His secretary Jane Peters never figures out that the meek Professor Masters is secretly the Type-A personality the American Crusader. In the one story I have Jane is kidnapped by the Nazi bad-guys and taken to their underground lair. The leader says he has plans for her, then the action cuts away to the Crusader kicking Nazi butt. When it cuts back Jane, now dressed only in a white bra and slip is tied to a floating mine. Wonder what that nasty Nazi had in mind!! Apparently the Crusader also picked up a kid side-kick named Mickey Martin somewhere along the way but he's not in the story I have. As for the action figure, I used the body from a Captain America figure and the head, arms and legs from a Daredevil figure. It was handy using the CA figure because of the already existing star on his chest. I also had to stitch the cape, which needed to be blue on the inside and black on the outside. Later AC Comics revived the character and gave him an updated costume, which I may post later.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Golden Age Heroes - Eagle and Buddy

Today's custom figure offerings are The Eagle and his kid side-kick Buddy from the Fox Features Syndicate. The Eagle's first appearances in 1940 were in a less patriotic outfit and without the side-kick, but as war loomed for America the character joined the military (as Bill Powers, military intelligence officer) and donned a more red/white/blue look, and took on a ward in the form of Buddy in the tradition of Batman/Robin and Green Arrow/Speedy. I like the patriotic look so that's how I did the figures. They wore identical costumes although they weren't always quite the same. The ones on the figures were perhaps the more elaborate. The Eagle - at least in some stories - was able to fly but seemed to carry Buddy on his back so it doesn't look like the side-kick had any powers. The character appeared in about 36 stories between 1940-42, even having a 4-issue run of his own title. Both figures were made using Captain American figures. The larger is from a Toy Biz figure from the early 1990s, while Buddy was modified from a Mattel Secret Wars figure from 1984. I've found the Secret Wars line very useful as the basis for kid side-kick figures. For capes I generally use pieces of old T-shirts, which have the right texture and "hang" better than some other materials I've tried. The capes for Eagle and Buddy came from a little kid's T-shirt I purchased especially for this project.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Golden Age Heroes - The Fighting Yank

This time around we have the haunted superhero - the Fighting Yank. Bruce Carter III discovers the cloak belonging to his colonial-era ancestor Bruce Carter the numero uno. He also discovers the cloak has magical properties which endow him with super strength and invulnerability. Plus, whenever he gets into a really bad jam the ghost of his ancestor steps in and helps him out of it. Personally I think every invulnerable superhero should have a ghost looking out for them. I've read a number of Fighting Yank stories and the ghost shows up virtually every time to bail him out. Maybe he would have done better if the ghost wasn't around and he actually had to do it all himself like most of the other superheroes of the era. Anyway, Fighting Yank was actually a very popular appearing in Startling Comics and America's Best Comics as well as 29 issues of his own comic, altogether running from 1941 until 1949, published by the Standard/Better/Nedor group. The biggest challenge to doing the figure was the hat and the flag. I used a Daredevil body with the arms from a Bruce Wayne figure and a Superman head. The hat I sculpted from epoxy putty and the first one didn't come out very good so I demolished it and started over. The second one came out better. The flag was just a painting job, but very tedious. He had a number of variations of costume including some without the flag, puffy sleeves or skin-tight and that sort of thing. I rather liked this version the best.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Clash of the Titans - a modest review

I went to see Clash of the Titans yesterday. It was a remake (could one say update since both were set in the same time period) of the 1980s version, which was basically a showcase for Ray Harryhausen's stop-motion animation techniques. Of course this latest version uses the modern CGI techniques we've become accustomed to. The story is a bit different with Hades (God of the underworld) conspiring to bring down Zeus (king of the Gods) against a background of a war between men and Gods. A bit contrived but what the heck, it was fun to watch. The Kraken from the first movie shows up for the finale of this one, although there was no Kraken in Greek mythology. With so many wonderful monsters that are contained in Greek mythology I wonder why they felt the need to come up with something outside the the realm of that mythology. Pegasus the flying horse is in this one as well, although it's black rather than the traditional white, and so is Medusa. Actually in Greek mythology Perseus had gotten some winged sandals and a helmet from the gods which allowed him to defeat Medusa, who was one of three similar Gorgons and the only one who was mortal. When he killed her Pegasus was born from Medusa's spilled blood and it was actually the hero Bellerophon who rode Pegasus on his adventures. Bellerophon eventually got a bit cocky and decided he was going to ride Pegasus to Mount Olympus and join the gods there, but Zeus made him fall off to his death for the sin of arrogance and took in Pegasus. Maybe in the end the originals were more interesting stories.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Golden Age Superheroes - Captain Freedom

Today's patriotic hero is Captain Freedom from Harvey Comics. He had a pretty good run in Speed Comics, from issue 13 to 44. I've only seen a couple of Captain Freedom stories but it appears that his adventures were probably done by one of the "art houses" that proliferated during the Golden Age. That simply means that the art and stories were farmed out to "sub-contractors" who would do the stories without much regard for continuity. One of the things that makes me think this is that Captain Freedom wore (by one person's count) at least 16 different variations of uniform during his run. Also he had four kid side-kicks (rather than just one like Batman and Robin or Captain America and Bucky), one of whom was a girl of all things. Her name is Joanie and in one of the stories her hair is blond and in the other she's a brunette. But I diverge - getting back to Captain Freedom, he was secretly Don Wright, two-fisted, hard hitting, fearless young newspaper publisher who, in moments of peril, suddenly changes to the two-fisted, hard hitting, fearless superhero Captain Freedom. Cap falls into the category of "superheroes," like Batman, who doesn't actually have any super powers, but fights evil with his two fists.... well, you get the idea. For the action figure I used a Marvel Daredevil figure which I repainted in one of the 16 versions of his costume that I liked. I think all the 16 had the red skull cap and the yellow gauntlets, but the stars and stripes sort of came and went at the whim of the artist.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Golden Age Heroes - The Shield

I'm back to my patriotic superhero theme and what better one to highlight than the very first flag-waving super guy, the Shield. The Shield was originally published by MLJ (which subsequently became Archie Comics) in January 1940, predating the much better known Captain America, who didn't come along until early 1941. The Shield appeared first in Pep Comics and was revealed to be Joe Higgins, who's father was killed by the Nazis who wanted his formula for a chemical formula that would give people super-strength. Joe continues his dad's work and perfects the formula, which he applies to various parts of his body; i.e., Sacrum, Heart, Innervation (nerves), Eyes, Lungs, Derma (skin) - and what's that spell?? SHIELD, silly. Joe goes to work for the FBI but only the boss, J. Edgar himself, knows that Joe and the Shield are one and the same. He later had a kid side-kick named Dusty, about whom more in a later post. Ultimately the Shield was ousted not by Nazis or super villains but by a red headed guy named Archie, who basically ruled the comic company and gave it his name. The Shield was revived a few times, both by his parent company but also by DC Comics under license. My Shield figure was made from a Super-powers Collection Green Lantern, which I repainted. Not only did I have stars to contend with in this one, the stripes were also a bit of a pain but overall I think it came out rather well, if I'm the only one who says so.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Book Review - Naval Warfare by John Creswell

Just finished this book by Commander Creswell of the Royal Navy. It was originally published in 1936 but I have the revised edition from 1942. It is an examination of the strategy and tactics of the naval war during World War I, with most of the emphasis (obviously) on the British Navy. What I find especially interesting is that, as late as 1936, just three years before the outbreak of WWII, and even with some updates based on early WWII experience, his conclusions are that the battleship still reigns supreme on the high seas. He believes that submarines and aircraft are not serious threats to the battle fleet. He argues that a fast battleship well screened by destroyers should be immune from submarine attack. As for aircraft, while believing the jury is still out on their potency, still feels that the battleship can keep the sea and fend off all but the most concentrated of aircraft attacks. Certainly the battleship Prince of Wales and battle cruiser Repulse, which were sunk on the high seas by Japanese aircraft three days following Pearl Harbor, demonstrated that even fast battleships would be at risk when operating without air cover of their own. Creswell's conclusion that... "there seems strong grounds for believing that a fleet of battleships is a more effective basis for the control of sea communications than a force of aircraft embodying a similar or even a substantially greater proportion of national effort," seems unrealistic given the dominance of aircraft during WWII. It is interesting, however, to read a contemporary assessment to put the period into historical context.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Golden Age Custom Action Figure - Man of War

Another patriotic action figure, this time from the the Golden Age publisher Centaur. Actually if you look at the powers of many of the various superheroes down through the long history of the genre, this guy is probably one of the most powerful ever. Created my the god Mars, he possessed all of the powers of all of the gods of Olympus, plus he was given the sword of Mars which could cut through anything. Mars had created him to serve the Nazis, who Mars admired, but then the God of War screwed up and made him appear in Dayton, Ohio of all places, so he ended up serving the allies rather than the bad guys. Originally appearing in Liberty Scouts #2, he later had his own short lived comic before going the way of the pagan gods who inspired him. The character was revived in the early 1990s by Malibu Comics for their short-lived Protectors series and most recently by Dynamite for their Project Superpowers. The action figure was created from a Captain America figure, repainted and with a sword hung at his side. More painted stars, but I'm especially proud of the eagle on his chest which was done freehand.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Golden Age Custom Action Figure - The Liberator

The Liberator was another early Golden Age patriotic hero - this one from the company with multiple names (Better/Standard/Nedor at various times) - and first appeared in Exciting Comics in 1941. The Liberator was, in reality, mild-mannered Professor Nelson Drew, who was transformed by a liquid substance called "Ancient Egyptian Lamesis." In the two stories I've read of the Liberator's adventures he carries the stuff around in a bottle marked as poison and the bad guys feed it to him thinking it will kill the professor rather than turning him into an indestructible superhero. Well, sort of indestructible. In both stories he gets conked on the head and rendered unconscious even though he gets caught in an explosion and survives without a hair out of place later on. I guess he only gets knocked out when it's convenient to the story. I used a Daredevil body, Silver Surfer arms and the head from an old Visionary figure as the basis for this figure. Have I mentioned what a pain it is to paint little bitty stars?