Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Baywatch Babe - Gena Lee Nolin

More excitement from Motor City Comic Con. I had an opportunity to meet and visit with Gena Lee Nolin for a bit. For those of you unfamiliar, Gena was on Baywatch as Neely Capshaw and went on to star in her own TV series based on Sheena the Jungle princess - I featured the custom Sheena action figure on this site some time ago so check it out. Gena told me that she had an opportunity to meet Irish McCalla, who played in the 1955 TV version of Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, before the actress' death a couple of years ago. Gena also did a saucy pictorial in the December 2001 issue of Playboy. I've also met Tanya Roberts, who played Sheena on the big screen. There was a plethora of jungle girls during the Golden Age and some since, but Sheena was first and still one of the best. I may feature a few more of them as time goes by. I'm sure they are considered sexist and not very PC (Politically Correct), but I like them so that's what matters.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Candian Superhero - Captain Canuck

I have mostly (with a couple of exceptions) concentrated on heroes of the Golden Age on this blog. Today I thought I'd feature a Canadian superhero who, unlike some of those created for American comics like the heroes and heroines of Alfa Flight, was actually produced in Canada. Captain Canuck was published by Comely Comics from Richard Comely. It was first published in 1975 but was set about 20 years in the future where Canada has become one of the principal super powers on earth. He started life as Tom Evans, who had been a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman (RCMP) before receiving superhuman strength through contact with extraterrestials. He subsequently assumes the Captain Canuck persona and goes to work for the much more secret Canadian Secret Intelligence Services (CSIS). As with a lot of independent comics Captain Canuck experienced publishing interruptus after three issues, then returned under new management in 1979, running until 1981. There were revivals in 1993 and 2004 that I don't know much about. I will say that one of the stories I enjoyed the most was published in issue #10 from August 1980, wherein the good captain arrives in Winnipeg in trench coat and hat trying to maintain a low profile as he takes a cab en route a secret meeting. It was the morning after a masquerade party and the cab gets plowed into by a girl in a pixie outfit. She is being pursued by a group of men in various costumes (Viking, clown, cowboy, strongman and Don Quixote) so the captain and his cabdriver new best buddy Fred try to help the girl named Leona get away as she tells them one story after another about why they are after her. It was pretty entertaining and different from most of the comic stories I've read. I guess I always was a sucker for larcenous damsels in distress. At any rate the Captain Canuck figure was made using the head and body from a Toy Biz Daredevil and the arms and legs from a Captain America.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Motor City Comic Con - Let's Play Dress-Up

OK, so I'm walking down through the convention on Saturday (14 May) when I hear this heavy, mechanical breathing behind me and I think, "Oh God, Darth Vader is following me!" And I'm in this crowd of people so there's sort of no way I can artfully side-step and clear his path, so I just continue on along until finally the crowd opens up and Darth goes his separate way. Now I'm sure that the guy behind the mask meant me no harm and I didn't really feel threatened, but it was still a little uncomfortable having this nearly seven foot tall heavy breather walking along behind me. At any rate, at the Con there are a lot of people in costume. Frankly, although there are a few celebrities from Star Trek and a few people dressed in Star Trek outfits, there are far more Star Wars and superhero costumes. There's a whole group of Star Wars associated folks who have a large display and do charity work in their spare time, which is pretty nice. As for the girls - the one on the left is dressed as Leeloo from the movie Fifth Element and the girl on the right is Princess Leia in her "Prisoner Leia" outfit from Return of the Jedi. Frankly I would have voted for either one of them in the costume contest. More Con releted stuff in future.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Black Dwarf - And Not the Astronomical Kind

The Black Dwarf started life as Daniel "Shorty" Wilson, a former pro football player who decides he doesn't like the criminal element so he's going to adopt a costumed crime-fighting persona. Now I don't like crime either, but I don't think after adolescence I ever seriously considered taking on the underworld in a strange costume. Nevertheless, the Black Dwarf is born and really seems to take on crime more like the older pulp heroes, with two blazing .45 automatics rather than just his fists, which is probably a good thing - how many criminals would otherwise quake in their boots at the approach of someone called the Black Dwarf. He supposedly stands under 4'10," hence both the nicknames Shorty and Dwarf, although technically he really isn't short enough to qualify as a real dwarf. He also takes on three reformed criminal sidekicks - Patricia "Arsenic" Gaynes, apparently a former queen of the blackmail racket; Joseph "Nitro" Lemerise, an explosives expert; and Terry "Fly" Holcomb, literally a human fly. They first appeared in Spotlight Comics in 1944, published by the Harry 'A' Chesler/Dynamic Comics publishing house and later moved over to Red Seal Comics, where he lasted through 1947, for about 18 issues total. He's rather a curious character, blending comic book masked vigilantes with the earlier pulp variety like the Shadow or Spider, although he didn't actually wear a mask. I've only read one of his adventures, although I understand most of his villains didn't survive their encounters with him. As for the action figure, I used the body from a Robotech Master for the puffy sleeved robe outfit he seemed to wear, the head from a Hasbro Star Wars Han Solo figure and the Gaucho hat from a Zorro Sergeant Garcia figure. The cape was cut from a piece of T-shirt material.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Rendezvous with Olivia

One of the people I really wanted to meet at Motor City Comic Con was Olivia D'Abo. I had seen her early in her career in Conan the Destroyer and Bolero with Bo Derek. She went on to a few seasons as Karen, the Hippie sister on the Wonder Years, and in the movies Greedy, where she played Kirk Douglas' sweet young girl friend and a number of other movies over the years. She was my first stop when I arrived at the show and we had a nice little chat. I had heard that she had appeared in a revival of the Odd Couple on Broadway and apparently live theatre is now in her soul and she's thinking about moving back to New York from California to pursue more stage work. She also told me that she would be at the Chiller Theatre show in October in New Jersey along with her cousin Miriam D'Abo, who I also like, so I might have to make it to that little rendezvous. Maybe I can get a picture with the two of them - I do so like group events.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Yuri the Whale Catcher

As a collector of (among other things) little waterline ship models, and being rather creative to boot, I'm always looking for ships I can convert. I had read that the German liner Hamburg, which had been built in the 1920s for the Hamburg-America Line, was sunk by a mine in 1945 and was subsequently raised by the Soviet Union in 1950 and rebuilt. During the rebuilding they decided to convert the ship to a new role as a whale factory ship. In this role she would serve as a mother ship to a small fleet of much smaller whale catchers and would process, can and freeze their catches. Renamed Yuri Dolgoruki, the ship operated in the Southern Hemisphere during the 1960s to early 1970s, killing some 7200 Humpback Whales. I like to build up my Soviet ship collection whenever possible but I didn't have much material on the Yuri Dolgoruki until finally I found a few pictures. In the accompanying photo the original Hamburg model is in the foreground with my version of the Yuri Dolgoruki behind. I used the after section from a Carnarvon Castle on the stern, replaced the twin stacks with one I had in the scrap box from a 1:1200 model and fitted her out with a number of cranes and kingposts. The Hamburg models are Seabattle miniatures. I'm thinking of scratch building a Greenpeace ship to go with her.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Superhero Sidekicks - V-Man's V-Boys

A long time ago in a galaxy not so far away (actually it was July 4, 2010) I presented the Fox Features Syndicate superhero V-Man, one of the crop of patriotic heroes that sprung up during World War II. I reported then that V-Man didn't have just one sidekick but actually three called the V-Boys. There in fact appears to have been a corps of V-Boys, but there were three principal ones. In the inset picture lower left you can see a group of them pledging themselves, "...The V-Boys Defense Corps... for victory... for defense... to the fullest devotion to our country and our flag!" A more jaundiced eye might remark that it looks more like they're all giving the fascist salute, but I'm sure that's not what the artist intended. At any rate, there's nothing like dragging a bunch of kids along when you go off into a private war against the Nazis. The reason I had been procrastinating over the V-Boys was I didn't really have suitable basic figures. I recently acquired some and did four conversions. The two in red sweaters (named Bo) are from the Kenner Glamour Gals line of figures, with the one on the right having the original head and the one on the left having the head from a bicycle figure. The figure in the blue sweater is an Alex Luthor from the DC Infinite Universe line, which I painted appropriately. The smaller figure at lower left was an unidentified loose figure I picked up somewhere and made another member of the V-Boys Corps.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Meeting Tricia Helfer

As I mentioned, I attended the Motor City Comic Con this past weekend in Novi, Michigan. One of the headliner celebrities making an appearance was Tricia Helfer, the infamous Number Six from the rebooted/re-imagined series Battlestar Galactica. A Canadian model and actress, she's since appeared in a number of series TV shows and appears to be rapidly developing a substantial career. One of the reasons I attend shows (you can buy autographed pictures of most celebrities off their sites) is because I like to have that sort of personal moment with the person. I do not believe I am likely to be afforded a peep within their inner soul in such brief meetings, but it does personalize the experience for me. Some of those experiences have been less than expected or hoped for, but Tricia was very nice and seemed to have a few moments with each person for a little verbal exchange. Overall, I thought she was very nice. I would have liked to have had a picture with her but she was only doing that at 4:30 in the afternoon and I wasn't going to be around and she wanted $40 for the picture with your own camera, which I thought was a little expensive. Another guy who was standing in Tricia's line said she wouldn't just sign photos but insisted on personalizing them because she had become aware that people were reselling autographed pictures of her on ebay. Well, duh.... That's the way the after market works after all. I suppose I felt bad for Cindy Williams (of American Graffiti and Laverne & Shirley fame) who's table was next to Tricia's. In the time I was standing in line for Tricia's autograph I think Cindy only had one fan stop by to see her. That had to be a little depressing for Cindy.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Motor City Comic Con 2011

I haven't posted for a few days because I've been off attending the subject convention. I've been attending this event in Novi, Michigan, outside Detroit for over a decade now and really enjoy it - even if it is a long drive. This year I met a number of celebrities who I'll be posting pictures of over the next week or so. I also met the ladies of Formal Models (see www.facebook.com/formalmodels), who were dressed in superheroine costumes for the show. That's Nikki on the left as Supergirl, Christina as Wonder Woman and Lauren as the female Flash. They were all very sweet and helped make the show memorable for me.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Superhero Action Figure - Dollman

Arguably the most popular superhero character created by Quality Comics, Dollman started life in Feature Comics #27 in 1939, continuing through #139 in 1950, plus 47 appearances in his own magazine. Not bad for a pint-sized superhero. Chemist Darrell Dane discovers a formula that can make a human being shrink to six inches tall. Now why he might be looking for a formula like that or what he hoped to accomplish by finding it remains to be seen. But discovering it, when his girlfriend Martha Roberts is threatened, rather than leap into the fray full-sized, he gulps down the liquid and jumps in standing only six inches tall. This is another superhero I would think would have a credibility problem. I can hear the bad guys scream out, "Oh, look, it's a little six inch guy coming to beat us up." Then the boss responds, "Oh, woe is me, the jig is up now, the little six inch guy has us dead to rights." And then the boss's girlfriend comments, "Are you sure he's six inches - you always told me that was eight inches." Anyway, Dollman's major advantage was that, despite the fact that he was only six inches tall, he retained his full weight as a normal sized human, otherwise he wouldn't have been beating up on anyone. At least he was good at sneaking around and with the help of a miniature model airplane he could fly. But wait! If he retained his full weight even when shrunken to six inches then how could he fly on the airplane? Whoops - did we just suspend credulity?? Oh well, it still makes a good story. And since I have read a few of his stories I can attest that they were fairly decent stories for the period. The "action figure" is a metal miniature from a company called Grenadier, which I'm not sure is still in business. It was actually one of my early efforts at customizing action figures. As I look at it I'm not real happy with the paint job so I probably need to go back and repaint it. The figure I used for Doll Girl (Dollman gave the formula to his girlfriend later in the comics run) also isn't up to speed so I need to redo her as well. Can we say "works in progress?"

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Golden Age Heroes - Manhunter & Thor

Today I'm featuring another Quality Comics superhero who calls himself the Manhunter. He fights crime alongside his faithful dog Thor (are any of these dogs ever unfaithful? and should I even be asking?). Manhunter first pops up in the pages of Police Comics #8 in 1942 and ran through #101 in 1950 so he had one heck of a run. Starting life as rookie cop Dan Richards, he becomes disgruntled with the way criminals are getting off the hook by manipulating the legal system so, like a number of other characters I've featured here, he decides to take the law into his own hands. Rather than opening his own private detective agency or such, Dan decides to put on a colorful costume and turn into a masked vigilante in his spare time. Yada, yada, yada. Heard all this before. Of course the costume as presented here isn't really that colorful but it did appear to change over the course of the character's run, sometimes bare-legged and sometimes with a big yellow ball on his chest - not sure what that was all about. The Manhunter is aided by Thor the Thunder-Dog, who always seems to be hanging around whenever Dan is in his police duds, but then shows up when he changes to the Manhunter fighting togs. I think later Dan gets a dog whistle to summon Thor. I have only seen two of the actual stories and both are fairly routine cops and robbers sorts of tales. But you know, any excuse to exercise a bit of vigilante justice, eh?? The character was later revived by DC, although they had their own Manhunter character that morphed quite a bit over time. The Manhunter action figure was made using a Toy Biz Superman body and arms and the head and legs from a Toy Biz Green Lantern. As for Thor, I've seen several pics of the dog and he appears to change breeds, probably depending on the artist. Maybe it's just a mutt, which is also fine. I happened to have a small dog in my "dogs & cats" box and found one that looked to be growling and poised to strike, which seemed to fit Thor pretty well. Had to paint it though.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Thor Movie Review

I haven't done the first day movie thing for a number of years but I'd been looking forward to seeing Thor so I took the plunge. Glad I did. It was a little crowded but not enough to spoil the experience. Up front let me just say it is well worth going to see. I think superhero movies are finally coming into their own. This one had class and dignity and was really the story of self-discovery for the primary hero and maybe some of the secondary characters as well, both for good and ill. Kenneth Branagh, who directed, was apparently a fan of Thor in his youth, finding him different from the normal run of the mill superhero characters. There was always a certain regal quality to the character, even when he was being brash and head-strong and I think Branagh captures it well here. Chris Hemsworth, who plays Thor, does a good job of capturing the hero on his journey. Natalie Portman, playing Thor's love-interest Jane Foster, brings a sort of scientist geeky charm to the character that is quite endearing. Anthony Hopkins as Odin demonstrates once again that there is really no limit to his range as an actor. But Tom Hiddleston as Loki is really the guy to watch. I'm not sure what he's done in the past but he really captures my vision of the sneaky, conniving Loki and actually provides the glue that holds the movie together. OK, now for a couple of niddling little points. In the first scene where we see Thor for the first time it's from the back and he's wearing the helmet. But he takes the helmet off and we never see it on him again! I really like the helmet so that was a bit of a spoiler for me. I was also mildly amused by the casting of multi-ethnic actors in roles as Norse Gods, but I realize that we live in a PC world and didn't find it distracting. Then there's the fact that you have to wait around until all of the credits have rolled for a real teaser at the end. I'm not going to spoil it but, like all of the Marvel movies building up to the Avengers it gives a hint of what's to come. Oh, come on, I'm not going to tell. I had to sit through all the credits so you can too. All in all I think the movie was a credit to the character as I fondly remember him from the comics and I highly recommend it. But be on the look out for Stan the Man Lee, who makes his regular cameo, but if you blink fast you'll miss it.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Golden Age Superheroes - The Ray

I'm sticking with Quality Comics again today for my latest superhero - the Ray. He first appears in Smash Comics #14 (September 1940) and lasted through #40, which was a pretty good run for the Golden Age. This time we have a reporter named Happy Terrell, who is taking a high level balloon ride when he's exposed to lightning or radiation and endowed with superhuman powers. Sounds a little like a quartet of regular folk taking a ride on a rocket when they get exposed to cosmic rays and become the fabulous Fantastic Four, doesn't it?? Anyway, Happy is even happier now that he can fly on light rays, control magnetic rays and turn into pure energy, depending on the amount of ambient radiation he's exposed to. Of course, rather than get a job in a circus where he could take his act on the road and get engaged to the bearded lady, he turns his newfound powers to fighting crime. One thing I will say is that with artists like Lou Fine and Reed Crandall working on the strip he was certainly one of the best looking heroes to ever grace the comic book pages. Later, after DC took over the Quality line of heroes, the Ray was incorporated into the Freedom Fighters and then suddenly had a son who followed in his footsteps - I'm not sure how he got his powers. As for the action figure, I used a Michael Keaton Batman figure, stripping off a good deal of the detail of belt, boots and gauntlets with my handy Dreml tool. I also cut the little doo-dad on top of his head from a piece of sheet plastic and painted him yellow. I selected this particular figure due to the scallopped neck-piece on the original Batman that was similar to what the Ray had. (A customizers hint - 'tis easier to remove stuff than it is to add stuff.)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Golden Age Superheroes - Red Bee

Today I'm featuring another Quality Comics character from the early days of the superhero renaissance in comics. Red Bee first appeared in Hit Comics #1 in July 1940 and continued his adventures in those pages through issue #24, appearing on four of the covers. The back story was another one of those disgruntled law enforcement officers, in this case Assistant District Attorney Rick Raleigh, who decides to pursue the law during the day and justice at night by adopting a secret vigilante identity. With no super powers Red Bee fights crime with a special stinger gun and a trained bee named Michael he keeps concealed in a secret pouch on his belt (remember I'm not making these things up). When required Michael is released to sting the guy who's holding a gun on Red Bee and in other ways works with this guy who's imprisoned him in a special pouch on his belt and won't let him go hunt pollen for the hive and serve the queen like he really wants to. OK, they were obviously scraping the bottom of the superhero idea bin when creating this guy but he still ran for 24 issues. I have even seen Red Bee referred to as one of the lamest or one of the crappiest heroes in the history of comics. DC Comics actually used him in their earth X/Freedom Fighters story arc, but I suspect Michael was probably dead by then. Ya think? Maybe he was using Michael-45 by then. As for the action figure, I used a Toy Biz Green Lantern with an Aquaman head and the arms from a Superpowers Collection Firestorm who had the puffy sleeves. By the way, the original diaphanous puffy sleeves later became pink puffy sleeves, which also prompted some pundits to question Red Bee's sexual orientation.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Golden Age Hero - Neon, the Unknown

I abandoned the Quality publishing house for a couple of United Features Syndicate heroes, but now I thought I'd return to Quality for today's post. Presenting Neon, the Unknown. Whereby, brave but abused French Foreign Legionnaire Tom Corbet and his squad are sent out into the cruel desert by their even crueler lieutenant chasing an African tribe that's supposedly making mischief. All the squad but Tom succumb to the heat and parching thirst but Tom presses on, despite the fact that without his squad it's a fool's errand at best. Anyway, Tom stumbles upon an oasis with glistening water and takes a drink, whereupon he is transformed into the superhero Neon, the Unknown, energized by neonic powers so he can fly, he glows and he can fire energy bolts from his hands. OK, just a minute - neonic powers from an inert gas used to light up commercial signs and the dorm rooms of college students? What's up with that? But then, flash on another inert gas that may have inspired the writer - krypton gas. And who's the guy we associate with Krypton? Why Superman of course. Could it be - krypton and then neon - do we have an association?? I suspect so but what the heck, he didn't garner any lawsuits from DC Comics so who am I to say? Anyway, Neon's first act is to dispatch an attacking tiger with bolts from his hands. Wait a minute!! A tiger in Africa?? But tigers are native to Asia, aren't they?? Well, never let it be said the jungle comics didn't play fast and lose with those little details. Anyway, Neon sets off in his first comic adventure to defeat Morgan Crookes (get it, crooks), a retired rich guy who's using natives in Africa, Australia and South America in a bid to take over the world by training the savages in the use of modern weapons including aircraft. (Remember, I don't make this stuff up.) Neon returns to his Legionnaire unit and leads them against Crookes' minions, defeating them of course. Altogether Neon runs from Hit Comics issue #1 through 17 by Quality and is then revived later as part of the Freedom Fighters under DC Comics story continuity. He seems to have changed outfits a couple of times but the one depicted here is basically his initial, magically provided threads. The action figure was a Super Powers Collection Green Lantern with the puffy sleeved arms from a Firestorm and the head from a Hasbro Bruce Wayne figure. The kerchief around his head in some panels looked as large as a cape but I sort of held it down to a dull roar. I also used fabric for the belt.