Imagine that you are alone on a boat floating down a lagoon whose waters are pitch black in the moon lit sky. It’s the fall, and the sounds of the leaves can be heard hitting the water and with each noise you wonder just what’s out there. You have heard the local legend of a fish man in these very waters, but you always laughed it off as local folklore to scare away tourist, but now you’re not so sure! The wind has picked up and a shiver goes down your spine as you wonder if the creature is watching you. You decide to go into the boat’s cabin to get out of the cool air, as a large clawed hand appears on the edge of the boat…This is what classic horror stories and films were made of back before slashers and undead zombies became the normal fare for on screen horror. This year marks the 60th Anniversary for Universal’s 1954 classic monster film Creature From The Black Lagoon, and this made it a perfect selection for the 2014 Halloween updates. So let’s get out scuba gear on and let’s take a look at Dark Horse Comics’ one shot issue based on this classic monster.
Universal Studios was known for making monster films in the 1930’s with the likes of Count Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster, but during the 1940’s the classic monsters were loosing steam and they started to loose their scare appeal to the viewing audience. They even decided to turn them into a comedy act as comedians Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein’s Monster and even The Mummy. During the 1950’s things changed from supernatural to atomic age scares, and this is when Universal released the last of the classic monsters The Creature From The Black Lagoon in theaters in 1954. Think about it Gill-Man or The Creature is the last true classic Universal Monster, the company known for delivering frights last major monster was created in 1954…makes me wonder why they stopped making iconic horror characters like this. Growing up I first learned about the Creature thanks to a book I checked out at the library from Crestwood that was all about Gill-Man, and from that day on I knew I had to see the film. When I finally tracked down a VHS copy of the film and watched it, I was hooked as a fan, loved the look of the creature and mesmerized by the underwater effects. As I got older I also noticed many of my friends who enjoy horror films all seemed to pick Creature From The Black Lagoon as their favorite classic horror film, and one of these friends happens to be comic creator Jason Young. The Creature or also known as Gill-Man is a different kind of monster as he really just minds his own business in his own water world when man comes to him and causes all the issues by messing with nature and trying to take a “wild” animal out of it’s element. I am also very happy to say that over the years of vending and being a guest at horror film conventions, I have gotten the honor of meeting many of the stars from the 1954 classic film. The first ever convention I ever did was called Fright Vision, and at this event I got to meet Ben Chapman the actor who played Gill-Man on land. Over the years I have met the lovely Julie Adams, the actress who played Kay, the woman who captured the Creatures eye many times. And just this year I finally got to meet Ricou Browning the actor who played Gill-Man under water! So let’s take a look at the three films in the Universal Creature From The Black Lagoon series so that those of you readers who don’t know the Creature can learn a little about him. The write ups are taken from IMDB because as with most things, if I wrote the plot outlines, they would last forever!
Creature From The Black Lagoon – A scientific expedition searching for fossils along the Amazon River discovers a prehistoric Gill-Man in the legendary Black Lagoon. The explorers capture the mysterious creature, but it breaks free. The Gill-Man returns to kidnap the lovely Kay, fiancée of one in the expedition, with whom it has fallen in love.
Note From Matt: On a very cool note Creature From The Black Lagoon was first thought of during a 1941 filming party for Citizen Kane when the Black Lagoon producer William Alland spoke to Mexican cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa about legends of a fishman in the Amazon waters. The film idea floated around for a while and with the success of the 1953 film House of Wax, the idea to make it 3-D was born. So think about how cool that is this is the only classic Universal Monster film shown in classic 3-D!
Revenge Of The Creature – The Creature from the Black Lagoon is back! This time he’s captured by scientists and transported to an aquarium in south Florida. Naturally, he’s attracted to the lovely female scientist and manages to escape and kidnap her. And its up to her friends to rescue her from Gill-Man’s grip of terror and stop him from harming others.
The Creature Walks Among Us – In this third Gill-Man feature, the Creature is captured and turned into an air-breather by a rich mad scientist. This makes the Creature very unhappy, and he escapes, killing people and setting fires in the process.
The movies stopped at being a trilogy and by all accounts the way Creature Walks Among Us ended, The Gillman died in the ocean by drowning, and that’s sad Universal could have easily kept this film series going. But in 1954 slightly before Creature From The Black Lagoon hit theaters, the TV show Colgate Comedy Hour has comedian genesis Abbott and Costello on and they traveled to the Universal prop room where they ran into Frankenstein’s Monster who scares Abbott but in return is scared of Costello’s face and falls through a crate…as Costello chuckles it up that he scared The Monster, he is in turned scared by Gillman who happens to appear. The skit lasts a little over 15 minutes and has many moments that were inspired by their film “Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein”. The live audience ate up the comedy and were also very happy to see Gill-Man and Frankenstein’s Monster as they cheered at their arrival into the skit. One cool thing I have to point out is the fact Glenn Strange once more played the Monster and Ben Chapman played the Gill-Man for this TV appearance. Makes you wonder that if Abbott and Costello would have stayed together as comedy partners for a while longer would a film been made where they would have meet Gillman officially… makes one wonder indeed. Below are some screen grabs from the skit as well as a fan made poster for the movie that could have been.
So when you think of The Creature, is one of the first things to pop into your mind a musical…cause Universal thought that in 2009 when they replaced their Fear Factor Live attraction at Universal Studios Theme Park. The musical was loosely based on the 1954 film and had the Creature not only singing but also growing to be a giant. The musical ran till 2010, only lasting under a year as an attraction, the reason for the closing was the lack of interest from parkgoers who just were not drawn to the musical version of Creature From The Black Lagoon. While I give Universal credit for trying something new and trying to do something with their Monster IPs, a musical just seems like an odd choice. One cool fact is the Julie Adams came to the premier that for all accounts was a success. When the musical closed, the attraction was changed to a special effects stage show. For those who want to see the musical who couldn’t make it to California’s Universal Studios, you can find clips on YouTube. And I must end it with why in the world does The Creature turn into a 25ft giant? Now that’s silly.
Growing up if you were a Monster Kid and you played with toys, you could find some really cool ones of Gill-Man! Some of the best have to be the Remco action figure and doll, Marx’s plastic Creature figure as well as Penn-Plax Creature figure. Growing up I never had a Creature action figure but man I would have loved to have had the 3 ¾” Remco figure as he would have been a perfect fit in my Toy Wars battle! Now at the age of 35, I own two of the Remco Creature figures and both are the Glow In The Dark versions. Oh yeah, I also should mention that fast food restaurants Burger King and Jack N The Box also gave away action figures of Gill-Man in their Kids Meals . Growing up I did however own one of those classic windup toys of the Creature that shot sparks from its mouth as it walked; an antique store in Waynesville stocked them for a short while when they were re-released. The wind ups were great toys, and I also owned King Kong and my brother had Godzilla. I can remember winding them all up and having them race each other on the kitchen table.
Besides toys, Gill-Man also has a ton more merchandise and his green scaled likeness has been on novels, comic books, t-shirts, drinking glasses, trading cards, Halloween masks and costumes, buttons, puzzles, coloring books, candy boxes and so much more! Gill-Man’s look seems like it was made for merchandise and some of my favorite none-toy stuff I own with his fish face on it would have to be the t-shirts and of course my Crestwood Creature From The Black Lagoon book that I was able to buy from the library that I use to check out when I was a kid. So if you’re a fan of the film or just the look of the monster, there is some great stuff out there for your inner collector.
One thing that Universal as well as video game makers have dropped the ball on is the fact they never made a game based on the film and believe me they could easily make a Triple A title using the Gill-Man as the game’s bad guy. What has been made is an amazing pin-ball machine made by Bally’s in 1992 that had a holographic creature pop out of a lagoon to spook the player. Also a Casino Electric Slot Machine has been made based on the film that sports the Creature’s clawed hand that could help you unlock bonus winnings. One cool thing floating around the internet is a really cool fan made cover box for a NES game about The Creature, as a kid I would have went nuts for a game like this and still to this day if someone would make one for the original Nintendo and put it on a cart I would buy it in a second. As you longtime readers know, Creature From The Black Lagoon made my # 7 pick of a horror film that should be made into a modern video game on my Rotten Pixels 2 update, and I still stick by the plot I made for the game as well as the fact TellTale Game should be the ones to make it happen.
Hans J. Slater was the man Universal came to for the music scores to go along with many of their monster films; his music can be heard in such films as The Wolf Man, Son of Dracula, House of Frankenstein, The Mummy’s Hand, This Island Earth, Creature From The Black Lagoon as well as many others. His score for Creature From The Black Lagoon is perfect and captures the mood of the film the cue that appears when the Creature does is so amazing that I even used it when I made my first film Werewolf of Ohio as The Wolf Man’s cue! Not to mention, the more tender and water moments that his score helps truly bring to life. From time to time during the Halloween season on Alpha Rhythms, I will play a track off the soundtrack CD to help add to the listeners spooky evening. If you’re looking for the score music to this classic film you can find it on CD and while a little pricy, it’s worth it if you love the classic monster movie music.
For those who are looking to own a copy of Creature From The Black Lagoon to add to their home video collection, you can find it on many different formats from VHS, Laserdisc, DVD and even Blu-Ray! Not to mention for those who love horror hosted films, you can find episodes of it hosted by the likes of Svengoolie and even Captain Crypt. My favorite has to be the Creature From The Black Lagoon Legacy Collection DVD set that not only has the three films in the series but also lots of great extras. So if you’re looking for Gill-Man to grace you TV screen there are many great ways to own the film out on the market.
Around 2009 (or was it 2010?) Independent B Movie was trying to make a grand comeback to the world of shot-on-video horror films and the idea was to make a few films under series banners like “Bark At The Moon” with all films being about werewolves or “Bad Movie Night” being cheesy comedies. One other series planned was remakes of classic Universal Monster films done in our own low budget styles, and the first one to be filmed was “Matt Hoffman’s Creature From The Black Lagoon.” As you could tell by the title Matt Hoffman, who directed such films as The Wolf Hunter and Wolf Hunter 2 would have sat in the director chair and made the magic happen. The film was being produced by Stephen Alexander II and a Creature body suit was purchased as well as fake blood and other filming supplies as Hoffman wrote the script that would have followed a drifter coming into a small town and falling in love with the sheriff’s daughter and also the government trying to cover up a toxic waste spill that created The Creature. It was being filmed on a JVC Mini-DV camera, and Stephen stockpiled tapes for Hoffman to use for the epic shoots. The film would have starred Bruce Lerma, Jessie Ellis and a lovely young lady named Brandi as well as many more extras. The film began production and cast as the part of the drifter first was Thomas Blurton, who quit the film after only one day of shooting, and he was replaced by Bruce Lerma who went from being in a minor role to becoming the main star. Hoffman along with his crew filmed many days and even a few Creature attacks in the lakes and streams around town, but sadly the film was not to be as Hoffman was dealing with some personal issues and cancelled the film and this marked the end of the Universal Re-Boots from I.B.M as we looked at the cost to make them being very high and with the first one being dead in the lagoon water, they just proved to be more than the dying shot on video company could take. It’s a sad day, but I would also like to make the announcement here on Rotten Ink that as of October 31st 2014 Independent B Movie will close it’s doors for good and fold up shop making the end of one of Ohio’s longest running shot on video companies. It’s a sad day but one that has been coming for a very long time. Maybe at some point I will do an update about the closing and get some memories from all those friends and fellow directors involved with making the company what it was. Below are some screen captures of footage from “Matt Hoffman’s Creature From The Black Lagoon”…And for those wondering, I was going to direct the re-make of Frankenstein, Josh Weinberg was slated for Dracula and Bruce Lerma was going to do The Mummy.
During season one of Terrifying Tales Of The Macabre, host Baron Von Porkchop is out fishing using his butler Bean’s brain as the bait to try and capture a giant killer catfish to serve at the following weeks gathering dinner to honor the late Dr. Creep who had just passed away, but instead of catching the man eating catfish he hooks The Creature From The Black Lagoon and decides to use the green tinted creature meat to serve to his guests! The next episode for the Tribute To Dr. Creep, the Creature’s head can be seen as the centerpiece to the dinner…so thanks to Baron Von Porkchop your swimming pools and waterways are safe from the hideous Creature of the water.
Gill-Man is no stranger to comic books, and in 1963 Dell Comics released a comic book based around him, and it was pretty good and one of the better ones from their Universal Monster series line. In fact last Halloween time I did a massive update about all of Dell’s Universal Monster titles called “Start Halloween Off With The Universal Monsters!” and if you read that update then you would know that it was one that came very close to capturing the mood and feeling of the film and the artwork is well done and is just what he should have looked like for a comic made in the early 60’s. If your interest is peaked on the comic as well as the rest of the Dell Universal Monster comics, I suggest that you give the update all about them a read. Just to help along the urge to read that update for the first time or again below is some of the artwork from the comic as well as the cover to the issue.
In 1954, the same year of the film, Atlas Comics put out issue #35 of Sub-Mariner where Prince Namor took on a half fish and half man creature called Elmer who in fact looked allot like a bloated version of Gill-Man. Elmer had some issue and his creator wanted to try and fix them making it so his “monster” could breath under water. So long before Atlas became Marvel Comics, they had a generic version of Gill-Man fighting one of their top super heroes of the time, and this is pretty cool as nowadays if they would have had Gill-Man show up in a comic he would just be an actor in a suit or something lame like that. The issue when it was first put out cost .35 and now it goes for lowest $100.00 all the way up to a thousand. Check out the art and cover to this issue and enjoy the fun bloated version of The Creature named Elmer.
I want to touch up on a few other fun Creature comic appearances like a re-imagining one simple called “Creature From The Depths” that was put out by Image Comics but originally suppose to come out via Dead Dog Comics. This one-shot issue is really cool and will for sure be the subject of a future update! Archie Comics as well had many issue where The Creature was the guest on the cover, and this helps add to the Abbott & Costello making Universal Monsters funny and not scary mindset for the youth of the time as well as turning the classic monsters into things that no longer gave kids nightmares. Even if they are done in silly ways Gill-Man has been on the cover of “Archie’s Pal Jughead” and “Laugh” and both covers are really well done and makes me wish Archie Comics would have made issue based on the Universal Monsters! Below is the cover so give em a look at and enjoy.
The comic industry is packed with companies making books about super heroes and the ones making stuff horror-related mostly deal with zombies because the undead seem to be the flavor of the decade thanks to comics/ pop culture stuff like The Walking Dead. Many companies in the past have tackled Universal Monsters but mostly they are all one-shot issues and never a full series. Companies like Dell, Dark Horse and Monster Comics all released comics about Dracula, Wolf Man and The Mummy and all did them pretty well for the time they were released. In 2014 as I write this, no company has a comic series going based on a Universal Monster and that’s sad because I really think that if the right artist and writer were on board, a comic series based on the likes of The Creature could be fantastic! I could see the comic taking place after the events of Creature Walks Among Us and show us the readers how he survived his surgery and apparent drowning, and then they could flash forward to modern times and make it more scary and show that the classics really don’t have to go out of spooky style. I would love to see Dark Horse Comics get back on board with Universal to make more comics based on Creature From The Black Lagoon, and if they don’t I think IDW could really do him justice and one could only imagine the Gill-Man crossovers with The X-Files or even Ghostbusters being super kick butt. One other company who I think could do a Creature From The Black Lagoon comic series really well would have to be HorrorHound Magazine! As of right now they only do a music label outside of the magazine and conventions but here is to hoping that they will get on a comic branch sooner then later. Below is some amazing artwork of Gill-Man I found snooping around the web and any and all of these great artist would be perfect hires for a comic series that should be made…so check em all out!
Speaking of IDW and if they made a comic on Gill-Man with the possibility of an X-Files crossover, I just want to share this picture of Gillian Anderson Agent Scully herself with a version of the Gill-Man that was used for Rolling Stones Magazine! Just think of the possible plot of this cool crossover that should but sadly proudly never will happen. Before we move on I also want to point out how stunning Gillian looks with this pin-up model look.
So are you ready to travel to the black lagoon with the S.S. Rotten Ink? As your captain I feel I must warn you about a few things that all passengers should know about this journey into the unknown. 1st don’t drink the water; while the lagoon H2O might look tasty it is filled with bacteria that can cause sickness. 2nd there have been reports of a giant fishman who really likes dark haired women so we suggest if your female and look like Julie Addams for God sake don’t go swimming! And 3rd and the most importantly I want to remind my readers I grade these issues on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, it’s entertainment value and it’s art and story. So before we set sail, let’s thank Bell, Book And Comic for having this Dark Horse Comic in stock, and let’s hope we have a fun and safe ride. And oh yeah this comic is a film adaptation based on the original film!
Creature From The Black Lagoon # 1 ****
Released in 1993 Cover Price $4.95 Dark Horse Comics #1 of 1
Dr. Maia finds a strange claw in the middle of the amazon buried. It’s like nothing he’s ever seen as it’s almost human-like yet also very fish like. Maia leaves his native workers to watch camp as he travels back to the USA to show fellow scientist his discovery as well as hope for help to get an expedition to find the rest of the body and study it. His team consists of Dr. David Reed, Mark Williams, Kay Lawrence, Dr. Edwin Thompson and ship boat captain Lucas, and they head down the Amazon river to the location the fossil claw was found, but instead of being greeted by Maia’s native workers they are treated to finding their dead bodies! They are freaked out but go about the dig and turn up nothing, David gets an idea that maybe some thousand years back maybe the rock the fossil was found in was washed away and is somewhere in the water below. Lucas tells them of a place called the black lagoon where the river ends and that’s where the group travels to find the fossils they seek. David and Kay are in love, and it’s clear as they arrive to the Lagoon that Mark has strong feelings toward Kay and this adds tension between the co-workers as they dive into the waters below and remove a sample of rock. While the men go study the rocks Kay goes for a swim and this is when we see that Gill-Man is in the waters and is in love with the beauty he sees in his waters! The next time David and Mark go diving they see Gill-Man, and Mark shoots him with a spear gun wounding him and making him very mad as he gets revenge later that night as he kills a boat hand. The group fights back as the use a numbing poison that they dump into the water causing him to slowly become paralyzed but not before killing another boat hand and trying to kidnap Kay! As Gill-Man falls from the effects of the drug Mark bashes him in the head with a log sparking even more tension between he and David. On the ship Gill-Man is kept in the tank and this don’t hold him long as he escapes but not before ripping at Edwin’s face leaving him very injured. All the group have had enough and want to leave the Lagoon but Mark of course doesn’t when he thinks of the money that could be made off the Gill-Man and when Lucas says they are leaving they find that the entrance is blocked! While trying to move the large tree that has been placed to keep them in by Gillman, Mark is attacked and killed by the creatures hands leaving another death for the crew to deal with. David uses the rest of the drug in a air gun and uses it against Gill-Man as he hooks a rope around the tree, as they try and lift the tree out of the way Gill-Man comes aboard and grabs Kay and takes her to his underwater cave hideout. David dives in after them and comes face to face with Gill-Man who he stabs with his knife and just as it looks as if David and Kay are in terrible danger Lucas and Dr. Maia appear in the cave with shotguns and shoot Gill-Man a number of times. The comic’s ends with the remaining crew watching a bloody Gill-Man shuffle into the water and collapse.
This is one of the best film adaptation comic books I have ever read. The story follows the film’s script and the artwork is top notch. David Reed is a good man who is in love with Kay and does his scientific work for all the right reasons, while his fellow collogue Mark wants the glory David wants to find the fossil for the things the world could learn from it. Plus when things go bad and Gill-Man appears, it’s David who is the hero that risks it all to save Kay the woman he loves. Kay is much like David as she is a sweet and nice person who just so happens to be super hot and has a charm to her that not only captures the eye of David but also Gill-Man and Mark! Lucas is your typical boat captain of that time and has heard many spooky stories and never believed them until he is force to when he meets Gill-Man! Mark is just a jerk who thinks that cause he has money and some fame that he can act any way he wants. The fact he is so cruel to Gill-Man shows just how little he respects the world around him, and he gets what’s coming to him when he is killed by Gill-Man. Dr. Maia and Dr. Thompson while players in this story really don’t add much besides extra bodies for the hunt and for the attacks. Gill-Man is a great monster in this comic as for the most part he starts off pretty peaceful and it’s not till that dumbass Mark shoots him with a spear that he becomes violent. I mean I’m pretty sure he would have kidnapped Kay either way but he might not have killed many of the crew. But then again he did kill Maia’s native workers for no reason so maybe he is just a killing machine. The comic’s story is super close to that of the film and that’s pretty cool and reading this reminds me of the update I did called “Marvel At The Movies Part 1” and makes me really looking forward to doing a second update on that subject. This comic would have been a perfect launch point for Dark Horse to make Creature From The Black Lagoon into a full fledged series, and they also could have done adaptations of Revenge of The Creature and Creature Walks Among Us if they wanted to test the comic buying market to see if they had interest in this character. The comics art was done by Author “Art” Adams and Terry Austin and it’s really well done and captures the mood and feeling of the film it’s based on. The one thing that’s shocking is the use of blood in the comic as when the Gill-Man is shot and stabbed they use a lot of the red stuff, in fact one panel is heartbreaking as Gill-Man has blood pouring out of his wounds and he’s marching into the water as his safety place…it’s a sad sight. But to sum up this comic if you’re a fan of the film or even just like classic style horror comics then I would recommend you buy this comic and give it a read. Below is some of the art work used in this comic and as you can see it’s amazing!
I hope you enjoyed this Birthday Bash for Gill-Man, a true classic Universal Monster icon who has terrified film watchers for 60 years now. Plus with my birthday being in September I figured why not celebrate his on the same month as mine! Also if you’re a fan of the art above done by Author “Art” Adams make sure to Google some more of his artwork. I think he does fantastic work not only with Monsters but also Women, he captures the beauty of the female figure and does a great Wonder Woman and Black Canary. But our next update is going to be another spooky comic series as we take a look at Blackthorne’s comic run based on the 80’s monster TV show Werewolf! So until then make sure to watch a Creature From The Black Lagoon film, read a comic or two and support your local horror host and get ready to bark at the moon with me on the next update! And in closing let’s say it all together HAPPY BIRTHDAY GILL-MAN!