The Rotten Ink From The Mummy’s Tomb

The wind is blowing sand all around the great pyramids of Egypt and the air is hot and dry.  For this update to Rotten Ink we will be heading to the world of the unknown to take a look at the Universal Monster The Mummy in honor of the new film in theaters starring Tom Cruise and Sofia Boutella.  The Mummy that is rebooting the series for Universal and will kick off the new Dark Universe! The Mummy is one of those monster characters that is overlooked by many classic monster lovers as he is always overshadowed by Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster and The Wolf Man, and my girlfriend Juliet has always wondered when The Mummy will get its time to shine and be the next “it” monster like zombies have been for so long now…and she is right, it is time for The Mummy to be in the bloody spotlight and claim his throne at being a major draw at the cinema and home media market again! During this update I will cover not only the 1932 film and its sequels but also The Mummy in pop culture and merchandise and everything I can in between! I have decided that I will not cover the 1999 Mummy reboot by Universal as I feel those are not connected to the old films in any way and are just goofy and fun adventure films. So get your wrapping ready, walk like a Egyptian and let’s take a look at The Mummy…yeah, I just made a Bangles song reference.

In 1931 Universal had major hits with Dracula and Frankenstein, and they were itching to have another Horror mega hit the following year.  So they once more started to look at horror novels for inspiration, and producer Carl Laemmie Jr. was inspired by the legends of the Curse Of The Pharaohs and hired Richard Schayer to find this novel and make him a Egyptian Mummy film. After looking and reading many classic novels none was found so they decided to come up with their own original story, but many have noticed that the story by John L. Balderston for The Mummy has many resemblances to the story “The Ring Of Thoth” written by Arthur Conan Doyle and no credit was given. After taking elements from a nine-page treatment called “Cagliostro” screen writer John L. Balderston was hired to pen the movie now being called “The Mummy”. The script took elements from multiple sources planned for his movie and Balderston added his own touches and made changes. Once written, they brought in director Karl Freund, who was the cinematographer on Dracula and who was making is American directorial debut with this film. Casting was also set as Boris Karloff, Zita Johann, David Manners, Edward Van Sloan and others were brought in for their respected parts and make up master Jack Pierce was brought in to design and create the look of The Mummy. The filming was your typical Hollywood horror production with Karloff having the most trying time of having to sit for hours in the make-up chair to be done up as The Mummy. The Mummy was a box office hit when released and has become one of the respected and well loved Universal Monster films of its golden age, and to this day Universal itself has lots of love for The Mummy and its legacy. I also want to note that this film, much like Dracula, uses Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky as its main theme and when released in 1932 it was joined by such other horror classics as Freaks, White Zombie, Island Of Lost Souls, The Old Dark House, Doctor X and The Mask Of Fu Manchu to name a few.

After The Mummy became a box office hit for Universal, they decided that a sequel was needed, and with it they did away with The Mummy Imhotep and introduced a new Mummy named Kharis in the film “The Mummy’s Hand” that was released in 1940 and had actor Tom Tyler as Kharis.  This film would spawn three sequels based on his terrifying killing ways. The next film in the series was released in 1942 called “The Mummy’s Tomb” and had Lon Chaney Jr. as Kharis who would go on to play the character in the remaining two films in the series. 1944 saw the release of “The Mummy’s Ghost” and “The Mummy’s Curse” and with that came an end to the mainline classic movies based on this popular Universal Monster. That is, unless you count “Abbott And Costello Meet The Mummy” from 1955 as well as “The Mummy” reboot that started in 1999 that spawned two official sequels “The Mummy Returns” and “The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor” as well as a spin off series “The Scorpion King” as well as an animated series. Just this year, in 2017, Universal rebooted “The Mummy” again as part of their Dark Universe film series and had the stunning Sofia Boutella as The Mummy Princess Ahmanet. But I will not spend too much time on these sequels as we are here to chat about Imhotep and not the other Mummies of these films, but I did want to make you all aware of them. Check out the super cool VHS covers of the sequels released by Universal below.

When my brother Bryan and I were young, our Dad was really into watching old classic comedy teams like the Three Stooges, Laurel & Hardy and of course Abbott & Costello, all of whom had some amazing bits of classic comedy. One of my all time favorite films of the latter has to be Abbott And Costello Meet The Mummy as for some reason I could never get enough of the film.  I would watch it every time it was on TV and would rent it from the library and of course would buy it on VHS and DVD. The film was released in 1955 and was the last of the comedy team meeting a monster and the final original feature film they would make for Universal. The film is about a pair of Americans who were stranded in Egypt and find their ticket home when they find a Doctor who is searching the tomb of Princess Ara who is said to be protected by the Mummy Klaris! Throw in some thieves who want to steal the treasures, as well as Klaris coming alive and you have this silly goofy horror comedy. The Mummy Klaris in this film was played by Eddie Parker who was a stand in for Lon Chaney Jr. in previous Universal Mummy films and was a stuntman and bit part actor for Hollywood.  He mostly starred in westerns and horror pictures. Parker sadly died in 1960 of a heart attack but while not a household name, he left his mark in cinema. This film is lots of fun and has some good laughs as Abbott and Costello just meshed so well with Monsters as they played really well off the their scary nature and added the right about of humor to lighten up the moments of spooky horror. If you have not seen this film and enjoy classic horror, classic comedy and good family friendly entertainment make sure to check this film out as you can watch it on VHS, DVD, Blu-Ray or even streaming it or even better yet catch it on TV when Horror Hosts like Svengoolie host it!

I think its time we took a quick look at the man who made Imhotep come alive on the silver screen, Boris Karloff.  William Henry Pratt was born on November 23, 1887 in Camberwell, London and was the youngest of nine children. When young, he had bowed legs, a lisp and stuttered and had to work hard to beat the stutter but always had the lisp. He made his way through school and even attended King’s College London as he wanted to get a career in British Government’s Consular Service, but later decided to leave England and take farm labor jobs in Canada. And while working these jobs, he also found a love for acting in stage plays and this is also when he took the name “Boris Karloff” as he found the name to be exotic. When coming to America he would go on to star in minor parts in many silent films like The Lightning Raider (1919), The Last Of The Mohicans (1920) and Parisian Nights (1925) among many, many others. His big break came in 1931 when he played Frankenstein’s Monster in the Universal film Frankenstein and this film started him as being one of the biggest horror actors of the time. From their he did a score of amazing Horror Films like The Dark House (1932), The Mask Of Fu Manchu (1932), The Mummy (1932), The Ghoul (1933), The Black Cat (1934), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Son Of Frankenstein (1939) and The Ape (1940) to name a select few and all the while he as well was acting in crime and thriller films as well. By the 1950s Karloff was still in demand but the budget of the films he was in were doing down as was the quality as he took roles is such films as Frankenstein 1970 (1958), The Terror (1963) and Monster Of Terror (1965) among a few gems like the Roger Corman films based on Edgar Allen Poe stories as well as the TV Specials How The Grinch Stole Christmas! and Mad Monster Party?. His last major budget film was Targets (1968) and to many this was one of his best roles in many years. Karloff’s last film was in 1971 and was called Alien Terror and was a micro budget film. While he was a major star in the cinema, he was also in demand on TV as he hosted the show Thriller and The Veil as well as made appearances on shows like Route 66 and The Wild Wild West! Karloff also lent his voice to radio and spoken word recordings, plus he even hosted spooky stories in comic books and he really was a jack of all trades when it came to the world of media. In his personal life Karloff was married five times and had one child a daughter named Sara.  He was a man with a big heart as he would dress as Santa and hand out presents at a local children’s hospital during Christmas.  He was plagued with back problems due to the labor jobs he worked and was very outspoken about hating to have the makeup applied during filming the Universal Frankenstein films. Karloff also has two stars of the Hollywood Walk Of Fame, one for his movie work and one for his TV work and is still one of the most respect Horror actors of all time. Sadly the world lost Boris Karloff in 1969 at the age of 81 from pneumonia, and due to the fact he worked in so many films many were released years after his death. This is just a quick crash course about Karloff and I really think that if you love this actor and or classic Hollywood do yourself a favor and read up on his life and career. Gone but never forgotten, this update is for you Boris!

Halloween is my favorite holiday as it’s filled with candy, spooky stories and being able to dress up as your favorite monster. Besides Ben Cooper, one of the most popular mask makers was Don Post Studios run by… who else but Don Post. The company started in 1938 making halloween masks for costume parties and Halloween and became the first company to make and sell latex masks. They also made masks based on actors like William Shatner and Tor Johnson, with Shatner being later customized and used in the 1978 film Halloween and Tor’s being a very popular and top selling mask. But Don Post also made masks based on the Universal Monsters, and you guessed it, he made one based around The Mummy! The company also made hands that would complete your costume.  Take a look at the picture below and tell me that this was not a great mask done by the legend of mask making!?

The Mummy Mystery Game was made by Hasbro in 1963 and has you as the player having to play as The Mummy and explore ancient Egypt. Sadly, I do not own this game and have only seen it once for sale at Cinema Wasteland many years back.  It’s a shame because I would love to own it and get the Dayton Board Game Society back together to give it a good play through or two. Sad thing is, it’s pretty high end to get the game complete and will cost you over $200.00, but for fans of this classic horror icon it’s worth getting for the collection.

One thing I always remember were the old ads in comic books for model kits for Universal Monsters made by a company called Aurora in the 1960’s. The model kits were said to be easy to put together and would allow you to have your favorite monster on your shelf to look at and have your friends be spooked by their nightmare appearance. I remember being a kid and thinking that these were like action figures that moved and such and both my Mom and Brother having to explain to me that models don’t move, they are to look at. I remember seeing these at a garage sale once, and I ended up buying one and it fell apart in no time as I used it to fight other toys.  What monster you ask, well when I get to them, I will tell you. These models are huge collectors items and can fetch high prices for ones that are complete and in box and are the originals.  These models were re-released and can be found still online for decent prices. The Mummy kit is pretty cool and has him walking around his crypt! The models box art is also amazing and makes you wish that who ever drew them would have made a comic book based on the Universal Monsters in that style!

In 1969 toy company Marx made solid plastic figurines of the Universal Monsters, and The Mummy was of course in the line to get that treatment. The molds were later re-issued in 1991 and put out by Uncle Milton. The original releases were mostly done in blue and orange plastics, and the reissued ones were tan or glow in the dark. The ones I remember growing up were the glow in the dark ones, and they were being sold at a local pet shop called “Jack Aquarium and Pets” as decorations for your fish tank and for the most part all, they would always have an over stock of was Hunchback and Phantom of the Opera and The Mummy always seemed to be sold out. One of my friends named David J Getz had a few of the originals over the years so I did get to see them in all their prime.  They are very simple yet cool toys. You can pick up an original for around $20.00-$25.00 on Ebay and reissued one for around $8.00-$13.00.

Toy company Remco also put out a few Mummy figures in 1980 with a 9″ action figure that had moving arms that responded to a button.  The figures also had glow in the dark heads and nylon clothes and each monster came with an iron on patch and a glow in the dark ring. That same year, they also released a 3 3/4″ figure of The Mummy that fit perfectly with your Star Wars figures! I am the proud owner of the figure thanks to it being traded into Game Swap Kettering. They also did a hand puppet of The Mummy in a line called Monsters At Home. The 9″ figure goes for about $26.00- $31.00 loose on Ebay and the 3 3/4″ one goes loose for about $30.00-$55.00. And the Puppet goes for about $50.00- $175.00 loose all of course depending on condition.

Imperial made a Mummy figure that came out in 1986 as a part of their Classic Movie Monster line. The figure was hard plastic and had moveable arms and head and faintly looked like Eddie Parker who played The Mummy in “Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy”. I remember KB Toys in the Dayton Mall stocking these, and for Christmas 86 my Mom & Dad got me both The Wolfman and Frankenstein’s Monster.  I was super happy to have them and in fact still have them both to this day. And I was able to get The Mummy many years later at a Monster Bash Convention. The figures were cheap back then and have not aged well in the collectors market as you can easily pick up a loose figure of The Mummy on Ebay anywhere from $3.00-$15.00. This figure is well worth picking up and will forever have a place in my collection.

Many other items have been made in the image of Universal’s The Mummy through the ages from banks, action figures, t-shirts, jigglers, masks, bendies, belt buckles, rings, games, bobble heads and so much more. The Mummy’s image with the wrinkled face and bandaged body is iconic thanks to Universal and Jack Pierce who created the most known look for the character. Below are a few pictures of other cool new and vintage Mummy items that might get the attention of the monster kid inside your soul.

In 1993, Playmates struck a deal with Universal to mix the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with the Universal Monsters making for a fun toy line and a good way for kids of that time to discover the joys and horrors of the classic monsters. The Mummy was mixed with the rude dude turtle Raphael making this a funny mix up as The Mummy does not strike me as a partying pizza eater, but the figure works and for the most part is pretty cool looking. This monster turtle loose is not too expensive and you can get Mummael for about $8.00-$22.00 loose and again depending on condition.

Image walking into a gas station in 1963 to pay for your gas and being given a cool Universal Monster glass that featured many of the company’s famous monsters that included The Mummy! This was in fact a true occurrence as these promotional glasses were given out as premiums at stations. These glasses are amazing and for the time are well designed with slick spooky artwork. The Mummy’s has him standing in his crypt and has a green tent to the paint. But if you want one, it will cost you as they go for $85.00-$150.00 but is worth it if you collect this kind of stuff.

Crestwood House Monster Books are books that I use to love sitting and reading about each monster they showcased and all the classic films that featured them.  The books would also fill you in on old legends about that monster and even talk a little about the source material they were based on whether it be a urban legend or a novel. They put out a second series as well that were more like kid novels based on the movies like Bride of Frankenstein or Dracula’s Daughter. The library used to also have a huge sale where they would sell you a bag of books for so many dollars, and I was lucky enough to snatch up many of these titles when they decided they didn’t need them anymore and still have them to this day. I find myself from time to time still dusting them off and enjoying these fun books of my youth. And from the first batch of books, I got all those years ago from the library sale is one based on The Mummy! If you have young kids who are into monsters, I suggest getting them these.

1963 was the year that The Mummy Soaky was released.  What is a soaky, you ask, well they were plastic bottles in the shape of a character that’s head acted as the cap and inside the 11 oz bottle was bubble bath. The Universal Monsters line had the saying that they would spook you clean.  Imagine some terrified kid being told it was bath time and he knew that once he got into that tub he would have to come face to face with the plastic cold stare of The Mummy who he just watched on Shock Theater the night before just to get clean…this by far is one of the silliest products to bare The Mummy likeness. These bottles are semi rare and will cost you to collect.

Back in the 90’s Doritos Chips gave away Universal Monster stickers in the bags you would find at your local grocery store. And I found myself begging my mom to buy this snack food so that I would be able to collect the whole set of these stickers. So every time we would go to Ellis, a small store in downtown Waynesville, I would get a bag of these chips.  Now I should tell you, I HATE Doritos, always have and always will, and this shows you my love for Universal Monsters as I suffered through eating those nasty chips. I can remember getting The Mummy sticker for the first time, and I proudly put it away for safekeeping. No matter how hard I tried and how many bags of powdered death, I ate I never did get a full set of these stickers making all my efforts even that more sad. I still have the stickers to this day, and they are stored away at Independent B Movie studio waiting for the day that I will proudly display them in my home. Check out The Mummy sticker below and see just how cool these chip giveaways were.

The Mummy has also made it to handheld video games like the one made by Tiger has graced the hands of gamers. He has also been in pinball games at your local arcade and has been in a few PC games, and hopefully soon there will be a new game based around him for modern console systems as the 2017 movie could spark it.

But this is called Rotten Ink and is a blog mostly about comic books so we should talk about comics that are based around The Mummy that are licensed by Universal. Off the top of my head, I can only think of three, one being released by Dell in 1963 as part of their Movie Classics line called “The Mummy.”  It would also get reprinted along side Dracula. Monster Comics in 1991 also released a mini series based on The Mummy and finally Dark Horse comics had “Universal Monsters The Mummy” that was released in 1993. The Dell and Monster comics both are new stories about the Mummy while the Dark Horses release is just based one the script and is a movie adaptation. Once we cover this Dark Horse one here, we will have covered two of the three comic releases as we took a look at the Dell one a few years back. Over all these comics are worth reading if you’re a fan of this classic movie character.

Fast food hamburger joint Jack In The Box gave away figures based on the Universal Monsters and unlike Burger King, they included The Mummy into their promotion. The first batch came in 1999 and had The Mummy, who comes with his tomb that he rises from. Then in 2002 they put out a windup and pop out Mummy who once more came with his tomb, these figures are really cheap looking and kind of cheesy but still worth owning for those who love all things Universal Monsters. I don’t know much about these because there is no Jack in The Box in my area.

The Universal Mummy Series has also been a big part of Horror Hosting as the films were a part of The Shock Theater and Son of Shock movie packages that allowed local TV stations to air the films with a host. Many of the old shows are lost like Vampira, Sammy Terry, Dr. Creep and Melvin hosting these classic films, but a few have survived and some hosts have hosted them as late as 2016. But here is a host I have that brought you some films from the Universal Mummy Series that is Jeepers Creeper who hosted The Mummy’s Curse from many, many decades back.

I grew up in the age of breakfast cereal and some of the best out there were the General Mills Monster Cereals with Count Chocula, Boo Berry and Frankenberry and the wonders of how the world works when they put the cereal mascots along side Universal Monsters! Let’s first break down Yummy Mummy as a character and his cereal. Fruity Yummy Mummy is monster who is wrapped with bright color bandages and is a friendly monster to kids. The cereal has a fruit flavor to it and is my third favorite out the monster cereals, and sadly it did not last in the world of breakfast cereal as it was introduced in 1987 and by 1992, it was put into the cereal crypt until 2013 for one Halloween season it was released with all the other monster cereals. Growing up I can remember eating Fruity Yummy Mummy and even still have the send away crayon of the character.

So now that we have talked about the Universal Monster The Mummy and its impact in the world of horror cinema as well as the merchandise it spawned and delighted monster kids through out the ages, I think that it’s time that we tempt fate and enter the cursed crypt of Princess Ankh-es-en-amon and try not to awaken the mummy Imhotep as we enjoy reading and reviewing the Dark Horse Comics adaptation of the 1932 classic film The Mummy! But I see some hieroglyphics written here that say “I grade these on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story.” So with the dust in the air and the Halloween season just months away, let’s chill our blood with some good old classic horror!

The Mummy # 1  ***
Released in 1993   Cover Price $4.95   Dark Horse   # 1 of 1

Sir Joseph Whemple has made the discovery of a lifetime when he finds the mummified body of an Egyptian priest named Imhotep who was wrapped and entombed alive as he was in love with the Princess Ankh-es-en-amon, making him die a horrible death. Dr. Muller comes to the site and tries to warn them that this mummy is bad news and not to read the scroll that of course gets read by a bumbling assistant.  This awakens Imhotep who steals the scroll and slinks off into the night but not before driving the assistant crazy with fear. Many years pass and Frank Whemple and his friend Professor Pearson are called by Ardath Bey (The Mummy Imhotep) who is living a new life and who needs them to dig and find the tomb of Princess Ankh-es-en-amon and the pair does and gives all their finds to the Cairo Museum. But Imhotep soon slips into madness as he has a plan to kill a woman named Helen Grosvenor whom he thinks is the reincarnation of his Princess lover and its up to Frank and the aged Dr. Muller to save her from a fate worse than death and that’s to be a undead bride! But when Helen really does turn out to be Princess Ankh-es-en-amon it is she who saves her own life when she prays to the goddess Isis who sets the scroll ablaze and turns Imhotep into dust.

The Dark Horse creative team did a fantastic job with this adaptation of the 1932 film as they captured the mood and setting of the Universal film perfect and yet added their own touch in the presentation. The story is about Imhotep, a priest who was mummified and buried alive for his undying love for the princess and who is resurrected many years later and spends his time in modern times living as one of us.  When he meets a woman he finds is the reborn love of his life, he tries to make her is wife eternal and it’s up to a group of scientist not to allow this to happen. This is a classic horror tale that pits good vs. evil and has love to the main goal for either side to try to win the struggle. Imhotep is a wise and sinister Mummy who has adapted to modern times in order to blend in and find his goal of being reunited with his love, the thing is he does not care who he has to hurt in order to achieve his goal. Not to mention, he is an undead being who can pass for an older man and can walk among us and turn on us at any time. While he is bad, he also has a side that makes you pity him as he truly does love the Princess. Helen Grosvenor is a woman who is a damsel as she really is the reborn Princess Ankh-es-en-amon! Frank Whemple is our hero, and he is a classic hero who is noble and is trying to stop The Mummy for all the right reasons and along with his friends does just that. This horror comic is bloodless and its scares comes from the mood and subject matter as this is what Universal Monster movies where all about. The cover for this comic is amazing and captures the look of Boris Karloff as The Mummy and the interior art is great stuff and is done by Tony Harris who also did the cover! The things that work well in this comic are the art and they did a great job of adaptation the 1932 film into a comic book! The downside is that while it’s a classic film, it is very slow moving and this as well makes this horror comic very slow moving! But even though it moves at a slow pace, I would say that if you enjoy the movie make sure to get a copy of this Dark Horse Comic. Check out the artwork below to see they style of art that Harris brings to this adaptation.

Again sorry for the delay of this update as I have moved from the trusty apartment and now have a new home base and during the move my issue of The Mummy were misplaced. It’s also crazy to think that in 2017 we had a new Mummy movie from Universal that was supposed to kick off the new shared monster universe called The Dark Universe, but only time will tell if this will really happen as the box office and critics were not kind to this re-boot. Also weird is that this was the final Dark Horse adaptation of a Universal Monster that was made as we have taken a look at Dracula, Frankenstein and Creature From The Black Lagoon.  I wonder why Dark Horse never did make issues of The Wolf Man, Invisible Man or Bride Of Frankenstein? But that is a mystery that I am sure I will never know the true answer to unless I can chat with someone from Dark Horse who knows the answers. For our next update, we are walking away from Monsters and into the world of Robots as we will chat about Robotech: Defenders, a model kit line that ended up being the name sake of a popular Japanese import cartoon series. So until next time, read a horror comic or three, watch a Universal Monster movie or two and as always support your local Horror Host! I think I am going to go watch a few horror films now!

The Universal Dracula: Blood Drive Countdown To Halloween

I Bid You Welcome! The moon is full, and we are at our third update in our countdown to Halloween.  A thick mist is covering the ground as we all wait for the carriage of Count Dracula to take us to his castle. This is an update that I have been looking forward to since I started Rotten Ink over three years ago.  As all you long time readers know, I grew up a Monster Kid and loved everything Universal Monsters. Not only did I have such things as a Christmas themed Frankenstein Monster t-shirt and VHS tapes of many of my favorite monsters, I also spent much of my time drawing pictures of Dracula and all of his Universal pals in art class and at home. This update I get to cover one of the true icons of Universal Monsters, the one who brought the studio back from approaching closed doors after having too many films that did not perform at the box office, a character that also brought Universal into the monster movie business again and proved that horror was a hit with moviegoers. I am of course talking about the 1931 masterpiece Dracula.  For this update we will be taking a look at not just the film and it’s Spanish counterpart, but also Universal Dracula in merchandise, culture, my connection to the film and the main attraction will be the Dark Horse Comics adaptation of this classic flick.  So let’s wait here at Borgo Pass for our ride to Castle Dracula and chat about Universal Dracula in film, comics, toys and more. And to be safe, if you believe the rumors about Count Dracula, you might want to wear those cloves of garlic around your neck!

Dracula 1931 Poster 0

Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula was a hit when it was released in 1897, and in 1922 filmmaker F.W. Murnau made his silent masterpiece “Nosferatu” based around the book.  He did not, however, get permission to do so and he was sued and all prints of his film ordered to be destroyed. Lucky for us some prints of the film did survive but that’s for another update based on the comic adaptation of the film and the series that followed. During that time a young film producer named Carl Laemmle Jr. bought the film rights and wanted to make a silent monster movie that would follow in the footsteps of The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (1923) and The Phantom Of The Opera (1925) and wanted to use the script from the stage play, that was a huge hit on Broadway, and even Nosferatu for inspiration to bring his version to the silver screen that would not be a silent film but now a talkie. While casting Laemmie passed on stage actor Bela Lugosi who was the talk of the town for his performance of Dracula on the stage and talked to actors like John Wray, Ian Keith and Paul Muni, while the films Director Tod Browning wanted to cast Lon Chaney Sr., but sadly Chaney passed away from cancer before the film’s production started. Lugosi lobbied hard and tried all he could to get the role he felt he was born to play not only on stage but also on the big screen and finally won over Universal and the executives when he took the small pay of $500.00 a week for seven weeks of work. The production of the film was slightly disorganized as director Tod Browning was not fully behind the film and at times would even leave the set and have his cinematographer Karl Freund take over shooting and directing scenes.  You see, at the time of this film Universal had gotten away from making horror films as they thought it was beneath them as a company, but after some shake up from inside the company, horror films were back on the slate but not taken too seriously as the company had major financial issues.  In my opinion, that is why Browning didn’t take this film as seriously as he should have because he looked at it as a low budget throw away film. The film had its premiere at the Roxy Theatre in New York on February 12, 1931, and as part of its marketing Universal reported that people fainted while watching the film.  This helped the big buzz for Dracula when it opened wide two days later. Dracula was a gamble for the studio but proved to be a risk worth taking as it was a major hit and bringing in the highest profit for them in 1931 as it did better than any of their other films released that year. The film received mixed reviews with most being positive and some negatives with complaints that it wasn’t too scary and comparing it to the stage version.  But most all agreed that Bela Lugosi was fantastic as Count Dracula. I don’t want to get into the film’s plot as I feel that the Dark Horse Comic adaptation we will be reviewing will take care of that.  Instead I would like to talk briefly about the first time I saw Dracula.  The Christmas after the one that we first got our VCR, my brother Bryan bought me Dracula as a gift.  I was pretty excited to see it, as the year before, my parents got me Frankenstein and my love for Universal Monsters was at an all time high! Like before, after the Brassfield side of the family came and went from our house in Waynesville, we sat down as a family and watched it, and I was hooked and loved every second of it. Bela Lugosi, who I had drawn pictures of for years as Dracula, crept his way into my brain and became the true Count Dracula in my eyes. Dwight Frye, who played Renfield, a sad one-time sane man who becomes Dracula’s bug eating slave, is fantastic.  Edward Van Sloan plays a cool and wise Van Helsing, while Helen Chandler was stunning and well cast as Mina Seward, the woman who captures Dracula’s eye. So before we move on, I want to give a big thanks to my brother Bryan for getting me that VHS tape all those years back and allowing me to see the film that inspired monster kids for generations.

Dracula 1931 Still 1Dracula 1931 VHSDracula 1931 Still 2

In 1931, at the same time as the Browning production of Dracula, Universal was filming a Spanish language version, rolling at night after the American production wrapped for the evening, that was directed by George Melford and starred Carlos Villarias as Count Dracula.  The cast and crew had the lucky advantage of watching the dailies from the American production before they would film and would try to one up them with better lighting, angles and acting as they wanted to be the better of the two productions. While the two films are very similar and both filmed using the same script, the Spanish Dracula changed things up and tried to make scenes more creepy for the time and was able to push the “sex appeal” up a notch by allowing their actress, Lupita Tovar, to wear more risque clothing as she played Eva who took the place of Mina in this version. This version of this film was also a hit with moviegoers of the 30’s and chilled the bones of those who watched it. But over time, the film became lost and a print of the movie would not be found until the 1970’s when it was restored so that a new generation of horror fans could enjoy it. Many critics and fans think that the Spanish version is better than the American version, and while it’s fantastic, I still find the Lugosi version of Dracula to be the better of the two.

Spanish Dracula 1931 Still 1Spanish Dracula 1931 VHSSpanish Dracula 1931 Still 2

After the runaway success of both Dracula and Frankenstein, Universal decided to make sequels to those films and poof! franchises were made. Dracula’s Daughter was the first sequel and came out in 1936.  It follows Countess Marya Zaleska, who is Count Dracula’s Daughter, who wants to be cured of her vampire ways..or does she? The next sequel, in 1943, had Lon Chaney Jr. as Count Alucard and was called Son Of Dracula. Count Dracula would go on to make appearances in both House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula for Universal that would combine all their classic monsters into the films.  In these two films, the part of Dracula was played by John Carradine. Bela Lugosi would play the role of Count Dracula again for Universal in 1948 in the horror comedy film Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.  This sadly would make the second and last time Lugosi would play the role in the movies. In 1979, Universal made a “remake” of Dracula that starred Frank Langella as Dracula and was a nice update to the film series. I would love to get more into films like Dracula’s Daughter and Son Of Dracula, but at some point in time I want to have some one of a kind comics made based on those films so I will hold off talking too much about them.  I really enjoyed each of the films I mentioned above and have spent countless hours watching them over the years and have owned them on VHS and DVD.

Draculas Daughter VHSSon Of Dracula VHSDracula Remake VHS

Bela Lugosi, who’s real name was Bela Ferenc Dezso Blasko, was born on October 20, 1882 in Lugos, a small town in the Kingdom of Hungary (now Lugo, Romania) and was the youngest of four children. By the age of 12, he dropped out of school and got into acting and by 1903 had roles in many local plays, not only having small roles but also major ones which him to getting great roles in Shakespeare plays. In 1911, he moved to Budapest and had a long a great run in many theater performances.  Lugosi would claim he was the leading actor of Hungary’s Royal National Theatre, but many factors go against his claim. From 1914 to 1919, Lugosi was an infantryman in the Austro-Hungarian Army and during World War I he was ranked Captain of the ski patrol and was wounded during combat and awarded medals for his service for his country. During this time, Bela also was taking on many roles in Hungarian films like The Colonel and The Caravan Of Death. During the 1919 revolution of Hungary, he was forced to flee his homeland when the actors union went crazy causing many actors to find work elsewhere.  This lead Bela to New Orleans, Louisiana in 1920 and also lead to him using the last name Lugosi in honor of his birthplace Lugos. Bela Lugosi moved to New York and by 1931 became naturalized as an American citizen. While in New York, he and other immigrant actors formed a stock company and entertained fellow immigrants with small production plays, with his first English Broadway play being the 1922 production of The Red Poppy and soon after The Devil In The Cheese, a comedy fantasy play as well as many other theater productions. His first American movie role came in 1923 for the film The Silent Command and this lead to many more roles in silent films cast mostly as the villain. His big break in Hollywood came after he wowed audiences with his portrayal of Count Dracula in the play Dracula that lead to him getting the role in the 1931 Universal Monster classic Dracula! This sparked him to be asked to play Frankenstein’s Monster in the Universal film Frankenstein but Bela turned it down as he felt that the part was not acting and just grunts and thus beneath his talents…or so rumor goes. Many more amazing horror film roles followed as Bela starred in White Zombie, Murders In The Rue Morgue, The Raven, Son Of Frankenstein, The Black Cat, Ghost Of Frankenstein, Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man and Black Friday to name a few. His role as Ygor in Son of Frankenstein is looked at as one of his finest roles by many horror fans. But Bela would not stay on top of the horror world forever as his addiction to opiates and his box office appeal was slipping.  This lead to him taking roles in many B-movies like such titles as Mother Riley Meets The Vampire, The Ape Man, Return Of The Vampire, Voodoo Man, Bela Lugosi Meets A Brooklyn Gorilla and The Black Sleep. During his decline, he started taking roles in a young filmmaker named Ed Wood Jr’s film like Glen or Glenda and Bride Of The Monster.  His final film appearance was in Plan 9 From Outer Space as old stock footage Wood shot was added into the film. Bela was able to get off the drugs before his death in 1956 at the age of 73 from a heart attack, and he was buried wearing one of his Dracula capes. Bela Lugosi remains one of my favorite horror actors of all time and his work lives on to frighten and entertain a new generation of Monster Kids.

Bela Lugosi 0Bela Lugosi as Dracula

Carlos Villarias was born on July 7, 1892 in Cordoba, Spain and was acting in his first movie in 1917 with the Spanish film “El Pobre Valbuena” and would star in many more Spanish productions throughout the 1930’s.  In 1931, he landed the role he was best known for, the Spanish version of Dracula for Universal. He continued to make movies for many years that followed and had roles in films like “The Mystery Of The Ghastly Face”, “Nostradamus”, “Tropic Holiday” and “The House Of The Fox” to name a few. His final film was in 1953 in a film called “Decameron Nights”. Carlos passed away in 1976 at the age of 83. While he might not be as well known as Bela Lugosi to horror fans, his acting and portrayal of Count Dracula for the Spanish market is amazing, and I am sure he chilled the bones of all those who watched him in the role back in 1931. I just wanted to touch on Carlos Villarias’s life as he is just as important to the Universal Dracula history as Bela Lugosi, Tod Browning and everyone else on the crew that made this movie come alive.

24482625_120291616966villarias

Don Post is considered the godfather of Halloween by many and made some of the worlds first latex masks.  He also attached himself to makings masks based on some of Hollywood’s top ghouls and monsters from The Wolf Man to The Hunchback Of Notre Dame and of course he made several based on Dracula; the most important ones were based on the likeness of Bela Lugosi’s portrayal for Universal. Growing up, I can remember old ads in and on the back cover for Famous Monsters Magazine that acted as an order form to buy this classic mask. I always wondered why Dracula’s skin is green and also marveled about just how awesome the ad made the mask seem, and ideas of wanting the mask to run around my neighborhood would spring into my brain. Years later I would get to see the mask in person at the Magic Hat, a store on Brown Street, and while a great looking mask, it did not live up to the epicness of the ad. Check out the ad picture below and try not to be tranced by its latex greatness!

Don Post Dracula Halloween Mask

In 1963, Hasbro unleashed a board game to masses called “Dracula Mystery Game.”  It would allow 2-4 players to kill time and chill their bones with the horror of Dracula. The plot of the game has you and the other players rolling dice trying to avoid Dracula who wants you dead! I own this game, but sadly when I bought it from my friend David J. Getz it was missing the Dracula pawn piece, making it so that we in the Dayton Board Game Society never played it during a meeting. The game is pretty pricey and on Ebay, depending on condition, can go form any were from $20.00 – $300.00! So if you like cheesy board games, try and track this one down and give it a play for a spooky good time.

Dracula Mystery Game BoardDracula Mystery Board GameDracula Mystery Game pawn

Back in the 1960’s, kids loved to put together and paint models.  For Monster Kids, the ones everyone wanted were the 1962 Aurora Monsters, and one of the most popular ones in that line had to be Count Dracula.  The Dracula model had a Bela Lugosi looking Dracula standing in a stone and grass field next to a dead tree that houses bats. When I was a very young kid and living in Waynesville, I had one of the Dracula model kits but only the Dracula piece that was unpainted as my Mom got it for me from a garage sale. I can remember setting it up on a shelf next to Wizard of Oz dolls I had and always wishing it was an action figure and not a model. Nowadays I have seen the original model kit at many antique malls for around $30.00 – $50.00, depending on how complete it is as well as how poorly it was painted and on Ebay I have seen them go for around $10.00 to $250.00, once more depending on condition and paint job. I wish I sill had my old Aurora Dracula Model Kit, but sadly he is gone in time.

Aurora Dracula boxAurora Dracula model

In 1964, Palmer Plastics released 3” PVC mini figures based on monsters from horror movies as well as science fiction ones. And of course one of the figures released was based on the Universal Dracula. The figure was crudely designed and would come in many colors and would be sold in a three pack or even singly, all for a super cheap price. I sadly never had a Palmer Dracula, but they can be found time to time on Ebay and go for around $20.00 to $60.00 on average.

Palmer Dracula Figure

Remco was a classic toy company who, in 1980, made a deal with Universal to make action figures of their monsters, and of course Dracula was in the line. They made two styles; the first was 9” doll that had cloth clothes with movable limbs.  The Dracula one was very cool but looked nothing like Bela Lugosi. I can remember seeing this figure at flea markets and antique stores, but even loose it always carried a high price tag that my mom would not spend in order to get it for us. To this day, I do not own one but do however own Frankenstein’s Monster thanks to my friend David J. Getz. In 1981, they then released the 3 3/4” action figure versions of the Universal Monsters, and Dracula of course graced this line with his blood drinking presence. These figures were the size of Star Wars and were ones in our youth we so badly wanted but never could find them at garage sales nor flea markets. The Dracula figure’s face glowed in the dark, and he came complete with a vinyl cape.  The downside of these figures was the fact the paint chipped off very easily, and poor Dracula’s nose always had a bare spot as did his fingers. While I never did own one of these figures in my youth, a few years back for my birthday my friend Jason Young gave me almost the full run of the figures as well as the Lab playset! And yep, the Dracula had paint missing on his nose and fingers. The 9” Remco Dracula on Ebay in good shape goes for $35.00 to about $65.00, and the 3 3/4” version goes for about $8.00 – $36.00 dollars loose and in good shape. Both of these figures in package sell for over $100.00 and for collectors like myself are well worth the high price tag.

Remco Dracula DollRemco Dracula figure

Imperial Toys didn’t want to feel left out of the Universal Dracula toy releases, so in 1986, for their Universal Monster toy series, they made a Dracula that was made of hard plastic with moveable arms and head.  For some reason his face and hands are a very bright white, and he has bright red lips and cheesy rings on his fingers. The figure was sold two ways; one was loose with a tag attached to his neck and the second was in a package that showcased his castle in the background that was covered in spider webs and dust. I can remember seeing the Imperial Dracula figure at Kay-Bee Toys and wanting it to go alongside my Imperial Frankenstein’s Monster and Wolf Man that my Mom and Dad got for for Christmas that year. Sadly in my youth I never did get Dracula nor The Mummy but with in the last 3 years I was able to get them both.  Thanks to Ebay, I was able to snag Dracula with The Mummy coming from Monsterbash Convention. If you’re looking for Dracula on Ebay, this Imperial figure in good shape goes for around $4.00 all the way up to $25.00, and I must say the likeness of Bela Lugosi on this one is pretty far off, but what did you expect from a cheap toy company that made low cost figures.

Imperial Dracula

But these were not the only figures based on Dracula that have been made over the years, they were just the most popular ones. Some other amazing ones include Ben Cooper’s Dracula Jiggler and the other knock off companies that made versions. Just Toys made a very cool Dracula Bend-Em for their Universal Monster collection, and this is one figure I did own and once more got it for Christmas one year alongside The Wolf Man. Imperial also made Universal Monster Pogs that featured Dracula, not only on the milk caps but also on his very own Slammer, and yep I had this in my youth. Those are just a drop in the hat of all the cool toys made based around the Universal Dracula character. So needless to say, if you’re a toy collector and you also love Universal’s version of Dracula, you can find many great collectibles for your collection!

Dracula JigglerDracula Bendie ToyDracula Pog SlammerBig Head Dracula Figure

When I was a kid, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was one of the most popular cartoon as well as toyline, and in 1993 when Playmates, the makers of the toys, decided to combine the Turtles with Universal Monsters, an amazing thing happened for Monster Kids like myself. Ninja Turtle Donatello was the one combined with Count Dracula, and the figure came with not only a cape but also weapons like a wooden stake.  Growing up I never had the Don as Dracula figure, but I did have a few of the others and over the years have seen this figure at many places for sale like Mavericks Cards And Comics, Game Swap Kettering and Feathers. On Ebay, the figure in package sells for about $25.00 – $40.00 dollars and loose and incomplete for about $2.00 – $4.00. So if you want this figure for your TMNT collection, it’s not too expensive.

TMNT DON AS DRACULA

World Candies produced a sugar candy stick in a small box that featured a monster of Universal Studios fame, and as far as I can tell, these began in the 1970’s and were simply called Monster Candy. I remember them in the late 80’s and early 90’s because around Halloween time at Odd Lots or Big Lots, they would sell these candies by the bag full for like $1.00 or two and I would get them to give out and pig out on. The candy back then was a flat stick, and two would be in a box and on the candy would be monster faces.  Now they are more like candy sticks aka candy cigarettes. These candies were a big part of my childhood, and while they were kind of gross, I still love the idea of them to this day. Check out the super cool box for Dracula.

Monster Candy Dracula Box

In Waynesville, I lived very close to the Library and would walk there with my brother Bryan, mother, father, and we would rent VHS movies, books and comics. One of the book series I would check out the most and even make copies of the pictures on a copy machine was the Crestwood House Monster Books. I used to love sitting and reading about each monster and all the classic films that featured them.  The books would also fill you in on old legends about that monster and even talk a little about the source material they were based on whether it be a urban legend or a novel. They put out a second series that were more like kid novels based on the movies like Dracula’s Daughter. The Library used to also have a huge sale where they would sell you a bag of books for so many dollars, and I was lucky enough to snatch up many of these titles when they decided they didn’t need them anymore and still have them to this day. I find myself from time to time still dusting them off and enjoying these fun books of my youth. Some of them were based around Dracula and many of those books are a fun read for fans and the young at heart. On Ebay, you can get a used copy of the Crestwood Monster Dracula book for $10.00 – $20.00 depending on condition and if it’s a hard or soft cover.

Crestwood Dracula BookCrestwood Daughter Of Dracula

Puzzles have been a staple for kids of all ages, and to this day, puzzles are put together by kids and adults alike.  It comes as no surprise that Universal licensed out Dracula’s image to companies to make ones based around this icon of fright. The puzzles have some great artwork and are clearly geared towards younger kids with them being mere 100-200 pieces. Not much to say about these, but I figured they should at least get some respect here on Rotten Ink.

Universal Dracula PuzzleDracula Puzzle

Back in the 90’s, Doritos Chips gave away Universal Monster stickers in the bags you would find at your local grocery store, and I found myself begging my mom to buy this snack food so that I would be able to collect the whole set of these stickers. So every time we would go to Ellis, a small store in Downtown Waynesville I would get a bag of this chips.  Now I should tell you, I HATE Doritos – always have and always will – and this shows you my love for Universal Monsters as I suffered through eating those nasty chips. I can remember how happy I was when I got the Dracula sticker for the first time, and I proudly put it away for safe keeping.  When I got an extra, I put it inside the VHS tape giving my tape a little something extra. No matter how hard I tried and how many bags of powdered death, I ate I never did get a full set of these stickers making all my efforts even that more sad. I still have the stickers to this day, and they are stored away at Independent B Movie studio waiting for the day that I will proudly display them in my home. But check out below and see how cool the Dracula one is.

Doritos Dracula Sticker

I grew up in the age of breakfast cereal, and some of the best out there were the General Mills Monster Cereals with Count Chocula, Boo Berry and Frankenberry and the wonders of how the world works when they put the cereal mascots alongside Universal Monsters! Let’s first breakdown Count Chocula as a character and his cereal. Count Chocula is vampire who is brown and wears brown clothes.  He is a friendly vampire to kids but hates Frankenberry and Boo Berry and thinks his cereal is the best. His feelings can be hurt when people run away from him, and he is scaredy cat. It’s clear as day that he is inspired by Lugosi’s version of Dracula because the mascot sounds like a poor man’s Bela. The cereal has a chocolate flavor to it and is my favorite out the the monster cereals.  It is one that I could eat every morning! But sometime in the late 80’s early 90’s, they put Lugosi as Dracula on the box with Count Chocula making a cool box for us kids to look at in the morning. Many items have been made in the image of Count Chocula including stuffed dolls, pencil tops, toys and shirts.

count choculacount chocula dracula boxCount Chocula Figure

Dracula has also made it to handheld video games like the ones made by Micro Games of America in 1994 and even ones made by Tiger have graced the hands of gamers. He has also been in pinball games at your local arcade and has been in a few PC games, and even had a full fledge game called simply Dracula for the Game Boy Color that was an official Universal Monsters product.  Not to mention, the mountains of other games that the character Dracula has appeared in making him one of the top classic monster bad guys used the most in video games.

Dracula Handheld gameUniversal Dracula Game Boy Color Game BoxGame Wizard Dracula Game

In 1997, fast food joint Burger King decided to have Universal Monster toys in their kids meal, and Count Dracula was one of the cheesiest and least wanted figure as for some reason his skin was flesh colored and it looked nothing like the classic Lugosi played vampire. Standing about 4 inches tall, the figure had a removable cape, a coffin and a glow in the dark sticker. The figure was perfect size to fit in with those kids of that day who played with G.I. Joe and Star Wars toys, and the best part was, they got it free for eating a cheeseburger and fries.  A pat on the back to Burger King for also bringing Dracula to a new generation of kids with these kids meal prizes even if the figure was lame in appearance.

BK Kids Club LogoBK Dracula Figure

Not to be outdone, another fast food hamburger joint also gave away figures based on the Universal Monsters, and unlike Burger King, they also included The Bride and did it twice! The first batch came in 1999 and had Dracula who looked just like the Burger King version in skin tone but had a weird grabbing feature as his action. Then in 2002, they put out a quick change magic trick Dracula that would have him turn from human into a bat via his coffin.  These figures are really cheap looking and kind of cheesy, but still worth owning for those who love all things Dracula. I don’t know much about these because there is no Jack in The Box in my area.

Jack In The Box Logo 0Jack In The Box Dracula Figure

The Universal Dracula Series has also been a big part of horror hosting as the films were a part of The Shock Theater and Son of Shock movie packages that allowed local TV stations to air the films with a host. Many of the old shows are lost like hosts such as Vampira, Sammy Terry, Dr. Creep and Melvin hosting these classic films but a few have survived, and some hosts have hosted them as late as early this year, 2016. But here are a few of the hosts I have that brought you some films from the Universal Dracula including Morgus The Magnificent and Baron Von Wolfstein.

Horror Host DVD Hosting Dracula 1Horror Host DVD Hosting Dracula 2

But this is called Rotten Ink and is a blog mostly about comic books, so we should talk about comics that are based around Dracula that are licensed by Universal. Off the top of my head, I can only think of two; one being released by Dell in 1963 as part of their Movie Classics line called “Dracula”, with it later being paired with The Mummy by Dell. The other is the Dark Horse comic “Universal Monsters Dracula” that was released in 1993 and is the subject of this epic update. The Dell comic is a new story about Dracula, while Dark Horses is just based on the script and is a movie adaptation. Both of these are comics we will get to at some point here on Rotten Ink as well as Marvel’s Tomb Of Dracula series.  I am looking forward to bringing you those.

Universal Dracula Comic Book Dell 10Universal Dracula Comic Book Dell with Mummy 20

One of my favorite internet shows has to be The Angry Video Game Nerd.  What is not to like about a funny character playing old video games from my youth and making fun of the flaws that have tortured many kids that played them. The Nerd is played and created by James Rolfe who also grew up as a Monster Kid watching the classic Universal Films, Horror Hosts like Joe Bob Briggs, making his own films and loving all things spooky. Every Halloween, he has a Nerd Special where he reviews a horror themed game, and in 2008, The Nerd covered Dracula themed games and he was in fact a vampire in the episode himself wearing a cape and all. But of course, the games he plays are terrible, including the NES unreleased game Drac’s Night Out, and uses the suns rays to commit suicide so he didn’t have to play any more terrible Dracula games. Every HalloweenJames Rolfe also has a show called Cinemassacre’s Monster Madness where he talks about Horror films, and one year for this show he did sequels and covered the whole Universal Dracula series. Fun shows and worth checking out at http://cinemassacre.com.

AVGN as DraculaAVGN Art Dracula EpisodeAVGN as Dracula 2

On Sunday, October 25, 2015 at 12:50pm at the Cinemark theater at The Greene Juliet, her mom and myself went to see the 1931 Universal Dracula on the big screen just in time for Halloween! We were all pretty hyped as the event was supposed to have a cool new intro from a film historian and was to be followed up by the Spanish version of Dracula.  With some candy and drinks in hand, we were ready for some classic horror film frights. There was a decent amount of people in the theater including mothers with their children who were talking about how scary the movie was when they where little.  This put a huge smile on my face as this classic Universal film was being passed down to a younger generation of Monster Kids.  Joining us were senior citizens who came to relive watching Lugosi in all his caped glory. But what was going to be an epic afternoon of Universal Horror once more turned into the ultimate blunder of Cinemark as they cut the new intro by the film historian, started the Lugosi Dracula film after the opening credits and to boot never showed the Spanish version! I was pretty annoyed by this as Cinemark at the Greene is my go-to theater, and they fouled up showing a classic monster movie event.  But with all blunders aside, it was great to see Dracula on the big screen along with Juliet and her Mom, who also loves a good classic Horror fright flick! So while fun, I still want to say shame on you Cinemark, for charging full price for an event you didn’t show fully.

Dracula On The Sign at CinemarkDracula Ticket CinemarkThe Theater Gearing Up To See Dracula 1931 at Cinemark

So we have arrivied at Castle Dracula, and I can see our host making his way down the long stone stairs so while we wait for him to bid us, welcome I should thank Mavericks Cards And Comics for having this Dark Horse adaptation in stock. I also hear the children of the night telling me to remind you all that I grade these on a standard 1-4 star rating and am looking at how well the comic keeps to the source material, its entertainment value, and its art and story. Plus I want to say that I am really happy to present this update to all you readers and friends this close to the Halloween season, and hope I did this classic, iconic and impactful film justice with this update. Our host is here and inviting us in for a glass of wine, so let’s head on in and take a look at this blood sucking comic!

Dracula 1 Dark Horse Comics

Dracula # 1  ***
Released in 1993    Cover Price $4.95    Dark Horse    # 1 of 1

Renfield arrives at Castle Dracula in Transylvania to meet Count Dracula, a client who is buying the Carfax Abbey in England, but during his first night there, Renfield is bitten by Dracula who is a vampire. The next day Renfield is now the slave of Dracula, and they are aboard a ship bound for England when Dracula comes from his coffin and kills the crew during a massive storm. Renfield is the only one found alive on the ship when it docks, and he is found to be mad and taken away to an asylum as Dracula walks the streets sucking the blood of a young lady selling flowers he stumbles upon. Dracula goes to the symphony and meets the Dr. Seward who runs the asylum near the Carfax Abbey, his daughter Mina, her fiance John Harker as well as her best friend Lucy. Later that night Dracula targets Lucy to become his first bride and bites her on the neck as she sleeps, and by doing so kills her and turns her into a vampire. Dr. Seward goes to his friend Dr. Van Helsing for answers to Lucy’s death, and he in turns knows that Renfield must be the helper to the vampire that is stalking England, but he is not sure who it is. Meanwhile Dracula has now selected Mina as his next bride and also wants to use her to help bring down her father and Van Helsing only slightly turning her to a vampire and more as a slave that will do his bidding. The next day while Mina explains a bad dream she had to her father, John and Van Helsing, they spot two bite marks on her neck and as Count Dracula enters and thanks to a mirror, Van Helsing figures out that Dracula is the vampire they seek. Dracula returns later that night and allows Mina to drink his blood forming a bond between the two and later takes her to his safe place at Carfax Abbey. John and Van Helsing follow Renfield who has escaped the asylum to the Carfax Abbey, and Dracula rips the heart out of his one time slave and rushes to his coffin.  The sun is coming up after he spots John and Van Helsing have entered his home! Van Helsing drives a stake through Dracula’s heart, and Mina snaps out of her trance and returns home with her lover leaving this nightmare behind.

I first want to state that I enjoyed this comic book adaptation of the classic 1931 Universal Monster film Dracula from Dark Horse, but I also want to say that writer Dan Vado took some liberties with the story by doing such things as cutting Dracula’s Brides out of the opening, having Dracula cut his own arm for Mina to drink from, shows the stake going into the heart of Dracula, Renfield has his heart ripped out of his body by Dracula, Lucy just disappears once she becomes a vampire as well as adds blood to the hand of the flower girl that’s bitten by Dracula after he exits the ship. The story is this Dracula comes to England from his home in Transylvania and tries to turn two friends into his vampire brides but is soon on the radar of a highly intelligent doctor who is aware of the vampire legend and travels to the dark side of the world to free the soul of his friends daughter who is in danger by the curse of Dracula’s bite. So lets break down our cast of characters starting with Mina Seward who is the eye candy for Dracula who is your typical naive young female character who is under the spell of evil and does nothing to help herself to escape. But with that said Mina is a great character as she fits the part of the damsel in distress that is needed in all great fairy tales. John Harker is a man who loves his fiance and will do what ever it takes to keep her safe, while he talks a good game he is not the man who steps up and saves Mina from her fate. Van Helsing is the real hero of this tale as he is the one who knows the vampire legends, understands what can stop them, figures out who the vampire is and is the one who ends up driving the stake into the heart of Dracula ending his terror. Dr. Seward is just like John while he wants to keep his daughter safe he just has no clue how to do so. Renfield is a man who is driven insane and has enter battles with what his dark side tells him to do and what he knows is right. The poor fool who does what ever he can for Dracula is rewarded with having his heart ripped from his body as it was clear the vampire had no real care for his insane slave. Count Dracula is suave, violent and very cold as he don’t care about life and only wants his needs meet as he did not care who’s lives he ruined in his quest for new brides. Dracula in this comic is so much more evil in the film as he seems to get joy from killing and has no remorse for when he does kill. Lucy as well as the asylum workers and maids are all just secondary characters and fit their roles well. The odd thing about this adaptation is that it takes a classic black and white horror film that is known for it’s lack of blood and gore and decides to add in both! While I am sure some readers disliked these changes I looked at them as the artists and writers trying to add their own spin on this classic story. The art is done by John D. Smith and is a very cool paint style that captures the look of Lugosi very well as Dracula, but oddly enough NONE of the other characters look like the actors who played them in the 1931 film with them even going so far to give Van Helsing a beard. But while Dracula might be the only one who looks like he should I found myself really liking the art as well as the cover that is really amazing and showcases just how talented Smith is at capturing the creepy feel of Bela. Over all this was a great read and an amazing read to lead us into the month of October! If your a fan of classic Universal Monsters and love comic books I would say for sure check it out! Check out some of the art below from this comic and see just how cool it looks, I must say sorry for the poor quality of the pictures as I had to use my iPhone in order to get them and not a scanner.

Universal Dracula Dark Horse Art 1Universal Dracula Dark Horse Art 2Universal Dracula Dark Horse Art 3

So we have made it out of Castle Dracula alive and with all our blood intact, and we should count ourselves lucky as this far we have not only survived Count Dracula with out countdown to Halloween but also this far Jaws and The Tallman! This update was lots of fun to write and really helped me get into the Halloween spirit as Universal Monster movies always kick of the spooky mood and feeling that goes along with the months of October and September for me. I hope I did this 1931 film and its legacy justice with this update as it’s in honor of Bela Lugosi, who is a true horror actor icon. But I am sure you’re wondering what’s next for out countdown to Halloween.  We are leaving Castle Dracula and heading to Ireland to come face to face with the one and only Rawhead Rex! So until next time, read a comic or three, see a horror movie or two and as always support your local Horror Host…See you next update my ghoulish friends and readers.

PDVD_000

American Hero: The Original Shield

Happy July 4th and welcome back to Rotten Ink, a place where everything nerdy that inspired me has a place to shine and be discussed! Who doesn’t love a holiday that is in celebration of our nation’s independence and is filled with cookouts and amazing firework displays? So for this update I decided to cover a patriotic super hero and had many to choose from such as Captain America or even DC’s Freedom Force with Uncle Sam, but I decided to cover The Shield, a hero who pre-dated them all and has a fun Americana feel. So grab a burger and a cold beverage, and sit back, relax and have some fun with me here at Rotten Ink as we celebrate July 4th!

Fireworks go boom

Growing up, I can remember that my Brassfield grandparents would have cookouts that would have that side of the family gathering to eat burgers, hot dogs and steaks and play some baseball, Nintendo or football with the cousins and have an overall fun time. Later in the evening, we would all go to Delco Park and watch the fireworks and celebrate our independence. But while for the most part those were fun times, I can also remember many of years drama breaking out over someone having too many beers, and fights and arguments would break out for no reason.  Maybe my friend Henrique Couto should make a follow up to his film Awkward Thanksgiving and call it Awkward July 4th cause I have some fun and silly stories to share with him on that subject! The older I got, the less the family meet up and the more I would go out with friends to watch the fireworks or attend BBQs with them.  Some of the best times I have ever had on this day had to be sitting in a football field with my friend Andrea Seay and watching fireworks, just chatting with her as we watched the sky explode with bright colors, showing me just how important she was and still is to me.  Sadly we have drifted apart due to a dumb decision I made when it came to her. I also remember having great times on this day with David & Katie Wean cooking out and eating hamburgers and hotdogs chatting about movies and music. I also remember having a good time over at Patrick Neeley’s house cooking out, chatting, listening to music and playing video games. I also always had an amazing time hanging out on this day with my brother Bryan and his family along with friends like Andy Copp, Henrique Couto, Mike Ritchie and Nick Williams grilling out and watching Couto set off tiny fireworks or blow up apples and such with firecrackers. Nowadays I spend July 4th with my girl Juliet, and we find some sort of wacky thing to do to celebrate the day. I am going to pack lots into this update, not only about The Shield but other things to do with the holiday as well as a few things that don’t! But one thing is for sure, if you’re reading this on July 4th I am sure you are enjoying some grilled out meat while being around your loved ones waiting for the fireworks to go boom!

grilled out burgers

In 2015 on July 4th for some reason I had to work for a few hours and then went to WYSO and got Alpha Rhythms done.  When I got home, Juliet and I decided to try some chicken wing sauce we bought at Jungle Jim’s that was called “Oh My Garlic.”  This was originally bought to have during one of my Horror Movie Marathons as the bottle had a pretty cool vampire drawing on it, but that idea changed as the last marathon I had was pretty large and we ended up ordering wings from Fricker’s instead. We got some fresh farm grazed chicken wings and drumsticks from Dorothy Lane Market, and when placing them in the glass pan, I put some spices on the wings and then put a little butter on them as well to help make them turn crispy and brown and placed them in the oven at 475 degrees for about 10 minutes. When taking them out I covered them with the Oh My Garlic sauce and man the smell was great.  Juliet and I knew that dinner was going to be really good and we could sleep easy as the heavy garlic smell would scare off any vampire. After about 30-40 minutes the wings were done and our feast began. The Oh My Garlic sauce was fantastic and had a strong garlic taste and the flavor mixed well with the chicken, spices and butter drawing out the garlic taste even more and really soaking into the meat. This is one sauce I will eat again and look forward to the next trip to Jungle Jim’s so that I can raid the chicken wing sauce aisle and get another bottle and see what other wonders I can uncover! The first picture is of the Oh My Garlic Sauce.  The second is the finished meal, and the third is the wings when the sauce was first placed on.

Oh My Garlic SauceOh My Garlic Done WingsRaw Wings With Oh My Garlic sauce

What would July 4th be without talking about something creepy! In 2009, a strange video was uploaded to Youtube by a user named Creepyblog that shows a very creepy female android singing a song called “I Feel Fantastic” while it moves its hands about.  It sent shivers down viewers’ spins, and the web was creeped out with many people asking what is this?! Tara The Android is the thing’s name.  No one is 100% sure of its origins and it’s true intention of being made, but like anything odd on the internet, there are a ton of theories that I would like to share them with you. Before you read on, you should watch the original video by typing in “I Feel Fantastic” into Youtube or just click the title from this page. Many people believe that Tara was made by a man named John Bergeron who made her to be a novelty concert attraction that he planned to book at clubs and art shows to show off her singing ability as well as his android work, but after not getting the attention he thought she would via her website as well as some issue with her not being that portable, the idea was scrapped. This theory is the most logical one and takes any creepy element away from Tara and her creator.  It was said that for a short time on the website that is now almost shut down, you could buy the songs as well as the “music videos” from Tara…is this fact or was the website made up to help build the legend of Tara? The next, more science fiction, theory is that Tara was made by a man who was killed by her and now the female android is on the loose looking to sing to and kill anyone who gets in her way…this one is silly and over the top and seems like it could have been an episode of The X-Files. The best, and also very believable, theory is that a serial killer made Tara and dresses her in his victims’ clothes and has her sing positive things to him as if murdering them was the right thing.  At one point Tara says “You Are Fantastic” but also says such odd things as “Run, Run, Run” and “Please Leave” adding to the killer using phrases he wanted to hear as well as what he did hear from his victims. Many videos were made and most are laced with strange lyrics and odd costume changes for Tara. Another odd thing is during the music videos random shots of a backyard are shown zooming into the ground ,and this is said to be the location of the body or bodies of victims. The background music that accompanies her lyrics sounds like weird low budget horror film score music adding fuel to the creator being a killer. No record has ever been uncovered if this is the work of a killer, and many people think this theory is just told to scare people looking for a good Creepypasta. So I am sure your wondering what I think the story of Tara is, well let me tell you that I am not sure! So what do you think, was she a would be android pop star made to make its creator some extra money? Is it a killer android on the loose who killed its creator looking for blood? Or is it the work of a killer who uses the robot to relive his crimes and feel good about his deeds? Only Tara and her creator know for sure, and they aren’t saying anything! On a side note weird stuff like this is why I do love the World Wide Web, cause it’s open to debate what is real and what’s only fiction to make a Creepypasta.

tara the android 1Tara The Android Backyardtara the android 2

On this update the CD I listened to as I wrote was picked by my friend and co-worker Dan Harkless, who is a Vietnam Vet and served his country in the war.  I always enjoy sitting around and listening to his war stories, and it’s given me a perspective into battle.  He is an all around fun person to chat with who loves Russ Meyer films and Playboy Magazine.  He’s a great swimmer who won awards, a gardener, was a fan of Sub Mariner when growing up and is a music lover. Dan picked Harry Chapin’s 1977 release Dance Band On The Titanic as his favorite, and this is interesting as I know very little about Harry Chapin besides the song “Cat’s In The Cradle” that almost every music listener knows.  So this is a very big unknown for me as I do not recognize any of the songs on this CD! The first thing I noticed is the 70’s pop folk sound of the tracks.  This was not what I was expecting at all as I felt going into it that it would be 100% folk rock, so this was a pleasant surprise! The first track that caught my ear was “Why Should People Stay The Same,” a nice song about change in relationships with a touch of religion.  It’s a good song with a catchy beat. Many other well produced and well played tracks followed including the soft folk ballad mixed with a dash of big band song called “Dark Valley (An Imitation Spiritual)”, a song that also caught my attention. While this CD was nothing I would normally listen to, I did find some great songs to write to on it and want to thank Dan for recommending it to me to go outside the borders of what I normally listen to.

Dan Harklessharry chapin dance band on the titanic cdHarry Chapin

My brother and I used to rent a lot of horror films from K&L Video.  We would look up and down the New Release Wall looking for low budget titles that would catch our attention or direct to video sequels to films like Children of The Corn, but in 1996, a cover box caught my attention for a horror film called Uncle Sam that had a picture on the back of it that made me crack up and caused us to rent it! The picture on the back that had me laughing was a man dressed in an Uncle Sam mask peeking into a window and watching a woman in the bathroom…so cheesy, yet so 90’s direct to video horror! The film was directed by William Lustig, who was known for The Maniac Cop series as well as titles like Maniac, Relentless and Vigilante, and starred names like Bo Hopkins, PJ Soles, Isaac Hayes and David “Shark” Fralick and was released by A-Pix Entertainment. The film is about a young boy named Jody who idolizes his uncle Sam Harper, who is a master-sergeant in the army and is killed in a crash, but when the body is flown home, the small town soon finds out Sam is not dead.  He is a zombie killing machine and must be stopped by his nephew who once looked up to him. You see Sam was not a good man who enjoyed beating his wife as well as killing in wars.  While his nephew thought he was a true patriot, he in fact was a scumbag. While watching the movie, my brother and I spent time spotting the G.I. Joe action figures and enjoying the over all cheesy nature of the film. Sam Harper wears the Uncle Sam costume once he kills a peeping tom who was wearing it and has two looks, one with a mask and one with a zombie like burnt rotten face.  That’s right, sadly the picture on the back cover was not the killer, but just some teen tying to sneak a peek at a girl he likes. Uncle Sam leaves itself open for a comic sequel as it looks like a film one is not in the books. The story for the comic could have a grown up Jody, who is now in the military himself, being sent to a top secret base where he finds that the government has many experiments locked away including the still reanimated body of his Uncle Sam.  They want him to lead this rag tag group of “controlled” reanimated solders into battle against terrorist, and Jody soon learns that no one can lead Sam as he takes control of the zombie army and leads a war against not only terrorist but returns home to settle the score with the town that hides his ex-wife as he wants her dead! The comic would come to an epic end battle in the small town as Jody leads a group of elite soldiers against Sam and his army of the undead! The comic could be filled with lots of blood, bullets and boobs and the home coming for Sam of course would have to take place on July 4th so that during the final battle, fireworks could be going on in the background. While no major comic company would touch this to turn into a comic series I would say that out of my friends, the ones I would love to see make this would be Eric Shonborn or Justin Wasson, both of whom I think could make this idea pop and come alive the way it should. If you like low budget horror films that have a holiday themes to them, then make sure to check out Uncle Sam as I am sure it will give you at least an entertaining watch.

unclesam751BQEVJB3JLunclesam

The Shield was created in 1940 by Harry Shorten and Irv Novick for MLJ Comics for a series called “Pep Comics” and was one of the first true patriotic superheroes of comics. In 1959 Lancelot Strong became the new Shield for a comic called “The Double Life Of Private Strong”, but Archie Comics pulled the plug on the series after only two issues. In 1983, Lance once more as The Shield was given another run under “Lancelot Strong: The Shield” and had two name changes during its seven issue run. Think about that; the comic had three titles for seven issues! The Original Shield, who was back to the first one – Joe Higgins, came out for Red Circle Comics and lasted only four issues. 1991 saw DC Comics (under Impact Comics) giving him a try with a series called “The Legend Of The Shield” that had Joe Higgins as The Shield for thirteen issues, and later Lt. Michael Barnes took up the mantel, in a series that only lasted sixteen issues. In 2015, Archie Comics under their Dark Circle Comics banner, has released a new version of The Shield that has Victoria Adams stepping up to do America proud. So that’s the publishing history of The Shield; up next we will take a look at Joe Higgins, who is the Original Shield!

Steven_Barnes the shieldShield 00VictoriaAdamsShield

Joe Higgins is a chemist, whose father Tom was working on a chemical formula that would act as a super solider serum, but the Germans want it and this leads to Tom’s death.  Joe continues his father’s work, and after using X-Rays and other chemicals, he does it! He gains invulnerability as well as the ability to leaps of great distance. He dresses in a outfit that sports the American colors, takes the codename Shield and takes a job for the F.B.I. to fight threats to America as well as try and clear his father’s name and expose his killers. His adventures are part superhero and part spy game as he also takes a young orphan named Dusty Simmons as his sidekick, and the pair stop many menaces and dangers. Later in life as he aged, he formed a group with teenagers he called “The New Crusaders”. Joe’s son Bill Higgins took over the role of The Shield when his dad was turned to stone by a bad guy named The Eraser, and in order to save him he also created a team called “The Mighty Crusaders! This is just a quick crash course of the history of The Shield as I don’t want to spoil too much and would like for all you readers to take some time and check out some of his comics.

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The Shield did get an action figure in 1984 as part of Remco’s toyline based around the superhero team The Mighty Crusaders that consisted of The Shield as well as 7 other figures. The Shield figure came with a gun belt, two guns and a shield that rocked the red, white and blue colors! The figures themselves are about the size of Mattel Secret Wars but more bulky in proportions, and their legs look like liverwurst logs stuffed inside spandex pants…to sum it up, they are weird looking. The Shield figure also has a goofy looking face, and sadly the whole figure line reeks of cheapness.  While my brother and I had a few of these figures growing up, hardly no other kid I knew did. The Shield was not one of the figures we owned growing up, but I can safely say if I did he would ended up just being a foot solider for my Secret Wars Captain America on rescue missions to save Princess Leia and Scarlett from the grip of Baron Zemo!

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So I think we are all in a patriotic mood right now thanks to The Shield and it being July 4th so I think we should grab a burger or dog along with a favorite drink sit back enjoy the weather and atmosphere of being our independence day and take a journey with The Shield as he battles those who want to disrupt our way of life here in America. I want to thank Bookery Fantasy and Lone Star Comics for having these issues in stock and helping make this holiday update special. Like always, I want to remind you that 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, its entertainment value and its art and story. So light a sparkler and take a bite of that hotdog it’s time to go to war alongside The Shield!

Original Shield 1

The Original SHIELD # 1  ***
Released in 1984   Cover Price .75   Archie Comics   #1 of 4

A map has been stolen from the F.B.I., and The Shield wants to find out who stole it and why.  By donning his alter ego Joe Higgins, he tracks down a fellow agent who was the spy for a bad man named Boroff and was the key in stealing the map. At Boroff’s hideout he not only has the top secret map but also Professor Newton, the man who created the maps and knows the location of the item they seek,.The Shield comes in at the last second and beats up Boroff, who is working for a secret group called Delta 3 and saves Newton from being killed and finds out that what the map is hiding is no longer a threat as the radiation from bomb testing has ruined it. But things are not all good as Boroff escapes, and while one fight ends, the battle still rages on. When retuning back to work Joe Higgins finds out that the F.B.I. as part of budget cuts is closing one of their old storage warehouses and are giving away some old robots to the museum that was created by Boroff’s henchman Klotz.  He travels to Washington with Lisa Carvin, his boss, for a black tie affair and to check on the robot.  Upon arriving, he finds that they are already gone, and a man with a gun is waiting for him.

This is classic patriotic super hero action that shows a normal man in a special suit mixed with spy situations can be a great read and would be great for fans of Captain America! The plot of this issue has The Shield stopping a plan to kill a professor and steal a top secret weapon and along the way finding a mole within the F.B.I, beating up his arch nemesis Boroff, and trying to stop the transfer of old robots that he battled in the past. The Shield, aka Joe Higgins, is a great hero who uses his wits as well as his special powered suit (that reflects bullets, fire and blasts) in order to protect America from those who wish it harm. He is strong as a well-trained boxer and packs a punch that can break robots into pieces! He is firm and harsh when need be and doesn’t like to lose when it comes to the game of fighting crime.  He also enjoys being an F.B.I agent and ridding the streets of global threats. Over all I’m big fan of The Shield at this point and am very glad to be reading about him on the 4th of July! Lisa Carvin, who is Jim’s boss in the F.B.I., seems pretty cool at this point.  It’s clear she is not a fan of Joe but respects that he gets things done.  She is also clueless that Jim is The Shield. Boroff is a pointed tooth, black Mohawk haired beast of a man who clearly does not value human life.  We only get a small dose of him in this issue but I have a feeling he will be back in the future. This issue has likable characters, a fun dated yet classic story, good art and filled with pride from those who created this issue. Now the bad side is that the story picks up in the middle of the action as you had to read “Mighty Crusaders # 5” and “Pep Comics # 1” in order to really get the full backstory of what is going on.  I still am unclear as to what the map held the location of besides these numbers 42642. But even with that flaw, I really did enjoy this comic.  The cover is classic Archie Superhero stuff, and the art inside done by the likes of Dick Ayers and Tony DeZuniga and is fantastic stuff.  I really enjoyed the art as it reminded me of late 70’s Captain America work. Well let’s see what issue two has in store for us, and I am hoping it will be as good as issue one!

Original Shield 2

The Original SHIELD # 2  ***
Released in 1984   Cover Price .75   Archie Comics   #2 of 4

The man with the gun is no threat, but an old F.B.I agent named Dan Hurley who served with Jim way back when has now pieced it together that Jim is The Shield as he has not aged at all! The pair get talking about the past and how, for a short time thanks to a powerful ray gun from Boroff, The Shield lost his powers. After the talk, Jim asks Dan for help and makes it just in time to pick up Lisa for the party that is being thrown by Senator Casey.  At the party, Lisa meets an old flame named Ed Crisp, and Jim sees his old nemesis Klotz who tries to murder him with a poison gas capsule! Jim barely escapes and leaves the party with Lisa as he coughs and rambles on about a 80 year old spy. Jim passes out in front of Lisa’s hotel room, and she drags him inside where he has flashbacks to his past that include his wife, son Bill and old crime fighting partners and enemies. Once awake, he changes into his Shield outfit and finds Klotz who is out of his mind and is a working for Delta 3.  Klotz drops a grenade as our issue ends, hoping to blow them both up!

The Shield does it again with this second issue as he captures the mood of a time when comics were simple and plots were cut and dry with bad guys and good guys, another solid issue for sure! This time around Jim Higgins meets an old friend, The Shield comes face to face with an old enemy and Lisa comes in contact with an old flame. Plus throw in a shady Senator, and you have a fun spy costume hero comic plot. This issue The Shield aka Jim is once more a man of honor as he chats with an old friend and comes clean to him that yes, he is the costumed hero everyone depended on in the past.  Plus thanks to the gas, we learn that he was married and had a son, and we get a little about his old crime fighting friends who went missing.  We also learn that he was frozen into a statue by a bad guy named The Eraser, and that’s why he is so young in modern times. The Shield is a class act hero who reminds me of a character that would have been a member of The Minute Men from The Watchmen from DC Comics. Lisa Carvin is also a little more fleshed out as it’s clear that while she is hard on Jim she still likes him as a person and she is not your typical one sided female character as she acts and gets things done. Dan Hurley is a old timer who lives and breathes the F.B.I and is a pretty cool little side character.  I wonder what mission Jim asked him to do; I am sure in the coming issues we will find out. Klotz is a crazy old man and with him being nuts comes the danger as it’s clear he is not sane and will do whatever it takes to kill The Shield and impress Delta 3. I don’t trust Senator Casey or Ed Crisp as both seem a little too shady for this comic reader.  Plus Ed has one of those 70’s porn mustaches mixed with Mr. Kotter’s from Welcome Back Kotter! While not a lot of fists flying, this issue still packs a mighty punch with its simple and classic plot and good characters. The cover is pretty good, and that art inside is once again fantastic and done by three this time: Dick Ayers, Tony DeZuniga and Rex Lindsey.  It’s sure to please old school comic readers. Sad to say, we are at the half way point and this series is almost at an end. l hope the next two keep up the quality of the first two as I’m really digging this series.

Original Shield 3

The Original SHIELD # 3  ***
Released in 1984   Cover Price .75   Archie Comics   #3 of 4

The blast kills Klotz, and stuns The Shield for a few moments.  During this time he remembers back to the day he was broken free from being a living statue thanks to his son Bill who was acting as The Shield. He also thinks how different his time in the 1940’s was from present time in the 80’s. While looking around the room he finds the final mission for the robots, to attack the White House and kill the president! The Shield rushes to the White House running as fast as The Flash and defeats them. Changing back to Jim Higgins, he, alongside Lisa, confronts the Senator who seemed to be working alongside the crazy Klotz, but after they find Ed Crisp dead in his office from a suicide with a note claiming allegiance to Delta 3 the heat is off the Senator…for now. Delta 3 however is very not pleased with their plans being foiled and put a hit out on Joe and Lisa that is taken by Mega, a strong tall stretching powerhouse and Bit, a small man with telepathic powers! As Jim and Lisa leave Ed’s funeral, they both have the feeling he didn’t kill himself but was murdered to cover up Delta 3 plans.  As Mega goes after Jim, he soon meets Shield who makes quick work of him as Lisa is attacked by Bit who is finally beat by Lisa and The Shield together.

This issue tones down the spy aspect and ups the fighting as Shield goes toe to toe with Mega and Bit who are mutants sent to do his boss and him harm.  It’s a pretty great plot and could be taken straight from a classic Spider-Man comic. In this issue, the Shield watches as one of his old nemesis dies, discovers corruption in government and fights two mutants to save his own life as well as his boss’! Lisa Carvin is also fighting corruption as her one time lover has been murdered and framed all to cover up for the evil Delta 3. Mega and Bit are mutants with special powers who use them wisely, but just are no match for The Shield who outsmarts them in battle. But to be fair, Lisa is the one who delivers the knock out blow to Bit with a vase to his head. Delta 3 shows two members named Number 1 and Number 3, and they are cheesy bad guys who are worried about being discovered and that’s why hits are placed on the F.B.I agents. The best part of this comic series so far is the fact that as we get deeper in it, the plot thickens! The cover is good and classic 80’s superhero stuff, with art this time around being done by Dick Ayers and Rex Lindsey only, and like before it’s fantastic! The sad part about this issue is that we only have one more in the series and then we are done, but I guess that’s a good thing as if you are reading this update on July 4th I am sure you have cooked out food and fireworks to get to. So let’s not waste any more time and see what the final issue has in store for us.

Original Shield 4

The Original SHIELD # 4  **1/2
Released in 1984   Cover Price .75   Archie Comics   #4 of 4

Jim Higgins comes to work at the F.B.I and has a special note from his old World War II friend and now Army Col. named Boyle that informs him that in New Mexico a shield that belonged to his nemesis The Hun is being placed at an army base museum and that danger is near. As Boyle gets to the base and sees the Nazi shield with his own eyes, they come under attack as the aging Hun is mad as hell and as powerful as ever! The Hun manhandles Boyle and the aging base commander. But lucky for them, The Shield makes it just in time to tangle with The Hun and is able to make short work of him thanks to his love for freedom and power. In the end the Nazi shield goes missing, The Shield captures The Hun and America is safe from a threat once more.

This fourth and final issue in the series only slips slightly as the story is good, but also seems a little rushed. The plot is simple and has a Nazi super bad guy from the past attacking a military base.  He’s taught a lesson in manners by The Shield who makes quick work of him. In the issue the Shield comes off a freedom loving hero but oddly enough lost a little charm as this issue felt like it were trying to hard to be a Captain America issue. The Hun’s is amazing as it shows him as a German boy who had murdered people his whole life getting powers from the ghost of Attila The Hun and after doing so joined the Nazi party to try for world domination. While he sounds like a bad ass, he is shown to be a good fighter but is outclassed by The Shield in every way…making him no real threat. We finally meet Col. Boyle, and he comes off as a old man who lives in the past who is a mix of Nick Fury and Thunderbolt Ross from the Marvel Universe. With this being the final issue some questions do go unanswered.  It was clearly not supposed to be the final issue as they advertise in the end for issue five. So as far as we all know, if you just read The Original Shield series, Delta 3 is still out in the world causing issues and The Shield along with the F.B.I are still battling them, and I like that. The issue also takes a jab at Marvel Comics as in the end characters named Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes are asked to dump the trash where the Nazi Shield is placed among the garbage. The cover is epic and shows The Shield going into battle with The Hun as army soldiers are frozen in place. The art this time around was done only by Dick Ayers and has a 50’s style look to it.  While not bad, it’s also not the best the series has looked. I should also mention that The Coment from Mighty Crusaders makes a cameo in the issue as he is how The Shield gets to New Mexico so fast. While The Original Shield is dated by all accounts and most modern comic fans would be bored to tears with its slow pacing and World War II dated hero who’s out of time being resurrected in the 80’s, I found lots of joy in reading it, and it triggered even more patriotic spirit in me as I read it on this day that celebrates America and all it’s glory. While this series might not be for everyone, I think fans of early Captain America will love every cheesy page of it. Below is some artwork from the series with the first two showcasing The Shield and the last being The Hun.

The Original Shield Art 1The Original Shield Art 2The Original Shield Art 3

The Shield, a True American icon, is worth the read and receiving the honor of being the first Rotten Ink update for the 4th of July under the “American Hero” banner. But our next update will take us away from the Star Spangled Hero The Shield and into the world of the living dead and another trip to Monster Bash Convention in Mars, PA, as we take a look at the IDW adaptation of Dawn Of The Dead! So until next time enjoy the fireworks, eat a hot dog or two, read some comics and enjoy this holiday with friends and family.

Dawn The The Dead Logo

The Road Warriors Pro Wrestlings Top Tag Team

“Ohhhhhhhhh What A Rush” it is to bring you another update to Rotten Ink and this time it’s all about Hawk and Animal The Road Warriors or is it The Legion Of Doom the world of wrestling’s most powerful and dominate tag team! Growing up I loved pro wrestling and spent many of time watching it with my Grandpa, Dad and Brother and besides WWF we watched allot of NWA/WCW and one of my favorite tag teams of all time was The Road Warriors two muscle bound face painted wrestlers who mowed down the computation and took no prisoners. I can remember having Remco action figures of The Road Warriors as well as the AWA Thumbster of Animal as also posters of them taking from Pro Wrestling Illustrated hanging on my walls. So with this update I want to give you a run down of their career as well as talk about my memories of them in wrestling, the main attraction will be the reviews for the comic series based on them called Fifth Force: Hawk & Animal made by Antarctic Press so lets get into the ring with The Road Warriors and hope they don’t knock our heads off with their finisher The Doomsday Device.

LOD Doomsday DeviceIn 1982 in Georgia Championship Wrestling Paul Ellering introduced a stable of wrestlers he called The Legion Of Doom that consisted of Jake “The Snake” Roberts, King Kong Bundy, Matt Borne, Arn Anderson, The Spoiler, The Sheik, Iron Sheik and The Road Warriors. The group was short lived and the name was taken from the old Super Friends Cartoon and later the name Legion of Doom was just given to The Road Warriors and manager Ellering who dominated the tag team division and would win the federations tag titles a total of three times. They left in 1984 to find bigger and better things. During this first run is were they got the reputation of being rough, no sellers who did what they wanted when they wanted.

Road Warrior HawkThe Road WarriorsRoad Warrior Animal

In 1984 they joined the AWA (American Wrestling Alliance) were they quickly captured the Tag Titles and went from bad guys to one of the companies top draws. They feuded with the likes of The Fabulous Ones (Stan Lane & Steve Keirn) as well as The Fabulous Freebirds (Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy & Buddy Roberts) and would dominate the federation for a few years. While in the AWA they would also make appearances in Japan with All Japan Pro Wrestling as well as the NWA and for both they were major draws. The Road Warriors left AWA in 1986 with their final appearance being at the Wrestlerock event.

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From AWA to NWA took place in 1986 and upon entering the federation the won the first ever Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Tag Team Tournament by beating the team of Magnum T.A. and Ronnie Garvin. And from this moment on they were major attractions for all the companies events even fighting in a Scaffold Match against The Midnight Express and later feuding with the likes of The Four Horseman who was the biggest Heel stable around. While there they turned from Good to Bad to Good again and even was around when Ted Turner bought NWA and turned it into WCW (World Championship Wrestling) and had many great feuds with teams like Doom (Ron Simmons & Butch Reed), Skyscrapers (Sid Vicious & Dan Spivey), The Varsity Club (Steve Williams & Mike Rotunda), The Samoan Swat Team (Fatu & Samu) among many other great teams. They left in 1990 after not seeing eye to eye with Jim Herd who was running WCW at the time. And with this also marked the true end of them being know as The Road Warriors as the next places they landed had other ideas for them.

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In 1990 when they left WCW they landed in the WWF were they were known as The Legion Of Doom and quickly teamed with The Ultimate Warrior and began a feud with Demolition (Ax, Smash & Crush) that was short lived. They then won the Tag Titles from The Nasty Boys (Brian Knobbs & Jerry Sags) and held them until they lost to the team of Money Inc. that’s members were Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase and I.R.S. in 1992 and after this lose they left the company for a short amount of time only to come back this time with Paul Ellering and a ventriloquist dummy named Roco who was the teams inspiration. This terrible gimmick lead quickly to Hawk quitting the company and this ending the Legion of Dooms first WWF run, as Animal stuck around and filled out the teams contract now teaming with a repackaged Crush. During this time Animal also injured his back severally taking him out of wrestling for awhile.

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Hawk in 1992 after leaving WWF and his partner Animal behind went to Japan again and started a team called The Hellraisers alongside his new partner The Power Warrior (Kensuke Sasaki) and together they became a top tag team in New Japan Pro Wrestling. They even won the tag titles from Scott Norton and Tony Halme and would later feud with the team known as The Jurassic Powers (Scott Norton & Hercules) this team up also helped launch The Power Warrior from a mid-card draw to a main event star. In 1996 after his back injury healed Animal joined his old partner and The Power Warrior in New Japan for a very short run.

The HellraisersThe Hellraisers 2Power Warrior

1996 Hawk and Animal once more went back to WCW for a very short run and took on teams like Harlem Heat and The Steiner Brothers and even got a number of title shots against Tag Team Champions Sting and Lex Luger, but never did win the belts back. The Legion Of Doom quickly left again when they claimed that Eric Bischoff who was running WCW at the time lied to them over money.

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For a year Hawk and Animal wrestled for small independent companies till in 1997 they once more reached a deal to come back to the WWF and once more proved they were the top tag team in the world when they beat the likes of The Godwins, The Headbangers and even was placed in a feud with the heel stable The Hart Foundation (Bret Hart, Owen Hart, Jim Neidhart, British Bulldog and Brian Pillman) having to team up with the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin, Goldust and Ken Shamrock. They even won the world tag titles in 1997 and shocked the world when they lost them to a new tag team later that year named The New Age Outlaws (Billy Gunn & Road Dogg), The Legion of Doom tried several times to get the belts back but couldn’t and in 1998 on Monday Night Raw the partners and friends brawled with each other on television and disappeared for awhile.

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Later in 1998 sporting a new look that consisted of helmets, normal hair and a new manager Sunny The Legion of Doom became L.O.D. 2000 an updated version of themselves. Sunny left the team pretty quickly and they were joined by Droz a wrestler who could puke on demand who was acting as a manager for them. Paul Ellering also returned and was now the manager for a biker tag team called the D.O.A. who was feuding with the LOD at the time. During this time they did a storyline were Hawk always seemed to be drunk or high on drugs and this was causing tension among the team as Droz was having to don the makeup and shoulder pads and help Animal. This segment ended with Hawk looking as if he jumped from the Titantron committing suicide or even that maybe Droz pushed him off leaving everyone to question was Droz the one giving Hawk the drugs. The storyline went nowhere and the team floated around for awhile and left in 1999, and began floating around the independent wrestling federations.

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In 2001 with Hawks health in question Animal resigned with WCW to become an enforcer for champion Scott Steiner who called his stable the Magnificent Seven that’s other members included Rick Steiner, Lex Luger, Jeff Jarrett and Buff Bagwell. Animals introduction to the group was a surprise as he wore a mask all the way up to his debut. The stable was short lived and later that year when the owner of WWF Vince McMahon bought WCW, Animal’s contract was not picked up.

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In 2002 Hawk and Animal signed very briefly with TNA (Total None Stop Action Wrestling) as part of a group that was fighting one time WWF writer Vince Russo who had a stable called Sports Entertainment Xtreme. Sadly The Legion Of Doom only got to wrestle one match before leaving in 2003.

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Hawk and Animal made their final WWF appearance in 2003 when they took on the tag team champions Rob Van Damn and Kane, while they loss the crowd was clearly happy to see them back. The Legion of Doom was hoping that this appearance would lead to a contract but sadly on October 19th 2003 Hawk passed away from a heart attack at the age of 46, marking a sad day for wrestling fans and the end of the original Legion of Doom. Animal however in 2005 would return to WWF with new partner Heidenreich the New Legion of Doom would last till 2006 when Heidenreich was fired. Animal would stick around as a solo wrestler for awhile and would simple be called The Road Warrior Animal and would drop the makeup as well as the shoulder pads from his gimmick. In 2006 Animal was released from his contract.

New Legion of DoomRIP HawkHeidenreich LOD

This was the last major run for Animal as he would go onto make some appearances for TNA, Independents as well as even for WWF as he and Hawk made it into the WWE Hall Of Fame in 2011. His last televised match was in 2012 on WWF Smackdown as he took on Heath Slater in a match he dominated. At the age of 54 it appears Animals full time in ring career is over but damn did he and Hawk have a good run. For those of you wondering Hawks real name is Michael Hegstrand and Animals is Joe Laurinaitis.

WWE Animal 1WWE Animal 2WWE Animal 3

While both of them were bad asses, Hawk is the one who was more of a loose cannon and did some funny and great stuff outside of wrestling like the following things. Hawk and Randy Savage got into a fist fight backstage at a wrestling event rumored over a piece of pizza that would continue some years later backstage at a Kid Rock concert. It’s also said that Hawk beat up on Eddie Guerrero backstage and that Hawk was clearly just being a bully. Hawk also beat up a fellow patron at a movie theater when he found out that the guy’s brother killed a cop from his hometown. Hawk was also a bouncer at a bar and took pleasure in throwing out the drunks that got out of hand. Hawk also claimed that Vince McMahan and Shawn “HBK” Michaels were gay lovers on the Road Warriors RF Shoot Interview. During the 1998 WWF attraction called “Brawl For It All” were WWF Superstars boxed and grappled in real life Hawk faced Droz to a draw. Hawk also was battling alcohol and drug addiction during the LOD 2000 and Droz angle and the writers wrote this into the storyline. Say what you will but Road Warrior Hawk was a great wrestler and entertainer and I was so sad when I heard about his passing as the sport of pro wrestling truly lost a major talent.

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One NWA story line for some reason that has always stuck out to me was when Road Warrior Animal suffered an eye injury at the hands of The Powers of Pain (Barbarian and Warlord) during a weightlifting computation, causing Animal to miss some matches and later return wearing a Hockey Mask to protect his eye and ready to battle those who injured him. The feud ended when The Powers of Pain quit the NWA after not wanting to do a series of Scaffold Matches that they feared they could be hurt in real life doing. When Animal first came back wearing the mask my brother and I thought that it was not the real Animal and was another wrestler filling in for him, and for some reason the image of him wearing the mask has always stuck in my mind.

Hockey Mask Animal

The Legion Of Doom has been so popular over the ages, they have had a ton of merchandise based around them such as t-shirts, posters, stickers, trading cards, magazines and even fruit drinks called WWE Bodyslam. They have been in many video games like WCW for Nintendo and WWE 13 for PS3 and Xbox 360. They have had VHS and DVDs showcasing their careers made as well as books written about them. They have filmed shoot interviews for companies like RF Video and Highspots and have appeared at wrestling themed conventions. Many toys have been made based on them by companies like Remco and Hasbro allowing kids to make them tag champions of their toy wrestling leagues. Some of my favorite toys growing up were my AWA Road Warriors that were the size of He-Man and that I would use as bounty hunters to try and capture He-Man and they also would wrestle the likes of Ric Flair and Rick Martel. If you’re a fan of the LOD there is plenty of great stuff for you to collect.

WCW NES GameRemco AWA Road Warriors figuresLOD T-ShirtLOD DVD

So you just had a quick crash course all about The Legion of Doom and just how impactful they were as a tag team. I mean they were the first team that was able capture the Tag Titles in all three major federations (WWF, WCW, AWA) as well as hold the belts of many other minor and major promotions. So some time back when I found out that a comic book series was made about them I was pretty hyped to track them down, and thanks to Mavericks and Lone Star Comics, I was able to read them for the first time just for this blog update! And I must say I am pretty hyped to see what kind of action and story they come up with for this tag team. So before we enter the ring, 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 with that let’s get ready to rumble and witness Hawk and Animal do what they do best and that’s kick some butt.

Fifth Force Hawk & Animal 1

The Fifth Force: Hawk & Animal  # 1   *
Released in 1999   Cover Price $1.99   Antarctic Press   # 1 of 2

Mr. Dart is a shadow faced trench coat wearing henchman for Dr. Rancid who use their corrupt powers to frame The Legion of Doom as cheaters! When Hawk & Animal show up in Japan they meet with manager Vern who tells them they are under investigation for cheating to win the Tag Titles, and this means they are banned from wrestling and all their money is being tied up until things can be figured out. The Legion of Doom are upset and that’s when they get a visit from Mr. Dart who tells them he can make it all go away if they wrestle tonight and loose the belts; he even gives them money to help smooth over throwing the match. Hawk and Animal give it some thought and don’t see any other way out because they want to wrestle and go into the match against rivals The Kabuki Men with losing on their mind. The match is one sided as Animal takes a beating from Kabuki Men and just when all looks lost, Hawk wants to tag in and issue one comes to an end.

The Legion Of Doom are ass kicking machines who have always seemed to play by their own rules in every federation they have wrestled for so why in the world would issue one have them thinking of throwing a match all cause of some chumped up charges of cheating? Plus what the hell….so in Japan if they think you cheated to win wrestling belts, they can not only ban you from the sport all over the world, but can also tie up all your money…what federation are they working for, one ran by the Yukuza?! Hawk and Animal in the issue come off as wrestlers who have two thing on their minds and that’s wrestling and being champions, but man they also come off as mindless drones as they just go along with what a shadow faced man tells them he can do for them. Neither Dart nor Rancid come off as a big threat making this comic kind of just spin in neutral. The art is pretty cheesy and not the style I like as it has an amateur style mixed with American style Manga and is done by an unknown artist because I could not find their credit anywhere in the issue. Over all this is a very disappointing comic, and the only real appeal is the fact its about The Legion Of Doom.  So let’s not waste any more time on this simple silly comic and move onto issue # 2.

Fifth Force Hawk & Animal 2

The Fifth Force: Hawk & Animal  # 2   *
Released in 1999    Cover Price $2.50    Antarctic Press    # 2 of 2

Hawk and Animal decide during the match that they are not going to lose the belts to the Kabuki Men and pin them in the ring fair and square. After the match, Hawk and Animal get into the limo and are knocked out by gas and taken to a secret base where they are locked in a metal crate and sent to the bottom of the ocean. Mr. Dart and Dr. Rancid are also frozen and punished by Mr. Yamiyuri who in turn is blown up by the Mob for not bullying The Legion of Doom into losing the belts like they were told. In the end the news is running a story about the missing wrestling tag team champs.

Wow, this second issue is more worthless then the first.  I really hate saying that, but man, this comic series seems very pointless and it goes nowhere. The point of this issue is that The Legion of Doom will not take a fall and that this all has been set up by the mafia who for some reason really wanted the tag titles off Hawk and Animal. All the characters are the same as before, and none of them are fully fleshed out making them all just seem bland and one-dimensional and making you wonder why you should even care on what’s happing. The issue also has the same art and for some reason has a .51 price increase for the same low amount of pages. Not to mention the issue ends on a cliff hanger with The Legion Of Doom missing and at the bottom of the ocean…and the 3rd issue in the series never came out making one wonder what happened to the famed wrestling tag team. Plus I am sure that poor sales and bad reviews are why this series was dead in the water after only two issues. To sum it all up, I would say that this could be one of the worst comic series based on real life pro wrestlers ever made and even die hard Legion of Doom fans like myself will be disappointed in the comics story and quality.

Fifth Force Art 1Fifth Force Art 2

The Legion of Doom aka The Road Warriors deserved a better comic series than this and to find out that Animal had something to do with it makes it all so much worse. From what I understand the comics were going to be a way to introduce a comic series that would promote healthy living and working out, but when the first two issue bombed, the third issue that was going to lead to this plan was cancelled. This could be the biggest disappointment thus far doing this blog as I really hoped it would at least be entertaining, and all I got was a lame poorly drawn and written comic with no direction. I need something good for the next update to get this terrible comic series out of my brain so I think we will take a look at something a whole lot better as we tackle the 3-D BlackThorne Comic adventures of Bravestarr based on the classic 80’s cartoon made by Filmation! So until then, watch WWE Monday Night Raw and read a comic or two and remember the rush you got watching the LOD dominate the world of Tag Team Wrestling.

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Happy Spooky 60th Birthday Creature From The Black Lagoon!

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.

Creature from the Black Lagoon Logo 2Universal 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!

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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!

Julie Adams and the Gill Man in CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, 1954.Creature From The Black Lagoon Poster 1Creature From The Black Lagoon 2

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Gillman SingsCreature Black Lagoon Musical PosterCreature Musical Cast

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.

Old School Creature ToyRemco Creature In PackageCreature Windup Toy

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.

Creature BookCreature T-shirtBen Cooper Creature Costume

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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CrystarMeth: The Saga Unfolds

Welcome back friends and readers.  Today’s update is going to be my look at the 11 issue Marvel run of The Saga of Crystar, but first I will tell you a little about how I got to know what Crystar was. One of the stores that used to be a great place to get toys and halloween costumes when I was a kid was Woolworths, an odd five and dime store that carried off the wall merchandise for very cheap prices. The store in the Dayton market was located in Kettering in a strip mall called Van Buren Shopping Center along side grocery store Krogers, video arcade Krazy Kats, Noble Romans Pizza, The Post Office, Fashion Bug, Ron’s Pizza and a handful of more shops. From a very early age (kindergarden age) the one thing I could remember was going to Woolworths with my mom and brother, for I am sure I mentioned it before I lived in Kettering up until first grade when we moved to Waynesville.  These trips to the store would always lead to me getting a toy, candy or a pack of trading cards. The store, as I remember it, was very poorly lit with stained titles not only on the ceiling but also the floor, and the merchandise always seemed to be a mess on the shelves. The candy isle was filled not only with name brand sweets but some pretty generic ones too. While the store was a dirty mess and the merchandise cheap, this was still a very cool place to get your hands on some great none-mainstream toys.  The toy department at this store always seemed to be filled with Remco toys based on AWA Wresting and generic Masters of the Universe knockoffs as well as Spider-Man parachute figures, but this is also where I would first see Crystar and his made-of-glass warriors. But before I get into that, I need to address Halloween Costumes at Woolworths.  I should also state that sadly Woolworths closed down, Krogers moved out of the shopping center and many businesses closed down for good like Krazy Kats and Ron’s Pizza. What was once a mighty shopping center became a mostly empty eyesore that some years ago got torn down and homes were built in its spot.  While one half of the center is still around, the once powerful Van Buren and its many stores are now just memories.

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Halloween has always been my favorite holidays, and Fall is my favorite season.  Back in my very younger days, Ben Cooper Inc. was the company that made almost every costume that you and your friends wore for Halloween.  Ben Cooper originals were made up of a cheap plastic face mask and a vinyl body suit that was based around horror characters like Dracula, Wolf Man and Frankenstein’s Monster or cartoon/comic characters like Yogi Bear, He-Man, Casper, Batman and Incredible Hulk.  Sometimes you would also be able to get movie characters like Alien, Darthvader or Jaws. Ben Cooper Inc. were the juggernauts of Halloween costumes ruling the market from the 1950’s all the way to the 1980’s, but all things must come to an end as in 1988 they filed for bankruptcy for the first time as many of the companies like DC & Marvel took their characters elsewhere. Ben Cooper Inc. bounced back in 1989 but sadly lost the battle to other companies when in 1992 they closed the doors for good. Ben Cooper masks are now very collectible and many people my age and older have good and some bad memories about wearing these costumes.  One thing’s for sure Halloween and trick or treat lost a major player when the company went belly up. Woolworths always had many of the Ben Cooper costumes for very cheap and would have the boxed ones as well as ones that hung on the shelves, always making it a fun time looking through all of them and choosing what character you were going to be.

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For Halloween one year my mom bought my brother and I costumes based on the film Krull.  My brother got to be the lava demon The Beast, while I got to be the cyclops Rell, and man we both thought we were cool in these cheap costumes. For Kindergarden I went to Beavertown Elementary, and we had a thing called a Halloween Parade where we all would walk through the higher grades and show off our costumes to kids who were older. Well there I was walking from classroom to classroom in my Rell outfit when all of a sudden some smart ass kid says “Hey Cyclops only have one eye, why do you have three?” and then he and his closest classmate had a chuckle.  I felt terrible and being so young I just couldn’t think of a comeback and I spent the rest of the parade without the mask on.  That one student had ruined it for me. Looking back on it now, it was silly for me to be that heartbroken over one dipshit kid’s remarks but for some reason it bothered me, enough so that I remember it to this day. Damn you, Ben Cooper Inc,. for adding three eyes to the mask!

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Remco was a toy company that was founded in the 1940’s and became a major player in the 50’s with such toys as Big Max, Coney Island Penny Machine and Movieland Drive-In Theater play set. By the 1960’s, they were making toys based on Batman, The Beatles, The Munsters , Star Trek and Lost in Space. The 70’s brought toys of The Monkees, Partridge Family, Spider-Man, Micky Mouse and Ronald McDonald, not to mention a makeup kit based around rock band Kiss. But the 80’s is when they really boomed with action figures based around The Universal Monsters like Creature From the Black Lagoon, Phantom of the Opera, Dracula, The Mummy, Frankenstein’s Monster and The Wolf Man all in scale with Kenner’s Star Wars toys, not to mention they also got a lab playset. They also made action figures based around Conan The Barbarian, AWA Wrestlers like Ric Flair and the Road Warriors, DC’s Comic characters Warlord and Sgt. Rock, Archie Comic superheros The Mighty Crusaders and even The Karate Kid got a toy line that covered parts 1 and 2 and of course Marvel Comics own Crystar. In my youth I had some Remco toys as I had many of the AWA Wrestlers, some of the Karate Kid figures and a small amount of the Mighty Crusaders. The 90’s were less kind to Remco as action figures based on the cartoon Swat Kats was one of the only semi major hits for them. Many people don’t know that Remco was broke in 1971 and became a sub company for Azrak Hamway International in 1974 who later sold Remco to Jakks Pacific in 1997. While Remco for the most part is a company of the past, its legacy of cheap made toys still lives on for collectors, and yes I collect them.

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On the piled up toy shelf of Woolworths, Kettering many moons ago I first laid my eyes on the Crystar toy line and was taken aback by these fantasy figures. I owned lots of 3 3/4″ Star Wars, G.I. Joes and a few Battle Star Galactica and Indiana Jones figures and thought they would make great additions to the intergalactic battle my figures were fighting in my bedroom, in between playing with He-Man and LJN WWF Wrestlers. But for some odd reason, I went and found some other generic figure and it was my brother Bryan who ended up getting one when he picked up the evil wizard Zardeth, a character with a black hood on and only one eye. My brother kept the figure for a short amount of time and then passed it down to me.  By this time he had no weapons and his cloak was gone. Not knowing much about the character, he just became a henchman of The Emperor and just another knucklehead for Luke Skywalker to kick around. Besides the Marvel Comic series, the toy line had no other way to reach us kids making these toys almost a mystery. Most action figures around that time had solid source material like a cartoon, movie, TV show to push the toy or at least an A-List comic book.  So it was a strange move for Marvel to go the route of a comic series a year after the toys hit and pick a cheap company like Remco to make the figures of what they were hoping would be a major player in the kids media market. Growing up I only knew of one other group of kids having Crystar figures and that was the Vietnamese neighbors we had next door, who by the way had one bitching cool toy collection. Years later I would get a Moltar figure (the lava king) and he also just acted as a punching bag for Luke. So while I knew Crystar as a toy line, I didn’t pick up it was a comic series until years later. Now with many years passed I do own some Crystar figures and have grown to love them as well as Remco as a company.  So going into this comic series is a first time read for me and I am really looking forward to learning the characters’ history.

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In 1982, a line of fantasy action figures hit the market by toy company Remco with very little fanfare and with no real push, making the seven figure, six mini playsets and two dragon toy line to be lost in the shuffle of action figure toys filling shelves at the time. A year later Marvel Comics released issue one of The Saga of Crystar that was to act as the back story to the action figures. Now the way this is sounding, one would think that the comic was based on the toy line when in fact it was the opposite; you see Marvel Comics created Crystar to license out to a toy company and use the toys to sell the comics! Marvel had a master plan to get a bigger slice of the toy market with a new creation.  Sure, they had toys made of Spider-Man, Incredible Hulk and Captain America, but they wanted more.  So a new world was created with Crystallium and its new fantasy hero Crystar who lead the good named The Order and with all good guys.  They needed a bad guy, so why not his own brother who is called Moltar, the leader of Choas.  And then they thought well horses are over done in fantasy worlds, so let’s let them ride dragons and instead of our heros and villains looking normal let’s let The Order be living crystal and The Choas living lava! They then came up with a back story and shopped the idea around to toy makers and found Remco who wanted to take on the license even without any source to push it.  So the toys came out and again, as I have stated, very few kids had any that I knew.  A year later the comic was released and I knew no one who read it.  Even though the line of toys and comics almost seem that they were failures, I for one have grown to really like the figures and you shall see what I think of the comics below.  I will also say Marvel and Remco really did push this series with amazing ads and things to draw attention.

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I have been a huge fan of the band Danzig since I can remember.  I even remember getting a Danzig cassette tape in my Easter basket one year! So it was a pretty cool when I found out that the skull both Danzig and Samhain (both bands fronted by Glenn Danzig) use as a logo is from the cover of issue # 8 of The Saga of Crystar! I found that to be an interesting fact so it goes to show you that Danzig must have been reading Crystar.  So check out the skull from the comic and then the one used in the logos below.

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Now I am going to break off from Crystar for a moment and talk about video games again, I have been a series gamer sense the NES days and have been a wrestling fan for a little longer. I grew up watching pro wresting with my dad, Brother and grandfather and have also bought every WWE and at the time WCW game that came out. One series I always buy the day it comes out is WWE series up until this year from THQ. The WWE games of the past 8 or so years have had a great habit of adding legends to the game from Hulk Hogan to Iron Sheik making long time wrestling viewers like myself happy.  I would much rather play the superstars of the past then those of the present. To compare say John Cena of this day and age to Bret “Hitman” Hart of the past is laughable as Hart would work circles around Cena. So in late 2012, THQ gave us WWE 13 which treats gamers to a huge roster of today’s superstars and divas as well as superstars and divas of the Attitude Era that ran roughly 1997-2002.  While many say the true start was in 1998, the attitude started before that. Many great icons of this time period were added like Bret Hart, British Bulldog, X-Pac, New Age Outlaws, The Road Warriors, Vader, Gangrel and more, but some superstars seemed to be snubbed for no good reason.  Many names have made wish lists across the net like Steve Blackman, The Headbangers, Chyna, Raven, Lance Storm and The Oddities to name a few.  There are many who have not made it into the game because they work for rival company TNA such as Jeff Hardy, Al Snow, The Dudley Boys and Rob Van Damn. And yet still some did not make the cut because at the time they were in WCW or WWE just has something against them. May I remind you that THQ only could only suggest what wrestlers made the game; WWE has the final say on who’s in and who’s out.  But here is a list of four wrestlers I think were snubbed and have a place in WWE 13!

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The Patriot (Del Wilkes) was an independent masked wrestler who made a name for himself in the GWF (Global Wrestling Federation) from 1991 until 1992 becoming a crowd favorite and even winning the federation’s world title. After leaving the company, he went to All Japan Pro Wrestling and became a draw even winning the tag titles with partner The Eagle, and returning there off and on throughout his short career. WCW was his next stop as in 1994, he and Marcus “Buff” Bagwell formed the team Stars and Stripes, and they would be multiple time Tag Team Champions.  The Patriot left the company in 1995 and went back to All Japan for a couple of years. In 1997 WWF/WWE brought The Patriot in to feud with Bret “The Hitman” Hart and his new Hart Foundation (British Bulldog, Brian Pillman, Owen Hart & Jim Neidhart) who would slam America and speak of how great Canada is.  The Patriot was the man who bled red, white and blue and took offense to this slander and took the fight to Hart. The feud would have both men fight on Monday Night Raw and PPV’s in single and tag matches. But sadly The Patriot got a serious injury that not only ended his time in the WWE but also his career as a pro wrestler. The Patriot was being geared to be a top babyface in the company and even had action figures made while he was there.

The reason I think he should make it into WWE 13 is because while his time was short with the company his feud with the Harts was a great one.  It struck raw emotions with both American and Canadian fans given the battle’s meaning. Plus he was a solid worker who would at least have the over all game rating of 86, giving this already amazing roster one more competitor for the World Title or at least the Intercontinental. Not to mention that his song in 1997, “Medal,” would later be used as Kurt Angle’s, making the song available to use for anyone’s created Angle character. I should also note that way back when, my Aunt Teresa let some pro-wrestlers use her garage as a training area complete with a ring & weights and from time to time The Patriot was one that would work out, how cool is that! While I know he is not a super popular wrestler, I would be happy to hear that this star spangled hero that is in the same vein as Hulk Hogan and Hacksaw Jim Duggan would have at least been DLC for the game.

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Every guy who watched WWE/WWF wanted to have “Sunny Days,” and I was one of them! Tammy Lynn Sytch, better known, as Sunny was a valet and sometimes wrestler who began her career in 1992 at Smokey Mountain Wrestling as a snooty character named Tammy Fytch managing her real life boyfriend Chris Candido and Brian Lee to winning the tag titles. She and Candido left in 1995 to work for the WWF/WWE.  At first she was used as a backstage interviewer but quickly enough she became Sunny as Candido became Skip, and together they were the Bodydonnas.  Later on they would be joined by Zip, and Sunny would manage them to tag team gold.  She later would dump them and manage teams like The Godwinns and The Smoking Gunns. She would also manage Ron Simmons for a short time who was going under the name Faarooq. Sunny would then host WWE shows like Shotgun Saturday Night and would also manage The Road Warriors who were going under the name LOD 2OOO. Sunny was let go in 1998 after backstage heat between herself and top diva Sable, not to mention she had no showed events and had an addiction to pain pills. Tammy would no longer be Sunny and would join federations like ECW, XPW and even had a very small run for WCW. While Sunny has made some appearances in the WWE and has become a Hall of Famer, she has not worked for the company full time since 98. Sunny was the top Diva for many years and was the first Diva who broke the mold of what a woman wrestler should look like and paved the way for many of the company’s top female talent. Sunny was so popular she had her own home video, was magazine cover girl many times and had a number of action figures. For the longest time, Sunny was my favorite Diva and for the most part still is in my top two.  Sunny brought the sex appeal and attitude that kick started the company into success. Sunny should have been added in the game, if not as a wrestler, at least as a manager.  Oh I should note, I also use to have Sunny posters in my room and still have my ECW Tammy shirt.  Like most teens, I used to think that Sunny was the most beautiful queen of wrestling and while lots of fans have turned their back on her because of her “issues” I stand by how I felt then and say Sunny should have been in WWE 13!

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Dr. Death Steve Williams has wrestled in many federations that include WCW, NWA, ECW, All Japan and Mid South to name a few. Williams has held world titles and tag titles and was considered one of the toughest men to step into a wrestling ring, even becoming one of the first American Wrestlers to be considered a true main eventer in Japan.  In 1998 WWF/WWE hired Dr. Death right when they were having an event called “Brawl For It All” in which wrestlers competed on TV in fights that were much like the Tough Man Contests that had popped up all over the US and became popular. Williams was the odds on favorite, and the WWE was banking on him winning and pushing him as the company’s top heal.  Rumor even has it that he was suppose to beat Stone Cold Steve Austin for the World Title. Williams entered the contest and made short work of his first round opponent (Jean-Pierre LaFitte), but his second round opponent Bart Gunn was another story as Gunn took down Williams tearing his hamstring and then knocking him out. Williams missed several months of action, and his push went up in smoke.  When Williams returned, he was put with broadcaster Jim Ross who acted as his manager and spent his time being a badass bully. But the knock out left the WWE with a bad taste, and they let Dr. Death go in 1999.  Williams would later still make appearances for the WWE but never would be a contender. Dr. Death should have made it to WWE 13 because he was a legit badass who would have fit in perfect with the likes of Brock Lesner and Ryback as a muscle bound brute who would have represented the Attitude Era very well. While Dr. Death didn’t live up to what Vince and the WWE wanted for the time, he still helped make the WWE what it was by showing that truly anything can happen in the ring.  Dr. Death would have made a great addition to the game’s runners for the World Title and would have had the over all game rating of 88. Williams battled cancer for years but sadly lost his battle to throat cancer in 2009. Oh yeah and you better believe if Dr. Death was in the game, he would be Oklahoma Stampeding Ryback’s lame ass!

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Last on the list is not only a legend of the 80’s but also a guy who was a part of the whole Austin 3:16 creation.  That man is Jake “The Snake” Roberts! Now I don’t want to spend much time on Jake’s past, but I would like to focus on his second run in the WWE that started in 1996 and had him returning at the Royal Rumble as a good guy and spreading the word of God. Roberts, who was in real life a born again Christian, would use this for his in-ring character and even spiced up his snake using an albino serpent that he named Revelations and laced his interviews with bible passages and warnings of the evils of drugs and alcohol. In 1997 Roberts would go on to enter the King of The Ring tournament and would beat his first round opponent Triple H and then do the same in the second round when he beat JBL.  In the third round, he faced Vader and won by DQ but took serious injury to his ribs. The final match had him face off with Stone Cold Steve Austin who made short work of the veteran, and during his crowning Austin spoke the words “Austin 3:16 Said I Just Whooped Your Ass,” making fun of Robert’s who was bible thumping. Roberts then would go on to feud with Jerry “The King” Lawler who used Jake’s past against him. In late 1997, WWE wanted Jake to wind down and end his career pushing The Snake out who still wanted to wrestle. While many would count Jake out and say he has no place in WWE 13’s Attitude Era roster, I would be so bold to say he help create it when he lost to Austin, kickstarting one of the biggest phrases in wrestling history! Jake “The Snake” Roberts would have been a perfect addition to the roster and would have added a fun moment in Austin’s Attitude storyline as you had to beat him for The King Of The Ring crown. Jake’s over all game rating would be 83 due to the fact he was on the tail end of his major pro wrestling career. Jake was the cinderella story when he returned and while it was a short return, he still had a huge impact on the Attitude of the WWE.

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So those are four Superstars that I feel were truly left out of WWE 13 and really deserved to be on the roster or at least DLC. But while I am on the topic of wrestling and Sunny, I should note that after WWE and wrestling days, Tammy Lynn Sytch joined up with another former wrestling valet Missy Hyatt who had opened a website called Wrestling Vixxxens and posed nude for the site causing the net to be abuzz about her move to bare all. I will not lie, when the news broke I surfed the net looking for the pics and was not disappointed when I found them! Part of me wonders if her decision to do this site hurt her chances of coming back to the WWE at the time.  I mean I think Vince missed the boat on really using Sunny/Tammy to her full potential. I know she had issues with drugs and what not but so did most of his locker room…Shawn Michaels anyone? It almost seemed like Vince made up his mind that Sable was going to be his top diva and for the most part that was a terrible idea as she turned out to be a pain in his ass as well as a moneymaker. I would love to see Sunny return to this day as a interviewer or manager and I for one will always be a Tammy fan.  

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One other thing:  as of late I have been finding old copies of Mad and Cracked Magazines at stores like Game Swap and Half Priced Books, and this has also reminded me of my youth. When I was growing up not only were comics, ghost stories and movie-based novels the only things that kept me reading instead of just playing NES or watching a film on VHS but so were Mad and Cracked Magazines that we would buy from Big Bear or find at Garage Sales. Back then I found myself getting a chuckle from these magazines as they spoofed popular movies, shows and culture all in a silly over the top way. But after reading through them once more, I found myself not only feeling nostalgic but also really looking deep into which magazine I really liked more then and now.  When I was younger, I would say that for sure I was more of a Cracked fan and owned and “collected” those issues more so then Mad, while my brother I would take a guess liked Mad a little more for I remember him having piles of the magazine and lots of the paperbacks. Take a look at these old pics below of a young me holding his prized Cracked magazines as well as me with an old Mad Spy Vs. Spy paperback in super cool Spider-Man PJ’s.

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Mad Magazine began in 1952, founded by editor Harvey Kurtzman and publisher William Gains, and was at first a comic book put out by EC comics the same company that released comics like Tales From The Crypt and the Vault of Horror and switched to Magazine format with issue #24. It was a parody comedy magazine that would poke fun at films, shows and culture and would change hands many times finally being owned by DC Comics (Time Warner). The magazine is still going as of 2012 and has spawned many other products such as a board game, a Saturday Night Live-style sketch comedy show called Mad TV that aired on Fox, a cartoon, toys, masks, shirts and paperback books to name a few. Mad’s spokesman is the silent, missing front tooth, one eye lower then the other, big eared, red headed goof named Alfred E. Newman. Newman is the poster boy for Mad and has sparked the phrase “What, Me Worry?” and truly has become a true American pop culture mascot icon. Most people my age could tell you who Newman is and many would say that Mad was better then Cracked. Mad also offered such great features as Spy vs. Spy, Captain Klutz and the work of Don Martin. 

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Cracked Magazine began in 1958 as the brain child of Sol Brodsky, an artist for hire who later became Vice President for Marvel Comics, and was a inspired by the popular Mad Magazine. Cracked followed the same formula as Mad and spoofed movies, TV and pop culture with an even more silly approach. Cracked had a sense of humor about itself and even had used the tag line that it was there for people to buy after Mad had sold out at the newsstand. Cracked would be sold for awhile but slowly lost its hold in the market in late 90’s and was on life support during the 2000’s before it was canceled for good in 2007. But you can’t stop Cracked now as it’s been reborn as a silly news site that has been becoming more and more popular. Cracked’s poster boy was its janitor Sylvester P. Smythe a blonde haired, wide faced nerd who was a man of few words. While Smythe was not as popular or iconic as Newman, he still has his place in the hearts of those who grew up reading his magazine. Cracked didn’t have much in the way of merchandise besides a stuffed doll and some paperbacks. Some of Cracked’s other highlights included Shut Ups, The Uggly Family, Talking Blob, Sagebrush and busty sexy female reporter Nanny Dickering. 

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So I am sure you’re wondering after all these years what Magazine am I enjoying at this time in early 2013.  While it’s been hard to pick and each have their charms I still find that Cracked is the one I am enjoying more! Cracked has such a simple silly charm that is still putting a smile on my face making me chuckle. Cracked also was the company that used to release Monster Party and Monsters Attack scary, goofy and spooky stories that pleased the Monster Kid in me. So there you go, a quick look at Mad and Cracked Magazines.

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One other thing I would like to talk about (and I will from time to time as this blog moves forward) is the no budget movies I have made over the years.  So I figured I would start with the short film that started it all, “Teen Suicide” and it’s sequel “Suicide 2.” In 1997, I was a senior at Kettering Fairmont High School, and I hated the school with a passion.  While I had friends, I found that many of the staff were not as nice to strange kids who were into horror films and metal music, making my time at the school a bad experience filled with suspensions and detentions. At the start of the school year, the main principal (who was a cool guy) decided that he was going to put me into the media class to see how well I would do at making movies, TV shows and working as a school DJ on the radio station.  The first time he brought me himself as well accompanied by two security guards making the class wonder if Michael Myers had just been put in a room with them as they sat me away from everyone.  Then they took the teacher KB into the hallway. But with time this was probably the best thing Kettering schools ever did for me as I met some of my nearest and dearest friends in this class. Guys like Dave Wean, Matt Hoffman, Rion Neeley and Brandon Womeldorff all made me feel welcome and showed that they had just as many weird interests as I did. The media class also made it so that the rest of my schedule changed and this put me in a sociology class with Hoffman and Brandon. For one of the the class’ big projects we were to make a video about a subject we picked. Hoffman, Brandon and Myself were joined by Scott Harmon and a kid named Chris as the group and at first we picked serial killers (with my push) but decided to instead make a film based on teenage suicide.  So we all sat around class and the library and began to brain storm what was to become our first film.  This is what not only started Fairmont Productions but more importantly my love of making films! Before this I drew comic books and loved to write stories, but I never thought that I could make my own films.  Boy was I wrong. And the film began production in 1998.

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As we hammered out the ideas and plot of the film, we all were assigned roles as cast and crew. Matt Hoffman was cast as Matt, a teenage boy who is picked on every day of his life by bullies at the school.  The film would follow the last week of his life before he decided suicide was his only way out.  Hoffman was also a co-director. Brandon Womeldorff played The Car Thief and also directed, did some camerawork and edited the film.  The Car Thief was a trench coat wearing bully who got his jollies by car jacking Matt and stealing things like CD’s from him. Scott Harmon played the Kung-Fu Bully, a master of the fighting arts who loved to beat on Matt every chance he could get, and Harmon’s fight scenes with Hoffman in this movie could still be some of the worst ever filmed in Fairmont Media history.  Chris (none of us ever got his last name) just played a Bully in the school hallways who would knock the books out of Matt’s hands and try to stuff his face in the bathroom sink. Chris didn’t do much on this production and in fact was suspended during filming and even for the screening in class. I played a bully who would later be called The Silent Predator, who hung around wooded areas and tried to drown Matt in a stream, and I also did camera work, co-directed and picked most of the film’s soundtrack that was filled with bands like W.A.S.P. , Motley Crue and Pantera. The filming of the flick took place mostly at Fairmont High School but we also filmed at Hoffman’s parents’ house, my parents’ house, behind Woodlane Plaza and State Farm Park. During filming we kept talking about how the film’s end needed to make an impact.  We then decided to make the film silent, all but the moment where Matt would read his suicide note out loud to the audience. Filming took about a week with Brandon and I trading off who ran the camera, a giant Super VHS camcorder that weighed about 20 pounds, and each of us worked out our scenes with Hoffman. Looking back on the production of the film, we sure did torture Hoffman with lots of fake beat ups, being shoved around, making him jump on the back of a moving car, ketchup splattered on his head and the final stunt that still makes Hoffman feel like he was a major Hollywood stuntman (we will get to that shortly), and I must say while at the time he bitched a lot, and I mean a lot, he still was a trooper and went along with the “script”. I remember for my scene we chose to shoot behind Woodlane Plaza in Kettering (the same strip mall location that has Mavericks Cards and Comics and Christopher’s Restaurant as residents) right after a big rain storm making the small stream that runs behind the building deeper and faster.  The scene called for Matt to be walking along the stream as The Silent Predator appears from nowhere and shoves him into the water. On set that day was just Hoffman, myself and Brandon, who was running camera, and we went over the scene a few times and at first Hoffman agreed to be shoved into the water, but after watching the fast moving water rush by he changed his mind and the scene was changed to him almost going in but barely being able to hold on. So we all got into place as I wore a flannel around my waist and a Whitesnake band t-shirt I waited for my big scene.  Boom, my cue hit and a huge smile hit my face as I shuffled into frame and shoved Matt a few times toward the stream, and boom, he hit his cue and that was a wrap. But looking back at the scene, we should have shot it again so I didn’t have that goofy ass smile on my face that looked like David Lee Roth at a strip club! We later talked Hoffman into shooting a scene where it looked like he fell into the water, but it didn’t look right because he had different clothes on and the water speed and level were all wrong.  This deleted scenes has long been lost. But all this was leading up to our big pay off, the end of the film where Matt was to kill himself, and this act was one epic scene.  The final scene’s first part took place at my parents’ house in the kitchen as Matt would write his suicide note and speak the only lines used in the whole film.  Hoffman seemed very moody that day and was very argumentative towards Brandon and I and almost seemed like he was in the zone and on par with what the character Matt was doing. Hoffman sat at the table with a notepad and a pen and began to spout off this suicide note that seemed to mirror some issues he was having in his own personal life.  While I laughed then, I should have really taken the time to chat with my friend after this scene to make sure he was doing okay.  From there we went to a near by K-Mart and bought some ketchup to use as the fake blood and headed to State Farm Park to film the final scene atop a big hill that slopes, covered in rocks, small trees, trash and muck.  That’s when Hoffman who was holding his pellet gun told us he had an idea.  So we hurried and filmed his walk across a bridge to get to the hill and then made our way to the site and as we reached the top that’s when he told us “I am going to fall backwards down the hill when I shoot myself!” Brandon and I laughed and mocked him for his “shocking” stunt.  You see Hoffman at times would say and do outlandish things for attention, and we thought that’s what this stunt was just him running his mouth and not really intending to do what he said, but boy were we wrong.  As we set up the scene and filmed him looking at the gun and then putting it into his mouth, pulling the trigger and falling out of frame, we thought this was a wrap after we did a pick up shot of him on the ground with the “blood” on his head.  Then Hoffman sat up and said, “you ready to film me falling down the hill?”  Brandon and I looked at each other and gave a fuck yeah and went down the hill to film this epic scene. As we set up the shot and got the right angle Hoffman sat at the edge of the hill with his back towards us.  We could tell he was second guessing his stunt and seemed like he was now thinking of a way to get out of it. After some coaching and name calling, Hoffman pulled off the stunt and fell backwards down the hill, loosing control of his fall for a moment but catching himself before he got to hurt, making all my group of friends dubbing that hill Suicide Hill. We squeezed the “blood” onto his head and got the last shot of the film.

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For days Brandon edited the film on the AVID system, putting time and care into each scene, I sat with him many times as he worked, other days our pal Rion did. When it was done, Brandon asked Hoffman and myself to watch it in one of the editing rooms, and we all were taken aback by how good the film was.  Looking at it now, I am still proud of the film even with all its flaws and honor it as the first film I ever worked on. Then the day of the class showing happened, and our teacher made us come up and tell the other students what our film was about.  Scott Harmon and I took that job and rushed a quick introduction, and the lights went out.  The film started and had Matt walking down a school hallway in slow motion as the Bush song “In A Lonely Place” played, and we thought we had them. As the film ended and the credits rolled to Motley Crue’s” You’re All I Need,” Brandon and Hoffman stood in front of the class to answer questions about the film or what we learned about teen suicide.  Our classmates seemed stunned by what they had seen, and the only question we got was, “was that Pantera that played when he shot himself?”.  And then it happened; Hoffman said he had a confession to the class, and as everyone got quite he then proclaimed that he had tried to kill himself in the past and ran from the room, as the teacher and students looked on stunned.  Brandon was in the front of the classroom like a deer caught in headlights! While Teen Suicide was not a hit with our peers, a year later in 1999 Brandon wanted to make a sequel that was bigger, longer and filled with dialogue! The film’s plot had Matt (once more played by Hoffman) waking up after his suicide attempt and learning that he could not die and had been given a second chance to get revenge on the bullies who tormented him. Brandon returned as The Car Thief.  Scott Harman came back as Kung-Fu Bully and had yet another stinker of a fight with Hoffman, this time in the school’s radio station.  I returned as The Silent Predator who in this one seemed more demonic and acted almost as the ring leader, and we added Dave Wean as a Crazy Bully, Rion Neeley as the Roof Top Bully, Dan Salter as the Skateboard Bully and Linda Webb as Matt’s girlfriend who is cheating on him with the Car Thief. The film was filled with one Matt beat down after another, until he finally got his revenge on all those who tormented him and having his end battle with me in the woods of Hill’s and Dales Park as a red light shinned on us. Matt at the end of this one blows himself up with a self made bomb. While this film was a favorite to play at the group’s parties, to me just lacked the charm of the original and for the most part was more of a generic action film then a film with a message. When we left high school and continued making movies, we dropped Fairmont Productions and became Independent B Movie (a gathering of many production companies) and began selling our films on VHS at horror conventions like Cinema Wasteland in Strongsville and Fright Vision.  Teen Suicide and Suicide 2 sold pretty well. Years later Suicide 1-2 would hit DVD and match the sales of the VHS. Independent B Movie was riding high, not only the founders (Brandon, Hoffman, Myself) were making movies but so were Josh Weinberg, Dave Wean, Jason Gilmore, Patrick Neeley and my brother Bryan, making this tiny no budget film company seem like something special. We did start a Suicide 3 many, many years back but production slowed when turmoil in the group of film makers started to slow things down, but that’s another story.

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Now for a little horror host spotlight:  In March of 2007, the late night viewers of Kenosha, WI got their blood chilled by a show called Nightmare Cinema hosted by a Werewolf named Uncle Wolfman, who every full moon is locked in an abandoned TV station in the middle of nowhere on Bray Road by his vampire friend Vampiro. To kill time Wolfman shows a bad b-movie, a classic cartoon and TV show episode and waits out his curse in the station that is clearly haunted. Uncle Wolfman is your classic Lon Chaney Jr. style werewolf who speaks with a twisted snarl and raspy voice, drawing you in with every word. His style is very classic and each episode has it’s own mark and facts. Fans of horror host shows from the 60’s and 70’s should check his show out! I first heard of the Uncle Wolfman via the website Horror Host Graveyard and after seeing an episode or two I quickly became a fan. As of 2013 the show is still going strong.

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I took the chance on a full moon night and called the old station’s #, got a ring and an answer from Uncle Wolfman himself, and he was nice enough to answer some questions for you my readers. So with this let’s get onto “5 Questions For The Wolfman”!

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Me – So how is it being stuck in a haunted abandoned TV station every full moon?

Wolfman – Being stuck has to do with my temptation to feed.  So, Vampiro and I have an agreement; Vampiro guards me during the full moon by locking me up. In return, I guard Vampiro’s tomb during the day.  However, Vampiro occasionally forgets to feed me, so I order a pizza, and get the delivery driver as an appetizer.

 Me – What is your favorite film you have shown on your show?

Wolfman – I don’t know if I have a favorite movie from those we can show. I suppose that, being a Mantan Noreland fan, I like King of the Zombies, schlocky as it is. My true loves are the classic TV. We recently had an old episode of “Suspense,” featuring a rare television appearance by Bela Lugosi in an adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s, “The Cask of Amontilado, and there was an episode of “Tales of Tomorrow,” called “Ahead of His Time,” which starred Boris Karloff. But I suppose my favorite was a cartoon episode from “The Milton the Monster show–the only one I know of in the public domain– called, “Zelda the Zombie.”

 Me – Who are the hosts that inspired you to become a horror host?

Wolfman – I only ever really watched Dr. Kadaverino (Jack LaBlond) on WITI chanel 6, Milwuakee, who was the only one on when I was very young. Later came the Original Svengoolie, Jerry Bishop, and later Son of Svengoolie, Rich Koz, both starting out on WFLD channel 32, Chicago (Son of Sven’s now just Svengoolie, on WCIU, Chicago and METV nationwide).

 Me – Growing up did you read comic books? If so, who is your favorite superhero?

Wolfman – I read many comics as a kid, from Archie to Sad Sack; I really liked the EC magazines, with Tales from the Crypt, The Witching Hour, all of those. I also like the Hulk, Thor and Conan the Barbarian–of which I still have all the comics, mags, graphic novels and the original stories by Robert E. Howard, which I reread from time to time.

 Me – If you could run with a werewolf pack from a horror film or TV show who would you run with?

Wolfman – Serious attempts at TV show werewolves suck. I wouldn’t run with any of those wannabes. Besides, if Uncle Wolfman really wanted to run with a pack, he wouldn’t suffer being locked-up three days a month.

 Me – Thanks Uncle Wolfman for taking your time and answering these questions.

But enough of wrestling, Tammy Lynn Sytch, Danzig,THQ, Remco, Cracked, Mad, Ben Cooper, Teen Suicide and Woolworths, let’s get down to Marvel Comics “The Saga of Crystar” 11 issue run! Remember: I grade these on a standard 1-4 star rating and am looking at how well the comic keeps to the source material, its entertainment value, its art and story. This review is thanks to a team up of Mavericks Cards and Comics, Bell, Book & Comic, 2nd and Charles, Half Priced Books and Amazon. And remember these reviews will have spoilers.

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 The Saga Of Crystar # 1  *** 1/2

Released in 1983   Cover Price $2.00    Marvel Comics #1 of 11

Prince Crystar and his brother Moltar rule the kingdom of Crystallium together after their father, the king, was killed in a battle that pits their side (The Order) against the evil of the Chaos. While both share the power, it’s clear that the kingdom respects Crystar more, causing the brothers to have a little rivalry. Lavour is Crystar’s girlfriend and her servant girl Ambara has a crush on the prince as well, but his best friend Warbow has a crush on the servant girl.  The Kingdom’s wizard Ogeode comes to the Princes and warns them that evil is coming and that this time he will be powerless to stop it.  When Zardeth, an evil wizard, enters the castle the seeds are planted, and the brothers have a fight leaving Crystar dead.  His brother Moltar takes over and steals Lavour! But things are not all good as Moltar and his new followers embrace The Choas and become living lava men, and Crystar is brought back to life and his followers are turned into living Crystal.  This leads to a war between the brothers that leaves Moltar’s ego bruised and Stalax with a life threating crack in his crystal body. Crystar hooks up with Ambara as Warbow is heart broken and even looses an eye to Zardeth who shoots him with an arrow! 

This is a great way to kick off a comic book series that is attached to a toy line and really serves as the back story of the characters. Crystar comes off as a likeable and nobel hero who has pride in his family, kingdom and friends and has almost a mix of Prince Valiant and King Arthur feel to him. You get the vibe from this first issue that Crystar will fight to the death to defend his kingdom. His men that include Warbow, Koth, Kalibar and Stalax are all given time tolet their personalities shine. Ambara, who is the love of Crystar, is shown to be a sweetheart who would do anything for her Prince. Feldspar, Uncle to both Crystar and Moltar, is an interesting character as he choices no side and takes both sides curses on himself (top half crystal bottom half lava) to show he respects both nephews.  I hope he is fleshed out more in the series’ in coming issues. Moltar is a man filled with jealousy and is easily fooled by the evil ways of Zardeth and then manipulated by the bitch Lavour. This is a solid comic that really flushes out all the characters and makes me look forward to reading issue 2. The art work is okay, but I wish it was a little better.  It’s odd that the ad art for the Remco toys looks better. The cover is amazing and very eye catching for the time and would surely draw in fans of Conan, Kull and Masters of the Universe. 

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The Saga Of Crystar # 2  ***

Released in 1983   Cover Price .60   Marvel Comics #2 of 11

Crystar is not pleased when he finds that his uncle Feldspar has removed him from the throne and is now acting as King to the kingdom until he and his brother work out their feud.  Meanwhile Moltar and Lavour are being fired up by Zardeth who wants them to get revenge on Crystar and take the kingdom by force and sends a team of lava men to kill him who in turn fail. Stalax is dying, and Crystar and friends must travel to get Ika, the daughter of Ogeode, who in turn becomes living crystal herself to learn of the secrets of the process.  When Crystar thinks the young woman is in pain, he goes in after her and both disappear.

This second issue is more about Crystar wanting to do the right thing and the brooding ways of Moltar who still thinks he is getting the shaft by not ruling the kingdom. Ika is an interesting character who gives her self to the mirror that transforms flesh to crystal showing that she is loyal to saving human life. Ogeode is kind of a dick in this issue as he forces his daughter to do this heroic act all so he can learn the secrets of the crystal without having to forever be changed. While the Crystar storyline is pretty good, I felt Moltar was not used well in this issue and almost seemed to much like a snot nosed kid who lost his video games for a month. Over all this is a good follow up issue that has better art work and a pretty cool cover.  So far I like where this series is going.

crystar 3 The Saga Of Crystar # 3  ***

Released in 1983    Cover Price .60    Marvel Comics #3 of 11

Crystar and Ika find themselves in modern New York in the home of Doctor Strange and his butler Wong and are confused by this new world filled with so many things they have never seen. Meanwhile back in Crystallium, Ogeode alongside Koth and Kalibar travel in the portal to find the missing prince and also end up in Doctor Strange’s study. While Doctor Strange and the goofball Ogeode try to find a way to send the warriors back home, Moltar sends Lava Men through a portal.  They also end up in Strange’s house and after a quick fight, they find their way home to Warbow, Ambara and the recovering Stalax.

This was a cool way to tie into the rest of the Marvel Universe.  Crystar and his crystal warriors once more come off a nobel fighters, as Warbow’s secret crush is still in the air as he looks at Ambara. Moltar once more acts as a general and sends flunkies to attack his brother. Ogeode is as brain dead and scattered as ever as Ika shows she is down to help The Order. I am not a huge Doctor Strange fan and only found myself liking the character when he appeared in other comics like Spider-Man or Man-Thing and in the very terrible yet fun 1978 made for TV movie.  So I actually find him a perfect fit for the myth and legend that this series is building for Crystar. Here’s hoping that Crystar and Moltar will meet again in a battle in the next issue to see which brother is better. The art work is good again and has the same style as the last issue, but this time I’m not a super fan of the cover. With that let’s jump into issue # 4.

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The Saga Of Crystar # 4  **1/2

Released in 1983   Cover Price .60    Marvel Comics #4 of 11

A father is telling his children a bedtime story about Crystar and Moltar and how they each became the warriors they are now.  He also goes a little into the back stories of Crystar’s friends like Warbow and Koth and shows that Moltar has called a meeting with Crystar and his Uncle Feldspar to speak of the unfair way he has been treated.  Moltar doesn’t understand why Crystar and his men get to stay in the kingdom but he and his followers have been pushed out, and if they are to smooth things over they must be even. Feldspar thinks about this matter and decides it’s only fair that Crystar and his men must also leave the Kingdom and are asked to leave by dawn.  Mad about this decision, they still agree to leave. In the end the father is Kalibar telling his own children this story on the night he must leave the Kingdom

This issue is good and solid, and I do like what they did for the twist ending.  Crystar is a little more bullheaded this time around and challenges his uncle’s word over the peace offering his evil lava brother is pitching. In this one, Moltar is just what I love to see in my comic bad guys: a smart brain and the ego of a mastermind. Plus we get a little more of the Warbow loves his best friends girl storyline as well as a little more background on Koth and Stalax. The art is good; the cover is bland.  While this is not the best issue in the series thus far, it still was a good read. 

crystar 5

The Saga Of Crystar # 5  ** 1/2

Released in 1984   Cover Price .60   Marvel Comics #5 of 11

 Crystar is in the Marvel office as the comics editor and writing staff try to figure out a good story for issue 5.  When he is finally taken into his world he is set to meet with Moltar and his uncle. Everyone leaves besides Ika and Stalax who try to use a spell to send the lava people far away from the Kingdom but instead bring the Chaos’ base to the Kingdom. Moltar and Crystar can’t agree on much except that Zardeth and Warbow need to stop fighting and that the base needs to be moved back to its right place. Zardeth teams with Ogeode, and together they use magic to set things right.

This issue starts out dumb, and the whole editor’s office thing is mind numbing.  But once we get back into the comic story line, it picks up. Crystar plays a big part in this story as does his girl’s love for him. Ika steps up in the issue and seems to be filled with rage over The Order being kicked out of the kingdom and wants to use her magic to rid them of The Chaos. Moltar comes off as a badass leader who has his wizard in check and a plan to take over the kingdom. As I said it starts off bad, but becomes pretty good by the midway mark. The art is good, and the cover is good making this issue an average read.

crystar 6

The Saga Of Crystar # 6  ***

Released in 1984    Cover Price .60    Marvel Comics #6 of 11

Nightcrawler of the mutant team the X-Men visits his girlfriend who is a part-time practicing witch, who felt a disturbance earlier and used her crystal ball to open a portal.  When Nightcrawler uses his teleaport ability in the apartment, he is sent to Crystallium where he is spotted by Stalax who thinks that he is a demon sent by the Chaos. Nightcrawler flees the scene and stumbles into the base of Moltar who as well thinks he has been sent to join him in his battle against his brother. Crystar and his men go looking for this demon, and Ika sneaks into Moltar’s base and hears them speaking of this “demon’s” arrival.  She is caught by Zardeth and Moltar who are going to kill her until Nightcrawler steps in and stops them.  Crystar and crew arrive to save her and befriend the mutant. In the end Ika sends him back to Earth where his girlfriend awaits.

Yet another fun adventure that adds a popular main stream Marvel character to the storyline. Nightcrawler fits in pretty well, but unlike the Doctor Strange appearance, this one seems to be more focused on the guest hero than on the book’s main hero, Crystar, who seems to have not much to do in this issue besides search for Ika and briefly chat with his Uncle. Moltar also doesn’t do much besides welcome his new “friend” and capture Ika. Though Lavour is given a little more in this issue, she comes of as a flirt as she tries to get info from Nightcrawler all the while hitting on him. Over all this is a fun crossover issue that really adds nothing to the main story arc but makes for a fun read.  The art is good, and the cover is so-so.  So let’s see if issue 7 explores the mian story more.

crystar 7

The Saga Of Crystar # 7  **1/2

Released in 1984   Cover Price .60   Marvel Comics #7 of 11

The Kingdom is under attack by Malachon and his hill men, and they plan on killing as many people as possible including Kalibar’s wife and kids.  Crystar and his men are told of this attack by Ogeode who sees it in a vision, and they come to the aid of the Kingdom, chasing off the hill men and helping the wounded. All the while Moltar, Lavour and Zardeth watch and plot a way to use Feldspar’s anger to their advantage as he scolds Crystar for coming into the Kingdom. Ogeode & Ika take Crystar and his men across the ocean to their hometown to get answers of why his uncle is acting so oddly, and Moltar strikes a deal with Malachon and his men to become living rock and fight on their side!

 This issue is packed with fighting of sorts as the Hill Men are made look like weak fools to Crystar and his men, and Malachon has an almost Jim Jones thing going as I could see his people drinking poisoned Kool-Aid if he ordered them to. But I’m honestly not sure whether he’s really needed in this issue.  He almost seems like he is just thrown into this mix to add more action and to have more butts for Crystar to kick, but we shall see where the character goes in the next issue. You feel bad for Ika, whose boyfriend in her home town turns on her because of her new crystal appearance, and her father acts as if she has not all ready made sacrifices to help The Order. Speaking of the Wizard’s hometown, not much is flushed out yet and I am not sure what to think of the Warrior Woman Shen who appears to be in charge. This issue is clearly used to build up the next issue that could be the huge battle we have all been waiting for. With that let’s get onto issue 8! Oh yeah, the art is still good, and the cover is pure cheese.

crystar 8

The Saga Of Crystar # 8 **1/2

Released in 1984   Cover Price .60   Marvel Comics #8 of 11

Crystar is troubled by an old memory of a time when the first war was going on, long before he and his brother were at war and long before they were transformed. The memory sends him into a day of mourning every year over the day his friend Captain Heyatt was killed while helping them fight a giant sea monster and chaos demons.  It’s also the day Koth lost his true love in the same battle. It’s also a day of mourning for Moltar, who’s sad over the loss of his friend. While Crystar tells his friends of this day, Ogeode is in a meeting with his fellow hometown council members.

This is a filler issue and once more adds backstory but nothing to the main story line of this comic series. The way Heyatt dies is stuff straight from old sword and sandal films and could easily be the death of Steve Reeves’ friend in some bad Hercules film, as he takes a thrown spear to the gut. Meanwhile, the new bad warrior Malachon who is transformed at the end of last issue is nowhere in sight! Ika and her boyfriend still have some beef with one another, and Moltar cries at the end for his lost friend from years ago. This issue also reminds me of Clash of The Titans for some reason.  I am sure it has to do with the giant sea monster. The art is okay and in some spots looks dull.  The cover is a step up from the last several.  Now that another filler issue is done, let’s hope they get back into the storyline, and we can see some sort of payoff coming. 

crystar 9

The Saga Of Crystar # 9  **1/2

Released in 1984 Cover Price .60 Marvel Comics #9 of 11

Ogeode is speaking to the Council of The Order about the war that is about to break out and tells his fellow townspeople that they need to help Crystar and his men in this battle when things go south.  The people are not sold on helping the men made of crystal. The Crystal men go around and speak of returning home when the acting King Feldspar shows up and wants to speak to the council of peace talks between the feuding brothers. But the peace talks are fake as Feldspar is really just Zardeth and the guards are Hill Warriors and Lava men.  They attack and kill many of the Council people until Crystar and his men show up and chase them off. Crystar also has a stare down with Malachon before the leader of the hill men retreats. In the end the Council decides to help, and Ika’s boyfriend Beek is turned into living Crystal.

This issue is the final straw for Crystar to go back and reclaim his thrown and stomp Chaos back into the hell pit from which it came. Zardeth and Malachon both show how cold blooded they are as they slaughter many unarmed men, and seem proud of their actions. At this point in the series you are at a fever pitch to have The Warriors of The Order stop the Chaos Warriors, and after every set up and every innocent death, this fever gets higher. Plus at this point in the series you also find yourself wondering why Feldspar is acting the way he is and wonder if he really doesn’t want his nephews to work things out because he is enjoying being king. As far as Crystar, at this point you can see a bullheaded hero who is shaping up to be one hell of a good king.  As for his brother Moltar, you get the fact he is second guessing his turn to the dark side but he still thinks he is the best choice to lead his people. With only two more issues to go ,the War to settle the score is now on! The art is good, and the cover is all right.  Let’s get ready to rumble with issue 10.

crystar 10

The Saga Of Crystar # 10  ***

Released in 1984 Cover Price .60 Marvel Comics #10 of 11

Moltar is not pleased about the attack that left many council members dead and hates the fact that both Zardeth and Malachon seem to have enjoyed the bloodshed. Crystar and his crew decide to go back home to try and end this war.  He confronts his uncle Feldspar about the throne.  Crystar agrees to step down but he also says that Chaos will not rule the Kingdom. As Crystar leaves the Kingdom, his crew tell him that they will fight by his side to bring down the Lava Men and The Hill People. Crystar’s brave warriors include his girlfriend, the Wizard Ogeode, his daughter Ika and her boyfriend Beek, Warrior Woman Shen and finally the Crystal Warriors Warbow, Koth, Kalibar and Stalax.  To his surprise, the local villagers call to arms and join Crystar’s army just in time as the warriors of Chaos come in from the sky and start a battle that leaves Koth missing and believed to be dead as he protects Ambara from attackers. In the end The Chaos Warriors retreat, and the warriors of Order mourn their friend and plan for an all out war.

This issue has it all: a thick good storyline that is an amazing build up for the final issue, Crystar finally reaching his breaking point and wanting his Kingdom to be happy and wanting to end the evil of The Chaos.  The shock of a member of the Order team missing and thought to be dead adds the drama, not to mention it also shows that at this point Moltar is loosing the respect of Zardeth and Malachon who both seem to mock him for not joining in on battles and how week his Lava Men are. It also shows how hotheaded Beek is and how he even seems to take an attitude with Crystar about what he thinks is right and wrong, not to mention the fact he is crystal now makes him a strong ally to have in this war even if he is an ass. Over all this is a great issue filled with a solid storyline, shocking drama and some butt kicking action. The art is well done and while in some spots seems a little rushed, it still looks good.  The cover on the other hand is just so-so and highlights the two lead warrior females Shen and Ika. Can’t wait to see how this saga ends and here is hoping for a great ending.

crystar 11

The Saga Of Crystar # 11  **1/2

Released in 1985   Cover Price $1.00   Marvel Comics #11 of 11

Koth is not dead and is now a prisoner of Chaos warriors who plan on sacrificing him to the Hills once they get some information. Moltar starts to have second thoughts about his turn to evil and even has his girlfriend Lavour second guessing it as he doesn’t want to see his one time friend killed. Crystar and his men are gearing up to take the fight to The Chaos when by accident Ogeode brings in members of Alpha Flight from Earth that include Puck, Shaman and Northstar who decide to fight on the side of good! All this happens after Crystar butts heads with his uncle who is still trying to not pick a side. Moltar goes to Koth and asks him to please share some info so that his death will be quick and gets the cold shoulder leaving him pissed and lost for a direction.  That night Malachon takes Koth to an alter and is about to kill him when the warriors of Order show up and the final war begins! Crystar gets his revenge on Malachon as a member of The Order looses his life being a hero (who you ask, well you should read it to find out). In the end Zardeth is taken down as Moltar and Lavour turn on Chaos and rejoin the brothers, but before the evil wizard dies he takes away the curse of Moltar so that he can never touch his love Lavour again as she is left as a lava person. So the brothers are reconnected, and the Kingdom will now live on happy and chaos free.

This was a fun journey that had an almost rushed ending.  While the end is good, it could have been a hell of a lot better. The good turn for Moltar seems rushed this issue, and the fact they turned him back human shows that after this series, they didn’t have a plan for Crystar to ever return. Moltar was a great bad guy that at times was not used they way he should have been.  In many issues he seems to take a back seat to the evil wizard Zardeth and even the crude Hill leader Malachon. The fact that we never see the brothers in their new forms truly fight is kind of a let down and makes the build up to this final war a let down. Crystar is a great hero and really transforms as you keep reading by the end of this series he reminded me of so many iconic sci-fi heros like Luke Skywalker, Conan The Barbarian and even Optimus Prime in the fact he was strong willed, believed in the right thing and was noble and loyal to his friends and people. One storyline that I wished would have been fleshed out was the Warbow loving Ambara plot that seemed to fall flat the farther we got into the series. Plus, I would have liked to see a little more of Warbow’s as he clearly was Crystar’s best friend. All of Crystar’s warriors and friends were likeable and fun characters besides Beek who really was an ass most of the issues he was in and treated Ika like dirt if she did something he didn’t like. The guest heros in the last issue were a waste.  You could have taken the Alpha Flight goons out of the issue, and they would have not been missed.  They strike out with them but hit homeruns with Doctor Strange and Nightcrawler. The series as a whole is amazing stuff and is worth the read.  It’s was a great way to build up these characters that were created to sell toys that kids had no clue to who or what they were. Marvel should have given this series a little longer to grow, and they should have not rushed the last issue when they built up this payout to be a blow out of good vs. evil. Sadly as of early 2013, Marvel has not done anything with Crystar and company besides put him on a cover as a zombie for one of the Marvel Zombies miniseries. Going into this series, I had very limited knowladge of the character besides a few of the toys I had in my youth and now after reading this series I wish I would have done so much earlier because Crystar would have been a toy and comic series I would have collected then. 

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Man, this was a long update!  I had a lot to talk about from toys to horror hosts to video games to independent movies.  This update was filled to the brim with retro and nerd goodness. So next update we might take it a little smaller as we take a look at Blue Water Comics series for horror film Leprechaun for Saint Patrick’s Day! So see you then for the all green and gold coin loving good time.

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