The History Of The Horror Movie Marathon

Welcome back to my little space on the ‘net where I talk about comics, movies, toys and video games and share some of my great memories with you all. One of my favorite pastimes was an event I call “The Horror Movie Marathon” where I would show horror flicks starting early morning until very late into the night.  This started out at what was called Independent B Movie Studios, that was really my parents basement, and would have me and some of my closest friends like Matt Hoffman, Josh Weinberg, Jason Gilmore, Dave Wean and Brandon Womeldorff over.  We would stuff our faces with potato chips, snack cakes, popcorn, soda and pizza and watch many horror films on VHS that we would buy the morning of the event from local second hand stores. The event only lasted a few years (like from 1999-2003) at that location, and the gang would come and go. Many times it would be just me and Josh or Jason as the rest of them were at work. And as quickly as they started, this fun bonding event disappeared as we all started moving away from our parents’ houses and got full time jobs and made our own films. The VHS days of this event were a blast, and we would spend hours looking through the horror shelves at video rental stores like K&L Video, Accent Video, West Coast Video and Blockbuster Video and buying PVT (Previously Viewed Tape) classics, but mostly we would buy cheesy films from places like Second Time Around and Replay Media and get titles like Winterbeast, The Prey, Demonoid Messenger of Doom, Dracula’s Widow, Terror On Tour, Hack-O-Lantern, Judgement Night, Grim Reaper, Phantom of the Opera and many more creepy schlocky horror. Fans of VHS tapes know what I mean when I say nothing will ever take the place of watching a horror flick late at night with friends and having the grainy glow of the TV fill the darkened room, and watching the film and at the best part, be it the kill or nudity, the tape would roll from being rewound and watched too many times.  Not to mention the sound of the tape rewinding as you and your pals talked about the film and what shocking horrors awaited you in the next creature feature. Those days were the best, and I will always cherish those moments I had with these friends.  One day I would love to get together with Gilmore, Weinberg, Hoffman, Wean and Womeldorff and have a classic marathon of VHS horror!

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The Horror Movie Marathon was not a new concept to me as my brother Bryan and I would have many of these all night horror film watching session years before these events, with films on TV like USA’s Up All Night, Saturday Nightmares and TNT’s Monstervison.  We would also watch rented or owned horror films on VHS before and after the cable shows. Anyways years after the the semi-retirement of the event I found myself living with my good friend Patrick Neeley and out of a job as I was let go from my work loading and unloading furniture trucks around 2006 and had no leads of finding a new one. Around the same time I has having issues with my then girlfriend Jennifer that lead to a breakup and could only find part time work at Mavericks Cards and Comics and the kicker was Patrick was going to be moving out! But thank God my good friend Jason Young allowed me to live with him and his roommates Doogie (Chris) and Zippy (Josh), and after a few brief and failed relationships I was able to find my cool as hell girlfriend Juliet. As things were getting back on track for me in 2007, I was missing the days of the marathon and was itching to have another one, but had no place to do it when Juliet was kind enough to offer her apartment for me to host the event! This was amazing news for me, and I went out and bought tons of snack food and pop and restarted the event that had always been so near and dear to my heart. But with this new age of the Marathon VHS was out and DVD was in, and while Josh Weinberg and Matt Hoffman were returning faces from the past, the guest list now included my cousin Stephen Alexander and friends like Chris Lett, Max Ervin, Lisa Weinberg, Jason Young, Doogie, Lauren Campenell, Mike Ritchie, Nick Williams, Thomas “Maurice” Blurton and many others. Juliet’s apartment became the new spot for the Marathon and we watched many films for the first time as well as revisited classics like Dracula’s Great Love starring Paul Naschy, Bigfoot, Salvage, Ghidorah The Three Headed Monster, Ice Queen and a mountain of other monster and slasher films. The small kitchen of her apartment was filled with tons of food like chicken wings and pizza as well as snacks and pops and beers.  The events became a huge hit again with my old high school friends as well as my friends I made along the years, and this became an issue as the venue, her apartment, was not large enough to fit all my friends who were coming over to watch the films! At one point we had a full room of people watching Dracula’s Great Love at around midnight and everyone was squeezed in like sardines around the old tube TV in the studio apartment. But like before, The Horror Movie Marathon came to a end as I started a new job managing Game Swap in Kettering as well as worked still for Mavericks and other things started to get into the way of us having marathons as well as friends less and less showing up at one point I held a Marathon and the only people to show up were Stephen, Chris Lett, Doogie, Juliet and myself making for a fun time with a very tiny turn out. During this Horror Movie Marathon 2.0 I also started a little thing called the pre-show that had a select few coming over to the apartment that I was now living at with Juliet to watch a couple of horror films before the main day. The select few were Stephen and Josh, and it was a cool way for us to hype ourselves up for the next day. But due to poor turn outs, not enough space for big turn outs and just life, the marathon once more was retired and thus ended its first comeback into my life in around 2012.

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Flash forward to 2015 when my cousin Stephen had just bought a house in Dayton.  While at work, he and I started to chat and toss around the idea of having me bring back The Horror Movie Marathon at his house as it has plenty of room and he as well as other friends missed the event and wanted it to return. I also missed the event and after thinking for just a few minutes, I agreed to bring the event back and so was born the current Horror Movie Marathon 3.0 that is still going strong to this day! We choose May 24th 2015 as the date of the marathon and Juliet, Stephen and I came up with the idea that at this event would be tons of independent sodas and beers would be available for our friends to drink all day and night to help add to the festive and gathering feel. We also ordered tons of chicken wings from Frickers as well as had candy, chips and hummus for people to snack on while watching the horrors of the small screen. We also had a Pre-Show the night before, and besides Josh, we also invited our pal Garrison Kane to watch films like House Of Wolfman, Frankenstein Theory and Deadly Mantis to kick off the event right. The first event at the new location was a big hit, and many friends showed up from Todd The Fox all the way to Jeremy Hoyt and everyone inbetween was there and ready to get scared and spend time with friends. The films included Deadly Manor, Summer of Massacre, Headless, Wolf Cop and Return To Boggy Creek, to name a few. The next event we had at Stephen’s house was on September 27, 2015 and had us watching such films as 100 Tears, Crimson, Stiches, Redwood Massacre, New Years Evil and Frankenfish to name a few and like the first event we packed the house, and everyone had fun. But sadly the third event that we held on April 10th 2016 slowed down in attendance, but those who showed up all had fun watching films like Elves, Dr. Jekyll And The Werewolf, XTRO, Demon’s Rook and Madhouse! Also during this time Juliet and I would also hold our own marathons for just the two of us, complete with pre-shows and all the great snacks and terrors that go along with the full attraction ones. With a new location and new and old blood mixing to have a good time and watch some horror films, the marathon seems to have a new home at Stephen’s house. One thing that has always been a highlight of The Horror Movie Marathon from the past to the present is sitting with friends and talking about the films we have just watched and seeing why they liked or disliked the film.  One of the best recent fun discussions was when Jeremy Hoyt got worked up over the film Headless and its extreme violence toward women and the rest of us saying what do you expect from a gore film? The Horror Movie Marathon is back, and if I can help it will never fade away again.

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So I decided for this update that I am going to cover not one, but two of the latest Horror Movie Marathons I have had with the first being held on November 13th 2016 with the Pre-Show taking place on the 12th that was a all-welcome friends marathon held at Stephen’s house. For the Pre-Show we had Garrison Kane, Theresa Lopez and Jeremy Hoyt, and we watched the following films to kick us into the spirit of this after Halloween blues marathon starting with “Evil Unleashed: The Mummy” that was about a Egyptian princess who sells her her soul and in modern time comes back as a vengeful Mummy on the prowl to kill some college kids who have stumbled onto her plan of ruling the world and bringing evil down on us all. The next film was released by Wild Eye Releasing called “ The Mothman Curse” and was about two woman who are working for a movie museum who are having visions and nightmares about the Mothman who seems to slowly bringing them into madness. I was feeling pretty rough from a sore throat and cold so we didn’t have a third film of the night that would have been the old Independent B Movie film I made called “Vigilante C: The Hunt For The Man-Beast,”  We all decided that the best film of the night was Evil Unleashed and not because it was good, just because it had some laugh out loud cheesy moments as well as backyard effects and a naked Mummy! The worst movie was Mothman Curse as we all found it very boring and while it felt like an arthouse film, it was just lacking being scary or entertaining. The night was fun, and everyone seemed to be having a good time, but oddly enough Josh Weinberg no showed the event as the date was picked for him to make it before the holiday rush of his work! But once the horrors of the small screen ended, bedtime was up and I got some much needed rest to try and shake the wicked cold that had me in its grip.

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The next morning at 7:00am sharp, we began the full Official Horror Movie Marathon and started with the 1943 Universal Monster film “The Mad Ghoul” about a scientist who falls in love with one of his student’s fiance and uses a gas that turns people into zombies in order to break them up and use his student as a tool of murder as a love triangle is in play. The vampire musical “Suck” was the next film and was about a down and out band who become vampires in order to become rock stars, but soon after meeting a vampire hunter try and stop their blood sucking ways! “Xtro II: The Second Encounter” was the third film and was about scientists in a underground facility being stalked by a killer alien from another dimension. The 1991 evil demon children film “The Boneyard” was next and was about a pair of cops as well as a psychic and a reanimated young lady who committed suicide stuck in the basement of the city morgue fighting for their lives against three evil demon children and their sinister creations. The next film was a Sci-Fi Channel original called “Scarecrow” about a killer you guessed it Scarecrow killing off a group of troubled kids as the owner of the farm and their teacher fight to try and save them. A independent slasher film was up next called “Hayride” about a killer who runs wild during Halloween and attacks people during a hayride attraction and customers and workers are his targets. The 1971 creature feature “Octaman” was next and had scientist battling a full size octopus man who wanted revenge for the taking and killing of his children and of course he ends up falling for one of the females that leads to the creatures downfall. “Gnome Alone” was the next flick to entertain us about a cursed witches bloodline that is plagued by a evil Gnome who also acts as their protectors and sadly a young girl becomes next in line, but this pint size terror also has a lust for not only revenge but blood. Kane Hodder and Bill Mosley starred in our next film called “Old 37” about two brothers who grew up watching their father who was a paramedic kill those in need, and now along with his old ambulance has taken up the killing ways. With the world being scared of creepy clowns, the next film for the marathon had to be the slasher flick “Clown Town” and was about a group of friends being stalked by killer clowns in a rundown town and they must quickly fight back in order to stay alive. And what better way to follow up a film about killer clowns than to deliver one about a serial killer in a easter bunny suit who along with his crazed friend stalk and kill women and that film was called “Bunnyman Massacre”. The 1985 shot on video film “The Ripper” was the final fright of the night and was about the spirit of Jack The Ripper being stuck inside a ring that possesses a school teacher who in turns starts up the killing spree of women in modern times, and cool enough FX Master Tom Savini plays The Ripper at the films climax. The event was pretty well attended with such friends as Stephen Alexander, Theresa Lopez, Jason Young, Jeremy Hoyt, Mike Ritchie, Juliet Fromholt and Garrison Kane all making appearances throughout the day, and weirdly enough once more this day Josh Weinberg didn’t show up to watch the spooky features of the small screen.

As always the Horror Movie Marathon was packed with some great food from snack food like potato chips and M&M’s all the way to pizza rolls and subs from Submarine House. As always we all had fun watching the films with Stephen, Theresa and I being the ones that stayed and watched all twelve films! I mean of course I was there the whole time as I am the host of the event, but have to say a big thanks to those two for enjoying every film alongside me. So for the best and worst list, I am going to have Stephen as well pick his to share his insights of the days horror flicks. This was a tough one to pick my best as I enjoyed many of the films that were shown and I felt all of them offered something different to the Horror Film world. My worst film of the day was pretty easy to pick as I would have to say Bunnyman Massacre as I felt that while watching a killer in a bunny suit chasing around women with a chainsaw was cool, it was the side character Joe who was also a killer who had some of the most lamest cuss spewing lame dialogue I have ever heard that, killed the mood of this slasher. Stephen as well selected Bunnyman Massacre as his worst and said this for his reason “It started strong and ended weak”. My # 3 of the day was The Ripper as this is one I seen on VHS many moons ago when my brother and I rented it from K&L Video.  For some reason, the cheesy storyline along with the gruesome gore effects makes it a guilty pleasure film.  Plus you can’t go wrong with Tom Savini as Jack The Ripper! My # 2 pick was Suck as I found this Rock N Roll musical to be well made and super funny as it also mixed comedy into the formula.  Plus you can’t go wrong with a film that stars Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop and Henry Rollins. Hands down, my # 1 was The Boneyard as I found it super fun, super creepy and over all a great flick! I mean whereelse in the world can you see a Phyllis Diller giant monster as well as a killer poodle monster? For me the film The Mad Ghoul almost made it to the my list as the third film but The Ripper was able to edge its way into the spot or should I say slash! For Stephen his picks were as follows: For his # 3 spot went to Octaman with his reason for picking it being “Solely because of the monster and how much they used him.” His # 2 spot was The Boneyard, and he had this to say, “Because it was fun and the monsters were very cool. Plus the use of average everyday people (as the actors) was refreshing”. And his # 1 spot went to Suck and this is why, “It was funny and a surprise. It had some cool people in it and the effects were cool. I definitely had the most fun with it by far”. So with that, this After Halloween Horror Movie Marathon came to an end and was a great time with great friends, good flicks and tasty food.

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For me growing up as a Monster Kid, having these get togethers with some of my nearest and dearest friends and family members is something that is just really special as I have a love for Horror Films and this allows me to share that with them. Plus what’s neat about these films I have shown for the Horror Movie Marathon 3.0 version is 98% of the time the films that are selected are first time watches for many of us and 2% of the time is stuff that we might have seen before but was so long ago that we want to revisit them. Take the above marathon for insistence, I had only seen two of the films before with them being Evil Unleashed: The Mummy and The Ripper, both that I had seen when I was younger with the rest being first time views! But to be fair, I can’t remember if I had seen Octaman before. And with that the next marathon I want to cover for this update was one that Juliet and I had at our apartment and was filled with many horror films that I helped via Kickstarter or Indie GoGo and only one film that I had seen before and was an event I was very much looking forward to! So check out below for a few more films I can remember the old gang watching on VHS for the first wave of the Horror Movie Marathon’s life and then we shall get into the main event of this update!

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Juliet and I selected April 3, 2017 as the day for this marathon as we wanted to pick a date to make this History of The Horror Movie Marathon fresh. So like normal, I had a typical day at work and headed home so that we could start the pre-show sharply at 6:00pm, and we had sausages for dinner.  We started the first film on the night, the 2016 flick that I helped on Indie Go-Go called “Killjoy: Psycho Circus,” the 5th film in this popular Full Moon Entertainment series that has the killer demon clown Killjoy hosting his own talk show called Psycho Circus and he and his band of killer clowns must rumble with Beezlebub who wants revenge. “Silent Night, Bloody Night: Homecoming” is a semi remake to the classic 1972 holiday flick and was the next fright flick pick.  It follows the cursed Butler Mansion and the killer that is stalking its grounds killing off the residents of the small town. “Monster On Campus” was next, and this Universal Monster film followed Doctor Donald Blake who by accident turns himself into a neanderthal man when he is cut on the hand by a prehistoric fishes tooth. And the final film of the night was “Sorority Slaughter House,” a cheesy killer doll film that has a college dean killing himself over a broken affair with a student that has his soul going into the body of a clown doll called Bobo. All these films helped add to the excitement of the coming Horror Movie Marathon day with both Juliet and I picking Monster On Campus as our favorite film of the night as it was a true cheesy science fiction horror film that was complete with a cool monster and historical women fainting into the arms of our monster. We both had different picks for our Golden Turkey of the night as I picked Sorority Slaughter House as mine because it was just plane bad! The film’s killer, Bobo, was not scary and voiced by Eric Roberts, and they reused the same shots over and over of the dolls feet moving around the house.  None of the cute girls get naked, and the plot was lame when they factor in a forced lesbian storylines and terrible shirtless male actors, but that’s what you get with modern David DeCoteau films. Juliet’s Golden Turkey pick was Silent Night, Bloody Night: Homecoming as she felt like it was a rushed remake that didn’t add anything new to the story and by all accounts would have been confusing to fans who had never seen the original as it did a poor job of diving into the film’s character history. But with the pre-show done and visions of bloody murders in my head, we went to sleep to gear up for the long day of Horror Flicks that awaited us.

On April 4th the weather outside was chilly yet nice spring weather, and Juliet and I woke up around 7am and started the marathon with the 1958 vampire film “The Return Of Dracula” that has Dracula hiding from his hunters with a family as posing as one of their relatives. “Godzilla 1984” was the next film and had Godzilla returning to Japan to once more destroy everything in sight and only a flying air craft and a scientist are the worlds hope. The third creepy flick was “Insane” about a couple buying a new home that has a sinister past of murder and when a clown show up things only get weirder. Shot-on-video film “Night Of The Clown” was up next and followed a family being stalked and killed by a killer in a clown suit who seems to hate pickles. The Massacre Home Video release of “City In Panic” was up next and was a cool slasher film about a killer who targets people with HIV. The sixth film of the day was directed by Don Dohler and was called “Fiend” about a killer spirit that reanimates a body who must kill in order to not rot away and tries to blend into a neighborhood but soon gets the attention of his neighbor who tries to solve the killings. Next was “Plank Face,” a horror film about a man who is taken captive by backwoods women who turn him into a wood faced breeding and attacking machine. Slasher film “Fender Bender” was next about a killer who picks his victims by causing small auto accidents to get their information and then coming to their homes and killing them. The next film was suppose to be “Knucklebones” put out by Brain Damage Films, but the movie on the disc was the wrong film so we watched the 1931 “Dracula” starring Bela Lugosi! The next chiller was “Bloody Bloody Bible Camp,” a dark horror comedy about a masked killer nun who kills teens at a camp for worship. “The Barn” was next a film about three demons who are unleashed on Halloween when a group of friends awaken them! And the final fright of the night was “Krampus Unleashed” about a family who are targeted by Krampus an Christmas Eve.

This was another amazing Horror Movie Marathon that was filled with great food like Oh My Garlic Wings and breakfast casserole and lots of great and amazing films! I must say that all the films were so different and all entertaining in their own ways! But of course, Juliet and I had to pick our Golden Turkey of the day.  Mine was Night Of The Clown, while it was entertaining it seemed more like a inside joke about pickles and like a film that was made on a bored weekend with only two people in the whole cast. While I say that it was the Golden Turkey, I must stress that I really did enjoy the film for its backyard effects and great cheesy killer. Juliet picked Insane as she felt it was just not fully developed, and the story and characters seemed to lack motivation. Now my top three films of the day were hard to pick as I really enjoyed many of them, but here they go: my # 1 was The Barn as I found it really enjoyable and a nice throwback film to the 80’s, plus the movie monsters of the film Candycorn Scarecrow, Hollowed Jack and Boogeyman are all really great and work really well. The film has great acting and an amazing score as well…a must see. The # 2 film of the day for me was Fiend as the simple and effective film had a great story and a cool villain as the calm and cocky Longfellow stole the show as he choked his victims with glowing red hands! The cheesy effects of the rotting Longfellow were really cool and reminded me of Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things. My # 3 film of the day was hard to pick, but I decided that it was City In Panic as I found this low budget American Giallo feeling film to be a cool way to tackle the Aids scare of the 80’s and also had a fun plot of a radio DJ and his nightly talk show helping crack the case. Runners up for me had to be Plank Face and Return Of Dracula, both films I also really enjoyed. Juliet selected the following as her top films of the day # 1 The Barn, # 2 City In Panic and her # 3 was Plank Face! With this Marathon in the history books, I am looking forward to the next and the next as these events are truly special and a way for me and friends and loved ones to relax to the horrors of the TV screen.

The Horror Movie Marathon has had its ups and downs over the years in attendance and even with just staying around, but one thing is for sure, it has always entertained me and my friends who all love a good scare and who enjoy the spooky horrors of our TV screens thanks to home media. And while media has changed, I am hoping that The Horror Movie Marathon will stay around a very long time to entertain my friends and me with Horror films from the past and present. But for our next update, we are going to get up from the comfy couch and snack foods and head into the world of Atlas Comics as we take a look at one of their amazing superheroes Tiger Man! So until next time, read a comic or two, watch a Horror Film or three and enjoy some free time with your friends and family! See you next update as we go on the crime fighting hunt with the fearsome Tiger Man.

Battle of The Horror Legends! Brought To You By Topps

When I was a kid I used to love to buy packs of trading cards, and while sometimes they would be sports, I would mostly target the cards based on movies or TV shows.  9 out of 10 times the cards I would buy would be from Topps who always gave you a stick of gum and a sticker in packs based on films like The Goonies. As I got older I got away from collecting cards and turned my nerdy collecting ways toward things like movies, video games and comics. But sometime in 2012 things switched, and I found myself buying and collecting base card sets and started to buy sets based on Superman, Incredible Hulk and even WWF Wrestling and as quick as it started it faded again as a hobby. But what makes cards so cool? Is it the great image on the fronts with the cheesy lines or is it the back that gives some history of what the card you’re holding means or even a puzzle piece?  Whatever it is, I hope that the hobby doesn’t fade away and when I have kids they can enjoy the simple pleasure of opening a new pack of cards. So with that let’s look at Topps as a company.  It was founded in 1938 and was a spin off from the old company American Leaf Tobacco.  After World War I left the parent company broke, the sons of the owner Abram, Ira, Philip and Joseph Abram took over the company and changed its name to Topps and began making bubble gum, and one of the most popular items they made being Bazooka Bubblegum that featured a character named Bazooka Joe in a mini comic strip that was included with the stick of gum. The brothers then had an idea; to help gum sales they would include trading cards of Hopalong Cassidy, a famous TV western character and this blew up into making cards for all types of things over the years.  From baseball players to rock bands like the Beatles to movies like Rocky and TV Shows like Star Trek to cartoons like Masters of the Universe, Topps owned the trading card market! Topps also tried their hand at other products like candy, posters and even comics (we will get into that a little later), but even when times got rough Topps still was able to hold strong and is still considered the top of the food chain when it comes to sports cards. I for one have many fond memories of opening up wax packs of cards and being happy to see the sticker I got as a munched on the gum. So here is to Topps for making great memories to so many kids from so many decades in time.

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Topps had taken over the trading card market, and in 1992 they made an announcement that they would now be getting into the comic book one with the opening of Topps Comics. The following year in 1993 the first comics were to come out that were based on ideas and drawings from then retired comic master Jack Kirby who came up with such heros as Bombast, Captain Glory and NightGlider for a made up universe that was called The Kirbyverse.  Sales were just okay, and the series failed to make that big of a splash they were hoping for. Topps also went for blood against Marvel and DC by buying up licenses to make comics based on such shows as The X-Files, Xena Warrior Princess, ExoSquad and Duckman. They also went for classic characters like Lone Ranger and Zorro and gobbled up films like Jurassic Park, Jason Goes To Hell and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. But only a few comics seemed to have the sales they needed, and quickly as they started Topps closed the comic branch in 1998. But before they left the game, they did give us horror comic fans some amazing and fun stuff such as Jason vs. Leatherface, a twisted Friday the 13th and Texas Chainsaw Massacre crossover, Dracula vs. Zorro pitting the masked hero against the vampire king, Dracula Vlad The Impaler a fiction look at the man who spawned the vampire legend and the series we are going to review this go around The Frankenstein Dracula War a comic that has the world’s most famous monsters clashing. And all this is a drop in the hat of some of the cool comics this company put out. I can remember my brother and I going to comic shops and buying Topps Comics off the newsstands. Some day I hope Topps once again gets the urge to come back to the comic world and unleashes the same wild and fun ride they did back in 93.

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Dracula has met the Frankenstein Monster in many films such as Universals House of Dracula and even Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein, not to mention in the USA the Paul Naschy film Los Monstruos del Terror was changed to be Dracula vs. Frankenstein (also known as Assignment Terror). One of the most infamous ones was directed by Al Adamson who was the master of drive-in movie shlock called Dracula vs. Frankenstein and in this film he also had aging horror icons Lon Chaney Jr. who was deathly ill and J. Carrol Naish who was also not in good health. The film was released in 1971 and was about a mad doctors want to bring The Monster back from the dead and makes a deal with Dracula that if he brings the Monster back he will get a serum that will make him immortal. The deal goes south and ends with a fight in the woods that leaves The Monster ripped apart and Dracula running for his life as the sun is coming up. This film is a turkey but such a fun watch.  Troma Entertainment, the same folks who gave us Toxic Avenger and Mother’s Day, also put out this film on VHS and DVD. The acting is terrible and watching Chaney and Neish act in this film as ill as they were is heartbreaking. Zandor Vorkov plays the Bearded and echo voiced Count Dracula as John Bloom played the bloated faced Frankenstein Monster. This film was made for horror hosting, and if you have some spare time and want to watch a cheesy film you might wanna give this one a shot.

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The Topps Comic “The Frankenstein Dracula War” was a series I was hooked on from the start, and I remember buying the first issue from a small comic shop in Centerville, Ohio and becoming obsessed with trying to get every issue the day it came out.  This included going to a number of shops and trying to ask any worker when the next issue was coming out. And like clockwork my Mom, Dad and Brother would take me to the local comic shops to find these issues. I even remember writing a letter to Topps Comics hoping to see my letter in the next issue, but sadly they never published it. I mean this comic series had it all for me two classic monsters from the past fighting and lots of over the top gore. One year I sold my comics to a store I was working for called Replay Media and only kept a few comics from my collection, and you guessed it The Frankenstein Dracula War was one of the sets I kept. This series meant so much to me in my youth, and I used to tell fellow comic kids about this fun series so let’s see if it still holds that charm to this day.  But before we do, let’s take a quick look at both monster characters. First up will be the vampire prince Count Dracula.

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Count Dracula was the creation of novelist Bram Stoker who based his vampire around real life Romanian leader Vlad Tepes aka Vlad The Impaler who used to impale his victims on wood stakes and dip his bread into their blood among other cruel acts. Dracula in the novel was very odd looking and not an attractive man at all, it wasn’t until Bela Lugosi played him in the 1931 Universal film that Dracula became the suave good looking blood sucker that has stuck with the character ever since.  Other actors who played the part of Dracula on the silver screen include Christopher Lee, Gary Oldman, George Hamilton, John Carradine, Jack Palance, Udo Kier, Frank Langella and Leslie Nielsen to name a few. Dracula’s powers include being able to change into other things like a wolf, bat and mist.  He is super strong and is skilled in fighting due to his past.  He is also very smart and can hypnotize people into doing is bidding . His weaknesses are sun light, if one beam of light hits him he burns, garlic, holy water and crosses act as a repellent and make it so he keeps away from you.  He can be killed by being beheaded or a wooden stake driven into his heart. Over all Dracula is one vampire you don’t want to mess with.

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Frankenstein’s Monster was created by Marry Shelley one stormy night as she and some friends exchanged scary stories.  The Monster in the novel is very grotesque and is nick named Adam and has a mean streak that is different from how movies and shows depict him as being misunderstood, and yes in the book we also get a hint of that. In 1931 actor Boris Karloff played The Monster in the Universal classic film Frankenstein, and alongside make up genies Jack Pierce they created the look and actions of The Monster that is the standard look and thought of the character to this day. The Monster in the film was very misunderstood and while having a mean streak he also had a sad side, just wanting to find compassion and love. Other actors to play The Monster include Lon Chaney Jr. Glenn Strange, Robert De Niro, Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, Charles Ogle, Peter Boyle and many more. The Monster’s powers are his brute strength and his near inability to die! His weakness is his fear of fire and his slow reflexes and almost sinister child-like brain. The Monster is a force to be reckoned with!  

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But all the powers and weaknesses are dependent on who is writing about those character.  So while on paper Dracula looks like he has the edge, it could not be the case in this comic series. Before we movie onto The Frankenstein Dracula War, I would like to take a moment and share some info on the second film I ever shot.  It was a sequel to the first film I shot, and this film was called “Werewolf of Ohio 2: 10 Years Before.” After finishing Werewolf of Ohio in 2001 and also working on the short films One Second Too Late directed by by Josh Weinberg and helping and being deleted from Nightmare, a film my brother Bryan directed, it came time for me to grab my VHS camera again and head back into the woods to tell another tale of The Wolfman from Ohio.  I always had an idea to do a sequel that would pick up after the events of Josh’s suicide from the first film and follow a new hero who was being tormented by the werewolf rampage after his girlfriend was murdered by the beast. I was going to cast my friend Jason Gilmore as the lead and his then girlfriend Andrea Seay as the character’s girlfriend, but the plans changed as schedules and fighting among the real life couple canceled that idea. I then returned to the idea of mixing The Wolfman into the Suicide film series we made and decided it was not a good idea. The next idea was to have a werewolf hunter come to Ohio and try and track and kill the beast and this idea was heavily inspired by the 1987 TV Show called Werewolf.  The hunter was going to be my pal Dave Wean or Matt Hoffman but this idea was killed when my brother Bryan and our pal and fellow filmmaker Andy Copp pushed for the return of Josh Weinberg as Josh.  So began the idea of a prequel that combined several of the above mentioned ideas into one “epic” no budget shot on video movie. So I spent time and thought out an idea that would have Josh going out and hunting with a trained werewolf hunter along side a film school student who is brought along to film the hunt. I then added in Josh’s dead sister Kanny to the mix who was a ghost and spoke to Josh via his mind. I spent weeks in Independent B Movie Studio writing the script on an outdated PC, trying to tie in all these ideas and deaths together, and finally after a few rewrites I had the script I wanted. So with the script written, I went and cast the roles.  Besides Josh returning, so did Brandon Womeldorff who played The Camera Man once more.  I also returned as not only the Director of the film but also as The Wolfman and as the special effects guy. New to the cast was The Wolf Hunter played by Matt Hoffman, and this character would later go on to spawn his own series of films.  The beautiful Sarah Yates played Kanny who was a young lady I worked with at Blockbuster Video.  Patrick Neeley played The Modern Gypsy as well as did the title song again and many more friends joined the cast to be killed off by the killer werewolf that included Jason Gilmore, Garrison Kane, Chris Weinberg, Rosetta Workman and Jeff Ricks to name a few. So now it was all in place, the camera batteries were charged and now it was time for me to make a movie once more! We shot the film during the summer, and man was it a hot one.  I can remember the sweat just pouring out of the Wolfman mask as I acted out the scenes.  Needless to say I drank a lot of water and Mountain Dew during the filming of this movie just to stay hydrated.The filming was quick paced, and we filmed numerous scenes in a day.  I can remember we had to drive all over as the story took us to many homes and many woods in the area, and my cast were troopers barely complaining of the heat and the long filming days. This was also the first film that I did actual special effects that were taught to me by Andy Copp himself, but I will touch up on that a little later. Matt Hoffman stole the show with his performance as The Wolf Hunter who in the script was pretty much a throw away character, but he was so happy to get a role that didn’t make a wimp out of him that he went in a 110% with his performance. Josh Weinberg cheesed up his performance to deliver some laughs and did a good job for the most part. Josh was also the only major cast member to not read the script and came unprepared to most of the shoots causing for many missed filmed scenes. When the film was done Brandon, Hoffman, Weinberg and myself went back to Fairmont Highschool where our old teacher K.B.let us edit the film in two days, making it that my second film was done and ready for the masses to watch and enjoy.

Oh I guess I should tell you the plot: Josh wakes up to find that his whole family has been killed by a werewolf (Wolfman) and hires a film student only known as Camera Man and a world famous werewolf hunter The Wolf Hunter to hunt down and kill the beast that has ruined his life. Along the quest Josh gets help from a modern day gypsy and the voice of his dead younger sister Kanny. But all the while The Wolfman is killing around town and has a helping hand as well as a man in a skull mask seems to be watching out for this blood thirsty creature. In the end the two sides must have a showdown in the woods that will leave everyone scared.   

Werewolf of Ohio 2 VHS

The film when done, it first was screened at Patrick Neeley’s house in front of every member of the Independent B Movie family, and to my surprise they all liked it! While the film had flaws and some odd music moments that in spots made the audio hard to hear, the film got the group’s seal of approval. The next screening was at sister and brother Rosetta and Chris Workman’s house and it screened in front of not only them but Andy Copp, Rick Martin, my brother Bryan and Dave Wean and once more they seemed to have fun watching the cheese shot on video werewolf film. Josh Weinberg began working on the VHS cover and came up with a design that featured the three hero of the film with a photoshopped version of Kanny placed in the middle on a red back ground with the title wrote out in white letters.  At the time we thought it looked cool, but looking back it was a terrible looking cover! We traveled around conventions selling this title on VHS and to our surprise it sold really well even to this day the VHS copy of Werewolf of Ohio 2 is the best selling title Independent B Movie ever released! This title also got us some fans, and even Chris Seaver of Low Budget Pictures enjoyed the no budget full moon romp. After the film’s release we even heard rumors of this film showing at parties and people loving the high camp of the film.  I can remember one day being at a United Dairy Farmers with my girlfriend Misty at the time and being recognized by a worker as the guy who made Werewolf of Ohio. You can imagine my shock and pride at that moment as he told me how much fun he and his friends have watching the film. Thats one thing I have always been glad about is that the people that watched this film got the fact it was meant to be a fun cheesy z-grade horror film that was laced with dumb humor. One question I do get about the film is who the hell was Skullman and why the hell is he in it, and I will answer that question soon! Most of the Werewolf of Ohio legacy is based around this film and it gained even more of a fan base than the original, and while both are very small it still has a fan base none the less. Oh and another fun thing that I was always teased about was that many people thought that the Josh character was in love and had a incestuous relationship with his sister Kanny, when in fact it was more of my writing that made this seem that way because I was the one with the crush on Sarah who played the part. 

Wolfman 2Werewolf Ohio 2 main castSkullmanKanny

One of the major complaints we had about the first Werewolf of Ohio was the lack of blood.  While originally I was aiming for the 1941 Universal Monster classic The Wolf Man, in the sequel people wanted The Howling. Now at this point I knew very little about special effects and when blood was used in films before this, it was ketchup or hot sauce poured on one of my friends heads.  This all changed after this film as Andy Copp director of such films as Mutilation Man, Black Sun and Atrocity Circle had already taken me under his wing and was teaching me so much more about filmmaking.  He also took the time to teach me about special effects and gave me his blood recipe and his secrets of how to make chunks of flesh on victims. Andy Copp was my film mentor and a great friend who spent time trying his best to teach me the do’s and don’ts of film making, and as we got older I think he also respected my opinions on film making. Sadly Andy passed away in Jan 2013, and I lost a dear friend and a person that believed in me and all the things I do.  He truly was a great man. I will talk more about this loss of a Independent icon of cinema and how he guided me into the filmmaker I am today at another time. But in the film, with the secrets Andy taught me, I was able to pull off multiple neck bites and even some gut ripping.  While the effect look 100% backyard they were still effective and helped add to the over all feel of the film. Below are some behind the scenes pics of the effects that were done on friends and cast members Chris Weinberg, Jason Gilmore, Jeff Ricks, Patrick Neeley and Matt Hoffman.

Chris WeinbergJason GilmoreJeff RicksPatrick NeeleyMatt Hoffman

After feeling good and the “success” of Werewolf of Ohio 2, we moved onto other film projects as I toyed around with the idea of a third film in the series, and serious thought about it when “fans” started asking for it. The idea I had for the third in the series would have The Wolfman running around even worse in the state of Ohio killing and chasing people from their homes as The Skullman is shown to be a warlock who feeds off the panic and death the werewolf creates. But in town now would be Chasity, the true love of The Wolfman, who was shown via a painting in part two, who is a witch who also had ideas of chaos for her one time hairy lover. Meanwhile The Camera Man finds out that Josh was not dead after the attempted suicide of the first film and together they once more get the help of a new werewolf hunter named Bjorn and set out to finally end the evil of the werewolf of Ohio. Josh Weinberg was set to come back as Josh, Brandon Womeldorff was set to play The Camera Man once more and even Matt Hoffman would have played The Wolf Hunter as a ghost. New to the cast would have been Andrea Seay who would have played Chasity, Dave Wean was to play Bjorn and Patrick Neeley going as Bela Chaney would have put the skull mask on and played Skullman. The film was set to be the final film and we even spoke to Chris Seaver about in the end having Teen Ape and Bonejack in cameos coming to join the hunt to kill The Wolfman, not to mention the films gore effects were to be stepped up a notch as was the look of The Wolfman who would have also had transformed hands and wore a trench coat. The film had a half written script as we took pre-production stills and even filmed a teaser trailer with The Wolfman attacking a young couple in a park, as well as shots of other character acting out scenes. But sadly the film fell apart as we shifted away from rubber mask werewolf films and aimed for more slasher style flicks that were selling well for no budget directors at the time. The film would be on and off again for years but never would see the light of home TV screens as the film was officially cancelled in 2007. Below are some pics from the production that show The Wolfman’s new look, Josh Weinberg’s return as Josh, Hoffman as The Wolf Hunter’s Ghost and Patrick as Skullman as well as Andrea Seay as Chasity.

Wolfman 3Josh 3Wolf Hunter 3Skullman 3Chasity

In 2012 Warlock Home Video run by Chris Seaver and The Warlock asked us if they could re-release Werewolf of Ohio on VHS and for the first time on DVD for their classic shot on video line of films, and we jumped at the chance to get this film out into the world once more. And instead of the series being two films we cut them into one film and even added shots from the unfinished part three given viewers the full Werewolf of Ohio viewing experience. We even went out and shot new footage for the DVD’s main menu, and man it felt odd and weird putting on the old Wolfman costume and attacking my lovely friend Jaimie in the same woods we shot both the films at. Not to mention Josh and I took new pics of ourselves as the characters we played way back for the first time in 1999. Oddly enough it sparked my want to make a new Werewolf of Ohio film for Warlock, and if any of you readers would like to see me return as The Wolfman and torment Ohio, let me know and maybe we can work out a deal with Warlock and make a new film possible. From what I hear the sales of the rerelease have been pretty good, and Game Swap in Kettering sold out of its stock. Oh yeah and my friend Eric Shonborn did the cover for the Warlock VHS and DVD release and did an amazing job!

WolfManWerewolf Of Ohio DVD Cover Josh

So now its time to take a look at a fight that is not a battle but a war as two of the world’s biggest icons of horror clash in an all out blood feud. I want to remind everyone that I grade these comics on a standard 1-4 star scale and look for entertainment value, art, story and how true the comic is to its source material. So with that let’s get ready to rummmmmmmbbbbbbbllllleeeeeeee!

frankenstein dracula war 1

The Frankenstein Dracula War # 1  ***
Released in 1995   Cover Price $2.50   Topps Comics   #1 of 3

Count Dracula wants the lovely Mirka’s hand in marriage, but her fathers is disgusted with everything Dracula and his family stand for and is even more shocked when he refuses to let his daughter marry him and the Count turns into a bat and flies away into the night. This leaves the father no choice but to try and kill Dracula the next morning to break the spell he has on his daughter. Meanwhile in a small village in the Transylvanian Alps, a group of French soldiers, led by the cruel Monsieur Massacre, are killing villagers and taking what they want until dark haired beauty Irena rushes home and gets The Frankenstein Monster whom she lives with to come with her and stop the massacre in the village. Upon arriving, The Monster makes a fool out of Monsieur Massacre and manhandles the blood thirsty soldier in front of his men.  The Monster is stopped from a fire ball thrown by an alchemist solider named Count Saint-Germain who is looking for the heart of Count Dracula so that he may continue to live forever as his last batch of live forever juice is running out, and he forces The Monsters hand to help by holding Irena hostage. While at Castle Dracula, the Count has changed Mirka into a vampire and together they kill her father and his men who have came to end the curse. It ends with The Monster going to the castle and being welcomed by Count Dracula himself.

This issue is clearly a quick way to make it so that Frankenstein’s Monster is forced to go after and kill Count Dracula and what better way then to use a woman as the bait to get what you need done. The Monster is a 8 foot tall, stitched together yellow skinned, long stringy haired skinny man made monster who is as strong as an ox who seems to not really care for mankind besides Irena who has taken him in after telling him he dark secret that she poisoned and killer her father and brother. Irena herself is not given much but her backstory of a woman scorn by her family who raped her is sure to become more of an interesting character. Count Dracula, in this series, is a grey haired suave man who is equally as cruel as he is charming, and seems to take much from Vlad The Impaler who he is based on as he uses wooden stakes to impale his new bride’s father and his friends. His new bride Mirka is not fleshed out.  At this point all we know is that she is a vampire now and was in the trance of Dracula. The only other major character in this issue would be Count Saint-Germain, a man you can tell is as sinister as Dracula and only cares about his own wants, to continue to live forever.  He is one character you want to see get his in the end. Over all this issue’s story is a great way to rush in the back stories of The Monster and Dracula and add in some flare with lovers for each.  Plus they add fights for both Dracula and The Monster showing you what both can do in hand to hand combat.  In this issue I would give the upper hand to Dracula as he seems more violent and sadistic in his fighting nature. The story is great, the art is good and the cover is done by the great Mike Mignola of Hellboy fame so this is a solid issue to start the war with.  Let’s see how issue two holds up for me.

Frankenstein Dracula War 2

The Frankenstein Dracula War # 2   ***
Released in 1995   Cover Price $2.50   Topps Comics   #2 of 3

The Monster and Dracula square off.  The vampire underestimates the power of The Monster who is trying to cut out his cold heart with a silver dagger, but while getting the upper hand The Monster makes the mistake of chasing Dracula who traps him in a cage like a rat. Dracula in mist form takes the appearance of The Monster and tricks Count Saint-Germain, Monsieur Massacre and the rest of his men into coming into the castle to get the “heart” of Dracula.  The vampire makes short work of the men, but he is then over powered by the magic of Saint-Germain who when about to cut out the heart of the vampire is attacked by The Monster who escaped the cage and realized he had more in common with Dracula than this evil man and together they kill Saint-Germain and Massacre and save Irena. Count Dracula and The Monster begin an odd friendship that turns sour when Mirka hits on The Monster and is turned down.  She in turns tricks Dracula into feeding on Irena and turning her into a vampire that The Monster must kill to set her soul free and now the true war is on!

This issue starts off with a fight the has The Monster clearly winning as Dracula seems to have finally meet his match, but he ends up getting the victory by using his brain and out smarting the man made monster. Once they have a friendship in place, The Monster seems more loyal to his love for Irena and his new friend Dracula when he turns away Mirka’s advancements. Dracula on the other hand is cocky as ever as he chooses to feed over this friendship and loyalty to The Monster. Irena gets a fitting death as she is killed by the thing that loves her and it listens to her pleas to be killed rather then becoming a blood sucker. Mirka is a bitch who set this all up cause she didn’t want to be told no – hey wait I have a few ex-girlfriends like that. Plus Count Saint-Germain gets his in this issue, and it’s rewarding watching him get his by the hands of both monsters. The way this issue ends with The Monster screaming Dracula’s name in anger letting you know that in the final issue the gloves are off and that these two titans of terror or going to throw down until one of them is dead. Issue two holds up really well, and I will say the storyline is still solid and the art is as good as last issues as is the cover, still done by Mike Mignola, making this issue still as good as I remember it being the day it came out.  So with that let’s get into issue 3 the final battle in this war.

frankenstein Dracula War 3

The Frankenstein Dracula War # 3  ***
Released in 1995   Cover Price $2.50   Topps Comics   #3 of 3

The Monster beheads and buries the body of Irena and heads to Castle Dracula where he calls upon and fights female vampire Mirka.  He proceeds to mutilate and kill her and takes her head as his first act of war of the Vampire King. As Dracula returns home from feeding, he is greeted by The Monster who throws the head of his lover at him, and the two go to war! The fight has Dracula taking many different forms from mist to a bat like creature to his human appearance and has the two fighting as the castle around them falls apart and catches fire. After a battle that leaves both of them bleeding and worn down the war ends as both know that they cannot truly kill one another. Dracula goes on living in a crypt with three new brides, and The Monster heads to Greece with the hopes of someday making himself a mate.

Issue three is all about the battle and from almost start to finish is the two monster fighting it out, and man when they fight, they go hard. Dracula once more seems to have the upper hand in abilities but also always underestimated the power and will of The Monster who has one fighting speed and that’s go. In the war neither monster wins, and both have losses as The Monster loses his love and Dracula loses his bride and castle. This final issue was a perfect way to end the war and had enough action and drama to keep you hyped as you turned the page.  Plus it was left open for a second war that sadly never came. The story was well written, and the art throughout the comic series was well done and eye catching, and after all these years in 2013 I still find this three issue mini series to be as good as it was when it was released in 1995. Topps Comics is one of the fallen comic companies that I would have loved to see stick around to this day and see what new and cool issues they would be putting out.  Other companies I would like to have seen make it include Fangoria Comics, Chaos Comics, Atlas and of course Star. Fans of both classic monsters will find this series a fun read and should enjoy the over the top gore and epic battles. Over all this series is A+ in my book!

The Monster heart broken

So with that I am going to do the fantasy warfare of the two iconic characters, and I will say how I see the fight going and who would win. So to me when I think of both Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster I think of the 1931 Universal films that had Bela Lugosi as Dracula and Boris Korloff as The Monster.  So that’s who this battle will be between, and the setting will be the outskirts of a small village in Romania. So let’s go back in time and see a classic battle between the worlds top monsters.

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The Frankenstein’s Monster is shuffling through the woods trying to avoid mankind and to find a place to rest his worn down body.  The sun is going down as The Monster finds a run down gate that leads to a massive castle. He walks forward as the rain starts to come in as the sun goes down, and the moon is now shinning as he walks up the staircase a wolf howl can be heard from a distance in the woods he is leaving behind. As the monster pushes the wooden front door open and then slowly closes it, he is met with a pale figure dressed in a black suit and a cape who moves fast for the attack knocking The Monster through the door shattering it into splinters as both fall into the rain soaked ground. The Monster knocks Dracula off him as the vampire King starts to question why the brute has come to his castle.  The Monster just growls and walks toward his now new enemy as Dracula jumps quick on The Monster again and sinks his fangs into the neck of the stitched together man made monster and gets a mouth full of stale rotted tasting blood.  The vampire pulls back in disgust as The Monster shoves him away and Dracula hits the stone steps hard. The Monster comes lurking toward Dracula who shakes off the impact quick and gets to his feet as he does so The Monster’s huge hand wraps around the vampires neck and starts his death grip.  Dracula grabs The Monster’s hand and uses all his power to remove The Monster’s hand from his throat as well as from his body as Dracula tosses the hand aside, The Monster reacts to the pain of his torn off hand and swings his hurt arm madly knocking Dracula into one of the splinters from the busted front door.  The wooden spike drives deep into Dracula who slowly turns into bones as The Monster in pain stumbles into the woods in the pouring rain. As The Monster is out of sight one of Dracula’s Brides appear and remove the wooden splinter.

 Winner: Frankenstein’s Monster

As you can see in my opinion it would be a very close brawl, and in the end while The Monster looks to have won, Dracula is not fully beaten and would live again to fight and suck the blood of his victims. I love both of these classic monsters and both of 1931 films based on them are some of my favorite films to watch. While Topps Comics run was way too short as a company, they gave me some great comics to read in my teen years, and with that I am going to take a look at next a book from another company I loved finding back issues of as a teen and that’s Atlas Comics, and the series I will be looking at is The Brute! Hope you had a good time reading about Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, Topps and Werewolf of Ohio 2 because I had a blast writing it. So until, then read a comic or two for me!

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Top 10 Should Have Beens In The Star Comics World

Welcome back to my blog, and thank you for reading my trip down memory lane mixed with pulp culture and things that still fascinate me to this day. Last blog I mentioned that Marvel pulled the plug on Star Comics after only a four year run, and I then mentioned that during that time they missed lots of great stuff that could have made some some great comic adventures.  What if they were still around to this day; what great stuff might have come from this?  After thinking about this, I decided that this blog entry will be my top 10 properties that should have been turned into a Star Comic.  Then Part 2 will show some friends and family’s top 5 picks, so sit back and enjoy!

#10 

Adams Family Logo

They are spooky, kooky and an all around fun time for the young and young at heart.  This off the wall family have been around for many years and have been in every kind of media from comic strip, TV, movies, games and books.  In 1938, Charles Addams created The Addams Family (Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Puggsly, Fester, Gramama, Lurch & Thing), and the comic strip was published in the New York Times and was a popular read for the masses. In 1964 ABC aired The Addams Family in which live actors like John Astin, Coralyn Jones, Ted Cassidy and other actors played the parts of the family. The series ran until 1966 and had good solid ratings. Then in 1973, Hanna Barbara made an animated series that ran for a year and featured silly adventures of the family done in the style of Scooby-Doo.

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In 1977, a new live action special was made called “Halloween with the New Addams Family,” and while John Astin and most of the original cast returned to play the characters they did many years before, the magic seemed to be gone and the special was only so-so. In 1992 they tried an animated series again that only lasted one year, “The Addams Family: Animated Series.”  This series also inspired some action figures from Playmates. The kooky family’s next major break was the 1998 film starring Raul Julia, Angelica Houston, Christina Ricci and Christopher Lloyd.  The film was a hit and made The Addams Family a household name once again. The film sparked two sequels, video games, novels, pinball game and lots more merchandise. While many other small Addams Family specials and such were made, the two most impactful were the 1964 ABC show and the 1998 Paramount film, but the 1992 cartoon series also holds a special place in my heart.

halloween-with-the-new-addams-family2The_Addams_family_cartoon 90sMovie Poster

Now let’s talk the merchandise for a moment to show the popularity of the Addams Family.  Many amazing products were made including a fun kiddie board game from Milton Bradley based on the 1973 Cartoon.  In 1965, Ted Cassidy made a song and dance craze called The Lurch.  The amazing NES Video Game System had several games including the very hard “Festers Quest”, and even a breakfast cereal was made to go along with the 1998 movie. All this was in addition to toys from Playmates, and many more fun and silly products. I used to eat the cereal and was always happy to get a box because they used to give away free mini flashlights as a prize! I still have my Lurch and Fester flashlights to this day. I also spent many hours along side my brother Bryan and friend Mike Cessna playing Festers Quest and never beating it. As for the Play Mates toys based on the 1992 Cartoon, the only one I ever owned was Lurch and he came with a old pair of sheers.  It was a cool toy for the time.

TedCassidy-TheLurch45AddamsFamily boardgameAddams-Family-cereal

But before I go into why Star Comics should have created a comic based on The Addams Family, I do need to touch up on the fact that a mini series was made by Gold Key Comics based on the 1973 cartoons. The 3 issue run came out in 1974, the year the toon was canceled, and featured silly very kid friendly stories. As always the people at Whitman comics always republished what Gold Key had released the same year. I’m not sure why the comics only lasted three issues, but it might have had to do with the fact the cartoon was canceled within a year, leading me into my pitch of what Star could have done.

Addams Family 1Adams Family 2Adams Family 3

If Star Comics were around in 1992, the issues would be based on the cartoon and would follow the family doing all types of silly stuff from going to the beach to having normal yet odd holidays such as Thanksgiving and the 4th of July. While the main stories would follow Wednesday and Puggsley to gain the kid crowd, it could also follow Lurch and make the silent and hulking butler a main focus.  As an example, he goes to camp with the Addams kids, and they get lost in the spooky woods,  While other kids are scared, The Addams kids and Lurch are having a blast. The rest of the family would be shown and highlighted as well. Say what you want about the Addams Family, but they are nice spooky kid-friendly characters that would been pleasing in a comic series from Star. I am guessing if this comic would have been made it would have run for at least 3-4 issues before the plug was pulled like so many before it, but I guarantee that those issues would have been a fun time for those who enjoyed the cartoon.

#9 

hey dude logo

Hey Dude was a popular live action show on Nickelodeon in 1989 that followed workers at a dude ranch called the Bar None owned by a city slicker named Mr. Ernst and his young son Buddy. Workers included Ted, a smooth talking ladies man and Danny, a local Native American.  They were joined by blonde cutie Melody and rich horse trainer Brad.  All the staff are in their teens and are joined by Lucy who is the overseer of the workers and is in her late 30’s/early 40’s. The show revolved around the Ranch, and the silly wars the boys and the girls would get into over petty things.  The show also built up sexual tension between Brad and Ted adding some teen drama to the mix. In my youth this was one of my favorite shows and was one of the best live action shows of the time on Nick. It also sparked my second major celebrity crush as I had the hots for Kelly Brown who played Brad.  I also found Christine Taylor really hot!   But my first major crush (that I still have to this day) is Danielle Harris, but that’s for another entry.

TedChristine Taylor MelMr. E

Hey Dude ran for five seasons and was canceled in 1991.  During that time, the Ted character came and went and Jake was introduced who was Mr. Ernst’s nephew from L.A. who was also kind of after Brad.  The show was a staple of my youth, and I can’t count the times I watched the same episodes over and over, having a blast doing so. I was so bummed when the show went off the air and was shocked by the little merchandise the series got. To this day besides the DVD season releases by Shout Factory, the only item I can think of was a novel called “Hey Dude: Show Down at the Bar None”.

Hey Dude BookBrad and TedHey Dude DVD

Besides the stunning Brad, one of my favorite characters from the show was Danny Lightfoot, a Hopi Indian who was not only wise but also a total goofball who loved to fuel the fire of Ted’s numbskull ideas and bets. But during many episodes Danny would always explain that his people were the ones who created a custom or food item, and this sparked my brother to always walk around and make fun of the character by asking if “Danny and his people created that.”  It was all in good fun, and just the other day on the phone he even referenced it again! I am sure that one of the reasons I really liked the character is because both my Grandfather and Grandmother are part Native American, as were my great-grandparents and so on before them.

Danny

If Star Comics was still active in 1989, they could have reached out to a teen audience and did some issues about the Bar None Ranch and its workers. The comics could have followed Ted and Danny (and maybe Jake depending on when the comic was made) as they got into trouble and adventures in and around the ranch. It could also have built up the flirting of Ted and Brad giving female readers some romance to keep them interested as well. Another fun aspect that they could have played up on in comics would be cowboy ghosts and Native American spirits and beliefs, giving it a little more action and adventure. But with this show airing a year after Star was shut down, we’ll never get to know if this show would have gotten the Star treatment. I will say in closing that it’s about damn time this show saw a DVD release, so a big thanks goes out to Shout Factory. And my guess it would have lasted at least 4-5 issues.

#8

Tales From Cryptkeeper

In 1950, EC Comics was making horror comics called “Tales from the Crypt,” “The Vault of Horror” and “The Haunt of Fear.”  Each issue was hosted by a grim yet tongue in cheek host such as The Crypt Keeper, The Vault Keeper or The Old Witch. The comics were filled with ghouls, blood and grim stories and were crowd pleasers to young readers. But much like many things over the years, parents hit the roof when they found that their children had been reading comics about murder, death and ghouls. So like any good crazed, tightly-wound parent would do, they protested the company and the comics and had a massive bonfire in which hundreds of copies of the classic comic were burned making original copies highly collectible.  EC also sparked the comic code, that tried to ban comics that found unsuitable for children and eventually causing the demise of EC in 1955 after dipping sales and the overly huge backlash of parents, teachers and the comic code.

Tales From The Crypt ComicVault Of Horror ComicHaunt of Fear Comic

But the Crypt Keeper came out of the ashes in 1972 when a live action movie starring horror legend Peter Cushing was made, taking many of the comics’ old stories and adapting them to film.  The film’s plot had a group of strangers who were on a tour and get lost and end up in a tomb like area where the Crypt Keeper tells them strange and brutal stories with each person as the lead.  Of course, this all has a twist ending. In 1973 a sequel was made called The Vault of Horror, and it followed the same formula as the first but this time the guests are trapped in an office building. In 1989, HBO made a hit TV series out of the comic that ran for 7 seasons and had the Crypt Keeper acting almost as a horror host, introducing each episode with a touch of comedy and skits. With the HBO series came films based on the show like Demon Knight, Bordello of Blood and Ritual, making this the most popular version of the comic to come alive. In 1993, a Saturday morning cartoon was made for ABC called Tales from The Crypt Keeper that featured kid-friendly horror stories hosted by an overly silly Crypt Keeper who still had a mean streak. In season two, the Keeper also found himself at war with old rivals the Old Witch and Vault Keeper, and this was the formula for that whole season. After season two ABC pulled the plug on the series, but it was only gone a short time as NBC picked up a third season in 1997 and changed the format and animation.  This only lated one season.

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Both the live action HBO show, and the cartoon sparked merchandise for kids and collectors.  There was a pinball machine, talking dolls, action figures, shirts, Halloween masks and decorations and of course reprints of the old comic. My brother had one of the talking dolls, dressed in a tux who said a few hammy lines from the HBO show, and he of course got the reprint comics. I didn’t get any merch until many years later and own a few of the toys based on the animated series and also own a Halloween mask of the Crypt Keeper. Like all merchandise, these things helped keep the Crypt Keeper in the minds of the masses.

Crypt Keeper ToyCrypt PinballCrypt Keeper Halloween

So again in order for Star Comics to make issues based on the 1993 cartoon, they would have had to hang on and been given a better chance by Marvel. But this would have been a no brainer and would have just followed the formula of the cartoon and the original comic series and could have had The Crypt Keeper telling cheesy kid friendly stories that all ended with a lesson learned, never really pushing the envelope to cross the line into making them too gruesome. I know as a kid I would have eaten this up.  I grew up watching horror films and horror hosts, and this would have been a series that I would have bought like clock work. The animated version of the Crypt Keeper was green in color, and his attitude seemed to be that he was your friend telling you a spooky story to have fun alongside you.  This would had transferred perfectly to comic. It’s a shame that Tales From The Crypt Keeper never did get a comic, and Star would have been the perfect company to do so.

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On a side note, back in the days of Waynesville I owned one of those mini black and white portable TV’s, and FOX got the rights to rerun the HBO series.  So I would turn off all the lights in my room and shut the door and would watch Star Trek: The Next Generation and then Tales From The Crypt. It was a fun time at night that allowed me to see the show.  I am sure many of you readers remember this showing and have fun memories of watching. Oh yeah, and if Star were to have done comics for Tales from the CryptKeeper, I would have guessed a 5 issue run.

#7 

Conan Adventure Logo

In 1932 Robert E. Howard created Conan The Barbarian and wrote his adventures for Weird Tales Magazine, and the character became a hit with the fantasy world. In 1950 his stories started to be turned into paperback novels and were taken not only from Howard’s writings but also other authors who wrote of his journeys. In 1970 Marvel Comics began the comic series “Conan The Barbarian” that spawned spin offs like Red Sonja, Kull and King Conan. The main series ran for 275 issues and stopped being made in 1993. For many years no comics came out based on the raven haired brute, then in 2003 Dark Horse Comics picked up the licenses and Conan is still coming out as of 2013. This is only the literature part of Conan’s vast history, and this is only a quick sampling.  This part could have gone on and on!

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Conan was such a hit that for years many other merchandise came out including video games, t-shirts, board game, toys and statues, all these making fans of Conan very happy. Some of the most popular ones are the Remco 5 ½” action figures that were just generic Masters of the Universe cash-in’s that came out in 1984.  To this day, they fetch lots of money on Ebay and toy conventions.  Of course the video games that have been made for systems such as Commodore 64, PC, NES, PS2, PS3 and Xbox 360. While none of the games did well critically, I found the PS3 game to be very fun and the NES game, while crappy, is still a fun goofy play. It’s a shame that the PS3/Xbox 360 game did not sell well because this caused THQ not to give it a sequel.

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Now for Conan in film and TV, a fun journey for all! In 1982, a film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger was released.  The film was a blood bath that had Conan going after Tulsa Doom, the leader of Set worshipers who was responsible for his parents’ death and him being sold into slavery. The film follows Conan as he grows up and gets revenge. The film is amazing and is in my top 10 films for sure.  In 1984, a sequel was made called Conan the Destroyer, and sadly this film took a PG-13 route and took out all the over the top blood shed of the original and tried to make it more kid-friendly and has Conan trying to protect a young princess from a wizard.  While not called by name, Schwarzenegger once again played a Conan-like character in the 1985 film Red Sonja. In 1992 Conan The Adventurer,the animated adventures aired, early mornings and followed Conan and his friends as they try and stop the evil Wrath-Amon who was the priest of Set who needs the star metal to be free once more.  It lasted 65 episodes and also spawned a second animated series that flopped called Conan and the Young Warriors that only lasted 13 episodes. Then with the success of Hercules and the Legendary Journeys TV producers thought why not try a show that’s hammy and base it around Conan, and thats what happened in 1997 with a show simply called Conan.  German bodybuilder Ralf Moller played the title role, and the show followed him and his friends’ adventures through 22 episodes. Finally in 2011, the Conan movie franchise got rebooted with Jason Momoa as the Barbarian. Although some were not as good as others, Conan has had a good run in film and TV.  The TV shows and the 2011 film were not well received, but still gave fans something new for the iconic character. In my younger days, I spent many hours watching the 1992 cartoon and watched the original 1982 more then any kid my age should have. 

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The 1992 cartoon is our focus and would be the best bet for Star to base a comic series around.  But before we get into that, let’s talk the terrible toy line that went alongside the cartoon. These things were large clunky pieces of plastic with terrible sculpts and bad paint jobs! I felt that way now and I felt that way then. I was and will always be a Conan fan and when the cartoon and toys came out, I was super hyped to see both. The cartoon lived up to my expectations and was a fun adventure cartoon, while the toys just sucked.  I only bought one, the Skeleton warrior Skulkur, and man what a disappointment.  From the moment I took it out of the package, I knew I was in trouble as the figure was stiff and had this terrible spin around action. No one else I knew in school had one of these figures making this one a school yard dud. To this day I do not have any of these figures laying around Independent B Movie studios (the place all my old toys are) nor will I ever get one of these abominations again. Oh yeah and the main Conan figure looks like a generic toy you would find on the shelves of Odd Lots/Big Lots.  In fact, I remember when these toys did flood those shelves.

Conan ToyHorse ToySkulkur Toy

Much like Tales From The Crypt Keeper, this would be a no brainer run of comics.  The fact that Marvel was all ready putting out comics based on the Barbarian would have made this one an easy sale. The comic would have followed the same formula as the cartoon and would have Conan and his friends fighting bad guys like Skulkur and Wrath-Amon and trying to find hidden treasures, protect the star metal and such. Plus they could have used Needle, his Phoenixx sidekick more and made him just like Snarf in Thundercats or even Orko in Masters of the Universe.  Many more of the side characters like African Warrior Zula and Jezmine the female circus performer could also be showcased, and the characters could be fleshed out and given time to really shine . While the main Marvel book was geared towards teens and adults, this series could have captured the younger crowed. The issues could also have an underlying meaning like don’t steal or be nice to others and do it so slyly that the readers wouldn’t pick up on the fact they have just been taught a lesson in manners. I could see this series running 10 issues for Star before they pulled the plug on the series.  I think this one would have had a little life even after the cartoon was canceled.

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#6 rockafire explosion logoIn 1980 a pizza chain was born that was the rival to McDonalds in getting kids hyped up to go out to eat.  That place was Showbiz Pizza Palace. The restaurant had many gimmicks that were used to bring kids in such as arcade machines, ticket prizes, toys, and most famous was the animatronic band The Rock-A-Fire Explosion who would bring young and old there to see them perform. Showbiz became so big that they started to buy other pizza chains that were going under including Chuck E. Cheese. But the fun times came to an end in 1990, as Showbiz had some major changes in its business including a rebranding campaign.  This led to The Rock-A-Fire Explosion getting the boot and Chuck E. Cheese becoming the star of the show. While Showbiz and The Rock-A-Fire are gone they are not forgotten. I have many fond memories of Showbiz and going to birthday parties there and watching The Rock-A-Fire show and only somewhat liking the pizza.  I have never been a pizza fan, and I remember thinking that the pizza was mediocre at best. My younger cousin Steve, who I now work on many movies and TV shows with, was scared to death of the band and I think Fatz Geronimo was the one that terrified him the most.

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The Rock-A-Fire Explosion had many members that included Billy-Bob, a hillbilly bear with a great heart and who played bass guitar for the group.  He is the most popular of the members and was the pizza chains mascot.  Fatz Geronimo was a gorilla who sang and played piano for the group; at one time he was to be the main man of the group.  Beach Bear plays guitar and sings and is a surfing polar bear.  Looney Bird lives in an oil can and offers vocals.  Mitzi Mozzarella is a teenage mouse wearing a cheerleader outfit and sings.  Dook LaRue is a dog who wants to go to space and plays drums.  Lastly while not part of the band but acting as a warm up act was Rolfe deWolfe & Earl, a stand up comic wolf and his puppet. The band was huge and drew many people to the restaurant. While the stage show was animatronic, at times a man in a costume would walk around as Billy Bob and greet the guests in the arcade area. To this day people who grew up in the 80’s and have been to Showbiz Pizza have a special place in their hearts for The Rock-A-Fire.

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The company made lots of merchandise based on the band in order to make that extra dollar off the guests that included glasses, mugs, vinyl records, dolls, small toys, posters and so much more. In 2008 a documentary about the band was also made and showed just how in love people still are with the band and the idea of Showbiz Pizza. All the classic vintage items are huge collectors’ items and go for high prices on Ebay and conventions. In 2011, I was lucky enough to find a classic mini Fatz figure for only a $1.00!

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If Star Comics would have jumped on this popular kids attraction, they could have had a fun and silly comic on their hands and could have got major push by selling the comic at the pizza place.  Showbiz could have used the comic as a tool to try and draw more guests in. The concept of the comic could have followed that band as they toured the world and got into many off the wall adventures, I mean could you imagine Billy Bob in Japan or Russia?  Chuck E. Cheese also would be used and could have been written in as the bands manager giving that hat wearing rodent a push as well. Plus with all the band members all with different personalities, they could have had many funny moments just with the in-band fighting. But for some reason Star Comics just must not have seen how easy this comic would have been to make and how kids at the time would have eaten it up. Given Stars track record I would guess that this would have lasted 3 to 4 issues if it was made and would not have had a clear cut last issue. Here is to someone who I hope some day will make the comic based on these amazing characters that meant so much to so many kids of the time.

Billy Bob on The BeachChuck E CheeseMits

#5

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In 1983, Tonka Toys brought out a line of changing robot toys called The GoBots.  The toys were simple and would change from robot to some sort a vehicle and were geared towards younger kids. At first, the toys sold really well and seemed to be building up steam even without the backing of a cartoon or comic to push it. But this ride at the top of changing robots came to a quick end when in 1984 Hasbro released The Transformers toy line in the United States. Fans flipped for Transformers and loved characters like Optimus Prime, Jazz and Bumblebee as well as the superior designs and tranforming abilities of the new figures. Gobots tried to fight back and in 1984; an animated TV mini series made by Hanna Barbera was released to compete with the Transformer cartoon called Challenge of the GoBots. While the cartoon did not do as well as its competitor, it did get full seasons starting in 1985 and ran for 65 episodes. In 1986 a theatrical film was made called GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords and released 3 months before Transformers The Movie.  The GoBots film was a flop and performed poorly at the box office and with critics. The toy line came to an end in 1987, ending the legacy for a short amount of time, until Hasbro bought the rights from Tonka and turned them into toys for kids under 5.

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Many people seemed to think that the GoBots toy line was the K-Mart version of the Transformers, and most think that they just followed the trend, but this is not the case.  While the toys were very cheaply done, they were still out a whole year before Transformers. The main bad downside to the toys was the fact that the joints would become super loose and your figure would lose an arm here and there.  I cannot count how many Cy-Kill toys I had that one of the arms would fall off. One of the other terrible aspects of the toys was the fact that most of their transforms were terrible and would be just a bend here or there, making them seem like bulky silly robots. Growing up I had many GoBots and used them when I played with Star Wars as other robots that would join in on battles or be at Jabba’s Palace. I think my two favorites in the toy line are the most popular characters, Cy-Kill and Leader One.  While they were nothing special, I found them to be pretty bad ass toys at a cheap price. I still find loose GoBots at Mavericks Cards and Comics and get a chuckle at seeing them.

Leader one ToyCy Kill ToyScooter Toy

Besides the toys, cartoons and movie, many other merchandise was made based on the series that included a game for the Commodore 64, lunch boxes, Halloween costumes, magazines, coloring books, stickers and many more items. It’s odd that this property never did get a comic run from either Marvel or DC. It’s also odd much like the back lash of the toys many of the other items made based on the characters have negative vibes around them.  The Commodore 64 game is always ripped apart and is considered a turkey of a game.

Gobots Coloring BookGobots C64Gobots Magazine

This is yet another easy one to make into a Star Comic and would have fit in with the rest of the properties that they all ready put out. Marvel Comics was already making Transformer comics for the older teen reader, and GoBots would have been a perfect way to get younger readers drawn into Marvel and to maybe push them towards books that were only a few years away. The plot of the comic would be the same as the cartoon and would have had Leader One and the good guys battling Cy-Kill and the evil robots. It could be a pretty cookie cutter format and could have relied on mindless robot battles with normal recycled plots. I know it’s sounding like I am saying that Star should have made a half ass comic series, but that’s not what I am really meaning at all. All I am saying is that this could have been a fun cheesy comic that was geared towards young readers.  I am sure I would have eaten it up even with tame and generic story lines, as would many other kids of that time. I think this would have lasted for about 12 issues if Star was to put it out and would have gotten a clear cut last issue. It’s a sad world we live in when Leader One never made it to a comic book in his prime.  What makes it worse is the ad below for the cartoon that is drawn in your typical Star art style, making me wonder if something was in the works and fell through when the film bombed and the toy line was on a decline making Star cancel the deal.  I guess we will never really know.

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#4

mad scientist logoWhen you were a kid in the 1980’s, lots of things came out that were related to horror and monsters.  In 1987 Mattel released a toy line that claimed to be Too Gross! Mad Scientist allowed you to be your own Dr. Frankenstein or even a Egor, if you owned a bendable Mad Scientist figure, and would allow you to create, dissect and melt your own creations. The line of toys also had dress up kits to become a crazy doctor yourself. In 1988 as well a very short lived animated cartoon was made that lasted two episodes called “Mad Scientist: Experiment of Error” and was only released on VHS. Weirdly as fast as it came, the Mad Scientist toy line disappeared in less than two years, making it one of those toy lines that made you wonder what just happened.  Many blame the NES for the death of this toy line that seemed to be gaining more attention than action figures.  Some also blamed the price of the playsets claiming that they were too expensive for parents to get for their kids.  All I can say is that it was a fun toy line that had some amazing animated/ live action commercials.

Monster Lab

My first introduction to this toy line was of course the commercials that aired during Saturday Morning Cartoons.  While they got my attention, I was not so hip to the whole chemistry set aspect of the toy line making me at first blow the whole line off as just another silly creepy toy. But then one day at school someone had a few of the figures on the playground.  They had Dissect an Alien where you removed the guts of a monster alien with slime in his belly and a bendable Mad Scientist figure.  I played with them both and really found the toys neat and offered to trade to get the Scientist figure.  To my shock, he did not want to trade but instead sold the figure to me for a dollar! This made my day and for weeks at home I would do odd little science experiments alongside my new figure. Next at KB Toys, a now dead toy store that was in the Dayton Mall, I found gummi bear style molds of creatures from the lab of the Mad Scientist and bought those and made plaster molds from them and spent time painting them to give to my Mom. Sadly I never owned any of the major play sets, but what little I did have from the toy line I enjoyed a lot.

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I know what you’re all thinking why, did he pick a toy line that for all accounts failed,  had a cartoon that never even made it to TV, as his # 4.  Let me tell you why. I think that one of the big reasons this toy line failed is the lack of real push from Mattel.  I think they lost interest in it fast and never fully saw the potential in its appeal. If Star Comics would have made this into a comic, I think that it would have kept the line a little fresh in kids’ eyes and might have made it last a little longer. The comic could have followed The Mad Scientist and let’s say a every day normal boy who helps him in all his wacky experiments that of course go wrong! You could have issues where monsters escape and they must round them up, a potion that makes The Mad Scientist normal and his young friend must find a way to return him to his crazy self and many more plots like that. Not to mention think of all the monsters you could add.  As far as bad guys, you could have the town mayor be the one who wants to lock up the Mad Scientist and throw away the key. But sadly Star Comics was all ready on the verge of closing up, and this series never did make it to the light or I should say was never even considered. If this was a Star Comic though, I could almost guarantee that much like its shelf life on toy shelves, its comic stand life would also be short.  I see it only lasting for about 4 issues. It’s a shame this never happened I would have loved to read the adventures of a lunatic Mad Scientist!

mad scientistmattel logoMad Alien

#3 

commander usas groovie movies LogoI have always been a fan of Horror Hosts, being young and watching scary films alongside them always seemed to make the film less scary and you felt protected by the hosts’ silly antics. Saturdays were always a fun day for me.  I would spend the mornings watching cartoons and eating cereal.  Every other week we would go shopping at Big Bear & Hearts, and then we would get home in time to watch Commander USA’s Groovie Movies on the USA Network! After the Groovie Movie was over, I would go to my room and play with toys or go out side and play ball tag (where we would play tag with a soccer ball that we would throw at others in the game) or even possibly record my own radio show via a tape deck and then at night it was time for USA’s Saturday Nightmares! Commander USA was a retired super hero that rented space under a shopping mall in New Jersey and would host a movie or two and would have some sort of crazy thing going on in his Video Vault. He was joined by his best friend and sidekick Lefty who was really just Commander’s right hand with a cigar ash smiley face drawn on. The show started in 1985 and ran until 1989, switching from Saturday to Sundays and was a staple of my youth. The thing about Commander USA, who was played by a great stage actor Jim Hendricks, was that during the movie you felt as if he really was watching the film along side you.  That’s something a really good host can do, is make you think he or she is watching whatever turkey they are showing this week. It’s odd looking back over my life and seeing just how many horror hosts motivated me to be the creative person I am today, hosts like the late great Dr. Creep, my “Dad” A. Ghastlee Ghoul, Joe Bob Briggs, Grandpa Munster, Elvira Mistress of the Dark, Son of Ghoul, Sammy Terry and many more.  So to all of you hosts out there, thank you for doing what you do and inspiring people like me with your antics.

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Commander USA had very little merchandise, but what he did have was pretty cool as you could join his fan club that came complete with a membership card.  Also an official fanzine was made called ” Commander USA’s World of Horror”. Over the years his show has shown up on sites that offer his show on DVD-R’s and are worth getting if you want a nice flashback to a great era of the USA Network. Also Jim Hendricks is talked to in an amazing documentary about horror hosts called American Scary.  If you like horror hosts, this is a must-see.

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A comic book based on the adventures of Commander USA still needs to happen! Star Comics could have drawn in the horror kid crowd like myself by making issues about the Commander’s super hero ways in and out of the Video Vault! This comic series could have been played two ways, and both would have been good,  One could have followed him as he is retired and is forced back into action to save the day, like to find a purse snatcher that has been running wild in the mall above the Video Vault, or say stop an ice cream monster that has been made by a mad doctor who was mad when a store ran out of his wanted pair of gym shoes.  The second route they could have taken was to follow the Commander in his prime and to show him doing amazing feats like fighting super villains or going up against famous monsters like Dracula or Frankenstein’s Monster. This comic would have made me so happy and would be a series that I would have bought every issue back then and even to this day.  But if I know Star Comics like I think I do, I would say that if they did take a chance and make this comic, it would run 3-4 issues before they got cold feet and ended it. That’s one thing I will say, more horror hosts need comic books based around them.  At this time the only ones I can think of that have their own is Indiana’s icon Sammy Terry, Elvira and one about Wolfman Mac and his Chiller Theater . I think that a Baron Von Porkchop Comic will be coming your way soon, and I hope that these four books will trigger more comics about Hosts. With that to quote Commander, “Keep your nose in the wind… and your tail to yourself…”

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#2 

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In 1986 a plush doll that was aimed toward boys was released by American Greetings.  This doll was named My Pet Monster and was a blue furred, devil horned, sharp teeth, big nosed creature who was bound by bright orange handcuffs, and if those handcuffs came off he was said to come alive. The toy was one of very few plush dolls that was geared toward boys and to many people’s, surprise it was a huge success! The doll was so popular that many more were made in the line that included such beasts as Gwonk, Rark and Wogster. My Pet Monster warmed his way into hearts up into the early 90’s before the line went silent. In 2001 he came back for a second run but went through some changes.  While most of him looked the same, his nose and snarl looking teeth were way more tame, and this change was to please kids who found the original too scary. The rebirth was short lived but the doll now is a collectors item that kids of the 80’s will search for it to relive their youth. I never owned one of the original dolls but I do remember that a classmate had one, and he was a hit for the day on the playground when he came to school with his owner. I remember many of us going down the slide with him and spinning on the merry go round was a blast with our friend, My Pet Monster. The one I own is the 2001 rerelease that I found at a thrift store some years back.  It was in perfect shape and now even as I write this, he sits in an old vintage chair in my apartment looking at the TV. 

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My Pet Monster was so popular that is spawned many other merchandise and came to life in films and cartoons. My Pet Monster was made into kids books, coloring books, puzzles and a lunch box. In 1986 My Pet Monster also was made into a live action direct to video film, and had a young boy who when he got hungry would turn into the monster and get into all kinds of silly messes. The film was only moderately successful and has never made it to DVD or Blu-Ray. In 1987 ABC picked up a cartoon based on the toy line that followed a young boy named Max who was the keeper and best friend to the My Pet Monster who was more silly than scary. The cartoon ran for one season and had 16 episodes that can be found on DVD.

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If this were turned into a Star Comic, I would have skipped the film and cartoon and focused on the toy line itself.  The charm of the My Pet Monster was that when the orange shackles came off, he was free to act wild and crazy making the comic being able to go above and beyond with him going crazy in all types of areas. Like say he wanders to a school where a young man is picked on and watches as bullies keep making fun and shoving the kid around.  So My Pet Monster sees enough and talks the kid into un-shackling him and letting him show the bullies that it’s wrong to pick on others by pulling pranks and scaring them half to death.  Each issue could be a new kid with new issues and each time My Pet Monster is the problem solver, and while he is doing good things, he could still have a mean streak. This would have made many kids happy to see My Pet Monster in comic forum, and I am sure would have made Star a lot of money. I give this an 11 issue run with Star and I think it would have gotten a real final issue. It’s odd that this was never looked at to become a comic, and I believe that not only did Star/Marvel drop the ball on this, I think DC and Archie did as well.

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#1

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Now before you get all huffy and say that The Incredible Hulk is already a long running series with Marvel Comics, you should take another look as I am saying that one should have been made based on the 1978 live action TV show. So with that let’s look at the Hulk’s history

The Incredible Hulk/Bruce Banner were created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee in 1962.  Issue # 1 that shows how scientist Bruce Banner was hit with gamma rays trying to save a young hot shot Rick Jones.  When the moon was full Banner would turn into a super strong brute called the Hulk and became wanted by General Thunderbolt Ross and the US army. Originally the Hulk was grey skinned, and as the series matured a few issues they changed him to green and instead of the moon triggering his transformation, it happened when he was angry . The comic series was and is Marvel’s top comic based on a monster type character out lasting the likes of Werewolf by Night, Tomb of Dracula, Man-Thing, Godzilla and Monster of Frankenstein.  The Hulk has many great enemies that include the Leader, the Abomination, the Glob, Wendigo, the U-Foes, Absorbing Man, Dr. Samson and many more. In fact as I am all sure you know, Wolverine’s first appearance was in a Hulk issue (#181). The character became so popular that he even got his own comic Magazine called The Rampaging Hulk in 1977. The comic is still going strong to this day and doen’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.  I could spend pages and pages talking about this because the Hulk is my all time favorite super hero and the series is just so rich with plots and characters.  But I am here to get to the point of why Star should have made comics based on the TV show so let’s move on shall we.

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The Hulk was a fan favorite of kids who read comic books.  So they thought, hey why not make some cartoons based on the giant green monster and they did just that in 1966 as part of The Marvel Super Hero’s show that lasted 13 episodes. The 1966 series animation was based on the comic panels and was very crudely done, but still was a solid toon. Then in 1982, they gave it another go around this time the cartoon was just simple called The Incredible Hulk and was played along side Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.  The animation was better, and the plot’s were silly fun adventures but this one only lasted one season and 13 episodes as well. Many years would pass before they gave him another chance at the animation world, and 1996 marked his return to TV in animated form.  This one was called The Incredible Hulk as well and lasted two seasons and 21 episodes making it the longest running cartoon and had Lou Ferrigno come back to voice the Hulk. While this one was more up to date, I think it lacked the charm of the 1982 show which is my favorite. Sadly, none of the cartoons are out in the USA on legit DVD’s, and the only way you can see them is on Netflix, PAL Region 2 DVD’s or on Bootleg DVD-R’s. But I hope in 2012 they will be released for US fans.

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The Hulk has also had many action figures, and while some are based on his film appearances, other great old school ones have been made based on the comic and loosely on the live action show. My favorite one has to be the Mego Hulk.  While he is way off scale compared to the rest of the Mego collection, he still has a simple charm to him.  Plus fans of Wizard Magazine’s Toy Fair Issues will always remember him in their stop motion comics as a lunk head. Both small and large versions of the Mego dolls are worth tracking down and owning if you are a fan as well. I also really liked Mego’s Pocket Hero version of the Hulk because he was in scale with Star Wars and G.I. Joes. Lastly I have always had a soft spot for Toy Biz’s first Hulk toy that actions such as him bending a bar and smashing a soft rock. These four are just a drop in the hat of all the badass Hulk toys out there. One thing that always let me down is the fact Mattel never produced their Hulk figure for the Secret Wars line.  Many rumors say that he and The Abomination would have made it to series 3, and it’s a shame the line folded before then.

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The Incredible Hulk has also made his way into the video game world like in 1984 when “Questprode:Hulk” that was released for Commodore 64 and Atari Computers.  It was a text adveture game and marked the first video game to be based on the character. In 1994, a side scrolling action game was made for the Sega Genesis and the Super Nintendo called “The Incredible Hulk.”  While the game is by no means a masterpiece, it still is a fun button masher, and let’s you face some of your biggest foes like Abomination, Rhino and The Leader. In 1997 “The Incredible Hulk: The Pantheon Saga” came out for the Sony Playstation and the Sega Saturn and was a terrible action game plagued by bad controls. Next up was “Hulk” a 2003 game based on the movie by Ang Lee and was made for Sony Playstation 2, Xbox, PC and Nintendo GameCube. Then in 2005, a pretty badass game came out called “The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction” and was an open world mission based game that allowed you to go as rampaging as you wanted.  It came out for Playstation 2, GameCube and Xbox. Last on this list for now is a 2008 game made by Sega and based on the film starring Edward Norton called “The Incredible Hulk.”  It takes the same idea as Ultimate Destruction and just ties it into the move. On a side note an Atari 2600 game based on the Hulk was in the works but was never finished by Parker Brothers due in part to the video game crash of 83. The story goes that the game was almost done and this gives hope a ROM of it will be found soon because the cover box has been discovered. While none of the games above are groundbreaking, I did find each and every one of them a fun play through even if some of them made me want to scream.

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Many more great merchandise items have been made that include coloring books, lunch boxes, stickers, Halloween masks and costumes, banks, Halloween pales, board games, Colorforms, candy, toy boxes, shirts, shoes, hats and so much more. One of my favorite things as a kid was my brother’s and my Hulk toy box that was a purple base and the lid was a giant Incredible Hulk Head! We use to even take it outside and play with it putting it over our heads and stumbling around like little fools. Sometimes we would fill it with water and drop the figures inside it and act if it was a deep dark abyss. I miss that damn thing! Oh and my mom still has pages of an old Hulk coloring book I colored for her when I was like 4-5, showing that I have always loved The Hulk.

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We still have one more thing to cover about The Incredible Hulk and his impact on our culture and his popularity, and that’s Hulk at the box office. Hulk films have been made before the ones that made it to theaters but those will be separate from this due to the fact they tie into the TV show that I think should have been continued in Star Comics. The first film in theaters was Universal & Ang Lee’s 2003 film called HUL.  This film had Eric Bana playing Bruce Banner who as a child was given Gamma radiation by his father who worked for the government, who also happened to be The Absorbing Man.  The film’s Hulk was CGI and looked like a dated video game graphic.  This film was more drama then action and while it made money at the box office, it left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. In 2008 Universal tried to reboot the film and made THE INCREDIBLE HULK.  This time amazing actor Edward Norton played Bruce Banner, and while the Hulk was CGI, they got Lou Ferrigno to voice him. The film has Bruce on the run from the government and trying to learn to control The Hulk.  Oh yeah, throw in The Abomination for fun, and you have this fun smash’em up movie. Again this one did well in the theaters but not well enough for them to do a sequel.The Hulk was also in 2012’s Avengers the movie and steals the show as he smashes his way throughout the film.  While he only had two solo theater movies, many fan-made films have been made as well.

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In 1977, a movie pilot was aired on CBS based on the Marvel Comic called The Incredible Hulk and followed David Banner (they thought Bruce didn’t sound manly enough) who during a test overdosed his body on Gama Radiation.  When he becomes angry he grows into being a muscle bound green skinned monster know as The Hulk. David goes to his friend and fellow doctor Elaina, and together they try and find a cure, but when a snooping reporter named Jack McGee gets involved, an accident leaves Elaina dead.  David is thought to be dead as well, and The Hulk is blamed.  This was such a hit another made for TV movie was made, and in 1978 it became a full series that followed the same formula: David would go town to town changing his name to find work or to get one step closer to a cure, and Jack McGee would be on his heels looking for the big news story of The Hulk.  Bad things would happen, and The Hulk would come out and save the day.  Then David would be forced to leave in order to hide his secret. This show ran for 5 seasons and a total of 82 episodes. After the show was cancelled, made for TV movies were still being made. The show was one of my favorites, and I found myself glued to the TV whenever it was on.  I remember coming home from school and skipping the after school Disney Shows (Duck Tales, Gummi Bears, ect.) and trying to tune in a fuzz station on the kitchen TV that would show reruns of The Incredible Hulk.  To this day, the show remains my all time favorite! Lucky enough Universal, who owns the show, has released all seasons on DVD! I think the show was amazingly acted with Bill Bixby playing David Banner being one of the best portrayals ever in TV and film, and bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno was perfect painted green and playing The Hulk. Growing up Ferrigno was one of my heroes because of this show.

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A total of 5 made for TV films were made.  The first was the pilot that kicked off the series, and the second film “Return of the Incredible Hulk” quickly followed and had David/The Hulk having to help a young woman who is crippled and getting bad medicine from the family doctor and her step-mother. The first film to follow the end of the series was the 1988 film, “The Incredible Hulk Returns” and has Hulk teaming up with Thor to stop organized crime. Then in 1989 came “The Trial of the Incredible Hulk” in which David Banner is framed for a crime and becoming The Hulk, he and Daredevil must clear his name and stop The Kingpin. Then in 1990 came the final film “The Death of The Incredible Hulk,” and it involves spies and the Hulk falling to his death in the end. Another film was planned, but sadly Bill Bixby lost his battle to cancer in 1993. When these movies were coming on, I know I drove my Mother and Father crazy.  That’s all I would talk about and when they would finally air the whole family would gather in the living room with a big bowl of popcorn and we would all watch the film. Times like that will always be an amazing memory of my youth and how great my family was. I remember also being so sad when in the final film The Hulk died.  While the way he died was pretty lame, it was sad because I knew that this was the end.

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Now let’s get down to it.  This live action show was made for comic books and should have continued in comic books.  Star Comics would have been the perfect home for it. The issues could have followed the style of the show and could have had David Banner going from town to town finding people in need and turning into The Hulk to save the day only to have to restart over again in the next issue. They could have picked kid-friendly issues and topics and tackled the “Just Say No To Drugs” attitude that was big at the time. The Hulk of the show was perfect for kid’s comics because he was never smacking animals or flying off the handle, he seemed to have a good childlike nature that showed him who was bad and who was good. Plus they could have had some of the better artists of Star work on the book and have the comic versions look just like the actors, making this truly fit in the same storyline of the TV Show. Plus they could have turned the planned yet never made film into a comic and gave us the fans young and old the real closer we needed for the series. While this doesn’t stand a chance I wish Marvel would even consider doing this now! This was a no brainer for Star Comics to do, but they really missed the boat on this one, due to the fact they owned the characters! I would say that if made this would have had a pretty long run for them something like 10-12 issues.

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So there you have it from Commander USA to The Incredible Hulk, you see what comics I would have been lining up for if Star/Marvel would have made.  In the next blog I’ll let some family and friends give you their top 5 choices! See you all next update.

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