Hercules and The Three Stooges Save Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! It’s once again that time of the year for family, football and good food, and as you longtime readers know, its time for my Turkey Day Hercules update.  This year we will be looking at when Hercules met the princes of slapstick comedy, The Three Stooges. But before we get silly with this update I want to get serious for a moment and say that I am thankful for my family, friends and readers all of whom make my life way more fun! Plus, I want to dedicate this update to family and friends I have sadly lost over the years as each of them have helped make me the person I am today and they are all missed. I should also state that once more this year I am over at my parents house this Thanksgiving and waiting to eat some amazing home cooked food and enjoy good conversations with my family. So here is hoping that the belly full of laughs from this update doesn’t counteract your belly filled with food as we take a trip down memory lane with The Three Stooges.

Three Stooges and Turkey

It’s crazy to think that I have been doing this blog for several years now, and I have yet to talk about The Three Stooges, comedians I grew up watching alongside my Dad and brother and whose classic movies and shorts still entertain me to this day. The Stooges started out in 1925 as Ted Healy and His Stooges that consisted of Ted, Moe, Larry and Shemp, and the group toured around entertaining the masses and even made a feature film called “Soup To Nuts”. Shemp left the group in 1932 and was replaced by Curly, and a brief time later The Stooges broke away from Ted Healy in 1934 after making several short films and became The Three Stooges! Ted Healy died in 1937 from unknown and mysterious causes. One thing that should be noted is that Moe, Curly and Shemp were all brothers and all had their own wacky style of slapstick style humor. As The Three Stooges much work came their way in the form of short and feature length movies, and the threesome became one of America’s top comedic acts with Curly becoming the fan favorite for his silly faces and childlike behavior. But while things were good for the Stooges, bad luck caught up to them in 1946 when Curly suffered a massive stroke that left him unable to work, and up to the stroke Curly’s health was on a decline. Time passed, and The Stooges retired for some time hoping that Curly would get better, but the signs of him coming back were growing slim so they asked Shemp to rejoin.  He did for some time, and even was a part of The Stooges’ first ever TV appearance on “Texaco Star Theater” in 1948. But once more some bad news was coming The Stooges’ way in 1952 as Curly passed away at the age of 48 from a cerebral hemorrhage caused by more strokes.  They also lost some of their supporting cast when Columbia, the studio they were signed to, decided to downsize its short film department and the short films of the Stooges were being done cheaper and faster. Then in 1955, Shemp passed away from a heart attack on his way home from a boxing match; he was 60 years old. I should also note that in many of The Three Stooges films, a stand in was used for Shemp in shots who would wear a wig; this term was called Shemping and is still used to this day. In 1956 The Stooges hired Joe Besser as the new member who was a character who was goofy and would also fight back against Moe who was the dominate Stooge.  During this time The Three Stooges lost steam, and Besser was considered the weakest link in the trio.  After only three years with them his time came to an end, and in 1959 it appeared The Three Stooges had come to an end or did they?! The old Three Stooges short films were now being aired on TV and aimed toward kids.  This gave Moe and Larry an idea to try and launch a quick comeback with new Stooge named Curly Joe, and the trio launched into making movies again, this time aimed at the young and young at heart in the 1960’s.  They became one of the highest paid acts in Hollywood and even got turned into an animated cartoon series in 1965 called “The New 3 Stooges” and even tried their hands at becoming a weekly TV show that would have been called “Three Stooges Scrapbook”. In 1969, they were given another chance at becoming weekly TV stars with a show that would have been called “Kook’s Tour” that would follow the Stooges as they traveled the world, but this was not to be as Larry suffered a heart attack ending his run with the trio as well as ending The Three Stooges.  Even a dark comedy film written by Moe’s grandson called “Make Love, Not War” or “Make Mine Manila” and was about Moe, Curly Joe and Emil Sitka (a regular in Stooge movies) being POWs of World War II trying to escape never could get a green light from a studio. In 1974 Larry at the age of 72 suffered a stroke that put him into a coma, and sadly a short time later he passed away. Moe tried so hard not to let The Three Stooges end even after the death of his long time comedy partner and tried to get many movies off the ground but never could.  His last idea was a movie called “Blazing Stewardesses” but before it began Moe fell ill with lung cancer and had to retire from acting and passed away in 1975. Curly Joe still performed for years with a group he called The New Three Stooges that consisted of Mousie Garner and Frank Mitchell that went on till 1979. Joe Besser passed away in 1988 at the age of 80 from heart failure; Curly Joe passed away in1993 at the age of 83 from pneumonia, and Emil Sitka who was the only Stooge replacement never to be in a movie or show as a Stooge passed away in 1998 from a stroke at the age of 83. The Three Stooges are icons in the world of comedy, and now that I gave you a brief history on who they were, next I will share some memories of watching them!

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I can remember even as a young child my dad watching old Three Stooges shorts on TV, mostly on WGN, a TV station out of Chicago that use to air them a lot on Sunday mornings. I used to laugh at the silly ways The Stooges would smack each other and all the silly faces they would make when they were worked up over whatever was annoying them at the time. While my Dad liked The Stooges, my Mom was the opposite and was not amused by their slapstick antics and was by no means a fan. I think my brother liked them like I did because I can remember watching them with him and him laughing at them as well. Besides the short films, I also really enjoyed watching the Three Stooges movies with my favorite being, of course, them meeting Hercules.  I can remember watching this film on TBS and loving every cheesy sword and sandal moment.  I can also remember watching the cartoon at my grandparents’ house with my cousin Nathan on VHS. I also always wanted 3 ¾” action figures of The Stooges that I could have had as characters in my Toy Wars.  Imagine Moe slapping Han Solo or Larry poking the eyes of Captain Power; that would have been some epic stuff. Even at the age of 36, I still find myself really enjoying The Three Stooges and can say they were a part of my childhood that was good memories watching with my Dad and brother.

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On January 26, 1962, Columbia Pictures released a comedy sword and sandal film that mixed the Greek hero Hercules with the slapstick goofballs The Three Stooges that consisted of Moe, Larry and Curly Joe at the time. The film had The Stooges helping a down and out scientist with his experiment to create a time machine, and by accident The Stooges, the scientist and his girlfriend are flung back to ancient Greece and come face to face with an evil king and his henchman Hercules. The film was filled with lots of moments of silly comedy, and the Stooges played off Hercules who was the prefect straight man who had no time for their silly antics. The film starred Quinn Redeker, Vicki Trickett, Samson Burke and Emil Sitka and was, and still is, my favorite of all the Three Stooges movies. The plot is filled with lots of fun surprises, but I figured we would save that for the comic adaptation made by Dell. I used to not only watch this film on TV but also on VHS and later on DVD.  So do yourself a favor and check it out if you’re into sword and sandal films and Three Stooges comedy.

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In 1965, Saturday Morning Cartoons as well as after school kids programs on TV were very import to stations as they tried to lock viewers for their station over the other and many production companies took advantage of this as they made syndicated programs and so was born The New 3 Stooges that combined live action segments to intro the cartoon and was distributed by Normandy Productions. Each episode ran for 30 minutes and had a total of 4 seasons and 156 episodes with 40 live segments shot making many of the cartoons use the same intro, confusing the viewer. The cartoon was a pretty big hit at the time and reruns can still be seen on TV to this day on Me-TV and Boomerang as well as can be found on many cheap dollar DVDs and VHS as well as all 156 episodes on DVD thanks to Image Madacy Entertainment. It should also be noted that many of the episodes are in the Public Domain and that for some time The Stooges were in a legal battle with Normandy over the show’s profits. So I am sure if you grew up watching classic cartoons, you have seen a few episodes of this series and have fond memories of it.

The New 3 Stooges

In 2012, someone in Hollywood decided that the world needed a new Three Stooges movie that would have three new actors step into the shoes of Moe, Larry and Curly as well as recycle plots from many of their short films. This time around Chris Diamantopoulos played Moe, Sean Hayes of Will & Grace fame played Larry and Will Sasso of MADTV played Curly. The plot had The Stooges having to go into the cruel world in order to get money to save the orphanage they grew up in after they could not afford the insurance due to all the accidents the Stooges have caused. During this adventure, they stumble on a murder for hire plot as well as go their separate ways after a fight leaves them at odds. In the end, they stop the murder, patch up their friendship and get the money needed to save the day thanks to Moe and MTV…yep, the one time music station. I saw the film in the theater with Josh Weinberg, and we both thought it was okay.  I watched it again with my Dad when I bought it for him for Christmas. The film did $54,819,301.00 at the USA box office for 20th Century Fox, but was trashed by the critics. I should also say that The Three Stooges showed up on WWE Monday Night Raw and got booed by the crowd, and they only cheered when Kane choke-slammed Curly!

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So I am sure you are wondering who played Hercules in The Three Stooges Meet Hercules…it was Samson Burke.  Now I am sure some of you are now asking who is Samson Burke, well I am here to tell you a little about him. Samson was born on April 8, 1929 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and got a degree in physical education as well as wrestled and swam for Canada in the 1948 Summer Olympic Games. In the 1950’s, he became a bodybuilder even winning Mr. Canada, Mr. Montreal and Mr. Muscle Beach, and his pure power also lead him into becoming a pro wrestler where he went under the name Sammy Berg and wrestled such legends as Lou Thesz, Nick Bockwinkel and Johnny Valentine. Samson also got bitten by the acting bug and started to appear in sword and sandal films like “The Revenge Of Ursus”, “Toto vs. Maciest” and “The Three Stooges Meet Hercules”. When the sword and sandal genre faded, he continued to act in such films as “The Triumph of Robin Hood” and “Sartana The Gravedigger”. In the 1980’s, he moved to Hawaii and retired from acting in the late 80’s, and as of 2009 he ran his own fitness business. Samson, who is 86, still makes appearances at conventions and is a beloved icon of Three Stooges lore and remains one of the only actors to play Hercules not as a hero but as a jerk!

Samson Burke

So before we take a look at the Dell Comic adaptation, I will pause for a moment to let you get another plate of food…go on, I can wait…. you good? Okay, let’s continue then, shall we? I want to thank an Ebay seller for having this issue in stock even though they had it listed as in great shape but it came complete with water damage and mold and a very strong rotten ink smell.  So yeah, great shape it is not! Before we get to the review I want to thank you for spending a part of your Thanksgiving with me.  I should also note that I grade this issues on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. So let’s get on that time machine with Moe, Larry and Curly Joe, and let’s not forget our turkey leg and see just why Hercules is being a henchman jerk to a evil ruler. I am going to guess he is upset because someone ate the last corn on the cob, but that’s just a rumor.

The Three Stooges Meet Hercules 1

The Three Stooges Meet Hercules # 1  **1/2
Released in 1962    Cover Price .15     Dell Comics     #208 of ??

Moe, Larry and Curly Joe are working at a drugstore that is being rocked by the next-door neighbor inventor Schuyler Davis whose experiment to make a time machine is going a little crazy. While The Stooges like him, the owner of the drugstore, Ralph Dimsal, hates him and wants him to fail in his attempt to time travel and even tampers with his plans. Schuyler is in love with Diane Quigley, and she gives him only two more days to get his time machine done before she walks away from their relationship because he is spending all his time on it and not her. All the while Curly Joe has made some pills that calm things down, and they use it on Schuyler’s machine.  After the Stooges try and help, it causes them as well as Schuyler and Diane to travel back in time to 900 B.C.! They land in the middle of a battle and meet Odius and his right hand man Hercules and help them take the crown of Ithaca from Ulysses when his men flee that battle. Odius takes a liking to Diane and has a feast for his new friends, but when Schuyler figures out they helped an evil man get into power he has The Stooges set Ulysses free after he had been captured. Ulysses escapes, and The Stooges and Schuyler are punished to work the rest of their lives on a slave ship, but after some time they are able to taste freedom when Schuyler gains muscle mass and a King thinks that he is Hercules and asks them to kill a two headed Cyclops that has been eating the kingdom’s live stock! With the help of the pills, Schuyler beats the Cyclops, the Cretan Bull and a Hydra and builds the name of Hercules. Meanwhile the real Hercules is not pleased with the fake and gets his chance to challenge Schuyler to an arena fight when The Stooges and he come to the castle to stop the wedding of Odius and Diane. In the arena Schuyler manhandles Hercules and makes him promise to turn good and help Ulysses reclaim the throne.  He along with The Stooges save Diane and head to the time machine and return home, only in the end for Schuyler to punch out Dimsal!

This is one of those adaptations that does a great job of capturing the silly story and the goofy characters that made the film such a classic in the first place. The plot of the comic is a great mix of many genres like comedy, sword and sandal and science fiction, and they make them all blend so well together. The plot has three dim whit drugstore workers as well as a scientist and his girlfriend being flung back in time to ancient Greece, and by doing so they change history and must make things right before they return to modern times.  To make things worse, Hercules is not the hero icon we all believed but is an ego driven creep who works for the side of the evil King. The Stooges are screw ups, but their heart is always in the right place.  If not for Curly Joe’s pills, they all would be in serious trouble many times. Moe is the hotheaded and smarter of the group, Larry in this just seems like a bit player who is around to get smacked and deliver jokes and Curly Joe is the dumb one who might not be as dumb as everyone thinks. Diane is just a sweet beautiful young woman who acts as the love interest to both the film’s hero and villain. Schuyler is the main hero who turns from nerdy wimp to strong nerd and even matches strength with Hercules and brings down the evil king. Hercules is a smug ego driven super strong man who reminds you of the bully jock in high school, and funny enough he is beaten down and made to look a fool by a man who he viewed as weaker. Hercules in this comic’s good guy legend was really built by Schuyler, who forces him to stop being a jerk and be the hero he can be. King Odius is a cruel man who doesn’t get much time in the comic to show his true evil ways but is given enough for the reader not to like him. As always with most Dell Comics I could not find the artist’s name, but I must say it’s very cartoonish in nature and while good, at some times it appears like a talented 10 year old did it, but I still found myself enjoying it. Over all this is a cool comic adaptation, and while not as good as the Steve Reeves Hercules comics by Dell, it still was a perfect read for this Thanksgiving update. Check out some samples of the artwork below and see the cheesy cartoon nature of this fun issue.

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It’s weird that The Three Stooges didn’t meet more Greek and mythology icons. I mean who wouldn’t want to see “The Three Stooges Meet Samson” or “Maciste and The Three Stooges Save A Roman Holiday” or better yet “Three Stooges and a Strong Man”…so many missed opportunities. Well our next update will be in December, so I am thinking that we will do something fun and toy-related so let’s take a look at Starriors, a robot toy line that was created by Marvel Comics and Tomy Toys that had a four issue mini series. So until then I hope you have a great Thanksgiving and remember to read a comic or three and support your local horror host.

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Turkey Day Hercules Style!!

Hello again!  Looking back on when I was young, I used to love watching old sword and sandal films.  They had a charm, much like the giant monster films of Japan, with the bad dubbing and pan scan presentations on afternoon cable and cheap VHS releases. For you readers that don’t know what sword and sandal films are, I will give you a quick crash course: sword and sandal films, also known as Peplum films, were mostly made in Italy and were based on Biblical, historical and Greek mythological figures.  They were mostly popular from 1958 to 1965 and spawned many series based on the likes of Samson, Macuste, Ursus and of course Hercules. This time also launched the cult careers of Steve Reeves, Brad Harris, Ed Fury, Reg Park, Alan Steel to name a few. Films like Hercules in The Haunted World, The Witch’s Curse, Samson and the Sea Beast, Hercules Against The Moon Men and many more thrilled fans and were hits at the theaters. The genre was huge business for Italian cinema but lost steam and gave way to Spaghetti Westerns in 1965. Sword And Sandal films mostly dealt with muscle bound heros fighting the odds and helping people who were down and out against cheaply made monsters and armies of untrained soldiers. These films were cheaply made and were standard stuff for double feature movie theater experiences and later on midday cable filler and horror hosting comedy material. I remember watching many of these films on VHS that I would buy for cheap at dollar stores, Replay Media or mark down bins at Hearts.  I also watched many on cable, mostly TBS. But the ones that got my attention the most were based on Hercules, and my favorites were the two in which Steve Reeves played the Greek hero.  So you can imagine how happy I was in 2013 when I found out that DELL Comics did comic adaptations of those films! And now on Rotten Ink I can talk about the amazing adventures of Steve Reeves as Hercules and other Hercules thoughts.

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Steve L. Reeves was born on January 21st 1926 in Montana, moved to California and was into bodybuilding from a young age.  He had a herculean body by the age of 17, and after high school he enlisted in the army and served during World War II. After the service, Steve became a pro body builder winning such titles as Mr. Universe and AAU Mr. America and became an actor in American films like musical Athena and Ed Woood Jr.’s Jail Bait. But his big break in acting came in 1957 when he went to Italy and played the role of Hercules and its sequel Hercules Unchained.  He only played Hercules in those two films but went onto star in many other sword and sandal films like The White Warrior, Morgan The Pirate, The Trojan Horse and The Avenger. During this time he became the biggest star and highest paid actors in Europe and even turned down the starring role of The Man With No Name in A Fistful Of Dollars that later went to Clint Eastwood. Reeves did end up doing a Western when in 1967 he stared in A Long Ride From Hell. As quick as Reeves became a star, he also quickly lost it and went back to promoting body building and bred horses later in his life.  Sadly in 2000 Reeves died of complications of lymphoma at the age of 74. To me Reeves is an action star that rates up there with the likes of Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris, Charles Bronson, Jean Claude Van Damme, Steven Segal and Dolph Lundgren, and if was still alive, he could have been an amazing addition to The Expendables film series. Steve Reeves is an icon in the world of bodybuilding and Italian cinema, and I grew up watching his films and loving every over the top second.

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Le Fatiche Di Ercole aka Hercules (in the USA) is a 1958 Italian film directed by Pietro Francisci and starring Steve Reeves as Hercules and Sylva Koscina as Princess Iole. The film is very loosely based on The Labors of Hercules and The Quest For The Golden Fleece of Greek folklore, but much like most film adaptions of such things, many elements are added to spice it up. The film’s plot has Hercules trying to help Jason, who is the rightful king of Iolcus, complete quests to win his throne back, as Hercules also falls in love with the lovely Princess Iole. When the new king’s men steal the Fleece and rob Jason of his kingdom, it’s up to Hercules to get it back. The film was a major box office hit and made a star of Steve Reeves and sparked the huge boom of Sword and Sandal films.

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In 1959 Hercules got a sequel called Ercole E La Regina Di Lidia aka Hercules Unchained, and this one was also directed by Pietro Francisci and also starred Steve Reeves and Sylva Koscina in their respected roles. This time around Hercules is trying to help with two feuding brothers and becomes a slave of a queen.  He must remember who he is and save the kingdom of Thebes before it’s too late. The film marked the last time Steve Reeves would play Hercules, and while it was a hit, it failed to become as big as the original. The film did however get the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment and has become a kind of cult classic of Sword and Sandal Cinema. This film as well as the original are slated to be shown at some point on an episode of Terrifying Tales of the Macabre.

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We talked Steve Reeves, now let’s talk about the very lovely Sylva Koscina! She was born on August 22nd 1933 in Zagreb. During World War II, she moved to Italy with her sister who married an Italian man.  Sylva, with her stunning looks, became an actress and had a long a great career starring in such films as He and She, Lisa and The Devil, The Iron Mask, Hornets Nest and of course the Hercules films. She also was very smart and studied physics, was a super model and even posed topless for Playboy in Italy. Sadly at the age of 61 in 1994, she passed away from breast cancer. In America Sylva is not only known for her roles in the Hercules films, but mostly to horror fans for her role in the 1974 Mario Bava film Lisa and the Devil, also known as House of Exorcism in which she played Sophia Lehar. One thing is for sure, Sylva was one great looking woman and not a bad actress at all.

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Kids of the 1960’s were also treated to a low budget animated show called “The Mighty Hercules” that started airing in 1963 as 5 minute short cartoons, but most stations would string together many episodes to make it into a 30 minute program. The cartoon would follow Hercules and his centaur friend Newton, his girlfriend Helena, his winged horse Pegasus and a few others as they save Greece from the likes of Murtis, the wizard Daedalus and the sea witch Wilhemine. The series took many liberties with the Greek mythology even having Hercules get his power from a ring that when he puts it on, lighting from Zeus would hit it and give him power.  In this cartoon he had many friends and was more of a jolly kind of hero. The cartoon had a total of 128 episodes and is fondly looked at by people who grew up watching it on TV. I first saw this show many years ago when my girlfriend at the time’s dad had a VHS copy of some TV shows he watched as a kid and on the tape was not only Mighty Hercules but also Diver Dan and Clutch Cargo. And I must say all those shows were great! Mighty Hercules has a few episodes out on DVD but true fans are waiting for the complete series to come out. I should also throw in that the cartoon has one amazing theme that you should hear.  So if you get a chance look up this show’s theme on YouTube.

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One other old school thing I remember that had the Hercules name was the 80’s WWF wrestler Hercules Hernandez whose real name was Raymond Fernandez. Hercules began his wrestler career in 1981, wrestling in Florida and Texas mostly, and in 1982 toured around after joining the NWA. He also did a short run in WWC in Puerto Rico. In 1985 he was signed onto WWF and was quickly managed by Classy Freddie Blassie and later Bobby The Brain Heenan and was a heel (bad guy) who feuded with the likes of Billy Jack Haynes, Ultimate Warrior and Ricky Steamboat. Hercules would wear a long metal chain around his neck and use the full nelson to beat his opponents. In 1988 Hercules was sold to “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase as a slave by Bobby Heenan, turning Hercules into a good guy (face) who feuded with DiBiase, Haku and Earthquake. While a good guy Hercules’s career took a stall as he lost traction and quickly became a stepping stone for newer wrestlers coming in. In 1990 he turned heel again and teamed with Paul Roma and managed by Slick, they called themselves Power & Glory and went for tag team gold and went up against such teams as The Hart Foundation, The Rockers and The Road Warriors. In 1991 Roma left, and Hercules was once again on his own and losing match after match and this lead to him leaving the company in 1992. Fernandez then went to WCW and wrestled under a mask as Super Invader and quickly grew tired of this gimmick and quit.  He later spent his time wrestling for indpendents, New Japan and AWF. He retired in 1999 from wrestling and sadly died of heart disease in 2004 at the age of 48. Hercules is one of those 80’s wrestlers that I remember for two things: one, he looked kind of like Steve Reeves and the second was because when I was a kid I use to cut up old wrestling magazines and would have the paper wrestlers fight each other in a shoe box lid by shaking them back and fourth.  For some reason my brother Bryan used to harass me about Hercules and even would make up rules to help the paper version win. He even had this stupid song parady of John Lennon’s Give Peace a Chance that would go Give Herc a Chance. While he never was a amazing wrestler, Hercules will always be in my memory as one of the top wrestlers I remember watching in the 80’s.

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Terrifying Tales of the Macabre has a son of the Greek Hero with The Son of Hercules.  The powerhouse of a man is close friends to the Porkchops. In the first episode he is in, he gets the help of Baron, Baroness and Bean to go inside a haunted college and get a golden apple from a witch. In another episode, he is a dinner guest at a party to celebrate the life of horror host icon Dr. Creep. And yet again he makes an appearance at a chili cook off contest as a guest in the crowd. He also had his own one off show called Son of Hercules Power Hours where he hosted the film Samson and gave viewers work out tips, arm wrestled a space alien, wrestled a luchador and delivers goofy jokes. The Son of Hercules is part of the show’s family now and is always a welcome edition to any episode.

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With all this talk of Italian Cinema, I need to talk about my love for Italian women! I am a fan of many types of girls from Goth to Latina, but near the top of my list of my “type” are women from Italy. I mean look at girls like Asia Argento, Rosalba Neri, Nathalie Rapti Gomez and many more lovely Italian actresses. I mean even cooking show host Rachel Ray is part Italian, and we know most people find her hot. But before I ramble on, just take a quick look at these attractive ladies, and then we will go onto the comic review.

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Not much came out in the way of merchandise for the Steve Reeves Hercules films, besides the two Dell movie adaptation comics.  We had VHS and Beta releases and later DVD. We had vinyl releases of the soundtracks for both films, and at some point some company made a model/statue of it. While the film is in cult status, it just never had the merchandise push that other fantasy films got. I for one would have loved to have had a 3 3/4″ inch figure of Hercules based on Steve Reeves that would have been in scale with my Star Wars, G.I. Joes, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Dukes of Hazard figures! Hercules could have helped tip the tide in my all out toy wars, and he would have been a massive foe for the likes of Imperial Godzilla! I am surprised that Mego or even Remco didn’t make such toys, and for the most part that is a missed opportunity to cash in on the fame of the character.

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So I am ready now to tackle DELL’s comic adaptations of the Steve Reeves Hercules films, and I just want you all to remember I grade these on a standard 1-4 star rating and base it on entertainment value, quality of the story, the art and how true it stays to the source martial.  So with that, let’s get onto the reviews. Before I do, I should let you know that these comics are from a series that DELL did called FOUR COLOR that covered movies, TV shows, cartoons and so much more. I should also thank Ebay for having both issues up as buy it nows via our pals at Lone Star Comics.

Hercules # 1

Hercules  ***
Released in 1959   Cover Price .10   DELL Comics   #1006 of 1354

Hercules is on his way to the city of Jolco to help the acting King Pelias who has taken the throne after his brother was murdered.  Both his son Jason and the Golden Fleece are missing as is the leader of the soldiers, Chiron, who is being blamed for the murder and kidnapping. On his way Hercules meets and falls in love with Princess Iole whose father is the one who called for his help. Unbeknownst to Hercules, he is really there not to find the king’s killer but to make Iole’s brother Iphitus more of a man. Hercules goes after the Nemean Lion and during his hunt for the beast, Iphitus is killed, and now in order to please the King Hercules must kill the Cretan Bull and has lost the love of his darling Iole! Hercules curses the gods and in doing so loses his god-like power and even without, it he kills the bull.

This comic is a pretty good adaption of the film and helps speed up the pace by cutting out some of the long drawn out talkie scenes. Hercules comes off as a proud and powerful hero who also has a heart of gold and who falls in love and hates the curse of being a demigod. The best battles in the comic have Hercules fighting the Nemean Lion and the Creatan Bull.  The only down side is the fights are also heavily trimmed down and while cool, lack the full powerful adventure feel. Princess Iole is a wave of emotion in the comic as she falls in love, finds heartache with her brother’s death and even anger at Hercules for allowing her brother to die.  She’s a good character and a great love interest, the only downside is she feels like a second thought for most of the issue. Jason and Ulysses, while young, are great additions to the comic cast. The bad guys King Pelias and Eurysteus while mean and self serving buttholes, are never fully a threat for Hercules. The artwork in the issue is well done, and Hercules looks like Steve Reeves for the most part.  Fans of Charlton Comics version of Hercules will enjoy this comics art. The cover is great and is one of the better “Four Color” issues cover. Over all fans of the film, the myth and the greek hero will love this issue, and it makes me hyped to see what the comic based on the sequel will bring. Oh I should also say the issue I have is a prime example of the term “rotten ink,” and the issue smelled of classic comic ink rotting.

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Now let’s take a look at the comic version of the sequel and see how it holds up in ink.

Hercules Unchained # 1

Hercules Unchained  **1/2
Released in 1959   Cover Price .10   DELL Comics   #1121 of 1354

Hercules has returned from sea and is going back home to Thebes alongside Ulysses and his lovely bride Jole (Iole).  On the ride, they meet Antaeus, the son of the Earth, and Hercules shows off his strength and defeats the brute. After a storm hits, Hercules and company hide in a cave and meet the one time King of Thebes who tells Hercules that his sons are feuding over the throne and that they are suppose to rotate year to year. War is about to destroy his homeland so Hercules makes a deal with the acting King Eteocles to prove peace as his brother Polynices and his army are ready for the attack. Hercules sets sail with Ulysses as Jole stays at the castle.  The plan is to get the Kingdom right again, but things go wrong as Hercules drinks water that makes him forget, and they both become the slaves of Queen Omphale, where Ulysses becomes a servant boy and acts as if he is mute and Hercules becomes the Queen’s lover! Now Eteocles thinks Hercules and his brother are just playing mind games and holds Jole as a prisoner! All the while as weeks pass, Ulysses tries to snap Hercules out of his trance and figures out that it’s the water he is drinking that holds the power.  He also discovers that Omphale has a cave full of ex-lovers that have been turned to stone! Hercules’ friends come looking for him and he snaps to and leaves the island behind only to find that the brothers are gearing up for war.  During a duel both brothers are killed and it’s up to Hercules to save his wife from man eating tigers as well as keep peace in the kingdom!

The first thing that caught my eye in this issue is that Hercules, while looking like Steve Reeves in the face, has the body of a normal man and seems out of place as they speak of how strong he is.  To me the artist seemed not to understand that Herc needs to be a muscle powerhouse. The issue follows the film pretty closely, and the only major changes I noticed is Princess Iole’s name changed to Jole.  The musical numbers are cut out as is the suicide death of Queen Omphale, and I am sure the suicide was cut because it was not kid -friendly as DELL prided itself on being. The story moves along pretty well and has a nice blend of fantasy drama and over the top action. One thing that more lacking in this issue than the first is the lack of beasts.  While he fights Antaeus and some tigers, there is no major fight to get your blood and excitement level pumping. Hercules comes off fun loving but also a little bit of an ego driven a-hole, and this is one thing I think is done right. A lot of the issue is wasted with Ulysses trying to help get Hercules to remember who he is while he is prisoner and slave to Queen Omphale, and while fun, this is a little over done in the comic and the film alike. This adaptation is well done but just seems to be slightly lacking.  Where the first one was super fun with well done art, this one is okay and has all right art. The cover is well done tho and to sum this one up, its okay and was worth the read for sure. 

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So it’s Thanksgiving Day, and I hope this fun little review of Dells Hercules Comic Adaptations of the Steve Reeves films made your holiday a little more fun. While many people think the films are golden turkeys, I for one enjoy them and had a lot of fun reading and reviewing these comics. So here is to hoping you had a great feast on this day with turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and stuffing, and enjoyed the company of your family and friends while chatting over dinner or watching football/TV shows or a movie! So in closing: Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, and we will see you in December for some fun a joyful updates beginning with Marvel’s one issue run based on the build a robot toy line Robotix.  Until then, be safe and read a comic and enjoy your holiday.

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