Sunday, August 25, 2019

Frankenstein # 1, Dell Comics

The Dell Comics monster issues from the early 1960s are overdue for a reprinting. They are highly sought after and increasingly hard to find. My copy of Frankenstein is a second printing dated August-October 1964. It’s the only one I own. The others are Dracula, The Wolf-Man, The Mummy, The Creature, and there was a double issue with Dracula and the Mummy. The beautiful painted covers and colorful interior pallet are pure kitsch, and loads of fun.  These comics were inspired by and approved for publication by Universal Pictures who are credited with the copyright on the indicia column. The story is a hackneyed rewrite of the Universal scripts, deviating sharply from the first film but retaining the shlock feel of the horror comics of the early 1950s. That makes it all the better. It’s creepy and fun and honors its source material, the films, and the monster intentionally resembles Boris Karloff. The artwork is moody although simplistic, and the coloring adds another layer of gaudy pulp thrills to the issue. After escaping from Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory, he’s recaptured and drugged by the doctor who takes him aboard ship across the Atlantic. Once aboard the steamship, the doctor induces the monster to kill the ship’s captain. Once again on shore in America, they lay up at Hobbs Farm where the creepy scene ensues with the monster killing two horses. Meanwhile, the doctor is attempting to get recognition for his creation, unsuccessfully of course, and the monster is thought to have been killed when another ship he’s on goes up in flames and sinks. Dr. Frankenstein states in the last panel: “But I have created a super-human! And someday very soon, we shall return to this spot to discover how successful I have been.” Issue # 2 appeared a few years later, but transformed the monster into a super-hero in red tights. Issues # 2, 3 and 4 are lacking in the creepy atmosphere that makes this first issue so good. I don’t know any collectors that are enthusiastic about the subsequent issues, but this first one is great.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Man With No Name’s Snake Grip Colt

The original snake grip Colt from the second episode of Rawhide
This post is in response to several e-mails 
and messages here and on FaceBook 
about the photo I posted of the Colt snake grip .45.
Click on any image to enlarge.

As most Clint Eastwood fans know, the famed actor first used the famous snake grip Colt Single Action Army (SAA) revolver in the first season and second episode of Rawhide. The air date was January 16, 1959. The episode was titled “Incident at Alabaster Plain.” Eastwood would use that same gun again in A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and For a Few Dollars More (1966), both directed by Sergio Leone. Eastwood had purchased the gun from the production company and owns it to this day. In The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), the snake grips are seen on a different gun, the 1851 Navy Colt.
Troy Donahue (left), Mark Richman with the Colt in holster (center)
and Eastwood in  the Incident at Alabaster Plain episode of Rawhide 
I thought I would clarify the history a bit for the benefit of those new to riding the Old West range. In that Rawhide episode, the snake grip Colt is carried by actor Mark Richman who played a bad-ass named Mastic. Troy Donahue co-starred in this episode along with Martin Balsam and series regulars, Eric Fleming, Sheb Wooley and Paul Brinegar. This is a pretty good episode. In fact, in the final showdown, Eastwood gets a face full of adobe dust when a bullet (squib) blows a hole in the wall next to his face. The gunfight is well-staged, and Eastwood as Rowdy Yates chases Mastic into the bell tower of church. Fleming as Gil Faver helps knock Mastic off the tower by yanking on the bell’s rope. Mastic falls to his death.
Clint Eastwood and Sheb Wooley in the episode's finale with the snake grip Colt
Throughout the episode, we are afforded several views of the gun. The silver inlaid snake grips adorn both sides of the traditional walnut grip. Rowdy Yates has the gun in the finale and he hands it to Pete Nolan played by Sheb Wooley, who then becomes the third actor in history to handle that gun on film. I knew Sheb Wooley personally, and he always spoke fondly of working on Rawhide. He made no secret of the fact that Rawhide was enjoyable “play acting” as he called it, and Sheb later made a brief appearance in Eastwood’s The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976).
Eastwood with the snake grip Colt in holster in A Fistful of Dollars 
NOTE: As far as I know, the snake grip Colt is NOT seen in subsequent episodes of Rawhide. I did a brief scan of the first season episodes and Eastwood is wearing a traditional Colt with a plain Walnut grip. Of course a full review of all 217 episodes is needed to verify if the snake grip Colt shows up again. Anyone with additional information is free to contact me through this blog.
Eastwood reloading the snake grip Colt in A Fistful of Dollars 
Clint Eastwood brought the gun with him when he filmed both A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More, and the gun is plainly visible in multiple scenes. However, as I mentioned, this gun was NOT used in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. That gun is an 1851 Navy Colt supplied by Uberti, the Italian gun manufacturer who are still in business today. Another silver inlaid snake grip was added to the Navy Colt.
Another view of the Colt from A Fistful of Dollars
Keen viewers can easily spot the snake grip SAA in A Fistful of Dollars although the best view doesn’t occur until Eastwood is reloading, and later when he is using the gun to tap some barrels to determine if they are empty or not. In For a Few Dollars More, the SAA is likewise visible in Eastwood’s holster and in a scene where he is reloading the gun.

The snake grip Colt in  For a Few Dollars More

Replicas of the snake grip SAA have been on the market for years, primarily made by Uberti in Italy, or Pietta for the American Firearms company, Cimarron. I own the Cimarron version. There are slight differences in the snake design. The original snake has a single tongue whereas the replica offers a forked-tongue. Also, the rattle tail has a slight downward curve compared to the original. The Cimarron replica features the snake on the right side only, unlike the original which has the snake on both sides of the grip. According to an excellent Internet article by Bob Arganbright, the grips were supplied to the Rawhide production team by Andy Anderson of the North Hollywood Gun Shop. There are multiple other snake grip replicas available, and you can even order knock-off grips minus the gun on Amazon. I have occasionally seen a custom SAA with the snake grips on both sides.
Eastwood reloading the Colt in For a Few Dollars More 
The Snake grip Colt is now part of Western television and film history largely due to Clint Eastwood. The Cimarron .45 caliber Man with No Name Model Colt Single Action Army revolver with a five-and-a-half-inch barrel handles as well as any Colt, Uberti Colt, Cimarron Colt, Taylor & Company Colt or even the Ruger Vaquero. This is a fine gun and those few of you that know me personally are aware that I consider the 1873 Colt Peacemaker the pre-eminent handgun, and owning them is a great privilege. As always, please follow the basic rules of safe firearm handling. When firearms are used in a safe and responsible manner, they provide much pleasure, satisfaction and protection, and represent a fundamental part of our personal liberty.
Author Thomas McNulty's Cimarron Colt .45 with the snake grip

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Spine of the Dragon by Kevin J. Anderson

Spine of the Dragon was a joy to read starting on page one. I took the book with me on the road, first down to Memphis, then all the way up to our cabin in northern Wisconsin, and read it every night.  KJA is best known for his superb science fiction, in addition to his outstanding Dune continuation novels with Brian Herbert, but after reading his Terra Incognita Trilogy a few years back, followed by two superb steampunk novels inspired by the music of Rush, I was convinced he should write a straight fantasy series. I’m thrilled that he has, and Spine of the Dragon is the first of what I hope will be many more. This is a great book! I was immediately catapulted into another world (and Kevin does World Building as well as anyone), and what’s more, I began bonding with the characters. Of course, there are some villains here, and the wreths had me on the edge of my seat. Talk about a page turner! Adan Starfall may become an iconic hero in fantasy fiction. The book is long, and readers will be swept along by multiple characters and viewpoints as the story unfolds. The wreth have returned, and the want humans to do their bidding. That demand won’t be as simple as they believe, and Anderson skillfully balances character development with heightened suspense and a complex plot that never failed to surprise me. Books like Spine of the Dragon are what I refer to as “A Reader’s Delight” because getting lost in the story is as easy as opening the book and reading that first sentence. Once you’ve done that, you’re hooked! Spine of the Dragon is recommended reading. You won’t want to miss this one, and from what I understand, the sequel is in the works. This is the best fantasy novel I’ve read in years. Kudos!

Monday, August 12, 2019

Superman: Year One - Review

Why does this book exist? For years, fans have been telling executives at DC Comics and Warner Brothers they are tired of reboots, revised origins, and marketing events such as this. Superman: Year One is a rehash of a rehash. We’ve seen it all before, and it was done better before. Why do we need to see this again? My advice is don’t buy it. There has never been any reason to change or revise Siegel and Shuster’s basic premise. It’s been done too many times. I am writing this in English. Do the executives at DC and Warner Brothers understand English? As I’ve stated before, DC Comics has long been conflicted in its approach, choosing to retell and revise Superman’s origin again and again rather than engage Superman with new challenges and fresh villains. The constant revisionism and focus on revised continuity has effectively stalled the series. Nobody cares. Frank Miller has turned in a simple and often dumb script that is brilliantly visualized by artist John Romita, Jr. Make no mistake about what I’m saying here - John Romita, Jr. is a fantastic artist. I wish DC had given him an assignment that was new and fresh and exciting! Instead, we are given this revisionist Pablum by Frank Miller who effectively dumbs-down ma and pa Kent while trying to make Clark Kent relevant. It doesn’t work. And there’s more bad news - there are two more issues coming. Oh boy. Recently, publisher Dan Didio spoke about the sales figures involving reprints. He said, in part: “We do these Facsimile Editions where we reprint older issues...and in some cases these are selling more than the new comics with these characters. People are more interested in buying the stories from 30 or 40 years ago than the contemporary stories, and that’s a failure on us.” Didio went on to acknowledge they need to produce new and exciting stories. The problem is, that’s not what DC is doing. Frankly, this is mind-boggling and incredibly arrogant on Didio’s part. He publicly admits he knows they aren’t handling their books properly, which is a disservice to the characters and their creators, and then junk like Superman: Year One gets approved. Take a look at Batman right now - DC has flooded the market with an endless parade of junk Batman titles, all revisionist crap, and poorly conceived at every level. We have the laughing Batman, the future Batman, the super-duper team-up Batman, the White Knight Batman, Batman in Arkham, and Batman special issue team-ups with characters that should have stayed dead. Whatever happened to the Batman whose appearance struck fear into the hearts of villains and used his detective abilities to solve crimes? He’s gone the way I hope the current executive team at DC is gone, and soon. The lack of cohesion and endless continued storylines have all made Batman and Superman titles confusing, if not incomprehensible. Shame on you, Dan Didio. I don’t like posting negative reviews, but DC comics appears to be run by a group of chattering Cro-Magnon men who are skilled at expelling hot air while stroking a Barbie Doll with adolescent frenzy. I hope they don’t injure themselves.