« The world will come to an end, but the monster models will still be around. » — James Bama, who went on to paint artwork for over twenty of Aurora’s kit boxes.
Well-executed comic book ads were often just as enticing (and sometimes more, depending on the title) as the contents proper. A prime example, this lovely Aurora Monster Kit campaign, announcing the epochal model maker’s forays out of the Universalménagerie of misunderstood fiends with Toho’s Godzilla and RKO’s King Kong.
Incidentally, if you were wondering, indeed, the giant monsters cost more… 50 cents more. A bunch more empty bottles to collect, son.
Warren sold a lot of Aurora kits via his mail order business, and a decision was made to include his character in the line rather than risk dissolving a partnership. Unpainted, she appeared to be virtually naked. Her counterpart, the Victim, sported hot pants and a halter top; a dress or flowing skirt was deemed impractical in order to have her fit on the torture rack.[ source ]
Though the original Aurora issues of these classic kits are mostly rare as hen’s teeth, enterprising contemporary kit companies have reissued these babies, and you now can actually afford to free the monsters from the confines of their box and assemble and paint ‘em. Mint in Box? Pfui!
« Catholicism is not a soothing religion. It’s a painful religion. We’re all gluttons for punishment. » — Madonna Ciccone
Here’s a seasonal goodie from gag cartoonist Marvin Townsend (1915–1999) and his adorable “Ali” pantomime strip, which appeared, beginning in 1962 in, of all places, the Catholic comic book anthology Treasure Chest of Fun & Fact (Geo. A. Pflaum Publisher), distributed to parochial school students between 1946 and 1972.
« When the mind is thinking, it is talking to itself. » — Plato
The waning years of the 1950’s marked the beginning of the monster craze, which coincided with Mad Magazine’s ripest period of influence. Here, then, is a publication that sought to capitalize on both occurrences. Alas, chasing fads too eagerly always did land you all-too-promptly in the cultural ditch. Still… Thimk had its moment.
Thimk was a short-lived (6 issues, 1958-59) would-be Mad, also in the black and white magazine format.
« It was the spookiest horror ride anywhere! Mr. Awrus… a charming little old man, really… made it that way, because he liked to entertain people! But then the snake-thing arrived… and the others… heh-heh… and people went in… and didn’t come out… » — Horror Beasts Dine Tonight
First out of the gate was Irwin Stein’s Magnum Publications, with Monster Parade (four issues). It was soon followed by Monsters and Things (two issues).
As for the magazine’s grimy guts, there’s regrettably nothing outstanding: a couple of reprints of pre-Code material that was pedestrian to begin with… Curse of the Living Crossbones, illustrated by Ken Rice (a retitled Spectres of the Jolly Roger and True Tales of Unexplained Mystery #44, a one-pager about vengeful German gargoyles, illustrated by Sy Grudko, both plucked, minuscolour, from Web of Mystery no. 22 (Jan. 1954, Ace Magazines).
« Stop! Please, I need a jump start! » — the good doctor F.
You have to expect these things whilst motoring through the Carpathians.
In addition to his magazine work (the cream: Playboy, Esquire, The Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s, The New Yorker), Wilson made his mark in the animation field with Schoolhouse Rock! (with Phil Kimmelman & Associates) then as a concept designer with Disney Studios (The Little Mermaid, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Tarzan…). Quite the impressive waybill.
« Sharon… Marilyn… Jayne… Eva… Claudia… plus bits and pieces of bit part actresses. » — Prof. Shelley recites Cadavera’s recipe
In the early 1990s, Seattle-based publisher Fantagraphics were in choppy financial waters. To save the ship, they went commercial… in their own fashion. Two speciality imprints were launched, most famously Eros Comix, but also the lesser-known Monster Comics.
My own contender for the finest of Monster releases adroitly straddled both the erotic and the monstrous (and a few other genres besides): a two-issue wonder, Cadavera, was the hallucinatory, disembodied brainchild of Memphis cartoonist auteur John Michael McCarthy. Sadly, this raunchy-in-all-the-best-ways, rollicking saga-in-the-making, fireball of jolting ideas did nothing to help its publisher climb back into the black. But hot damn, did it ever give its all. However, in the speculator-frenzied, Image Comics-happy US marketplace of ’91? Oh, just forget it.
I know I could pull striking samples from these skinny pamphlets all the live long day, such is their level of visual craft and quotability, but I’ve checked, and you can still get copies for a song, so why spoil your eventual pleasure?
Anyway, all the gooey goods are accounted for in this « unofficial death certificate for unpopular culture »: punk rock, tabloid journalism, fascism, hot rods, hillbillies, Nazis (the original and the currently popular Neo (in)breed), mad science, robots, bunnies, Vice-Prez Chas. Manson…
The amazing Mr. McCarthy, after giving comics his more-than-game try (with Eros entries Supersexxx and Bang Gang, the one-shot movie tie-in Damselvis Daughter of Helvis and one of my all-time favourite series, Kid Anarchy, written by his pal George Cole), went the Roger Corman route and became a micro-budget filmmaker. There may be zero bucks in it, but that’s still a rosier financial situation than comics could offer.
« To hell with all those near-fatal quests and celebrity body parts! »
« Egad! This looks like it’s straight out of a horror movie! »
How deep and searing a trace the Universal Monsters cycle has left on popular culture: you see its mark on everything from literature to breakfast cereal. It’s nothing new in the cartoons, of course: Warner Bros, with the Looney Tunes, had their lugubrious fun with, for instance, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre archetypes. So it’s no great shock to eventually witness DePatie-Freleng‘s The Pink Panther getting in on the monstrous act.
Incidentally, we’ve checked out The Inspector in an earlier post.
« Apparently, no one could credit such a grotesque being with any sense of kindliness, and so the wounded monster limped along his way, his hatred of humanity grew in proportion to his size. »
Unleashed upon the world in 1965 by Wonder Books, this generously-illustrated volume of classic adaptations is a collaboration between fellow prolifics Walter Brown Gibson (1897 – 1985), the writer most closely associated with Street & Smith’s The Shadow, and artist Tony Tallarico, a journeyman who produced a bounty of work, as artist and packager, for just about every publisher in the business… save DC and Marvel, and who, upon leaving the mainstream comics field in the mid-1970s carved out a lucrative little niche for himself putting together scads of illustrated books, mostly for children, on just about every subject under the sun.
Tallarico would, the following year, revisit some of the fiends depicted here for a short-lived but infamous trio of series for Dell: Dracula, Frankenstein and Werewolf. Ah, but don’t be so dour: it’s just light, campy fun.
Another astonishing madman from the Playboy magazine stable, Bernard Kliban (1935-1990) is mainly remembered for his much-merchandised « Cat » cartoons, but he was a true master of a vein of absurdist humour that few mine with such success. It’s high time for a collected œuvre or at the very least a comprehensive anthology. Fantagraphics, are you listening?
These pieces were gathered in the Playboy’s Kliban collection (1979) and its sequel, Playboy’s New Kliban (1980). Every single one of the man’s books (of which only the Cat books remain in print, I believe) is assuredly worth seeking out, but fair warning: left to his own devices, and away from the Playboy ethos, Kliban goes much farther afield into (extremely inspired) absurdity and abstraction.