Saturday, October 31, 2015

MY HALLOWEEN MEMORIES

All us kids pose for a Halloween, 1959 photo. My sister is the pirate on the left.

IT WAS THE FALL OF 1959 and I was four years old. It was also Halloween. In a few more days, it would be my fifth birthday and my Mom decided to throw a combination Halloween/Birthday party, which suited me just fine.

Matter of fact, I liked celebrating Halloween more than my birthday! There was just something about the chill autumn air and the anticipation of spooks and goblins in the shadows of the leafless trees that created almost an elemental atmosphere. Birthday presents were okay, but dressing up in a costume and mask for Halloween was more exciting than a barrel of eyeballs!

I had yet to discover the wonders of monster movies and magazines, but in the meantime I would don my "flame retardant" skeleton costume (probably from Ben Cooper) and prepare to indulge in the annual candy-fest. I loved that skeleton costume and wore it for as many years as I could fit into it!

I loved my skeleton costume!

Mom's Halloween party was a spooky hit. A bunch of kids from the neighborhood swarmed into our garage for a tour of the "Witch's Castle", but not before we posed for a group photo (see above). First, we were blindfolded. Then we were subjected to all sorts of creepy things that we had to touch, smell or feel. One I remember vividly was putting my hands into a bowl of "Witch's Brains" (overcooked and slimy macaroni!). The last part was getting a good-bye kiss from the Witch herself (a peck on the cheek with an ice cube!). After that, we took off our blindfolds and proceeded to gorge ourselves on goodies. Thanks to Mom for this wonderful Halloween memory!

The Halloween party table in our garage. Notice the witch party favors.

A closer shot of the table setting. Mom sure had a knack!

Friday, October 30, 2015

THE MONSTER DEMANDS A SODA!


So far this Halloween season, WORLD MARKET has been the only retail store that I have seen with any serious inventory of Universal Monsters merchandise. From dinnerware, to serving trays, to journals, napkins, even soda pop, WORLD MARKET is the place to go for classic Halloween monster goodies. Check it out at your local store or online HERE.













STILL MORE HALLOWEEN MONSTER MUSIC




Tuesday, October 27, 2015

TOPSTONE TUESDAY: MUMMY'S THE WORD


eBay still remains one of the places where a mask collector can pick up both new and vintage masks at various prices and in various conditions. The fact that masks from 50 or more years ago were molded in latex rubber makes pieces from that era that are still in good shape more challenging to find. Still, sellers seem to have a number of these that appear to be in pretty fair condition for their age.


The example shown here is from a eBay seller who is auctioning off a Topstone Mummy mask. By all accounts, it is a fine specimen. I was tempted, but I just don't have the room!










Wednesday, October 21, 2015

'ART OF PLOOG' DUE SOON


It was artist Mike Ploog who ruled monster comics during the so-called Bronze Age (1970-1985). For a few sweet years, Marvel Comics resurrected the dying monster craze by resuscitating many of the monsters we had grown to know and love. From film mags like MONSTERS UNLEASHED to comic titles like TOWER OF SHADOWS, Marvel flooded the stands with monsters. It was a beautiful thing.

Gladly plunking down my hard-earned cash every couple of weeks or so at a local liquor store, I would head home with an armload of comics and 'zines to read over the next few days. A few titles struck my fancy as being extra well done, in particular a trio called WEREWOLF BY NIGHT, MONSTER OF FRANKENSTEIN, and GHOST RIDER. They were all drawn by a guy by the name of Mike Ploog. With a style that I recognized from the Will "Spirit" Eisner school of draftsmanship, I quickly became a devoted fan.




Of course, Mr. Ploog went on to do more than just comics. The upcoming book, THE ART OF PLOOG will delve into his entire career. Published by FPG, LLC the book is on schedule to be released by the end of the year. Forget my two front teeth, now I know what I want for Christmas!





Here are the details from the FPG WEBSITE:

THE LONG-AWAITED MIKE PLOOG CAREER RETROSPECTIVE ART BOOK IS HERE!


Hello, fellow Ploog fans! We are happy to tell you that the wait is over. Finally, a comprehensive art book on Mike Ploog is in the works. This 320-page retrospective will cover almost every aspect of Mike’s career, from his earliest days of working with “Leatherneck" magazine, while he was still in the Marines, right up through his latest work on “Goliath.” “The Art of Ploog” will contain, quite literally, hundreds of pieces of art from throughout his career, as well as commentary by the master himself.

And from the pre-order description from Diamond Distributors:

In the seventies when you were looking for horror comics there was Warren Magazines, DC’s House of Mystery and House of Secrets, and Marvel titles like Chamber of Chills. While we still saw legends like Alex Toth, Gene Colan, and Steve Ditko working on those titles we also saw newcomers like Frank Brunner, Bernie Wrightson, and Mike Ploog.

Marvel found a formula of horror themes and continuing characters, and Ploog became the go-to artist for many of the 70s greatest horror based series, from Werewolf by Night and the Johnny Blaze Ghost Rider to The Monster of Frankenstein.

The years Mike worked under Will Eisner on PS magazine prior to his work at Warren and Marvel gave him a strong base in creating moody pieces of art, and a strong sense of graphic storytelling as well.

While many of Mike’s stories have been reprinted over the years FPG’s The Art of Ploog provides us the most comprehensive retrospective of his art. In an oversized 9" x 12" format and over 300 pages we see Mike’s work from Leatherneck to Marvel (Ghost Rider, Monster of Frankenstein, Man-Thing, Planet of the Apes, Kull, and Werewolf by Night), Crossgen, and Image to film work which included Wizards and Shrek.

This being FPG we get to see much of the original fantasy art he created for the trading card series he did with them in the 90s as well as art he did for collectible card games all  reproduced much larger than the size of the trading cards they were printed.

The Art of Ploog features commentary by Ploog along with those he worked with in comics and film like Ralph Bakshi, John Carpenter, Frank Oz, and Roy Thomas and comes in a standard edition as well as a signed edition limited to 250 total copies.

Mike Ploog is one of the true legends of the Bronze Age of comics though everything he does is pure gold.

—Steve Leaf

And a YouTube preview from the publisher:



Tuesday, October 20, 2015

TOPSTONE TOPLESS VAMPIRE GIRL



There is something decidedly salacious with the impulse to dress up a naked girl in a monster mask. A pastime that is better left behind closed doors, all too often the need to share this fetish with the world at large is overwhelming and the photographer submits to the desire. Whether used to stimulate prurient arousal, unconsciously satirize the relationship between sex and death, or simply to illicit a good belly laugh, this juxtaposition is as transfixing as driving by a traffic accident.



A case can be made for any of the above in today's TOPSTONE TUESDAY entry. An alternate title could arguably be "Topless Tuesday", based on the subject matter. After all, the Internet is just full of weirdness such as this, and in MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD's never ceasing quest to bring its readers a broad (no pun intended) spectrum of interesting and curious content, one is bound to come across an occasional outre example from some Imp of the Perverse or other.

To see an unimpeded view of this photo, go here.

[IMAGE SOURCE: Retrogirly]

Saturday, October 17, 2015

LIGHT A CANDLE FOR CAROLE LOMBARD


By the end of the 1930's decade she was the highest paid woman in Hollywood. She had it all: Incomparable good looks, a wonderful sense of humor, married to international star Clark Gable, and idol to millions of women who saw her as free-spirited female. But, her storybook career came literally crashing down on her on the night of January 16, 1942.

Born Jane Alice Peters in Fort Wayne, Indiana on October 6, 1908, Lombard and her two brothers moved to Los Angeles with their mother when their parents' marriage fell apart. She had an aptitude for athletics and was noticed playing baseball by director Allan Dwan, who was scouting for a "cute looking little tomboy" for his next picture.

Lombard was cast in many different roles and as she grew older, she found herself playing "leading lady" parts. When she married William "The Thin Man" Powell, in 1931, her career took off. She divorced Powell two years later. Filmmakers discovered that Lombard had a knack for humor and soon she became highly regarded for her "screwball comedies".

Lombard starred in only one film that could be described as a "horror/thriller". Released in New York by Paramount on April 21, 1933, the pre-code SUPERNATURAL was an early tale of spirit possession, Intended as a sort of follow-up to WHITE ZOMBIE, SUPERNATURAL was produced by Victor and Edward Halperin and with the same writer and film crew as the 1931 surprise hit film starring Bela Lugosi. Lombard reportedly disliked the role she had signed on for and argued on the set with the Halperins.

The reviews were mixed, and even with Lombard headlining the film, SUPERNATURAL did not meet Paramount's expectations at the box office, ending the potential continuation of the zombie/life after death cycle of movies produced by the Halperin brothers. Possessed (no pun intended) of a weak story, SUPERNATURAL is an otherwise moody, atmospheric, even noir-ish film and should be included in all lists of early 30's horror titles. In his excellent book, Horror Noir: Where Cinema's Dark Sisters Meet (McFarland & Co., 2011), author Paul Meehan opines, "Director Victor Halperin sustains the unearthly mood throughout, conjuring the atavistic terrors of the past against a realistic, modern-day backdrop."

Supernatural reviewed in PHOTOPLAY, July 1933.

In 1941,when the United States declared war on Japan, Lombard was the first movie star to enlist her stature as a famous star to help raise money for war bonds. She traveled to her home state of Indiana with her mother to attend a war bond rally. The rally was a huge success and raised $2 million during the single event.

In the early morning of January 16, 1942, Lombard, her mother, her then husband Clark Gable's press agent Otto Winkler, and a group of servicemen boarded a plane headed back to Los Angeles. They were originally planing to return by train, but instead elected to take a faster route. One account claims that Lombard wanted to get back to Gable as quick as possible to make up for their spat over his carrying on with another screen siren, Lana Turner.

After refueling in Las Vegas, the plane took off at 7:00 PM,  Approximately, twelve minutes later, it crashed at 8,200 feet into a cliff face of Potosi Mountain, a little more than 30 miles south of Las Vegas. All 22 aboard were killed instantly. A team of rescue workers recovered the victims, including Lombard's body, which was photographed wrapped in a blanket. She was 33 years old.

Rescuers remove Carole Lombard's blanket-wrapped body from the crash site.

Her remains were transported to California, where she was interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. The name on her headstone reads: "Carole Lombard Gable",

Along with her fame as a Hollywood star, Carole Lombard can be considered a true American patriot. She sacrificed herself for her country, not in battle but by selflessly volunteering her time and using her influence as a celebrity to raise money to help fight and defeat the enemy. She was nominated for an Academy Award, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, known to be a "natural prankster", was liked by everyone, and was said to have a figure "made to be swathed in silver lame." She will deservedly be forever remembered as one of Hollywood's greatest screen actresses.

After Lombard's death, Clark Gable was married twice more. When he died in 1960, he chose to be buried next to his beloved platinum blonde, Carole.


Carole Lombard photographed in 1934.

A promotional shot from Supernatural.

Supernatural fashion statement, NEW MOVIE, June 1933
 
Lombard's gown from Supernatural was haute couture in the day.
A pre-KING KONG Fay Wray is pictured on the left.
From PHOTOPLAY, June 1933.
A portrait by George Hurrell from PHOTOPLAY, June 1933

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