Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Comic Gallery: EL ZORRO 1-8

These Spanish comics, published I-don't-know-when in Barcelona, were uploaded to comicbookplus by a person or persons known as "Bavolta / Carasucia / paw broon." Each issue contains one 10-page black & white adventure. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The First Appearance of ARCHIE and JUGHEAD (1941)

Mr. Mike Britt recently directed me to some interesting finds on comicbookplus, and one of them was the second appearance of Archie, in Jackpot Comics #4. That got me curious about Archie's first appearance, so I looked up this issue of Pep Comics #22, from December 1941. Gotta say, I like Bob Montana's vision of the character, who seems to be inspired by Li'l Abner, way better than the bland stuff that followed. 

Friday, July 13, 2018

Forgotten Books: YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE by Ian Fleming (1964)

I’m amazed, and maybe a bit alarmed, at how much I’d forgotten about this 11th Fleming Bond novel. Sure, I remembered from the movie that Bond must become as Japanese as possible to complete his mission, but that’s about it. And that’s too bad, because there’s a whole lot to like about this book.

After the death of his bride (of about two pages) in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Bond has lost his edge. He sloppy and unkempt, he fails at missions and doesn’t give a damn.Instead of firing his ass, M gives him one last chance, sending him on a seemingly impossible mission to Japan. There, Bond is supposed to talk the Japanese secret service into sharing a dandy machine they use to break Russian codes.

The guy he deals with, a modern samurai called Tiger Tanaka, is willing to comply, but only if Bond completes a mission for him—to enter a castle surrounded by a garden of death of slay the dragon within. The garden is populated by deadly plants from around the globe (landscaped with pools of piranha) and the dragon is mysterious westerner called Shatterhand, who has surrounded himself with members of the Black Dragon gang, some of the nastiest villains in the world.

As Bond says, a westerner will be recognized five miles away, so he begins the process of becoming Japanese, inside and out. Along the way, Fleming treats us to a lot of interesting stuff. For one thing, we learn that is no such thing as a Japanese curse word. (I’m curious to know, fifty years later, if this is still true). Then there’s a detailed list of the plants in Shatterhand’s collection, a treasure trove for gardeners with unwanted neighbors and for mystery writers seeking unusual murder methods. There’s also a visit to a ninja school and museum, and “Japan’s oldest whorehouse,” now a national historic site.

And some Japanese customs, as described by Fleming, sound pretty sensible. Suicide is legal and carries no stigma, alleviating the overpopulation problem, and they take showers before getting in the bath, rather than wallowing “in their own effluvia.”

All this preparation takes up more than half of book, and another good chunk is closer preparation, as Bond lives on an island village near the castle, with the obligatory hot babe with a funny name—this time Kissy Suzuki. While there, we see a big tip of the hat to David Niven, who later played Bond himself (sort of).

Then, at last, it’s on the the Black Castle of Death, a fortress that looks like “a stage setting for Dracula,” and the showdown with Dr. Shatterhand. And there I’ll leave you, partly because I having finished reading, and partly to avoid spoiling the big finish.

Sadly, the illos above (by Daniel Schwartz) were not in the book. They accompanied the three-part serialization in Playboy, from April, May and June of 1964.  

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Introducing FRANK FRAZETTA'S Dan Brand & Tipi (1949)

This debut adventure of Frazetta's Dan Brand and Tipi appeared first in 1949 in The Durango Kid #1. It was reprinted in 1953 in White Indian #11, and eventually found its way onto the Golden Age blog of the legendary Mr. Door Tree. From there it was uploaded to comicbookplus by a user called jonemas, whereat I discovered it. (Yeah, I know the whole saga has been collected in a deluxe hardcover volume, but I'm cheap.) Makes me wish Mr. F had doing the Tarzan strip, too. 

NOTE: On the first page, it says Dan Brand is an ancestor of Steve Brand. Steve Brand, in case you were wondering, is the secret identity of The Durango Kid.