Friday, August 31, 2018

Forgotten Books: WATERFRONT FISTS by Robert E. Howard (2003)

Breckenridge Elkins is one of my favorite fictional characters of all time. He does not appear in this book. What makes Waterfront Fists special is that we see Howard feeling his way along and learning to meld action and comedy into truly ripping yarns. 

Sailor Steve Costigan, the hero/narrator of most these tales, is a sort of proto-Breckenridge. He begins his fictional life as a pretty much standard Howard hero (not that there's anything wrong with that), and gradually develops the voice, personality and sense of humor that will become Elkins trademarks. The stories, too, reflect this learning process. The early tales focus almost solely on boxing matches, with page after page of flying fists. But as the series progresses, the slugfests shrink to a page or two, as window dressing to more complex stories. 

The Wildside Press collection Waterfront Fists and Others contains, in order of publication, fifteen of the twenty Costigan stories published between 1929 and 1934 in Fight Stories and Jack Dempsey's Fight Magazine. The other five, along with a good number of Elkins tales, appeared in Wildside's The Complete Action Stories. Another six stories and one fragment finally saw print in Howard fanzines and lmited edition hardcovers. 

And it gets more complicated. Howard converted several unsold Costigan stories into Dennis Dorgan stories, simply by changing the name of the character, his ship and his bulldog. The first of those Dorgan stories sold to Magic Carpet Magazine and appears in this book. All of them were finally published in the 1974 FAX collection The Incredible Adventures of Dennis Dorgan

Waterfront Fists, meanwhile, contains a weird boxing storing, Howard's longest boxing tale - "The Iron Man," and a couple of brief nonfiction tidbits. But the main attraction is definitely Steve Costigan. My favorite of the Costigan stories is "Circus Fists," which is about as perfectly executed as a Costigan yarn can be. I was so impressed that I posted the whole story yesterday, and invite you to read it HERE. Also of special note is "Texas Fists," in which Costigan finds himself on Howard's home ground and encounters the sort of larger-than-life characters that laster populate the Elkins stories. 

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Read it here: CIRCUS FISTS by Robert E. Howard (1931)

Between 1929 and 1934, Howard sold twenty adventures of Steve Costigan, the fighting sailor to various pulps. After an uneven start he hit his stride in 1931, and with "Circus Fists," from the May 1931 issue of Fight Stories, presented a full-blown and worthy predecessor to my favorite western hero, Breckenridge Elkins. Read it and see!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Basil Wolverton's "SPACEHAWK and the Creeping Death from Neptune" (1940)

This is the first ever appearance of Spacehawk, from Target Comics No. 5 in June 1940, as found on comicbookplus. Spacehawk returned in 25 more issues. The whole series was collected in 2012 by Dark Horse Press, a book I foolishly failed to purchase.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Worst Movie Ever Made? You decide! THE STORY OF MANKIND (1957)

Hoo boy! Here's a movie that has everything, with the sum totalling far less than its parts. It's both tedious and fascinating at the same time, and - as a bonus - loaded with commercials that pop in right in the middle of scenes. (Actually, the commercials are kind of a relief. The film is somehow more palatable when broken into bits.)

Here's the idea: When a couple of angels notice that the "Super H Bomb" has been developed years before it was supposed to, the High Tribunal of Outer Space is convened to decide whether to stop it or allow it to be used, thereby destroying Mankind. (Really. I'm not making this up.)

Vincent Price, as Mr. Scratch (the Devil), and Ronald Coleman, as The Spirit of Man, present the opposing cases (whether Mankind is ultimately Good or Evil) to the court, giving director Irwin Allen and Warner Brothers a chance to use footage from dozens of older films, and insert new performances by a huge grab bag of stars and wannabe stars. Trivia wizards like Cap'n Bob will grok on identifying all the famililar faces and guessing which movies provided the old footage.

Vincent Price is predictably good as the Devil, Peter Lorre is amazingly execrable as Nero, and most other performances are on the south side of inbetween. The only real attempt at comedy is Groucho Marks buying Manhattan from the Indians, and while it's far short of a typical Groucho performance, it's the best bit of the film. 

Start watching it if you dare. If you can stop, you're a better man than I.