Friday, July 29, 2011
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
In my previous post, I took the opportunity to plug some recent comic projects I've been involved with (and help explain the lack of classic horror-comedy movie reviews as of late).
Chief among my current projects is of course the paperback collection of ARCHIE’S WEIRD MYSTERIES stories I wrote. I had thought that it would be available at comic shops a week ago but it appears I was mistaken - apparently it merely shipped to comic shops last week and should actually show up on those store shelves today... we'll see I guess.
Anyway, I've talked about this one ad infinitum - the short story is that my "Archie's Weird Mysteries" stories should appeal to most "Scared Silly" fans... to repeat what I wrote in my last post, it's "a wild and crazy head-on collision of typical Archie Comics character-driven humor with the bizarre and absurd world of the supernatural, paranormal and extraterrestrial! I got to put the Archie characters through their paces in a world that was one quarter “Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein,” one quarter “Kolchak: the Night Stalker,” one quarter “Night of the Creeps” and one quarter “X-Files.”
Read more about "Archie's Weird Mysteries" when you click here.
There was also another project that came out earlier this year that I forgot to mention last time for which I provided some fun (though uncredited) copy. The book "Archie & Friends All-Stars: The Archies & Josie & the Pussycats" reprinted a multi-part story written and drawn by the great talents Dan Parent and Bill Galvan. The storyline detailed the Archies and Pussycats bands co-headlining a concert tour and the budding romance that ends up brewing between Archie and Valerie. My contribution: I was asked to do write-ups on each "band" that appeared at the end of the book... in VH-1 "Behind the Music" style! That was great fun because I got to combine fact with fiction and rib a famous pop culture phenomenon (namely the often-cheesy and sensationalist half hour documentary a la "Behind the Music" as well as "E's True Hollywood Story") in the process. For example, did you know Jughead's bandmates in the Archies had to hold an intervention to curtail his hamburger-eating habit? Or how about Pussycats' drummer Melody, who opened the country's first... and last combination sushi bar and ice cream parlor!
The Josie & the Pussycats characters have an amazing following, due in no small part to the popular animated series from Hanna-Barbera in the 1970s. I'll leave you with one of the songs from the show... but first I will kindly encourage you all to support my various projects if you can, particularly the "Archie's Weird Mysteries" paperback as good sales could potentially lead to more. You can purchase these books at most comic shops (to find the comic shop nearest you just click here to use the Comic Shop.
Okay, I've plugged enough! Hoping to have a review of Buster Keaton's "The Haunted House" up soon. In the meantime, let's go out with a song!
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Greetings Scared Silly fans! Since today is the official opening of the annual San Diego Comic Con, the gigantic pop culture festival celebrating comic books, comic characters and every single ancillary entertainment and product derived thereof, I thought I’d take this opportunity to plug some recently released projects to which I contributed. And to once again remind everyone that I’m not slacking when it comes to “Scared Silly” movie reviews – it’s just that the paying gigs have to come first. So here’s the rundown of what’s been keeping me so busy lately:
Let’s start with ARCHIE ALL-STARS: A NIGHT AT THE COMIC SHOP. This multi-part story originally appeared in the pages of the “Archie & Friends” comic book. It was written by the great Fernando Ruiz with art by Fernando and the equally great Bill Galvan. What’s fantastic about this story is that it brings back many of the obscure comic book characters from Archie’s past, going all the way back to its 1940s beginnings when the company was known as MLJ Comics up through the swinging 1960s. This included such disparate characters as Super Duck, Sam Hill, Pat the Brat, Suzie, Young Dr. Masters, Squoimy the Woim and many others. My contribution? I had the super-fun task of researching the history of most of the characters contained within and doing write-ups on each that appear at the back of the book.
Next up is ARCHIE: A CELEBRATION OF AMERICA’S FAVORITE TEENAGERS. This amazing coffee table book was put together by Craig Yoe and his amazing crew at Yoe Books, with several contributions by various Archie alumni. My contributions? Steven Thompson interviewed me about various factoids, Craig Yoe asked me to identify cover artists from a variety of classic Archie covers, and legendary Archie editor Victor Gorelick commissioned me to write the character descriptions that appeared in the book for Mr. Weatherbee, Archie as Pureheart the Powerful, Betty as Super Teen and Jughead as Captain Hero. I cannot recommend this book highly enough – it is without question the most thorough, essential history of the Archie Comics company ever published.
Also recently released is ARCHIE AMERICANA SERIES: BEST OF NINETIES, BOOK 2. This book is near and dear to my heart and a true milestone. It is the final entry in the ARCHIE AMERICANA SERIES of trade paperbacks collecting classic Archie stories from decades past. Besides Victor Gorelick, I am the only other person who had a hand in each and every edition of this series, starting with the first, ARCHIE AMERICANA: BEST OF THE FORTIES twenty years ago. There were twelve volumes in all, two each covering the 1940s, ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. My credits on the series ranged from Assistant Editor to Compilation Editor to Americana Series Editor, etc. In every case I did extensive research on each decade, suggesting stories I felt should be reprinted using criteria including relevance to each decade, notable first appearances of characters and quality of stories. I also wrote some introductions for some of the volumes as well as the table of contents and back cover blurbs for each volume. You can read an in-depth interview I did with Mark Haney about working on the series when you click here.
Last but not least, the paperback collection of ARCHIE’S WEIRD MYSTERIES stories I wrote lands in comic shops today. This is the series that is likely to be of most interest to “Scared Silly” fans, a wild and crazy head-on collision of typical Archie Comics character-driven humor with the bizarre and absurd world of the supernatural, paranormal and extraterrestrial! I got to put the Archie characters through their paces in a world that was one quarter “Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein,” one quarter “Kolchak: the Night Stalker,” one quarter “Night of the Creeps” and one quarter “X-Files.” I’ve spoken about this series a few times here on the “Scared Silly” site, and you can read my most recent entry on it when you click here.
I encourage everyone out there to support these projects, most especially the ARCHIE’S WEIRD MYSTERIES book because good sales on that title could lead to more of my stories being reprinted… and perhaps the commission of new Archie’s Weird Mysteries tales! You can purchase these books at most comic shops (to find the comic shop nearest you just click here to use the Comic Shop Locator Service) or use the Amazon.com links at the bottom of the post.
Oh, and if you're wondering about the caricature of me atop this post, it is by mega-talented cartoonist and long-time pal Chris Allan. Chris has illustrated several of my stories including those starring Little Archie and Sonic the Hedgehog. He is perhaps best-known as a contributing artist to Darkwing Duck and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book tales.
Speaking of caricatures, I leave you now with a video that is a bit of a “horror-comedy” in itself: an “Animutation” featuring a caricature of yours truly! If you’re curious as to what an “Animuation” is just click here. As for my appearance in this video (which I learned about after the fact), an explanation is in order. Back in the 1990s when I worked on staff at Archie Comics, I was the original editor involved in translating the video game character Sonic the Hedgehog into comic book form. Other editors came on-board but it was something of a fraternity – once you were involved in Sonic you were always involved in Sonic in some way or form (for my part, I wrote a couple Sonic stories, corresponded with fans via email and also wrote all the press releases about Sonic comic issues). The letters page for the Sonic comic became something of a party for the editorial staff.
Scott Fulop (my mentor at Archie - I started at the company as Scott's assistant editor) had a blast concocting “The Adventures of Scott and Paul” where I often appeared in caricatured form as the fall guy for various schemes conceived by Scott, Sonic and pals (and sometimes turning the tables on them). Freddy Mendez, aka Justin Gabrie also got into the act when he edited the series. Many of the short strips were drawn by Dave Manak and a few may have been done by Bill Golliher (my memory fails me)… but the bottom line is that one of those caricatures of me from the Sonic letters page has made it into this “Animutation” and now you can view the result in (shocked-I’m-sure) awe. I come in at the 30 second mark wearing a red shirt with a white stripe. My big moment comes around 2:50 with a huge pileup of me’s stacking up to the sky!
Oh, I have no idea who put this video together and why they'd want to include a caricature of me in it, but needless to say… enjoy!
Monday, July 4, 2011
NOTE: This is an encore edition of a post I originally wrote in 2010:
Here’s a film that will be going into the “horror-onable mention” section of my book. It’s not a “horror-comedy” per se – it’s more of a fantasy-romance, but it does involve ghosts (albeit friendly ghosts) who take the opportunity to put a good scare in some folks as needed. For me, Abbott & Costello’s “The Time of Their Lives” is every bit as classic a movie as “Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein;” even if it has more in common with “Topper.”
It’s also tied into the American Revolution, hence this post falling on America’s Independence Day. The film’s script is very well written. It tells the tale of Horatio Prim (Costello), a bumbling but masterful New England tinker in 1780 who longs to marry Nora, the housemaid of wealthy estate owner Tom Danbury. To that end, Horatio procures a letter of commendation from General George Washington in hopes of obtaining permission to marry Nora from Tom. Unfortunately, Horatio has a rival for Nora in butler Cuthbert (Abbott), who causes him trouble no end. But the real trouble comes from Danbury himself, who is secretly a traitor out to aid Benedict Arnold. Both Nora and Danbury’s fiancé, Melody (the luminous Marjorie Reynolds) learn of Danbury’s plot. Nora is captured and Danbury confiscates the commendation letter from her (she had been holding it for Horatio) and hides it in the mantelpiece clock, but Melody manages to escape on horseback in an effort to warn George Washington. She soon encounters Horatio, and the two are framed as traitors, executed and dumped into a well.
It’s here that the fantasy element kicks in. Horatio and Melody are now ghosts who haunt the grounds of the estate and will continue to do so until they can prove their innocence. They just need to somehow get the letter into the hands of the authorities who can rewrite the history books so the truth can be known. This becomes a more hopeful quest 166 years later when the estate is restored to its original condition, and that includes the original furniture. When the restoration is complete, the new owner invites some guests for the weekend to celebrate. Among the guests are psychiatrist Dr. Ralph Greenway, a descendent of Cuthbert (also played by Abbott). Horatio and Melody decide to have some fun “scaring” the guests. Horatio takes particular delight in spooking Greenway. A séance is held wherein the identity of the ghosts and their plight is revealed, resulting in the living doing what they can to help set Horatio and Melody free.
The film has grown in status over the years and has quite a following (and may have even inspired a line in the classic Gordon Lightfoot song, "If You Could Read My Mind"). In fact, while embraced by many Bud & Lou fans, it’s also been touted as “the Abbott & Costello movie for people who hate Abbott & Costello movies.” This is due to the exceptional dramatic acting of both Lou and Bud that full-bloodedly brings their well-written roles to life. They are both so good in this that it’s hard to say whether one outshines the other (although I might give the slight edge to Abbott whose rarely used talent for character acting is on full display here). It stands out from the majority of the team’s other films which primarily feature a variation on their con man/patsy burlesque characters. It’s one of the few films where the team stretched beyond their usual archetypes and managed to pull it off (for examples where this departure from the norm didn’t work in my opinion, catch “Little Giant” and “Dance With Me Henry.” Or don’t). It also includes a wonderful supporting cast, including horror-comedy stalwart Gale Sondergaard as the maid of the restored estate who definitely believes in ghosts. And it features beautiful sets, wonderful costume designs and marvelous special effects - a top-notch production all around.
If you haven't guessed by now, I consider "The Time of Their Lives" a wonderful film to watch on Independence Day... or any day, for that matter! Here’s the trailer for your enjoyment: