Thursday, June 30, 2011


NOTE: This entry was originally posted last year on this date. It was my wife's birthday, and also the day we lost our precious cat Max. Recently, we got a new cat named Poe who you can read about when you click here. I re-post this now in tribute to Max... we miss you, sweet boy!

RIP MAX E. "COCO" CAT - 1992-2010


This may seem like an odd post. What does a cat have to do with "horror-comedies?" Believe it or not, there is a connection.

Max was my wife Barbara's cat - she raised him from a kitten. I met Max in February, 2001 shortly after meeting Barb. I was not raised with cats, wasn't around cats much and didn't have much knowledge about them. Initially I thought it odd how much Barb interacted with and doted on this cat.

Then Barb and I got married in 2004 and Max moved in. Barb was worried that Max wouldn't take too well to having his "Mommy" share her affections with me (let alone the two other cats who came in the deal - Diva and the late Griffin).

But a wonderful thing happend... Max adopted me! We became the best of pals. He loved having a daddy he could take naps with and hang out with.

Max was a myth-buster. The #1 myth he dispelled for me was the idea I had that all cats were completely selfish and nasty. Max was not this way. He was very, very sweet and demonstrative about the love he gave - you didn't have to meet his needs to get his love. He would often just show his love out of nowhere (something I can't say for the other two cats).

Max had two cuter-than-cute pieces of schtick he performed. One was what Barb calls "cute boy" - where he would be laying down and just tilt his head while making the cutest face and covering his face with his paws. The other was a roll over... yes, this cat when in a state of sheer bliss (usually over being let outside to walk around the backyard or sometimes just because he was happy to be with us) would actually drop and roll to show his pleasure.


The other myth Max busted was the silly superstition that black cats are somehow "evil" or "scary." Max was anything but! He was sweet for starters, but he was also more prone to be the "scared" than the "scarer!" He was primarily afraid of small children and babies. Once we babysat the baby of a friend, and Max actually hid himself in the farthest room he could, using a shoebox for a litter box rather than the nearby litter box in the hall, for fear of seeing that baby!

I mentioned at the top of this post that Max did have a connection to horror-comedies, beyond the obvious lark that he was a black cat. We used to joke that the Hugh Herbert movie, "The Black Cat" (you can read my review when you click here) was named after Max. We built up this scenario that it was initially one of Max's favorite films, but ultimately wore thin with him as I would often put it on (it was a Netflix "instant view" selection after all) only to fall asleep within moments of the film's credits! I was just so familiar with the film that I found it something fun to nap to. In the way we so often did, my wife and I had a "voice" for Max E. that we would use (like ersatz ventriloquists) to have "him" express his feelings. We'd often have him saying, "you fell asleep to that movie again, daddy? I'm sick of it!" :)

Max was nearly 18. The past few days of humidity were tough on him. We did all we could - we kept the a/c going, always had a dish of ice cubes and cold water nearby, used cold compresses, etc. But the humidity wasn't the actual problem - it just served to bring to light a grave internal condition that Max's feline instincts did a great job of masking. He had a tough evening, and was suffering. We just had to let him go. This came just a few minutes after midnight on Barb's birthday of all days. But we have our cherished memories and will never forget this special little life that brightened our world for so many years. While I was only truly involved with Max for the past 6 of his nearly 18 years, I can honestly say that I was mightily blessed to have him in my life, and to call him my "son." Goodbye Max - we love you & miss you forever!


Monday, June 27, 2011


Gene Colan Little Shop of Horrors

The world lost two major talents and multiple award winners late last week: legendary actor Peter Falk and acclaimed comic book artist Gene Colan. Both figured prominently in my childhood and continued to influence me into my adult years as a pop culture/entertainment professional.

I’ll start with Gene Colan. Colan was one of the major artists of American comic books, creating a body of work few have matched, starting in the 1940s and lasting six decades. Colan worked on a variety of characters over the years including monsters, superheroes and humorous characters. The impressive list of icons that Colan rendered includes Batman, Iron Man, Captain America, Daredevil, Wonder Woman, Archie and Jughead, among others.

In addition to drawing the famous comic characters above, Colan is responsible for co-creating two of the greatest African-American heroes in comics: Captain America’s 1970s crime-fighting partner The Falcon (considered the first African-American superhero in mainstream comics) and Blade, the Vampire Hunter (a character that found additional fame in a trilogy of feature films). He is also known as the primary artist on one of the most fondly-remembered, unique comic book series ever, Howard the Duck. Howard, under the authorship of his co-creator Steve Gerber and later Bill Mantlo often deftly mixed humor and horror as the daring duck encountered such creatures as Man-Thing, Man-Frog and even Dracula.

Gene Colan Batman Iron Man

While remembered for all of the above, there is a large contingent of fans that cherish Colan’s horror-related art most of all, with his run on “The Tomb of Dracula” considered one of the greatest comic book titles of the 1970s. Colan also excelled at such superhero-horror hybrids as The Spectre and Doctor Strange. Most of the time Colan’s work graced horror comics that “played it straight,” but as mentioned above there was the odd “Howard the Duck” issue that fell into the “horror-comedy” category, and Colan also penciled the movie adaptation for the 1986 musical-comedy remake of “Little Shop of Horrors” as well as an issue of “Elvira’s House of Mystery.”

A personal anecdote: when I first started on staff at Archie as an assistant editor in the 1990s, one of my responsibilities was making "safety photocopies" of all penciled pages. That way if any of the original pencils got lost or damaged on the way to the inker, the inker could use the safety copy and a lightbox to do the inking job. At the time, Gene Colan was penciling "Jughead's Time Police," so instead of making one set of safety copies, I always made two - a "just in case" set reserved for the inker and my own personal set to just stare at in awe and wonder. Colan's pencils were so good and so interesting that he was just "one of those artists" - an artist whose work could be printed in pencil form without any inks and still look completely finished. Truly Gene was one of the all-time greats!

Peter Falk Columbo

What can be said about actor Peter Falk that hasn't already been said? He was just one of those singular talents that was always very “real” in any role he played, as if he wasn't an actor but merely someone that had stepped in front of a documentarian's camera. This in spite of… and really because of… his innate “quirkiness.” He didn’t vary too much from project-to-project but it didn’t matter – his characterization was so beloved that you went into one of his movies or TV shows expecting to see your “old friend” in action. Like that other great character actor, Darren McGavin of “Night Stalker” and “A Christmas Story” fame, you knew what you were going to get with Falk in the cast… and you couldn’t wait for him to show up on the screen! Thankfully for his fans, you didn’t have to wait too long because his iconic TV detective character “Columbo” was pretty much a classic-on-arrival and ran for 35 years as both a weekly TV series and a series of TV movies.

Falk didn’t spend too much time in non-realistic settings even though he often came off as a whimsical other-worldly figure, sort of a bemused leprechaun or fairy godfather type dropped into the proceedings from beyond (even in “Columbo!”). He does however have several notable credits in fantasy-based films and TV shows, from appearances on the classic TV anthologies “The Twilight Zone” and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” children’s films like “The Great Muppet Caper” and “Shark Tale,” the new age comedies “Vibes” and “In the Spirit,” a TV movie adaptation of the classic Arthur Conan Doyle dinosaur tale “The Lost World,” Wim Wenders’ lyrical tales of angels “Wings of Desire” and its sequel, “Faraway So Close” and a trio of Christmas-themed TV movies where Falk himself played an angel named Max (“A Town Without Christmas,” “Finding John Christmas” and “When Angels Come to Town”). His most warmly-remembered contribution to the fantasy genre has to be playing the grandfather and narrator of the classic, “The Princess Bride.”

Peter Falk Princess Bride

Falk’s was a face and voice perfectly suited for comedy, and that is where I found him most often as a child. Be it the annual reruns of the all-star comedy epic “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” or the various network and cable broadcasts of films like “The Cheap Detective,” “The Brink’s Job,” “Murder By Death” and “The In-Laws.” “The In-Laws” remains one of the greatest influences ever on my sense of humor and my own writing – turning the ordinary askew in wonderfully hysterical ways. I’ve used that approach when writing comic book stories in everything from “Little Archie” to “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” to of course, “Archie’s Weird Mysteries." It is also among the most-quoted films when I get together with my father and brother – it’s a real favorite in our family and remains one of the greatest screenplays ever (you’ll never forget the first time you see it – it’s full of twists, turns and surprises you can’t predict)!

For Scared Silly fans Falk did make one film that is right on-target: the afore-mentioned murder-mystery spoof, “Murder By Death” written by acclaimed playwright Neil Simon. A wonderful homage to both the classic “old dark house” comedies we cherish here at Scared Silly as well as a great satire of the classic movie detectives from The Thin Man to Charlie Chan to Sam Spade (the two-fisted Dashiell Hammett private eye from “The Maltese Falcon” – here rechristened Sam Diamond and wonderfully portrayed by Falk), the film features many of the elements so common to the spooky mysteries of yore. I’ll leave you now with the trailer for the film… enjoy!

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Three Stooges in Orbit Moe Larry Curly-Joe

Hello Scared Silly fans... thought I should check in with an update and an apology for the inactivity here as of late. As so often happens, my day job, freelance assignments and other responsibilities have made it difficult for me to update this blog as much as I'd like. I am hoping to reverse that trend a bit in the near future. On tap in the coming days: my tributes to legendary actor Peter Falk and acclaimed comic book artist Gene Colan, a note about various projects of mine currently or soon-to-be available for purchase, and a review... yes, a review... most likely of Buster Keaton's "The Haunted House." My hope is to be able to get on a fairly regular review schedule in the next few months, with an emphasis on short subjects. Thank you as always for your patience - there's more to come!

Now enjoy this clip from the movie from which I posted the photo above: "The Three Stooges in Orbit." ENJOY!