Saturday, September 13, 2014

Black and White Saturday : Eisner´s SPIRIT

It´s high time that we come back to comics and which is better suited to inaugurate my BLACK AND WHITE series than Will Eisner´s THE SPIRIT ?


THE SPIRIT VS. SAM " SLIPPERY " EALL
Original splash page from November 30, 1947

If there is one comic that is practically predestined for a black and white entry it´s Will Eisner´s best known crime series THE SPIRIT with it´s bright lights, dark shadows and moody, seedy back alleys. And if it´s not raining ( or better pouring ) it´s just after the rain as the last signs of the big flood goes down the storm drains leaving behind only a trail of discarded human trash like newspapers, cans, cigarettes and matches.

I don´t know if the picture above was the first picture of The Spirit I saw but it sure left an impression on me. Nobody drew storm drains like Will Eisner, they were big gaping maws that could swallow a man any moment and they went down, down endlessly. As a master of graphic storytelling Will had laid out the page perfectly with an entirely black background without any detail to contrast the bright luminescence emanating from the street lamps. I was really fascinated by this splash page and I don´t know how long it took me before I realized the letters to the name of the strip THE SPIRIT were carried away by the stream - hidden in plain sight.

Which was one of his signature moves, his unparalleled mastery of design where he would always put the words THE SPIRIT in the surroundings. Now I don´t want to imply anything here but part of the reason why Will Eisner did this was out of sheer necessity. When THE SPIRIT was first published in newspapers Will had not the luxury of a cover where he could set up the mood for the story or entice the readers with some intrigue to get them hooked. The front page WAS the cover but it was also the first page of the story so Will Eisner had to get inventive which he did in spades.

" But wasn´t THE SPIRIT originally printed in color ? " you might ask.


And you´re right. It was. In fact the first image I ever saw of THE SPIRIT was one of the magazines that reprinted the original stories and it was in color and it may have involved a train coming at The Spirit in some way.

But I will get to that when I´m doing a regular post on THE SPIRIT. Today it´s all about black and white. Well, not entirely as I bend the rules a bit.

Because I try to make a point, THE SPIRIT was original in color but as Derek Davis put it in his article The Will to Live on THE CHISELER blog :

Color reprints of The Spirit are hard to come by, if only because it seems next to impossible to reproduce the original color spectrum of those Sunday comics. That’s a shame, because Eisner used color as both striking accent and clue. The femmes fatale wore brilliant red or green dresses and gowns. The reader could always recognize arch villain The Octopus, whose true face is never seen, by his purple, open backed gloves ( of which the characters took not the least note ).


So there are a lot of color versions out there and most of them have different coloring especially when it are copies from different countries.

For instance I don´t know from where the colored version of the very first splash page I posted above is but it looks quite different from the german hardcover edition of The Spirit Archives from SALLECK PUBLICATIONS.

 
The first colored picture looks very bright and clean, as if someone had gone over the street with a toothbrush while the second version looks very dirty and the green color of mold seems to nest everywhere. It looks pretty filthy. Here´s another color interpretation of the splash page :


Here the colors also are pretty strong but unlike in the previous example the overlayering color is not green but a brownish grey and they chose a different color for the metal bars so they don´t blend over into the drain. And it´s the only picture where the fire hydrant is red as it should be.

Now all these versions are valid and I think it´s only a matter of personal taste which one you prefer. Maybe you think the first one looks too comic - book - y or the second one is too used up. You might find the color on the last one just a taste too heavyhanded. Whatever may be the case, when compared to the black and white version that one doesn´t look too bad because it has a good layout and strong blacks. But the thing is you get to color it in your mind so - at least subconsciously - it looks right.

As you might have deducted by now for this post I chose splash pages which I find the best ( or at least my favorites ) where I not only found the black and white art but also some color versions to go along with it.

IT´S THAT FAMILIAR SPIRIT OF DEJA VUE AGAIN

Now with the next one I chose we have all kinds of different versions and I´m not sure which was the final one. It´s the splash pages from BRING IN SAND SAREF and here THE SPIRIT has an introduction for the reader.


Here is another version of the splash page without the introduction but with a story title. I think it is the version that ended up in most editions.


And here´s the colored version of the splash page to compare :


But it doesn´t end here. Because theses are not two versions of a Spirit story, these are versions two and three and it´s not even a Spirit story.


You may have already read this because the story can be found on various websites. In the late 1940s Will Eisner was looking to expand his comic franchise with other comic characters and came up with John Law who first appeared in a syndicated strip called NUBBIN. Will saw potential in him and did the story MEET JOHN LAW but he couldn´t sell the strip.

 

And so the story was shelved. But Will Eisner believed in the story and he also had put a great deal of work into it which he didn´t want to let go to waste. So he reworked it for The Spirit and released it as the two part SAND SAREF story, one of his most famous Spirit stories of all times.



And it´s a good thing too that Will Eisner decided to recycle the JOHN LAW story because without this story and Sand Saref one of comicdom´s most famous female characters would never have been created.


Will Eisner : " It was always in contempt of the nice girl next door who your mother was always introducing you to. It was the slut down the street that was really interesting. "

If you want to take a peek behind the creative curtain, all the original artwork survived and ECLIPSE COMICS published the newly colored JOHN LAW stories in a 1983 one shot, only 35 years after the first version.


Okay, I´m going to add one more SPIRIT splash page. I had seven more pages lined up but I don´t want to drag out this post unnecessary.


THE LAST TROLLEY
Original splash page from March 24, 1946

This is another good example, not only because it´s an absolute brilliant establishing shot. Let´s take a moment to read what the text in it says :

Mostly they´re gone now, the old trolleys ..... just a few still run ..... like the old Raven´s Point Line, for example ! All day long, like drunken bugs, the creaky jalopies waddle their way through the noisy city, loading up with morning crowds which come back the same way at night ..... 


The colored version of the splash page looks the same. Or does it ?


Now the text at the top has disappeared and instead of THE LAST TROLLEY the paper in the foreground with The Spirit´s face on it says :

In the dark alleys of the underworld, where men laugh at the law and only the nimble survive, one man stands as a constant threat to the security of those whose cunning enables them to outwit the police ! There are many to testify that even DEATH cannot halt THE SPIRIT !

Okay, is it just me or is that a completely different text ? I have no idea if they changed the text of the splash page and left the rest as it was or if this was even used as the intro for a totally different story since I´m not that much of a SPIRIT afficionado. All I know is the text was changed.

And for the german edition they completely got rid of the text.


With that we come to the end of this edition of Black and White Saturday which was not as black and white as I had expected. But I hope it was entertaining and you got an idea what black and white posts will be about.

And our next black and white post focuses on George Perez´ Teen Titans.


THE OBLIGATORY LINK SECTION - A RATHER LONG LIST THIS TIME

As you may have noticed I didn´t write much about Will Eisner himself in my post because at this point you are supposed to know who he is. If the press has been only half as busy promoting the true father of the graphic novel instead of groveling before Alan Moore who allegedly did the most successful graphic novel of all times ( which strictly speaking was not a graphic novel at all but a trade collection ) you know who Will Eisner is. If you are a comic fan and you don´t know at this point you just have to get some of his work and start reading. It doesn´t matter where, just start.


Now while I won´t educate you concerning Will Eisner I am going to leave the usual links that helped me in making this post or where you can read more about Will Eisner or see some cool stuff. And I think the best place to start is naturally another of Scott Tipton´s COMICS 101 posts with tons of info and some nice Will Eisner art. I have already mentioned Derek Davis´ post The Will to Live on THE CHISELER but I recommend you read it because while it doesn´t have that many infos and facts it gives you a good idea who Will Eisner the man was and how big his influence still is :

Eisner pretty much invented the modern splash-page intro, and he did it better than anyone else. “ The Spirit ,” on that first page, could be written in block letters, in smoke, in the crumbling bricks of an abandoned warehouse. There would be seeping blood or hints of a ghostly presence. Or simply a page of closely hand - lettered explication. 

No one week looked like another. 


Speaking about splash pages, you can find John DiBello´s picks of the 13 best ones from The Spirit at the 13TH DIMENSION. That´s also the topic of THE COMICS CUBE´s comic glossary on splash page and spreads which includes a few nice Spirit pages. There´s also the 129th edition of THE LINE IS DRAWN which is all Spirit - Style pin ups ( I love the Modok one ).


COMIC BOOK STORIES also has a cool entry with lots of Spirit black and white splashes which I shamelessly used in this post as well as a boatload of DC house ads that may or may not appear in future posts on this blog.


BOOKSTEVE`S LIBRARY some nice black and white splashes as well as color covers and if you´re tired of just splash pages and want to read some stories our pal Old Groove over at DIVERSIONS OF THE GROOVY KIND has The Origin of The Spirit , Assignment Paris , The Capistrano Jewels , The Christmas Spirit as well as posts on Warren´s Spirit Magazine which features some nice black and white art as well as some color covers and The Spirit as a political cartoon ( well, kind of ). 

The big Spirit database WILDWOOD CEMETERY answers the question WHO WAS JOHN LAW ? which helped me a great deal as did episode 342 of COMIC BOOK LEGENDS REVEALED which is a special Will Eisner themed edition that provided the original pages from John Law and The Spirit.


WIZARD´S KEEP has an overview of Will Eisner´s life and since Sand Saref came up I want to include Harvey Jerkwater´s article The Beauty of Rough Edges : The Women of the Spirit at FILING CABINET OF THE DAMNED.   

When I started the post I wanted to listen to some jazz music ( right now I´m listening to some 80s pop ) so I got on YouTube and put in " jazz standards " but every second video on the list was blocked which gets annoying after a while. So I thought the best thing would be to listen to a crime soundtrack and since i couldn´t find any I just let the black and white movie THE STRANGER play in the background which was very effective. I don´t know what the movie is about besides Nazis and a lot of death or who the actors are but I guess I´ll have to watch it some day.


Now there are a lot of videos about Will Eisner on YouTube but I´m posting his appearance on PRISONERS OF GRAVITY which is always good.



The Spirit is kind of a detective so I want to include the episode KILL DEVIL from the Mike Hammer tv series with Stacy Keach, one of my guilty pleasures. There were two good things about the show : the atmosphere and the hot women which always hit on Mike. I really lucked out with this one because it´s the episode with a hot blonde who would have been a worthy candidate for my late lamented SEARCH FOR POWER GIRL series.



As a last video I picked on that´s a bit longer since the weekend is in full effect. We´re continuing with the CORTO MALTESE videos, this time with the animated movies. There are a few in italian on YouTube but I also found this one in spanish : LA BALLADA DEL MAR SALADO.



I searched for an english version but I only found a french one with english subtitles that has been divided into various parts.



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Friday, September 12, 2014

Movie rummage table : Vulcanus, The Titan

Originally I wanted to continue with the comics next ( the readership has already taken a noticeable drop, although I´m not certain it´s related to the content of the last few posts ) but something else has come up. So, to use all the material I found let´s talk about another entry of this blog´s section about forgotten kintopp gems you may only find on rummage tables ( or on amazon´s " 6 movies for 20 bucks " offers ) : VULCANUS, THE TITAN or like it is called in english VULCAN, SON OF JUPITER.


It´s going to be a rather long one so sit down in a comfy chair, get a bite to eat, something to drink and let´s begin with the awesomeness of this.

The movie was made in 1961 and the only reason why I remember it at all is bouncy actress Bella Cortez, who plays the role of Etna and who wears some skimpy outfits and does a very erotic dance for Vulcan in the movie.


Yes, not really a surprise that I remember the movie because of some hot babe in it but cuban 60s movie cult siren Bella Cortez is without question the quintessential ingredient that elevates VULCAN, SON OF JUPITER from bad but still enjoyable entertainment to a secret cult classic.



Most websites I have come across agree with me and make a point of especially mentioning Bella Cortez ( nomen really est omen with Bella ) and I have to thank the people who put a lot of work and effort into it because without them this post would not have been possible, or at the least there wouldn´t be so much knowledgeable info and facts in it.

Now I put this movie in the movie rummage table section but the chances that you really DO find it on such a table are rather slim. It´s so old that you will probably find an old UFA VHS tape of it at a flea market across town or your neighbour´s garage sale before you see it as a DVD or Blue Ray ( if you´re not old enough please ask Daddy to explain UFA to you ).


The real reason for this post is to make you aware of the flick so that you can grab it immediatelly if you see it. Because this would be one of these chances you only get once in your lifetime and you don´t want to regret it later. Still it is on DVD and Blue Ray and more often than not it´s sold together with other sword and sandal classics like FURY OF HERCULES.

 
Okay, back to the main topic of the post, which is the movie VULCANO FIGLIO DI GIOVE how the movie is called in its country of origin, Italy.


The main female lead is played by the aforementioned bodacious Bella Cortez and I´m not the only one who thinks she´s a major reason to see the movie because she was given top billing over lead actor Rod Flash Ilush in the american and german release of the film. Not a great poster.


Now is it just me or does Rod Flash sound like a proper porn name ? There are some names like Monika Niederreiter, Rezzo Schlauch or Hans Eichel that are just predestined for a career in the adult movie industry.

Back to the movie.  As you may have guessed it´s a sword and sandal movie or like germans call them just sandal movies ( Sandalenfilme ), and it stars fellow blogger Bob Mitchell as Pluto, God of the Underworld.


No, wait. That´s Gordon Mitchell, my mistake. Maybe they´re related.


I had to look up the story because it´s been a long time since I watched this and I got most of it from POLAR BLAIR`S DEN which was a big help in doing this post.  But before we get to the plot I want to address one thing. The fact that Jupiter is never referred to as Zeus is that being an italian movie the writers used the old roman names for the gods.


If you always had trouble with the difference between the roman gods and the greek gods ( man, I never thought we would get this deep into roman mythology ) is that they are basically the same gods but the romans used the names of the planets for them. So Zeus is Jupiter, Hades is Pluto, Hermes is Mercury, Aphrodite is Venus, Ares is Mars, Poseidon is Neptune and Hephaistos is Vulcan. Which brings us to the hero of the picture.


Unlike his greek counterpart Vulcan is not lame and with that I don´t mean that Vulcan looks very much like Hercules in most movies : he sports more muscles than Charles Atlas, a full beard to put bikers to shame and all the women are just swooning over him, especially Etna.


But I wanted to talk about Vulcan. When I say that he´s not lame I mean that in greek mythology Hephaistos had a bum leg and there are two stories how that happened. Either it was Hera ( his mother in some stories but let´s not get into that now ) who was upset Hephaistos was born ugly and hurled him off Olympus or Zeus did it because Hephaistos wanted to free Hera from punishment. What is consistent is that he fell and broke his legs, that he landed in the sea near the island of Lemnos, and was washed up by the surf on the shore, where his body lay broken until rescued by the sea nymphs Thetis ( not Tetris ) and Eurynome.


These beautiful Nereids took great care to hide him from his mother who, still ashamed of her deformed son, would have continued to try to harm him. Secretly Hephaestus lived with these goddesses in their underwater caves for nine years, and that was the awakening his creative energy.

Which is part of what the writers worked into the movie. There really was a nymph called Etna in roman mythology ( daughter of Uranus, no less ) and she had some dealings with Vulcanus having children with him in some stories. The volcano in Sicily was probably named after her.


Although the reason why Volcano landed in the sea is quite different.

Here it is all because of Venus who according to the mythology became his wife ( and she wasn´t too faithful like most gods ). Although I have to say if I was Vulcan in this movie I also would choose Etna over Venus. Do not get me wrong, Venus, played by Annie Gorassini is nothing to scoff at


but I think Etna just has more OOOOMPH ! if you get my drift.


Okay, so Venus is upsetting the gods with her wild, sexual escapades which is a bit hard to swallow keeping in mind how horny all of those greek gods were but apparently even they have limits and Venus has crossed the line. So Jupiter ( who really is no one to make judgement calls in that departement as he turned into all kinds of animals like bulls and swans to get it on with mortal women ) decides to marry her of to one of the gods in order to tame her. Which sounds pretty dirty but we´re already in the realm of zoophilia so whatever. Why is it that you can´t talk about gods without mentioning this kind of sick shenanigans ?

No wonder the Wonder Woman books were f - ed up for such a long time.


The two top choices are Mars and Vulcan, and while Vulcan couldn´t care less and is happier just working in his forge Mars is just beyond himself because of the chance to grab such a hot babe like Venus. So Mars has the manners of a WWE star so he wants to settle this in a gridge match but since Jupiter didn´t give his permission like in most Marvel comics that deal with Thor or Hercules they are stripped of their powers for 2 months.


Mars elopes to Earth with Venus ( who much rather prefers Mars over Vulcan ) and when Vulcan goes after them Pluto pokes him with his giant trident and Vulcan takes a crash course. Now Pluto is the only ally of Mars in the flick and he thinks Mars marrying Venus and taking Jupiter´s place is just the best plan ever. But you know, mice and men and all that, when Vulcanus is found by Etna the whole insidious schtick goes off the rails.

Etna and the other nymphs want to take the injured Vulcan home and I have to say, Etna looks rather unimpressive in her first appearance.


So on the way to Etna and the other nymphs crib they are attacked by bad guys in bad costumes. I have no idea who they are supposed to be but if I didn´t know better I´d say they are the ancient version of the Turtles.


And you might want to skip the next part ( if you are not already doing that and just looking at the pretty pictures and watching the clips with Bella Cortez´ hot dance ) because here´s where it gets complicated.

" Oh, really ? " you´re saying in disbelief. " Just now ? "  Yes, just now.


So if you don´t want to know the rest of the movie but rather want to watch it for yourself just skip the part until the embedded movies or download it here if you want to burn it on a CD and watch it on your tv. But I should probably warn you that the quality is not very good. Like I said, the movie is in the public domain so this should not be a problem.


When did I start to tell you the entire movie and turn this post that was just supposed to be a short post about stunning cult siren Bella Cortez with some clips and pictures into a marathon writing session anyway ?


Ah, well, we lasted this long so we can as well go all the way. Vulcan and the nymphs are attacked by these lizard people, Vulcan is tortured and Etna and the other nymphs are imprisoned together with a lot of other people and a midget named Kayo who becomes Vulcan´s sidekick.


The nymphs manage to help Kayo escape to summon their Neptune with a shell who sends warriors which free all prisoners. Vulcan accompanies the nymphs to their homebase and Etna does her sexy dance in celebration ( but mainly to make an impression on Vulcan who she fancies a lot ). 



The guy who buts in on Etna´s dance just before she got to do her big finish is Mercury and of course he brings no good news. Suffice it to say that Mars´ plans have been revealed, our trio of heroes goes forth to put an end to it and after a lot of complicated stuff the bad gods are caught.


Oh, and since Vulcan was unhappy on Mount Olympus he is " ordered " to stay on Earth with beautiful Etna. Boy, some guys really have all the luck .


This was Bella Cortez' first film and she has a big impact on the movie. She was also the sexy starlet in sword and sandal film The Giant of Metropolis ( 1961 ). Her role in Vulcan, Son of Jupiter, is much sexier and more revealing. Bella had a short but memorable career. The Cuban born starlet would disappear from movie screens after making eleven films.


As for the other stars : Iloosh Koshabe has been credited in films by many names, including : Rod Flash, Rod Flash Ilush, Ilush, and Richard Lloyd. He starred in a handful of sword and sandal films playing characters like Ali Baba, Samson, and Maciste. Salvatore Furnari who played Kayo starred in the film Hercules and the Captive Women ( 1961 ) in a similar role.

Now here comes the part where I give props to all the sites who helped with the post and this time the list is rather long. Here´s to my heroes :

I already mentioned POLAR BAIR`S DEN´s entry on the movie which I used in some parts for the post but you should really check it out because it´s a really good page with all the info you want and I had to cut big parts.

The two major women characters are certainly highlights: Etna ( Bella Cortez ) and Venus ( Annie Gorassini ). Venus shows a lot of leg and likes to get into provocative poses. A very sexy, interesting blonde. She also makes some really cute faces. Etna is given more of chance to " show her stuff " ... and what stuff she's got ! The filmmakers gave us every opportunity to see Etna " bounce " and it's incredible. Etna also wears some very skimpy outfits throughout the film. The dance number Etna performs in Neptune's kingdom is the stuff dreams are made of. I only wish that scene was longer ( dang Mercury, always butting in ). We also get to see Etna tied to a post, and have a great catfight with Venus. The director of this film did a great job of bringing " clean " sexiness into the movie. The women are erotic, but this could still be a G or PG feature.


THE UMBRELLAHEAD REVIEW is a blog that gives brief reports on B - movies. FAMILY MATTERS covers Vulcan, Son of Jupiter, The Man with Two Lives ( 1942 ) and Scared to Death ( 1947 ) and Vulcan, Son of Jupiter gets the best grade for the Bouncy - Bouncy and / or Beefcake Bonus.


COOL ASS CINEMA also gives the movie a big thumbs up. From all the movies on their 20 OF THE WORST SWORD & SANDAL ADVENTURES list it´s cited as arguably the single worst movie on the list, but the most " enjoyable " for its overwhelming level of rancidness. Their verdict :

This one is highly unusual as it deals predominantly with the gods and their battle, and or banishment over Venus. Two beefy contestants on the ancient Grecian version of Love Connection duke it out with fists and bad optical effects to make Venus the love slave of one lucky winner. Between that is a surprisingly thick air of subterfuge and treachery and some hilariously ridiculous looking " monsters ". There's also a lot of midget action here. The little guy even gets a pony this time! Rod Flash ( ? ), took the stage name of Richard Lloyd by the following year. Roger Browne co - stars and Gordon Mitchell is on hand to look sinister and laugh a lot. Bella Cortez is the real showstopper here in an unusually sexy dance number giving La Caliente Cubana Chelo Alonso a run for her tamales.

Definitely check the post about if you want to find the worst of the bad.


Bella Cortez is PEBLUM´s Babe of the Month in July 2012 which is where I found one of the pictures and here´s a review of the movie in german where I also found some pics. The suomi language page of the wikipedia entry on Vulcano, Figlio di Giove is an odd one but unlike the english, german or italian page this had an actual movie poster on it. Just a curious page I found during my research is spanish blog 800 SPAGHETTI WESTERNS which has an entry on Gordon Mitchell and you might want to go to Bella Cortez´ facebook page after you´ve enjoyed the movie.


More comic related links, these are for Terry Hooper Scharf who kind of instigated this whole thing with his post about the first 300 movie THE 300 SPARTANS that also mentions the Dell Comics adaption of it LION OF SPARTA. Well, PEBLUM once again comes to the rescue as they have ultralong comic posts where you can read entire issues of Dell movie classic comics like LION OF SPARTA, THE MAGIC SWORD, BEN HUR and JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS , THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINDBAD , HELEN OF TROY and HERCULES ( by John Buscema ) and HERCULES UNCHAINED and finally THE VIKINGS ( also by John Buscema ) and THIEF OF BAGHDAD .

 
Mythology 101 begins with this list where you learn all about the greek gods and their roman counterparts from ABOUT EDUCATION and continues with GREEK MYTHOLOGY WIKI´s page about Hephaistos that centers on his life. MEDEA`S LAIR has some of his few stories and MYTH MAN`S MAJOR OLYMPIAN GODS was the Hephaistos entry I used for the post.


Last but not least the wiki entry on Etna also helped. Thanks again to all.

I know this was exhausting but we will get back to comics now that all the stuff about cult siren Bella Cortez is done. As a taste for this to come here´s a peek at the next post for which I have already lined up att the art : it´s BLACK AND WHITE SUNDAY with Will Eisner´s THE SPIRIT.


After such a long post I don´t want to put that many at the end of the post. But I promised to put the whole movie on the blog for those who want to watch it. First I´m beginning with the original  italian version which not many may understand but it has the best quality of them all.



Not so sure about the next one which is also in italian with greek subtitles but the picture quality is also very good. And you never know, right ?



Which brings us to the english language version. Not the best picture quality but you might want to understand what they are saying.



And one additional video of the english version just in case the other one gets deleted from YouTube and I need it as a back up. Just to be safe.



As a last bonus I want to include the movie ALI BABA AND THE SEVEN SARACENS also starring Bella Cortez and Gordon Mitchell. There is another post on PEPLUM about The Incorrect Timeline of the US cut of the movie which you should read before seeing the movie, just in case. You might not want to see it right after reading the post but maybe you will watch it Tomorrow or the day after while having a cold beer. Who knows ? It´s raining a lot here in Germany and this could be one long weekend.



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