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Cross-Hatched Thanksgiving

As you read this, Julie and I are safely ensconced in rustic Oak Harbor. Rather than try and figure out any kind of family Thanksgiving, we fled to Whidbey Island for a four-and-a-half day holiday of loafing around and bookscouting and goofing off. Don’t tell my relatives.

Eventually, I’m sure, the highlights of our trip will end up here, since people seem to enjoy tales of our various back-roads expeditions. But in the meantime, here’s some bits and pieces to tide you over.

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Not Strictly Comics, But….: Roger Ebert has a short article up about one of my very favorite pulp/paperback guys, John D. MacDonald.

You know, there's something missing from today's paperback packaging. Nothing on the racks today is as in-your-face as THIS... which, honestly, was pretty standard.

MacDonald is the writer that gave us Travis McGee, the character that I will go to my grave believing was a primary inspiration for the O’Neil/Cowan version of The Question.

Separated at birth? Vic Sage by Cowan on the left, Travis McGee by McGinnis on the right.

But he wrote lots of other stuff too. Some of it’s good and some of it’s great. Any MacDonald book, though, is guaranteed to be a compelling, hard-to-put-down good time.

It's weird that more MacDonald books haven't been made into movies. I can only think of five. Two of them are pictured-- GIRL, GOLD WATCH AND EVERYTHING and THE EXECUTIONERS -- and the others are the TV miniseries CONDOMINIUM and the two Travis McGee adaptations, DARKER THAN AMBER and THE EMPTY COPPER SEA.

Anyway, MacDonald didn’t do interviews very often, so it’s nice that Mr. Ebert posted this one that he did with MacDonald in 1976. Interesting reading.

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In other sort-of-but-not-really-comics-related news, I wanted to mention that I got a huge kick out of The Green Hornet Chronicles, the latest pulp-hero anthology from Moonstone Books (co-edited, by the way, by Wold Newton expert and friend of the blog Win Scott Eckert.)

Procopio's art is very cool, too.

The entry that is getting all the press is Harlan Ellison’s story fragment, and though I can’t blame Moonstone for wanting to plaster Mr. Ellison’s name all over the thing, the truth of the matter is that it’s probably the weakest piece in the book, and that includes the giant essay/excuse that bookends it. Virtually every other story in the collection is better, and in particular I got a huge kick out of Greg Cox’s “I Had The Green Hornet’s Love Child!” which is every bit as much fun as it sounds, and Win Eckert’s own “Fang and Sting,” a story that not only answers a question Hornet fans have wondered about for years but has a few Easter Eggs for the alert Wold Newton scholar, as well.

I think I like this cover better than Ruben's, but they're both cool.

I’m a story guy, but I don’t mean to slight the work of illustrator Ruben Procopio here. He contributes a bunch of wonderfully gritty black-and-white interior illos that really suit the noirish pulp feel of the book.

One of Procopio's great interior pieces. This picture is really the only good thing about the Ellison story.

Also, this may or may not matter to you but it got points with me — the book is very firmly set in the continuity of the 1967 TV series starring Van Williams and Bruce Lee.

Lord knows, what with Dynamite flooding the market with The Green Hornet and Kevin Smith’s Green Hornet and The Green Hornet Year One and so on and so forth, not to mention the upcoming Seth Rogen movie, it can be hard to keep track of all the different Hornets out there, so I was pleased to see that this book featured the one I think of as “mine.” If you are curious about the Green Hornet and want to know more, but unsure where to start, well, you can’t do better than this collection.

And while I’m at it, I will also mention that I really enjoyed the Moonstone anthologies featuring Kolchak and the second one starring the Phantom, as well.

The Kolchak book, especially, was a hoot and a half. But both are good.

And I believe I already plugged the Avenger and Spider collections in this space a while ago. At this point I’m ready to go with just a blanket recommendation of ALL the Moonstone prose anthologies. Good stuff.

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From the Mailbag:
You may recall that one of my semi-regular correspondents is Courtney Smith, who’s been researching the life and work of illustrator Fred Pfeiffer.

This is from THE THRONE OF SATURN by Allen Drury. It was printed at a criminally small size on the actual cover, so it's nice to finally get a good look at it.

I knew Fred Pfeiffer largely from his Doc Savage work but he did lots of other good stuff too. And you can see a great deal of it on display now at Courtney’s new web site, The Pfeiffer Pfiles. All sorts of interesting things to look at.

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Also, Adam Garcia sent a great piece of teaser art by Mike Fyles for Adam’s new Green Lama novel for Airship27, Green Lama: Crimson Circle. In his note, Adam said, “This is by no means the final cover (heck I need to finish writing the damn thing) but it does feature a scene that will appear in the novel. Hope you like it!”

I love how Mr. Fyles conscientiously ages the texture of the piece so it looks like a real pulp cover.

Well, of course I like it, and it’s too good not to share so now you all get to see it too. If you’ve been reading this column for any length of time you’ll know how much I enjoyed Adam and Mike’s first collaboration, Green Lama: Unbound, and we’re very much looking forward to Crimson Circle in this household.

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TV From the Vaults: You ever wonder what Star Trek would look like if it had been written by Austin Powers? Well, I’m here to tell you that it would look a lot like Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s UFO.

I'm in no way ENDORSING such behavior, but swear to God, if there was ever a show designed to be watched between bong hits, this is the one.

This was the show that the Andersons did in 1970 or thereabouts, between Thunderbirds (with the puppets) and Space: 1999. I had very vague memories of seeing this in syndication when I was a kid; I tried to watch it once or twice but it was too weird and creepy for ten-year-old me.

Last week I came across the first season set for $5.00 and thought, Hell, for forty cents an episode I’ll roll the dice. Mostly I was curious to see what had frightened me off it.

Well, I’m four or five episodes in and I think the main thing that must have been bugging me back then was that the entire show is insane.

In 1980 a couple of episodes were edited together for release on home video. Here's the art from that. It does sort of put across the SCREW PHYSICS! KILL IT! tone of the show.

UFO is the story of Ed Straker and the agency under his command, S.H.A.D.O., the Supreme Headquarters of the Alien Defence Organization. The premise is that in the far future of– 1980!!– SHADO is engaged in a secret war with green-skinned, liquid-breathing aliens who are here to– wait for it– harvest human organs for transplant.

Ed Straker's job seems largely to consist of yelling at his pilots for not following his deranged leaps of logic.

The aliens look just like us, except for their green skin. They are allegedly trying to ‘infiltrate,’ but mostly they seem to just fly around in giant silver spinning dreidels and blow stuff up.

One of these is a deadly alien vessel here to harvest human organs. Guess which one.

But the reason I say the show is insane is that nothing makes any sense at all. The stories have no real interior logic. Straker pulls brilliant deductions out of thin air, and no matter how lunatic or paranoid his guess sounds, he always turns out to be right. The physics are even wonkier than the science in Irwin Allen’s science fiction and that’s saying something. Finally — this is our favorite — it’s apparently required for all female personnel who serve on SHADO’s lunar base to have purple hair. Why? I don’t know. It’s just there. They never explain it at all. I thought maybe it was supposed to be some sort of futurist fashion statement but there was one show where a female Moonbase officer had to report to Straker at SHADO headquarters to deliver a report or something and when she arrived on Earth, somehow her hair was no longer purple. Maybe, it’s, uh… the lighting?

And all of it’s presented with this deadly serious, they’re coming for all of us tone. I’ve decided UFO belongs in the top three paranoid-fantasy television series ever, right up there with The Invaders and The Prisoner. The one thing that never changes about the show is its mission statement — on UFO, all aliens must die. Period. No matter what cloak-and-dagger stuff goes on in the beginning of the episode, the last ten minutes or so of each one are always the same. Ed Straker calls together his SHADO task force and launches an attack by land, sea and air, eventually managing to blast this week’s dreidel ship out of the sky. Happy ending.

The actors, led by Ed Bishop as Straker, manage to be more wooden than the stop-motion puppets on Thunderbirds, believe it or not. The real stars of the show are the various ships. The Andersons clearly knew it and merchandised the hell out of the series, and there is a sizable fandom among the toys-and-collectibles folks for the show to this day.

I have to admit that, as a toy line, the UFO vehicles were all pretty badass.

There were even a few attempts at comics. Britain’s TV ACTION had a weekly strip for a while.

TV ACTION WEEKLY was clearly the British Gold Key.

Seven or eight years ago an outfit called Mayhem tried to get something going with the property again, but didn’t get beyond some teaser cover art. The comics never happened.

It’s not really surprising. There were already lots of UFO-themed comics out there, so there was no reason for publishers to spend money on a license. Gold Key was already doing UFO: Flying Saucers and then UFO and Outer Space for the entire time the show was airing here in the States.

You gotta figure, if even Gold Key turned down your license with a 'Thanks, we're covered,' you might as well give up.

Nevertheless, UFO in its TV incarnation still has a healthy following. There’s dozens of web sites out there about the show and all the swag it engendered. Not quite as many as the ones for Thunderbirds or Captain Scarlet or Space: 1999, but nothing to sneeze at.

Anyway. It’s not a good show, but we’re enjoying it. It’s an entertaining cultural snapshot of what passed for futurism in the 1970s. Let’s put it this way — five dollars for the set is about right. Here’s a brief montage of clips, just to give you a taste. And what the hell, here’s one more.

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And… that’s all I’ve got. Those of you who are celebrating the holiday, I hope you had a great Thanksgiving, and I’ll see you next week.

16 Comments

Greg,

Thanks for the Moonstone prose anthology love, and for the shout-outs for THE GREEN HORNET CHRONICLES and “Fang and Sting.” I had a lot of fun working on the book, and the second volume, THE GREEN HORNET CASEFILES (also your Green Hornet, set squarely in the Van Williams/Bruce Lee ’60s TV continuity) is scheduled for next April.

http://woldnewton.blogspot.com/2010/09/green-hornet-casefiles-and-teaser-cover.html

Happy Thanksgiving, and all the best,

-Win

For five bucks, I’d buy it too, but Amazon wants 63 dollars for it! And it doesn’t even have marionettes! Pass.

I have incredibly vague, but fond memories of the Green Hornet TV show, but I’m no longer sure if I ever saw it! The Batman crossover episodes, yes, but… did FX run Green Hornet alongside Batman reruns back in the early 90s? Because I have no other clue how I would have seen the show. I remember the theme tune, though.

Wonder if Agent Mulder watched Gerry Anderson’s UFO when he was a kid? ;-)

The opening credits sequence (the second one linked, ignore the first one, which is a cheesy fan-edit) is one of the best ever SF theme/credit intros. The way they flash “1980” on the screen several times is awesome.

Also, I read in a reliable place that the Moonbase Girl’s hair was meant (in-story) to be wigs which were actually a part of the Moonbase uniform for female staffers; the thinking was, if tunics, trousers, and sometimes hats can be part of a uniform, who’s to say that hairpieces might not be included in the future? So that’s why her hair wasn’t purple on Earth: she wasn’t wearing her purple wig because she wasn’t wearing the rest of her Moonbase uniform either.

Also, Nick Drake’s sister was a Moonbase Girl.

As I’ve mentioned before, the other reason I love this column (besides the fact that it manages to cheer me up almost every time I read it) is the nostalgia it makes me feel. I too was a child of the 70s and remember some of the series mentioned above, like Kolchak and UFO -though I don’t recall much about the latter, I remember Space: 1999 much better, so thanks for the refresher, Greg. Heck, even the Gold Key UFO comic brings memories, I think I found exactly *one* issue of it (the one that positioned that the ufos themselves could be living creatures rather than spaceships) and always wondered if there were more. Now I know! :)

Btw, am I the only who thinks that the woman on the cover of “You Kill Me” is based on Rita Moreno’s character from WEST SIDE STORY? I’m Puerto Rican, so I may be biased, but I think it’s intentional. “I Want To Live In AME-RI-CA!” ;)

Happy Holidays, everybody!

Thanks for the post Greg!!! :-D

Here’s some cool Green Lama updates: Mike Fyles and I are currently working on two ADDITIONAL Green Lama projects. First up we’ve got a Green Lama comic short in the works called “Green Lama & the Death Dealers” which will tie into Crimson Circle. PLUS, we’re working on an original short story with original art for Altue Press to be included in the third volume of their Green Lama reprints! The short story will build off the last published Green Lama pulp (“Beardless Corpse”) as well as set up and tie in all the new stories! So stay tuned, 2011 will be a very Green year indeed!

-Adam!

I picked up all but 3 of the Travis McGee books just last month, in those old paperbacks no less!

happy thankgiving to you Greg. glad i am not the only one who thinks ufo was insane. for always thought the creators of the show were nuts. as for the green hornet all i remember was the team up episode from the old batman tv series where batman thought he was a villain . plus that the green hornet is suppose to be related to the lone ranger.

I saw an episode of this show once. I found that it was titled “Survival”. Let’s just say that this episode deviated from the “blast aliens in the last ten minutes leading to the happy ending” structure.

I should watch this at some point. This TV series was used in the storyline of my favorite computer game UFO: Enemy Unknown aka X-COM: UFO Defense. I would dare say this mid-90’s title is one of the best strategic computer games out there.

Man, the more I read about UFO, the more I want to watch it (all I’ve seen so far is the title sequence, which I find hilarious).
By the way, the first episode of Space 1999 I ever remember watching actually creeped me out when I was little. Didn’t stop me from watching a few more, though…

S.H.A.D.O. is just Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organization without the extra words you’ve added.

The received wisdom on the Moonbase purple wigs (maybe from one of the novelisations?) is that they are some sort of anti-static precaution. Hmmm, just passing that idea on for what it’s worth!

UFO was a great series anyway. I wish every success to the people trying to get a re-make movie off the ground.

Nick Drake’s sister was the lubricious Gabrielle Drake, memorably naked in a certain other film, and on-the-way-to-naked (along with the rest of the female Moonbase personnel) in this de rigeur short skirts and tight tops TV programme. UFO seems to have been written under the influence of the Andersons’ marital breakup. CAPTAIN SCARLET may have been paranoid and nihilistic [everyone could be a duplicate/enemy] but mainly Spectrum won out. By UFO everyone lost every time, love affairs sparked and blew up, wives killed husbands, divorce was endemic, betrayal commonplace.. Straker’s own son died due to his job. It was the darkest and least-liked of all Anderson did to that point. [Later ones were just inept rather than repulsive.]

funkygreenjerusalem

November 28, 2010 at 4:18 pm

I grabbed Kevin J Anderson’s ‘Enemies & Allies’ this week.
Still haven’t tackled ‘Last Days Of Krypton’ yet, but this was at the comic shop, and looked like it should be fun.
I’ll be finishing it off tonight, but enjoying it a lot more than you seemed to in your review Greg.
Moves along quite nicely, and Anderson seems to have a good grasp on the Clark Kent/Superman character.
The only downside has been that the two haven’t interacted enough across the course of the book, only chatting for a page or two at a time before being interrupted.
The Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne interview scene was pretty cool.

I’m in no way ENDORSING such behavior, but swear to God, if there was ever a show designed to be watched between bong hits, this is the one.

My personal fave to watch between…. stuff, is Gerry Anderson’s Joe 90.
Some episodes are boring, but some have the craziest plots ever conceived, and there’s always at least one moment per episode where you are shocked by how little regard for young Joe’s life his father, or his ‘uncle’ in the CIA have.

Heck, in the first episode, Joe steals the memories of a fighter pilot and bombs Russia (which is then revealed that the entire episode was a hypothetical proving why they need Joe).
Other favourite moments include his father and uncle dressing him like an angel and putting him on a flying fox – to launch him towards armed and dangerous spies, hiding in a church, to distract them -, and the time Joe steals the memories of a lady who just had sex with his father.

And the theme song is a ripper.

funkygreenjerusalem

November 29, 2010 at 1:59 am

And having finished Enemies & Allies… I get Greg’s ‘it was alright’ review.
Almost felt like he ran out of pages, so the end was a bit rushed – felt like it had been setting up for a bit more than we got, and then it was all wrapped up quite suddenly, although only really by one of them.
Still, worth checking out – fun book, quick read, and it got Clark, Jimmy and Lois all pretty spot on, and in top form.

Hi Greg-

Actually, the Pfeiffer Pfiles was created and put together by my pal, and another regular of your column, Scotty Phillips. He is posting the material that I have gathered over the last 3 years.

Hope everyone checks it out and adds their comments.

http://fredpfeifferartist.blogspot.com/

Greg, your support for this project has been great and I thank you.

Courtney Rogers
Glendale, AZ

I showed the first episode of UFO to my 8 year old grandson and 7 year old grand-daughter today and then an episode of Lost in Space called The Toymaker. They seemed much more interested and entertained by Lost in Space. The pacing was a lot better. I agree that UFO is insane but entertaining and would probably be much better if watched drunk or stoned.

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