Thursday, March 25, 2010
  Cartoons by Hugh Hefner
Playboy ran superior cartoons because Hugh Hefner had a genuine appreciation of cartoon art, being a cartoonist himself. When he was a child, he drew pictures of monsters, superheroes and spacemen. When he attended the University of Illinois (1946-49), he contributed cartoons and articles to the student newspaper, The Daily Illini, and his own college humor magazine, Shaft. At top are two of Hefner's college cartoons. One comments on female fashions, and the other satirizes how different Chicago newspapers would handle front-page coverage of the same event, apparently a comment on the 1946 coverage of the Lipstick Killer (covered extensively here in January).

Below are cartoons Hefner did in high school. In 1943, when Hefner was 17, his friend Jane Sellers moved from Chicago to California, and they corresponded, remaining friends for decades. She saved the letters and drawings he sent her, and later said, "At 16, I knew he was destined to do amazing things, so I saved every scrap of paper he ever sent or gave me." Sellers' Hefner archive was recently sold to a rare book dealer. For more art by Hef, see Seattle P-I.

In the late 1930s, Bob Montana kept a similar sketchbook diary of high school life while he was attending school in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Montana's sketchbooks became the basis for his creation of Archie a few years later. Montana's daughters, Paige Kuether and Lynn Montana, displayed his high school sketchbook on their Archie Prints website some years back (1999-2003), but unfortunately, the Montana sketchbook is no longer online.

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Monday, March 22, 2010
  The Gorbals Vampire

BBC Radio 4

On September 23, 1954, strange things were happening in Glasgow as hundreds of children raced through a local cemetery, the Southern Necropolis, with stakes, sticks, stones and knives seeking to vanquish a vampire with iron teeth.

Hy Fleishman's "The Vampire with the Iron Teeth" appeared in Dark Mysteries #15 (December 1953). To read Fleishman's full story, go to The Horrors of It All. Also see Monsters with Iron Teeth (Sheffield Academic Press, 1988) by Gillian Bennett and Paul Smith. Numerous books on urban legends mention the Gorbals Vampire of 1954 and the 1879 poem "Jenny wi' Airn Teeth".

On Tuesday, March 30, BBC Radio 4 will broadcast a documentary on the connection between the Gorbals Vampire and EC and other horror comics, exploring how this incident triggered censorship of comic books in the UK. The Gorbals Vampire event was previously described in Martin Barker's A Haunt of Fears: The Strange History of the British Horror Comics Campaign, published by London's Pluto Press in 1983. This book is still available from the University Press of Mississippi which reprinted it in 1992. To read what Barker wrote about the Gorbals Vampire, go here.

Here's a link to the BBC News story and a 1989 Scottish Herald article. Thanks to Trevor M., Pappy and Karswell for the tips. (See comments.) For a memorable film set in the towering Glasgow projects, see Andrea Arnold's Red Road (2007).

And here's the BBC press release:

The Gorbals Vampire
Tuesday 30 March 11:00-11:30pm BBC Radio 4

Novelist Louise Welsh investigates how a comic-book vampire brought horror to Glasgow's south side and its impact on Britain's censorship laws. Glasgow's Southern Necropolis is an eerie place at the best of times but when two local policemen answered a call in September 1954 they encountered a bizarre sight. Hundreds of local children, ranging in ages from four to 14, were crammed inside, roaming between the crypts, armed with sharpened sticks, knives stolen from home and stakes. They said they were hunting down "a vampire with iron teeth" that had kidnapped and eaten two local boys. The policemen dispersed the crowd, but they came back at sundown the next night and the next. The local press got hold of the story and it soon went national. There were no missing boys in Glasgow at that time, and press and politicians cast around for an explanation. They soon found one in the wave of American horror comics with names like Astounding Stories and Tales From The Crypt, which had recently flooded into the West of Scotland.

Academics pointed out that none of the comics featured a vampire with iron teeth, though there was a monster with iron teeth in the Bible (Daniel 7.7) and in a poem taught in local schools. Their voices were drowned out in a full-blown moral panic about the effect that terrifying comics were having on children. Soon the case of the Gorbals Vampire was international news. The British Press raged against the "terrifying, corrupt" comics and, after a heated debate in the House of Commons where the case of Gorbals Vampire was cited, Britain passed the Children and Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act 1955 which, for the first time, specifically banned the sale of magazines and comics portraying "incidents of a repulsive or horrible nature" to minors. This programme explores how the Gorbals Vampire helped bring the censorship of comic books onto the statute books.

Presenter/Louise Welsh, Producer/David Stenhouse
BBC Radio 4 Publicity

Jenny wi' the Airn Teeth

WHAT a plague is this o' mine,
Winna steek his e'e,
Though I hap him ow'r the head
As cosie as can be.
Sleep! an' let me to my wark,
A' thae claes to airn;
Jenny wi' the airn teeth,
Come an' tak' the bairn:

Tak' him to your ain den,
Where the bowgie bides,
But first put baith your big teeth
In his wee plump sides;
Gie your auld grey pow a shake,
Rive him frae my grup—
Tak' him where nae kiss is gaun
When he waukens up.
Two views of the gatehouse in the 
much-vandalized Southern Necropolis
Whatna noise is that I hear
Comin' doon the street?
Weel I ken the dump-dump
O' her beetle feet.
Mercy me, she's at the door,
Hear her lift the sneck;
Whisht! an' cuddle mammy noo
Closer roun' the neck.

Jenny wi' the airn teeth,
The bairn has aff his claes,
Sleepin' safe an' soun', I think—
Dinna touch his taes;
Sleepin' weans are no for you;
Ye may turn about
An' tak' awa' wee Tam next door—
I hear him screichin' oot.

Dump, dump, awa' she gangs
Back the road she cam';
I hear her at the ither door,
Speirin' after Tam.
He's a crabbit, greetin' thing,
The warst in a' the toon;
Little like my ain wee wean—
Losh, he's sleepin' soun'.

Mithers hae an awfu' wark
Wi' their bairns at nicht—
Chappin' on the chair wi' tangs
To gi'e the rogues a fricht.
Aulder weans are fley'd wi' less,
Weel aneuch we ken—
Bigger bowgies, bigger Jennies,
Frichten muckle men.
              -Alexander Anderson, 1879

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Saturday, March 20, 2010
  Mickey at the microphone

In 1938, Walt Disney had his own NBC musical variety radio series, The Mickey Mouse Theater of the Air. Sponsored by Pepsodent with a weekly budget of $10,000 to $12,000, it was broadcast from the Disney Little Theater on the RKO lot, airing on Sunday afternoons from January 2 to May 21, 1938. Disney was both the host and the voice of Mickey Mouse, along with Donald Duck (Clarence Nash), Goofy (Stuart Buchanan), Clarabelle Cow (Florence Gill) and Minnie Mouse (Thelma Boardman). Scripted by comedy writer Bill Demling and radio actor Eddie Holden, the series also featured Old King Cole (Billy Bletcher), Clara Cluck (Florence Gill) and other Disney characters. Others heard on the series were Mel Blanc and Walter Tetley (later famed as nephew Leroy on The Great Gildersleeve and grocery boy Julius on The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show).

The opening theme was "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?", and the Felix Mills Orchestra (with 33 musicians) supplied the music. Also heard was Donald Duck's Swing Band and Donald Duck's Webfoot Sextet (with cowbells, bottles, a car horn and a meat grinder creating Spike Jones-like effects), plus a 12-voice female choir (with four members who supplied the whistling for Minnie Mouse's Woodland Bird Choir) and an eight-voice male choir. John Hiestan was the announcer. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs opened February 4, 1938, and this radio series was created to promote the film. So after the debut "Robin Hood" episode, "Snow White Day" was heard January 9. The 20 episodes included "Ancient China," "Sleeping Beauty," "Who Killed Cock Robin?" and "William Tell".

Click below to hear seven episodes, beginning with ''Snow White", followed by "Mother Goose Land," "Cinderella," "King Neptune" (with Bea Benaderet as Miriam the Mermaid), "The Pied Piper" (with Hans Conried), "The Old Woman in the Shoe" and "Old MacDonald" (with Cliff Arquette in the title role and Mel Blanc as the hiccuping farmer's daughter). From the fourth episode on, the voice of Mickey was not Disney but was supplied by comedian Joe Twerp. And when Walt was too busy to host, he was impersonated by announcer Hiestan!

When I was a child, I regularly bought three magazines, Dell's 1000 Jokes (edited by Bill Yates), Radio Mirror (which later became Radio and Television Mirror and then TV Radio Mirror) and Radio Best (in a large bedsheet size, as I recall). In the 1920s, MacFadden published Radio Stories. During the 1930s, listeners could choose between Radioland, Radio Mirror, Radio Guide and Radio Stars.  The Radio Mirror at top is the April 1938 issue. The Radio Best here is dated April 1948.

The monthly radio magazines made it possible to see what the radio performers looked like. But their program listings were frustrating because the magazines went to the printer so far in advance, they could not list specific episodes. General listings in magazines just could not compare with the daily newspaper radio listings, and some newspapers ran entire pages about radio with photos, columns, features and extensive listings.

Because Walter Annenberg published newspapers, he was aware that daily radio logs brought many readers, so in the early 1940s he did publish a weekly, Movie-Radio Guide, with a 21-page program guide (just titles, but it did give playlists on some classical music programs). It even included a short wave page with "War News in English" (times and stations in Mexico City, Berlin and many other cities) and "Programs for Our Troops Overseas". ("Clip out this column and send it to a soldier friend abroad.") By early 1943, he gave it up and went to a monthly schedule, but a decade later, this weekly magazine became the forerunner of TV Guide, which Annenberg started in 1953.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010
  Mistry solved
"Any technology sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic."
                                                                              --Arthur C. Clarke

Pranav Mistry merges the physical world with the digital world. In a single presentation, Mistry closes the digital divide and reveals the forthcoming wonders of the 21st Century. Is he the New Age Tesla?

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Friday, March 12, 2010
  Spiders across the stars
Control click heading to hear Bob Edwards interview Joyce Johnson and John Leland (Why Kerouac Matters).

Photo by Jerry Yulsman: Jack Kerouac and Joyce Johnson in 1957.

Today is Jack Kerouac's birthday. He was born March 12, 1922 in Lowell, Massachusetts.

I remember it, I remember the day of my birth. I remember the red air and the sadness—"the strange red afternoon light" Wolfe also was hung on—with peculiar eternity-dream vividness, or if not vividness, vastness; some dream of late afternoon. Six years later, on a similar red afternoon, but in dead frozen winter, I discovered my soul; that is to say, I looked about for the first time and realized I was in a world and not just myself.

When I met the photographer Jerry Yulsman, he had moved away from photography into writing novels. I told him how much I liked his photo of Kerouac and Joyce Johnson that she had used on the cover of her book. I probably said something to the effect that it was perhaps the greatest of all Kerouac photos. To my astonishment, he casually replied, "I guess I should get that back from her, eh?"

When one of Yulsman's photos was used in a Gap ad ("Kerouac wore khakis"), Joyce Johnson was airbrushed out of existence.

Further, the Kettle of Fish bar's neon sign was apparently cropped and altered so it could appear to read "Gap" rather than "Bar".

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Monday, March 08, 2010
Cover: Achilleos
Here's another story I wrote and packaged for Heavy Metal 27 years ago. "Symbiosis" ran in the December 1983 issue. Shawn McManus did the breakdowns and pencil art. After Jim McDermott did the inks, McManus created the color wash. Looking at this for the first time in many years, I can't remember the reason for the two-color effect, but in retrospect, full-color would have worked better. The panel with the tape cassette now looks like a conspicuous anachronism.

Edith Cassady's clothing is based on something Harvey Kurtzman once told me about how he got excited when he saw an Alex Raymond panel of Dale in Flash Gordon with the underside of her breasts exposed. The character name is an obvious reference to Neal and Carolyn Cassady. Maybe I had seen the film adaptation of Carolyn Cassady's Heart Beat around that time. Brief dialog fragments keep this from being pure pantomime like "Zenobia," our HM tale previously posted here (originally published seven months prior to "Symbiosis"). For "Zenobia," scroll down. Both stories have slightly similar headless creatures, but that was unintentional, as is the resemblance to Al Capp's Shmoo.

The concept of human interference with symbiotic alien creatures was inspired by Robert Silverberg's mystical masterpiece, Downward to the Earth (1970), which in turn was a science fictional revamping of Heart of Darkness. Reading Downward to the Earth together with Silverberg's Son of Man (1971) and Dying Inside (1972) will leave you staggering.
© 2010 Bhob Stewart, Jim McDermott, Shawn McManus

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Saturday, March 06, 2010
  Famous paintings as some comic strip artists might do them

Frederic "Feg" Murray was born May 15, 1894 in San Francisco, attended Palo Alto High School, graduated from Stanford as a graphics art major in 1916 and won a Hurdles bronze medal at the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp. In the early 1920s, he was a Los Angeles Times cartoonist, relocating to New York where he was a sports cartoonist with the New York Sun for seven years. In the early 1930s, he contributed to Street & Smith’s Sport Story Magazine. He drew True Stories about Stamps but is best known for his celebrity cartoon panel, Seein' Stars, syndicated by King Features to newspapers from 1941 to 1953. He also was a radio host who was heard on The Baker's Broadcast. His c. 1925 parody of paintings seen below appeared with the caption Famous paintings as some comic strip artists might do them. Murray died in Carmel Valley, California in 1973.

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Friday, March 05, 2010
  Death of Newspapers #15: Little Nemo in Hell
October 29, 1905

Winsor McCay sometimes drew Little Nemo in Slumberland at the Hotel St. George in Brooklyn Heights. At the St. George, I used to swim in their gilded Art Deco salt-water pool with its decaying mirrored ceiling, reflecting the glories of an earlier splendiferous era. After drying off, I would enter the St. George bar to get wet again.

McCay also lived and worked at 1811 Voorhies Avenue in Sheepshead Bay. Here it is in 1909, with unusual architectural features. Is that an upstairs porch? If so, McCay could have worked outside, drawing in the upper level shade amid Brooklyn breezes.

A century later, McCay has been forgotten, as his house has now become a demonic reminder of a Richard Matheson-styled nightmare.

Here's the fire at the Winsor McCay House earlier this week.

As seen below, it survived the fire. So much for the good news. The bad news is that, sadly, Winsor McCay's House isn't on the New York City Historic Houses list. Why not? It should be restored (with those marvelous side porches) and made into a museum to honor McCay, one of the most influential artists of the 20th Century.

Thanks to Ned Berke and Sheepshead Bites.

Lisanne's slide show of the McCay House with one image of the (possibly original) stained glass windows. Designer Rick Spanier notes the following:

Perhaps even more sadly, McCay's (nicer) house at 1901 Voorhies was torn down and replaced recently with this apartment building. McCay's house was on the corner of Voorhies and East 19th Street; this view of the replacement is from the (longer) East 19th side. The roof of the original house is still visible in Google's satellite view.

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Wednesday, March 03, 2010
  OK Go: "This Too Shall Pass"

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Monday, March 01, 2010
  Steve Bissette's King of Monster Isle

Steve Bissette's first original online comic tale:
Part 1
Parts 2 through 6
Parts 7 through 11
Myrant Digital Comix: “King of Monster Isle”
©2010 Stephen R. Bissette. All rights reserved.

Bissette's recent book (2009)


Masquerade of the albino axolotls

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is the editor of Against the Grain: Mad Artist Wallace Wood (2003), reviewed by Paul Gravett.

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