Sunday, November 28, 2010
  Martin Landau, cartoonist

It's well known that Martin Landau was a cartoonist in the late 1940s for the Daily News. He was studying art at Pratt Institute at the same time, but he left the Daily News in 1951 to begin as an actor.

However, I don't recall ever seeing any of his artwork, so I went in search. I failed to find his illustrations for Billy Rose's column, "Pitching Horseshoes". I did learn that Rose's column was ghostwritten by novelist Bernard Wolfe, later author of the acclaimed dystopian sf classic Limbo (1952). Some readers were surprised to find that a supposedly true incident described in one Rose column was identical to the plot of the 1936 Evelyn Waugh short story, "Bella Fleace Gave a Party". Rose, who was probably equally surprised, claimed, "It's one of those stinking, unbelievable coincidences." Sounds like Rose couldn't wait to fire the writer who had put him on the hot seat. One of Rose's "Pitching Horseshoes" research assistants was Milton Subotsky, later the producer of Tales from the Crypt and other horror-fantasy films.

In Nik Fackler's Lovely, Still (2008), Robert Malone (Landau) is shown drawing early in the film. See screen shots above and below. According to Landau, he did not paint the self-portrait he works on later in the film: "The paintings were created by an artist from Omaha—where the movie was shot. He completely captured the feeling of my character, and the film." The painting is by Daniel Boylan, and some of his other expressionistic paintings are seen around Malone's house. For more Boylan, go here.

Landau's job at the Daily News led to work as an assistant to cartoonist Gus Edson on The Gumps. Edson also went to Pratt, so perhaps that was their connection. Interviewed by Mark Evanier, Landau recalled, "I started working at the News in New York doing illustrations in '47... or maybe it was '46. I was working for them while I was still in high school. Gus had a fellow working with him before me named Sam Hale. He was an old United Features cartoonist and he left. So after I'd been at the News for a few years, I became Gus' assistant. I started off lettering and doing backgrounds, and in just a few months, I was drawing whole strips by myself, usually the Sunday page. Gus had a continuity on Monday through Saturday but the Sunday page was an entity unto itself, and he eased me into doing it. At first, he'd write it and maybe rough it out, but pretty soon, I was doing the whole thing. I did it for about a year, maybe a little longer."

So if "a few years" means 1948 or 1949, then we can speculate that the Sunday strip for April 24, 1949 (below) is by Landau. If I've guessed wrong, I'm sure someone will surface to correct. The problem with calculating this is that Landau says he began at the Daily News when he was 17, yet some sources say he was born in 1928 and others say 1931. (See comments for Alex Jay's research confirming 1928 as correct.)

At any rate, a comparison with Edson's daily for December 8, 1952 (at bottom) shows distinctly different art styles.

On NPR, interviewed by Neal Conan, Landau remembered, "I started on the New York Daily News as a kid when I was 17 years old, as a cartoonist and illustrator, and I was being groomed to be the theatrical caricaturist. And I know if I got that job, I'd never quit. So I quit... It was a great job, actually. I'd go to opening nights, and the PR people would give me 8x10s of the dress rehearsal. I would go home, actually - I didn't have to go to the news building - and do a drawing of the cast, which would appear in a Sunday paper. If there were two openings that week, two drawings. The old fellow, Horace Knight, was an old English fellow who had that job was retiring. I had the ability to do that, but I knew I wanted to go into the theater. I mean, I wanted to act. And I knew if I got that job - which was, again, a cushy job and very well-paying job. My style was sort of an art nouveau style, an art deco style, as opposed Hirschfeld's, who had a very flowing line... And it was a different look, but it had a look."

Also see Film Threat and Mike Lynch Cartoons.

Plaque at Gus Edson Park in Stamford, Connecticut 
shows Edson with his character Dondi.

Martin Landau and writer-director Nik Fackler.

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Saturday, November 20, 2010
  Shelley Duvall, Stanley Kubrick and Stephen King
Mondo Film & Video Guide interview with Shelley Duvall about The Shining (November 5, 2010).

To see Vivian Kubrick's unforgettable documentary, Making The Shining, go here

Below is part one of my three-part 1979 interview with Stephen King as it appeared in the January 1980 issue of Heavy Metal. This was the debut of the Heavy Metal columns. I was told to devise a column name that was something unique, never before associated with films. After rejecting a few possibilities, I coined the word "Flix" as the title. It was a word I had never seen anywhere. Prior to January 1980, there was "flicks" but no "flix". Perhaps I should have trademarked it, eh?

Correction: Other sources say the Stanley that evening had taped orchestral music, not a live band.

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Saturday, November 13, 2010
Little known fact; actually an unpublished unknown fact, not found on Google (as I type this on 11/13):

I was once reading a Steve Ditko Dr. Strange when I discovered that the repetitive key dialogue from Michael McClure's controversial 1965 play The Beard was actually taken directly from a fantasy sequence in Dr. Strange: "Before you can pry any secrets from me, you must first find the real me. Which one will you pursue?"

Marvel Comics knew this, because I told them, but they chose not to promote the connection, evidently because they didn't want their comic book associated with a play that included a scene of cunnilingus between Jean Harlow and Billy the Kid.

Below is the beginning (parts 1/2/3 of 7) of Jonathan Ross' BBC-4 documentary, In Search of Steve Ditko (2007). I was fortunate to have Ditko illustrate two of the comic book scripts I wrote in the 1960s and 1970s. Ditko and Wally Wood were friends and did a number of pencil/ink collaborations; I had the opportunity to color one of those, the first issue of The Destructor (1975).

For a full dazzling Ditko dose, see Craig Yoe's 208-page The Art of Ditko (2009). Beautifully designed and skillfully edited by Yoe, with a Stan Lee intro and essays by P. Craig Russell, John Romita and Jerry Robinson, it was the first title from IDW's new Yoe Books imprint. The book features 28 Ditko stories, reproduced in color from the original comic books, including Unusual Tales, Space Adventures, This Magazine Is Haunted and Strange Suspense Stories, along with b/w pages shot from original art. The book concludes with "Ghost Artist", which Russ Jones and I scripted for Ghostly Tales 101 (January 1973). (In label at bottom, click "ditko" and then scroll down to read "Ghost Artist", which I posted here last February.)

“The Wizard of Dark Mountain” (from Jungle Jim 22) is obviously inspired by my memories of Dr. No (1962). Wally Wood's instruction when he suggested this story: "Remember, they are little people. Not pygmies. Little people." When I turned in the script, he handed it to Ditko, who followed my 8 1/2'' x 11'' layouts with such precision that he carefully included every detail. Ditko made a few slight alterations and improvements to my panel roughs. On page five, panel five, I had Jungle Jim holding Rima’s ass when he gave her a boost into the ventilating shaft; Ditko gave it a simple change to make it acceptable to the editors. On page three, panel four, my rough of the trio rock climbing was awkward, and he easily solved the problem by repositioning the characters.

In addition to the nice costume designs, he also injected an intensity to heighten the mood of the melodrama. Panel three on page five is executed with that imaginative and dynamic flair so typical of Ditko that the panel was duplicated to become the front cover.

Go to YouTube to watch Part Four.

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Friday, November 05, 2010
The influential illustrator Roger Hane was 35 years old when he was murdered in Central Park in June 1974 by teenagers who stole his Lejeune bicycle. Pete Hamill wrote, "Roger Hane died for nothing, which is the most difficult and absurd thing of all." Only two weeks earlier, Hane was given an Artist of the Year award.

Milton Glaser said, "At the time of his death, Roger Hane was the best illustrator in America." During his brief, 11-year career, Hane produced some 300 illustrations for paperback covers, advertisements, record albums, New York, Fortune and other magazines. Vanguard published Robert C. Hunsicker's illustrated biography in 2009.

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Thursday, November 04, 2010
Global versions of "Stand by Me". Go to Vimeo for better resolution.


Wednesday, November 03, 2010
Virtual tour of Ricky Boscarino's Luna Parc

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Monday, November 01, 2010
  Real-life Horror #4: Wake-up Call

I missed my October deadline for the annual "Real-Life Horror", but here we go. Click the label at bottom to see others in the series.

About six years ago, still half asleep, I decided a mix of Shredded Wheat and Raisin Bran would make a nice breakfast. I filled the bowl in semi-darkness.

I took the first spoonful and was startled by a slight pain in my mouth on my gums. I thought, "That's funny. Could one of the shreds of the wheat be that sharp?" I decided not to swallow. Instead, I spit it all out into a paper towel and lying in the milk and cereal was a live spider waving his legs. He was the size of a small raisin.

When I was taking the first bite, the spider bit first. I waited, but there was no later reaction indicating poison. It reminded me that something similar had happened to me before. When I was a child, something flew in my mouth, stung me and flew away.

Now I always look closely when I pour something from a box or bottle.

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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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