Wednesday, February 29, 2012

R.I.P.-Davy Jones

Alice in Wonderland or What's a Nice Kid Like You Doing in a Place Like This?

Highly touted and reviewed, this hip, all-star Hanna-Barbera TV musical spoof of Alice in Wonderland all but disappeared for years but here it is more or less in its entirety at CLASSIC TELEVISION SHOWBIZ.  Janet Waldo leads the great classic voice actor cast and the guest celebrities include Zsa Zsa, Sammy and Jose Jiminez. Even Fred and Barney famously appear in other characters!


Most of the 1966 VOGUE covers were more ordinary but this one shows the creeping psychedelia literally then coming into fashion.

Monday, February 27, 2012

More Batman Comics of 1966-Detective Comics

Batman had originally appeared in DETECTIVE COMICS in 1939 and has, to this very day, remained the lead feature in that long-running title. Artist Carmine Infantino brought a sleek new Batman and Robin to the fore when the "New Look" Batman appeared but, as with the other Bat-titles, TV-style camp over-rode everything for a while. 

Legendary artist Joe Kubert has never really drawn the Caped Crusaders but for a handful of lovely covers during this period.

I remember sitting out in the parking lot behind my apartment house reading the above issue, introducing the very original-looking villain, The Cluemaster. Infantino at his most creative was back on the covers starting with this issue.

I never saw this issue on the stands. I'd seen the ads and really looked forward to it but it must have sold out. It would be years before I finally found a copy.

This one I missed on the stands also but I read it soon afterwards at my friend Timmy's house which was, oddly enough, only a few blogs from where my wife and I ended up buying a home decades later. Bane kind of reminds me of this guy. 

Ah...It was the first day of second grade and my Mom had to go to school with me to sign papers and such. I took this issue with me and sat on the stairs going up to the second floor while I waited. This was the issue where Alfred---who had been killed off before it was known he would be an integral player on the TV show--was brought back to life and to the comics.

I never heard of this guy. Just recently a friend in New Jersey was telling me how well-known he was. I still question why he was chosen to guest star when he was NOT well-known past the East Coast apaprently. 

Another amazing cover but another issue I never saw new on the stands. 

And finally, the Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl! This was done at the behest of the TV producers but Barbara Gordon would eventually earn her wings as a legitimate character long after the series was gone. In fact, she would return as Oracle on the much later TV series, BIRDS OF PREY.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Batman Comics and Me in '66

The folks at DC Comics tried their best to walk the fine line between the more serious version of Batman they had debuted in '64 and the campy TV version but in '66 it was often a losing battle. The BATMAN comics of the day (as well as the Batman stories in DETECTIVE COMICS) were often bland or silly experiences to say the least. The covers that year, however, were glorious! Everything was signed by Bob Kane but nothing was. Above for instance, in the issue just before the show's debut, a Gil Kane/Murphy Anderson Batman with a sci-fi twist.  

Presumably timed to tie in with BATMAN's TV debut since the Riddler had only appeared twice in the 15 or so years since his debut, he became a major player in the Dark Knight;s rogue's gallery due to his TV appearances. 

Above is another Kane/Anderson cover, this one on the first issue to hit the stands after Batmania took hold. Writer Mark Waid once said that this was one of the biggest selling issues and the first BATMAN comic for many, many people. It was definitely my first!

The campiness took hold here with the debut of Poison Ivy. Although a good character, after part two, her only appearance for many, many years would be in a long, silly sequence in the Batman newspaper strip that same year, 

There were no less than three 80 Page Giant reprints out in '66, offering short stories from the past--mostly the sillier fifties and early sixties tales that had led the Caped Crusader's book to the edge of cancellation before the TV series saved it.

An often parodied cover clearly serving just to hype the series, part two of Poison Ivy's tale, interrupted by the reprint issue, actually is the main feature in this issue.

I remember buying this issue in the middle of the night at a Greyhound bis station somewhere in Virginia as my parents and I were on our way to North Carolina to visit relatives in July of '66. I also remember being very disappointed in it.

Another reprint collection, this one highlighted by a genuine classic Bat-tale, Sheldon Moldoff's "Robin Dies at Dawn."

After years of overexposure, the Joker had been put out to pasture as the more serious Batman emerged, only to be resurrected by the TV series and thus also in the comics. I recall reading this issue while sitting in the back seat of our car as my Mom had gone in to where she worked to pick up her paycheck on her day off.

This one also I read in the back seat of the car while my parents did grocery shopping on a Thursday evening. I had gotten it at Woolworth's and as the sun went down I had to turn on the overhead light in the car to keep reading.

This one has such a stylish cover for such a ridiculous story, I remember buying this issue at the drugstore three blocks from our apartment.

  Finally, I didn't buy this issue new at all. At age seven, the cover creeped me out! I do remember finding a copy at a friend's house months later, though, and sitting on the steps there reading it!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Pamela Austin and Dodge

Pretty Pamela Austin made waves as the popular Dodge Girl of 1966 in commercials like this one, leading to her one and only starring role in a film, THE PERILS OF PAULINE, the following year.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

R.I.P.-Billy Strange

In 1966, Billy Strange was making a name for himself with albums like this but he was also associated with Nancy Sinatra's music and recording with the Breach Boys as part of the legendary Wrecking Crew. He died on February 22nd, 2012.

Ellington '66

Another old-timer still around and performing better than ever in 1966 was the great Duke Ellington, here with a collection of classics and pop hits including Sir Duke's take on the Beatles' I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Harvey Comics

At the beginning of '66, I began collecting comic books but I got some even before that--Harvey Comics! My Dad had long mad it a point to bring me back issues of CASPER, LITTLE DOT and HOT STUFF and just because I was getting into superheroes, I didn't leave my old friend behind. Here are Harveys that were on sale around October of 1966.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Plastic Man

Jack Cole's PLASTIC MAN from Quality in the forties and early fifties was one of the most original and best drawn superhero strips of its day. It was popular enough to be parodied in an early issue of MAD. DC took on the rights to most Quality characters when that company went out of business in the mid-fifties but the only ones they kept going were BLACKHAWK and, I believe, a couple of the war titles. IW/Super put out a couple of legally dubious PLASTIC MAN comics after that and the character appeared in one DIAL "H" FOR HERO story but this 1966 title, initially with great Gil Kane art, was the first full attempt at a legit new series.

Walter Cronkite UFO Report

Batstuff # 27

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Man For All Seasons

Probably THE classiest film of '66, this stage-derived historical drama gave Paul Scofield his defining role onscreen as Sir Thomas More and provided early proof that actor/playwright Robert Shaw was more than just the big, silent bad guy in FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE. The stellar cast also included a very early appearance by John Hurt who would forever become known for an alien bursting through his chest. In spite of being rather dull and talky, the brilliantly acted A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, from the director who also brought you HIGH NOON and FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, would go on to win 6 Oscars as well as many other awards. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Perry Mason in Color

One of the final episodes of TV's classic lawyer detective series, PERRY MASON, was shot in color, preparing for the whole series to follow suit the next season but instead the venerable series came to an end.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Fantastic Giants

In 1966, comic book artist Steve Ditko famously left his greatest creation, SPIDER-MAN, for reasons that have been much speculated on but never completely confirmed. He immediately found some respect at Charlton, the low-paying publisher he had also done work for since the fifties. Note the self-caricature in the center of this well-remembered reprint collection of monster stories by the now-legendary artist.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Wrong Box

This all-star British dark comedy was yet another big hit for Michael Caine in '66. It really was HIS year at the box office.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Honeymooners

Jackie Gleason's Honeymooners sketch on his early fifties variety series led to a regular sitcom that rightly became a classic. In the early sixties, Gleason revived his variety series and here, as evidenced by this 1966 LOOK cover, he revived The Honeymooners. This time every week featured a new roughly hour-long musical version done in color live on stage in Miami Beach Florida! Sheila Macrae replaced Audrey Meadows as Alice but Art Carney and Jackie reteamed as one of the all-time great comedy teams. As you might expect, the strain of writing and producing a mini-stage musical each week showed pretty quickly but seeing the combination of Gleason and Carney together again was much fun. This was one of my dad's favorite shows in '66! By the seventies, both men had made a successful leap to the big screen with Carney winning an Oscar for HARRY & TONTO.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Ghost in the Invisible Bikini


The beach movie genre was winding down by this point and the second string stars like Tommy Kirk, Deborah Walley and Aaron Kincaid starred in this late, horror-themed comedy entry from '66. Like most of the earlier films, however, there were old-timey stars to keep the parents interested, also, and in this case, those included the great Boris Karloff, the classic Sherlock Holmes actor Basil Rathbone and Hal Roach comedienne Patsy Kelly. Nancy Sinatra also made an early appearance here on the eve of her becoming a sixties icon.