Friday, January 28, 2011

Video Fridays: THE HUMAN TORCH

Continuing our weekly feature "Video Fridays"...
With the death of Johnny Storm aka The Human Torch II, let's take a look at several of his various media incarnations...
He first appeared in the 1960s Hanna-Barbera cartoon...

I included this because it's the only vid with the seldom-used opening narration!
BTW: the voice of Galactus is Ted Cassidy (Lurch from the The Addams Family tv series.) and The Silver Surfer is Vic Perrin (the Control Voice/narrator of the original Outer Limits.)

He also "apperared" on several lp albums including Golden Records "Amazing Spider-Man #1", "Fantastic Four #1" (Note: the most bizarre thing about these records is all the sound effects in the story were actually spoken with an echo effect.
So, when the cosmic rays hit the spacecraft, you hear an actor saying "RAK-TAK-TAK!"),

 and the Power Records book and record series including "The Way it Began".
BTW, the voice of the Human Torch / Mole Man / narrator is Peter Fernandez, the voice of the 1960s Speed Racer!

His next "appearance" was audio-only when Bill Murray (SNL, GhostBusters, Groundhog Day, etc.) portrayed him on a 1975 13-episode radio series modeled after the dramatic shows of the 1930s-50s!
Click here for the Fantastic Four: "Menace of the Mole Man" radio show mp3
or if you want "visuals" with your radio show...

Johnny did not appear in the 1978 FF animated series, replaced by Herbie the Robot (The Jar Jar Binks of FF history)..
Jack Kirby's original model sheet for H.E.R.B.I.E.
BTW, Johnny was replaced because The Human Torch was optioned for a live-action tv pilot which never got beyond Development Hell, not because the network thought kids would immolate themselves imitating him!

And finally, the trailer for the low-budget 1994 Roger Corman movie version starring Jay Underwood as Johnny! (The music is from Battle Beyond the Stars!)

BONUS: the ONE scene of Johnny in action as the Human Torch!

Interestingly, his animated form seems based on the Fleisher Brothers Superman from "The Mad Scientist" (the very first cartoon)!

BTW, I'll be wearing this to the memorial ceremony...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Human Torch is Dead! Long Live the Human Torch!

NEW YORK (AP) —While Marvel Entertainment has made no secret that a member of the quartet, which was introduced in August 1961, would die, exactly who among the group would fall has been a closely held secret, until the release of issue No. 587.

It's the Human Torch, leaving teammates Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman and the Thing to pick up the pieces and move forward.
Fifty years after cosmic rays transformed him into a man ablaze, the Human Torch will burn no more as the pop culture purveyor of super heroes and villains embarks on an ambitious story line that ends the Fantastic Four as a quartet.
In the newest issue, on sale today, of one of the company's longest-running comic books, Johnny Storm's life is taken amid a massive battle.
Battle cry of the Human Torch
Silver Age Torch meets Golden Age Torch
Enter...the Golden Age Human Torch (who's an android, BTW)!
Torch vs Torch!
Fantastic Four #54, one of Johnny's few solo cover appearances.
Pin-Up from Fantastic Four #3
Johnny Storm's Debut!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Video Fridays THE GREEN HORNET in "Freeway to Death"

Continuing our weekly feature "Video Friday"...
It's not often someone can take on the captain of the USS Enterprise...and win!
The Green Hornet can!
OK, technically, he's not the captain of the Enterprise here, but Jeffrey Hunter was the first man to sit in the captain's chair during the first Star Trek pilot episode, "The Cage".
When NBC said, "close, but not quite", and ordered a second pilot, Hunter turned down the option to return, preferring to do a pilot for Batman producer William Dozier called Journey into Fear based on a novel by Eric Ambler, previously done as a feature film in the 1940s starring Orson Welles!
Ironically, it was in competition for an NBC schedule slot against, among other shows, a second Star Trek pilot "Where No Man Has Gone Before" with William Shatner as the new captain of the Enterprise!
Trek sold. Journey didn't.
Hunter began doing tv guest-star roles, and when offered, took the guest-villain gig on Dozier's Green Hornet series, playing construction magnate Emmett Crown, who's also secretly financing an insurance company which offers "protection" to businesses!
Daily Sentinel reporter Mike Axford is investigating the matter and is told by his boss, Britt Reid, to work with The Green Hornet to expose the still-unknown head of the "insurance" company! Axford intends to do exactly that, and capture The Hornet, as well!
It's cross and double-cross as plans are made and plans go awry, resulting in kool fight scenes, Crown being exposed and captured, and The Hornet and Kato escaping the law again!
More location shooting, this time at an active construction site outside LA, where Britt Reid is almost "accidentally" killed and, later, The Hornet and Kato face several of Crown's bulldozers trying to crush the Black Beauty.
Since the car's rockets are ineffective against the heavy metal blades of the bulldozers, The Hornet and Kato use the previously-unseen Hornet Mortar (located in the same rear trunk compartment where the flying Hornet Scanner is kept), to loft explosive shells over the blades and disable the dozers' treads. The Hornet Mortar is never seen or mentioned again.
Here's the 14th episode aired (but 15th episode filmed), "Freeway to Death".

Monday, January 17, 2011

Martin Luther King, Jr--the Comic Book

On the day we honor the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr, the gang at Hero & Heroine Histories™ thought it only appropriate to present this item, the first comic book dramatizing his historic efforts.
From the website's intro to the comic...
Most sane thinkers consider MLK to be an important and historic larger-than-life icon, but how did that happen?
Especially given the marginalized press coverage of blacks in the 50s, how was his message galvanized among southern minorities and then spread as a single statement beyond the black community -- and how was it focused so specifically to such seemingly ignorable or boring local incidents as one black woman's refusal to give up a bus seat and a following small-town bus boycott, as well as the concept of Passive Resistance?
Without any need for hyperbole, this comic book is one of the reasons.

Produced by the Fellowship of the Reconciliation and sent very surreptitiously throughout the South (it was dangerous for many to own a copy), then translated, re-drawn, and distributed once again throughout the entire SOUTHERN CONTINENT through Mexico, into Central and then South America, this comic tells the story that established the myth of Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks at the time that it mattered, mere months after news events occurred.
Intended for adults, but shown in comic book format for the largest possible distribution and audience and instruction.
It was also produced as a comic because more adult seeming publications and newspapers were often destroyed by white businessmen and other violent types bent on continuing segregation's grip on the South.
But that does not mean people found distributing copies of this comic were not given their fair share of beatings and harassment, nor does it mean thousands of copies were not often destroyed.
Why? This comic is and was dangerously honest.
Featuring the Klan (lynching, bombs, burning crosses), Jim Crow laws, and the entire concept of Nonviolent Protest.
This pamphlet offered advice and instructions on how to use passive resistance and massive non-violent resistance against segregation, just as these ideas were fresh --and it also established a clear connection of MLK to Gandhi, a public connection that continues on to today.

A copy of this comic is held in the Smithsonian and many Civil Rights leaders recognize this as one of the most important AND PERSUASIVE items of the 50s in establishing or explaining their cause to the world, as well as giving many black youths the courage and direction to hold their own political protests.
Many notable sit-ins and demonstrations link to this comic book getting into the right hands - and it did get around, literally devoured by black college students at the time.
We're DELIGHTED to offer you not just the American version of this comic but also the SPANISH edition, of which maybe two or three copies are known to exist.
After extensive effort and search, we were able to find a copy in Uruguay.
Not joking. Completely redrawn and translated, click back and forth to compare art, some of the differences between the two are great.

Ever wonder how much influence and power a small press or self-produced item can have?
This is one of the best examples you'll ever see.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Video Fridays THE GREEN HORNET in "The Green Hornet" (1974)

BTW, this is our 100th Post!
Today, the NEW Green Hornet movie starring Seth Rogan and Jay Chou opens!
To celebrate (and contrast), we're offering a special treat...the FIRST Green Hornet feature film, complete and uncut!
Actually, it's a compilation of four tv series episodes, with additional fight footage tossed in, released shortly after the death of Bruce Lee, as you can tell by the promo posters!
The adapted episodes are "Hunters and the Hunted", "Preying Mantis", and the two-part "Invasion from Outer Space", all of which we've covered in previous Video Friday installments.
There was also a second compilation film, called Fury of the Dragon, but we were unable to find it online.
Enjoy this 90-minute slice of history, and if you go see the new flick, let us know what you think!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Green Hornet TV Series Marathon on SyFy!

Set your DVR!
The ENTIRE 1960s 
Green Hornet
TV series in ONE DAY!
All 26 episodes!
January 11th
on SyFy
Yes, they'll probably be edited for time.
But, since the show's not available on licensed DVD, this'll probably be the only time you'll be able to get the eps in one shot!
And, hopefully, they'll run some behind-the-scenes and promo material about the new film during the commercial breaks.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Video Fridays: THE GREEN HORNET in "Invasion from Outer Space"

Continuing our weekly feature "Video Fridays"...
With the new movie opening next week (and a special movie/tv entry planned for next Friday), we're winding up our look at The Green Hornet tv series with the two-part finale.
If you're going out, go out with a bang. And there's no bang bigger than an atomic explosion!
Mad scientist Dr Mabuse has created a citywide panic by faking a flying saucer crash and appearance by "stranded aliens".
Invading Britt Reid's townhouse (and zapping Kato), the spacesuited fiend demands the publisher help him and his fellow "aliens" get out of town without police interference so their mothership can send a rescue craft to pick them up in a remote area...the same "remote area" a secret military convoy transporting atomic weapons is due to pass through!
Though skeptical, Reid complies and Mabuse leaves, taking Lenore Case as a hostage.
Mabuse intercepts the convoy and hijacks an atomic bomb!
Rescue Casey from a leering lunatic and save the city from atomic Armageddon! It's a far cry from the gangsters and thieves the Hornet and Kato usually handle!

With a new producer and a totally-different approach, this ep seems like a last-gasp attempt to boost the ratings by going with a much more sci-fi/ fantasy-oriented storyline.
Thankfully, they didn't go to the campy level of Batman. It's still played straight.

Every last cent in the series budget was thrown in for location shooting and optical fx, including lots of highway stunt driving along with the show's best stunt-piece; The Green Hornet leaping from the back of Black Beauty to Mabuse's truck while both are barreling down a curving highway at 60+ mph.
Side notes:
The villain's last name, Mabuse, is taken from a famous German pulp supervillain. The GH character is not related to the German character, except in his revenge-crazed desire to blow things up. Larry D Mann plays him with all the scenery-chewing panache of a James Bond foe.
Linda Gaye Scott who played the villain's "shocking" sidekick Vama, appeared on numerous '60s genre shows including Batman, Lost in Space, and Man from U.N.C.L.E., usually in a skintight ensemble!
These are the only episodes without an appearance by reporter and (Hornet's nemesis) Mike Axford, but another red-headed reporter named "Bill" does appear!
And, it's the only episode where Kato is actually knocked unconscious (albeit by electric shock)!

NOTE: the clip provider, HornetNest1000, left out the end credits of ep 1 and opening credits of ep 2, to "flow" the two-parter better. The original source, Encore Action, had omitted the "next week" teaser and "last week" recap when they aired the eps, so HornetNest100's choice makes sense.
Here's the series finale of The Green Hornet (and hint of how the show might have proceeded if they had done a second season)...