Sunday, August 28, 2011

Jack Kirby & the Amazon Princess

"The King" would have been 94 today - lets celebrate by taking a look at his version of Wonder Woman.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Glenn Scarpelli in Hollywood

Before ENTOURAGE, before REX...we had the illustrated adventures of teen TV star Glenn Scarpelli (Norman Lear's ONE DAY AT A TIME, and the game show FANTASY).
Like yours truly, Glenn was raised in Staten Island, NY and moved to Hollywood to find fame and fortune. Glenn's dad was long time Archie Comics artist Henry Scarpelli, which explains why his Hollywood adventures appeared in Archie Comics! Glenn also appeared in the short-lived Ann Jillian ghost sitcom JENNIFER SLEPT HERE and made numerous guest shots on shows like THE LOVE BOAT and FANTASY ISLAND. He also released an album Ever wonder what became of Glenn? Look no further than here.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


After day of gardening, I've determined my backyard is KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS!

KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS (1977, directed by John Cardos) is an itch-inducing 1970s cult classic that is available on DVD via our friends over at Shout! Factory. The Special Edition DVD includes an new interview with star William Shatner; an in-depth commentary; rare behind-the-scenes footage; awesome and skin-crawlingly informative featurette Jim Brockett: Spider Wrangler and other cool stuff.

Now on to my review. In the tradition of THE BIRDS and JAWS, this film is a prime example of the popular "nature goes crazy" subgenre from the late 1970s. Other fine examples include favorites like GRIZZLY, PIRANHA and CRUISING.

Shatner, the consummate actor stars here as Robert "Rack" Hansen, a tight-jean and cowboy hat-wearing male chauvinist pig (and veterinarian) in some sleepy desert town in Arizona.
The mayhem starts when "Rack" gets a call from old man Colby (former football player Woody Strode) to tend to his sick calf.

After rushing the poor mouth-foaming calf to Hansen's lab, it mercifully dies. "Rack" is puzzled by this sudden and deadly illness, so he sends off some blood samples and calls it a day.
Enter Diane Ashley (Tiffany Bolling), a no-nonsense pantyhose wearing broad (and smarty-pants scientist) who quickly determines that spider venom is the culprit. And then she handles some some big hairy tarantulas...yikes! "Rack" our local sexist, egotistical, lying hypocritical bigot thinks Ashley is full of bull, but accompanies her anyway to Colby's farm to investigate. They are greeted by Colby's 'do-rag wearing wife Birch (ladies and gentleman introducing Altovise Davis, wife of Sammy) who informs the duo that their dog has died too! Ashley determines whatever bit the calf also bit the dog! "Rack" still thinks she's full of it.

Old man Colby then tells the mismatched couple that, oh yeah, he recently discovered a spider hill on his property - and we soon see it's not just your average run-of-the-mill spider hill - this thing is swarming with mother-fucking tarantulas! Ashley reveals that these spiders are attacking animals because pesticides have killed off all the bugs they usually feed on. "Rack" is starting to believe her and their attraction to each other is growing faster than a mob of tarantulas.

Back at the farm, a stampeding bull is covered with the giant spiders. Wait...if the livestock is now spider food - could humans be next? In a mad rage Colby and the gang set fire to the spider hill thinking that it will solve the problem - not knowing the entire community is soon to be infested with a horde of killer arachnids!!! The next day, after bidding his wife Birch goodbye (and leaving her with his gun), poor Colby drives his old pickup truck over a ledge when the eight-legged bastards begin to attack him. Sheriff Smith (David McLean) and "Rack" soon show up and find the old farmer's body in a cocoon of spider webs!

Back at the farm, the town's mayor orders that the property be sprayed with a stronger pesticide - because they have the big County Fair to worry about. Ashley can see that this douche is more concerned with making money from tourism than with dealing with what is clearly a very serious problem like the invasion of giant, hairy and deadly spiders.
Unfortunately the crop duster pilot is attacked by suicide-bomber tarantulas, and crashes his plane before he can spray the area, setting off a giant explosion that may have killed at least a few of the spiders. I think most of the budget must have been spent on this scene. What follows is my favorite scene in the whole movie. The newly-widowed Birch is alone in the farmhouse when the spiders attack–and of course she reaches for her late husband's weapon to fend them off.

So she points the gun at a spider that is crawling ON HER OWN HAND and SHOOTS!

Bye bye Altovise, see ya at the Sahara! Meanwhile Rack's flirty widowed sister-in-law (played by Marcy Lafferty, Shatner's wife) is alone on her ranch with her young daughter. Well, not alone–if you count the hundreds of spiders that attack her!
"Rack" is able to rescue his niece Linda from the spiders, sweeping her off to local Emma Washburn's lesbian lodge for safekeeping. The remaining residents of town have now barricaded themselves inside the lodge to protect themselves from the onslaught of the spiders - who are now friggin' everywhere! Chaos has broken out in the town and Sheriff Smith tries to escape, but is killed when the town's water tower collapses, smashing his car.

Things only get worse from here and I really don't want to spoil it for anyone. I have to say that despite being a vegan, I am not a fan of spiders. In fact, I have killed many a black widow on my property. (Picture me on my back porch with a shotgun yelling "get off my property you eight-legged freaks!"). Just thinking about them makes my skin crawl. But, the most fun part of watching this flick is to see actors and extras running around with REAL live spiders crawling all over them.

There's plenty of hammy acting, crazy scenes of Shatner treating women badly, an annoying little girl in peril and people covered in spider webs. I give this one a big 9 outta 10 and I think you will too.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Queen Mera of Atlantis!

The DC Comics cosmic zombie vs. superhero megaseries BLACKEST NIGHT and its sequel BRIGHTEST DAY have thrust several B-list characters into the spotlight.

Chief among these characters is Queen Mera of Atlantis.

This stunning red-haired beauty has been a supporting player in the DC Universe for almost fifty years.

She is generally known as a footnote in the Aquaman mythos.

Though after the DC "reboot" in a few weeks there is a good chance that Mera will be an A-list character in her own right.

Let's take a look at the history of this unique character.

Mera first appeared in AQUAMAN Vol. 1, #11 (September 1963) as an undersea queen from another dimension. That teen in red and blue is Aqualad, Aquaman's original underwater sidekick.

Mera was deposed and exiled to Earth, where she met the king of Atlantis, Aquaman (Arthur Curry aka Orin).

The two were taken prisoner and after being rescued, Mera decided to stay on Earth with Aquaman, as the two began to fall in love.

Within several issues, the two were soon wed in gala ceremony attended by the Who's Who of the DC Universe.

Mera and Arthur enjoyed several adventures together over the months that followed.

She often overshadowed him on the cover.

Within months, Mera gave birth to Aquababy, Arthur Curry, Jr..

With junior around, there was now an Aquaman family.

Things seemed to go along swimmingly for a while.

The Aquafamily continued to face unusual rivals.

Presenting: The Fire-Haired Karla!!!

Above is an awesome cover, though this seems to start a trend where Mera is victimized and Aquaman must come to rescue her.

See what I mean?

And again.

Oh, here's the incredible shrinking Aquaman. Unfortunately his comic book series was soon canceled and Mera was in left in limbo for a few years.

Things took a turn for the grim when AQUAMAN's title was revived in the 1970s. Aquaman's nemesis Black Manta kidnapped the Aquababy (Aquaman vol. 1 ,#60) and the couple fought against all odds to rescue and save his life. They failed.

Mera appeared in a series of solo adventures in the back pages of her husband's title during this period.

Mera then suffered a breakdown, abandoning her husband and blaming him for the baby's death. Their marriage was dissolved and Aquaman soon left Atlantis, but Mera stayed behind.

After a while Aquaman tried to make peace with Mera, but she savagely attacked him. In a desperate attempt to defend himself, Aquaman accidentally impaled Mera, believing that he killed her.

She in fact survived and later rose from her coffin, eventually leaving Earth.

We later found out that she was captured and held in yet another dimension, having had another son named AJ!!!.

After this escape she faced some evil sorcerers who stole her powers, forcing her live up on the surface world for a while.

Mera was now part of Arthur's life and adventures once more.

She even had a brief affair with his son (from another relationship)!

Things seems to normalize for a while when Aqualad (now Tempest) married Dolphin, Aquaman's ex-lover.

Mera appeared alongside Aquaman, Tempest, Lori Lemaris, Power Girl and Arion the Immortal in a JUSTICE LEAGUE OF ATLANTIS one-shot.

After all this, AQUAMAN was cancelled yet again and Arthur was thought to be dead for a while.

After a few years, he resurfaced. He was actually in a time warp, and The Justice League managed to rescue him - and he was awarded his own title once more.

After the INFINITE CRISIS, Mera somehow regained her powers and led a army of Atlantian rebels - and teamed up with a new sword-wielding Aquaman. Her former husband, Arthur was soon transformed into a squid-faced freak and was eventually killed. Again.

In BLACKEST NIGHT storyline, at the request of Tempest (remember him?) Mera reluctantly allows Aquaman's Earthly remains to be returned to Atlantis.
However before they can do so, they are attacked by zombie Aquaman, Aquagirl (she died during CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS) and Tempest's wife Dolphin (she also died at some point) who have been brought back to life as cosmic zombies called Black Lanterns.

Tempest is killed by Tula (Aquagirl) and instantly transformed into a Black Lantern as well. Mera manages to escape with the Trident of Poseidon and flees to JLA headquarters where she begins a cosmic adventure alongside The Atom. During the battle, Mera is chosen as a deputy officer of the Red Lantern Corps!

In the process she gets a great new red costume and a whole slew of new powers. Following the events of BRIGHTEST DAY and FLASHPOINT, the DC Universe is "rebooted" and a new AQUAMAN series is slated to begin, with Mera as his co-star once again.

Normally, Mera can breathe underwater, possesses enhanced density and muscle mass, granting her enhanced speed and reflexes as seen in his Hostess Fruit Pie ad.

And here she is on a jigsaw puzzle! Aside from comics, Mera's appeared on Filmation's SUPERMAN/AQUAMAN HOUR in the late 1960s. In the 2000s she appeared in three episodes of the JUSTICE LEAGUE animated series. Recently she made a brief cameo as part of Atlantis's royal family on an episode of Cartoon Network's BATMAN: BRAVE &THE BOLD.

So there you have it, the almost 50-year history of Mera in one blog post. She's a real catch!