Saturday, August 25, 2012

Joe Kubert Tribute

It's official.

The world has seen last of Tor in his wolrd a million years ago.


Because Tor's creator Joe Kubert, another comics-art legend, passed away, joining Frank Frazetta, Al WIlliamson, and Roy Krenkel in the great beyond.

To most people reading this, it will be old news; I first found out this sad message while speaking with artist and writer (and Savage planet co-creator) Dan Parkins at the 2012 Dum-Dum this year. It turned out that Joe passed away on Sunday August 12 (which happened to be my birthday), while I was visiting my uncle's house in Pueble Colorado, en route to the the convention in L. A.

Although most of us knew ths was coming, as Kubert was in his mid- eighties, it came as a shock nontheless. I'd just had a recent transaction with Joe less than a month ago. I had only just completed a correspondance course in inking from the Joe Kubert school of art. I had never been able to attend the actual school, since my folks suggested that I go into teaching. But I was able to take a penciling course, and later, one in inking. Joe was nice enough to go over each students' art lesson, and make corrections personally; I was fortunate enough to get an original Kubert-inked pteranodon drawing out of the penciling course. But as for the inking course, I had completed all but the final lesson; I was looking for a job at the time, and when I did find one, I was so caught up in it that I didn't finish.
Until this past summer that is. It seemed I had somehow lost that materials and instruction; but Kubert school was kind enogh to send me xeroxed copies of the final lesson. It's completed now, along with Joe's excellent feedback!

Joe Kubert and Russ Manning with the two artists a remember the most fondly growing up with. Kubert's Tarzan stories, which he did for DC in the early 1970s were among his best work; they share a quality with Tor, his iconic Cro-Magnon hero, in presenting Burroughs' character as a lone wanderer who inate sense of justice manages to prevail over the cruelty he encounters among the lost cities and tribes he is continually discovering.

Thanks, Joe, for everything, including a lifetime of incredible lost-world adventures. You will be sorely missed.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Chico, the Black-Headed Leopard

I remember on the Ron Ely TV show back in the seventies, there was one episode that featured a mysterious feline that might be refered to as a "panthard"--an otherwise normal-coated leopard, with a melanistic "pantherine" head. Was this an authentic color mutation (some sort of incomplete melanism)? Or was this a case of someone getting out the spray-can?

The episode, which I have discovered was titled "Leopard on the Loose," puzzled me for years. But now I have discovered a blog article that revealed in greater detail all I remembered regarding the episode, and more.  That he was a friend of  Jai, that poachers were after him, that he ws valuable pecisely becuase of his coloration, etc. The only thing it did NOT mention was the leopard's name on the show, which  recall as being "Chico," though I could be wrong. As far as the animal's coloration, this was not solved, although evidence points toward a case of fakery, the same as the black puma Weakfoot, in the Disney movie The Ghost of Cypress Swamp and the black tiger "Rhu" in the filmatic semi-adaptation of Andre Noton's The Beastmaster. This sort of simulated coloration, as cool as it looked, sadly, was dangerous for the animal actors, and is now thankfully banned. The tiger who played Rhu tragically died as a result, and this is why the tiger in the sequal was normal-colored.

The site has loads of interesting info on mysterious cats and other cryptid wonders that are stll possibly out there lurking in the darkened corners of the world:

This article also contains some tantelizing evidence of a genuine captive black tiger in Ringling Brothers circus. I like how that guy describes how he loved big cats as a boy, and always went to the mall to checked out that same book, and oggle that mysterious photo. I would have done he same for sure!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Review: The John Carter Movie

As all ERB fans are well aware as of this writing, the John Carter movie is relaesed in theatres. Plans for this live-action movie has been around since the late eighties. Finally, in March of 2012, Burroughs fans finally got our wish.

Was it worth the wait?

Pretty much. With high tech CGI at their disposal, now filmakers are truely able to give the story the treatment it deserves. I still wonder what it might have been like had it really been made back in the eieghties, when stop-mtion woould still have had to have been relied on for banths, thoats, white apes, and perhaps even tharks (though those would more likely have been played by human actors, and thus have come across as terribly fake). Or perhaps of the proposed animation version had actually been realized. As it is, though, we are able to see the Martian world as envisioned by Burroughs truely roar to life on the screen. The thoats, apes, tharks and banths are as close as possible to living, breathing creatures. Well, not the banths--we just get a glimpse a few dead ones (maybe they'll in the sequal--if there is one, which I'll get to in a minute). I really appreciate today's affects for their magic in creating what was heretfore possible only in Burroughs' fertile imagination.

As for the story itself, there are are certainly omissions, though its sufficient as a treatment of Princess of Mars (which would have made a better title than simply "John Carter," especially for non-Burroughs fans). The introduction of Woola the calot is well-crafted, but it would have been better had the kept the scene where he saves Carter from a pair of white Martian apes. Speaking of which, the apes do feature prominately in the later arena-battle. One thing got me to thinking. Unlike in the book, the movie's apes don't much look like primates, let alone resemble the African gorilla, as Carter describes them, perhaps because the idea of primates evolving on Mars would diminish credibility. That's okay, of course, except you still have to explain the presence of the Red Martians. They're humans, after all, and therefore primates. There are other liberties as well. I don't recall that thoats sported horns. Of the movies' creatures, Woola is perhaps the best-realized, sort of a sleek cross between a bloated caterpillar and a pug-dog with a lolling blue tonque.

I am pleasently surprised that they did manage to show the early scene when Carter comes upon the thark incubator, complete with the thark infants hatching. The movie also does not forget that, in the world of the novels, Burroughs himself is part of his own created "universe," and is merely the "editor" of the stories; the opening and closing scenes do more than justice to this aspect of the series. The role of the Holy Therns is explicit even from the start, one thing that some fans have already found fault with, but seems to work okay.

More than that, I won't say concerning the movie's plot, though it's a fair facsimile of the book. The actress playing Dejah is simply gorgeous, as she should be. JC's hair is longer than in the iconic paintings by Frazetta and Whelan, more like the more recent actors who have played Tarzan.

The ending certainly leaves the gates open for another one, not to mention the entire series.

But my real question is: will it happen?

We're lucky, really lucky to finally see this, and for that alone we should be grateful. However, there is already talk on the internet about this being a flop, and others have responded that the charges are premature at best, and, unfortunately, a lot of people may have actually wanted such a big, Disney-sponsored franchise to come crashing down, as a way of showing that they hadn't fallen for all the hype. Whether the film is a hit or a flop is still a bit iffy at this point, as reportedly, it's been most successful oveseas.

But that's not really what matters.

Imagine for a moment a faithful ERB adaptation that really broke box office, generating tons of cash, and a huge demand for merchandise. That's what ERB really needs. And I think it's fair to say that no such miracle hasn't happened with this movie, whether it's fair or not (I'd opin not). A mere moderate hit, I fear, will be unlikely to even generate a sequal that isn't a straight-to-DVD hack job. Maybe they could have made it a bit clearer to non-Burroughs fan as to what was going on--by voice-over maybe, having JC explain his story to the audience. He did, after all, narrate the books.

The thing is, though, that now in Tarzan's 100th year, and in conjunction with the movie, the ERB estate has greenlit multiple John Carter comics series fromm Dynamite even a new, (though somewaht PC) Tarzan reboot. There are also a number of promising-looking ERB graphic novels, all by talented writers and artists, from Dark Horse, due out before the year's end. It would be wonderful if all this went over hugely, but I'm not all that optimistic.

I'll be blunt: what ERB really needs is demand. And demand requires a blockbuster.

Above is the link (you'll have to cut and paste 'cuz I still don't know how to links work in here) about the negative press regarding John Carter. This one is definitely on the side of the film.

Now if we if we could just get At the Earth's Core made into a cgi movie.

Again, I fear that'll depend soley on this movie's success.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Descent Into the Past

Edgar Rice Burroughs invented the lost worlds of Pal-ul-don, Pellucidar and Caspak. Tarzan visited all three (Caspak only once in the comics, thus non-canonical). But other prehistoric realms have featured occasionally in the Tarzan comics. There was a prehistoric world that existed just outside the elephant graveyard in a Hal Foster print, in which Tarzan encountered swarms of pterodactyls, a giant carnivorous saurian rather like a flesh-eating sauropod, called a "gigantosaurus," and a tryrannosaurus rex. In the Kubert DC comics, Tarzan encounters a lost realm deep in pymy country, where he encounters both a sabertooth tiger, and later on a strange survival from the dinosaur age, to whom the pygmies offer human sacrifice.

Then there is this Russ Manning illustrated comic story, published first during Tarzan's Dell comics run, and reprinted later when Dell became Gold Key, called Descent Into the Past. It has Tarzan venturing to a lost plateau were time his stood still for millions of years. A couple of astronauts land on the plateau in their space shuttle. It is up to Tarzan and his mangani freind Barkat to rescue the astronauts and lead them safely off the plateau.

Unlike most other lost worlds, Manning's lost plateau appears to harbor only mammals. There is not one dinosaur or prehistoric saurian to be seen, which indicates this particular lost land must have become isolated more recently then the others, sometime during the Cenozoic.

Tarzan says that the plateau represents Africa as it was a million years ago, but that is not quite right: most of the fauna he Barkat, and the astronauts ancounter is not African. There is the saber-tooth cat, whom is first seen attacking a herd of zebra-like horses. Tarzan and Barkat later slay the same beast or another of its kind. Though the saber-tooth dinofelis did indeed roam the African savannah of a million years ago, this species appears to be the more familair smilodon, which was indiginous only to the Americas. The phorohacas too, are strictly New World, as is the giant sloth. Both of these originated in South America. The dinohyus lived in North America during the Miocene, and other entelodonts ranged across Eurasia.
The Homo Eretcus-type hominids could be characterized as African, as humans first developed in Africa, then swept in and out of the continent on many separate waves.

The hyenodons are perhaps the only distinctly African species, but here Manning makes an additional error. He depicts them as merely huge, preshitoric versions of the familiar spotted hyena (as he did also in one of his Pal-ul-don strips), and this is incorrect. Hyenodons were not ancestral to hyenas; nor were they ancestors of canines, as Burroughs himself depicted them in the Pellucidar books. Hyendons were creodonts, an entire family of carnivous mammals separate form all the modern canrivora. There were also many types of hyenodont, ranging from small, weasel-like species, to enormous brutes. In fact one species, hyenodon horridus, was indeed nearly horse-size (as one of the astronauts observes), and likly superficially resembled the modern hyena. To get a good idea of a hyenodon horridus, check out the "wargs" in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

Anyway, it's a good comic. it would still be interesting for Tarzan to discover a lost world that si authentically African, with libatheriums, deinotherium, chalictotherium, pelorovis, African tigers, dinofelis, and of course, our own ancestor, Australopithicus Africanus.