COVER STORIES for 07/30/2006
COVER STORIES INSTALLMENT #64
Welcome to the 64th edition of "Cover Stories," in which I look at a number of comics covers with a common theme!
I know, it's been five weeks since the last one... but it's once again time for...
Continuing from installment 59's history of the Charlton title that never was, let's engage the Kurtzberg Alternate Reality device, and check out issues 5-8 of "Drive-In Movie Classics!"
You may recall from the last installment that the creators of this title were Joey Allen (writer) and Fred Michaels (artist), who overheard Charlton editor Joe Masuli talking to Dick Giordano at a restaurant about this new title idea, and that Joey and Fred had a history with sci-fi and horror movies from working at a movie theater, and later hosted a monster movie program on a local TV station. You may also recall that they provided posters from their own collection that were used for the cover art... which were initially being cut apart until they decided to take photos of the posters, and provide Charlton's production department with the photos to cut up as they pleased.
What I didn't tell you last time was that the adaptations for many of the early issues of this series were done almost entirely by memory! Thanks to having seen most of the earlier films adapted again and again, Joey and Fred were able to re-create the scripts nearly verbatim (in the case of the first four issues, the only one they hadn't memorized was "Cat-Women of the Moon," but research has shown that this movie may have been chosen for that issue because it was the current movie being shown on their TV show when they had to start work on that issue).
I also forgot to tell you that the text pages for most of these issues appear to be verbatim versions of the press releases the studios sent to newspapers. In some instances, though, all-new text pieces were written (covering topics from make-up and special effects in movies to providing appearances to date of actors in the movie being adapted).
Issue 5, dated July 1963, adapted "The Brain That Wouldn't Die," an especially schlocky movie, and the most recent movie they'd done to that point. This may have been another issue where the movie was chosen because it was currently being run on the TV show (records indicate that once the comic got started, Joey started taking notes on all the movies they showed on their show, just in case). Joey's son, Jason Allen (who had sold the run of this title to the Alternate Reality Comics Shop I bought them from), when asked about it, said that a script had been mailed from the studio, but when he looked at the envelope it was mailed in, the postmark indicated it had been mailed maybe a month before the issue hit the stands (one thing Jason had done since the death of his father had been sorting out all the records of what his father had worked on, which was a major chore, since his father was a major pack-rat... unfortunately, the original movie posters, lobby cards, and most other memorabilia were long-gone).
Joey and Fred had a ball with this issue... well, at least, I think Joey worked with Fred on it, but the art style is a bit different than the previous five issues. Looking at the artwork, it appears that Fred may have only done breakdowns of this issue in pencil, which were finished by someone else... possibly by Charlton's regular artist team Charles Nicholas and Vince Alacia. Jason Allen remembered his father saying something about Fred being very sick early on in their comics career, and this might have been worked on at that time.
Anyway, this was the August 1963 issue, featuring "Invaders From Mars," and it's primarily the rendering of the Martian seen on the cover that is the giveaway that Fred probably didn't do much of the issue.
Oh, I mentioned most of the original memorabilia was gone by the time that Joey passed away, didn't I? According to his son, Jason, Joey's collection of movie memorabilia at one point was rivaled only by Forry Ackerman's - at least, so far as posters and the like goes. In the late 1970s, Joey found himself in financial difficulties - his TV show was cancelled, and his work on this title didn't go anywhere after the series was also cancelled. His wife's health was such that he needed to move the family to a healthier environment, and in order to do that, he sold off almost all his memorabilia - and this was way before eBay, so you can imagine he didn't get top dollar for it! Rumor has it some of the pieces ended up in Bob Burns' collection, some went to Forry, and still other pieces finally ended up in a few Planet Hollywood restaurants. I'd imagine most of the pieces have changed hands so many times since Joey sold them off that it would be impossible to determine what was originally owned by him.
Issue 7, featuring "It Came From Outer Space," cover-dated September 1963, showed what a good thing it was that Fred was back full-time doing the art chores again. You know, now that I think about it, it could be that Charlton might have briefly considered doing this issue in 3-D, since the original movie was released on 3-D, and that Fred used the extra time trying to figure out how to do the 3-D process for it. Then again, since this would've meant having to bind in 3-D glasses in each issue, plus the 3-D comics "craze" was long in the past, probably not (too much expense for Charlton to consider, no doubt). Fred's art conveyed the proper spooky atmosphere here (I can't quite tell who inked it, but whoever it was, they did a fantastic job), and Joey seemed to have likewise scripted the adaptation to take full advantage of the comics page.
If you're wondering where Joey Allen and his family ended up when they moved from Connecticut... well, I can tell you they went to Yakima, Washington, where Joey took a job at the local movie theater as manager. His son, Jason, worked there part-time as well, and Joey's wife, Virginia, also worked the box-office. Jason thinks that perhaps Joey was going to buy the theater, but decided against it.
Yep, here in issue 8, it's turkey time again... cover-dated October 1963, this issue really showed how little Joey and Fred thought of this movie, and it wouldn't surprise me if this one had been done based entirely on the script that the studio would've provided, with very few stills to work with. Honestly, though, I haven't seen the original movie myself, so it's difficult to compare this comic to the original. The text feature for this issue was a brief account of the early history of special-effects movies, starting from Georges Melies' stuff and going up through the Lon Chaney silent movies.
So that's the four issues of this title for this edition of "Comics They Never Made," so let's shut down the Kurtsberg Alternate Reality device, and get ready to look at comics you can actually find at a local convention... next time around!
Join me next time for another installment of "Cover Stories," in which I'll present some covers that revisit a previous topic, and in the meantime, you can check out my blog at http://waffyjon.blogspot.com for other musings and ramblings by me, or email me with comments about this column at !