COVER STORIES for 10/01/2006
COVER STORIES INSTALLMENT #73
Welcome, faithful readers (and those of you joining us for the first time) to the 73rd installment of Cover Stories, the weekly column in which I, Jon B. Knutson, present a group of covers with a common theme (unless I'm doing an installment of one of the sub-series of Cover Stories, 1-10 or this week's installment)!
This time around, it's time once again for...
After our break (with the Thunderbirds comics) last month, it's time to go back into the vaults for Charlton's "Drive-In Movie Classics," a title that doesn't exist in our reality - but fortunately for you, I happen to know the owner of an alternate reality comics shop, who sold me the entire run of this book, as well as its companion series!
This time around, I'm not providing much behind-the-scenes info about the creators of this title, Joey Allen (writer) and Fred Michaels (artist)... so let's get into issue number 9's feature!
This issue was one of those rare occasions (especially in the earlier years of this title) where Charlton got the rights to a movie that was going to be coming out around the same time as the book was coming out! Indeed, I've been told that originally, Charlton hoped to make some kind of deal whereby this particular title would be sold in selected theaters - especially drive-in theaters - since there'd be a ready-made audience for the books there (plus the fact that this issue was loaded with house ads for Charlton's other books, thus providing some assistance to the bottom line of the other titles, I'm sure).
Joey's son, Jason, whom I was put in touch with, told me that his father revealed that the original problem was that the price point of the comics wasn't high enough for most movie theaters to consider selling the books - compared to the profits they could make from popcorn, soft drinks, and other items, anyway. As a trial, a few movie theaters showing this movie, "The Day Mars Invaded the Earth," did get some copies of this issue to sell, complete with a cheap point-of-purchase display, at the snack bar, with a price sticker over the original cover price, bumping up the price to a quarter!
Anyway, on to the movie - since this was a new production, Fred Michaels didn't have the usual photo references or memories of actually watching the movie available, and was limited purely to what few advance photos he could get! It was at this time that he started trying to track down some of his fellow film fans from his fanzine days who lived in the Los Angeles area, to see if any of them worked for the movie studios, and who could get him some advance stuff to work from... unfortunately, he was initially unsuccessful at this.
About the movie? Well, it's not exactly a classic, is it?
Issue 10 and 11 of Drive-In Movie Classics feature... well... honestly, turkey movies! Phantom From Space, featured here in issue 10, was so painful to read that, to be honest, I didn't get beyond the third or fourth page before I just started flipping through it and looking at the photos! As we've seen in previous entries, Fred tended to put the least effort into the issues with the worst movies (although, to be honest, the previous issue's art was pretty darn good - but I'm guessing Fred was probably trying to impress the studio execs in order to get more new movies on the schedule for future issues).
In a phone conversation with Jason Allen, he told me the following:
"Dad and Uncle Fred..." he thought of Fred as an uncle, obviously, "...really hated doing the issues with the really lousy movies. For every issue with a movie like 'The Day the Earth Stood Still,' they had six or seven issues with drek like 'Phantom from Space.' But as much as they hated doing those movies, they still loved that they were working in comics. I remember once dad told me that they were hoping that if they got enough work doing 'Drive-In Movie Classics,' they would get a shot at doing some Dell Movie Classics... or maybe even working for Marvel or DC."
And as you can see, here's this major stinker of a movie in issue 11! Robot Monster is pretty famous among sci-fi film fans for their ridiculously cheap monster... made using a gorilla suit with a space helmet in place of the gorilla mask!
Despite what Jason told me, it seems with this issue, Joey and Fred decided to have some fun with this adaptation! If anything, they actually managed to make this issue a lot more fun to read than watching the movie would be (well, unless you were watching the movie with some friends who would help you make fun of the movie, a la Mystery Science Theater 3000)!
With the 12th issue, Joey and Fred struck pay dirt, adapting the sci-fi classic "The Day of the Triffids" - and the issue shows how much they enjoyed working on it! Finally, they had a new movie to adapt that was actually good - well, good being a relative term (I'm sure that after doing Robot Monster, this felt like adapting Shakespeare!).
By the way... speaking of MST3K (as fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 call the show), did you know that when that show was at the peak of its popularity, there was an attempt to publish an MST3K comic book, using the original artwork from Drive-In Movie Classics with added silhouettes of Joel, Crow and Tom Servo? Too bad it never came to fruition (at least in our reality, anyway... since I haven't come across a copy of the Overstreet Alternate Reality Comic Book Price Guide, I don't know if the reality these books came from had an MST3K comic or not!).
So that's the four issues of this title for this edition of "Comics They Never Made," so let's shut down the Kurtzberg 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 !