COVER STORIES for 11/26/2006
COVER STORIES INSTALLMENT #81
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...
And once again we return to another quartet of issues of the other-reality Charlton title, "Drive-In Movie Classics!"
So, here's issue number 13 of this series, cover-dated February 1964, featuring "The Slime People" - which had just come out in 1963, which would be why the blurb on the top of the cover doesn't include a date!
Given the vagaries of movie distribution in the day, I suppose it's possible that this movie might've still been showing somewhere when this issue came out... although it's probably more likely this was planned to be an earlier issue of the title, and for whatever reason wasn't run when originally scheduled!
This movie is, to be completely honest, complete junk... the basic plot has Los Angeles invaded by subterranean monsters, and a small group of people have to go underground to survive. Heck, that sounds like a lot of different cheesy movie's plots, doesn't it?
So, instead of dwelling on the movie being adapted (or the work that was done on this issue, which is another one of those issues that almost look like someone else contributed to the artwork, which looks much more stilted than usual), why don't I give you a bit more biographical information on the series primary writer and artist team, Joey Allen and Fred Michaels?
Joey and Fred were both born in 1940, Joey on February 12, and Fred on March 24th. They were each part of larger families (Joey was the youngest of six children, Fred was the next to last child of five). Because of their families' sizes, neither Joey or Fred's fathers had to worry about being drafted for World War II.
Joey's dad, Mitch Allen, was a police officer who was killed in the line of duty when Joey was 8, leaving his mother, Marianne, to try to hold the family together, which she did as a telephone operator. Joey's oldest brother, Jeff, who was 10 years older, went into the Army in 1948, and was killed in action in the Korean War. The next oldest sibling was Joey's sister Marcia, who also went to work for the telephone company after graduating from high school in 1950, and later married a slightly older man, Tony Rogers, and moved to New Mexico, after which the family seemed to lose touch with her (apparently Marianne Allen didn't approve of the marriage). The remaining siblings were Todd Allen (five years older than Joey), who followed their father into the police force (although he ended up working in more of an administrative capacity than in actual law enforcement), Darcy Allen (four years older than Joey, she found work in radio as an actress, but never made it big - she ended up working for the news department of a local TV station) and the twins, Bill and Tina Allen (both two years older than Joey - Bill later became a writer for cheesy tabloid-style magazines, while Tina worked as a clerk at a retail store, later marrying the owner of that store).
After Mitch Allen was killed, his fellow officers "adopted" the Allen family in many ways, trying to help them out whenever possible, very rarely financially. One officer in particular (whose name is lost in Allen family memory, unfortunately) took a shining to Joey (the rumor is that officer wasn't able to have his own children, for whatever reason) and gave Joey his first comic book, which was either an issue of "Batman" or "Detective Comics". This officer also took Joey to see his first monster movie, which was a revival of "King Kong." Both of these influences got Joey hooked, and after that officer left Connecticut for a position with the New York City police force, Joey kept up with those interests!
Moving on, here's issue 14's cover, featuring "X - The Man With the X-Ray Eyes," which was a Roger Corman/American International movie which many consider to be a classic shocker - and not just because Don Rickles was in the movie, either! Those of you who remember Rickles appearing in the Jack Kirby Jimmy Olsen comics might wonder if this means that issue 14 of Drive-In Movie Classics was the first Rickles appearance in comics, rest easy - apparently, the contract with A-I did not allow Charlton to use any actors' appearances at all, so the characters only bear a very vague resemblance to the actors playing them!
This was the second issue in a row to feature a relatively recent movie adaptation. What's really weird about this was that the previous year, Gold Key Comics had done their own adaptation of the same movie as a one-shot! Either someone at American-International screwed up when licensing the movie, having forgotten that Gold Key had the rights the previous year... or Gold Key's license didn't give them an exclusive to it! Or, perhaps, they just figured that getting a license fee from the same movie twice wasn't a bad idea!
Getting back to the bio on Joey Allen and Fred Michaels...
As I said, Fred was next to last of five children in his own family. Fred's father, Marcus Michaels owned a delicatessen in Derby, and Fred's mother, Blair Michaels, would work there part-time when she could, as did Fred and his siblings (the family actually lived upstairs from the deli). The Michaels children were Martha (the oldest, born in 1935), Mabel (born in 1936), Marjorie (born in 1937), Molly (born in 1938), Fred, and Millicent (born in 1942). Yes, that's right, Fred was the only child whose first name didn't begin with an "M"! Apparently, Fred's grandmother, Minnie, was responsible for Marcus being able to open the delicatessen in the first place, and to honor her, Marcus decided to start all his daughters' names with an "M" (I'll bet he didn't think he'd have four of them to name, though!). Sadly, the 1955 Derby flood (which affected Charlton's publications) pretty much destroyed the family deli, and what little insurance they had on the property wasn't enough to reopen it anytime soon, so Fred's parents had to look for alternative work for a while - Marcus became a traveling salesman, and Blair did secretarial work. About 1959 or 1960, Marcus left on one of his sales trips and never returned (interestingly, the Michaels family never went to the effort to have him declared legally dead, and there was no money to pay a private detective to search him out to see if he was still alive and just hiding out somewhere).
Anyway, the Michaels family deli also had a fairly large comic book display, along with other periodicals, and Fred spent many an afternoon after school and on the weekends reading the comics that had come in (at least, when the store wasn't busy).
It was 1956 when Fred and Joey met - to help the Michaels family out, Joey got a job working the candy counter at a local movie theater, and Fred started at about the same time. The two teenagers discovered they both had a love for movies and comic books, and often, even after their shifts had ended, they'd take advantage of having free admission to the theater to stay late and watch movies over and over!
As I probably said in the very first installment of "Drive-In Movie Classics," while working at this theater, Joey and Fred talked the manager of the theatre into letting them keep the posters and lobby cards when they took them down after a movie had finished its run. While both of them were of course excited when Showcase #4 came out, introducing the Barry Allen Flash, when they decided to start their own fanzine in 1958, they decided to focus on science fiction and monster movies instead, although with some comics content!
And here's the 15th issue, with "Devil Girl from Mars," a movie that was another extremely cheesy flick (and despite it being released in 1954, Joey always swore that was the movie that was showing in the theater when he and Fred first started working there). But at least Fred was able to do his usual nice rendering of sexy women with the title character (who ended up looking better than she did in the movie itself, from what I've seen!).
While Fred and Joey managed to get the first issue of their fanzine out in 1958 (named "SF&H" - for Science Fiction and Horror, naturally) by producing it entirely themselves, that was the only issue they got out that year, with two more the following year (also produced entirely themselves, although with the fourth issue, they started receiving some submissions from other people, as copies of their 'zine started making their way around).
And here's the last issue I'm looking at for this column - issue 16, with "Killers From Space" - another older movie!
By 1962, after doing their fanzine for four years, and having worked at the movie theater for six years, Fred and Joey were hired by the local television station to host their monster movie TV show, "Frightening Films" - many of which were anything but! Unfortunately, nobody took any photos of the set or if Fred or Joey in their costumes for the TV show, but what I heard about from Joey's son was that the basic set was a mad scientist's laboratory, with lots of test tubes (several had bits of dry ice so they'd "smoke") and some electronic gear which was mostly painted cardboard boxes with Christmas tree lights in it!
Fred and Joey apparently took turns being the main "host" of the show - some weeks Fred would play the mad scientist (called either Professor Phil Graves or Professor Mark Graves - both nice puns) and other weeks, Joey would. Apparently the fright wig, glasses and lab coat were so outrageous that almost anyone could wear 'em and be recognized as the Professor! There were other characters portrayed by Fred and Joey as well, and it appears that it depended on which characters would show up if it would be Fred or Joey playing the Professor.
The most commonly-appearing character was simply called "The Monster," which Fred (the taller of the two) would play - the Monster was implicitly the Frankenstein monster, or at least a man-made monster the Professor created, and the "makeup," such as it was, involved a modified rubber face mask which was attached to a wig.
Aside from the monster, there was "Larry," a werewolf (who was portrayed as a puppet manipulated by Joey), "Tutly," a mummy that Fred also played (just wound up with bandages), and the assistant, an Igor-type that nobody seems to recall actually had a name!
Apparently, the show had a faithful local following, and it lasted through 1966.
Anyway, as I said way back in Cover Stories 59, it was in late 1962 or early 1963 when Fred and Joey overheard a conversation between Pat Masuli and Dick Giordano that led to them working on this title!
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 !