COVER STORIES for 06/10/2007
COVER STORIES INSTALLMENT #109
Welcome, faithful readers (and those of you joining us for the first time) to the 109th 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 the other-reality Charlton title, "Drive-In Movie Classics!" But this time, there's a difference: For no particular reason, I'm presenting EIGHT issues instead of just four! And if, perhaps, "Comics They Never Made" aren't your cup of tea, then just skip down to the bottom for a special announcement!
But before I get into that... a quick dip in the mail bag! Back in Cover Stories 105, I wrote: 'Viking Women and the Sea Serpent" was, if I recall, a movie made overseas in one of the Scandinavian countries, and redubbed for US release.'
Ever-alert Cover Stories reader Andrew Horn realized I was just plain wrong, and wrote to me, "Nope, this was a Roger Corman AIP film shot by Corman himself in Paradise Cove in California. With Susan (The Wasp Woman) Cabot and Abby Dalton, who played Joey Bishop's wife in The Joey Bishop Show."
I must've confused this movie with a different one. Thanks for the catch, Andrew!
Now, onward with the issues this time around!
Issue 33 of this series featured an adaptation of an older flick, "The Day the World Ended," which was another Roger Corman movie! According to Marty McKee, who provided this info to the Internet Movie Database, "After a nuclear war, an unlikely group of people, including a rancher, a geologist, a crook and his girlfriend, find themselves trapped in the middle of nowhere while battling an ugly mutant created by Paul Blaisdell. The geologist and the crook also find the time to fight over the rancher's daughter, while the moll fumes."
That pretty much gibes with my own recollection of the movie. Fred Michaels, the artist on this series, was apparently not impressed with the actual mutant as it appeared in the movie, so in this issue, he drew it looking much more like the poster (used as the cover, naturally). The art's still looking rushed at this point, but not as badly as four issues ago. Writer Joey Allen's son, Jason (from whom I got most of the biographical information) told me that according to his father, after a few months of working faster than before on each issue, he adapted to it... and it shows starting here. Whereas some of the first two years or so of Drive-In Movie Classics looks a bit stilted in place here (especially panels taken expressly from stills), with this issue, Fred's style loosened up a bit, making it look a bit more exciting. Fred was also a known fan of Jack Kirby's work, and this issue's action sequences have a bit of a Kirby feel to them (or perhaps I should say Simon & Kirby feel?).
Issue 34 brings us to "Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers," and according to Joey, Jason and Fred were really looking forward to this adaptation, because it was one of their favorite films. Fred's style continued to evolve here, and this may have been one of the fastest issues for him to draw, given all the flying saucers, which were pretty simple designs. If you've never seen this movie, by the way, the effects were done by Ray Harryhausen.
Issue 35's adaptation of "Fire Maidens of Outer Space" had art that was a bit unusual. The first half of the book was definitely in Fred's older style, while the last half looked like the previous issue's looser, more dynamic style. Why was this? I asked Jason about it, and he looked through his father's old notebook, in which he'd documented the whole process. An entry on this issue says that it had originally been started to be a previous issue (probably the one I mentioned way back that was done by a different artist), and to help get ahead on things, Fred finished off the adaptation for this issue.
Issue 36, with the "Forbidden Planet" adaptation, was obviously one of Fred and Jason's favorite adaptations to do, and it shows. Joey told me, "Fred was absolutely nuts about Robby the Robot, and he had a collection of some of the Robby toys that had come out, which are long since lost, unfortunately. " Apparently, having these to use as reference allowed Fred to change some camera angles in certain scenes to allow for a bit more variety than usual for a movie adaptation. And of course, Anne Francis was rendered in loving detail, looking even more attractive in the book than in the movie, if that's even possible (especially with Charlton's printing).
And as a special treat for you readers, here's the trailer for "Forbidden Planet!"
Issue 37 was a rush job, and according to Jason's notes, the "Indestructible Man" artwork wasn't done by Fred, but by a different artist... in fact, Jason didn't do this adaptation, either! Apparently, someone at Charlton came across a previously-prepared adaptation of this movie in their files that was never published, and to help get ahead of production, it was decided to make this the 37th issue. Fred and Jason weren't even asked to provide the poster for the cover artwork, as there was a copy of that in the file, too... and as you can see, the photography was pretty bad... the poster's folds show up plainly, plus the whole thing's cockeyed!
Having the extra time to work on issue 38's adaptation of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" was a definite plus for Fred. Since there wasn't a lot of special effects to render in comics form (at least nothing real big and exciting), this issue gave Fred a chance to work on his expressions a bit more. His style was definitely improving by leaps and bounds... and you know, after three years on this title, why wouldn't it?
Issue 39 adapted "The Phantom From 10,000 Leagues"... and boy, does this movie stink! Fortunately for Fred and Jason, with this film already having been out for this long, they were able to completely rework it. The basic plot is still the same (mad scientist unleashes atomic monster from the ocean floor), they just took it and reworked the dialogue, pacing, and the monster itself (which looks much better inside the comic). Joey told me that Fred really wanted to do a new cover for the book, but Fred talked him out of it, since the style had been "set" to feature the poster art.
And here's the final one for today: Issue 40's adaptation of "The Beach Girls and the Monster." Apparently reworking "The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues" for last month's issue was more trouble than it was worth, because this issue's adaptation is pretty much the same as the movie... with perhaps even more of a focus on girls in bikinis (if that's even possible). If it weren't for the monster, this could've almost passed for one of Charlton's romance titles, art-wise!
So that's the eight 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!
Before I wrap up this week's column, it's time for that SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT I teased at above! You may recall that six weeks ago, I presented Joe Lenius' choices for sexy comics covers. Well, you can get in on the act yourself!
Have you ever read one of these columns and thought, "Wow, I can think of four or five better covers that fit that theme," or maybe, "Why doesn't Jon do a column with this theme and these covers?" This is my challenge to you: Any one of you who have your own idea for covers that fit either a theme I've already presented, or have covers to fit a theme I've never presented, just write to me at with your choices and your comments, and I'll fit them in as soon as possible.
What will you get for your troubles, other than the glory of seeing your name credited in here? It'll be a surprise... in fact, as I write this, it'll be a surprise to me!
This is an open-ended challenge to you readers... at least, it's open until I get tired of reminding you guys about it!
Join me next time for another installment of "Cover Stories," where the theme will be, once again, "Seeing Double," 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 !