Thursday, June 28, 2012

Are You In The MMMS?

I have to say that 1966 may have been the greatest year in history of TV for genre fans. That was the year that saw the debut of Star Trek, Dark Shadows, The Adventures Of Superman Animated Series, color broadcasts of the George Reeves Adventures Of Superman and of course

The Marvel Super Heroes

Most of us remember the series as “The Merry Marching Society” but that was actually the name of the marvel Comics Fan Club at the time. We remember the series under that name because of the catchy MMMS theme song that was played at the end of each half hour show.

The Marvel Super Heroes was a limited animation anthology show that stared five different Marvel characters and ran in syndication all across the country (WOR Channel 9 in NYC).

Monday – Captain America
Tuesday – The Hulk
Wednesday – Iron Man
Thursday – Thor
Friday – The Submariner

When I say that these cartoons were limited animation, I am talking EXTREMELY limited! The series was produced by xerography which consisted of scanning and manipulating actual comic book pages. Elements from a panel would be removed and moved whole across the screen. About the only things that were animated were lips. On occasion you might see a limb move but that was about it.

Each half hour show consisted of three 7 minute segments. Sixty- fi half hour shows were produced for a total of 195 segments. They were produced by Gantray –Lawrence Animation based in Canada, who actually subcontracted the Mighty Thor to Paramount Pictures Animation Division.

By any standards, even the animations standards of the time, this was crude work. What made the Marvel Super Heroes …well…MARVelous was the source material. We were actually seeing the 1960’s version of a digital comic book. The stories were lifted from the comics almost word for word. The art was the same as in the comics. Jack Kirby, Don Heck, Gene Colan, and even Steve Ditko art were featured on the show.
And then there were the wonderful and clever theme songs!

Who can forget such immortal lyrics as “Doc Bruce Banner belted by gamma rays turns into the Hulk…ain’t he unglamorous!” . IF only Sinatra had recorded THAT one!

The cast was largely unknown although those of us growing up in the 1960’s will surely remember Sandy Becker who voiced Captain America. Becker was a well known children’s show host in New York who had his own show (The Sandy Becker Show) and also hosted “Wonderama”. He is especially well remembered for how on November 22, 1963 he explained in a compassionate way to his audience of very young children what had happened in Dallas to President Kennedy.

Certainly the hardest working cast member of the cast was Peg Dixon who voiced ALL the female characters! The Wasp, Jane Foster, Pepper Potts, and Lady Dorma among others were all voiced by Dixon. I sure hope she got overtime pay!

Today you can find many of the episodes on DVD, VHS or even You Tube. The Marvel Super Heroes may not be Disney but for those of us who saw the cartoons when they were first made, they remain something wonderful and quirky. Just another reason why 1966 was a milestone year in comics history!

That’s 30!


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Happy Birthday Star Wars

Let me get say this up front. I’m a Star Trek guy. Have been since 1966 and I suspect that my first act when I reach the pearly gates or other dimension, Valhalla or StovoKor will be to get the Star Trek DVDS with the correct region codes for the hereafter. Like any life long Trekker, Trekkie, or just plain Trek NUT, I believe Star trek is just plain BETTER than Star Wars. Kirk is cooler than Solo. Data is superior technology to C3PO, and the Enterprise can just plain kick Death Star ASS!

Now that I have hurled that gauntlet I also want to say that I LOVED the original three Star Wars films. I waited impatiently for the ever greedy Lucas Arts to suck every DVD dollar possible before they released the films on BluRay and immediately snatched them up. (My old Star Wars DVDS have an honored place in the Maglio Video Archives. NEVER would I dispose of those babies!). Star Wars is AT LEAST as big as Trek and they did not produce over 400 hours of TV and film to get there.

My point...besides my deliberate attempt to royally tork off both Star Wars AND Star Trek Fans???

(ALWAYS a worthwhile endeavor by the way!)
Star Wars just turned 35!

"Star Wars" launched in theaters May 25, 1977, introducing the world Luke, Darth Vader, Leia, Han Solo, R2-D2 and C-3PO.

The film, spawned two sequels, 1980's "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi,". (The less said about the second trilogy, the better). Empire Strikes Back was my own favorite. Not only was Empire one of the two greatest sequels ever made (Godfather 2 being the best in my opinion), it was one of the best MOVIES ever made...period.

That first film laid the groundwork for a multi-billion-dollar franchise now comprised of comics, games, novels, clothing, all sorts of collectibles, a TV series and of course the legendary Star Wars Christmas Special (you could look it up!). Today one of the most successful MMORPGS being played is Star Wars – The Old Republic. Star Wars is EVERYWHERE.

Star Wars, like Star Trek, has become part of our cultural identity. Who among us hasn’t said “May the Force be With You” at least once in our life? Darth Vader has become one of the most iconic symbols of villainy in popular fiction history. He’s right there with The Joker, Moriarity and even Dracula. Everyone knows what a light saber is, what a Death Star does (and how oddly easy they are to blow up), and what “The Dark Side” is (if not precisely WHERE it is).

But it wasn’t always that way. Many, if not most of those reading this cannot remember a time when there WASN’T a Star Wars. From the time you were little kids, you got Star Wars on a regular basis. I was lucky enough to be there at the very beginning. I was 20 on that magical opening day, when the little hyped Star Wars first hit the big screen. Once out of the bag though, Star Wars spread like Shatner’s belly midway through any given Star Trek season. was THAT fast!

It’s hard to express just how ground breaking Star Wars was. You simply had to be there to appreciate the fact that nothing like it had ever come before and that nothing would ever be the same. Of course Star Wars was influenced by the likes of Flash Gordon, Forbidden planet, Saturday Afternoon Westerns and yes...even Star Trek...and yet...Star Wars was also a true original. It wasn’t just the revolutionary special effects. It wasn’t just the great score or the chemistry between the stars. Star Wars resonated with people in much the same way that Rocky did. It took elements from our collective culture and struck a perfect emotional chord with it’s audience. Also like Rocky, Star Wars (while beloved world wide) is resoundingly American. It is a Western writ large across the Galaxy. The good guys wear white and the bad guys wear black. Star Wars was created by the man who gave us American Graffiti, a quintessentially American film. Lucas is steeped in post World War II American values.

Never did he realize them more fully than in that first film.

Happy Birthday Star Wars. Here’s to another 35 years. And MAYBE Lucas Arts will come back from the Dark Side of merchandising and make some more GOOD Star Wars Films. (I can hope can’t I?!)

That’s 30!


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Some Animated News!

There is no doubt that Marvel rules the live action Superhero film genre. Movies like The Avengers, Captain America, Iron Man etc. have all been consistently outstanding. DC is hit or miss on the live action front. For every Dark Knight there is a Green Lantern. For every Batman Returns there is a Watchmen. However in the ANIMATED arena DC has no peer. They prove this once again with the recent release of Superman Vs. The Elite. This film is based upon Action Comics #775 “What’s So Funny About truth, Justice And The American Way”. Originally written by Joe Kelly (who adapted his script for the film), Superman Vs. The Elite examines the question of what happens when heroes will go to any length, including murder, to stop the bad guy. The Elite, a group of super powered “heroes” bursts onto the scene and becomes instantly super-popular because their methods are more “Jack Bauer” than “Jack Webb”. This plays into the very human desire for instant revenge. But, as Alan Moore once asked, “who Watches The Watchmen”? In this case it’s none other than Superman. Unfortunately the public relates more to the more violent “Elite” forcing The Man Of Steel to wonder if his time has passed. Without spoiling the ending I will say that it is very well executed and faithful to the spirit of the source material. This is a must see for any Superman or DC animated fan! In other DC Animated news, the long anticipated release of the Dark Knight Returns, based on Frank miller’s ground breaking graphic novel, is just about upon us! I have often observed that the only drawback to DC animated features is that they are sometimes too short. Features generally run about 70 minutes or so which gave short shrift to such entires as Batman Year One and DC New Frontier. Well it looks as if Bruce Timm and company are going to change all that with The Dark knight Returns. The feature will be releasing in TWO parts . Directed by Jay Oliva and executive produced by Bruce Timm, The Dark Knight Returns stars Peter Weller as Batman, Ariel Winter as Robin, David Selby as Jim Gordon, Wade Williams as Harvey Dent and Michael McKean as Dr. Wolper. Part 1 debuts this fall, with Part 2 arriving in early 2013 Peter “Robocop” Weller voicing an aged batman is, in my opinion, an inspired casting choice and I am very much looking forward to seeing how he interprets the Caped Crusader when part one releases this Fall! That’s 30! Mitch