Saturday, September 6, 2014

Friday, September 5, 2014

The World's Greatest Escape Artist(s) Meet...

...in a 1993 "Elseworlds" story set in early 1900s Gotham City.
The non-continuity tale re-imagines Batman (or "Bat-Man" as he's referred to) operating in a Victorian steampunk reality where science and the occult intermingle.
Besides Houdini, there are vampires aplenty, plus re-interpretations of several Batman characters including Alfred, Vicki Vale, and (surprise) The Joker.
The award-winning graphic novel is well worth reading, if you can find it.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Reading Room WORLD AROUND US "Great Houdini"

For kids in the 1950s-60s, the go-to for fast and accurate info (if you didn't have an encyclopedia in those pre-Internet days) were the World Around Us comic series...
...and that's where we'll find the longest and most accurate graphic retelling of the life of Houdini!
(And the artwork was great source material for covers of reports about the subject matter.)
World Around Us #25 (1960) was subtitled "Illustrated Story of Magic" and featured a number of tales about magicians though the ages.
BTW, the World Around Us series, despite featuring artwork by a who's who of Golden and Silver Age greats including Jack Kirby, Reed Crandall, Gerald McCann, Gray Morrow, Dick Ayers, Sam Glanzman, George Evans, and Angelo Torres, has never been reprinted!
The Houdini tale was illustrated by Norman Nodel, who is best-known for his artwork for the "Doctor No" movie adaptation that appeared in Classics Illustrated in England, but in DC's Showcase Comics in America!
You can read the American version and see the changes made between the British and US editions HERE.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Houdini's WEIRD TALES!

In 1924, the one-year-old Weird Tales magazine had not yet achieved the fame (or notoriety) that would make it a best-seller synonymous with fantasy and horror stories...
...so, for a couple of issues, the publisher brought in the famed Harry Houdini to write the cover-feature.
Sales didn't pick up, and the magazine was forced to go from monthly to quarterly.
For the third and final Houdini cover story...
...the publisher had an up-and-coming young author ghost-write the final Houdini entry, doing a first-person mystery-adventure instead of the non-fiction charlatan spiritualist exposes of the previous issues.
The writer was H P Lovecraft.
You can read both the tale and the story behind it (explained in a letter by Lovecraft to fellow author Frank Belknap Long HERE.
It's been reprinted numerous times, ususally under the title "Under the Pyramids", and credited to Lovecraft.
Weird Tales and Lovecraft remained together, each inspiring the other to amazing creative heights.
Lovecraft began work with Houdini and C M Eddy, Jr. on a non-fiction book entitled "Cancer of Superstition", but Houdini's death ended the project which was fully-outlined with several chapters written.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Houdini Reading Room TRUE COMICS "Great Houdini"

..here's another, grittier, version, with more emphasis on the person rather than the performer.
This tale from Parents Magazine Press' True Comics #54 (1947) goes a bit further about both what inspired Houdini and caused his death.
But it wasn't the last word about Houdini in the four color pages of comics.
You'll see a more detailed retelling of his life story tomorrow!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Houdini Reading Room REAL FACT COMICS "Master of Mystery"

...we thought we'd take a look at how he's been portrayed in comics.
Here's his second solo appearance (after cameos in strips like Kid Eternity) in a never-reprinted feature from DC's Real Fact Comics #1 (1946).
Note: Houdini's first appearance is in the ultra-rare Rural House's Mask Comics #1.
But the only known surviving copies are "slabbed" in plastic cases to increase their resale value, so we may never see that story ever again.
While the writer is unknown, the artist is Dick Sprang, best-known for his decades of work on comics' most famous escape artist, The Batman!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Cowboys + Dinosaurs = FUN!

Art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito
They just don't make comics like this anymore!
Masked cowboy hero vs gunslinger riding a pterodactyl...and a bright magenta pterodactyl at that!
It's the sort of concept a nine-year old would come up with while playing with his (or her) action figures, mixing the dinosaurs with superheroes and cowboys!

Why not?
That's what makes it so KOOL!
It's so darn silly you just have to look at it and think "what the--?"

That's exactly the sense of wonder we at Atomic Kommie Comics™ still feel!
We want to live in a world where anything can, and does, happen!
In pop culture, we call this sort of tale "cross-genre", where a story draws elements from disparate categories of fiction.

Sometimes there's a certain logic to it.
One of my favorite books involves fiction's greatest detective dealing with the first alien invasion!
Since he lived in London at the time the invasion took place, it seems only (dare I say it) elementary, that Sherlock Holmes would witness and analyze the Martian invasion of 1898!
That's the basis of the great pastiche, Sherlock Holmes' War of the Worlds by Manly Wade Wellman & Wade Wellman!
That novel, to us, defines KOOL!
(The fact the story also includes another of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic characters; Professor Challenger from The Lost World and other sci-fi novels, is a cross-genre bonus!)
Track down a copy. If you're a Holmes, Challenger, and/or War of the Worlds fan (I'm all three), it's well worth the effort!

Sometimes there's no real logic to it except--"why not?"
That's the category where something like Santa Claus Conquers the Martians goes!
And that's where the cover shown above goes.
This particular design was so cross-genre we put it in two wildly-different sections--Dinosaurs!, and Masked Western Heroes, because, hey, it fits into both categories, so--"why not?"

Keep the Sense of Wonder alive!
Give a back-to-school gift that keeps inspiring the imaginations of both the young and the young-at-heart!
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