Thursday, December 31, 2009

Favorite New Years Holiday Images: WDC&S 48 (1947)

Question: Would Donald Duck rather spend Christmas with a burning beard (as he does in THIS POST), or New Year’s Eve like this?

Personally, I think he’d rather be reading all 102 POSTS in TIAH Blog for 2009! But, I can be biased sometimes!

Happy New Year from TIAH Blog! See you in 2010!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

More Favorite Christmas/Holiday Images: LOONEY TUNES AND MERRIE MELODIES # 99 (1949).

THIS IS POST 101 FOR 2009!!! (Didn’t think we’d make it, did ya! Nyaah!)

Let’s… um, “kiss” the Christmas/Holiday season good-bye with Bugs Bunny!

‘Nuff said… unless you care to link to my older post on the interior contents (HERE). Warning! You may be sorry!

WE MADE 100 POSTS FOR 2009!!! More Favorite Christmas/Holiday Images: WDC&S 64 (1945)

Last post, featuring the cover image for 1964’s Donald Duck # 99 (…fittingly, our 99th Post for 2009!), illustrated that Simple says it best!” with its image of the Ducks in a stately, portrait-like Christmas pose.

In contrast, we present a real beard burner that is about to become rather un-simple for Donald as soon as he catches a whiff of the smoke.

Sure makes you wish you could see what happens next! Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

More Favorite Christmas/Holiday Images: Donald Duck # 99. (1964)

Sometimes, simple says it best!
This is certainly the case for the cover of Donald Duck # 99Christmas Album 1964”. (Cover dated January, 1965)


A collection of Christmas-themed short stories featuring Donald, Daisy, Huey, Dewey, and, Louie, Uncle Scrooge, Gladstone Gander, Gyro Gearloose, and Goofy, this was also one of the very first subscription comic books I ever received.

Comic book subscriptions were very handy in the ancient days of spotty newsstand distribution. And, thanks largely to that service; I missed only two issues of DONALD DUCK between 1964 and 1972. They were “factory-fresh”, seemingly untouched by human hands – and still smelled of newly applied printers ink! Ahhhh, heavenly!

But, the comic book subscription came at a price – and not just the “per-issue price”!
Folded over lengthwise by machine (resulting in the dreaded grading term “Subscription Crease” right down the middle), subscription comics from Gold Key circa 1964 would arrive in your mailbox with a “brown paper sleeve” (similar to “brown paper bag” material), upon which was your name and address, covering the “middle-third” of the folded book – with the top and bottom thirds sticking out (GASP!) unprotected!

Bad as this might have been to future collectors, subscription copies took a considerable turn for the worse in 1968. By then, a name and address LABEL was simply GLUED to the upper left corner of the book. Imagine treating a comic book like a common, ordinary magazine… BARBARIC!

Your options were to either leave it there (…kinda okay, since it was YOUR OWN NAME on it), or to try pulling it off. After one or two RUINED COVERS from such endeavors, I wisely decided to leave the labels as they were! One well-meaning aunt actually tried to STEAM OFF one of those darned labels. The resulting horror of that act, and its lasting effect on the book in question, leaves me scarred to the present day! NOOOOOO! MAKE IT STOP! MAKE IT STOP!

Anyway, as I try to stop shaking, please enjoy this fine Christmas image by artist Tony Strobl – and the history lesson on comic book subscriptions thrown in free of charge. …Uncle Scrooge would like that!

More Favorite Christmas/Holiday Images: The Flintstones # 35. (1965)

As we continue to celebrate the holiday season – and inch ever closer to 100 Blog posts for 2009 (…Ah, the reason for the recent flurry of posts is finally revealed!), here is an all-time favorite of mine… The cover illustration to Gold Key’s The Flintstones # 31. (Cover Date: December, 1965)

The content therein mainly consists of a comic-book adaptation of the original TV series episode “Christmas Flintstone”, written by the great Warren Foster.
In this wonderful story, as many of you may recall from TV, Fred Flintstone substitutes for a sickbed-ridden Santa and (AHEM!) “Saves Christmas” – back before every fictional character and his fictional brother had an opportunity to “Save Christmas”. In fact, at least chronologically (given the time and setting of The Flintstones) Fred is probably the FIRST character to (all together now) “Save Christmas” – before there even WAS Christmas… don’t ‘cha know!

The art for both the cover and interior story is by Phil DeLara.

BTW, I made certain to watch “Christmas Flintstone” on DVD on Christmas Saturday, followed by the Justice League Animated episode “Comfort and Joy”. Best of the classic, and the best of the contemporary!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy Boxing Day from Yogi Bear and TIAH Blog!

More holiday cheer, as we celebrate Boxing Day… with Yogi and friends popping of out (…what else?) a box!

Two things to note:

I doubt Baba Looey has ever appeared anywhere else without Quick Draw Mc Graw (…perhaps QD was off somewhere “El Kabong-ing”) and Mister Jinks REALLY should return that YELLOW POLKA-DOTTED TIE while he can!


Cover Image from Yogi Bear # 13 (July, 1963)

Friday, December 25, 2009

BEARY Christmas from TIAH Blog!

I know that whenever I think of Christmas, I think of Yogi Bear! (…Okay, maybe not so much!)

But, Yogi gives us a good Christmas image to share with the readership for Christmas 2009!

I haven’t been big on Christmas or Holiday cards for a number of years now. Even when it comes to returning wishes to those who are kind enough to remember me at this time of year. Those who know me personally know why.

But, know that I only wish the best for all of you who read this Blog – and the same to those who don’t! They just won’t know it, because they’re… um, not reading!

Anyway, here’s “Yogi the Christmas and/or Holiday Bear” to wish one and all a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday Season!


Don't you love those Gold Key painted covers!

Ho-Ho-Ho! And Hey-Hey, Hey!

Cover image from Yogi Bear # 11 (January, 1963)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas Eve (WDC&S # 340)

It’s Christmas Eve! The time, like Donald, that we stock the tree and its environs with gifts for those we love!

And, hopefully, unlike Donald, those loved ones don’t catch us in the act!

Cover from Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories # 340 (January, 1969). Art by Tony Strobl.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Continued “Cover-age” of Top Cat!

As we say farewell to Arnold Stang, let’s take a look at the one aspect of Top Cat that Mr. Stang did not directly influence… the comic books.

Here are some selected cover images from the mid-1960s… the best period for Gold Key comics! As you can see, they did well by the characters, as did nearly every Gold Key issue of the period. It’s easy to see why I liked them so much.

I don’t know if Arnold Stang ever saw any of these but, if so, I’ll bet he enjoyed them!

Above left – TOP CAT # 7.

Below – TOP CAT # 12, 13, 17.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

He’s the Most Tip-Top! R.I.P. Arnold Stang.

Flags should fly at half-mast in every alley in America, in tribute to Arnold Stang – a personal favorite actor who left us at age 91.

Among his many roles, in both live action and animation voicing, was that of TOP CAT, the popular 1961 Hanna-Barbera prime time animated series.

Other animation voicing roles of note were Herman (of Herman and Katnip), Shorty the obnoxiously hyper little sailor friend of Popeye, and the Honey Nut Cheeiros Bee!

I don’t know what Arnold Stang’s last appearance might be, but he did a DVD extra feature for the TOP CAT the Complete Series DVD set of late 2004. Interested parties can enjoy a ten-minute interview with him there.

I’d almost like to go outside and clang two trash can lids together (the method Top Cat used to summon his gang) in memorial to Mr. Stang… but with today’s plastic lids, it just wouldn’t be the same!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snow-Blogging! (WDC&S # 341)

For various reasons, this Blog has been dark since Thanksgiving. This weekend, we have a blizzard-conditions snowstorm raging on outside – so why not Blog, while I can!

So, as I face a hellish day of shoveling snow tomorrow (…Something about our popular concept of “Hell” and “Snow”, just don’t seem as if they should go together!) let’s enjoy a snow scene by the great Carl Barks, done for Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories # 341 – February, 1969!

And, know that I am NO LONGER “dreaming of a white Christmas”!


Peter Potamus in “Kooky Spook”. (1964)

To get us in the mood for my upcoming “Looong Review” of the DVD set “Saturday Morning Cartoons 1960s Volume 2”, here’s a cartoon that is not on the DVD but should, hopefully, be included in a future set.

Kooky Spook” finds our balloon-traveling buddies, Peter Potamus and So-So, having to spend the night in a haunted castle to break a curse and rid the castle of its resident ghost.

During the same TV season, Hanna-Barbera would do a different variation on this theme with The FlintstonesA Haunted House is Not a Home”. And, five or so years later, Scooby Doo and the Gang would take a turn at the “spend-a-night-in-a- haunted-structure-bit” with “A Night of Fright is No Delight”.

I can recall, but cannot identify the specific episode, that even The Simpsons did the “night in a haunted house” as an episode-starting throwaway bit. They just cheerfully walked out the next morning, with nothing having happened, and collect their reward… or something that gets the main story going. Clearly, this was inspired by the above-mentioned H-B shows.

So, let’s enjoy Daws Butler as Peter Potamus and the ghost of “Anguish MacGruesome” and Don Messick as So-So and the old English gentlemen.

The uncredited story has both Warren Foster and Michael Maltese stamped all over it. Elements of each of these two great cartoon writers are evident in this short. So, take your pick, writer-wise.

Boo!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving! WDC&S # 303: “A Phalanx of Feathers”

As we hit the midway point in Thanksgiving Weekend 2009, care to imagine HOW MANY FEATHERS are in this scene of Donald, Huey, Dewey, Louie, the Turkey, and their garb?

Not even cover artist Carl Barks knows for sure…

From WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES # 303 (December, 1965)

Enjoy the holiday!


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving! Huckleberry Hound in “Grim Pilgrim” (1959).

For a Thanksgiving treat, here’s yet another Huckleberry Hound cartoon that’s not been released on DVD.

Okay, now this wasn’t exactly Huck’s best cartoon – but I absolutely love the Indian’s ultra-long, seemingly-everlasting, war-whooping battle charge!

Let’s hope that, someday, we can all be thankful for the complete Huckleberry Hound series on DVD! Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

DVD Review: Batman the Brave and the Bold Volume Two


Batman the Brave and the Bold: Volume Two

(Released November 10, 2009 by Warner Home Video)

Another Looong DVD Review by Joe Torcivia
Sometimes, these reviews just write themselves!

It’s especially true when you’ve written a detailed review for “Volume One” of a series, and little or nothing changes in subsequent volumes. So it is for Batman the Brave and the Bold: Volume Two. Perhaps fittingly, I’ll go on the “same auto-pilot” to write this review that Warner Bros. did in creating this DVD set.

Both my readers and the DVD consumers deserve more – but here goes:

You can read most of the background and the specifics of Volume One HERE.

Once upon a time, in the long-ago and far-away “Silver Age of Comic Books” (roughly defined by the 1960s), there was a notable series from DC Comics called The Brave and the Bold. It ran from 1955 thru 1983, and introduced us to the Justice League of America, the Suicide Squad, and the Silver Age version of Hawkman among others. Starting with its 59th issue in 1965, it became the “Batman Team-Up” book, pairing Bats with Green Lantern – followed by virtually every known “guest star” in the DC Comics Universe.

And so follows this superb animated series, which teams Batman with both heroes and villains from every known corner of the DCU.

The tone is lighter than the contemporary comic books, its predecessor Batman the Animated Series (1992-1999), and the current crop of Batman feature films. In both style and content, it owes much to the imaginative comic books of the Silver Age.

Diedrich Bader is quite good as Batman, for someone not named “Kevin Conroy”, and guest hero voices like Will Friedle (already a DC Animated veteran as “Terry McGuinness” on Batman Beyond) as Blue Beetle, Tom Kenny as Plastic Man, James Arnold Taylor as Green Arrow, and particularly John DiMaggio’s reinvented version of Aquaman make this a winner all the way!

As is our custom in these reviews, we’ll break it into CONS and PROS.

Oh, and if you’ve seen these EXACT CONS and PROS before, in the review of Volume One, just know that virtually nothing has changed, save the episodes.

The CONS:

The Set Itself: Just about every “CON” about Batman the Brave and the Bold: Volume Two can be filed under this category. Let me count the ways…

The Number of Episodes: In a word… FOUR! JUST FOUR! REALLY? ONLY FOUR? YES, ONLY FOUR! Have I said “FOUR” enough to make the point?

About the only good thing is that these volumes appear to be on a quarterly release schedule (Hey, just like some Silver Age comic books! Talk about “authenticity”! Imagine, a comic-book-based DVD series that IS RELEASED like a comic book!).

The FIRST VOLUME of (again) FOUR EPISODES was released in August – and a THIRD VOLUME is scheduled for February – and this upcoming THIRD VOLUME will have… will have… will have… FIVE EPISODES!!!!! YES! YES! YES! YES!! (One more for effect… YES!) Okay, sarcasm off.

Yes, it will take THREE VOLUMES to reach the standard number of 13 episodes that would comprise something resembling a typical single season for an animated program! Them’s the “Bat-Breaks”, boys!

The Price: For this set of FOUR episodes, that you can knock-off in little more than 90 minutes of sitting time, Warner’s suggested list price is… (GASP!) 14.98! That’s 3.75 per episode, folks! Fortunately, this MSRP mockery is only “suggested”, and diligent searchers can find it for less.

The Extra Features: There are NO extra features! No commentaries. No DC and WB folks discussing the show and the comic book that inspired it. NOTHING!

Robo-Promos: This is a new item for my “CONS” list, but one that is making me increasingly annoyed. Pop in a DVD and you are assaulted by what I call “Robo-Promos”… those that play automatically before you even reach the initial menu.

Warner, more than any other studio, seems to make this a standard practice. Yes, I know you can “zip” through them, but they’re annoying all the same – all the more so when you consider that you’ve PAID Warner for the privilege of owning a digital copy of the program. There are FOUR (That number again!) of these Robo-Promos, totaling about 05:25.

…And, in the ultimate gall, MORE such promos are also offered as an option on the Main Menu! At least these are completely optional, and are usually for related DVD product that could be of interest to those purchasing the set.

The PROS:

Content Notes: In previous reviews, I’ve complained about the total lack of CONTENT LISTINGS included as part of the packaging of a number of Warner Animation sets this year. Among those in my collection alone are Tom and Jerry: The Chuck Jones Collection, Max Fleischer’s Superman, Saturday Morning Cartoons 1960s Volume 1 AND Volume 2, and Ruby-Spears Superman. Notice how that list GROWS each time we visit this topic!

But, as with Volume One, I’m pleased to report that Batman the Brave and the Bold: Volume Two lists its episode content on the outside back of the package. Of course, with only FOUR EPISODES, how much package space could it actually take! I shouldn’t have to cite the inclusion of four episode titles incorporated into the set’s packaging as a “PRO”… but let’s give WHV its due, and see it they can continue with Volume Three, when episode count climbs to a stratospheric and unwieldy FIVE. …Oops, Sarcasm seems to have slipped back on!

Characters and Settings: If there’s one thing you can count on from Batman the Brave and the Bold, it is new animated interpretations of “Characters-And-Settings-of DC Comics Lore”. Needless to say, we are not disappointed…

In this (Ahem!) FOUR-episode set alone, there are so many characters to consider, that we’ll break it into “Featured Characters” and “Cameos”:

Featured Characters: Batman, Guy Gardner (Green Lantern), Kilowog, Green Arrow (Silver Age, no beard), Jason Blood and Etrigan the Demon, Kamandi “The Last Boy on Earth”, Dr. Canus, Wildcat, Black Lightning, Metamorpho, Katana, Black Manta, B’wana Beast, Deadman, Gentleman Ghost, Speedy, Blue Beetle III (Jaime Reyes), Blue Beetle II (Ted Kord), Blue Beetle I (Dan Garrett), Doctor Polaris.

Cameos: Green Lanterns: Tomar-Re, C’hp, Saalak, Arisia, Katma Tui, Boodika, the “Diamond Green Lantern”, the “Robot Green Lantern” Xax (the insect GL), and many other familiar faces and shapes from years of Green Lantern comics. Villains: Clock King, Kite-Man, Felix Faust, Mr. Zero, Punch and Jewlee, Mad-Hatter, Bookworm, Shame, King Tut, The Archer, Ma Barker, and Black Widow.

…Just imagine what a full-season set would have had!

It’s Not TV: For the first time, viewers can enjoy the (Ahem!) FOUR episodes that make up Batman the Brave and the Bold: Volume Two with no “Network Identifying Bugs” in the corner of the screen, no pop up ads for other shows, and credits that you can “freeze-frame” and read. And viewers can hear the “extended version” of the show’s ending theme, which has probably NEVER played on TV because promos are always running over it!

Indeed, one of the best reasons for collecting ANY contemporary TV show on DVD is that is has probably never been seen in this particular way ever before!


And, the ultimate “PRO” for Batman the Brave and the Bold: Volume Two…

The Episodes:

“Day of the Dark Knight!”: Story by DC Comics writer J.M. De Matteis.

Teaser: Guy Gardner taunts an alien prisoner and gets his! I was hoping for an animated recreation of one of the most famous comic-book moments of the ‘80s – “Batman takes Guy Gardner down with ONE PUNCH”! Didn’t happen, but all those Green Lantern cameos make up for it.

Main Story: Batman and Green Arrow thwart a mass prison escape (hence the villain cameos), and are transported to 5th Century England by Merlin the Magician, who was posing as a prisoner and triggered the escape to attract the attention of Bats and GA. Our two heroes are thrust into the story of the “Sword in the Stone” vs. Morgaine LeFay, and with Jack Kirby’s Etrigan the Demon thrown in for good measure. One-time Man from U.N.C.L.E., David McCallum, is um… “magic”, as the voice of Merlin.

The competitive nature between these heroes takes shape here, with Batman acknowledging the immaturity of it all, though he fully indulges nonetheless. The BACKGROUNDS in this show are fantastic – well in excess of WB animated standard!

“Enter the Outsiders!”:

Teaser: B’wana Beast, a Silver Age character so bad even DC was ashamed of it, assists Batman in capturing Aquaman’s foe Black Manta – who’s escaping to the sea, carrying off an armored car by operating a large multi-legged robot. (Um, what’s “BM” gonna use that money for under the sea… and can I even CALL him “BM” in a “family review”?) Suitably, Batman describes the outcome of this misadventure as “Gross!”.

Main Story: Batman and Wildcat turn the “teen-age Outsiders” (!) away from a life of crime and urban terrorism. A rare stumble results in this being my least favorite of the series – at least of those seen so far. Wildcat is superbly characterized, as a hero of a bygone era (Comics’ Golden Age: 1940s-early 1950s), but it’s not enough to balance of the grossly mischaracterized Outsiders!

Black Lightning, Katana, and Metamorpho (who was properly characterized as the adult Rex Mason in JUSTICE LEAGUE) are misfit teens, who commit bad deeds in the service of The Slug – a grotesque mutant reading in Gotham’s sewers.

This is just WRONG! I get the same crawly feeling as when seeing characters like Raven and Starfire depicted as “little girls” on the best-forgotten TEEN TITANS series of 2003.

Just imagine what a “lighter show” like Batman the Brave and the Bold could have done with an “anything-goes” character like Metamorpho, depicted as he would have been in the Silver Age. There is no Geo-Force, Halo, Looker, etc. And, if we had to have “troubled teens” for Bats and Wildcat to rehabilitate, they could choose from the aforementioned Halo (an original Outsider), Terra, Raven, Jericho, maybe even Damage and others I no longer recall. Whether you like your DC characters “light or dark”, one thing this series has always done well is characterization. Here, they sadly misstep.

“Dawn of the Dead Man!”:

Teaser: In Jack Kirby’s post-apocalyptic world of tomorrow, Kamandi helps Batman recover a “future-vaccine” to halt a present-day plague. This short bit has enough potential to have been a half-hour episode on its own.

Main Story: Begins with an eerie, semi-transparent Batman rising from his grave! “You’re probably wondering who finally got me. The thing is, I’m NOT DEAD… not YET, at least!”

How do you not love a story that starts like THAT?!

An “astral projection” of Batman (who will soon suffocate, trapped in a buried coffin) teams up with Deadman, Green Arrow, and Speedy to foil Gentleman Ghost, who is raising an Army of the Dead to take his revenge on the city of London! This is perfect Silver/Bronze Age Batman, as he would have appeared in The Brave and the Bold comic book of the time! It’s also my personal favorite episode of the set!

“Fall of the Blue Beetle!”:

Teaser: Batman and Silver Age Blue Beetle Ted Kord break into a heavily fortified, top-secret installation – eluding guards and automated defenses – talking “shop” and comparing their respective gadgets and equipment all the way. Nicely sets up the main story.

Main Story: Novice hero Blue Beetle (Jaime Reyes) learns of the past history of the Blue Beetle line – and the fate of former Beetle Ted Kord, which involved Batman. Another excellent entry!

Overall: Batman the Brave and the Bold: Volume Two succeeds in ways both expected and delightfully unexpected. It’s not simply reflective of the lighter (but extremely imaginative) Silver Age DC comic books – but takes that tone and squarely hits every point in time of the DC Comics Universe.

Despite the severe and obvious flaws in it’s “Three-P’s” – Packaging, Presentation, and Pricing – Batman the Brave and the Bold: Volume Two is highly recommended to fans and enthusiasts of Batman, DC Comics and the Warner Animated Series based upon them, the Silver and Bronze Ages of Comics Books in general, and anyone who just wants to kick back and have a good time!

Told ya, this review could write itself! Now, bring on Bat-Mite and the Music Meister.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Zorro’s Comics and Stories!

As long as we’re touring that wonderfully unusual era of “split covers” for WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES, let’s do one more – Issue 275 (August, 1963), or what I call “When Zorro Came to Town”!

As you can see, the heroic photo image of Zorro dominates (casts a noble shadow?) over the title’s usual inhabitants: Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, and Li’l Bad Wolf.

In fact, Mickey is hardly seen at all, and uncharacteristically suffers the indignity of getting a “painted eye”!

Zorro would swashbuckle his way through issues 275 thru 278 before vanishing like the night wind to fight for justice another day – presumably, in some other comic title.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Zorro and Friends!


While still in the throes of “Zorro-mania”, I’ll share an unusual comic book cover.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES # 278 (November, 1963)

Donald Duck and Daisy by Carl Barks.

Mickey Mouse, Goofy and Black Pete by Jack Bradbury.

And Guy Williams as Zorro!

Check out the floating, disembodied heads of both Zorro and Pete. Their “tilts” sort of complement each other… in a symmetrical design sense sort of way!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

DVD Review: Walt Disney Treasures: Zorro The Complete First and Second Seasons


Walt Disney Treasures: Zorro The Complete First and Second Seasons.

(Released November 03, 2009) A typically long DVD Review by Joe Torcivia.

Out of the niiiight, when the full moon is briiiight,
Comes the horseman known as Zorro
!”

And, out of the latest wave of Walt Disney Treasures DVDs come two amazing sets – ZORRO: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON 1957-1958 and ZORRO: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON 1958-1959!

As is usual with the Walt Disney Treasures sets, there are introductions and much background information courtesy of film historian Leonard Maltin and loads of extras and special features. There is even a “postcard-size lithograph” and collector pin – a different pair packaged in each of the two season sets.

But, the true “Treasures” here are the shows themselves and the actors’ performances therein – particularly that of series star Guy Williams!

Relegated mostly to The Disney Channel in recent decades, ZORRO was neither a large part of my childhood, nor did it ever enter into my adulthood. The last time I can actually remember seeing it was in early evening local syndication in 1965. The same year that Guy Williams would move on to the role I will forever associate him with – Professor John Robinson, of LOST IN SPACE (1965-1968)

In LIS, he was the ultimate father figure… the one I wish I had. He was everything famous TV dads Ward Cleaver and Jim Anderson were, but with a laser rifle and spaceship. He’d “teach you life’s lessons” while “saving your life” at the same time. …And he was always there for dinner conversation and needed moments of consolation.

As Zorro, I’m learning that he was even more amazing! (I guess he’s STILL teaching me things!) His warmth and charm, that only peeked out from time to time (…as he was continually upstaged by kids, robots, “special guest stars”, pyrotechnics, aliens, and monsters on LOST IN SPACE), is on complete display in ZORRO.

And, was any television star of the time better at sweeping (dare I employ the term “swashbuckling”?) action than Guy Williams? I’d say not! He ran, jumped, rode, and fenced his way into our hearts, our collective consciousness, and television history.

But Williams was far more than a mere action hero. As Zorro’s alter-ego Don Diego De La Vega, he adopts the personality and mannerisms of a foppish dandy and a man of letters to throw off any suspicion that he is secretly Zorro. He smiles cheerfully at everything, makes pleasant but innocuous small talk (though, often with a deliberate and purposeful undertone) and moves about in a somewhat lithely – but, nonetheless, manly – fashion! Yes, it IS possible to do this, if you are as skilled as Guy Williams.

Diego’s busying himself with scholarly books, poetry, and song, while eschewing any inclination towards “the active life”, fools both his concerned father and scoundrels alike. In one superb moment, he DEMANDS that he be allowed to try on a “black mask and cape”, that the local tyrant is forcing upon a line-up of men in order to identify one of them as Zorro.

De La Vega’s request to don the outfit is dismissed, as the tyrant cannot fathom it possible that one such as he might be Zorro. That’s an indication of the depth of duality that Williams brings to the role of Deigo and Zorro. So effective is this deception, that no one considers that both Deigo and Zorro sport the same moustache!

Great as Guy Williams was, the supporting cast was just as large a part of the show’s success.

Gene Sheldon, as Diego’s mute manservant Bernardo, offers repeated moments of inspired pantomime. Bernardo CAN hear (and quite well) but, as Diego poses as an idler, so Bernardo feigns DEAFNESS, and acts as Zorro’s eyes AND ears.

Henry Calvin is a cartoon-come-to-life as Sgt. Garcia. He is the living embodiment of every large, bulky, dull-witted sidekick ever seen in animation. He’s one of those characters you feel for, because he’d like to “do right”, but must remain loyal to his commandant. His comedic talents and hangdog delivery, combined with a surprising ability (for one so large – think Oliver Hardy as a mustachioed Spaniard) to pull off unexpected amounts of slapstick humor, never fail to generate laughs.

Britt Lomand completes the cast of the first arc (…more on that to follow) as the evil Captain Monastario. He sneers, preens, snarls, and schemes just like all the “Spanish Oppressor” parody villains that animation writer Michael Maltese would create to throw at “El Kabong” – a Zorro-type send-up “masked avenger identity” created for TV’s Quick Draw McGraw.

Episode Three (“Zorro Rides to the Mission”) begins with a hilarious exchange between Garcia and Monastario, in which the former is soundly berated by the latter for his (what will become repeated) failure to capture Zorro. These two actors settle quickly and superbly into their roles of good-natured bumbler and frustrated superior and, when together, they generate much of the show's humor.

Oh, yes“Arcs”. One very unique thing about ZORRO is that it apparently unfolds in ARCS, not unlike many modern TV series. Highly unusual for the late 1950s!

While each episode has a nominal “ending”, Zorro does not “wrap up a case or mission” and begin an entirely new one next week. Instead, there is an overall story that carries over a number of episodes.

The first of these concerns Don Diego De La Vega returning from his studies in Spain to find Captain Monastario ruling Los Angeles of Spanish California with an iron (and unjust) hand. To keep his father safe, as the neighboring rancher has been branded treasonous by Monastario in a play to seize his land and wealth, Diego adopts both his foppish pose and the identity of “The Fox” – El Zorro – to vanquish the tyrant. This arc is said to run 13 episodes, before moving on to a new story.

Sampling Volume Two, we also see the beginning of the tale of Zorro’s adventures in Monterey. Though we reach an initially satisfying conclusion in that “first episode”, here too, things are not fully resolved – leading into the next show and likely several more.

Setting up the anticipation for each episode to come is Dick Tufeld, narrating the (miraculously included) “Next Week Scene Previews” with gusto. Tufeld would later work with Guy Williams on LOST IN SPACE as the voice of the Robot – and in the series’ third season would also narrate “Next Week” promos in the same fashion as he does here for ZORRO!

Music scores are by William Lava – later of F-TROOP and 1960s LOONEY TUNES fame.

Guest stars to come include Ricardo Montalban, Caesar Romero, Ross Martin (The Wild Wild West), and future LOST IN SPACE co-star Jonathan Harris!


Special features include a look at the life of Guy Williams, with Leonard Maltin and Guy Williams Jr. and, in a separate feature, the pair host a tour of ZORRO costumes and memorabilia (including a run of DELL COMIC BOOKS!) at the Walt Disney archives.

There’s a segment of Walt Disney introducing Zorro to the Mousekteers. In it, Guy Williams makes a appearance in costume and wonderfully handles the subject of whether Zorro is “real” or “legend”! Another feature, “The Life and Legend of Zorro”, traces the character from his 1919 serialized magazine debut thru the TV series.

There are also several longer ZORRO programs that aired on the Walt Disney television show, after the ZORRO series was canceled.

Every Walt Disney Treasures set has many things to recommend, but this one is particularly special as it offers the expected quality and features but also presents a series – in its ENTIRETY – that deserves to be preserved and enjoyed. And, I’m looking forward to continued enjoyment of Guy Williams as Zorro!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

World Series Game Six: Yank-Zilla, Andy, and Mo, Deliver Championship 27! Yanks 7- Phils 3!

I've never been happier to say: "I'm Sorry!"

I’m sorry, Hideki Matsui, I was wrong to denigrate your efforts in previous posts! Six RBIs in Game Six (Tying a WS Record for a single game!), with a Single, Double, and Home Run, on his way to becoming World Series MVP!

I’m sorry, Andy Pettitte, for doubting your ability to pitch on short rest – though I’m far from alone on that one.

And, I’m sorry, Joe Girardi, for calling you “D’oh Girardi” and questioning your pitching strategies – despite being in the seeming majority there as well.

And, I’m even (ever-so-slightly) sorry that Pedro Martinez may have ended his career in defeat to “His Daddy”! All right… Maybe not so much!

Mariano Rivera, once again, showed us why he is the greatest closer of all time!

Where I WAS correct was in my feeling that this World Series (in either Game Six or Game Seven) would come down to who had the better bull pen! And, the Yankees did – with Joba Chamberlain, Damaso Marte, and the great Rivera holding the Phillies scoreless, after Pettitte’s 5 and 2/3 innings of three-run ball.

And where I was prescient was in the selection of Hideki ("Godzilla") Matsui as the World Series MVP.

Friend of this Blog, Bruce Kanin and I were e-mailing back and forth during the game… that’s the old fashioned, kerosene powered version of TEXTING, for the young people reading this. Here’s part of that exchange.

JOE: “
Yanks up 4-1, as I write this. I'm sorry for all the things I said about Matsui!”

JOE (Again, Later): “I take back everything I ever said about Hideki Matsui! 6 RBIs! With his earlier home runs, could *HE* be the Series MVP?”

BRUCE: “Maybe, and ironically, too, if this is his "swan" song with them.”

JOE: “Would that be an origami swan?”

BRUCE: “lol

So, congrats to Matsui and the New York Yankees on their 27th Championship!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

World Series Break # 2: No Game Tonight!

No game again Tuesday night, so here are some more baseball themed comic book covers!

And just think… If the Yankees had won the World Series on Monday night by not pitching A.J. Burnett on short rest, you would have missed out on THIS! So, let’s thank Joe (“D’oh!”) Girardi for the opportunity to visit with Donald Duck and his nephews, as they engage in The Great American Pastime!

It’s 1954 and Huey, Dewey, and Louie are also taking a break – from their music lessons, and into an impromptu game of Baseball.

Say! WHO’S PITCHING? That mysterious “Fourth Nephew” that shows up in the occasional artists’ mistake? And is he pitching on short rest? Oh-Oh!

(Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories # 163 – Art by Carl Barks)

And, is that a call of "Two Balls and Three Strikes" on Huey? Shouldn't he be out?!

Flash forward to 1981, and the game is still going on (Talk about EXTRA INNINGS!), having moved outdoors and with Donald as the umpire! Funny, they look as if they haven’t aged a day!

(Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories # 488)

Be back for Game Six Coverage on Wednesday… or Thursday, or whenever “Post Season Baseball TV Sleep-Deprivation” allows!