Thursday, February 16, 2012

Tales From the Crypt: A DVD review

Tales From The Crypt was a hugely successful title in the massively popular EC line of comic books in the 1950's. Eventually the EC line of comics met with an untimely end due to a mixture of paranoia on the part of parents, the United States Government and competing comic book publishers taking advantage of the situation. But that is a post for another day. The important thing to know is that EC made the highest quality comics in the 50's in terms of writing and art. EC eventually spawned a huge line of science fiction and crime drama comics in their hay day, and it all started with their genre specialty: horror.

After taking over failing comic book publisher EC from his father (which at that time stood for Educational Comics and contained illustrated Bible stories and historical picture books) William Gaines set a new trend in comics by attempting to scare the readers as much as possible. At which he and the talented artists at EC succeeded at doing to such a successful degree that EC comics shot to the top of the sales charts and the industry created the Comic Book Code, eventually putting EC out of business.

Fast forward to 1989 and the rights to Tales From The Crypt are purchased by a hugely successful group of creators and directors who plan on filming a movie inspired by the EC horror titles. With the movie deal falling through Home Box Office (HBO) were interested in producing original programming that would set them apart from other networks. Long story short, Tales From The Crypt season 1 was born. That successful group of creators who got the show off the ground and took turns directing episodes of the series were all heavy hitters of their time, including: Richard Donner (Diretor: Superman: The Movie, The Omen), David Giler (Producer for the Alien movies), Walter Hill (Writer: the Alien movies, Director: Streets of Fire and 48 Hours), Joel Silver (Producer: Die Hard, The Matrix) and Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future).

As impressive as the creative team, the stars who lined up to be in this show are too many to name, but early seasons featured celebrities like Demi Moore and Arnold Schwarzenegger (who also directed the episode) as well as recognizable faces at the time like Lea Thompson (Back to the Future) and Teri Hatcher (who was also Lois Lane in Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman!).

Overall, season one of Tales From The Crypt is excellent. Directly adapted from classic EC tales, these episodes are chilling and offer the best scares, despite the first season only having six episodes. Remember, this show was on HBO, so all the gore and violence are included in this set. These episodes are not the edited for network television re-runs that appeared on television in later years. All of the episodes on this set are brilliant, but if I had to pick a favorite it would be the twisted Christmas story And All Through The House, which translated to film particularly well. As with the comic the Crypt Keeper introduces each episode and gives an epilogue full of bad puns and recapping the moral of the story, which tends to soften the impact of the horrific violence and horror contained in each tale.

Also included in this set is an excellent one hour documentary on EC and its colorful history, interviews with the creators of the comic and the creators who were inspired by them. Some big names show up in this interview as well making it a delight to watch. All in all I can't recommend this set highly enough for fans of comic books or horror (of which I am a fan of both). The show contains extremely high production values and this DVD release is of high quality. I'm betting once you get a taste of season 1 you'll KILL to get season 2! (Sorry, had to :D ) Till next time citizens, I leave you with Arnold introducing the episode he directed!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

On Superman, DC in general, and how reading Marvel feels like waiting to see the dentist

Greetings True Believers! Sorry for being so absent, I will finish Legends of the 70's series shortly! Right now just going to go over some quick thoughts about one issue in particular, DC in general, and then Marvel's major malfunction. But first things first.
Read Secret Origins #3 because EVERYBODY I know who reads comics was raving about it, and I have to say I'm a little disappointed. In fact if I was grading Johns I might have to give him a 0 due to plagiarism. This was a mash-up of three Superman movie/tv shows in comic book form. It's good stuff, and entertaining for sure, but why can't people shake the Donner influence? It's so heavy handed in this issue, everything from the briefcase getting stuck in the revolving door, to the helicopter sequence (which was SLIGHTLY different), Clark is all awkward and trying to introduce himself to people while wondering around the city like he has never seen a big city before. He is even the oafish Donner Clark right down to the 'Gee Lois that'll be SWELL!'. Really? Swell?! Then there is the Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman stuff with the witty and romantic banter while breaking into the Lex Luthor's weapons unveiling. Which is ripped right out of the Animated Series, robotic exoskeleton military armor and all. I like that they are portraying a Lois and Clark style Lois because I really thought the show got her character across, but it's still just a copy of the character from the show (see her doe eyed look when she first sees Superman, then go watch the Lois and Clark pilot when Superman flies her into the Planet... same doe eyes!). Very little new there but I am going to give it points for portraying Lois well whether they stole it or not. Anyone who has been reading Action Comics knows what I mean when I say if we can at least get a likable Lois Lane we'll take her, whether she is plagiarized or not. Where it is original and interesting is the last two pages where Superman realizes not everyone will trust him right away, and that he may have made a huge mistake revealing his powers in public as the persona of Superman. But man, it really seems like I have been told this story before...alot before actually.
All of this 'redefining the origins' in Secret Origins leads me to the next topic of discussion, the state of the DCU in general. Earth One Superman and Batman stories are to be retold exclusively in trades by JMS and Johns respectively. Now, what I do understand is the greater marketability of the TPB format as a starting point that won't intimidate the Starbucks in the Chapters crowd who will never pick up a comic book and will only read graphic novels. I get that, DC wants to sell some books to the massive market they can't reach from the shelf of a comic book store. What I don't get is why they feel that to tell a compelling story they cannot work within the current continuity they have. Why not wait until next year when the big Kryptonian story wraps up and Bruce Wayne is back and just put these two great writer's on the books?
And of course, Marvel. It's been no fun waiting for Siege but it is finally here, and it better be worth it. Because the Reign has bored me to tears. Really all I have to say about that is that it is about time.
Till next time True Believers!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Legends of the 70's! Part I

The 70's were an exciting and revolutionary time for comic books. DC was doing great with Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams revamping Batman, bringing him back to his dark roots. Over on the Marvel side Spider-man was more popular than ever with Stan Lee and John Romita Sr. making Peter Parker's life all the more complicated. But everyone who has ever read a newspaper article on comics probably knows the names of Adams and Romita. In fact, if they watched the DVD special features on some of those Spider-man movie DVD's they would probably figure out who John Romita Sr. is pretty quickly. But there were many other incredibly talented artists doing extraordinary things in comics in the 70's who probably won't get a DVD special feature anytime soon, so I am going to, over the course of two posts, write about a couple of my personal favorites.

Mike Ploog worked on Leathernecks, an U.S. Marine Corp. magazine during the latter part of his ten year enlistment, and did mostly art and photography with a bit of writing. Ploog is best known among fans of comics from the 70's as the initial artist on two of my favorite comic books of all time, but especially my favourites of the 70's: Ghost Rider and Werewolf by Night!
Mike Ploog was an apprentice to the great Will Eisner, so it's no surprise that his art was easily some of the best in the business. He initially sent in a western sample to Marvel when Eisner letterer Ben Oda and artist Wally Wood encouraged him to do so, and got a call back to do Werewolf by Night. Thank goodness for the decision to give Ploog a horror title. There is a certain knack for horror that his particular style has, which made him perfect for Werewolf by Night, and later one of the best artists Ghost Rider has ever had. The Eisner influence is clearly seen in much of Ploog's work, the issue of Marvel Spotlight #4 featuring Werewolf by Night is a great example of the heavy inked style that Eisner was so famous for. Much of the great Eisner design influences are here, but Ploog adds a little something of his own. Eisner had a very noir feel to his comics, while Ploog shows he has a real gift for making people look truly afraid. Healthy glowing smiles can all too quickly become waxy expressions of sheer terror. The innocent can quickly meet a dreadful demise at the hands of a cursed abomination. Ploog can do something few artists can, he can create an atmosphere that makes you look up from the comic book in your hands to make sure you are safe. Few can do that, and Mike Ploog does it well. Enjoy these other Ploog covers while I get busy writing part 2! Good day citizen!