Friday, April 24, 2020

Retro Fan Magazine is Available Now

Looking for something cool to read during this downtime? Look no further than Retro Fan magazine.

In an era where digital newsletters and Internet websites have dominated the newsfeeds, there is cause to cheer with the report of a new print magazine available for fans of vintage pop culture. In June of 2018, TwoMorrows Publishing released the first issue of a new quarterly magazine titled Retro Fan. Its tagline — “The Crazy, Cool Stuff We Grew Up With” — defines its subject matter, but to fine-tune that into a more specific demographic, with primary focus to pop culture of the Sixties, Seventies, and Eighties.

“I am also the editor-in-chief of TwoMorrows' long-running, award-nominated Back Issue magazine,” editor Michael Eury informed me, “which examines Bronze Age (1970s-1990s) comic-book history, and have written numerous books on comics and pop-culture history, the most recent being Hero-A-Go-Go: Campy Comic Books, Crimefighters, and Culture of the Swinging Sixties. Previously, I’ve been an editor at DC Comics, Dark Horse Comics, and the long-defunct Comico the Comic Company, and have written for a variety of publishers and clients including Marvel Comics, Nike, and Toys R Us.”

Retro Fan almost started back in 2012. Publisher John Morrow of TwoMorrows and Michael Eury were weighing options for a new project for in addition to Back Issue. “With Back IssueI was so enjoying exploring the behind-the-scenes aspects of the comic books from my youth that I realized another magazine that did the same type of thing for the other stuff I grew up with -- the cartoons, sitcoms, toys, fads, fashions, bubble gum pop music, monsters, trading cards, etc. -- would be a fun read that’s also historically significant.”

For the next few years, the "Retro Magazine" gnawed at the back of Eury’s head, especially when he was working on his Hero-A-Go-Go book and revisiting the camp craze of the Sixties (his elementary school years): Batmania, Bond, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.Captain Niceand Mr. Terrific, Metamorpho the Element Man, the Cowsills, The Monkees, Dell Comics' superhero Frankensteinand Dracula, and so on. The book designer, Scott Saavedra, who also grew up with the same and Eury developed a working relationship.

Soon after Hero-A-Go-Gowas published in 2017, Michael Eury proposed to John Morrow that they dust off the "Retro Magazine" concept and he agreed.

One of the toughest challenges we had was settling on a title. “Retro” websites, conventions, T-shirt companies, video game magazines, you name it, had locked in “Retro Magazine” and other similar names. “Then one day John suggested to me, with a ‘You’re not going to like this’ disclaimer, the name Retro Fan. I loved it! And it nailed the tone of the magazine.”

Having read the first three issues of Retro Fan magazine I have to say the contents contain well-researched, professionally written and smartly designed articles. But at its heart is fandom — a passion for a TV show, action figure, junk food, or singing group that made our childhoods special.

Much of the content is provided by regular columnists who have a reader following and keen knowledge about their subjects, starting with Martin Pasko, no stranger to DC Comics fans and genre-TV viewers. “Marty was actually part of this magazine before it was even officially launched,” Eury explained to me. “A few years back at a comic-con he mentioned to John Morrow his interest in writing about superhero cinema and related pop culture. John never forgot and I invited Marty to the mag. John and I talked about a number of other possibilities for columnists, and cartoonist/comics historian Scott Shaw and Hollywood-hero expert Andy Mangels were both on our lists. John was interested in Pete Von Sholly as a monster-column contributor. When I reached out to Pete, he was unavailable… but recommended Ernest Farino. And I’m glad he did. Ernie has an impressive background Hollywood visual effects—and like the other columnists started as a fan, most notably of monster and sci-fi cinema. We brought in Hero-A-Go-Go’s Scott Saavedra as designer, and off we went. Soon I brought in our designer Saavedra, a really funny writer, as a columnist, as well as pulp master Will Murray as a columnist.”

Retro Fan magazine is being distributed to comic shops and sold through the company website (either or as you’d expect of a TwoMorrows publication, but it is also available at Barnes & Noble. This is a risky venture, but a valuable one in an effort to attract a broader commercial audience than currently exists within TwoMorrows’ World. Articles include the 1960s TV series The Green Hornet, interviews with Lou Ferrigno and Mark Hamill, and much more.

For those who insist on digital PDF issues, you can buy back issues for a discount price in digital format through the TwoMorrows website, so the print magazine has evolved into both markets – including one saturated by instant demand as a result of Kindle and other eBook readers. Issue #9 comes out in June.

Friday, April 10, 2020

The SUSPENSE Collector's Companion

Joseph W. Webb, Ph.D., recently released a revised and expanded 2020 edition of his book about radio's Suspense, focusing on various discoveries found through recent archival digging. Rather than focus on the history of the radio program, Joe focuses on the collector aspect such as documenting the missing "lost" recordings, how the 60 minute episodes were recycled for later use as two-part half-hour shows, the ratings for Suspense, a missing segment of the episode titled "The Search," the motion-pictures adapted from Suspense radio scripts, the variations between East and West Coast broadcasts (and the discovery of both versions found for many of the episodes), and so on.

Until a year or two ago, courtesy of Joe Webb, I only knew of two episodes from 1946 that existed with variations: an East Coast and West Coast performance. It seems Joe was comparing recordings from various sources and discovered both versions existed and circulated among collectors. Ever the completist, he began seeking out the multiple renditions. For years various dealers would brag to me about being the person responsible for certain radio programs being made available to collectors from transcription discs. I used to take most of those claims with a grain of salt. Now I suspect multiple people were indeed correct when they claim they were responsible for the transfers, unaware that more than one disc for network programs existed. Joe goes into detail regarding the specific years that both East and West Coast performances were recorded. 

Basically, Joe's book is like a compilation of magazine articles reporting recent findings about Suspense, so his book caters to people who are familiar with the series and wants to explore more than just a history of the program. One episode, for example, was authored by a former inmate of San Quentin. Joe sought out information regarding who the mysterious author was. All of which make fascinating reading and essential for fans of the radio and television program. A link is provided below for your convenience to order.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall

About 30 minutes before curtain time, the producer (Andy Wiswell) for Capitol Records spoke to Judy Garland in her dressing room. He explained that they intended to record the concert and would she mind if they asked the drummer to tone it down for recording purposes. At this point Judy told him in no uncertain terms that they was her night, that she intended to give the best performance she could and she did not care if they got a recording or not but she wanted her drummer to play vigorously as he was used to. This was on the evening of Sunday, April 23, 1961.

As for the concert itself, Judy Garland was at her peak and the audience responded in kind. Many still remember it as the greatest night in show business that they ever experienced. The concert was indeed recorded and released on 2 LP records, a commercial success from all ends of the spectrum. For fans of Judy Garland, or those who enjoy her screen performances but never went to the trouble of buying up all those CDs of her music (sadly, with much of the music recycled on multiple releases so you end up purchasing duplicates), Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall is perhaps her best performance -- ever. It would remain her biggest selling recording, staying on the charts for 95 weeks -- 13 at Number One, and won five Grammy Awards, including Best Female Vocal Performance, and Album of the Year. Highly recommended and available on a 2-CD set, the commercial release includes a small booklet documenting the history behind her stage performance.

The show business famous who were there that evening echoed the press raves. Phil Silvers, Rock Hudson, Polly Bergen, Myrna Loy, Carol Channing, Henry Fonda, Julie Andrews, Richard Burton and many others. This was a milestone in the life and career of a woman who had seen so many successes in her time, who had been "reborn" before. None of the many achievements she had previously could compare with what happened to her in 1961, however. Especially considering that only 16 months prior to stepping onto the stage at Carnegie Hall, Judy Garland nearly died.

There has been talk (and complaints) about various CD releases not being "pure," with alterations and missing tracks, but I am avoiding what complaints people may have as the Capitol Records release (pictured above) is the one I have and the majority of the Judy Garland fans praise this as the ultimate rendition and the only one you want to get. In short, avoid any other CD release that does not look like the one pictured above. Whether you are looking for something to enjoy on a long road trip or want to turn off the electronic devices and play something soothing and entertaining that does not involve DVDs, streaming or the Internet, do yourself a favor and grab the 2-CD set today. Hollywood entertainment does not get better than this.