Thursday, September 7, 2023

Kevin Flynn and his Impressive Autograph Collection

My friend Kevin Flynn probably holds the record for being a member of volunteer staff for pop culture conventions and Comic Cons than anyone else. Most people might find this a surprise but at film festivals and fan gatherings, the staff is rarely paid. No matter how large the venue, anyone wearing a staff shirt is probably an unpaid volunteer. And for more than thirty years, Kevin devoted all of his vacation time from work to volunteer at numerous events including Fanex, Chiller Theater, Monster Mania, Horror Find, Monster Bash, Monster Rally, toy and collectible shows and, yes, even the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention. Being a volunteer staffer is fun, despite the fact that the job is defined as work. Some people have said it is never work if you are having fun with it. (I always say it is only "work" if you feel you have something more important to do.) And for Kevin, his devotion was important -- it was never work for him. 

Whether he was driving celebrities to and from the airport to the convention hotel, fetching bottles of ice cold water for the celebrities, navigating the autograph lines or simply sitting with the celebrity to assist them, Kevin loved what he was doing. When fans wanted their photo taken with a celebrity, it was Kevin who took their picture. 

One of the fringe benefits to being a volunteer staff member at a convention is not only the free lunch, but the free autographs. Most celebrities give volunteer staff members (identified with their staff shirts) a free autograph (or two) and for Kevin, after thirty years of conventions, he amassed what is probably one of the largest -- and most impressive -- collection of autographs I have ever seen.

Sadly, Kevin's days of volunteering are at an end. Having been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2018, and the fact that the disease is getting worse, Kevin was forced to go into assisted living. His entire collection is now up for sale on the website listed below, and being sold off piece meal at the very same conventions he was a volunteer. All sold on a first-come, first-serve basis, Kevin's collection can be found by going to the autograph page on the website, then adjusting the search settings to "Date, New to Old." 

Among his collection we also found albums of photographs where Kevin took a moment and had his photo taken with the very celebrities he helped on those weekends. I spent the past few hours scanning many of those photos, some of which I am reprinting below. Thank you, Kevin, for all that you have done over the years.

George Romero

Sybil Danning

Nichelle Nichols

Forrest J. Ackerman

Hazel Court

Yvette Vickers

Wes Craven

Van Williams

Beverly Garland

Lindsay Wagner

Ernest Borgnine

Anne Francis

Leslie Nielsen

James Doohan

Pamela Sue Martin

Yvonne Monlaur

George Kennedy

John Schneider

Linda Hamilton

Billy Dee Williams

Alan Young

Thursday, August 31, 2023


These are the types of books that win awards. Larry Zdeb, a private collector of all things CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT has finished a two-volume set documenting the history of the radio program, comic books, 1942 cliffhanger serial, and television program. Both volumes are aptly listed as "The Definitive Guides" and I can say while there are other books about CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT, these are the definitive volumes. 

The title character, originally Captain Jim "Red" Albright, was a World War I U.S. Army pilot. His Captain Midnight code name was given by a general who sent him on a high-risk mission from which he returned at the stroke of twelve. When the radio program began in 1938, Albright was a private aviator who helped people, but his situation changed in 1940 when the program was taken over by a new sponsor, Ovaltine, and the origin story explained how Albright was recruited to head the Secret Squadron, an aviation-oriented paramilitary organization fighting sabotage and espionage during the period prior to the United States' entry into World War II. The Secret Squadron acted both within and outside the United States, combatting spies, saboteurs, mad scientists and repeated combats with the stock villain, Ivan Shark.


Radio premiums offered by the series (usually marked with Midnight’s personal symbol of a winged clock with the hands pointing to midnight) included decoders. These Code-O-Graphs were used by listeners to decipher encrypted messages previewing the next day’s episode, usually broadcast five-days-a-week. Other premiums included rings, telescopes, and World War II items. 


The program aired for a decade until 1949. But that did not restrict the franchise potential just to the radio speakers. The popularity of the Captain Midnight character expanded in 1942 with a cliffhanger serial film, a syndicated newspaper strip, and a series of comic books. In 1954, a short-lived television program starring Richard Webb was produced by Screen Gems. For that rendition, Captain Midnight (now a veteran of the Korean War) heads the Secret Squadron as a private organization.


The show was known for the imaginative use of exciting technological advancements to create narrative thrills, inspiring young audiences to dream of future advances. 

What makes these two volumes amazing is the fact that Larry has what is the largest collection of CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT radio scripts so he provided an episode guide with plot summaries for the radio broadcasts. It was fun reading some of the adventures as they unfolded in serial format, breath-taking cliffhangers, and the types of foes he went up against. As a kid I listened to a few episodes of radio's CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT but found them to be dull. Thanks to these two volumes, I went back and listened to a few. 

If you love the radio, cliffhanger serial, comic books or TV version of CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT, these two volumes are worth grabbing. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2023


I would be remiss if I did not use my blog to mention that my latest book was published last week. Clayton Moore and the Legend of the Lone Ranger, 1970-1984. As you might surmise from the title, the book not only is a day-by-day documentary of the making of the 1981 motion-picture, starring Klinton Spilsbury and Michael Horse, but also the "battle" between the producers of the motion-picture and the actor, Clayton Moore.

In 1981, it was a new motion picture, told in the old Lone Ranger tradition... Numerous gun fights, satisfying explosions, and a dandy climatic fistfight. The production design was meticulous and elaborate. More than five people were credited for crafting the screenplay and some of the best talent in Hollywood was involved in all phases of production. "The Lone Ranger" was a name that brought back memories of radio serials and film matinees, and now he was back in a $15 million dollar movie. What could possibly go wrong?


To be clear, The Legend of the Lone Ranger is a fantastic film in my opinion, and the only reason why a lot of baby boomers criticize the movie is because of a negative stigma among a generation who grew up watching The Lone Ranger television program (1949-1957). Circa 1979, fan boys took offense when their hero, Clayton Moore, was told by the courts that he could not wear The Lone Ranger's trademarked black domino mask in public. This resulted in a minor (and unjust) boycott against the 1981 movie. 

Let us leave it to the rocket scientists and bean counters to decipher and debate how damaging that boycott was. But, according to most reports, the effect was minor -- almost inconsequential.  Still, the movie lived up to the title and the story behind the actors, the script writers and the producers have since become a legend. Over the years I have heard variations of the same stories, many told from a romantic or emotional point of view, avoiding the facts. Worse, as I dug into the archives and went directly to the source, I was shocked to diver there was another story behind-the-scenes. 

Today, fans of The Lone Ranger may be surprised to learn there was another side to the story.

Because Terry Salomonson and myself have been assembling a series of books documenting al things involving The Lone Ranger, and because we have been publishing the books in chronological order in increments and not as volume numbers, we felt it unjust to sit on this manuscript until all of the others were completed. What would technically amount to "Volume Six" is now available covering the years of 1970 to 1984, the majority of which documents numerous attempts to bring The Lone Ranger to television via live action series and made-for-TV movie proposals, a day-by-day making of the big screen production, and the true facts regarding what went on behind the scenes that led to the movie's negative publicity. Even if you are not a fan of the movie, and consider yourself "Team Clayton," this book is one you will find fascinating.



Thursday, August 17, 2023

CHESTER GOULD, Resident of Woodstock, Illinois

On a recent trip to Chicago for a book signing at a convention, I stopped over at Woodstock, Illinois, the home town of Chester Gould, the man who created Dick Tracy. There used to be a museum dedicated to Dick Tracy but the museum since closed up. Regrettably, there are only a few remnants to Chester Gould and Dick Tracy that remain in town. Enclosed are photos from the trip with a few captions for your enjoyment.

The local police station had a display in their lobby.

The playground named after Dick Tracy also had art work of classic characters.

Chester Gould's home in Woodstock, Illinois. This is where he drew the comic strips.