Thursday, June 1, 2023

The Legacy of John Dunning's TUNE IN YESTERDAY

John Dunning, a key figure in preserving classic radio programs, promoting the classic radio hobby, and capturing its history through writing, research, and interviews, has passed away. His book, Tune in Yesterday, was the most significant and influential volume written about old-time radio and I know of no person in the hobby who does not have a copy. Decades later he would revise and expand his book to a new volume, On the Air, but I dare say no book left such an impact on fans of old-time radio than his initial volume. Joe Webb wrote a nice piece on Facebook about John Dunning and for that reason I am reprinting below what Joe published. 


Tune in Yesterday transformed our hobby for younger collectors like yours truly who never heard any programs until we found the hobby. We had to rely on dealer catalogs, mainly, to get an idea what to listen to. It was Dunning's book, this very one, that got many of us past the "ol' standards" of The Shadow, Jack Benny, Lone Ranger, and others that were commonly popular. It was Dunning who had us expand into so many other series and gave us background and intrigue that captured our interest and made us dedicated enthusiasts and not casual fans. He made us ready to try the really good and sometimes overlooked or underappreciated programs.


I was told back then that TiY had another 2/3 of material that had to be cut from the book. Much of that ended up in "The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio," a more detailed endeavor, also held in high regard. By that time, however, there was an established hobby. There were clubs. There were conventions. There were newsletters. It did not have the seminal effect that TiY had. TiY turned the hobby from hearsay and rumors into a more substantive endeavor. It became the reference for everyone. Young collectors shared a knowledgeable mentor in John Dunning.


And it was Dunning who encouraged the Denver area's legendary RHAC (Radio Historical Association of Colorado) efforts with some serious collecting activity with his broadcasts, especially all of his interviews of radio stars, supporting actors, and production pros. A key interview he did was with Roberta Bailey Goodwin, Bob Bailey's daughter, who discussed his acting career but also how his family broke up because of his ups and downs at the end of the radio era. It was easy to forget that performers had families and sometimes had very difficult times.


Thank you, John. TiY shaped the listening preferences and collecting aspirations of multiple generations of collectors. The hobby would not have been as enjoyable and inspiring if he had not made his important contributions to it. RIP


Thursday, May 25, 2023

THE GREEN HORNET Radio Program Makes a Comeback

The Green Hornet
makes a triumphant return to the masses, courtesy of Radio Spirits. The company has licensed the radio broadcasts for release in box sets, each containing 20 episodes. Even better news is that most of the shows they have been releasing are "lost" episodes -- recordings never available to collectors for decades. Radio Spirits has been releasing these sets every four months like clockwork and will continue to do so as long as sales are strong. I am proud to say I contribute liner notes for many of these box sets -- including the most recent, pictured here, which gets a general release to the public as of today. 

I am reprinting below the catalog description and the list of episodes included in this set. To purchase this set, and some of the prior releases before they go out of print, visit the link below.

By day, the daring young publisher Britt Reid uses editorials to campaign against corruption. By night, he takes matters into his own hands. Radio's definitive masked hero roams the night once more in twenty exciting radio adventures starring Jack McCarthy!

Racketeers and crooked politicians, corrupt businessmen and underworld kingpins -- none can escape the sting of the Green Hornet! Listen in as he thwarts the evil intentions of international spies, stops schemes to steal jewels, foils plots to nick negotiable bonds, and so much more!

Episodes Include: The Gobbler Gobbler 11-22-49; The Drug Store Robberies 11-29-49; The Chiseling Countess 12-06-49; The Diary Of Yola St. Clair 12-13-49; The Plot Before Christmas 12-20-49; Ring Around Camilla 12-27-49; The Red Glasses 01-03-50; An Assist From The Boys 01-10-50; The Leroy Plot 01-17-50; Catspaw 01-24-50; For Love or Money 01-31-50; The Big Affair 02-07-50; The Hidden Bonds 02-14-50; The Key 02-21-50; Shnooks Warren Gets a Press 02-28-50; Out Of The Fog 03-07-50; Squeeze Play 03-14-50; The Mercer Robbery 03-21-50; Picture Of A Woman 03-28-50; Queer Money Market 04-11-50

Thursday, May 18, 2023


This book was more than a decade in the making. My publisher, Ben Ohmart of Bear Manor Media, and I flew out to California for the unprecedented access to production files for a number of television programs produced in the late fifties and early sixties, produced by Warner Brothers. The film studio decided to utilize their studios, sets, props, costumes and contract players to produce a number of television programs for ABC-TV, with tremendous success and critical acclaim. Along the way, the studio made stars out of Clint Walker, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., Edd Byrnes, Roger Smith, John Russell, Peter Brown, Wayde Preston, Diane McBain, and of course... James Garner.

Maverick was one of those programs and the western remains one of the top ten among fans of cowboy television. So you can understand why it was the one book we wanted to get published. The basic premise of Maverick, a professional gambler who wandered the west avoiding trouble and finding himself caught up in life-threatening adventures, was televised for five seasons over ABC-TV, and spawned a number of comic books, collectibles and sequels. ABC was poised to fire its Sunday ammunition against the competing Ed Sullivan and Steve Allen, with heavy bets to the tune of a million dollars placed by the Kaiser Industries Corp. and Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corp., its sponsors.

The chief asset of the show was its sense of humor. If an adult Western was to be truly adult, it could not take itself too seriously. Rather than kiss the woman and ride off into the sunset, Maverick could be expected to win a bet by kissing his horse and fleeing out of the county by riverboat. Along the way he cleaned up corruption and disruption of law and order in the unsettled old West.

The goal was not to compete with other fast-drawing hotshot television Westerns, but rather to differentiate from them. That was the Roy Huggins formula. He created and produced the series, ensuring a refreshing take in an era when television Westerns were a variation-on-a-theme. Huggins wanted to avoid the clichés that populated other television Westerns.

Linda Alexander, who wrote the definitive biography of Jack Kelly, jumped on board to help with the book. Then Steven Thompson, a top-notch historian for comic books and pop culture, jumped on board to contribute. The best part of this project was that none of the authors had egos or wanted sole credit -- the finished product was the end game and as a result, their passion became a collective collaboration that makes this book definitive. So you can believe I am not exaggerating when I say this book has been a decade in the making. The icing on the cake is having consulted very possible avenue including production files. (Yes, that means the episode guide includes the dates of production, filming locations, budgets, and more. You won't find that anywhere else!) Fans of Maverick will find themselves wanting to re-watch the episodes once again with all the new behind-the-scenes trivia brought to light.

To purchase your copy, visit here:


Friday, May 12, 2023

Frances Langford: Armed Forces Sweetheart (Book Review)

To date there has never been a biography about Frances Langford in print form, which makes Ben Ohmart's latest contribution to the reference library all the more valuable. She really was the Sweetheart of the Armed Forces, once quoted of saying "God knows I would gladly give my life to help end this terrible affair and send those boys home to their families and friends where they belong." With her vocal talents as both movie star and radio personality, her career has been immortalized in recorded form. Her personal life restricted to the tabloids and gossip columns of the times, she donated everything she owned -- including letters, scrapbooks and photographs to the Martin County Historical Society in Minnesota. Anyone can visit the Elliott Museum and browse through her collection, but Ben Ohmart saved us an expensive trip across the country with this 333-page book documenting her personal life, her radio career, her screen career and more than any other aspect of her career... what she devoted to troops overseas. 

"Frances cared a lot about her war work," Ohmart explains, "and more than anything, I wanted this book to showcase her amazing patriotism." Chapter three focuses on her tour with Bob Hope for the U.S.O. 

I could go on paragraph after paragraph of what this book contains but if you are seeking a biography that covers all aspects of her life and career, this is the book. The most impressive aspect is the fact that this book features hundreds of never-before-seen photographs from Langford's personal collection and are a rare treat. Most biographies have a handful of rare photographs, sometimes as a centerpiece in the middle of a book. Ben Ohmart gave us not just a slice of the pie, but multiple pies of various flavors. The photos alone are worth the price of this book.

Thursday, May 4, 2023

TWILIGHT ZONE: Limited Edition Variant Cover

I am pleased to announce my TWILIGHT ZONE book just received the gold standard of publishing. A limited number of 100 copies were printed in hardcover format with a variant cover. What is a variant cover, you might ask?

In comic books, a variant cover (sometimes referred to as a variant edition) refers to an issue of a comic book printed with multiple covers, each with unique cover art. The first comic book marketed with a variant cover was the 1986 first issue of The Man of Steel, which featured two different covers by writer/artist John Byrne. Fans of Superman who were serious collectors found themselves buying not one issue, but two. Since then, publishing companies look for creative ways to build hype and establish investments by offering limited edition variant covers.

Due to shortages caused by production errors, some variant covers came to be known as "chase covers," as many scrambled to find them. Publishers create chase covers by issuing variants in ratios designed to establish rarity. As an example, attendees at the San Diego Comic Con can purchase an exclusive variant cover, with the convention logo printed on the front cover, and available only at the event. While fans could visit their local comic book store to purchase Spider-Man issue #800 for $4, for example, the San Diego Comic Con variant cover is rare enough to warrant a $40 price tag.

The practice of issuing variant covers spread to some magazines, notably TV Guide, which quickly discovered that collectors who kept one of every issue would buy multiple issues if there were different covers. As an example, in 1996, TV Guide printed four different covers each with a different starship captain in recognition of the 30th anniversary of Star Trek. Inside, the contents were the same. But for that one week, fans flocked to the stores to buy all four issues which now sell for an average of $35 for the set.

While my TWILIGHT ZONE book is not a comic book or a magazine, variant covers are not common for reference books. Yet, it seemed a natural choice for a variant cover. Below is a photo of my wife holding one of them. So if you never got a copy of my TWILIGHT ZONE book yet and want a limited edition variant hardcover instead of the standard paperback, grab your copy now at before they set out. Only 100 copies were printed and as of today more than 20 are sold... make that 21. I am keeping one for myself. 

Friday, April 28, 2023

A Big Disappointment for the Whitman Publishing Company

Whitman Publishing started as a subsidiary of the Western Printing & Lithographing Company of Racine, Wisconsin. In about 1915, Western began printing and binding a line of juvenile books for the Hamming-Whitman Publishing Company of Chicago. A few years later Hamming-Whitman went bankrupt, and Western took over the company, found success in selling the inventory of low-cost juvenile books, and formed the Whitman Publishing Company. Yes, it all sounds a tad confusing and when I mention that the company was responsible for Big Little Books, Better Little Books, Little Golden Books and other collectibles, the story behind them gets even more confusing. Needless to say, Whitman now primarily produces coin and stamp collecting books and materials. The history of the company has fallen into obscurity to the mainstream crowd except die-hard collectors who purchase and read children’s books. But the story gets pretty sad, so beware what you are about to read… 

For decades Whitman was a subsidiary of the Western Publishing Company. After the first Big Little Book, The Adventures of Dick Tracy, was published in December 1932. The books were small and compact and a perfect size for young children, but thick enough to be considered lengthy reading material. In 1933 the company signed a licensing contract with Walt Disney to produce books based on Disney cartoon characters, such as Donald Duck, Goofy and Mickey Mouse.

Numerous titles were sold through Woolworth’s and other retail store systems during the 1930s. Such titles included Captain Midnight, Popeye, the Sailor, Li’l Abner, Blondie, Buck Rogers, Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy and many others. With a name change to Better Little Books during 1938, the series continued into the 1960s. It was here that the company published books based on popular radio and television programs such as Captain Kangaroo, The Patty Duke Show, Star Trek and The Beverly Hillbillies.

Today these books sell for an average of $10 for reading condition (which means it is not close to mint condition to qualify for “collecting” condition). Serious collectors inspect the spine, verify all of the pages are intact and keep the books in plastic to ensure the condition is maintained.

A few years ago, a comic book price guide began including Big Little Books within the annual publication so collectors have a price guide for which to gauge the value. Regrettably, most people do not follow the price guide as the street value has dropped considerably for Big Little Books. For decades the most expensive were Mickey Mouse, Tarzan and The Lone Ranger. But even those can be bought for $10 to $20 depending on the venue. 

The reason for the dropping value is the shrinking demand. With less people buying Big Little Books, the supply-and-demand process comes into play. This trend, no doubt the result of an aging fanbase, is bound to become more problematic in the coming years. 

Of recent, collectors have been scanning the books into digital format for preservation, with complete understanding that the damage required for scanning means the destruction of the book. But the rewards are larger than the destruction of one book, despite ongoing sacrilege voiced on social media. 

Whitman is still around today and the company focuses primarily on the sale of coins for coin collectors. If you visit their site and look up the history of the company, the fact that the publishing firm’s history is almost disregarded on the website and replaced with an emphasis of coin collecting is a darn shame. Worse, a friend of mine and I went to the museum in Racine, Wisconsin, specifically to see what exhibit they had, focusing on the history of the Western Printing & Lithographing Company. Regrettably, they had two display cases and, as my friend exclaimed in terror, “they don’t even have a single Big Little Book on display!”

Enclosed are two photos revealing what they have as a display for the publishing firm. We traveled a total of forty minutes round-trip to go out of our way to check out such an exhibit. Since we took one for the team, enjoy the two photos.


Thursday, April 20, 2023

Barbara Payton: A Life in Pictures

Fans of film noir know Barbara Payton for her roles in Trapped (1949), Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950), Four-Sided Triangle (1953), Bad Blonde (1953) and Murder Is My Beat (1955). Horror fans know her for Bride of the Gorilla (1951). Hollywood film buffs know the actress for her stormy social life and battles with alcoholism and drug addiction. In addition to her first two marriages and affairs with Howard Hughes, Bob Hope, Woody Strode, Guy Madison, George Raft, John Ireland, Steve Cochran and Texas oilman Bob Neal, she was married three more times. In 1950 she met actor Franchot Tone. While engaged to Tone, she began an affair with actor Tom Neal and bounced back and forth between the two which made public headlines across the country. 

Payton's hard drinking and hard living ultimately destroyed her physically and emotionally. Celebrity bartender and self-proclaimed hustler Scotty Bowers has alleged for a time she was regarded as a high-class sex worker much in demand. From 1955 to 1963, her alcoholism and drug addiction led to multiple skirmishes with the law, which included arrests for passing bad checks and eventually an arrest on Sunset Boulevard for prostitution. Payton was offered the option of being admitted to a detoxification unit, and said, "I'd rather drink and die." She ultimately died of heart and liver failure at the age of 39.

Barbara Payton wrote an autobiography, I Am Not Ashamed, published in 1963. She died four years later. John O'Dowd wrote a dynamite biography about the actress, Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye: The Barbara Payton Story, in 2007. So it comes as no surprise that John O'Dowd would clean out his files and produce a lavish 600 page hardcover coffee table book with archival photos spanning the life and career of Barbara Payton. Every page is full color and glossy and from the first page to the last you get a superb visual of her life.

Never have I seen a coffee table this large in size. Compared to the price I have paid for other coffee table books, this one is a bargain.

To purchase from Amazon direct:

Thursday, April 13, 2023


Artist Samson Pollen created hundreds of illustrations for men’s adventure magazines published in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s and while he was one of the top illustrators who worked for the genre, his work has largely been forgotten because those magazines were published for – and collected today – by a niche crowd. His work stood alongside such artists as Gil Cohen, James Bama and Basil Gogos. 


Before Pollen passed away in December 2018, Wyatt Doyle and Robert Deis co-edited two books with him featuring his original magazine artwork for a series of Men’s Adventure Library book series. The first, Pollen’s Women: The Art of Samson Pollen, focuses on men’s adventure magazine artwork he did that has scenes featuring sexy or dangerous-looking female characters. The second, Pollen’s Action, showcases Pollen paintings done as illustrations for the typically wild action/adventure stories. Both of those books are available on Amazon and at


With the blessing of Sam’s widow, Jacqueline, the authors recently released a third Pollen art book titled Pollen in Print, 1955-1959. They initially offered an edition of it via Indiegogo that sold out quickly. So they releases a deluxe hardcover edition worldwide. This third volume is a big, sexy, action-packed chronological collection of Pollen’s earliest illustrations published in men’s adventure magazines from 1955 to 1959. 


I enjoy coffee table books. I find them to be the equivalent of slide show seminars at conventions, heavily illustrated but with loving care to restore and touch up the scans and photographs to ensure the highest quality. On top of which, the captions tell a story and provide a history that would be delivered ala… well… like a slide show presentation. I just received Pollen’s Women: The Art of Samson Pollen and the book showcases full-page reproductions of the original paintings Sam created for various magazines, along with scans of the magazine pages they were used for. While not the usual size expected from coffee table books, this certainly qualifies as one. You can see an extensive flip-page preview of POLLEN’S WOMEN on the website,


POLLEN’S WOMEN is a lush visual archive collecting some of artist Samson Pollen’s most memorable pieces, selected from the hundreds of jaw-dropping illustrations Pollen provided for men’s adventure magazines from the 1950s through the 1970s. Sexy women were a regular component of story illustrations published in the more than 160 titles that flourished from the early 1950s through the mid-1970s, and nobody painted beautiful and dangerous femmes like Pollen. Much of the artist’s work—literally, hundreds of pieces—saw print in the Atlas/Diamond group of magazines from Marvel Comics founder Martin Goodman’s Magazine Management Company. Until now, almost none of these illustrations have seen print since their original publication in those latter-day pulps. 


The book is recommended and now prompts me to buy the other two to have a complete set.


Thursday, April 6, 2023

The Value of Collecting Autographs

Okay, so here is your quick five-minute crash course in collecting autographs. I would like to state right off the bat that a number of people are going to disagree with me over a few of the bullet points listed below, but those will primarily be the folks who make a living selling autographs or work for a company that wants you to pay a fee to authenticate your autograph. (More on that later.)


You know an autograph is something written or made with one’s own hand, and that most of the autographs collected are those considered “famous,” whether they be a musician, an actor, an actress, a writer, an author, etc. Most autographs collected are handwritten signatures, but for artists and painters, their work often speaks for itself. You can buy autographs from hundreds of venues ranging from Auction Houses, eBay, mail order catalogs or websites. The price will vary depending on the following factors:


1.     Who signed the autograph.

2.     Whether the signature is on a glossy, a letter, a postcard, a cancelled check, etc.

3.     Whether the item signed is something historically significant.

4.     How much the vendor/seller paid for the autograph and the money they need to get back for their investment.


And for those who are connoisseurs of selected autographs, they take into consideration the age of the paper the signature was written, the size of the signature, and so on. A magazine cover will generate less money than a glossy because a glossy photo will last much longer, but the cost is relative. Some like myself prefer cancelled checks, contracts, letters, and other sources that makes me comfortable knowing the autograph is legit. For one friend of mine, getting authors to sign books is his pill – not glossy photographs.


There are also conventions, film festivals and fan gatherings nationwide where celebrities sign autographs for fans. For a set fee, the celebrities will sign glossy photos for you to choose from, or items you brought to the show to have signed. For the record, most celebrities do not set the price – their agents/managers do. For some conventions (not all of them) a percentage of the autograph price goes to the convention promoter which, yes, drives the price of the autograph up. For convention promoters that ask for a set fee, such as $10, that means a celebrity who normally charges $40 will now charge $50 at the event. If you disapprove of the fee the celebrity is charging, remember it is not the celebrity that sets the price. The celebrity just shows up to the event and does what they are asked to whether it be posing with a fan for their smartphone camera or signing multiple autographs.


There are auction houses that specialize in selling rare collectibles and autographs – often charging a premium price. Personally, unless the autograph is something I absolutely want hell or high water, I tend to avoid those venues. For one (name not disclosed but many of you probably know what company I am referring to) the employees are allowed to bid on the item which, naturally, drives the bidding up. Whether you feel the company is justified doing so is all up to you. But I avoid bidding and buying from auction houses that do that.


There are a number of companies that have established a business of charging you a fee in return for their authentication of an autograph and providing a certificate of authenticity. This option, where fans can mail their autograph to one of these companys and pay an average of $30 per autograph, to receive it back in the mail with a certificate of authenticity. Personally, when I get an autograph from a celebrity in person, I see no reason why I should pay a third party $30 additional to get a certificate of authenticity, since I intend to frame it and hang it on the wall of my house. 


A few years ago, I made the decision to submit an Olivia DeHavilland autograph to get certified. I paid the fee and submitted the autograph. It was returned as “not legit.” This was bizarre because I got it from her in person. I phoned the company and explained this and the reply I received was a recommendation to put what I just told them over the phone in writing and… get this… pay another fee for submitting it again. I did what they suggested and they sent it back with the certificate. 


I have a friend who visits conventions and gets autographs from the celebrities. He said about one-fifth of his autographs came back as not legit and he said he, too, questions what system they use to validate the autographs. He just went to a Comic Con to get Jodi Benson’s autograph on a reproduction of The Little Mermaid poster. She was the voice of Arial, the Little Mermaid. It came back as not legit even though he got the autograph in person. Yeah…. Wow.


So you can understand why I am not a fan of the certificates of authenticity.


More importantly, the average price for autographs at conventions is $30 to $40, depending on the celebrity. (Yes, HUGE name stars command even more money but remember that is the agents/managers who set the fee.) For vendors/sellers who make money buying and selling autographs, they often strike deals with the agents/managers at the autograph venues and get a stack of autographs for a discount, so they can resell them for a profit. Thus a $40 autograph may cost $20 each because the vendor bought 20 autographs. 


This is why, when people ask me whether I believe an autograph (not sold by me) is legit, I often look at the price first. Who would pay $30 for a certificate of authenticity, for an autograph that cost them $20, when the buyer can get the same autograph in person from the celebrity for $40? Rational thinking applied, if there is going to be a counterfeit autograph, those are the ones that sell for $400, $500, $600. To equate, this would be like counterfeiting $1 bills instead of $100 bills. Who the heck would counterfeit a one-dollar bill? So if an autograph is $20 or $30, there is a stronger chance the autograph is legit. 


I would like to announce that Keith’s autograph collection is being sold on the following website, along with some of my personal collection. Most of the autographs are available for $19.99, $24.95, $29.95 and $39.95. The only time autographs are listed for more is when Keith or I had to pay $40 for the autograph and is therefore justified charging $60 to $75. There are probably about four dozen autographs in the inventory that are sold for more and only because they are extremely rare to find or the demand for that autograph will be so large that it seems prudent to raise the price. (


Most of the autographs on this site were acquired at conventions across the country such as Fanex, the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, Chiller Theatre, Shore Leave, Ray Court’s Hollywood Collector Show, even letters written to the celebrities direct. Keith has been in the hobby for more than four decades. I have been in the hobby for two and a half decades. My most treasured items are framed and hanging on the wall, and I am not letting them go at any price. But seeing that I need to raise additional funds for the coffee shop, I am letting some of my collection go – just not the real treasures on the wall.


So if you are looking to do some early Christmas shopping, or a unique birthday gift for a friend or family relative (believe me, a framed autograph is an AWESOME gift to give someone), consider purchasing an autograph – or two, or three. Unsold autographs will be returned to Keith in June so do not delay.




Thursday, March 30, 2023


It was a number of years ago that I read a news blurb that Guillermo del Toro was licensing the rights of Rod Serling's NIGHT GALLEY for a remake. The horror anthology that lasted three seasons in the 1970s was an off-the-wall series of bizarre gothic stories, sometimes laced with dark humor. Such a series would be a welcome addition to today's streaming services as I am a big fan of television anthologies. With such programs, I find one in five are gems and worth watching four others. For years I heard no updates to the project and now I discovered Netflix has a new horror anthology titled CABINET OF CURIOSITIES, hosted by Guillermo del Toro. While I suspect that Del Toro was unable to secure the licensing rights to NIGHT GALLERY, this series is as close as you get to the same formula.

Guillermo Del Toro and his Cabinet of Curiosities.

Instead of wandering through a museum and choosing a painting that focuses on the story that is to be dramatized, del Toto instead opens a drawer from a large and bizarre cabinet to remove an item (whether it be a wizard's wand or a magnifying glass) that is related to the story that unfolds. Del Toro directs no episodes himself, but the stories were curated and selected from the director. The tales range from originals (some written by del Toro) to classics of H.P. Lovecraft ("Pickman's Model"), and the stories take place from all eras of yesteryear. From space aliens, doppelgängers, ghostly specters to an E.C. Comics style horror story titled "The Autopsy," I was pleased to see "Graveyard Rats" adapted from a gem of a story that I was first exposed to from an LP record of a dramatic reading when I was a child.

A truly enjoyable horror story, "The Autopsy."

Not all of the episodes are gems. "The Outside" was my least favorite and I suspect it will be the least favorite of most who watch the series, and I suspect the producers knew which were the best -- the earliest episodes on the streaming platform are, in my opinion, the best of the series and then it slowly wavers downhill as you get to the last few. Still, this is as close as you get to a remake of NIGHT GALLERY, and perhaps del Toro himself would acknowledge how Serling's series was an inspiration to his Netflix series.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

The Art of Pulp Fiction by Ed Hulse (Book Review)

IDW Publishing and Ed Hulse have put together one of those fantastic coffee table books worthy of anyone who wants something to browse through for a few minutes during that downtime in the living room. The Art of Pulp Fiction: An Illustrated History of Vintage Paperbacks chronicles the history of pocket-sized paperbound books designed for mass-market consumption, specifically concentrating on the period from 1940 to 1970. These three decades saw paperbacks eclipse cheap pulp magazines and expensive clothbound books as the most popular delivery vehicle for escapist fiction. To catch the eyes of potential buyers they were adorned with covers that were invariably vibrant, frequently garish, and occasionally lurid. Today the early paperbacks--like the earlier pulps, inexpensively produced and considered disposable by casual readers--are treasured collector's items.

For myself, I have two bookshelves filled with paperbacks from the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s. And when I used the word "filled," that is no understatement. My bookshelves are so wide I have two rows of paperbacks (one behind the other) on each shelf and books stacked on top of those rows. Most of them are vintage horror and science-fiction anthologies, mysteries such as the Alfred Hitchcock Presents anthologies, and a number of 1950s-1960s science fiction novels. So this book was of interest to further enlighten and educate my knowledge of paperback novels.

Award-winning editor Ed Hulse (The Art of the Pulps and The Blood 'n' Thunder Guide to Pulp Fiction) comprehensively covers the pulp-fiction paperback's heyday. Hulse writes the individual chapter introductions and the captions, while a team of genre specialists and art aficionados contribute the special features included in each chapter. These focus on particularly important authors, artists, publishers, and sub-genres. 

Illustrated with more than 500 memorable covers and original cover paintings, this 240 page book is a feast for the eyes. Hulse's extensive captions, meanwhile, offer a running commentary on this significant genre, and also contain many obscure but entertaining factoids. Images used in The Art of Pulp Fiction have been sourced from the largest American paperback collections in private hands, and have been curated with rarity in mind, as well as graphic appeal. Consequently, many covers are reproduced here for the first time since the books were first issued.

The book includes an Introduction by Richard A. Lupoff, novelist, essayist, pop-culture historian, and author of The Great American Paperback (2001).

Ed Hulse poses proudly with his book.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

MAD MONSTER PARTY (1967) Blu-Ray Restoration

In 1967, Arthur Rankin, Jr., and Jules Bass, the same men responsible for the stop-motion animated holiday special, Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, produced a Halloween classic, Mad Monster Party. While it was not as well-received when it was first televised, the special has since become a cult classic among fans of vintage horror movies. Boris Karloff, Phyllis Diller, Ethel Ennis and Gale Garnett voiced the major characters from Frankenstein, Dracula, the Mumme, the Wolf Man, etc. It tells the story of a mad scientist who achieves the secret of total destruction as he summons all the monsters to his island home to show it off while planning to retire as the head of the “Worldwide Organization of Monsters.”

I just received word this week that Mad Monster Party is headed to a Blu-ray set this May from Umbrella Entertainment, complete with new special features from Justin Beahm’s Reverend Entertainment, with a variety of collectibles included. The film is finally presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio as well as the television format of 1.33:1 presentation which we have all been watching for decades. Special features include new commentary and introductions with Rankin/Bass historian Rick Goldschmidt, as well as a very special Easter egg you will have to find in the menus. Also present are a newly assembled collection of classic Rankin/Bass trailers, historical featurettes, sing-alongs, image gallery, and more. 


Sealing the monstrous deal are a reproduction of the Dell comic book (with additional material from Rick), enamel pins, and poster. Matt Pott produced the wonderful Mad Monster Party art for the package. And best of all, the Blu-ray is all region! With the exception of The Year without a Santa Claus, all of the Rankin/Bass Christmas (and Easter) Blu-Rays need a redo like this because restoration efforts have not bee impressive. I am not sure if there is going to be a DVD version of this special edition, and it does not appear to be one, but if you are a fan of Mad Monster Party, this is something to cheer for.


You can pre-order here:


Tuesday, February 28, 2023


We lost a Hollywood legend this week. Ricou Browning was best known for his underwater stunt work in motion-pictures and television, especially in the 1954 film Creature from the Black Lagoon, in which he portrayed the titular Gill-man during the film's underwater scenes (actor Ben Chapman played the Creature on land). Browning reprised the role for the underwater scenes in the film's sequels Revenge of the Creature(1955) and The Creature Walks Among Us (1956). Browning also co-created Flipper with Jack Cowden and directed a number of episodes of the 1960s television series. A Florida native, Browning was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 2012. In 2019, he was inducted into the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards' Monster Kid Hall of Fame.

Browning started a career in water shows, moving on to produce shows. Browning worked at Wakulla Springs in the 1940s and learned to perform in underwater newsreels conceived by Newt Perry, who later took Browning along when he opened Weeki Wachee Springs. While working at Wakulla Springs in 1953, Browning was asked to show around a film crew scouting for shooting locations. 


According to Browning, "Their cameraman asked if I could swim in front of the cameras so they could get the perspective of the size of a human being against the fish and the grass. So I did." Days later, the crew offered Browning the role of the titular Gill-man in the film Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). Browning accepted and played the Gill-man in the film's underwater scenes, while actor Ben Chapman played the monster on land. During filming, Browning reportedly held his breath underwater for up to four minutes at a time. Browning reprised his role as the underwater Gill-man in two sequels, Revenge of the Creature (1955) and The Creature Walks Among Us (1956).


He continued in movie production and joined Ivan Tors' studios in Florida, where he co-wrote and co-produced the 1963 film Flipper (about an intelligent bottlenose dolphin); Browning also directed the second unit underwater scenes for the film. Browning continued writing for the subsequent Flipper television series that debuted in 1964. He directed the underwater sequences in Hello Down There (1969), and directed the family film Salty (1973) and the cult film Mr. No Legs (1978). He also worked as second unit director, stunt coordinator and underwater sequence director on a number of features, including Thunderball (1965), Around the World Under the Sea (1966), Island of the Lost (1967), Caddyshack (1980), and Never Say Never Again (1983).


Ricou was among the celebrity guests at the 2018 Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, signing autographs and posing for photos with fans. His daughter attended alongside him and together they had a grand time hearing how his work inspired others into their crafts and careers. Not only did we lose the last of the Universal Monsters, but a kind soul. 

Those who know me personally know I am never star struck or longing to have my photo taken with celebrities. But picking him and his daughter up at the airport to take to the hotel, and having my photo taken with Ricou Browning, was the highlight of that year. R.I.P., Ricou.

Thursday, February 23, 2023


Fans of The Lone Ranger know of the time when actor Clayton Moore, in late 1970s, was served an official cease and desist letter -- restricted from wearing the black domino mask that was part and parcel of The Lone Ranger character. The court of public opinion rode on the ride of Moore, some so far as to boycott The Legend of the Lone Ranger (1981 motion-picture). But the history of campaigns siding with the television actor could be a book in itself. As if a disco record entitled “Keep the Mask on The Lone Ranger” issued in late 1979, from Meridian Records, was not enough to warrant curiosity, there was an independent "adult comic book" published in 1980 titled Mondo Montana, by artist Frank Ponikvar and his friends.

Ponikvar wrote and published a 68-page comic book hot off Missoula’s own Acme Press and was meant to help gain support for Clayton Moore. Die-hard fans of The Lone Ranger have been seeking this particular comic solely for the contents -- and the scarcity.

“It is a mixture of art and literature from Missoula,” Ponikar explained to a local newspaper in Montana. “It is a magazine that entertains and enlightens. It is for anyone who is adult and intelligent.” 

The publication was meant to resemble the underground comic books of the 1960s, although Ponikvar maintained it was not underground because it could be obtained “over the counter” and was “acceptable to anyone.” Mondo Montana, like its predecessors, Missoula Scandals (published the winter prior) and Missoula Comix (published in the summer of 1978) featured the zany art and gutsy literature of more than 25 artists and writers. Contributors included a U.S. Forest Service employee, a high school student, several University of Montana students, a waitress for the Mammyth Bakery, a local musician, an art professor from Eastern Montana College in Billings, a private investigator from Los Angeles, and a science-fiction illustrator from Olympia, Washington. 

Ponikvar admitted that he was expecting to break even and not make a profit, especially because only a total of 1,000 issues were printed. The limited printing did not stop fan letters from pouring in from all over the globe. From Kalmar, Sweden; Madison, Wisconsin; Southfield, Michigan, and San Jose, California. The publication did elicit letters of praise, such as one from Robert Crumb, creator of the cartoon character, Fritz the Cat, who wrote “It’s so interesting to me that I wanna go there and check out the place.” An employee of Kovacs Comic Book Shop in Cleveland, Ohio, however, did not offer a word of praise. “Here’s your comic back,” their letter read. “This has to be the worst piece of garbage anyone ever dared to call a comic.”

The cover of Mondo Montana featured an exclusive photograph of Clayton Moore, taken by Sue Geston Bridges, wife of actor Jeff Bridges, set photographer for the movie Heaven’s Gate, and staff photographer for The Los Angeles Times. The photograph was the last taken of the actor before his black face mask was taken away through legal action by the producers of The Lone Ranger. The comic book beseeched its readers to “protest corporate dominance” and boycott any new Lone Ranger enterprises. The issue also included a large black mask which readers were urged to cut out and wear to preserve “Clayton Moore’s livelihood.”

The content varied from short stories to a satirical jab at the telephone company. There was poetry, such as “Historical Eggs at the Oxford Café,” to a comic strip that captured the life of the Harley Davidson motorcycle cult that hung out at Luke’s Tavern. There was a page dedicated to “Pet Astrology,” a horoscope column that discussed the star signs of Fido and Boots, among others. 

Ponikvar devoted not just the front cover but also page 66 of Mondo Montana to the “save the mask” campaign. The magazine featured a black mask that readers were urged to cut out and wear in protest of “corporate dominance.”

“The producers of The Lone Ranger have stripped Clayton Moore of his mask,” Ponikvar wrote. “Boycott any new Lone Ranger enterprises. Support individual freedoms… Clayton Moore’s livelihood depends on his mask. His image (an original art piece) was cultivated only by his talent. Artists deserve more than this while they’re alive. Support the artist while he is alive. Let us devote the practice of milking one’s image after death.” In addition, Ponikvar initiated a letter-writing campaign, urging readers to write to Moore through the Missoula Comix office. “All they have to say is, ‘We want to save the mask,” Ponikvar said.

“What is happening is this,” Ponikvar explained. “By popular demand, a corporation is going to have to turn over the right to the mask to Moore or they’re going to lose money through the boycott. His fans respect the fact that he (Moore) should have the mask. We don’t want someone like him to die unnoticed in a hotel room somewhere.”

I have never seen this available on eBay in the last decade. None of the comic book vendors were even aware of it when I told them about the long-rumored comic. Curiosities like this, not listed in price guides, are often sold for low prices because even the vendor is uncertain of the value.

If you are able to find a copy of this comic book, or come across it in your travels, there is a good chance the vendor selling it won't know of the scarcity -- grab it while you can.


Friday, February 17, 2023

The Audio Adventures of THE PRISONER

Fans of the 1960s TV spy series, The Prisoner, starring Patrick McGoohan, will be pleased to know that the series continued multiple times beyond the 17 hour-long television episodes. When The Prisoner premiered on U.S. television, it brought forth from viewers more debate and enthusiasm than any other TV show within memory. Many became cult fanatics for the clever plots and controversial ending. Not precisely science-fiction, but more of a spy caper, the series gained popularity over the years following the initial telecasts. One fan licensed action figures and pre-sold them through Kickstarter. Others wrote fan fiction and posted such stories on the Internet. AMC produced a three-part remake (which was terrible, sad to say). Comic book artists have created their own rendition with new stories. But none could be better suited than the 2016 - 2018 series of audio adventures produced by Big Finish. 

A talented cast and crew went into the studios to record brand new audio dramas, reviving the series that took place in 1967, in which a secret agent resigned without giving a reason. In his attempt to leave the country, he is knocked out and wakes to find himself incarcerated in "The Village," a seaside community located who-knows-where. Everyone is designated with a number, not a name, and our secret agent is labeled "Number Six." The top head is Number One, but all commands are given out by Number Two. In every episode, the evil organization attempts to extract information out of Number Six -- including the answer to the big question: "Why did you resign?" And, in every episode, Number Six attempts to use their schemes against them to escape and flee "The Village."

In three separate volumes, with a total of 12 hour-long adventures, The Prisoner returns with brand new stories and concepts with updated technology to advance the science-fiction aspect of the premise. At first I found Mark Elstob to mimic Patrick McGoohan's voice and mannerisms admirably but half way through the first episode I found he nailed the impersonation perfectly.

Big Finish, located in Berkshire, England, has been producing Doctor Who audio dramas for more than a decade, with the original television cast, with new adventures for fans of the television program. Like The Prisoner, I find these dramas a fantastic way to pass the time during long drives. But if you are a fan of The Prisoner, do not overlook these twelve audio dramas. The ending, incidentally, is different from the one featured on the television series!