Rudy Panucci On Pop Culture

Month: August 2022 (Page 1 of 4)

Her Hope Haven in Huntington Thursday

Sorry for the short notice,but Thursday, September 1st at Marshall University you have a chance to screen the pilot episode of Her Hope Haven. The showing will be in room 402 at the Drinko Library on the Marshall campus.

Her Hope Haven is a comedy-drama about a group of women working the steps toward their sobriety. Set in a women’s inpatient recovery center in Charleston, WV, Her Hope Haven is a place where women are given a chance to get their kids back, their dignity back, stay out of jail, and stay alive.

Their stories are more complex than only their addiction. Against the odds of societal expectations and the money-making business of recovery, the women seek redemption through small stories of levity, euphoria, and heartbreak. The women persevere through working together, and at times against one another, to keep their sobriety as they build bonds with one another during the hardest time of their lives. It’s not about the addiction, it’s about the recovery.

Check out the video and graphic below, and if you’re able, make the trip to Huntington to check out this cool local project. You can also follow Her Hope Haven on Facebook.

Her Hope Haven | Official Trailer from Taylor Napier on Vimeo.

Curtain Call Lubes Up The AIR

Wednesday afternoon The AIR brings you a classic episode of Beatles Blast and a new and very special episode of Curtain Call!  You can tune in at the website, or if you’re on a laptop or desktop, you could just stay on this page, and  listen to the convenient embedded radio player lurking elsewhere on this page.

At 2 PM Beatles Blast goes back five years for a show that collects some of the most entertainly awful covers of Beatles songs ever. As I said back when this show debuted (this is one of the few replays of it since it debuted)…

Beatles Blast, hosted by your PopCulteer, observes their 13th episode by presenting an hour of some of the unluckiest covers of Beatles songs ever recorded. Kicking off with David Bowie’s unfortunate take on “Across The Universe,” the show continues with celebrities who think they can sing, metal bands who don’t quite understand what they’re supposed to be doing and easy-listening vocal groups who should just say “no.” And we won’t even go into the abomination that is “Looney Tunes Sings The Beatles.”

There is entertainment value here, just not musical entertainment value.

Beatles Blast can be heard every Wednesday at 2 PM, with replays Thursday at 10 PM, Friday at 1 PM,  and Saturday afternoon.

At 3 PM on Curtain Call, Mel Larch presents a mixtape show that serves as both a tribute to the late Olivia Newton John, and to the 50th anniversary of the Broadway debut of the musical Grease.

In early August the music world lost Olivia Newton John. While she never performed on Broadway, her role as Sandy in the movie adaptation of Grease had a huge influence on how that musical was later performed on stage. Mel is a fan and wanted to give her a nod on Curtain Call, like she did on MIRRORBALL a couple of weeks ago.

Coincidentally, Grease is celebrating fifty years since its debut on Broadway. In addition to the movie, the show has been the subject of several revivals and touring companies, and this week Curtain Call brings you a mash-up of The movie soundtrack, the original Broadway cast recording, and the recording of the 1995 Broadway revival, which starred Brooke Shields.

The movie made several changes to the story, with some songs removed and new songs written for the film. With the film being so successful, the new songs were incorporated into later stage versions along with some other changes. This show will let you hear some interesting juxtapositions as it jumps from one version to another, beginning and ending, of course, with a few of the movie versions of the song, featuring Olivia Newton John.

Curtain Call can be heard on The AIR Wednesday at 3 PM, with replays Thursday at 8 AM, Friday at 10 AM, Saturday at 8 PM and Monday at 9 AM. A six-hour marathon of classic episodes can be heard Sunday evening starting at 6 PM, and an all-night marathon of Curtain Call episodes can be heard Wednesday nights, beginning at Midnight.

Also on The AIR, Wednesday at 11 PM, a new edition of The Comedy Vault features the best musical numbers from The Simpsons. The Comedy Vault can be heard every Wednesday at 11 PM, with the new episodes replayed a couple of weeks later, Monday at 8 PM.

Exit August With New RFC and The Swing Shift

It’s a fun day on The AIR  as we premere new episodes of The Swing Shift and Radio Free Charleston! You simply have to point your cursor over and tune in at the website, or you could just stay here and  listen to the cool embedded player elsewhere on this page.

Following up in the format we used for Radio Free Charleston Volume Five #100 two weeks ago, our newest show, which you can hear at 10 AM and 10 PM Tuesday is yet another three-hour show loaded with local and independent music, and presented as double-shots with two tunes each of musical artists from all over the RFC Archives of the last 30-plus years.

We have some vintage local goodies, some brand-new local goodies and some great new stuff from our friends in Chicago. We even explain how “The Chicago Pipeline” came to be.

We open the show with a brand-new single from David Synn, whose new album “A New Dawn” hits all streaming platforms on September 16.  I did cheat the double-shot format a bit. I included three songs by The Settlement, because one song morphed into another and it just didn’t sound right chopping it off abruptly.

Check out the playlist below to see all the goodies we have in store (live links will take you to the artist’s pages where possible)…

RFC V5 101

hour one
David Synn “Island of Gorgo” “The Feeding”
Red Audio “Girl From Outer Space” “Castles (Michalangelo’s Nightmare)”
The Alright Maybes “Kurt” “The Man Who Played The Part”
Curious Grace & Black Rabbit “Taylor’s Hill” “”Believer”
Dropcoat “Black Metal Parade “Do You Ever Wonder”
Blue Million “I’m On The Run” “”Will You Think of Me”
Joe Vallina “I Haven’t Got Enough” “To The Phonomatic”

hour two
Mad Scientist Club “My Transmission” “Save The Whales”
Deni Bonet “Why Not You” “Frankenstein”
The BrotherSisters “The Mountains of Instead” “This Man Won’t Stand Down”
Sierra Ferrell “Jerimiah” “Why’d Ya Do It”
The Settlement “Reason” “Recognize” “Enter Mission”

hour three
The Renfields “From Beyond” “Circle of Fakes”
Tautologic “Rocket Surgery” “The Whistler”
Wren Allen Band “What Are You Waiting For” “Skate”
Beggars Clan “Maiden Voyage” “Divide and Conquer”
Spencer Elliott “Rain Shadow” “There’s Something In The Airlock”
Speedsuit “As Long As Yesterday” “Roller Coaster of Booze”

You can hear this episode of Radio Free Charleston Tuesday at 10 AM and 10 PM on The AIR, with replays Thursday at 2 PM, Friday at 9 AM, Saturday at Noon and Midnight,  and  Monday at 11 AM, exclusively on The AIR. Now you can also hear a different episode of RFC every weekday at 5 PM, and we bring you a marathon all night long Saturday night/Sunday morning.

I’m also going to  embed a low-fi, mono version of this show right in this post, right here so you can listen on demand.

 

Then at 1 PM we have two hours of  MIRRORBALL.

At 3 PM a new hour of The Swing Shift arrives  with a special mixtape show that I can’t give you a playlist for because that show hasn’t been recorded yet as I write this, for the second time in a row!

I can tell you that it’s nearly a solid hour of one of the leading Swing Revival bands of the 1990s, The Cherry Poppin’ Daddies. They crossed over from Ska to Swing, but did some of the greatest new Swing numbers of the time, and they still dip into their Swing grab bag once in a while. You’ll hear all their hits and several more recent Swing forays from the band led by the “other” Steve Perry.

You can hear The Swing Shift Tuesday at 3 PM, with replays Wednesday at 8 AM, Thursday at 9 AM, Friday at 8 PM and Saturday afternoon, only on The AIR . You can also hear all-night marathons, seven hours each, starting at Midnight Thursday and Sunday evenings.

Monday Morning Art: Pent Up Pin Up

 

This week’s art is me playing with a Basil Gogos color palatte, but applying it to a traditional pin-up pose instead of a movie monster, and going just a little abstract. This is acrylic paint on thick illustration board, but I used thicker paint to try to emulate oils. I photographed it rather than trying to scan it before it dried. Because of that I color-corrected it and cropped it a bit for publication here.

This was just me attempting to learn some new techiques.

To see it bigger try clicking HERE.

Meanwhile, Monday at 2 PM on The AIR, we bring you new episodes of  Psychedelic Shack, and then at 3 PM a new edition of Herman Linte’s weekly showcase of the Progressive Rock of the past half-century, Prognosis.  You can listen to The AIR at the website, or on the embedded radio player elsewhere on this page.

On Psychedelic Shack, Nigel Pye offers up an hour-long salute to Jefferson Airplane, with tracks from the Airplane, plus The Great Society and the KBC band. I’m writing this in advance before going out of town, so I don’t have a playlist for either of today’s new shows from our friends at Haversham.

Psychedelic Shack can be heard every Monday at 2 PM, with replays Tuesday at 9 AM, Wednesday at 10 PM, Friday at 1 PM,  and Saturday at 9 AM. Classic episodes can be heard Sunday at 9 AM as part of our Sunday Haversham Recording Institute collection.

On Prognosis, Herman Linte presents a two-hour career retrospective of Jethro Tull

You can hear Prognosis on The AIR Monday at 3 PM, with replays Tuesday at 7 AM, Wednesday at 8 PM, Thursday at Noon, and Saturday at 10 AM. You can hear two classic episodes of the show Sunday at 2 PM.

Tonight at 8 PM you can hear an hour of vintage comedy from The Goon Show on The Comedy Vault. Wednesday evening at 10 PM, we’ll have another new episode of The Comedy Vault.

Then, at 9 PM we bring you an overnight marathon of Mel Larch’s showcase of Disco Music, MIRRORBALL.

Sunday Evening Video: The Velvet Brothers

Today is the seventeenth anniversary of PopCult.  My first post appeared on this day in 2005.

As those of you gullible enough to believe me here know, the traditional gift for a 17th anniversary is something made of Velvet.

That’s crap. It’s actually furniture,  but there’s a payoff here so just pretend.

Today, for our 17th anniversary we bring you about 20 minutes of The Velvet Brothers, recorded at The Cantina in Kanawha City,  in 2017. Because you can never go wrong with The Velvet Brothers.

The RFC Flashback: Episode 119

We take you back to February, 2011 for Radio Free Charleston episode 119, “Transformer Shirt.” This episode featured the RFC debut of Sasha Colette, a song from “Norman Rockwell’s An American Love Story,” a special surprise song from Symphony Idol winner Ryan Hardiman and DEVO/Valentine’s animation by Frank Panucci.

This is a bittersweet show, with host segments shot at Hubbard Hospice House, just hours before Mel’s mother, Betty Larch, passed away. Making it even more bittersweet is the presence of Mark Scarpelli on two of the songs in this show. It’s a great time capsule of theatre and music from early 2011, but it’s tinged with a bit of sadness.

You can find the original production notes HERE.

Loads of Questions Plus An Anniversary

The PopCulteer
August 26, 2022

The original plan for today’s PopCulteer was to just reprint an old post to commemorate an anniversary, and I’m still going to do that below, but something else came up.

Wednesday the city of Charleston and the Kanawha County Commission announced plans for a huge investment in an indoor sports complex to be built at the site of the now-closed Macy’s and one of the parking buildings adjacent to The Charleston Town Center.

At first glance this is a great idea. Sports tourism is a new industry, and it’s great to see our local governments invest in that rather than wasting tax money propping up a dying fossil fuel industry. The plans unveiled Wednesday are ambitious, very clever in places, and can definitely help the city in many ways.

Young people will have more stuff to do in town. Physical activity is good for the general health of the people in the area. Attracting people from out of town to come here and spend money is always a great idea. Creating so much more foot traffic to the Town Center Mall can only help them to lure more retailers to what is currently West Virginia’s fastest-growing ghost mall.

Best of all, no beer is involved and it’s not a freaking casino. It’s fantastic that, for once, we’re going to see a public investment in something that does not involve feeding one of the public’s addictions.

With that established, I think it’s a great idea, but I have a lot of questions.

First, how much of this planning was done behind closed doors before what appears to be a heavily-researched and elaborate spending program was sprung on the public? Were open meeting laws violated?

ZMM did a great job with the initial plans. Was the contract for this job put out to bid? (our images for this post are taken from their concept illustrations)

Has anybody figured out exactly who owns the Lee Street parking garage, part of which is slated to be demolished to build this new sports complex?

Just exactly how feasible is it to demolish only the top three floors of a five-story parking building? Wouldn’t that technically be “dismantling” those floors? Has anybody done a deep dive on the logistics of this? Might it not be quicker and more cost-efficient, not to mention safer, to take down the whole parking structure, and build it back up from scratch, with two floors of parking below the athletic center?

Why weren’t there any representatives of The Hull Group, the current owners of the Town Center Mall, on hand? Are they okay with this plan, or will they file numerous lawsuits to block this, like they’ve done with the demolition of the old Sears building?

It seems like, in addition to being generally difficult to work with, the Hull Group might have some legitimate concerns about losing five or six mall entrances and half their parking. Could their stubbornness result in this sports complex not having a direct mall entrance so that people can avail themselves to what’s left of the food court and the Starbucks? Is it possible that they’ll resist this project simply to keep the value of their property–and therefore their property taxes–depressed?

Likewise, is JC Penny on board with this. They’re going to lose access to some parking as well.

With all the Lee Street garage parking shifting over to the Quarrier Street garage (at least during the construction phase), will anything be done first to prevent that structure from collapsing?

It is well-known that the Charleston Town Center was built where the Triangle District, an historic Black neighborhood in Charleston, once stood. Once completed, will this new sports complex be open and available to Black kids and poor kids and underprivileged people, or are we spending tens of millions of dollars to build a tourist attraction that, when it’s not being used for tournaments will simply be a plaything for wealthy folks who live in South Hills or The East End?

Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango says that they plan is to sell memberships to allow locals to use this facility. Isn’t that dangerously close to what they do at country clubs? How expensive will these memberships be? Will there be programs in place to grant memberships to deserving young athletes whose families can’t afford to join?

What exactly is the projected time frame for this project? Dozens of cities are investing in building sports complexes, many of them within easy driving distance of Charleston. Is it going to be possible to get this sports complex built in time to be competitive with all the other cities who are making a play for a piece of the sports tourism pie?

Will the city and county reach out to work with the state on improving the roads into town? I know that things are progressing, slowly, around the Nitro-St. Albans bridge, which once completed will give us six to eight lanes on I-64 all the way to the Kentucky border, but what about our other two major interstates? What kind of committement can we pry loose from the WV DOH to maintain all the major roads into Charleston?

Who is going to run the finished facility?  It’s been said that the city and country will appoint a joint committee.  Isn’t that how we got the mess we currently have trying to figure out who owns the parking structures?

It seems like this idea has not exactly sprung forth in the most transparent manner. Going forward, now that the cat’s officially out of the bag, will public input really be seriously considered? Can the questions I’ve posed off the top of my head be answered? There’s a lot to ponder here.

I think this is a great idea, and could potentially be a major boon to the city of Charleston and the surrounding area. It’s forward thinking, attractive to young people and could potentially revitalize the Charleston Town Center Mall (if the owners are willing). The $80 million price tag seems like a sound investment in our future. Now it only has to pass the smell test.

Anniversary Day

I’ve written this post in advance because your PopCulteer and his bride have ventured Northward for a couple of days to observe our eighth wedding anniverary. In honor of that, and in an effort to make my life easier, I planned to re-post our wedding announcement, which originally ran here the day after we exchanged vows on stage at The Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago. I wound up cranking out that longish item above, but here’s a flash back to 2014…

Hey, y’know that top secret project I’ve been talking about all week?

Well, if all goes according to plan, by the time you read this, Melanie Larch and I will have become a married couple. And to think, it only took 24 years for us to tie the knot. With all our elder-care commitments fulfilled and no other obstacles in our path, we can finally be together.

The ceremony is to have taken place Tuesday morning on the Stage of the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago. We wanted a quiet ceremony in a special place, and that fit the bill perfectly. Every PopCult post that has been published since last week was written on Wednesday, August 20. That’s why the tense is all wonky.

If you’re wondering why we decided to get married in Chicago, there are many reasons. First of all, I hate cermonies. I just can’t stand the pomp and circumstance and other related BS that fuels the Wedding Industrial Complex. I just want to be with the woman I love. I don’t want to go through the Spanish Inquisition.

On top of that, Melanie and I didn’t feel right getting married in a state that does not allow all of our friends the same right. I know it’s inevitable that marriage equality will come to the Mountain State, but we didn’t want to wait any longer.

Add to that the moronic law passed a couple of years ago that coerces people, even people who have been together more than two decades, into undergoing religious and/or psychological counseling before they can tie the knot, and it was clear that, as far as getting married goes, West Virginia is not open for our business.

We were planning to go to Chicago anyway, and Melanie holds Steppenwolf in very high regard, so I suggested she ask if we could get married there. She did. And they said yes. And we said “I Do.”

We’re hoping that none of our friends feel slighted that we did this out of town. In the event that anyone reading this really feels the need for us to have a huge reception with tons of guests, please, feel free to throw one for us. We’ll be there… as long as we don’t have to do any planning or pay for it.

That is our PopCulteer for this week. Over on The AIR you can catch the remainder of Friday’s 24-hour marathon of Sydney’s Big Electric Cat until midnight. At midnight, the next marathon, of yours truly hosting Beatles Blast takes over for a day, and then a midnight Saturday night/Sunday morning, settle in for 24 hours of The Comedy Vault.

Back Inaction

The PopCult Toybox

It’s been a while since I’ve had the time to do a good, in-depth photo essay/toy review, so I’m going to jump in with a review of the recently-released “Back In Action” set from Mattel Creations.

This was a limited edition that sold online only and is no longer available. I’m going to be as generous as possible with this review, but I’ll tell you upfront that I’m more than a little cynical about this set of three action figures.

It’s pretty clear that this set only exists to allow Mattel to keep their hold on the trademarks for three of their classic action figure lines.

The packaging for this set is fairly elaborate and very clever. Each of the three figures is on a blister card enclosed within a shallow box, and those three boxes are held in a slipcover. This doesn’t totally compensate for the fact that the figures themselves are pretty lackluster.

Let me give you a little history first: Back in the 1980s, Mattel secured the rights to Marvel’s Super Heroes for a line of action figures and came up with “Secret Wars,” a line of toys integrated with a company-wide crossover of all Marvel Comics.

Mattel’s deal to produce Marvel action figures was a direct response to Kenner’s success with their Super Powers line, based on DC Comics’ heroes. While Kenner and DC offered up line of 4 1/2 inch tall figures with high detail, lots of articulation and special action features and accessories, Mattel and Marvel produced a slightly taller figure with only five points of articulation and limited detail, with no accessories.

In fact, many of the Marvel Secret Wars figures just used the same body, with a different head and paint job. About eight years ago Fresh Monkey Fiction started the Amazing Heroes line, done in the style of Marvel’s Secret Wars figures, and while I got a couple of them, I didn’t collect the entire line because, well, this type of action figure sorta sucks. Lately, Fresh Monkey Fiction has decided to do a figure line, in the style of Kenner’s Super Powers.

I’ve always found the Kenner Super Powers figures to be vastly superior. and kids and collectors in the 1980s obviously agreed because Kenner’s line stuck around in stores much longer than Mattel’s Secret Wars did.

Which begs the question, why did Mattel make these three figures in the style of one of their least impressive action figure lines? Some folks even call it an “inaction figure” due to the lack of articulation.

The only explanation I can come up with is, it was cheap, they could do it quick and it’d allow them to secure these trademarks without making much of an effort.

In fact, these figures were meant to be sold in 2020 and bear that date on their molds and backing cards. I don’t know if they were delayed by COVID or if Mattel was having second thoughts, but full production sets of these three figures were being sold by Chinese vendors  on eBay (for embarrasingly large amounts of money) two years before they officially went on sale from Mattel Creations. It sure seems like these guys lived in a warehouse in China for a couple of years.

The three figures included in this set are Major Matt Mason, Big Jim (in his P.A.C.K. guise) and Pulsar. The figures pretty much suck, like all Secret Wars-style figures. There are NO accessories.

I’m glad I got these, simply for curiosity’s sake, and also to maybe convince Mattel to do more with these characters. I’m not going to bother opening them. They’re more knick-knacks than action figures.  Seriously, they’re like Funko Pops with normal-sized heads.  I’ll tell you more about each character in the captions below the photos, which start now…

It was very clever of Mattel to mark the outer shipping box with the Secret Wars name, and mimic the look of a case of vintage figures.

The very sharp-looking slipcover, with the inner boxes exposed on one side. As action figures go, these are well-suited to stay on your bookshelf.

Uh…yeah…right.

The real reason for this set.

Big Jim, on a blister card, housed in a nearly-identical box. It’s very cool to see Jack Kirby’s package art from the mid-1970s used here. Big Jim was a 10-inch tall competitor to GI Joe that focused more on athletics and hunting than war and adventure.  In 1975 he was re-branded as the leader of “Big Jim’s P.A.C.K.” in an effort to grab some of MEGO’s superhero market share. Even with Kirby designs and insert comics by John Buscema, the line didn’t click.

The figure looks sorta like Big Jim, standing in the patented Secret Wars “man I really gotta use the bathroom” pose. It’s really cheesy to have all his webgear printed on him.

Pulsar was a huge, over 13-inch tall figure released in 1976 in an attempt to compete with Kenner’s Six Million Dollar Man line. He had a clear chest which let kids see his organs. A button let kids make his organs pulsate. He’s pretty obscure.

They did a deent job of recreating his likeness with the headsculpt, but the clear chest simply has organs printed inside, and they do not move.

A closer look at that headsculpt, a good copy of the original, which looks like it might have been done by the same guy who went on to sculpt He-Man.

My main reason for gettng this set was the inclusion of Major Matt Mason. In the mid-1960s, MMM was THE cool space toy. A six-inch tall bendy figure with tons of accessories and vehicles based on NASA’s designs.

This is the one figure that I wanted to see outside of his extra box. As it turns out, the front of the card looks pretty much like the box.

The back of the blister card has a short blurb and some vintage package art, and not much else (aside from the all-important trademark info).

The figure itself has a pretty decent approximation of MMM’s original headsculpt. The spacesuit details, painted on here, are so cheesy that they’re almost charming. At the end of the day, if you’re a die-hard MMM fan, you don’t really need this. He doesn’t even have a space helmet, for Christ’s sake.

And that is our look at the Back In Action set. It’s really cool to see these three characters back in action figure form, and the packaging is great, but the figures themselves are underwhelming. To me, forty bucks was acceptable, but your milage may vary.

 

A Quick Batch of STUFF TO DO To Get You Through The Week

We have some suggestions for STUFF TO DO in Charleston, Huntington, Fayettville and points North over the next few days, so let’s just dive in.

Live Music is back at Taylor Books. There is no cover charge, and shows start at 7:30 PM. Friday it’s Steve Himes. Saturday sees Brandon Costello at Charleston’s beloved Bookstore/coffeehouse/art gallery institution.

Please remember that the pandemic is not over yet. Many people who have very good reasons are still wearing masks, and many of us, understandably, are still nervous about being in crowds, masked or not. Be kind and understanding  while you’re out.

If you want to catch our week of marathons of our specialty shows,   tune in to The AIR Wednesday for Mel Larch’s Curtain Call, which brings you the best of musical theatre, and then at midnight and all day Thursday listen as Mel returns with MIRRORBALL, where she brings you the best dance music of the Disco era.

If you’re up for going out, here are some suggestions for the rest of this week, roughly in order. I’m going to try and cram in 12 graphics this week, so let’s hope the blog doesn’t explode.

Since we’re running this feature early this week, there’s bound to be more cool things pop up…

WEDNESDAY

 

THURSDAY

FRIDAY

SATURDAY

SUNDAY

THIS WEEKEND AND NEXT

The Return of The Spider

The PopCult Comix Bookshelf

The Spider: Crime Unlimited
written by Jerry Siegel, Donne Avenell
art by Aldo Marculeta. Giorgio Trevisan
Rebellion Publishing
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1786184658
$24.18

Last year I raved about a British comic book that revived a slew of 1960s Fleetway Comics characters. Among them was the criminal mastermind and anti-hero, The Spider.

The Spider was the most accomplished criminal in the world, to the point where he got bored hanging out with other criminal masterminds and started fighting crime alongside the police. Because he was the smartest man in the world, nobody every really trusted him, but when it came to foiling epic plots to dominate the Earth, he was the go-to savior of the planet.

As they say in the publisher’s blurb:

The Spider is the uncrowned king of the New York underworld, so elusive to the police that he even manages to taunt the Police Commissioner at his retirement party. But Professor Aldo Cummings, a famous but ill-tempered scientist, determined to stop the schemes of the Spider once and for all, invents a ray-machine which will eliminate the evil from a person’s personality. But a tragic miscalculation will turn Professor Cummings into the Professor of Power, and he will seek a more direct confrontation with the Spider.

The character is a bit sinister-looking. He had a large nose, pointed ears and a widow’s peak. That he usually wore a black bodysuit makes him bear an uncanny resemblance to the Golden Age depiction of Captain Marvel’s strongest foe, Black Adam. However he didn’t have that kind of superpowers. He was sort of like a Bond villain who would switch sides and help the good guys. It’s also worth noting that while The Spider’s adventures span the globe, he is based in New York City, which was a bit unusual for a British comic of the day.

This hardcover reprint volume collects two long adventures of The Spider from 1967, and there’s a lot of note here.  The first story is written by none other than Jerry Siegel, the co-creator of Superman, who found himself begging for work after DC Comics (then National Periodical Publications) blacklisted him for trying to reclaim ownership of his creation. Somehow he found himself writing for the top publisher of comics in Britain, and his work here is among his best.

Although the pacing and structure of the comic book is very much in line with UK comics aimed at kids, the ideas at work here are more subtle and sophisticated than one might expect. The dialogue is state-of-the-art 1960’s spy/action jargon, but the plot of this story, which opens with The Spider robbing a retirement trophy from the police commissioner, veers into the morality of mind control as a professor attempts to create a ray that will turn evil people good, and that experiment backfires, turning the professor evil instead, while giving him super powers.

This may be the first story where The Spider turns good to fight a greater evil. Eventually the character became predominantly a good guy, but here he’s still clearly on the fence. It’s a great introduction to The Spider, and leaves the reader wanting more.

The art on the first story, “The Professor of Power” is by Aldo Marculeta, and it serves the story well, with large panels and an art style clearly in the school of European spy comics of the time. Both stories are printed in black and white, the way they were originally published.

The second story, written by Donne Avenell with art by Giorgio Trevisan, is not quite as impressive, but it’s still loads of fun, and establishes a few more bits of character development that are important to The Spider in later stories.

Neither of these stories has been reprinted before, and hardly any stories of The Spider have shown up in the US, so this is a real treat for the Anglophiles among us.

The Spider: Crime Unlimited is a great introduction to one of the more unusual British comic book characters of the 1960s. I highly recommend it for fans of the period, fans of the spy/crime genre or just anybody who likes good comics. You ought to be able to order it from your favorite comic book shop or bookseller, or through Amazon.

A PopCult Note: Marathon week continues on our sister internet radio station, The AIR. Tuesday is filled with episodes of Radio Free Charleston. At midnight, we switch over to Mel Larch’s Musical Theater showcase, Curtain Call. Check out the player elsewhere on this page. 

« Older posts

© 2022 PopCult

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑