Sunday, January 31, 2010

Agents of Peril #14 - Foosh!

Here's this week's installment of my online comic strip, Agents of Peril.

Sorry I was late this week, but we've been hard at work in our basement, primarily digging through box after box of my stuff (some of which hasn't been seen in nearly 8 years). There has been some material we found that I'm really pleased with. They'll be popping up here sooner rather than later. (Shout out to Chris Ecker: I am honing in on something we corresponded on!)

As usual, click on the image above to see the full size scan.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Agents of Peril Strip #13 - ZZZZZ!!!

Even though I posted the article on 70s TV horror films yesterday, I didn't forget this weekend's Agents of Peril strip.

As always, click on the image to see the larger, much clearer version.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Kolchak's Back: More TV Movie Terrors

Last month, in the midst of a headcold, I woke in the night and dragged myself to my computer to impulsively write about what I called the Golden Age of made for TV horror films, the 70s. Even as I posted my take on a handful of some truly scary movies, others started popping up in my head that I thought were also worthy of attention.

In the days before cable or satellite TV, the 3 major TV networks, ABC, CBS and NBC still showed movies as part of their broadcast schedules. Initially, these were films previously released theatrically. There must have been a demand in general for films, because each of the networks started producing their own relatively low budget movies, often featuring then popular stars known more for their TV series work, including Robert Culp, William Shatner, Andy Griffith, etc. At times, these flicks (even a few here) were actually pilots to possible TV series (Charlie's Angels was one). The films were often bare bones, b-movie productions (in the original sense of that designation) relying on suspense and rudimentary atmosphere to carry the story rather than special effects. Also like the B's, each film actually had pretty short running times of about 70-80 minutes minus commercials.

As a young monster movie fan, I was excited that original horror, suspense and even science fiction films would pop up in these TV movie slots, sating an appetite for such material between issues of Famous Monsters or the weekend's regular monster movie programs. In Chicago, that included Creature Features (almost always classic Universal horror films) and Screaming Yellow Theatre (the cheapest of the cheap films, hosted by Jerry G Bishop as the original Svengoolie), and Channel 7 WLS doing a regular prime time Saturday movie program, featuring mostly Hammer films, which bucked the ABC network programs on that night.

Rather than simply update my original blog column, I determined without saying so that eventually I would get around to talking about this subject again. My criteria at that time remains the same: I must have seen the film when first shown so I could provide my impressons of these low budget productions upon a very young mind. There are some worth getting attention that I didn't see until I was an adult, thus the extremely creepy Don't Be Afraid of the Dark and the laughable Killdozer as examples which are not in my list.

So, without further adieu and in no particular order, here are more of my faves:

The Dead Don't Die (1975)
George Hamilton starred in the homage to the b-movie horror films of the 30s and 40s, set in that era. It has been ages since I saw this film, but it featured a mystery, which Hamilton's character is trying to resolve in the underworld of crime and the supernatural. The absolute best part of this film which remains strongly etched in my mind was disfigured character actor Reggie Nalder, playing an extremely creepy zombie, definitely someone you didn't want to see in the night... which is what played on my youthful brain later that evening in bed.

The Norliss Tapes (1973)
Even then, I had a feeling that this film was a pilot for a TV series... which, of course, I wanted to see happen. Roy Thinnes plays the title character, who is investigating the mysterious return of a woman's dead husband as a savage, blue-skinned, yellow eyed zombie. This was a take no prisoners, fast moving zombie with a plan... including a sculpture of Sargoth, sculpted in clay mixed with blood, which comes to life. Dan Curtis served up the Carl Kolchak (if he was on tranquilizers) riff, which wasn't at all lost on me. Unfortunately, no series was to come.

The Night Strangler (1973)
Darren McGavin was back as Carl Kolchak, this time on the trail of a killer living in the Seattle underground (the first time I had ever heard of it). Though this film was more strongly tinged with humor than the original Night Stalker, it still had me on the edge of my seat as the mysterious strangler hunts for his victims, which serve in extending his unnatural long life. Once again, Carl goes into the killer's lair all alone (again!)... only to find a refined, intelligent killer played by Richard Anderson (Oscar Goldman in The Six Million Dollar Man TV series) who's willing to talk even as he attempts to manuever himself into a position in which he can easily kill Kolchak. Crazed killers I could deal with, but urbane, educated deathdealers was relatively new to me. I know I hoped for more Kolchak movies after this, little realizing a TV series would be the eventual, wonderful result.

Ghost of Flight 401 (1978)
The 70s were also a time of a dubious films devoted to the paranormal, mostly in a exploitative manner (particular Sun Classic's films, including the classic Legend of Boggy Creek). This one stands out in my mind as being pretty darned creepy, because it was supposed to be true. It told the story of an ill-fated airline flight 401 that crashed in the Everglades, killing 103 people. Later, parts of the aircraft were taken and used on other aircraft... and that's when it got strange. People started seeing an unusual passenger on their flights, particularly the pilot of the craft, who died. Ernest Borgnine played the stone-faced, monotoned ghost, warning the flight crews of possible death. Okay, he was a good ghost, but, damn, he was creepy. I think I'll get off here and take the bus...

The UFO Incident (1975)
Here's a definite classic TV film featuring James Earl Jones and Estelle Parsons as a couple abducted by alien beings on a dark road at night. Based on the true story of Barney and Betty Hill, all the emotional bases are hit by the accomplished actors... and the alien stuff they recall is downright creepy. This is the first film to feature alien abductions and the outright fear and horror that an abductee might feel. At that time, my family lived in a house in the country removed from the safety of having neighbors close by. I don't know if I believe in that stuff these days, but I can't deny that back then I went to bed thinking of what might come calling in the night... and probably got very little sleep.

Night Gallery (1969)
Okay, okay... it's from the late 60s. I don't care. The Twilight Zone was a regular part of my TV viewing as a kid, even though it scared the hell out of me quite a few times. I remember watching this pilot film and really only the first part with Roddy McDowall as a rotten creep who killed for family inheritance money. With quick cut away and back shots, this EC Comics type story effectively ends with revenge crawling right out of the grave... as depicted in a painting of a cemetery on the wall, which changes from cut to cut showing Roddy's late victim coming back to get revenge. When the later Night Gallery TV series came on, I was so creeped by the opening title's music and distorted human faces that I could barely watch it... regardless of a lack of true scares in the stories.

The Demon Murder Case (1983)
Okay, okay, I'm really pushing it here, with a film produced much later than the Golden Age. The reason I'm doing so is just because it scared the heck out of me and is one of the few on this list or the previous one that still catches me off guard truly creeping me out big time. Basically, it's the so-called true story of a kid who's accused of murder who claims he is being told to do so by a demon. This is where it gets really creepy, gang. The kid describes the demon as looking like a kid who has been horribly burned, his skin blackened like an overdone hot dog on a grill. If my memory serves me right, the demon wears a hat and a t-shirt. In one scene, the kid is asked if he can see the demon. He points away and says he's over there, smiling. The one damned thing I never want to see is that friggin' demon sitting there all crispy, smiling at me. I haven't seen this film in awhile, so it may be awful... but it scared the shit out of me, and to this day, still does. [I start muttering the Lord's Prayer.]

Okay, you've read my take on these films. I left some faves off (Snowbeast from 1977... lots of fun but not an iota of scary). What are your faves? Am I out of line with my opinions? What films got you all creeped out? Let me know.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Space Giants Preview - The Monster Times Collectors' Issue #1, 1973

Not to step on my buddy, the Shonen King aka Roy's toes... but I was looking through some old Monster Times issues and stumbled upon a fun little article that previewed a then upcoming, syndicated TV series called The Space Giants.

I really love this series, though I have to admit that my initial reaction was underwhelming. I saw bits and pieces of it when it debuted in Chicago on Channel 44 in the afternoon, along with Ultraman and Johnny Socko and his Giant Robo. I was familiar with the latter two series but I had never seen Goldar and company. I thought Rodak was kind of cartoonish and the robot family stuff was childish.

I held on to this opinion until one day when I was talking about these shows to my buddy, Fish, whose opinion on pop culture (like Marvel Comics) I respected. I brought up The Space Giants and Fish sat up and said how cool it was, noting its contiuing storylines. Well, I started watching it, and very soon afterwards, I found myself a fan (for life, so far... at least until 2012).

So, here's a two-page preview that appeared in the one-shot tabloid sized, newsprint Monster Times Collectors Issue #1, that was primarily devoted to Star Trek, but had articles on other great SF TV series, like UFO... maybe I'll post that, too... and the original Outer Limits. Within the article, there are some minor errors or material that would have been altered along the way to bringing Magma Taishi to North American TV screens. I leave it to Roy to write about the details when he eventually covers the series in Black Sun. Click on the pages to see the larger versions.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Agents of Peril #12 - Ambush!

Here's the 12th installment of the Agents of Peril online comic strip. As always, click on the image to see a much larger and easier to read and see version of the artwork.

Meanwhile, coming soon (in serialized digital comic strip form): The Monster Patrol origin story and an unpublished Creepsville epic adventure, "Dangerous Spooky Theatre." Hmmm, why does that sound familiar?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Agents of Peril Strip #11

Here's this week's installment of the Agents of Peril strip.
Click on the image to see the larger version.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Another Way To Read Monster Patrol

Much earlier today, I posted the story of Johnny Ruckus teaming up with the Monster Patrol. Here on The Laughing Reindeer, we must abide by the rules of Google, which are fine by me and incredibly generous. However, I knew that eventually some of my plans for the site must be done offsite due to space considerations.

What I'm getting at here is after having provided a story I created for Big Bang Comics for the first time in full-color story posted page by page this morning... that same story is now online in one trim package to be read like a comic book. Basically, I bound the whole story together using .Rar, but instead of the file saying .rar, it says .cbr. That tag will allow you to use a nifty freeware program in the Internet called CDisplay, which works with PCs, but not Mac OS (sorry Mac users... I'll keep my eyes open for one for you, too.).

The great thing about CDisplay is that you can read my story just like reading a comic (okay, maybe not in a bathroom). This program can be found myriad places, including or go ahead and Google for it. Once you download and install, it's easy to set it up so that you can read my comic story (and others available online). As an FYI, in the future, as my stories finish up, I will also provide these "bound" versions online to download... gratis.

I'll have more details for you later, but these stories (and more) will be available (at least until 2012, when the world comes to an end) on my Roadside Horrors website (

I'm currently extensively updating that creepy travel website, but the new section I envision will be accessible from the home page. Don't get me wrong, I'll still continue to debut my comics work here on Blogspot.

For the moment, you can download the Monster Patrol team-up story by right clicking this link Right Here, and save the 4M document to your desktop. Once you get CDisplay, you can read it, too. [Please note that it still is a .rar file and can be opened via that program the usual way.]

Coming next: the latest Agents of Peril strip... and perhaps more.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Are You Ready For Monster Patrol?

I've mentioned about a million times that I'm the midst of working on quite a few projects these days, one of which involved a seemingly one-off appearance by an oddball team of creatures called Monster Patrol.

The Monster Patrol was conceived by me years ago after the first Creepsville series went to temporary rest in cancelation land. For those few of you who never saw it, Creepsville was my homage to cheesy, low budget horror films... particularly the rubber suit monster types. Monster Patrol went one step further in my manic desire to draw monsters, this time having them as the central characters in the comic.

I had a goofy idea. Suppose you took a handful of those great old monsters drawn by Jack Kirby for Marvel in the late 50s - early 60s and I made them the good guys... fighting crime. I thought of the fun of drawing a story with a huge monster tip toeing through city streets chasing bad guys. I started designing them, getting an idea of what types of creatures would make up this group.

The breakdown was a 4 creature team led by a scientist named Dr. Malone along with a robot woman named Martha. If you noticed that Dr. Malone shares the same surname as the family in Creepsville, there's a reason for that... which will be revealed sooner or later.

Without giving too much away, the monsters are Dr. Bigfoot, Neptus (a sea monster), Kona (a living statue of the Easter Island variety) and Xarkorr (a giant space invader). I set to work creating an origin story of this team when along came Chris Ecker.

Chris Ecker was one of my co-workers at the late HERO Illustrated magazine, but I already knew him from years of working in the comics retail biz... I owned a comic store and Chris was working at Moondogs. When I got the gig of editor at HERO, one of the best moves that Sendai Publications ever did was to hire Chris. At that time, Chris was also one of the creators (with Gary Carlson) and creative forces on a comic published by Image, called Big Bang Comics. Big Bang spun stories told in retro style, for example the Knight Watchman drawn in an uncanny Dick Sprang style of the great, old Batman comics. It says Tom King drew it, but I've gotta give Chris his credit for drawing some gorgeous work. Somehow or other, Chris gave me the greenlight to do a homage to those great old Brave and the Bold DC team-up comics of the 60s that would appear in a future Big Bang.

I created a 9 page story (including a fake cover) for a series called The Free and the Brave. Rather than doing a Batman riff, I used an oddball character I had laying around called Johnny Ruckus; a co-creation with a very talented guy named Ron Murphy of Tor Love Betty fame (published by Fantagraphics under their Eros Comics imprint). A future blog will cover Johnny more in depth, but basically he was a take on the 60s Captain Action toy line. I think of him as sort of a boy scout-like Superman with no powers.

Even though I had been working on the Monster Patrol origin story, here was an opportunity to debut the team. I decided to not to tell how they came to be, but drop in hints from the bigger story in a seeming one-shot comic story. This was just the established team, operating more like DC Comics' Metal Men than anything King Kirby created. Published in Big Bang Comics #16, the story also teased at the end that the Patrol would be back next year... which didn't happen.

I get the feeling that a lot of people weren't sure what to make of the story. It was deliberately humorous in style, whereas most of the Big Bang comics were played straight. One review of the story flattered me greatly saying something like the comic was "more Kurtzman than Kirby." That reviewer really seemed to like it, though the cover of that issue doesn't even hint at the story inside.

Let's jump way ahead to today. What you have here is that story presented for the first time in full color. Though it's intended to be a part of a larger project (Secret Project #2), I decided some time ago to reprint the whole story right here. Click on the images below to see the larger versions.

I hope you enjoy it. I had a lot of fun drawing it way back when and more fun now coloring it. Oh, and click on the images to see the larger versions.

Oh, and I promise that this time, there is more Monster Patrol fun ahead. I am hard at work coloring the Patrol's origin story and will be posting it here... one page at a time, sort of like my Agents of Peril strip.

Enjoy the story, and as Neptus says, "GROWWF!"

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Agents of Peril Strip #10

This week's update is the 10th part of the Agents of Peril story.

In addition, I created an official Agents of Peril shirt design, which is available on Cafe Press. I used this piece of art to create 2 different designs. There's a full color version and another in light green. The links for the 2 shirts are below:

Agents of Peril Full-Color Version

Agents of Peril Green Version

As usual, click on either pieces of art above to see the larger versions.