THE RED SHADOW by Robert J. Hogan (a pulp author better known for writing aviation whiz G-8 or the sinister Wu-Fang) was the first in his short-lived Secret Six series. It starts well as King, a pilot framed for the Red Shadow deaths ( “The coroner says everyone in the house was strangled, but there are no marks on the throat.”)breaks out of prison alongside the cherubic Bishop and master lockpick “Key” to find the real killer (why yes, they do recruit three more allies!). Hogan doesn’t, however, have the touch that elevates Walter Gibson and Lester Dent’s work to the pulp crimefighter A-list; the murder method is too obvious (the cops should really have figured it out) and having King take on a pidgin-spouting black muscleman sidekick who calls him “master” really hasn’t aged well.
Back in the 1990s, writer/artist Alan Grant’s Clandestine introduced the metahuman Destine clan who live clandestinely in the UK (get it?), hiding their powers — which becomes more complicated when the youngest members, thinking they’re mutants (their powers are more magical in nature) decide to become superheroes just like the X-Men. The delightful series didn’t take off but Grant revisits them in CLANDESTINE: Family Ties, a combination of a limited series with a trio of crossovers (Fantastic Four, Daredevil and Wolverine). The story wraps up some old plotlines from the original series and introduces another Destine, Vincent, who was killed in a brutal family feud but has now returned. Like the original series this is a lot of fun though I’d recommend starting with the TPB of the original run.
The sixth volume of SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP by Sholly Fisch and Dario Baizuela continues in the same vein as the previous five as the kids and Scooby help out the Legion of Superheroes, the Birds of Prey, Atom Ant, Yogi Bear and the Jerry Lewis March of Dimes telethon (or as close as they could come), the latter story including most of DC’s Silver Age comedy lineup (DC published a Jerry Lewis comic book at the time). The usual mix of whimsical comedy and Easter eggs.
While I won’t start writing my McFarland Alien Visitors book for a couple of months, I am doing some advance reading on the topic. Unfortunately my first pick was Patrick Luciano’s THEM OR US: Archetypal Interpretations of Fifties Alien Invasion Films. Luciano means “archetypal” quite literally, arguing that these seemingly ridiculous films embody Jungian archetypes, so when the hero of Invaders of Mars tries to warn people about the invaders it actually represents “the eruption of the self archetype into consciousness.” Nothing of use to me there, and I disagree with Luciano lumping in non-invader films such as The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (though I suppose from a Jungian viewpoint the distinction may not matter).
After treating myself to that Amicus DVD set a few months back, I wanted to learn more about the company. Brian McFadcen’s AMICUS HORRORS covers their entire output (it’s not a huge list) starting with when producers Milt Subotsky and Max Rosenberg were putting out rock and roll picture such as It’s Trad, Dad (directed by Richard Lester who of course went on to A Hard Day’s Night) before Beatlemania meant non-Beatles rock films were dead in the water. McFadden shows Amicus was just as tough about spending money as America’s AIP films — anthology films were a way to cut costs because a segment with Christopher Lee would cost less than using him for a full-length movie — but used the savings to produce higher quality films, something AIP never worried about. Along with roc and horror, Amicus also gave us Peter Cushing’s two Doctor Who films, the John Brunner-scripted The Terrornauts (one where the budget was low and it showed) and even a Harold Pinter adaptation; McFadden unfortunately falls into the common film-reference delusion that as we know now where Amicus’ strengths lay, clearly attempts to depart from horror were a mistake. Despite that, this is a great read if you’re into the studio.
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