COVER STORIES for 10/14/2007
COVER STORIES INSTALLMENT #127
Welcome, faithful readers (and those of you joining us for the first time) to the latest installment of Cover Stories, the weekly column in which I, Jon B. Knutson, present a group of covers with a common theme (unless I'm doing an installment of one of the sub-series of Cover Stories, 1-10 or this week's installment)!
This time around, it's time once again for...
And yes, I'm still heavily into the two Charlton movie adaptation books, "Drive-In Movie Classics" and "Fantastic Film Classics."
So, where were we? Oh, yes, Charlton's powers that be decided to spin off "Fantastic Film Classics" from "Drive-In Movie Classics," with the idea being that FFC would cover older movies, and DIMC would cover current releases, at least whenever possible. Fred Michaels, who had been doing all the penciling and most of the inking on DIMC, has been getting assistance with breakdowns, possibly being done by Joey Allen, who wrote the adaptations. A mystery inker or two (or more) has emerged, and nobody seems to know who that person or persons might have been.
Let's begin this installment with a few of the Drive-In Movie Classic issues, starting with #50.
Now, these days, a book reaching 50 issues usually means it'll be touted on the cover somewhere. But with Charlton, it was hit or miss if a book reaching a certain issue number would be mentioned at all!
Fred and Joey knew this was the case, but since they were hitting their mid-century mark on this title, they wanted to do something a bit different, just to make it stand out.
In case you've forgotten, the poster art used on these covers were photographed professionally, at Fred and Joey's expense, and prints made for Charlton's production department. Typically, they had no say as to what would happen once they turned over these prints. But with "The Astounding She-Monster," it appears they really wanted to go the extra mile.
Charlton books rarely, if ever, had any cover artwork covering the logo, unless somehow the logo was incorporated into the cover art to begin with (I recall a cover of the Barney and Betty Rubble comic that had that effect). But the effect here? That was completely different. Joey's son, Jason, told me that he saw the paste-ups of this cover (which I'd imagine his father must've swiped when nobody was looking), and told me that there were two copies of the poster print pasted on here... the first one on the bottom layer, then the logo was pasted over that, and then the second copy, with the top part of the hands cut out, was pasted over the logo. Because of the posters being used for the art here, the covers were usually pasted up in color (Jason's told me the reason there was never any variation in colors for the Drive-In Movie Classics logo was because Fred and Joey had that photographed from color artwork, and had a lot of prints made from that for the paste-ups, as well... I'd guess that having gone to the expense themselves was the only way to convince Charlton to actually have to shoot separations for the covers).
It's also possible that they had an ally in Charlton's production department who helped them out here... someone whose experiences with these covers led the way for Charlton's later painted covers.
Oh, and you may have noticed that somewhere along the way, the top layer got shifted just slightly, so the hands don't line up correctly.
The adaptation of the movie itself? About on par for Fred and Joey. Nothing really special, but not exactly knocked out over a weekend, quality-wise.
Issue 51's adaptation of "Attack of the Puppet People" was another one where they went a bit further with the cover art... in the original poster, the logo was on the bottom, but that wasn't going to work with their standard format, so someone had to painstakingly cut out the letters and re-paste them!
The artwork in this issue was clearly influenced by Gil Kane's work on DC's Atom comic book, if not quite so dynamic. In many ways, this issue's adaptation looks even better than their "Incredible Shrinking Man" adaptation previously!
Moving on to Fantastic Film Classics, with the third issue.
This cover was apparently rushed through production... witness the washed-out appearance of the poster artwork (although it's possible that the original "Teenage Monster" poster in Fred or Joey's collection was faded out anyway). This was another adaptation that got tamed down in some ways, and juiced up in others (I'm pretty sure the sex appeal in the comic book is much more pronounced than in the movie). This is also one of those adaptations that Charlton got the rights to for practically nothing, because the distributor who owned the rights was trying to get more TV stations to buy it for their creature feature programs!
Issue 4, on the other hand...
Issue 4's adaptation of Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman was probably one of the best issues of the entire run of FFC, if not DIMC, too! Jason told me, "Dad and Fred were always rather disappointed in the movie of Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman, because that poster made it look like a much more exciting movie. You know, they would sometimes change the plots of movies that had been out for a while when they made the comics, right? This one was almost a complete rewrite, just so they could get scenes like the poster in there."
Indeed, there's a full-page in the book that's pretty much a duplicate of this cover! And yes, Fred's rendition of the 50 Ft. Woman makes her look very nice, indeed!
Now, issue 5's adaptation of "The Blob" may have been one of the fastest issues to produce, ever, just because the Blob itself was so easy to draw! And yes, the art does look a bit rushed in this issue, too... this may have been the adaptation where Fred had to draw more "normal" stuff than any other!
Even with all the help Fred was getting, with breakdowns and inks, Fred was probably starting to feel exhausted by this point. After all, he'd been doing these books for a little over four years now, with about eight months doing two books per month, and he was really trying to make his art better and better. And it was about this time that he and Joey were starting to look for even more help. There would always be movies that Fred felt strongly about drawing the adaptations of, but some of them he would be all too happy to let someone else handle. And even if Joey was helping with breakdowns, having to send the penciled pages to Charlton for inking and lettering (from Joey's scripts) was probably feeling a bit like they were losing control over things.
A studio system was what they needed... some way they could completely package up the books... that would mean at least two more pencillers (one being an assistant to do backgrounds), two inkers, and a letterer (because all issues had been typeset at Charlton, as was common in the Silver Age). And I'll tell you what I found out about this studio next time around!
So that's the five issues for this edition of "Comics They Never Made," so let's shut down the Kurtzberg Alternate Reality device, and get ready to look at comics you can actually find at a local convention... next time around!
Join me next time for another installment of "Cover Stories," where I'll present the theme of "Clichés," And in the meantime, you can check out my blog, "Random Acts of Geekery" at http://waffyjon.blogspot.com for other musings and ramblings by me, or email me with comments about this column at !