ASCII and Ye Shall Receive: Batman

Meanwhile, back at the Batcave, Batman’s Clearly Labeled Supercomputer has broken his show’s opening titles down into alphanumeric code!

Which TV theme will be the next to get the ASCII treatment? Tune into Pop Culture Retrorama this time next week.

Enjoy 1983’s Superman In The Flying Firefighter!

Friends, last week over at the SHOW ‘N TELL PICTURESOUND VIEWER CLUB on Facebook, a member shared a link to Superman in The Flying Firefighter for the iconic GE Show ‘N Tell phono viewer. Just one in a series of DC Super Heroes film strip and 33 1/3 record combos produced by CBS Toys back in 1983, along with other DC characters such as Batman, Wonder Woman, and even the Justice League.

I have talked about the awesomeness that was the GE Show ‘N Tell phono viewer in a previous article, in which I was able to share some of the other stories produced for the combination filmstrip viewer/projector and record player. A ‘toy’ that lasted a remarkably long time, first being produced by General Electric in ’64 and lasting until the early ’80s, being released under a few brand names. And while I was never fortunate enough to obtain a GE Show ‘N Tell phono viewer for myself, I certainly enjoyed the model that was in the kindergarten class of my youth.

Besides the likes of DC Super Heroes, other ‘Picturesound programs’ included Marvel Super Heroes, Sesame Street, The Shirt Tales, Hello Kitty, The Berenstain Bears, and even adaptations of popular Disney films and animated shorts.

Of course the 33 1/3 records provided in the Picturesound programs meant the stories were generally kept to under 4 minutes in length, with the B side of the record offering music or in the case of Superman in The Flying Firefighter, something entitled Aerobic Adventures: Sailing Through Space.

The synopsis for Superman in The Flying Firefighter is by necessity pretty simple. While receiving an award for reporter of the year, Clark Kent must excuse himself and respond to the threat of a massive fire. On the scene, he learns of a small boy who is still within the burning building, the child was scared by the firefighters in their gas masks and gear. It is up to Superman to save the day and pass along some words of wisdom in the process!

VIDEO AND ARTICLE IMAGE PROVIDED BY PRSRECORDS.

The Masters Of The Universe: Revelation Trailer Needs A Hero

Friends, one of the things about returning to the theater that I’ve had to come to terms with is a strict no cell phone policy. While we of course are allowed to use our phones during our breaks and such, it understandable why they wouldn’t want a patron to walk up to the concession stand and see someone tapping on their phone. I bring all of this up because it does mean that I manage to miss out on some pretty important pop culture news, such as the fact that Netflix released an incredible trailer for Masters of the Universe: Revelation a few days ago. One that like that quite impressive fan made montage trailer we shared last year featuring ‘80s cartoon heroes, makes great use of Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out For a Hero”. Executive Produced an co-created by Kevin Smith, prepare yourself for the first look at Netflix’s Masters of the Universe: Revelation, which as I understand it is a continuation of the iconic Filmation series.

VIDEO AND ARTICLE IMAGE PROVIDED BY Netflix.

Man-At-Arms punching Trap Jaw in the side of the head, He-Man riding Stridor, Tri-Klops causing havoc while flying what looks like a Sky Sled, and an older Orko wielding far more powerful magic than we’ve seen him cast before. There is a lot to take in with that trailer for Masters of the Universe: Revelation, but I have to say that it looks quite epic as well as fun.

You might be very interested to know that there is an embarrassment of riches in regards to the voice actors that have been tapped for the new animated series. He-Man will be voiced by Chris Wood (Supergirl) with the legendary Mark Hamill providing the voice for the infamous Skeletor. It seems to be something of an animated Batman voice actor reunion as Kevin Conroy (Batman: The Animated Series) will voice Mer-Man, Diedrich Bader (Batman: The Brave and the Bold) is Trap Jaw, Henry Rollins (Batman Beyond) portrays Tri-Klops, and Kevin Michael Richardson (The Batman) is Beast Man to point out just a few.

In all fairness, that is just the tip of the iceberg with the cast of Masters of the Universe: Revelation, but I am happy to share that Alan Oppenheimer who was the original voice of Skeletor in the Filmation series, has been included in the show as the heroic Moss Man. Thankfully we do not have too long to wait before we get to see the series itself, at least the first half of the first season. In fact while the trailer reveals that the animated show will debut on July 23rd, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Kevin Smith let it slip that an aftershow will be also be produced featuring many of the cast from the series.

We would love to hear what you think of the trailer, let us know in the comment section!

Saturday Frights Podcast Ep. 096 – Mummy Daddy

Friends, we have a brand new episode of the Saturday Frights podcast for you this morning, the subject of the show is a listener request. The Projectionist and I talk about the 1985 Amazing Stories episode entitled “Mummy Daddy”, one of the more comedic offerings from that particular TV anthology series. Although on this episode we might not have been unable to uncover quite as much information on “Mummy Daddy” as we did with The Birds, the Projectionist and I found out some surprising information on how long Universal was attempting to reboot 1932’s The Mummy. Including a rather surprising list of talented writers and directors that were approached before Stephen Sommers was tapped to bring 1999’s The Mummy to the big screen.

Although we have tackled Amazing Stories in past podcasts, both “Remote Control Man” and “Mirror, Mirror” as a matter of fact, we do provide a brief history on the television show itself – including its link to the long-running magazine of the same name.

In addition it might surprise you to learn that Amazing Stories wasn’t a huge hit when it was originally aired on NBC. Not even the legion of talented people in front of and behind the camera, attracted to the series thanks to Executive Producers Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy, and Frank Marshall, were able to capture the necessary audience for Universal Television and NBC to support it beyond two seasons. Although having said that, and as we touch upon in the show itself, Amazing Stories did manage to earn quite a few Emmy nominations.

If you happen to be a huge fan of “Mummy Daddy” by the way, I think you will be interested to know that the teleplay written by Earl Pomerantz happens to be available to purchase on eBay at this very moment. Assuming of course that you have the spare change to afford such a unique collectible.

Without further ado, please join the Projectionist and myself at the Haunted Drive-In as we discuss 1985’s “Mummy Daddy” on the Saturday Frights podcast. As always we want to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to listen to the show, and hope that you are enjoying season three of the podcast.

If you have any suggestions for topics you would like for us to cover in a future episode – or possibly you have comments on the current show itself, email them to me at VicSagePopCulture@gmail.com You can also contact me on Twitter and on Facebook. In addition I certainly hope you will take the time to visit the Saturday Frights Facebook Page. There you can find posts from Rockford Jay, Preston Griffith and myself on a daily basis.

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Episode Mirror #1 (MP3)

1967 UK Kerb Drill PSA Featuring Batman

Friends, in this day and age when the internet makes nearly everything known, it is indeed a joy to be able to stumble upon little nuggets of pop culture goodness you haven’t seen before. Case in point is this public service announcement, which originally aired in May of 1967 in the United Kingdom and focuses on the subject of road safety. It happens to feature none other than Adam West as the Caped Crusader , yes, we can now thrill to Batman demonstrating the Kerb Drill aka the Green Cross Code with the help of some willing British children.

At the time of the Kerb Drill’s release, the extremely popular Batman television series had probably just wrapped up its second season on ABC. Adam West’s appearance as Batman in this public service announcement probably has something to do with the fact that Batman: The Movie had been released in the UK in December of ’66. Although with the popularity of the television show, which was shown on Saturday and Sunday afternoons in the UK, is it any wonder that they recruited Adam West to speak to the kids about road safety?

Within the brief minute long PSA, Batman kindly explains that he has taken a quick holiday from Gotham City, to take in the sights of London and enjoy a breather from crime fighting as well. Although the Caped Crusader wants children to know that there is one danger they can never take a break from, the daily threat of vehicular traffic, and the need for them to obey traffic laws. Obviously it is up to Batman to explain the importance of the Kerb Drill, demonstrating it to a group of nearby children.

Not only is the Kerb Drill PSA rather charming and delightful, it was also considered for quite a while to be lost. It was in fact uncovered by the Birmingham based Kaleidoscope organization, a group dedicated to tracking down lost UK television rarities such as this public service announcement. Which as I understand it, when first shared in 2018 it marked the first time in 50 years that the Kerb Drill PSA was seen by the public at large.

VIDEO AND ARTICLE IMAGE PROVIDED BY IAmBirmingham.

Do You Remember Return Of The Jedi Presto Magix?

Friends, when Star Wars: Return of the Jedi was released to theaters on May 25th of 1983, there were already a couple of things rabid fans could buy. Off the top of my head I can remember that Kenner had released action figures for the then third and final film in the Star Wars trilogy. I am sure that many of you had similar experiences of standing in the toy aisle looking at the likes of figures such as Klaatu, Emperor’s Royal Guard, Gamorrean Guard, Admiral Ackbar, and Bib Fortuna… and just wondering who the heck these characters were. I naturally was ecstatic to see this new wave of Kenner action figures and after stretching my Father’s patience by studying each and every new character, I finally decided that my first purchase from the Return of the Jedi line would be Bib Fortuna. As this was long before the internet of course, I had no idea what role the Twi’lek (or even that was what his species was called at that point) would play in the film, although the photograph provided on the blister card led me to believe the character was definitely a villain.

“Wise choice, Vic.”

Another collectible that I recall included the Star Wars: Return of the Jedi Official Collector’s Edition magazine, which included a breakdown of the story as well as an incredible amount of behind the scenes information. I obviously did not read the story portion of the magazine until after I had seen the film for myself, right after I begged my Father to take me back to the toy store so I could buy Admiral Ackbar.

“You should have chosen me first.”

After the film had been released you couldn’t swing a Kowakian monkey-lizard without hitting some type of merchandise for Return of the Jedi. Books, records, pencil toppers, activity books, stickers, and of course Presto Magix sets. The last one is something that I recall seeing in great quantities at the local K-Mart stores in my neck of the woods. They were incredibly affordable ways to spend a rainy afternoon, plus they managed to license everything from Dynomutt, Laff-a-Lympics, Masters of the Universe, The Dukes of Hazzard, Batman, Thor, and Star Wars of course.

VIDEO AND ARTICLE IMAGE PROVIDED BY PhakeNam.

Generally for a couple of bucks you could create your own stories with some of your favorite TV, Film, and comic book characters. Although you had to be absolutely sure where you wanted to apply the rub-on transfer decal, because once they were on the background card you couldn’t remove them. There were box sets available too, these not only provided more decals to choose from but offered a much larger background card to apply them to.

For a breakdown on more Presto Magix sets and fun, why not take a couple of minutes and watch the esteemed Weird Paul‘s review?

VIDEO PROVIDED BY Weird Paul.

Who’s Who: Abnegazar Rath And Ghast

The three entities known as Abnegazar, Rath and Ghast who are collectively known as The Demons Three are the second entry in the well regarded Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe, which was originally published back in 1985. Over 26 issues were produced and thanks to the likes of Marv Wolfman, Robert Greenberger, and Len Wein – many of us comic book fans became aficionados of the vast history of the then current DC Universe. The sometimes exhaustive Who’s Who were quick to shine the spotlight on the big names such as Batman and Superman but were also quite willing to give the likes of lesser known characters such as Abnegazar, Rath and Ghast a chance in the light too. As the recent Justice League Action animated series frequently did – beginning with the very first episode when it introduced Abnegazr, Rath and Ghast as part of the demonic Brothers Djinn.

VIDEO PROVIDED BY Cartoon Network.

Abenegazar, Rath and Ghast were created by none other than Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky for Justice League of America #10 – which saw publication in March of 1962. Gardner Fox in particular had a hand in the creation of not just the Justice League of America but before that in 1940 he managed to create another legendary team of super heroes, the first gathering of heroes in comic books in fact, The Justice Society of America. In addition it is believed that Fox might have worked under many different pseudonyms and had a hand in the co-creation of The Sandman, The Flash (Jay Garrick), as well as Hawkman (Carter Hall).

Mike Sekowsky might best be known for being the artist and co-creator of the Justice League of America beginning with their appearance in The Brave and the Bold #28. Mike would pencil 63 issues of the Justice League of America comic book – in addition to acting as writer, artist and even editor on Wonder Woman beginning in September of 1968. Although Fox and Sekowsky didn’t just create the Demons Three in that issue of Justice League, they also came up with the magically maniacal Felix Faust but we will talk about him more in his own entry.

IMAGE COURTESY OF THE ROCKFORD JAY COLLECTION.

The art chores for Abnegazar, Rath and Ghast’s entry in the Who’s Who is courtesy of both Craig Hamilton as well as Dick Giordano. Interestingly enough it appears that it was around this time that Hamilton got his start at DC – you might know his work better from the extremely popular and quite fantastic Fables series. Giordano was an absolute icon in the sequential arts scene, having worked as an artist and editor for DC Comics among others, and he had a hand in creating the likes of Johnny Thunder and his Thunderbolt, Peacemaker, The Human Target, and Batman’s underworld identity of Matches Malone to name just a few.

The entry for Abnegazar, Rath and Ghast in the first volume of the Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe list this personal data:

Alter Ego: Inapplicable

Occupation: Inapplicable (Although I would have listed troublemakers as their occupation)

Marital Status: Inapplicable

Known Relatives: None

Group Affiliation: None

Base of Operations: 20th Century Earth

First Appearance: Justice League of America #10

Height: Inconsistent

Weight: Inconsistent

Eyes: All Black

Hair: Black (Ghast), none (Abnegazar, Rath)

The Demons Three existed over a billion years ago, lording it over the pre-human species with their magical powers. An intergalactic group of wanderers known as the Timeless Ones, whose job it is to keep cosmic balance, became aware of Abnegazar, Rath and Ghast running rampant – so they imprisoned the trio. But the Demons Three while not as powerful as these Timeless Ones were at the very least more clever as they crafted three mystical talismans that anchored their physical beings to the Earth. The Silver Wheel of Nyorlath, the Green Bell of Uthool, and the Red Jar of Calythos. Even the power of the cosmic Timeless Ones were unable to destroy said artifacts or even remove them from the Earth, so they did their level best to hide them, Ghast was imprisoned beneath the waves in the South Atlantic, Abnegazar is hidden under the desert sands of Sin-Kiang in Western China, and Rath is locked under the ice of the Arctic. It is the villainous Felix Faust with aid from the trapped demons who attempts to use the Justice League to free the trio.

Abnegazar, Rath and Ghast as is pointed out in their entry for the Who’s Who are able to fly through space and even time travel if need be, conjure destructive force bolts, craft various matter, and even bring to life inanimate objects. Shortly after their entry was published it appears that Abnegazar got a little too mouthy with Dr. Fate who slew the demon for his insolence – granted over the years he has apparently managed to cheat death and rejoin his brothers once again.

Besides the Justice League Action animated series the trio showed up in the 1985 The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians in an episode entitled “The Case of the Stolen Super Powers”, which is just a retelling of their and Faust’s first appearance. The Demons Three also made an appearance in the Justice League Unlimited series in an episode called “The Balance”, where Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl take Abnegazar hostage, forcing him to reveal the location of Felix Faust!

Holy 55th Anniversary To Batman ’66!

Friends, earlier this afternoon one of my esteemed colleagues of the Super Blog Team-Up, Dave’s Comic Heroes Blog, shared the exciting news that today is a rather special day. It turns out that on January 12th of 1966 – the very first episode of the Batman television series aired on ABC. Fifty-five years ago, what would become a campy pop culture juggernaut was released with the first half of a two-part story featuring the Riddler entitled Hi Diddle Riddle. Giving DC Comics fans their first live-action comic book television series since The Adventures of Superman ended back in 1958, in addition to cluing in the audience that this adaptation of DC Comics’ Caped Crusader was going to be a whole lot of fun. Of course it didn’t hurt that the first episode featured the talents of Frank Gorshin as the Riddler – the legendary comedian and impressionist who all but steals every scene he is in – equal parts zany and menacing. To say nothing of being quite a snappy dresser, right?

The Batman TV series would last from January 12th of ’66 to March 14th of ’68, producing 120 episodes in total as well as a feature length film, which actually debuted just two months after the first season had ended. The popularity of the show was thanks in no small part to the way the series leads, Adam West and Burt Ward, approached their characters of Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder with an earnest and straightforward manner. Which allowed the guest stars on the show, who almost always played the villain of the week, to ham it up and have fun with their roles. Just a few of the stars featured as foes of the Dynamic Duo included Carolyn Jones (The Addams Family), Cliff Robertson (Spider-Man), Roddy McDowall (Fright Night), Vincent Price (The Last Man on Earth), and Victor Buono (What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?).

Although it is fair to say that the core and perhaps most memorable villains in the Batman TV series included not just Gorshin but the Joker as played by Cesar Romero, the Penguin who was portrayed by Burgess Meredith, and Catwoman – who was played by Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt, as well as Lee Meriwether.

VIDEO PROVIDED BY BatEnciclopdia.

You might be interested to know that the genesis of the series began in the early half of the ’60s – as I understand it, the original intention was for it to be part of the CBS Saturday morning lineup. At around the same time though, it appears that ABC was in the market to adapt a comic book character or perhaps a popular hero from newspaper comic strips for a spot in their prime-time schedule. The negotiations for the proposed live action series on CBS fell through and DC Comics took back their rights and decided to go with the pitch by ABC.

Here is another interesting bit of trivia you might not be aware of – we came very close to having the likes of Lyle Waggoner (Wonder Woman) and Peter Deyell (Mr. Novak) as Batman and Robin. As I’ve read online, ABC as well as showrunner William Dozier (The Green Hornet) felt so strongly that both pairs of actors could pull off the roles – they had them each perform a special screen test. Obviously at the end of the day, it was West and Ward who were rightfully deemed to be the perfect choice.

VIDEO PROVIDED BY justwondering50.

If you feel like joining in on the fifty-fifth anniversary celebration of Batman ’66, I have some very good news for you – I believe that you can watch the entire series on Roku at this very second. In closing out this article, let us raise a glass of milk to toast the ’60s Batman television show – for providing untold laughs and comic book fun for 55 years!

Jack Palance Reveals Real-Life Inspiration For Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde

Friends, in the early ’80s on Sunday evenings there was a television show that my Family would never fail to watch, that was the ABC series Ripley’s Believe It or Not! A wonderful show with the iconic Jack Palance (Batman, City Slickers) acting as host – inspired by the newsreels, radio series, books, and comic books of Robert Ripley. After testing the waters with a television pilot on May 3rd of 1981 – ABC picked up the series and the first episode of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! aired on September 26th of 1982. For four seasons viewers were guided by Jack Palance through the more bizarre elements of history, noteworthy individuals, and interesting cultural activities. Just a few of the subjects covered on the TV show included the research on cryogenics, a prisoner who took his life with the aid of playing cards, a fire that burned non-stop for eight months, and Stephen Hawking. Palance did not host the show alone, as he was joined by a trio of co-hosts for various segments throughout the 76 episode run of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!. That included the likes of Catherine Shirriff (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock), Marie Osmond (Donny & Marie), as well as Holly Palance – who not only joined her Father for two seasons on the show but was recognizable from her role in 1976’s The Omen!

Jack Palance was the perfect choice as host, there seemed to be a merry twinkling in his eyes and barely restrained glee when he was discussing something gruesome. The fact that the audience could see that Palance was having fun sharing these interesting facts and legends – it helped to knock a little edge off the sometimes more gruesome subject matters featured on the show. Having said that however, it did nothing to diminish the chills I would experience from the rather memorable intro to the TV show. Which just so happened to feature a theme song composed by none other than Henry Mancini (Peter Gunn, The Pink Panther).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVT3kOxqStA
VIDEO PROVIDED BY CNNRotatingSquare.

Which brings us to the point of this article, the real-life inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde. In the nearly four minute segment, Palance points out the inspiration came from one William Brodie – a man living two very different lives – respectable member of the community by day and a flamboyant burglar by night. The short segment in addition features Palance from his role in the 1968 made-for-TV movie adaptation of Stevenson’s famous story… believe it or not!

VIDEO AND ARTICLE IMAGE PROVIDED BY spookylorre.

As far as I know, the excellent Ripley’s Believe It or Not! series has yet to be released on any version of home media. Which is truly a shame as the show was a whole lot of fun. At the very least we can enjoy the various segments that have been uploaded on social media, right?

Did You Watch The 1987 TV Pilot For The Spirit?

Friends, nine years after Superman made audiences believe a man could fly and two years before Michael Keaton would portray the Dark Knight in the box office juggernaut that was Batman – Sam J. Jones (Flash Gordon) donned the domino mask and brightly colored business suit attire of Will Eisner’s The Spirit in a TV pilot film. Featuring Nana Visitor (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), Bumper Robinson (Transformers: Animated), Garry Walberg (Quincy M.E.), and Philip Baker Hall (Magnolia) to name a few – it was a fun if most assuredly cheesy attempt at bringing the iconic comic book character to the small screen in a regular series.

Video Provided by AndyStego.

My Grandfather and I caught The Spirit when it was originally broadcast on the evening of July 31st of 1987 on ABC. There was no way I was going to miss a comic book character TV movie – although I will have to admit I had only a passing knowledge of the comic book icon at the time. I could not know that eleven years later I would be able to ask Will Eisner in person what he felt about the television adaptation of his character – his response was genuine – that he wasn’t too thrilled with it. Although I should add that when I shared my memory of watching it with my Grandfather – he said that he was extremely happy to hear that the pilot generated such a positive memory.

I’ll leave the importance of Will Eisner to the comic book industry to those who are better equipped to speak on the matter. I can tell you that the TV movie for The Spirit was completed in 1986 – reading online it was meant to be broadcast in September of ’86 – but was shelved when there was a change in the staff line up after ABC was sold to Capital Cities Communications in ’85. The Spirit was aired thanks to comic book fans – as you can read in greater detail in this 2017 article by Mike Cecchini for Den of Geek – when a petition was started and signed by attendees of the San Diego Comic-Con in ’86!

Video and Article Image Provided by warnerarchive.

Directed by Michael Schultz (Car Wash, The Last Dragon) in 16 days, the teleplay was courtesy of Steven E. de Souza – probably best known for penning the scripts for the likes of Commando, The Running Man, and the first two films in the Die Hard series. So the TV movie definitely had more than a few scenes of the Spirit trading blows with the various thugs and henchman that crossed his path… as well as becoming barechested quite a bit in the one hour and fourteen minute running time.

At the moment you can watch The Spirit on the DC Universe app – although as I understand it you will be able to check it out on HBO Max next year after January 21st. It really is a fun movie – it might not completely stick the landing – but after watching the film you can’t help but wonder where the series would have gone if it had been picked up. While I am not attempting to be negative I will admit that I feel the 1987 TV Pilot for The Spirit is a far better version of the character than the big budget 2008 picture starring Gabriel Macht, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Mendes, and Sarah Paulson.

Video Provided by Lionsgate Movies.