Monday, November 28, 2005

Which Witch Hazel, Hey?

The incomparable John Stanley introduced his 'Witch Hazel' in 1952... the same year as Disney's short (making it unlikely that Disney swiped Stanley the same way Warner Brothers swiped Disney... see below). Stanley's Little Lulu comics are still considered to be some of the best ever written, and were extremely popular at the time Witch Hazel (and Little Itch) were introduced as characters created by Lulu to entertain the rather difficult neighbor kid, Alvin. Fred Hembeck fondly recalls John Stanley and the Little Lulu Halloween specials at his excellent site. Scoll down for a nicely scanned comic, too. Here's a little peek at the other Witch Hazel from one of those Halloweem comics...

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Hey, Which Hazel?

Walt Disney's Donald Duck short 'Trick Or Treat' came out at the end of 1952, predating the WB shorts by a couple of years. The Hallowe'en story featured a kindly (to everyone but Donald, that is) Witch Hazel who helps Donald's nephews Huey, Duey and Louie teach the tight old duck how to be generous with the candy. The comic samples are from Walt Disney's Donald Duck #26, which debuted at the same time as the cartoon (Fall of '52)... click to enlarge. Hazel's voice characterization was done by the legendary June Foray, and the distinctive witches cackle was a big hit with filmgoers. Chuck Jones loved the voice of Hazel, too, and asked June Foray to come over and do it just the same for his own Witch Hazel at rival animation studio, Warner Bros. You see, Chuck knew that he could get away with it because Disney didn't own the rights to a Witch called Hazel... there was already one of those in the comic books...

Witch Hazel's Which?

When I write "Witch Hazel", what character comes to mind for you? Maybe you're a TV-scorning hippie and immediately thought of the plant, but it's more than likely that you're picturing Bugs Bunny's green-skinned nemesis from the classic Warner Brothers cartoons. I mean, I did put her picture right here, so it's more than likely. But seriously... those original shorts,'Bewitched Bunny'(1954), 'Broom-Stick Bunny'(1956), and 'A Witches' Tangled Hare'(1959) by Chuck Jones (whom I've praised here before) are still seen often enough on TV and DVD, making this Hazel a likely candidate for 'most popular'. But she isn't the first popular Witch Hazel. In fact, she's not even the first, famous animated Witch Hazel. That would be the Disney version.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

I'm Dracky

These Minimonsters dolls (click to enlarge) are just weird. Perfect for any five year old girl, right? I particularly like the 'attacking vampire' motif on Vampy's dress...

Monday, November 21, 2005

All Hail Tutenstein

My little dead kid is all set to make his second appearance on a float in the Macy*s Annual Thanksgiving Day Parade, running from 9am-12 noon on November the 24th. Drop by and see the Pharaoh if you're in Manhattan, or watch the parade from the comfort of your own home on NBC. Want to see a little 'making of' the Tutenstein float? We can do that.

Franky Jr.

Steal the premise of a translated Japanese anime show (Gigantor) that premiered a mere nine months earlier, give your main character the voice of the Addams Family's Lurch (Ted Cassidy), name him after a famous Universal Monster, and you've got me as a fan for life. I'm pretty easy that way. Hanna Barbera's Frankenstein Jr. and the Impossibles ran from 1966-67, and featured segments about a boy (Buzz Conroy), his Dad, and their giant robot, Frankenstein Jr. Check out the nifty model sheets at Animation Meat... Hanna-Barbera at their finest. Though 'Franky Jr.' (as Buzz likes to call him) isn't made of dead flesh, and, in fact, likes to rescue people and save lives, the tone of the show was still creepy enough to qualify as a Monsterama subject, mostly due to the bizarre Rogues' Gallery of sinster spooks. You can see what I mean here... lots of screencaps from a couple of episodes called 'The Living Images' and 'The Shocking Electrical Monster'. (My favourite weirdos to go up against Franky Jr. were 'The Spooktaculars', but I couldn't find any images to post just yet). Writer Eddie Brandt (The Spike Jones Show, Beany and Cecil) kept the scripts pretty basic, but they're still quite fun to watch. More to come on Frankenstein Jr. later...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

You'll Die Laughing

As I might have mentioned in my previous post on Topps, Monsterama digs ye olde Monster Trading Cards. Monster Wax pegs the 'golden age' of these as a ten year period beginning in 1959, starting with the highly prized Funny Monsters series. Drawn by the legendary EC/Mad artist, Jack Davis, these slabs of cardboard are the creme de la creep for collectors, who refer to the series by the tag line on the cards-- "You'll Die Laughing". Click for a taste...


I sure do like a good, old-fashioned Darkride. Ever since I was a 7-year-old riding DisneyWorld's Haunted Mansion for the sixth time, I've been enamoured with the idea of goofy ghost houses. Phantasmagraphics has some elaborate insights into the makings of a Darkride, and there are some great photos at The Imaginary World. There's a sad little photo essay on abandoned Darkride stuff at Funchase, and more info at Laff In The Dark... but the best resource is Darkride And Funhouse Enthusiasts, a place you'll definately want to peek around a few corners in. I had a blast this past summer taking my 7-year-old daughter on her first Darkride in the old 'Haunted Barrelworks' on Centre Island.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Kiss of Death

Bela Kiss was an infamous Hungarian serial killer c.1915, and Denise Noe has done a nice job on the history of the European fiend here at the Crime Library. She also points out that I named a cartoon character after him. In fact, I suggested in the comics that this was the one and only Kiss, who was never caught by the authorities and is thought to have escaped to North America. My version is, naturally, much sillier. The real Bela Kiss (which translates, incidentally, into the extremely unscary 'Bill Small') was into Black Magic, so my little monster is an undead creep with unspeakable powers.As Raphael Rosado's storyboard illustrates [click to enlarge], my Bela actually made it onto the small screen in the second episode (Project:Evil) of our Jetcat shorts for Nickelodeon, making him, as far as I know, the only animated serial killer to appear on that childrens' network. Shhh! Don't tell the Rugrats!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Cackling Kitaro of the Graveyard

Definately one of the all-time greatest 'monster' comics series is Shigeru Mizuki's macabre Ge Ge Ge No Kitaro. My DRAWN! post serves as a decent enough introduction to the great Manga-Ka who reintroduced the ancient Yokai into Japanese Pop culture. Up until now, the only English translations available have been three volumes from the 1996 Kodansha 'Bilingual Comics' imprint which contained a mere 13 tales... GHOST TRAIN, THE LEVIATHANG, THE H2OGRE, GOBLIN CASTLE, NIGHT GAME WITH MONSTERS, THE BEACH WITCH, CATCHICK AND RATMAN, THE YASHA, BROTHER LOOKUP, LI'L DISKHEAD, THE GOBLIN AT THE PASS, THE GOD OF DROUGHT, and STRAW HATS FOR JIZO. (Here's a peek at a bit of the BEACH WITCH... remember to read left to right) Kitaro grew into a big hit in Japan, and it's a cryin' shame that there aren't more english dubs available of the anime or manga. Drunken Tengu is doing his best to change that over at the Mizuki community boards, where you can now download the likes of THE GREAT GOBLIN TRAIL, THE DEMON BELIAL, and THE GOBLIN OF OBEBE SWAMP for free! Dig in, you ghouls.

update 11/11/05

Hiro wrote in a great (Japanese) link to some stills of the live action Kitaro show... super-campy stuff, and definately worth a peek!

Go To Visell

Monsterama loves Amanda Visell and her adorably horrible paintings. Really, now... just look... ain't she the ghouls' jewels?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Bloody Thrilling!

Wallace & Gromitt, Curse of the Were-
is the best monster movie I've seen in awhile. Totally old-school story... just the sort of creepy fun I love. I mean, just look at him. A giant, howling were-rabbit! If this isn't a 'cute creep', I don't know what is.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

It's Not Dead Yet

That's right folks, it ain't over! From Muertos:"The Day of the Dead is celebrated in Mexico on November 2nd. It is a time when Mexican families spend time at the cemetery, visiting the graves of their relatives, cleaning and perhaps painting the headstones, arranging flowers, especially flowers of the dead (Marigolds) and lighting candles. It is also the time when Mexican families construct special home altars dedicated to the spirits of their deceased loved ones. The altars range from simple to the very elaborate and are usually filled with objects that provided pleasure to the departed person in life, including favorite food and drink. Altars dedicated to the spirits of deceased children often include toys, candy and other sweets. The altars or "ofrendas" as they are called, also usually contain objects made from sugar or sugar sculpture known as "alfenique." These objects may be small animals, such as lambs, miniature plates of food (enchiladas with mole), small coffins, often with pop-up skeletons, and of course, the sugar skull or 'calavera'." Here's a neat site on the subject called Casa De Calaveras. And speaking of Calaveras, I recommend you loyal weirdos check out my previous post on the late, great Jose Guadalupe Posada.

My Brood

The family and I had a great Hallowe'en night. Desi was dressed as the Teen Titans version of Robin, and Nora went out as Queen Amidala... both homemade masterpieces by my Mother-In-Law (pictures later, I hope). When you are seven and five years old, this is how you might view the holiday. The Frankenmonster face and FatBat are Desmond's, and the Vampirette and Sleepy Jack are by Nora. The weather on the 31st was balmy, and we got a couple of full pillowcases, so the night was one for the books. The kids were braver this year, so we drove down to Queen Street in Guelph to hit the big old mansions and the popular 'Hallowe'en House' (a famously decoration-coated landmark). Daddy (dressed as a skeleton) also got some candy and stayed up to watch the Exorcist by himself. Wheee!