Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Monsters Ick?

It's been a really long time since I first heard about the lawsuit against Disney/Pixar over Monsters Inc.... over three years, in fact... and I can't find any follow up news on the case. The BBC has the original news story here, basically, "Stanley Mouse, the renowned '60s-era psychedelic poster artist, has sued Disney Enterprises and Pixar Talking Pictures, claiming that the Mike and Sully characters featured in "Monsters, Inc." were copied without credit from his catalog of work. According to court documents, Mouse claims that one of the main characters in "Monsters, Inc.," a green, wisecracking, ambulatory eyeball named Mike, strongly resembles a character he drew for a movie treatment titled "Excuse My Dust" that was unsuccessfully shopped around in 1998. According to the documents, "Excuse My Dust" was set in "Monster City," where the animated monster characters worked for the "Monster Corporation of America." In the movie "Monsters, Inc.," the characters Mike and Sully live in "Monstropolis" and work for "Monsters, Inc." Drawings attached to the complaint, dating from the early 1960s, pair a small, two-legged eyeball with a large, dull-witted monster character in a "buddy" relationship. The lawsuit claims that Disney and Pixar also appropriated the "buddy" relationship theme from Mouse's work. The lawsuit further claims that a story artist from Pixar visited Mouse in 2000, described himself as a fan of the artist and discussed Mouse's work with him." So then what? What happened? Three years and counting, and no settlement or anything? I mean, Stanley Mouse is no teenage scam artist, he's a well-established, well-respected graphic artist, best known for his work with the Grateful Dead. It's hard to dismiss his claims out of hand. For the record, I LOVE the Monsters Inc. film, and would be devastasted to hear confirmation of foul play, but my personal experience with the outer tentacles of the Disney behemoth leads me to believe the various limbs of the corporation are more than capable of this sort of thing.


Monsterama reader Matt Putnam-Pouliot (see above) has this to say... "I'm writing with a little information about the Mouse/Disney lawsuit. From an individual who was involved in the case I learned that the judge ruled against Mouse on one character and determined the issue of the other character would go to trial. Disney and Mouse reached a settlement though, the details of which will never be made public."

Bits And Pieces

Not to be too pushy, but I figured since I don't host any banner advertising, you fiends wouldn't mind a quick plug. I invite you to inspect the new things on the slab over at MonsteramaMart. CafePress has improved their printing process significantly in recent months, and they have a money-back guarantee, so what's stopping you? Take a monster home today!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Millie The Lovable Monster

...If you thought Casper The Friendly Ghost was the most sissyfied 'horror' comic ever created, you thought wrong. Millie the Lovable Monster is sooo cute she doesn't even talk... instead, she draws cute pictograms for her lovable friends to decipher, friends like Goody, the Pink Ghost. Yikes! Created in 1962 by the legendary (and at that time, recently fired) Archie Comics stalwart, Bill Woggon... most famous for his Katy Keene fashion comics... Millie was so sweet she only lasted three issues. Any more than that would have rotted our teeth out. It was also hilarious and unique, in a "so bad it's good" kind of way. Mister Kitty seems particularly fond of the 'twist' story in the first issue, and writes it up good and nasty on his Stupid Comics site. The always enlightening Scott Shaw! posts in detail about Millie here, along with some nice images. Despite the insipid cutseyness, Millie does have it's Monsterama moments, like the monster party in issue three, or the Toho- style giant monster fight in issue one, pictured here (click to enlarge).

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Scary Cute

Here's a neat little article over at Mark Dery's website that serves as an addendum to his 'Scary Cute' article from I.D. Magazine. In Mark's words: "Kaiju toys... are the coagulated essence of Japanese pop culture. Manufactured by companies such as Bandai and Toho, these collectible vinyl figurines are based on characters from the Japanese monster movies whose heyday was the late '50s and '60s, when tyrant lizards with conspicuous zippers ruled the earth (or, at least, the onscreen dream life of a nation trying to exorcize the post-traumatic specters of Hiroshima and Nagasaki). As well, they draw on Japanese ghost stories and folktales." And also? We love them.

The Eyes Seem To Follow You

...If you haven't seen Eddie Allen's transforming portraits yet, you're in for a real treat... Haunted Memories is pure genius! These black magic babies change from unremarkable antique phtographs into glimpses of hell itself as you walk by. Best of all is Mr. Allen's old school wit. Here's his description for the photos below... "Uncle Charles was not very well-liked by people. Isolated and bitter, by nightfall he was often found to be in a "rotten" mood..." and "Baby Bartholomew is a ravenous little chap. He is always ready for his feeding, no matter what time of day...or night!"

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Happy Kukeri

It's about that time for the Bulgarian ritual of Kukeri, where participants dress in animal skin and fright masks to scare away evil spirits and ghosts... not at all unlike the western Hallowe'en festival. In the rural villages of Bulgaria, this is an important ritual, carried forward from the Thracians. They dance in the last days of winter, just before nature comes back to life... a prayer to the god of vegetation. The participants are male only, dressed in sheepskin garments and wearing scary masks and chanove (copper bells) on their belts, dancing and singing chants, with the intention of scaring away the evil spirits that are believed to come back to the world of the living in winter. It's a sexy little celebration... phallic, 'horned' dances performed within orgiastic rites, culminating in the final act of plowing and sowing in order to increase fertility. As recently as the end of the 19th century, the Kukeri was considered so important, so serious, that fights between two different Kukeri groups from neighboring villages often resulted in actual (as opposed to the traditionally ritualised) murders! Bulgaria has a very rich, unique folklore tradition... this site covers a little of it. I really dig the Vampir-platenik, the Bulgarian vampire that has no bones or flesh-- only of skin full of blood. In a modern book for children, it is described in the following picturesque way: "In the thorn-bushes near the graveyard a skin is squatting - with short legs, small claw feet, black holes instead of eyes, with a bony nose and iron teeth. The skin is full of blood, it is a vampire."

Schroud's Candy

Another atrocious Ad from the pages of ye olde BATS comic.

Bakemono A Go Go

I'm often spouting off about Shigeru Mizuki and Yokai on this blog, so I was very happy to discover this new site called Obakemono that promises to catalogue the multitude of Oni, Yokai, and other Bakemono from Japanese folklore... with lovely illustrations, too. The haunted utensils pictured above are called Tsukumogami, and are my favourites. The site also has a Mizuki tribute page... unsurprising in that the same guy ('Tengoo') maintains the previously blogged Mizuki Fan Club. For more background on Yokai and the like, check out Mangajin.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Bloody Baby Boomers

Doktor Von Kreep from over at 1313 just gave me a shrunken heads up about this wicked new offering from PPS called Monster Kid Home Movies. Here's a little of what good ol' Horror-wood has to say... "This little gem of a disc collects 30 -- count 'em, 30 -- homemade monster movies. These are short films made by kids for kids, in some instances by youngsters who went on to became famous... At their best, these shorts are surprisingly impressive. The early stop-motion animation films by future Disney animator Frank Dietz and the elaborate makeup effects and costumes created by future comic book artist Kerry Gammill are minor wonders. Tinnell’s teenage Frankenstein (1977) shows enough directorial imagination – such as the use of a James Whale-like subjective POV shot – to hint at his future career. But for my money the single most entertaining picture of the lot is Weaver’s action-packed Up for Grabs (1980), starring Weaver’s late brother, John, who dreamed of becoming a Hollywood stunt man." Boy oh boy! I honestly can't wait to get ahold of a copy... this is pure Monsterama madness, folks. Here's another review over at Bleeding Skull, as if you need any more convincing.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Show No Mercer

Children's book author and illustrator Mercer Mayer is no doubt best known for his cute Little Critter series for Golden Books that began in the late '70's and became a huge hit throughout the '80's. But for me, Mercer Mayer will forever be the author of one of my very favourite childhood books... the rare and precious One Monster After Another. This oversized hardcover from 1974 predates the simple quick-dash style of the 'Critter' books and is lush with texture and detail, a more elaborate style of ink and watercolour that Mercer has recently returned to. The story follows the adventures of Sally Anne's letter as it goes from the clutches of a 'Stamp-Collecting Trollusk' to the maw of a 'Letter-Eating Bombanat'and on to a 'Grumley', 'Ice-Ferg', 'Typhoonigator', and 'Yalapappus'... one monster after another... before reaching it's destination. Simple, and designed to showcase the bizarre creatures in creepy, silly, detail. You can tell that kids loved the book, and that teachers and parents hated it, because it costs a mint to get ahold of one of these out-of-print babies today! Did grown-ups' dislike the made-up words and lack of educational value? Or are they just skittish around monsters?-- Mercer's other 'cute' series for Golden, the Little Monster series, is also difficult to find these days (Little Monsters' teacher is the 'Grithix' from 'One Monster..', F.Y.I.). Anyway, it's a lost monster classic, right up there with Where The Wild Things Are, if you ask me.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Negadon Commeth!

Do you like old school Kaijuu like Godzilla and the other Japanese giant monster films from the '50's and '60's? Well lucky you! Look at this new independent 25-minute CGI short from Japan called NEGADON, THE MONSTER FROM MARS (directed by Jun Awazu at Studio Magara). That's right, folks... giant monster, giant robot, crazed scientist... just like the good ol' days! (Thanks to Cartoon Brew)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Sadistik Kriminal

Are psycho killers monsters? How about twisted killers who dress up as skeletons? I might be pressing a point, here, but it's my blog, and I've always had a soft spot for the French and Italian Super Criminals like Dr. Mabuse, Fantomas, and Diabolik. I'm especially fond of the sickos Kriminal and Satanik (both versions), who are pretty much the same character. Created in 1964 by Italians Max Bunker (alias Luciano Secchi) and Magnus (pseudonym of Roberto Raviola- considered one of the best Italian comic book artists of all time), Kriminal was a dark comic book 'hero' in the Diabolik tradition... even using the letter 'K' prominently, which became something of a trend. Kriminal was a big hit, not in any small way due to the amount of female skin and general kinkiness found it it's pages, and went quickly from the comics to the screen in two films in 1967 and 1968. In 1966, a new comics character appeared, and this time the stories were depicted with photos instead of illustrations. The new super-serial killer photo novel was called Killing in Italy and published simultaneously in France as Satanik. Kriminal obviously influenced editor Pietro Granelli when devising Killing, as the new character wore a black and white outfit adorned with a skeleton design and topped with a skull mask... a total ripoff. The new series stayed true to the established Italian costumed criminal genre as his comely companion Dana assisted Killing in outlandish intercontinental crime campaigns that resulted in soaring body counts. In fact, Killing/Satanik is considered to be the most violent and disturbing character in the genre, and was eventually banned in France. Apparently irked by the homage, Secchi and Magnus came up with their own character named Satanik for the Italian market... a disfigured woman who became beautiful and murderous through a potion. No seriously. There was even a movie in 1968. Uppers has a little more on the whole Italian/French super criminal phenomenon, if you're interested. But the really good news is that Mort Todd's Comic Fix is publishing English translations of the photo comic! Because Secchi and Magnus's characters Kriminal and Satanik are confused with the Killing/Satanik photo comics, the English version has the character redubbed as SADISTIK to avoid future misunderstandings. If you don't know Mort Todd (the word 'death' in French and German) take a cruise around the site... he's definately official Monsterama material, having been Editor-In-Chief of fiend-friendly Cracked Magazine, and co-creator (with Dan Clowes) of the fabulous Uggly Family.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Disgustingly Normal

More fun from the pages of the 1961/62 Archie comics series, Tales Calculated to Drive You BATS...

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Long Dark Train

Mr. Samuel Hiti is one of the best cartoonists working today, and his recent self-published work, El Largo Tren Oscuro is a quietly gorgeous and gruesome ride to Hell, and comes highly recommended by Monsterama.

Shrimpenstein Returns

Deadly Dan Goodsell (he of The Imaginary World) sent Monsterama a photo of this ultra rare Shrimpenstein! toy, knowing how much I dig the show. What can I say other than, "I gotta get me one of these!"? Now, if you aren't already familiar with Dan's Imaginary World site, you better pack your bags and get going. It's got a lot more than just monsters, but monsters it has! General Mills Cereal Monsters, Vintage Monster Make-Up, Monster Toys, Comics, and even a Darkride Catalogue. One of my very favourite places to visit, real or otherwise.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Go, Go, Weird-Ohs!

Monster (and Hot Rod) history was made back in 1963 when the Hawk Model Company unleashed the Weird-Ohs. The first 3 kits... Davey, Digger, and Daddy... were freaky little drag fiends, and they caught on like a plague! Toys, records, trading cards, and Hallowe'en masks were soon to follow, and the stange little twerps created by Bill Campbell have become lengendary in collectors circles. Bubblegum Fink! has a nice assortment of Weird-Oh baseball cards on display, which are really great to see all in one place. One thing you rarely see are nice examples of the finished, painted models. Cal Everett corrects this pop culture oversight by maintaining an amazing website chock full of fully painted monster kits, including all of the Weird-Ohs reissues. Tool around the site a bit while you're there... he's got some great Finks on display, and the photos of his basement had me drooling! You dig? There was an attempt at 'reviving' the Weird-Oh's as a CGI animated cartoon recently, and I only mention it to warn you away. Stick (and Sick!) with what works, I always say.

Aw, Bats!

Back in the 'golden age' of creep, even Archie Comics tried out some ghoulish ha-ha's. Though Tales Calculated To Drive You BATS only lasted seven issues (and one reprint special), and was a big, giant rip-off of 'Tales Calculated To Drive You MAD', I still think this is one lost gem of a comic series. I stumbled onto issue 6 (the one with the giant ape) on an American road trip over a decade ago, and was immediately smitten. The bulk of the artwork is by Orlando Busino, and the stuff is really teriffic... almost too cute in places, and decidedly gruesome elsewhere. As always, Fred Hembeck has some great insight over on his 'Fred Sez' blog..."An odd fact concerning BATS: while the rest of the four-color field was blatantly denied the use of vampires, werewolves and the undead due to the highly restrictive directives of the Comics Code Authority, BATS, no doubt due primarily to the obviously tongue in cheek manner in which they treated these otherwise undesirable characters, managed to get a pass and fill their pages with these hairy, toothsome, gauze-wrapped protagonists." Part of the charm, of course, is getting to see those classic Archie babes in weird, wild monster stories. Writer George Gladir, who would go on to co-create Sabrina the Teen-Age Witch (more on her later), was particularly adept at MAD style fake ad's and news with a monster twist. I plan to post samples here at Monsterama on a semi-regular basis. Trust me, the stuff is great!