Monday, July 16, 2018

Twilight Avenger Begins

There are certain potential problems when it comes to reading independent comics from several decades ago.  For one, the issues are hard to track down and, two, the nature of independent publishing is chaotic.  Publishers come and go as much as a volatile market allows.

But for creators, driven by the passion of their vision, the story must continue.  This rambling preamble is meant to explain how and why I'm reading the "Twilight Avenger" out of order. 

The last time I wrote about the pulp-inspired hero of Tulsa, he ran afoul of a zombie-creating mad scientist in a story published by Eternity Comics.  But the two issues I recently picked up on eBay seem to be the very first adventure of our boy and were published by Texas-based Elite Comics.

Issues 1 and 2 involve the origin of the Twilgiht Avenger as he investigates a kidnapping by the villainous "Centipede."  Like all classic heroes, he has a tragic moment that defines him and motivates his heroic career.

Yep, that's a wedding dress that goes flying after after that woman gets hit by a car.  What you're seeing above is college football star Reece Chambers' fiance tragically being put into a coma during yet another example of mob violence in 1930's Oklahoma.

Yeesh, just typing that makes me want to put on a costume myself and go on a one man crusade against crime!

And, with the help of his would-be father in law, that's essentially what Chambers does.  Thus, loaded up with tons of crime fighting gadgets, the Twilight Avenger is born!

One of my favorite things to do with Oklahoma movies and comics is to pick out the Okie locations used in the story.  Let's do that by checking in on Reece's comatose fiance, Dolores:

While a Saint Francis Hospital exists in real life, I've never been there so I'm not sure if they have a statue of the actual saint or if they ever did.  My policy is to only go to hospitals when I need to but I'll still have to go investigate when I get the time.

There's not too many other geographic points of interest in this or the second issue but the second issue does contain a few Easter Eggs in some newspaper headlines:

In addition to an article (with a New York byline indicating it was from a new service) about the corrupting dangers of "Swing Music," there's a headline about the Tulsa Oilers.  This is referring to the old minor league baseball team, not the current hockey team.

There's a mention of a "Fair" welcoming 30,000 school kids.  The timing of the story would indicate that this is when the Tulsa Fairgrounds Pavilion was relatively new (but still well before the Petroleum Expo and our buddy, the Golden Driller) and there was probably still a lot of excitement bringing crowds to the Tulsa State Fair.

There's also mention of a "M'alester" prison riot.  I take this to refer to the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.  Maybe the city was referred to as "M'alester" in that time period?  Maybe it still is?  There was a major riot there in the 70s but I can't find any info about one in the 30s.  Maybe it's a setup for a future story line.

I'll let you know if it's ever followed up on as soon as I track down more be continued...

Friday, June 29, 2018

Batman Top 10 at the Action Figure Museum

Once or twice I've used the Toy & Action Figure Museum in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma as a shooting location for a couple of documentary projects.  It's a substantial collection of toys and served as a great backdrop for several interviews.  I recently made a quick stop there while I was on the road in the area.

 They still have tons of interesting rotating exhibits but, just as before, the biggest collection was of Batman memorabilia which is housed in the museum's very own Bat Cave.  So here's a look at what I thought was the Top 10 pieces in the Batman Collection.

10.  Batman Outdoor Fun Pack

You get a yo-yo, a kite and a "flying disc" (Frisbee is a brand name) in this kit.  Not to mention kite string.  You're going to need that.  What's not to like?  Now go outside and play!

9.  1874 Batman Talking Alarm Clock

Nothing will get you out of bed faster than the stern, forceful voice of the Dark Knight.  You can hear it HERE.  And as a bonus you get the Boy Wonder speeding by in a purple Batmobile.

8.  The Adventures of Batman & Robin Whitman's Sampler

Lots of choices in this candy kit between characters and, I assume, candy fillings.  What will you get?  Robin?  Nougat?  Poison Ivy?  Caramel?  Joker?  Smilex Fudge?  Take a bite and find out!

7.  1973 Batman Paint by Number Set

Let's face it, painting is hard.  Not as hard as crime fighting but, similar to crime fighting, it takes years of study to master.  Or you can just take the easy route and paint by numbers.  I mean, who's gonna stop you?

6.  1969 Big Little Book - Batman: The Cheetah Caper

Lot's of different characters appeared in types of books over the years and, of course, it was only a matter of time before the World's Greatest Detective got his shot.  You can check out some page scans HERE which seem to indicate that this Cheetah is not the Wonder Woman villain but some other weirdo instead.

5.  Batman Returns Happy Meal Display

Every time I see one of these in a fast food place I always think to myself that I should ask the manager if I can buy it once the promotion is done.  And of course, I never do.  When I see one in a collection it reminds me of the shame of my inaction.  That's why it's not higher than #5.

4.  Giant Lego Batman

There's no Batman like Lego Batman and thankfully this one was saved from the sad fate of rotting in a movie theater dumpster.  As a Lego, it falls into both the "toy" and "Batman" categories and a case could be made for calling Lego people "action figures" so this guy is right at home in the Toy & Action Figure Museum.

3.  The Adventures of Batman & Robin Colorforms

No character collection is complete without the obligatory box of Colorforms.  I would have thought the old school toy stopped being made by the time of this TV show but apparently they are still alive and well to this day.  I'm not sure what to do with that little let's move on.

2.  Batman Comics!

This may seem like a no-brainer to you and me but let's not forget that in the sea of toys, movies and cartoons, some of the youngsters might not even be aware that comics exist, much less that Batman is one of their top guys.  It's always nice to have a little reminder of his old school origin.

1.  Batmobile Coin-Op Kiddie Ride

There are a few different types of collectors and what separates the real deals from the wannabes is a piece like this.  I think this is the Batmobile from Batman Forever and it's made its way from outside the grocery store and right into our hearts.  I don't know what usually happens to these things after they are no longer wanted but I think we can all agree that this museum is the right place for this beauty.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Let's Go to the Zoo and Make a Mold

If you are a certain age and had a penchant for touristy destinations as a youngster, then you should probably be well aware of the Mold-A-Rama machines.  But for some bizarre reason, I had never heard of them until recently.

Family vacays to the Alamo and whatever crappy Florida beach we ended up at in '84 should have sculpted me into a hardcore Mold-A-Rama-Maniac but they were totally off my radar until their recent return to fashion alongside my precious penny smashers at various roadside destinations.

All that preamble leads me to today's topic:  "Hey, the Oklahoma City Zoo has a Mold-A-Rama machine!!"

Actually, they have several.  And actually, they seem to be called Mold-A-Matics now.  Above is a look at the beauty I had stumbled upon.  If you're like me (or like I used to be) and you're not particularly familiar with the Magic Souvenir Maker, here's a rundown by the Chicago Tribune.

The tl;dr version is that it's a vending machine of sorts that squishes a plastic souvenir for you as you watch.  The one I found makes a blue hippo. 

I knew they were making a comeback but didn't expect to see one anytime soon, so when I spotted this magnificent beast I immediately thought, "Hey, I can crap out a blog entry about this, can't I?" and couldn't cram in my credit card fast enough.

Three dollars later I had my very own hippo.  And while I'm not exactly sure where it is now, I'll always have the memories of carrying it around in my park during the rest of my trip to the zoo.

And if I see another Mold-A-Whatever at another Oklahoma attraction, odds are I won't think of it as losing three dollars, I'll see it as gaining a new member of my plastic menagerie. 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Contemporary Arts

This weekend is the end of the COMIX OK exhibit at the Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center and they are celebrating with their very own comic convention.  ContempCon features the artists behind the comic book work that his been on display at the studio for the last two weeks.

Artist Johnnie Diacon speaking with a fan

I was able to attend yesterday to meet some of the artist, shoot some video and get some interviews for an upcoming project. Both the exhibit and the con highlighted the diverse types of art and artists that call the Sooner State home and featured how the comic book medium can include many different types of content.

 Interviewing Tulsa artist Melanie Gillman

The event included panels, demos, workshops, vendors, a cosplay fashion show and just about anything you could want from a comic convention but with a local focus.  Oklahoma has had (and continues to have) a large amount of comic book creators and cartoonists and it's about time they get their due.

Green Lantern from Tulsa's DC Marvel League cosplay group

The exhibit and the con are over this weekend but there will be plenty of chances to check out Oklahoma comic creators throughout the year.  I'm going to try to hit as many of those types of events as I can so stay tuned...

Monday, April 2, 2018

A Walk to Remember

Today is the day that Oklahoma public school teachers are staging a walkout at the state capitol in protest of low salaries and insufficient school funding.   So while I sit here in my bathrobe wishing them the best, it seems the best way to keep up with the protest is via Social Media.  Here are some of the highlights that I stumbled across so far:

@Jamiebh73 shows off his kid's ratty textbook which is only in slightly better shape than the textbooks of my youth.  I'm sure this book includes Oklahoma statehood but the fact that I'm not 100% sure is troubling.

@PhilBacharach points out that preparations have been made for the biological necessities that come up when any large group gets together.  Any good teacher could tell you that when nature calls you have to answer.

Former X-Man, current robot cowboy and native Oklahoman James Marsden hopped on Instagram to show off his snazzy new shirt and give a shout out to Okie teachers.

Protesting can be hungry business so, knowing that teachers don't get paid much, several local restaurants are offering discounts to entice famished educators.  Rep. Forrest Bennett (D-Dist 92) helped spread the word.

And, of course, if you're gonna protest you need to bring your strong signage game.  @TimothybBlack thought this one was his favorite and I think it's pretty good too, especially considering the pic from above.

Will the teachers get their raise?  Will Oklahoma text books start include the most recent couple of presidents?  We can only wait and see...

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Sausage Party

While there's still plenty of places and things to visit on my Oklahoma bucket list, occasionally you get lucky and something interesting comes here.  Case in point, the legendary Oscar Mayer Wienermobile recently stopped by the 46th state and I saw it!

This particular stop was at the Walmart in Newcastle but the previous day it appeared in nearby town of Mustang and was headed to Norman next.  So, c'mon, you didn't have much of an excuse to not go see it.

The "Hotdoggers" (the people who drive the Wienermobile)said that after Oklahoma they were headed to Arkansas but, don't worry, I'm sure it won't be too long before the wiener wheels feel the sweet caress of the Oklahoma red dirt once again.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Oklahoma Ape Escape of '44


It's time to take a look back at Captain Marvel's visit to Oklahoma City.  It was 1944 and the day started off in the most normal, mundane way: a clown was trying to commit suicide by leaping to his death.  (Mondays, amitite?)

Well that's all it took for young Billy Batson to say the magic word and transform himself into Captain Marvel, the world's mightiest mortal.  The Captain immediately proceeded to go about the business of clown catching only to be told that it he was not stopping a suicide but responding to a super responsible way of getting someone's attention.  So who is this clown?

Now this is where things get interesting.  The clown identifies himself as Zoo Keeper/Radio Personality "Uncle Leo" and of course the Captain recognizes a fellow broadcaster...but I didn't.  Not until I did a little research and discovered that Uncle Leo was a real guy:

(From "Images of America Oklahoma City Zoo: 1902 - 1959," Arcadia Publishing)

I assume there was some kind of cross-promotion going on at the time with radio stations and Fawcett Comics but I haven't found any confirmation yet.

But I did find some exposition a few panels later as Leo explains that a gorilla named Colossus has escaped from the Lincoln Park Zoo (now known as the Oklahoma City Zoo).  There's also apparently an "armed posse" out to get the gorilla because that's the kind of thing that happens I guess.  So it's up to the super strong and near invulnerable Captain Marvel to safely bring the great ape in.

So the search is on...

...starting with the Civic Auditorium (now known as the Civic Center Music Hall)...

...and then the Skirvin Tower (now the Skirvin Hilton Hotel)...

...Union Station (now known as Oklahoma City Union Depot)...

...the Lincoln Park Amphitheatre (now known as the Oklahoma City Zoo Amphitheatre)...and culminating in an exciting King Kong-style denouement atop an oil derrick at...

...the State Capitol building.  Captain Marvel used the Wisdom of Solomon to outsmart the beast and, in doing so, procured himself an attaboy from the Mayor:

It all worked out with a minimum of shenanigans and with Colossus heading back to the zoo with visions of candy canes dancing in his head.  Is it okay to give candy to gorillas?  The clown zookeeper DJ seems to think so.  And that's good enough for me.

The last panel features young Billy saying they have an adventure planned in Indianapolis next month so this must be in a series highlighting various American cities (not unlike Sad Sack visiting select U.S. states).  But that's a job for the guy who does the Indiana Pop Culture blog.