PAUL CASTIGLIA: “Deck the halls with gales of laughter… ha-ha-ha-ha-ha, ha-ha-ha-ha!”
With these holiday gift-giving suggestions, that’s exactly what you’ll do. Whether you aim to tickle the funny bone of someone else on your gift list, or you’re hoping to have your ribs tickled via your own wish list, these relatively recent Blu-ray and DVD offerings offer everlasting laughter!
LAUREL & HARDY: THE DEFINITIVE RESTORATIONS is just as advertised. Available as either a Blu-ray set or a more economically priced DVD set from Kit Parker Films, this is an absolutely stunning collection of 2k and 4k restorations. These classic comedy films of the most beloved comedy duo of all-time have never looked this good in our lifetimes, period. In fact, they look so good, it’s as if they were filmed and developed this morning! You can even see a little 5:00 shadow under Stan Laurel’s nose at times, that’s how crystal clear it all is – it makes you feel like you’re on-set or on-location with “the boys” as they filmed.
In addition to the breathtaking restoration work, it’s chock-full of classics. It contains the two beloved features, Sons of the Desert and Way Out West, plus a plethora of shorts including the most complete version of The Battle of the Century you’ll ever see (where Lou Costello can be seen in the audience during the boxing match), and many bona fide classics including Busy Bodies, Helpmates, Towed In a Hole, the Oscar®-winning The Music Box… and many more! Then there’s all sorts of special features including interviews with those who worked with the boys, photos, posters, and fantastic prints of the very rare That’s That gag reel, Tree in a Test Tube public service short, and the Ship’s Reporter newsreel interview with Hardy. Laurel & Hardy historians and restorers including Richard Bann, Randy Skretvedt, and Jeff Joseph of Sabucat all had a hand in bringing this together, along with UCLA. This is simply a “must-have” collection for any classic comedy aficionado!
Your purchase dollars go toward the vital continuation of the restoration of further Laurel & Hardy films. For more information, visit UCLA’s Laurel & Hardy Preservation page at https://www.cinema.ucla.edu/support/laurel-and-hardy
AFRICA SCREAMS: Speaking of Lou Costello, he’s one half of that other highly beloved comedy duo, Abbott & Costello! He and his partner, Bud Abbott recently underwent a makeover, too. Or rather, this 1948 film of theirs did, in this 4k restoration. The good news Is that the effort was spearheaded by Bob Furmanek – Abbott & Costello historian who co-wrote the definitive book on the team, Abbott & Costello In Hollywood, as well the president of the 3-D Archives, which has been restoring 3-D movies to their original formats. Furmanek and his team have delivered a wonderful transfer of this public domain film which for decades prior was available in prints of dubious quality – some decent, most ragged, and some downright shabby.
The other bits of good news is that this film has an all-start cast: Hillary Brooke, who would go on to be a regular on the Abbott & Costello TV show, two real-life celebrity big game hunters (Frank Buck and Clyde Beatty), two real-life celebrity boxers (brothers Max and Buddy Baer), and two “third Stooges”: Shemp Howard (in his fifth and final appearance in an Abbott & Costello film) and Joe Besser (who would go on to play Costello’s nemesis, neighborhood “kid” Stinky on the Abbott & Costello Show). It also has an amazing array of special features ranging from newsreel clips, related trailers and shorts, a 3-D Abbott & Costello comic book recreation, and footage of Lou Costello interviewing Max Baer and Joe Lewis!
The bad news: common for the “jungle film” genre of the 1940s, there are some unfortunate racial stereotypes in the film. Thankfully, the laughs outnumber the cringe-worthy moments.
This special edition from ClassicFlix is available in limited quantities on either Blu-Ray or DVD through Amazon and directly from ClassicFlix. More info can be found at https://www.classicflix.com/blog/2020/01/20/africa-screams-exclusive-special-limited-edition-in-april
Meanwhile, Mr. Furmanek is already hard-at-work on a restoration of one of Abbott & Costello’s few color films, Jack & the Beanstalk, to be released soon.
TEX AVERY’S SCREWBALL CLASSICS VOLUME 1: It’s no accident that comedy duos like Laurel & Hardy and Abbott & Costello appeared so often in caricatured form in animated cartoon shorts of the ’30, ‘40s and ‘50s. There’s a definite synergy behind the “anything goes” antics in both the live-action films and animated shorts. The big difference: back in the 1940s, there was a limit to what you put on screen in a live-action film. But when your film is hand-drawn, well, you can put anything in there, no matter how absurd or surreal! Tex Avery is regarded as one of the greatest animation directors in history… a sure candidate for a Mount Rushmore of animated shorts directors, in fact – and for good reason. Tex threw everything including the kitchen sink into his cartoons. Anything for a laugh! And most of the gags we consider “tropes” today – well, Avery originated most of them, and few others pulled them off with such aplomb… along with heaping helpings of reckless abandon!
This stellar Blu-Ray of uncut, restored Technicolor® cartoons comes to us courtesy of Warner Archives. Animation historian, author, and dean of the Cartoon Research project, Jerry Beck lent his superlative expertise to the selection of shorts, and other behind-the-scenes machinations, so you know that you’re getting the cream of the crop. Just like the other films I’m recommending, it is advised to remember that these cartoons were made in different times, when social mores were unfortunately different. Which is another way to say, there are going to be some elements in these cartoons that will offend our sensibilities today. However, with the rapid-fire speed at which Avery unleashes the gags, the innocuous and simply hilarious moments far, far outweigh any problematic content. And oh, what hilarity ensue with characters like Wolf & Red, Screwball Squirrel, and Droopy, in classic shorts including Red-Hot Riding Hood, Dumb-Hounded, Symphony in Slang, Who Killed Who, Bad Luck Blackie and more!
As if that wasn’t enough, there’s a Volume 2 just around the corner, being released in mid-December, so you just might want to consider making your gift to your Avery-obsessed friend a double-feature!
So, what are you waiting for? Order these gems today and add some “Ha Ha Ha” to the “Ho Ho-Holiday!”
Ed Catto: It’s been rough year for most of us, but in Geek Culture there’s been plenty of bright spots. In the spirit of trumpeting some of the good stuff, here’s my Annual Holiday Gift Guide:
Written by Mark Voger
Every yuletide season I trot out my copy of The Battle For Christmas by Stephen Nissenbaum. For my money, that’s the best book out there to analyze and explain the many traditions and rituals that have shaped the way the US celebrates Christmas. Well, I think it’s time to make room on the coffee table this December. TwoMorrows newest book, Holly Jolly is kind of the pop-culture counterpart to that classic tome. I really enjoy Mark Voger’s writing, and just loved his Groovy: When Flower Power Bloomed in Pop Culture (also published by TwoMorrows) a few years back. $43.95.99 192 pp. • Hardcover, Full Color • ISBN-13: 978-1-60549-097-7 I
Available everywhere books are sold, and from the publisher: https://tinyurl.com/HollyJollyTwoMorrows
by Various Creators cover by Richard Williams
Last year when I wrote about the previous volume in this series, I preluded my write-up with this admonishment: If Edgar Allan Poe is your favorite author, this is NOT the book for you. Well, that’s truer than ever with this second volume. AHOY Comics is putting out so many outstanding comics- all wry, witty & sardonic, and this collection from the “second season” of Edgar Allan Poe’s Snifter of Terror is a fantastic representation of their ghoulish sensibilities. I’ve heard someone say that AHOY Comics are like a secret lovechild of Vertigo Comics and MAD Magazine, and I think that’s pretty spot on.
$19.99 184 pp. • paperback • ISBN-10: 0998044296
Available at comic shops and fine bookstores everywhere: https://tinyurl.com/AHOYEdgarVol2
by David Gallaher and Steve Ellis
What an engaging series this is. It’s a delightful showcase for two talented creators, and their skills shine. The Only Living Girl picks up right after The Only Living Boy series. But let me be clear – reading all the prior books isn’t a must. I’d suggest that this fantastic book is a perfect jumping on point for all age readers. There’s a page that gets everyone up to speed and then it’s off to the races!
$8.99 72 pp. • Hardcover • ISBN-10 : 1629910562
Available at books stores. comic shops and directly from the publisher, Papercutz: https://papercutz.com
by Frank Cammuso
Viking, an imprint of Random HouseFrank Cammuso is an amazing creator: he teaches comics at Syracuse University, he makes comics as part of the AHOY team, and he creates fantastic all ages graphic novels. I just love the Edison Beaker, Creature Seeker series for its wild and crazy, breakneck action and the smiles that inevitably grow bigger each time you turn the page!
$17.99 176 pp. • Hardcover • ISBN-10: 0425291960
Available at books stores & comic shops everywhere: https://tinyurl.com/EdisonatMidtown
by J. David Spurlock
Despite the calamitous nature of 2020, we were able to visit the Frank Frazetta museum last summer. It was a wonderful trip, and I am still in awe of all amazing paintings there. Reading this oversized coffee table book is like a V.I.P. guided tour in that museum. Spurlock provides just enough background and reference so that anyone can appreciate Frazetta’s talent and creativity. In fact, I wrote about this book earlier this year, and you can read that here.
My Highest Recommendation
$39.95 120 pp. • paperback • ISBN-10: 1934331813
Available at bookstores, comic shops, the Frazetta Museum and directly from Vanguard, the publisher: http://www.vanguardpublishing.com
Edited by Craig Yoe and Ed Catto
Set sail with comics greatest creators on a vintage voyage of pirate comics! As you can see, I co-edited this one with Craig Yoe. And I’ll swear by Davey Jones’s locker I couldn’t have had more fun assembling these tales. The were created by scurvy knaves like Frank Frazetta and Reed Crandall. We added pirate art by more favorites like Wally Wood, Carl Burgos and Howard Pyle to make it even more special.
$12.99 80 pp. • paperback • ISBN-10: 1951038045
Available at comic shops, fine bookstores and directly from Clover, that fantastic new publisher: https://cloverpress.us/products/pirates-a-treasure-of-comics-to-plunder-arrr
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Have a wonderful Yuletide, gang!
Tis the season to find the perfect gift for your favourite comic book aficionado. Surely they are dipping their toes into collecting and reading hardcover Omnibuses (Omnibi?). These handsome presentations of reprinted comics from days gone by are a wonderful addition to a den, study or library. But these books come with large price tags and any even larger weight! These 7,000 page behemoths are not easy to carry and likely exceed the Gross Maximum Tonnage of the majority of book shelves. So why not get your loved one some great gizmos to make Omnibus reading a little easier this holiday season.
Price: $27.99 at Walgreen’s
– Detachable & adjustable suspenders
– Four pieces of built-in orthopedic flexible strip bands enhancing back support
– Breathable & Highly Resistant
Price: $171.67 at Amazon
– Durable Steel Frame with 300 lbs. Weight Capacity
– Quick Conversion with no pins or tools
– Folds Flat for Storage
Price: $179.95 at Norther Tool & Equipment
– All steel construction for industrial-strength storage
– 4-tier rack stands 72in.H and features four 77in.W x 24in.D shelves
– Each shelf has 2000-lb. load capacity & three cross braces
– Wire mesh deck allows air to circulate around contents
(W) Mariah McCourt
(A) Soo Lee
(C) Jill Thompson
The apocalypse is nigh! The world needs a Champion, and the only heir to a sacred mystical lineage is…a little old lady? Meet Lottie Thorn, reluctant savior of the world, and her also-elderly trainer Lady Peruvia Ashlington-Voss. They might not look it, but these women are prepared to take on any Big Bad that comes along. But first, perhaps a nice cup of tea?
Collecting issues #1-5 of the hit series by writer Mariah McCourt (True Blood, Stitched) and artist Soo Lee (Mine!, Charlie’s Angels vs. the Bionic Woman), with covers by Jill Thompson (Scary Godmother, Wonder Woman: True Amazon). Plus extra features—including recipes!
October 14, 2020 – bookstore October 27, 2020
(W) Mark Russell
(A/C) Steve Pugh
Collecting the savage satire reuniting the critically acclaimed team behind DC’s The Flintstones—writer Mark Russell (SECOND COMING) and Eisner-nominated artist Steve Pugh (Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass)—in a new graphic novel. Welcome to Billionaire Island, where anything goes…if you can afford it. But the island’s ultra-rich inhabitants are about to learn that their ill-gotten gains come at a VERY high price.
“Social commentary with an uncompromising determination and a caustic wit, Billionaire Island is going to get readers talking every bit as much as [Mark Russell’s] SECOND COMING.” —Broken Frontier
“A nasty piece of art that bares its teeth at the 1 percent with a level of bloodlust not seen nearly enough in the graphic medium.” —CBR
“The most emotionally devastating comic book in recent memory.” -Vox, on Russell & Pugh’s The Flintstones
November 11, 2020 – bookstore November 24, 2020
(W) Stuart Moore
(A/C) June Brigman/Roy Richardson/Veronica Gandini
The acclaimed saga of cats in space returns for a devastating second volume! Captain Ginger and his feline crew embark on a vast, six-issue adventure when they follow a mysterious hyperspace signal to the home of their unknown canine “cousins.” But trouble aboard ship may doom them before they even meet the dogs.
Created by writer Stuart Moore (Batman: Nightwalker, BRONZE AGE BOOGIE) and artist June Brigman (Power Pack, Star Wars novels).
“Moore wins over the series’ new and returning fans with the complex relationships of the good captain’s crew… Beautifully drawn by Brigman, fast-paced, and compelling as hell, this is one comic fans should add to their want list…It’s purr-fectly good reading! “
“This intergalactic feline space story is both action-packed and full of humor.” -Albany Times-Union
October 28, 2020 – bookstore November 10, 2020
(W) Mark Russell, Paul Cornell, Alisa Kwitney, various
(A) Peter Snejbjerg, Linda Medley, Rick Geary, Hunt Emerson, various
(C) Richard Williams
AHOY Comics’ snarky anthology-slash-desecration of Edgar Allan Poe returns for a second volume, featuring more of the popular “Monster Serials” by Mark Russell (SECOND COMING) and Peter Snejbjerg (The Books of Magic), as well as Dean Motter and Alex Ogle’s ultimate Poe mashup, “The Tell-Tale Black Cask of Usher.” Plus more than a dozen additional comics stories, a generous selection of short “Poe and the Black Cat” strips by Hunt Emerson, and horrific bonus prose stories and poetry, too.
“A must-buy book for fans of Edgar Allan Poe or a good laugh.” – SciFi Pulse
September 23, 2020 – bookstore October 6, 2020
Mike Baron: Badger and legendary blues artist Dalton Seaberry battle the devil.
In an apocalyptic adventure that turns his world upside down, Badger quits Ham to open his own martial arts studio and befriends legendary blues guitarist Dalton Seaberry. Years ago, Dalton made a deal with the devil. Now the bill has come due, as Badger and Dalton must duel the devil himself.
A kangaroo, a cassowary, and a komodo lizard enter Badger’s dojo, all wanting to fight Badger. A satanic cycle gang called the Vong steal Seaberry’s guitar and form a band using Hendrix’ Strat, Keith Moon’s drums, and Jaco Pastorius’ bass. Ham promotes a Battle of the Bands. Dalton Seaberry versus The Vong, with the fate of the Earth in the balance.
Visit the Kickstarter