Monday, 8 June 2015

COMICS SUCK! - Strange Suspense Stories #75 (June 1965)

50 YEARS AGO - June 1965
"Introducing Captain Atom"

By Joe Gill (w); Steve Ditko (a) & William Anderson & Pat J. Masulli (e)

It's unusual to profile a reprint here, but this issue announced the return of Steve Ditko to Charlton Comics, a getaway vehicle of sorts for the troubled genius artist.

After a dozen years of slaving in the thankless comics industry, Steve Ditko knew who he was. After the success of Spider-Man and discovering the ideas of Ayn Rand he became acutely aware of his own value within his industry, even if his full-time employer Marvel Comics refused to acknowledge it. While working for the burgeoning publishing titan he went back to competitor Charlton looking to scrounge up a little extra work. They didn't pay as much as Marvel, but they allowed him more creative control and would credit his full contributions. A dispute about who got the writing credit on the Spider-Man comic (ultimately it would be Stan Lee) became a sticking point that would eventually end in a sudden split with the company. But Steve Ditko already had his exit strategy in place.

Charlton ran out the clock on the sci-fi anthology Strange Suspense Stories and built up a little buzz for the artist's return to the character Captain Atom by reprinting his old Ditko-drawn adventures while Ditko worked on new tales behind the scenes. The title would be re-branded Captain Atom and feature new Ditko-created adventures by the end of the year. The title ran concurrently with Marvel's Spider-Man for half a year after Ditko had already left Marvel because he'd been so far ahead on the title, a testament to the man's work ethic.

Aside from Captain Atom, Ditko also re-vamped Blue Beetle and created The Question for Charlton. He would later create The Creeper, Hawk & Dove and Shade the Changing Man for DC Comics before returning to Marvel at the tail end of the 1970's. Though Ditko's post-Marvel creations would never enjoy the same level of success as Spider-Man, his Charlton creations helped inspire Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons hugely successful The Watchmen series for DC. Captain Atom is the basis for the character of Dr. Manhattan.


"For Your Love"

This is one of the most important songs in the history of rock music. If it weren't for this song there might never have been a Led Zeppelin. Pissy, heroin-addled, mega-diva Eric Clapton left the group after the release of this song because he saw the slight departure in sound as a "betrayal" of the band's blues roots. Ironically, the change in sound was far less pronounced here than it was on the first single from Clapton's next (and more successful) band Cream, called "Wrapping Paper". Nobody, but nobody expected the brand new British blues supergroup to sound like that! (listen to it here)

But with a pinch of hindsight it isn't too far fetched to see "For Your Love" as a doom metal prototype. The song was relatively dirge-like and though it fit neatly into a pop single structure, it was atypical of radio fare due its dark tone. Ultimately, The Yardbirds had begun to take the same approach to songwriting that Black Sabbath would 5 years later, namely: darkening and messing around with traditional blues structures.

The experimentation wouldn't end there. The very next month the Yardbirds would issue their other signature tune (and first with guitarist Jeff Beck), "Heart Full of Soul". The story goes that Clapton left when the group recorded the original version of "Heart" with a sitar. After the "betrayal" of "For Your Love", there was no redeeming the group in Clapton's eyes after the sitar incident. But if Clapton had never left, they might never have drafted in the talents of Jimmy Page, who might never have cobbled together the New Yardbirds in the wake of the original band's implosion and the New Yardbirds might never have become Led Zeppelin.


(Review by Tony Maim)
Directed by Roman Polanski
Cast - Catherine Deneuve, Ian Hendry, John Fraser, Patrick Wymark and Yvonne Furneaux.

From the opening shot of the credits being projected onto an extreme close up of an eyeball to the stark ending devoid of any real hope, this film delivers a gripping study of obsession and paranoia. Catherine Deneuve plays the lead as a manicurist sleepwalking through life, sharing a London flat with her overpowering sister.

With her radiant beauty stealing scenes throughout, the mystery is why she has such an aversion to any type of male contact. When the sister goes on holiday, Deneuve spends more time numbly going through the motions, spending more and more time locked in the flat. While being pursed by various interested suitors, the flat starts to mirror the state of Deneuves’s fragile mind. Cracks appear in the walls, paint is flaking off surfaces, noises are amplified and OCD seems to be taking over her personality.

All through this, the camera shots linger on her face in long, close-up takes which shows the blank wild stare becoming ever more vacant, yet more desperate at the same time.

A casual visit by an interested admirer brings the paranoia to an all time high, ending with a murderous attack leading to a bloody corpse in the hallway. Deneuve spends more time slowly becoming more zombie-like, sleeping on the floor, staring at plates of rotting food,
only moving when her delusions bring arms punching through walls or clever camera angles make hallways stretch into the horizon.

Her lecherous landlord forces his way into the fetid flat only to be stabbed in a frenzied attack when our heroine/villainess is roused into action. The police are called and as she is lead away, the last shot is of an old family snapshot, showing the two sisters being stared at by a father/uncle/relative in a way that does not bring images of a happy childhood.

Hey stop reading this and watch the whole thing here:


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