Okay, full disclosure: it's a light column this week. Julie and I are both fighting some sort of nasty bronchial thing-- why, yes, I do work in public school, why do you ask?-- so between that and trying to keep up with other work commitments, not a lot of column-writing happened. However, there's all sorts of other cool stuff around the net I've been meaning to share with you.
The Saga of the X-Ray Spex: If you were reading comics in the 1960s and 70s, you probably remember this advertisement page.
Many items there to inspire a young imagination, of course, but one in particular caused innumerable arguments between me and my friends when we were in first grade--
The X-Ray Spex. Did they really work? Or was it a scam? How the arguments raged. None of us had any money to send away for a pair, and if we did have the staggering sum of a dollar-twenty-five on hand, we preferred to spend it on comics and candy. But we wondered. And we speculated. And we argued over how they could possibly sell something that cool for a buck and a quarter. In the end the only thing we were all agreed on was that we really WANTED them to work.
My friend Rick over at His Name Is Studd is my age, and as a child he also obsessed over the promise of the X-Ray Spex. Young Rick decided he had to know, and here is the story of all the perils he braved as a child to get hold of a pair.
Pulps: I've been meaning to plug this site forever... I just realized I bookmarked it over a year ago and hadn't put it up yet.
Superman, old-school: One of my favorite places to goof off when I'm on the internet is the wonderful Superman Through The Ages.
In particular, if you are a Bronze Age baby like myself, you will find hours of wonderment there. As far as I know it's the only place on the net you can find Elliott S! Maggin's wonderful story of Krypto the Superdog, "Starwinds Howl."
Not Comics But Still Cool: In my Young Authors class this semester, my 6th and 7th grade writers are all very high on the idea of writing adventure stories. So we've been talking a lot about things like pacing and setup and casually putting in things that you pay off later (when we were watching Duel earlier this week, I pointed out the early mention of the radiator hose) and so on and so on.
In the course of doing this, I find out that my kids are woefully ignorant of the classics... and sometimes, I find out I am too.
Oh, of course they know the idea. "A hunter gets hunted." God knows it's been stolen a million times.
[caption id="attachment_92747" align="alignnone" width="620" caption="My favorite of those thefts is Richard Christian Matheson's THE SNARE from the Hulk TV show. 'No, David! The creature! Call the creature! It's HIM I want!'"]
But most of them had never read the original story. We rectified that on Wednesday, but I got to wondering if the original Connell version had ever been a movie, as well.
And it was. In 1932, with Joel McCrea and Fay Wray. Available on DVD for a song.
It was shot simultaneously with King Kong, utilizing Kong's jungle sets as well as most of the crew and even some of the actors. They knew how to stretch a buck back then.
[caption id="attachment_92753" align="alignnone" width="620" caption="This holds up amazingly well-- actually, better than the original KING KONG whose sets they were using."]
I don't know how I got to be fifty years old without ever hearing about this film, but we took steps to rectify that immediately, as well. There's a great DVD version out that's been lovingly restored and colorized under the direction of Ray Harryhausen (the black-and-white version's on the disc too, for you purists) and there's all sorts of cool extra features and interviews. I really recommend it. But if you just want to watch the movie, you can find the whole thing posted on YouTube, here.
And there you have it. All that ought to keep you entertained while we spend the weekend huddled under a quilt and stinking of mentholatum. Here's hoping we'll be over this plague by next week. See you then.