Monday, November 26, 2012

Tim Corrigan Retiring

Veteran small-press cartoonist and Five Star creator Tim Corrigan has announced his retirement from drawing comic books. People throughout the world of small press have received the news with surprise, dismay, and sadness. Tim is a great cartoonist and can always be counted on to issue funny and well-drawn comics. We will miss him a lot. Tim's reasons for retiring are personal and professional and while we can understand, we wish it could be different. We wish Tim all good fortune and success.

Copyright 2012 Five Star Comics

Monday, November 19, 2012

Secret Origins

The Lost World of Cave Girl!
Part 2

This year marks the one hundredth anniversary of a banner year in the literature of fantasy and adventure. Nineteen twelve was particularly significant in the development of the little genre of lost worlds, a genre inhabited by Cave Girl and countless other fictional characters.

The lost world genre is no doubt named for Arthur Conan Doyle's novel, The Lost World, serialized in The Strand Magazine between April and November 1912 and published in hardback before the year was out. The Lost World set the pattern for all lost worlds to come: intrepid explorers (led in this case by Professor Challenger) mount an expedition to a hidden and almost inaccessible land where they find prehistoric creatures and strange races of men. We have all enjoyed books, movies, and TV shows that fit the pattern: King Kong (film, 1933), Robert Moore Williams' Jongor series (fiction, 1940-1951), The Valley of Gwangi (film, 1969) and Land of the Lost (television, 1974-1977) are just a few examples. Works as varied as Herland (1915), At the Mountains of Madness (1931), Lost Horizon (1933), The Island at the Top of the World (1974), Jurassic Park (1993), Lost (2004-2010), and Ka-Zar and the Savage Land (Marvel Comics) draw on the conventions of a genre pioneered in the original Lost World.

Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) may have been pioneer, but no writer exploited the lost worlds genre to a greater extent than Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950), nor in more ways. A restless jack-of-all-trades, Burroughs set off his writing career with a bang in 1912, first with John Carter of Mars, then with an even greater success, Tarzan of the Apes. The saga of John Carter began in February 1912 in the pages of The All-Story with a serial entitled "Under the Moons of Mars," later published in hardback as A Princess of Mars (1917). Although it's considered a work of planetary romance or science fantasy, the collected John Carter can be interpreted as another variation on the lost worlds genre, complete with strange creatures, varied races of men, and decaying civilizations. By Burroughs' time, of course, few options remained for locating lost worlds on Earth, a world that was mostly found. Whether he intended to or not, Burroughs expanded the possibilities of lost worlds by locating them in outer space. His Barsoom was a forerunner to the myriad lost worlds of science fiction.

Edgar Rice Burroughs completed his annus mirabilis with "Tarzan of the Apes," published in The All-Story in October 1912 and in a hardbound edition two years later. Eventually running to twenty-two volumes published in Burroughs' lifetime, the story of Tarzan brought together all the elements of the lost worlds genre: the modern man thrust into a primitive environment; conversely, the primitive man introduced into the modern world; preternaturally intelligent animals; races of men of every size, shape, color, description, and culture; lost cities; hidden valleys; forgotten civilizations; dinosaurs and other strange creatures; a hollow earth; and on and on. Tarzan remains one of the most recognizable characters the world over. The influence of Tarzan and his creator are incalculable, even today.

Three works--The Lost World, "Under the Moons of Mars," and "Tarzan of the Apes," all from 1912--brought together the pieces of the lost world genre. Everything that followed--including the comic book stories of Cave Girl--has been a variation on a theme composed a century ago by two authors, Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Rice Burroughs.

To be continued . . .

Published in 1912, The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle has been adapted to the movies many times, and why not? After all, it brings together people and dinosaurs in a way the real world has never seen fit to do. Here's a paperback tie-in to the 1960 version, directed by Irwin Allen.
Before Frazetta, there was J. Allen St. John, and before him, Frank Schoonover. Great American illustrators have been drawn to the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs and for good reason. Whatever he may have lacked in literary ability, Burroughs possessed a powerful and fertile imagination. 
Two covers with similar themes: From a distance, Tarzan looks upon a lost city. I don't know the artist for the first of these two covers, but Frank Frazetta, in his watercolor period, created the second. Frazetta will figure pretty prominently in the continued secret origin of Cave Girl.

Text copyright 2012 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Secret Origins

The Lost World of Cave Girl!
Part 1

Of the public domain characters to appear so far in Five Star Comics, one of the most popular has been Cave Girl. That's a pleasant surprise considering she was a last minute addition to our lineup. So how did this denizen of the Dawn Lands make the jump from the Golden Age to the Five Star Age? Thereby hangs a tale that begins decades before Cave Girl's comic book debut.

Long before comic books, before science fiction and pulp magazines, writers told stories of lost worlds. Until the Age of Exploration began, much of the world was terra incognita. Named in Roman times, Africa lay largely unexplored until the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The Americas were undiscovered by Europeans until the late 1400s and the North American frontier didn't close until 1890. Australia was unknown until 1606, while Antarctica wasn't discovered until 1820. For centuries, the map of the globe was mostly blank or based on spotty exploration or mere conjecture. As late as the nineteenth century, lost worlds--lands where strange creatures and unknown peoples might still live--were a possibility rather than just works of the imagination.

According to The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, tales of lost worlds began when the world was still geographically "open." Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift (1726), though satirical, is an example of lost worlds from a time when it was still possible for the earth to contain strange and unknown places. "The lost-world story," as the encyclopedia explains, "belonged to a cartographically 'closed' world." By the late 1800s, few options remained for locating a lost world story on a plausibly "real" earth. Jules Verne solved the problem with a journey to the center of the earth in 1863. Stories of subterranean civilizations or of a hollow earth continued into the twentieth century, as late as Mike Grell's comic book fantasy The Warlord (1975) or Steven Utley and Howard Waldrop's story "Black as the Pit, from Pole to Pole" (1977). H. Rider Haggard (1856-1925) took a different path, locating his lost worlds in an African continent that was still largely unexplored at the publication of King Solomon's Mines (1885), Allan Quatermain (1887), and She (1886). Two writers from a generation later would pick up on the theme. Other men may have written lost world adventures before and after them, but no one is more closely identified with the genre (besides Haggard) than Edgar Rice Burroughs and Arthur Conan Doyle.

To be continued . . .

Before the map of the world was finally drawn, before terra incognita became an archaic term, the unknown earth was a place of unimagined possibilities, of strange beasts, fierce monsters, unknown races of men, and lost civilizations.
Here terra incognita is in Asia . . .
Here at the bottom of the world.
Writing in the late nineteenth century, H. Rider Haggard placed his tales of lost worlds in darkest Africa, a place as yet largely unexplored by Europeans. With its hidden valley, lost city, and isolated cultures, King Solomon's Mines, published in 1885, would set the pattern for the lost worlds genre of adventure and science fiction. 
Haggard's novel has been committed to film several times. Here's a paperback tie-in with the 1950 version starring Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr. This edition is one of Dell's renowned "map-backs." Without intending to, the book hearkens back to the age of exploration and its maps of new discoveries and terra incognita. If you have read the book and know the name of the "twin mountains," you might recognize an unintentional visual pun repeated on the front cover of the book.
King Solomon's Mines was wildly successful and demanded a sequel. The first was Allan Quatermain, from 1887. This scan is from the collection of Robert Weinberg.
Of all Haggard's books, only King Solomon's Mines exceeds the fame of She (1886) and then perhaps only for its chronological primacy. One of the bestselling books of all time, She has never gone out of print. 
Like King Solomon's Mines, She has been adapted to the movies many times. Here's the paperback tie-in for the 1965 version starring Ursula Andress. 
She-who-must-be-obeyed lives on in fiction by Haggard's successors. Here's a novel from 1978, written by the British author Peter Tremayne (Peter Berresford Ellis). 
She was the first of Haggard's books to be adapted to film. There have been at least eleven versions of the story. Here's a poster for the 1925 version starring Betty Blythe. 
Here's the 1935 version with Helen Gahagan as the title character. Just two years before, producer Merian C. Cooper had been responsible for one of the most famous of lost world movies. Entitled King Kong, it is still--nearly eighty years after its premiere--a powerful film.  
Finally, here's the poster for the 1965 She, featuring Hammer regulars Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. I could go on all day showing images from H. Rider Haggard's imagination. I think a scrapbook compilation of images like these is long past due.

Text copyright 2012 Terence E. Hanley