Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Halloweeny Kind of Update

Let me start off by saying this blog hasn't been updated in about a month all because of me. I've been lagging behind on my blogging duties, and I'm sorry. I promise I will try to be much more diligent in them. That said a quick update; the comic is coming along great! I love the work Delia is cranking out on this story and I can't wait to share it.

We were at New York Comic Con earlier this month, saw some friends, met some great people, and attended one of the most informative panels I've seen: Protect It and Publish It: Creating and Protecting Your Comic Book Property. There is a new book coming out next year called The Pocket Lawyer for Comic Book Creators that from what I can tell will be a must have for comic creators, and actually artists and writers in any medium.

Hopefully within the next month the anthology You Are Not Alone from Grayhaven Comics will be out. Delia and I have a story in it called "Here's Looking At You" that I'm really proud of. This week I've been outlining a stand alone Dash story that will be featured on this very blog, it's my best H.G.Wells meets Ralph Ellison, and that's all I can or probably should say about that at the moment!

I was originally going to do a blog about reference photos in scripts that I write, and I will. But since Halloween is right around the corner, and Halloween may be my most favorite time of year, I've decided to write about something that's near to my heart: monsters.

I'm not sure what came first, it might've been when I first saw Monster Squad with my cousins (the one from 1987 not this .)It might've been when on vacation I stumbled upon the Bela Lugosi Dracula in a video rental store and spent that sunny summer afternoon watching it while the rest of my family was at the beach. Either wayI've been hooked on classic monster (preferably from Universal Studios) since I was a child. Give me your Draculas, Wolfmans, and all the Frankensteins you got! But one guy I always feel gets shoved to the background is The Mummy.

Unlike a lot of other famous monsters The Mummy monster wasn't really based on a classic novel but more of a news phenomenon. In 1922 when the tomb of King Tut was discovered rumors quickly circulated that there was an ancient curse that would bring the demise of those that dared enter the tomb. The lead architect Howard Carter supposedly found a tablet with the inscription: "death shall come on swift wings to him who disturbs the peace of the king" and hid it from the dig crew. Carter always denied ever doing so.

A few months later Lord Carnarvon, the money behind the dig, dropped dead of a mysterious illness, most probably due to an insect bite that led to an infection. Even still legend has it that when he died the lights went out in Cairo and back at his home in England his dog emitted a long howl and then promptly dropped dead. By the end of the decade almost a dozen people linked to the expedition had died of mysterious causes. The most shocking death was that of Lord Westbury, who leapt from his apartment window leaving a note stating he couldn't stand any more of the horrors.

While modern scientists have their own theories on what the curse actually was (some believe it was a fungi that laid dormant for many years in it's victims) the press had a field day with the mysterious deaths. Many headlines of the time talked of "The Curse of The Mummy!" America became obsessed with the story and Egyptian culture influenced much of the style of the 1920's from fashion to architecture, take the Los Angeles Public Library built in 1926 for example.

It wasn't long before the burgeoning Universal Studios, which was becoming Hollywood's place for horror, capitalized on the Egyptian "craze" and released a feature film titled The Mummy.

Starring Boris Karloff (billed as Karloff The Uncanny due to his newfound popularity as The Frankenstein monster) and the alluring Zita Johann, The Mummy tells the tale of archeologists who uncover a long lost mummy and a curse on whoever opens it's tomb. Directed by German cinematographer Carl Freund (famous for his camera work on The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Dracula) the film has striking visuals even if it falls a bit flat in it's narrative.

Universal resurrected its ancient monster in 1940 in The Mummy's Hand starring the strapping Dick Foran, Peggy Moran, Wallace Ford and Tom Tyler as The Mummy now called Kharis. This movie has nothing what so ever to do with its predecessor and introduces its own mythology (while shamelessly reusing film clips from the original.) While the basic plot structure is the same, archeologists discover an ancient mummy tomb, in this movie we learn of a cult that has been keeping The Mummy alive using a tea made of out of ancient leaves (the spookiest tea imaginable!) This movie is a lot of fun, spooky in all the right places; even managing to balance some genuine laughs and cheesy romance. While it's not the most artfully made picture it's definitely worth a view.

Two years later Kharis The Mummy came back to exact revenge on those who made it through the last movie in The Mummy's Tomb in 1942. This time the title character was played by Lon Chaney Jr. (and would be for the next three movies.) The Mummy was the horror actors least favorite role as it required intense makeup application with very little to play other than lumber around the set. This movie begs the question if the monster that's chasing you can barely walk without limping and he kills you anyway then isn't it really your fault? It's a worthwhile view, with some fun creepy imagery but not as enjoyable as its predecessor.

The Mummy's Ghost from 1944 is probably the cheapest looking movie in Universals entire Mummy franchise. Featuring Chaney as the monster, along with John Carradine and Ramsay Ames, it's worth a look for its pretty uncharacteristic for the time period horrific ending.

Universal was in Mummy mania in 1944 because later that year came The Mummy's Curse. This movie has the most racial stereotyping, inconsistent plot continuity (the last movie they were in New England and this movie they're in New Orleans???) odd moments where people break into song, and the most wooden acting of the films, but it just be my favorite for the sequence of Virginia Christine rising as the resurrected Princess Ananka from the mud.

It's creepy, chilling, and excellently done. So forgiving a few things (and it's easy to as the movie is only an hour long) it's worth a watch even as it makes you grimace.

Much later in 1955 Abbott and Costello met The Mummy and while it gets a few laughs personally I always want it to be as good as when they met Frankenstein (and DraculAR and The Wolfman) but it isn't. Eddie Parker, who doubled for Lon Chaney in the 40's, played the part of "Klaris" The Mummy.

I'm not really a Hammer film guy. I like them but my heart is really at Universal when it comes to classic monster movies. That said Hammers The Mummy released in 1959 is one of my favorites from the studio. Christopher Lee plays Kharis, it also stars Peter Cushing as the archeologist (in a Mummy movie twist it's the hero that has the limp!) and French film actress Yvonne Furneaux. The film is basically a retread of The Mummy's Tomb but is far and away my favorite Hammer Horror film. Incidentally it's one of the few movies I still own on VHS.

A lot of people are probably more familiar with the more recent Mummy movies (and the spin off series The Scorpion King) spearheaded by director Stephen Sommers. I'll be honest and say I'm not enamored with them but I do think they are fun, especially the first one.Apparently Universal has plans to reboot the entire franchise once again and I'm looking forward to what they are going to do with it, although I'm personally a bit skeptical that they are rebooting the Van Helsing movie and that they will have a "shared" universe in common. We shall see I guess.

So I thought this was a blog about the process of making a comic? A noir comic at that! Why are we talking about movies? Why are we talking about Mummies? Well .keep reading and Happy Halloween! - Dave
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