Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Biography

Mike Mignola

Mike-Mignola_HellboyMike Mignola was born September 16, 1960 in Berkeley, California and grew up in nearby Oakland. His fascination with ghosts and monsters began at an early age (he doesn’t remember why) and reading Dracula at age 13 introduced him to Victorian literature and folklore from which he has never recovered.

In 1982, hoping to find a way to draw monsters for a living, he moved to New York City and began working for Marvel Comics—First as a (very terrible, according to the man himself) inker and then as an artist on comics like Rocket Raccoon, Alpha Flight, and The Hulk. 

Hellboy_graphic-novelBy the late 80’s he had begun to develop his signature style (Thin lines, clunky shapes and lots of black) and moved onto higher profile commercial projects like Cosmic Odyssey (1988) and Gotham by Gaslight (1989) for DC Comics, and the not so commercial Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser (1990) for Marvel. In 1992 he drew the comic book adaptation of the film Bram Stoker’s Dracula for Topps Comics.

In 1993 Mike moved to Dark Horse comics and created Hellboy – A half-demon occult detective who may or may not be the Beast of the Apocalypse. While the first story line (Seed of Destruction 1994) was co-written by John Byrne, Mike has continued writing the series himself. There are, at this moment, 13 HELLBOY graphic novel collections (with more on the way), several spin-off titles (BPRD, Lobster Johnson, Abe Sapien and Witchfinder), 3 anthologies of prose stories, several novels, 2 animated films and 2 live action films staring Ron Perlman. Hellboy has earns numerous comic industry awards and is published in a great many countries.

mignola_bprd-hell-on-earthMike also created the award-winning comic book The Amazing Screw-On Head and has co-written two novels (Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire and Joe Golem and the Drowning City) with best selling author Christopher Golden.

Mike worked (very briefly) with Francis Ford Coppola on his film Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), was a production designer on the Disney film Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) and was visual consultant to director Guillermo del Toro on Blade II (2002), Hellboy (2004) and Hellboy 2: The Golden Army (2008).

Mignola_rocket_groot_cover_colorMike considers The Magician and the Snake the best thing he has ever done. Though scripted and drawn by him the 6 page story was actually plotted by his daughter Katie (at the time 7 years old) and earned both of them Eisner Awards for best short story.

He lives somewhere in Southern California with his wife, daughter, a lot of books and a cat. He is one of the few comic artists that I buy work unseen based on his participation (the others are Berni Wrightson, Liberatore and Eric Powell) I suggest you purchase some of his work immediately.


Jack Pierce

Jack-Pierce_bannerJack Pierce (born Janus Piccoula; May 5, 1889 – July 19, 1968) was a Hollywood make-up artist most famous for creating the iconic make-up worn by Boris Karloff in Universal Studios’ 1931 adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, along with various other classic monster make-ups for Universal Studios.

frankenstein_jack-pierce_themanbehindthemonstersAfter immigrating to the United States from his native Greece as a teenager, Pierce tried his hand at several careers, including a stint as an amateur baseball player. In the opportunist twenties, Pierce embarked on a series of jobs in cinema—cinema manager, stuntman, actor, even assistant director—which would eventually lead to his mastery of in the field of makeup. In 1915 he was hired to work on crews for the studio’s productions. On the 1926 set of The Monkey Talks, Jack Pierce created the make-up for actor Jacques Lernier who was playing a simian with the ability to communicate. The head of Universal, Carl Laemmle, was won over with the creative outcome. Next came Conrad Veidt in The Man Who Laughs, also a silent Universal picture. Pierce was then immediately hired full-time by the newly established Universal Pictures motion picture studio. The 1930 death of Lon Chaney, who throughout the 1920s had made a name for himself by creating grotesque and often painful horror makeups, opened a niche for Pierce and Universal, Chaney’s films provided audiences with the deformed, monstrous faces that Pierce and moviegoers so clearly enjoyed.

jack-pierce_boris-karloff_frankensteinUniversal’s first talkie horror film, Dracula, eschewed elaborate horror make-up. Pierce designed a special color greasepaint for Bela Lugosi for his vampire character, but apparently the actor insisted on applying his own makeup. For all film appearances of the character thereafter, Pierce instituted a different look entirely, recasting Dracula as a man with greying hair and a moustache. The most significant creation during Pierce’s time at the studio was clearly Frankenstein, originally begun with Lugosi in the role of the Monster. The preliminary design was apparently similar to the Paul Wegener 1920 German film of The Golem. When James Whale replaced Florey as director, the concept was radically changed. Pierce came up with a design which was horrific as well as logical in the context of the story. So, where Henry Frankenstein has accessed the brain cavity, there is a scar and a seal, and the now famous “bolts” on the neck are actually electrodes; carriers for the electricity used to revive the stitched-up corpse. How much input director James Whale had into the initial concept remains controversial. Universal loaned out Pierce for the Lugosi film White Zombie. They also loaned out some of the Dracula sets for the troublesome filming. Lugosi had collaborated with Pierce on the look of his devilish character in the film.

frankenstein_boris-karloff_jack-piercePierce’s make-up can be seen in Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and Son of Frankenstein (1939), The Mummy (1932), Lon Chaney Jr. as The Wolf Man (1941), and their various sequels associated with the characters. He also helped comedian Bud Abbott augment his thinning hairline with a widow’s peak toupee in his early films with Lou Costello. Pierce’s final credit is as makeup artist for the TV show Mister Ed from 1961 to 1964. He died in 1968 from uremia.

Jack Pierce’s enduring work at Universal has become a huge influence to many in the entertainment field, including make-up artists Rick Baker and Tom Savini. Jack Pierce was an innovator in the world of screen entertainment and material design. Pierce understandably felt he never got the recognition he deserved and died a bitter man. Finally, in 2003, Pierce was recognized with a lifetime achievement award from the Hollywood Make-up Artist and Hair Stylist Guild.

jack-pierce_wolf-man_lon-chaney-jrIn recent years, there is a strong desire to give Pierce a Hollywood Boulevard star for his popular lasting triumphs that have been preserved for decades on the movies he worked on. Pierce undeniably created screen icons to last beyond his lifetime. His contributions still continue to attract droves of attention to his astonishingly memorable, entirely original designs.


Kitty Winn

Kitty-Winn_BannerKitty Winn (born February 21, 1943) is an award-winning American Actress. Katherine Tupper (“Kitty”) Winn was born in Washington, D.C. As the daughter of an army officer she traveled widely during much of her childhood, including, time spent in United States, England, Germany, China, India and Japan.

panic_in_needle_park_PosterHer career has spanned a wide range of drama productions on stage, in motion pictures and on television. She studied acting at Centenary Junior College and Boston University, graduating from the latter in 1966. During her college years Winn acted in student productions at Centenary Junior College, Boston University, and Harvard College and summer stock for two summers at The Priscilla Beach Theatre south of Boston. Shortly after college she joined the company at American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco where she remained for four years.

Panic-in-Needle-Park_Kitty-Winn_Al-Pacino_BTSIn the fall of 1970 Kitty left American Conservatory Theater to play opposite Al Pacino in the film ‘Panic in Needle Park’ for which she won the Best Actress award at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival. The film portrays life among a group of heroin addicts who hang out in “Needle Park” (the nicknames of Verdi Square and Sherman Square on New York’s Upper West Side near 72nd Street and Broadway). The film is a love story between Bobby (Pacino), a young addict and small-time hustler, and Helen (Kitty Winn), a restless woman who finds Bobby charismatic. She becomes an addict, and life goes downhill for them both as their addictions worsen, eventually leading to a series of betrayals.

Kitty-Winn_The-ExorcistTo set the atmosphere, no music was used in the film, much of which features cinéma vérité-style footage. It is believed to be the first mainstream film to feature actual drug injection.

Although she went on to do several more films, such as ‘The Exorcist’, she always returned to her great love, the theatre. In The Exorcist, Kitty played Sharon Spencer, movie actress Chris McNeil’s friend and personal assistant who acts as Regan’s tutor.

The Exorcist_Kitty WinnKitty co-starred in Peeper (1975) with Michael Caine, before returning to the role of Sharon in the Exorcist sequel, Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977).

Kitty retired in 1978 but returned to play Cordelia in “The Tragedy of King Lear” for KCET in 1983. She did not return to the stage again until 2011 when she played the lead in “The Last Romance” at the San Jose Repertory Theatre. For this performance she was nominated for a best actress award by the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle.


John Barrymore

John-Barrymore_Banner_HeaderJohn Sidney Blyth (February 15, 1882 – May 29, 1942), better known as John Barrymore, was an American actor of stage and screen. He first gained fame as a handsome stage actor in light comedy, then high drama and culminating in groundbreaking portrayals in Shakespearean plays Hamlet and Richard III. His success continued with motion pictures in various genres in both the silent and sound eras. Barrymore’s personal life has been the subject of much writing before and since his death in 1942.

John-Barrymore_Dr. Jekyll and Mr. HydeA member of a multi-generation theatrical dynasty, he was the brother of Lionel Barrymore and Ethel Barrymore, and was the paternal grandfather of Drew Barrymore. Barrymore delivered some of the most critically acclaimed performances in theatre and film history and was widely regarded as the screen’s greatest performer during a movie career spanning 25 years as a leading man in more than 60 films.

Barrymore entered films around 1913 with the feature An American Citizen. He or someone using the name Jack Barrymore is given credit for four short films made in 1912 and 1913, but this has not been proven to be John Barrymore. Barrymore was most likely convinced into giving films a try out of economic necessity and the fact that he hated touring a play all over the United States. He could make a couple of movies in the off-season theater months or shoot a film in one part of a day while doing a play in another part. He also may have been goaded into films by his brother Lionel and his uncle Sidney, who had both been successfully making movies for a couple of years. Some of Barrymore’s silent film films included Dr, Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920), Sherlock Holmes (1922), Beau Brummel (1924), played Captain Ahab in The Sea Beast (1926), and Don Juan (1926).

Poster - Dr_ Jekyll and Mr_ HydeWhen talking pictures arrived, Barrymore’s stage-trained voice added a new dimension to his screen work. He made his talkie debut with a dramatic reading of the big Duke of Gloucester speech from Henry VI, part 3 in Warner Brothers’ musical revue The Show of Shows (“Would they were wasted: marrow, bones and all”), and reprised his Captain Ahab role in Moby Dick (1930). His other leads included Svengali (1931), The Mad Genius (1931), Grand Hotel (1932), Dinner at Eight (1933) and Twentieth Century (1934). He worked opposite many of the screen’s foremost leading ladies, including Greta Garbo, Katherine Hepburn, Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford and Carole Lombard.

Barrymore collapsed while appearing on Rudy Vallee’s radio show and died in his hospital room, May 29, 1942. His dying words were “Die? I should say not, dear fellow. No Barrymore would allow such a conventional thing to happen to him.”

John-Barrymore_W.C.FieldsAccording to Errol Flynn’s memoirs, film director Raoul Walsh “borrowed” Barrymore’s body before burial, and left his corpse propped in a chair for a drunken Flynn to discover when he returned home from The Cock and Bull Bar. This was re-created in the movie W.C. Fields and Me. Other accounts of this classic Hollywood tale substitute actor Peter Lorre in the place of Walsh, but Walsh himself tells the story in Richard Schickel’s 1973 documentary The Men Who Made the Movies. However, Barrymore’s great friend Gene Fowler denied the story, stating that he and his son held vigil over the body at the funeral home until the funeral and burial.

He was buried in East Los Angeles, at Calvary Cemetery, on June 2. Surviving family members in attendance were his brother Lionel and his daughter Diana. Ex wife Elaine also attended. Among his pallbearers were Hollywood Legends W.C. Fields, Louis B. Mayer and David O. Selznick. Years later, Barrymore’s son John had the body reinterred at Philadelphia’s Mount Vernon Cemetery.


Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee_BannerBruce Lee (born Lee Jun-fan; 27 November 1940 – 20 July 1973) was a Chinese American actor, martial arts instructor, philosopher, film director, film producer, screenwriter, and founder of the Jeet Kune Do martial arts movement. He is widely considered by many commentators, critics, media and other martial artists to be the most influential martial artist, and a cultural icon.

bruce-lee_enter the dragonLee was born in San Francisco to parents of Hong Kong heritage but was raised in Hong Kong until his late teens. It was in Hong Kong where the largest influence on Lee’s martial arts development was his study of Wing Chun. Lee began training in Wing Chun at the age of 13 under the Wing Chun teacher Yip Man in 1954, after losing a fight with rival gang members. Yip’s regular classes generally consisted of the forms practice, chi sao (sticking hands) drills, wooden dummy techniques, and free-sparring. There was no set pattern to the classes. Yip tried to keep his students from fighting in the street gangs of Hong Kong by encouraging them to fight in organized competitions.

enter_the_dragon_poster_005After a year into his Wing Chun training, most of Yip Man’s other students refused to train with Lee after they learnt of his ancestry (his mother was half Chinese and half Caucasian) as the Chinese generally were against teaching their martial arts techniques to non-Asians. Lee’s sparring partner, Hawkins Cheung states, “Probably fewer than six people in the whole Wing Chun clan were personally taught, or even partly taught, by Yip Man”. However, Lee showed a keen interest in Wing Chun, and continued to train privately with Yip Man and Wong Shun Leung in 1955.

Lee emigrated to the United States at the age of 18 to claim his U.S. citizenship and receive his higher education. It was during this time that he began teaching martial arts, which soon led to film and television roles.

Bruce Lee_Game of Death_posterHis Hong Kong and Hollywood-produced films elevated the traditional Hong Kong martial arts film to a new level of popularity and acclaim and influenced martial arts and martial arts films in Hong Kong and the rest of the world. He is noted for his roles in five feature-length films: Lo Wei’s The Big Boss (1971) and Fist of Fury (1972); Way of the Dragon (1972), directed and written by Lee; Warner Brothers’ Enter the Dragon (1973), directed by Robert Clouse; and Game of Death (1978), directed by Robert Clouse. Extended articles on each of these movies will appear here at a later date.

Lee became an iconic figure known throughout the world. Although he initially trained in Wing Chun, he later rejected well-defined martial art styles, favouring instead to use techniques from various sources in the spirit of his personal martial arts philosophy, which he dubbed Jeet Kune Do (The Way of the Intercepting Fist).

On 10 May 1973, Lee collapsed in Golden Harvest studios while doing dubbing work for the movie Enter the Dragon. Suffering from seizures and headaches, he was immediately rushed to Hong Kong Baptist Hospital where doctors diagnosed cerebral edema. They were able to reduce the swelling.

bruce-lee_game of deathOn 20 July 1973, Lee was in Hong Kong, to have dinner with George Lazenby, with whom he intended to make a film. According to Lee’s wife Linda, Lee met producer Raymond Chow at 2 pm at home to discuss the film Game of Death.  Lee later complained of a headache, and actress Betty Lee Ting gave him an analgesic (painkiller), he went for a nap and never woke up. He died later that day in Kowloon Tong, he was only 32.


Mercedes McCambridge

The Exorcist_Mercedes McCambridgeCarlotta Mercedes McCambridge (March 16, 1916 – March 2, 2004) was an Academy Award-winning and Golden Globe-winning American actress. Orson Welles called her “the world’s greatest living radio actress.”

McCambridge was born in Joliet, Illinois, the daughter of parents Marie and John Patrick McCambridge. She graduated from Mundelin College in Chicago. She began her career as a radio actor during the 1940’s while also performing on Broadway.

Her Hollywood break came when she was cast opposite Broderick Crawford in All the King’s Men (1949). McCambridge won the 1949 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role, while the film won Best Picture for that year. McCambridge also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress and New Star of the Year – Actress for her performance.

In 1954, the actress co-starred with Joan Crawford and Sterling Hayden in the offbeat western drama, Johnny Guitar, now regarded as a cult classic. McCambridge and Hayden publicly declared their dislike of Crawford, with McCambridge labeling the film’s star “a mean, tipsy, powerful, rotten-egg lady.”

McCambridge played the supporting role of ‘Luz’ in the George Stevens epic, Giant (1956), which starred Elizabeth Taylor, and James Dean in his last role. In 1959, McCambridge appeared opposite Katherine Hepburn, Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor in Joseph L. Mankiewicz’ film adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ Suddenly Last Summer. 

Of more interest to casual readers of this site, McCambridge provided the dubbed voice of the demonically possessed child Regan in The Exorcistacted by Linda Blair. McCambridge was promised a screen credit for the film’s initial release, but she discovered at the premiere that her name was absent. Her dispute with director William Friedkin and Warner Bros. over her exclusion ended when, with the help of the Screen Actors Guild, she was properly credited for her vocal work in the film.

In the 1970’s, she toured in a road company production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof as Big Mama, opposite John Carradine as Big Daddy. She appeared as a guest artist in college productions such as El Centro College’s 1979 The Mousetrap, in which she received top billing despite her character being murdered less than 15 minutes into the play.

In the mid-1970’s, McCambridge briefly took a position as director of Livingrin, a Pennsylvania rehabilitation center for alcoholics. She was at the same time putting the finishing touches on her soon-to-be released autobiography, The Quality of Mercy: An Autobiography (Times Books, 1981).

McCambridge died on March 2, 2004 in La Jolla, California, of natural causes.


René Goscinny

Asterix_ReneGoscinny_BannerRené Goscinny (14 August 1926 – 5 November 1977) was an award-winning French comics editor and writer, who is best known for the comic-book Astérix, which he created with illustrator Albert Uderzo.

Goscinny was born in Paris in 1926, to a family of Jewish immigrants from Poland. The Gościnnys moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina, two years after René’s birth, as  Stanisław had obtained there. He spent a happy childhood in Buenos Aires, and studied in the French schools. He started drawing very early on, inspired by the illustrated stories which he enjoyed reading.

Goscinny_Match CoverIn December 1943, the year after he graduated from school, 17 year old Goscinny’s father died, forcing him to find a job. The next year, he got his first job, as an assistant accountant in a tire recovery factory, and when he was laid off the following year, he became a junior illustrator in an advertising agency.

Goscinny, along with his mother, left Argentina and went to New York in 1945, to join their uncle Boris. To avoid service in the US military, he travelled to France to join the French Army in 1946. He served at Aubagne, in the 141st Alpine Infantry Battalion. Promoted to senior corporal, he became the appointed illustrator of the regiment and drew illustrations and posters for the army.

The following year, he illustrated the book The Girl with The Eyes of Gold and returned to New York. By 1948, he started working in a small studio where he met and became friends with future Mad alumni Will Elder, Jack Davis and Harvey Kurtzman. Goscinny then became art director at Kunen Publishers where he wrote four books for children. Around this time he met Joseph Gillain, better known as Jijé, and Maurice de Bevere aka Morris, the cartoonist and author of the series Lucky Luke (which Goscinny would write from 1955 to his death in 1977).

Asterix_Goscinny and UderzoAlso, he met Georges Troisfontaines, chief of the World Press agency, who convinced Goscinny to return to Paris and work for his agency as the head of Paris office in 1951. Here, he met Albert Uderzo, with whom he started a longtime cooperation. They started out with some work for Bonnes Soirées, a female magazine for which Goscinny wrote Sylvie. Goscinny and Uderzo also launched the series Jehan Pistolet and Luc Junior in La Libre Junior.

In 1955, Goscinny, accompanied by Jean-Michel Charlier, Albert Uderzo and Jean Hébrad, founded the syndicate Edipress/Edifrance. The syndicate launched publications like Clairon for the factory union and Pistolin for a chocolate company. Goscinny and Uderzo cooperated on the series Bill Blanchartin Jeannot, Pistolet in Pistolin and Benjamin et Benjamine in the magazine of the same name. Under the pseudonym Agostini, Goscinny wrote Le Petit Nicolas for Jean-Jacques Sempé in Le Moustique and later Sud-Ouest and Pilote.

In 1956, Goscinny began a collaboration with the magazine Tintin. He worked on Signor Spaghetti, Monsieur TricPrudence Petitpas, Globul le Martien, AlphonseStrapontin and Modeste et Pompon. An early creation with Uderzo, Oumpah-pah, was also adapted for serial publication inTintin from 1958-1962. In addition, Goscinny appeared in the magazines Paris-Flirt (Lili Manequin with Will) and Vaillant (Boniface et Anatole with Jordom, Pipsi with Godard).

Asterix_GoscinnyIn 1959, the Édifrance/Édipresse syndicate started the comics magazine Pilote. Goscinny became one of the most productive writers for the magazine. In the magazine’s first issue, he launched his most famous creation Astérix, with Uderzo. This series was an instant hit and is now known worldwide. Goscinny also restarted the series Le Petit Nicolas and Jehan Pistolet, now called Jehan Soupolet. Goscinny also began Jacquot le Mousse and Tromblon et Bottaclou with Godard.

The magazine was bought out in 1960, and Goscinny became editor-in-chief. He also began new series like Les Divagations de Monsieur Sait-ToutLa Potachologie IllustréeLes Dingodossiers, and La Forêt de Chênebeau. He launched Calife Haroun El Poussah in Record, a series that was later continued in Pilote as Iznogoud.

Goscinny died at 51, in Paris of cardiac arrest on 5 November 1977, during a stress test at his doctor’s office. He was buried in the Jewish Cemetery of Nice. In accordance with his will, most of his money was transferred to the chief rabbinate of France.


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