Monday, August 19, 2013

Paulette Goddard is Jill Trent?

As some of you know (or will momentarily learn), I am the publisher and co-editor the Science Sleuth series from NUELOW Games. In the course of preparing the Jill Trent, Science Sleuth stories for publication, I came across something interesting.

Here's a drawing of Jill Trent, cropped from a panel in "Bubble Trouble," a story that originally appeared in Wonder Comics #12 (cover date June 1947) and reprinted in ROLF! Christmas Special III in July of 2013:

Jill Trent
(from ROLF! Christmas Special III)
I think it's safe to say that Al Camy, the primary artist on Jill Trent, Science Sleuth based Jill on actress Paulette Goddard. Why do I say that? If you don't see Paulette Goddard in that drawing, how about after looking at this 1942 photo (from a series of bathing suit shots she posed for):

Paulette Goddard in 1942

Coming August 1946 from Century Pictures: SCIENCE SLEUTHS! Starring Paulette Goddard as Jill Trent, Bob Hope as Eddie O'Malley, Lionel Atwill as Dr. Knight, Turhan Bey as Lefty Rubio, and Linda Turner as Daisy Smythe. Produced by Joseph Steiner, Directed by George Marshall.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Line, Please! (Contest Time!)

In July, NUELOW Games released its best-selling comics title so far--Science Sleuths #1.

On August 22, the second issue of Science Sleuths will be released through DriveThruComics, RPGNow, and DriveThruRPG. It contains three more tales featuring the hard-hitting inventor/crime-buster Jill Trent and another adventure starring the original web-slinger, Spider Queen.

NUELOW Games is offering Shades of Gray readers  an opportunity to win not only a free copy of  Science Sleuths #2, but free copies of every issue of Science Sleuths published for the rest of 2013.

To enter the contest, you need to write the best line for the this panel, taken from one of the Jill Trent, Science Sleuth stories:

By Al Camy
Submit your line through a comment below this post, through Twitter  or to The funniest or most interesting line will win the free four-month subscription to Science Sleuths while two runner-ups will win free copies of Science Sleuths #2.

Rules & Such
Contest entries must be submitted by Midnight on August 22, 2013. Winners will be selected by Steve Miller, and all decisions are final. Entrants grant permission for their submissions to appear on blogs operated by Steve Miller, as well as NUELOW Games's Facebook page. Entrants must provide a working email address in order to be notified, and winners will also need to have an account or to establish one with DriveThruComics, RPGNow, or DriveThruRPG in order to receive their winnings. DriveThruComics, RPGNow, and DriveThruRPG not involved with this contest in any way, nor is the mention of them to be construed as an endorsement. The awards have no cash value.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Classic Cinema: D.O.A.

D.O.A. (aka "Dead On Arrival")  (1949) 
Starring: Edmond O'Brien, Pamela Britton, Beverly Garland, Lynne Bagget, Luther Adler, William Ching, and Henry Hart
Director: Rudolph Mate
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars

 Frank Bigalow (O'Brien) is a small town accountant on a spur-of-the-moment vacation in San Francisco when he is poisoned by a slow acting toxin with no hope of surviving. He spends his last few hours of life trying to solve his own murder.

"D.O.A." is one of the greatest murder mystery films ever made, as well as a stellar example of the film noir genre as it manifested in American movies. It turns a number of movie and mystery conventions on their heads, and even some six decades after it was made, it feels fresh and exciting as one watches it unfold. The pace grows more frantic as the literal deadline for our hero approaches while the mystery of why he was poisoned seems to grow more elusive with each supposed clue he uncovers. It's a movie that holds up to repeated viewings--it almost demands it, because once you know the answer to the mystery, it's great fun to see how certain scenes take on a different tenor. What this film does with snappy writing, moody lighting, and artful cinematography is amazing... and I wish there was some sign that modern filmmakers watched movies like this and studied them and took lessons away from them. Sadly, this does not appear to be the case.

As great as I think this movie is, it's not perfect. There are a couple of ham-fisted attempts at comedy early on, as Bigalow walks into the middle of a salesman's convention at his hotel; one of the film's villains is portrayed by a performance that goes just a bit too far over-the-top in this film which is otherwise marked by fairly low-key performances; and the overly sinister and melodramatic appearance of the poisoner in the jazz club when a close-in shot of a patron switching Bigalow's drinks wold have been far more effective and in keeping with the rest of the scene. Despite my sense that the director went too far with these three elements, they still make sense within the context of the film, and given the greatness of what surrounds them, they are easily forgiven.

If you're a lover of mystery films or the film noir genre, you absolutely must see "D.O.A.". This goes double if you fancy yourself a writer or a filmmaker; we need more work like this these days. I thought I had reviewed this film years ago, but since I can't seem to find any sign of a post, I must never have gotten around to it. So, although my intent was to just make an entry in the "Classic Cinema" series and give you the chance to watch this great film right here, I figured there was no time like the present.

And there's no time like the present for you to watch "D/O.A."/ I've embedded it below for your enjoyment.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Forgotten Comics:
"Jill Trent" & "British Agent 99"

During the early years of the comic book industry, more series-leading characters came and went than possibly in all the decades that have followed since. The vast majority of titles in those days were anthologies, so for every issue of a comic book, there was a need for at least three or four different series, not counting one- and two-page filler items. Once reprinting newspaper strips fell out of vogue, a vast number of original series were needed.

Some of these characters remain at the forefront of popular comics today, such as Superman, Batman, The Spirit, and Wonder Woman. Others were popular enough that they continued to receive occassional revivals, at least through the 1990s, as creators and company executives fondly remembered the comic book heroes of their earliest childhoods, such as Plastic Man and the original Captain Marvel (and Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel, Jr.)

But for every Superman, there were dozens upon dozens of characters who either had a time in the spotlight (like Black Cat) or who disolved back into the aether of imagination from which they had sprung after just a small handful of stories. And then there were the moderately successful characters who kept popping up here and there, either because just enough readers liked them, or because some editor or publisher had a soft spot for them.

One character who was featured in four issues of Pocket Comics from Harvey, and who was never seen again once that title was cancelled, was Alan Douglas, British Agent 99. Douglas was a British national and celebrated Hollywood star who left acting behind to join the British Secret Service after the German victory at Dunkirk in 1940. A master of disguise, he could become anyone with just a little time to prepare.

Splash page from the "British Agent 99" tale
that appeared in Pocket Comics #3.
The first three "British Agent 99" stories were set against the backdrop of the Nazi expansion into eastern Europe and the Yugoslavian military coup and popular revolt that resulted when that nation's political leadership surrendered to the Nazis. Although Alan Douglas is fictional, many of the characters he interacts with are historical figures, and the story unfolds in a manner that stays true to the actual events. In the fourth and final tale, Alan Douglas is taken out of historical events and goes on assignment to Hollywood where he meets Black Cat and helps take down a Nazi spy ring.

Alan Douglas remained in the shadows for more than 70 years when, though complete coincidence, two different publishers decided to bring him back. 

In April of 2013, Broken Souls published "Tarnished," an anthology featuring grim takes on several Golden Age characters, including Alan Douglas and Black Cat. It's a full-color title with all new stories, and you can learn more about it by clicking here.

While the creatives at Broken Souls were slaving away, NUELOW Games--an outfit I call my own--was preparing its "Film Fun Comics" comics/fiction/gaming anthology series. We too tapped Alan Douglas to be featured, due to his back-story as a former actor and his team-up with Black Cat, the mascot of the NUELOW Games comics line, and a fixture of the "Film Fun Comics" series. As is the case with almost all NUELOW Games's comics releases, "Film Fun Comics: British Agent 99" is presented in black-and-white. We strip the color out of the scans, since the original sources are of varying quality and it's the best way we can bring uniformity to the presentation within our non-existing budget and limited resources. But... since it IS in black-and-white, I have an excuse to make a self-serving post! 

While Broken Souls may have beaten NUELOW Games to market with the first ever revival of Alan Douglas, "Film Fun Comics Vol. 3: British Agent 99" is still noteworthy, as its the first time someone has ever collected all four of Alan Douglas's adventures in one place. Click here to learn more about this important release from NUELOW Games (which also features original fiction by yours truly and a Black Cat story illustrated by Bob Powell).

While "British Agent 99" may be a bit too esoteric and crude in its execution art-wise for many modern readers, the same cannot be said about "Jill Trent, Science Sleuth," another 1940s series that has recently received the NUELOW Games treatment. "Jill Trent" is a series so full of action and Girl Power that it continues to appeal today. In fact, Jill has never completely been forgotten in the seven decades since she first appeared on the scene, as numerous little tributes to her all across the web demonstrate. 

A Jill Trent splash-page from "Science Sleuths" #1.
Jill Trent, along with her gal-pal Daisy Smythe, are independent business women who make their living selling Jill's inventions to companies and corporations. On the side, they use Jill's inventions to fight crime... and they usually beat the heck out of any bad guy unfortunate enough to cross their paths. Jill Trent, Science Sleuth" lasted some 14 episodes, debuting in Nedor's "Fighting Yank" #6, and eventually moving to "Wonder Comics" as a regular back-up feature. When "Wonder Comics" was cancelled with issue #20, so was "Jill Trent, Science Sleuth."  

This series was a lot of fun, and lead artist Al Camy had a style that still holds up nicely today. If you're one of those readers who bemoan the poor (and mostly undressed) state of comic book heroines, I think "Jill Trent, Science Sleuth" will cheer you up. (Heck, if you're an artist, get in touch. Maybe we can make NEW "Jill Trent" stories!)

Click here for more information about "Science Sleuths" #1. Jill will be headlining the first few issues of Science Sleuths, but will be sharing its pages with other science-minded (and far more obscure) characters. We will eventually run out of Jill Trent stories--around #5 if current plans hold--but we're certain readers will come to appreciate the other strips waiting in the wings.

In addition to three "Jill Trent" adventures, "Science Sleuths" #1 presents the origin story for Spider Queen. I touch on that series here.... and I will probably revisit it when "Science Sleuths" #2 comes out later this month.