Archive for Invisible Man

AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: Sherlock Holmes vs The Invisible Man (1989)

Posted in comic books, Halloween, holiday, pop culture with tags , , , , , , on October 8, 2015 by Paxton

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In 1989, Eternity Comics released a four issue Sherlock Holmes mini-series called a A Case of Blind Fear.

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The comic was written by Martin Powell and drawn by Seppo Makinen.  I actually bought this off the rack in 1989 mostly because I was and still am a big Sherlock Holmes fan.  It has sat unread in my collection since then.  I don’t think I even realized until fairly recently while doing invisible man research for AWESOME-tober-fest that this comic was a Holmes vs invisible man story.  But when I saw the cover online, I remembered that I had it in my collection and went to dig it up.   Now I’ve finally read it.  Twenty-six years later (!).

I thought the premise would be Sherlock Holmes solving a mystery involving an invisible man.  But it turned out to be a little different and a bit more complex than that.  I expected something along the lines of Batman Unseen where Sherlock Holmes was solving the mystery of some murders by a man that had somehow discovered invisibility.  What is actually going on here is more of a retelling of the HG Wells novel, but inserting Sherlock Holmes and Watson into the story.   But it’s even more than that.

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Within the story the main invisible man character is Griffin, the main character from the original HG Wells novel.  However, he has a history with Watson.  Griffin knows Watson from their time in the military together.  Griffin apparently saved his life.  This connection causes a change to the story in that when Griffin is in trouble, he calls on Watson and calls in the favor to hide from the authorities.  All of this causes deviations from the original HG Wells novel, as it should.

It’s really interesting how Powell takes the events in Wells novel and changes them to accommodate for the appearance of Watson and Holmes who are brought in almost organically and don’t feel “shoe horned” in just to get a story out of it.  This comic is actually a pretty good read especially if you have already read the Wells novel.  And even with the deviations, there are still some very familiar touchstones within the comic.  Griffin still goes to the Coach and Horses Inn to find rooms.  And he’s eventually kicked out for non-payment.  There’s an invisible cat at one point which in the novel Griffin was experimenting on a cat with the invisibility serum.  So even though Powell changed many of the events in the novel, he keeps many of the same events and places in this new story.  But maybe used in a different way.  I like that.

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Also, Seppo Makinen’s art is really good.  I’m not a huge fan of black and white comics.  When I read Eastman and Laird’s original 80s Teenage Mutant Turtles comics from Mirage I read the newly colorized versions from IDW.  But these pages were nicely rendered and looked great.

Overall, it’s a nicely packaged, well written Sherlock story that uses the framework of HG Wells’ Invisible Man novel very well.  However, I do have a fear that if you haven’t read the original novel, then you may miss a lot of this subtext and in that case I’m not sure how this story will come over.  The story’s strengths could quickly turn into its greatest weakness.


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AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: The Nobody by Jeff Lemire (2009)

Posted in comic books, Halloween, holiday, monsters, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , on October 7, 2015 by Paxton

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The Nobody is the first graphic novel for Jeff Lemire. It was published by Vertigo in 2009.

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The whole comic is sort of a re-imagining of HG Wells’ The Invisible Man novel. The setting is changed from the English countryside to a small town in what I presume is the New England area of America.  We have this drifter named Griffen, covered in bandages and wearing goggles, mosey into the tiny fishing town of Large Mouth and by just being there he causes a stir.

People speculate about why he has bandages and he generally becomes the gossip around town.  Griffen winds up befriending the town sheriff’s daughter, Vickie.  They strike up a platonic friendship that sort of grounds the book.  Soon, a few strange occurrences happen around town and all of a sudden everyone wants to blame the weird bandaged drifter.  Queue town mob and frantic search for the truth.

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I’m a fan of Jeff Lemire, especially as a writer. He’s written a lot for DC including being heavily involved in the New 52 including the titles Superboy, Justice League Dark and Animal Man. He has a quirky, dark style that I kind of enjoy so when I discovered that he had written a re-telling of The Invisible Man for Vertigo, I had to check it out. And to be honest, the only reason I found it was because I was doing The Invisible Man for AWESOME-tober-fest. So, thank you for the billionth time AWESOME-tober-fest.

The story is quirky but endearing.  It’s slow moving but fun.  It’s light until the very end when it gets a bit dark with a great “sort of” twist ending.  The artwork perfectly reflects the tone of the story.  Stark blacks and whites, tons of shadows with accents in blue and simple yet oddly complex drawings and page layouts.  This whole comic is quirky and odd but in a perfect way.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and it’s fun to see the slight parallels to the source novel, but make no mistake, it certainly goes it’s own way in a pretty cool story that I’m glad I discovered for this Halloween.


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AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: Batman vs the Invisible Man (2009)

Posted in Batman, comic books, monsters, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2015 by Paxton

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You may remember a few years ago when I did vampires for AWESOME-tober-fest 2011 that I covered a Batman vs Dracula comic by Doug Moench and Kelley Jones called Red Rain.  Well, 18 years later, Moench and Jones reunited to pit Batman against another monster.  The Invisible Man.

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Batman Unseen was released in 2009 as a 5 issue mini-series.  It seems very appropriate they got Moench and Jones to do this particular story.  Especially Jones.  I’m not a huge fan of Jones’ particular style when it comes to normal Batman stories.  He’s all odd angles, deep shadows, giant cowl ears and ridiculous f**king capes that’s more weird than it is enjoyable.  However, that style works perfectly in these off-kilter Elseworlds tales that mix Batman with the supernatural (vampires, ghosts, invisible men, etc).

The gist of the story is that The Black Mask has hired a scientist who has been fired and disgraced from his previous job to work for him.  His task?  Continue work on an invisibility serum and get it to work.  The story follows the scientist as he works on the serum and uses himself as the guinea pig.  The serum starts to work but it also drives the man insane as he constantly has to administer an overdose of the chemicals to keep the effect working for longer periods of time.

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I really like how the creators have the scientist working on making each body layer invisible a bit at a time.  First he makes his skin invisible, then his musculature, then his skeleton, then his organs, etc, etc.  As the serum’s effectiveness (and the scientist’s insanity) progresses, he begins taking advantage of his invisibility by getting revenge on people he believes has wronged him.  Batman follows the trail of dead bodies and the eye witnesses who say they only saw floating gloves or knives.  Can Batman get to the scientist in time?

The story is very good.  It’s also fairly violent.  Batman takes a beating from the invisible scientist.  Hardcore.  Plus there are several graphic murders.  All perfectly in tone with the story Moench (and Jones) is trying to tell.  Moench also does a great job of deftly working in layers of story elements.  Besides the scientist’s revenge plot, there’s a subplot about Batman losing his intimidation factor among the criminals in Gotham.  It seems they’ve become used to Batman being around and they aren’t scared of him anymore.  Batman is worried about this and tries to think of ways to fix it.  It drives some of Batman’s motivations at the end of the comic.  Very fun and atmospheric read.

Like I said, the art works perfectly for the story they are trying to tell.  But damn, Kelly Jones likes his cape porn.  I thought McFarlane loved to draw capes, but Jones may have him beat.  Some of the panels in this comic have some of the most ridiculous Batman capes that have ever been drawn.

Batman Unseen - Cape Porn

How would Batman get around with a cape like that? It’s absurd.  And that’s just one example.  Jones also likes to draw giant shish-kebob ears on the cowl.  Like I said, not really my favorite but honestly, it mostly works in this book because of the subject matter and tone.

I would recommend this book, especially if you enjoyed Moench/Jones’ previous Batman and Dracula team up.  It’s a cool, weird little story.  But lots of fun.


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AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: Comic adaptations of HG Wells’ The Invisible Man

Posted in books, Classic literature, comic books, monsters, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , on October 5, 2015 by Paxton

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I’ve always been a fan of comic book adaptations of classic literature.  The most famous versions of this are the Classics Illustrated line of comics from the 50s and 60s.  But several other companies jumped on that bandwagon over the years.

The original HG Wells novel was adapted several times in comic book form. Here are a few of them.

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In 1955, Nesbit Publishing released Superior Stories #1 which featured an adaptation of Wells’ novel. Art and inks were done by Pete Morisi.  It was a mostly faithful adaptation except that they ended the story with the death of the lead character and did not include the epilogue from the novel involving the character of Thomas Marvel.  Nearly ten years later this exact adaptation would be reprinted in Fantastic Adventures #18.

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In 1959 Classics Illustrated #125 would feature an adaptation of the Wells novel with art by Geoffrey Biggs.  As in the last comic, this adaptation also ends with the final fate of the invisible man and completely cuts out the novel’s epilogue.  It makes me wonder if these comics were actually adapting the Universal movie instead of the book.

Marvel Comics would adapt the Invisible Man novel twice.

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Marvel Supernatural Thrillers #2 from 1973 would feature an adaptation of Wells’ novel. It had a script by Ron Goulant and art/layouts by Dan Adkins and Val Mayerik.  The art looks pretty great in that early 70s Marvel style that I love so much.  Unlike the Classics Illustrated adaptation above, this comic features the epilogue.

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In 1977, Marvel Classics Comics #25 would again adapt the novel but this time with art by Dino Castrillo and Rudy Messina and a script by the great Doug Moench.  I’m surprised they didn’t just reprint the Supernatural Thrillers adaptation from four years earlier in this issue, but the art and layouts are great here as well in that 70s Marvel horror style.  And yes, this adaptation also includes the novel’s epilogue.  Not sure why the first two comics omitted it.


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AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: Universal’s The Invisible Man (1933)

Posted in Halloween, holiday, monsters, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , , on October 2, 2015 by Paxton

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Yesterday I discussed ground zero for invisibility in pop culture, HG Wells’ The Invisible Man.  And if that book is ground zero, then Universal’s 1933 movie adaptation of that book would be ground one.  Second only to Wells’ book in influence on popular culture.  And, as a huge fan of the Universal Monsters series, it’s a little embarrassing that I’ve never watched Universal’s The Invisible Man with Claude Rains.  It’s high time I rectified that.

Invisible Man

Released in 1933, this movie has quite the pedigree. It’s directed by James Whale who also directed the first two Universal Frankenstein movies as well as Howard Hughes’ Hells Angels.  It starred Claude Rains who, while making his American theatrical debut, would go on to star in classic movies like Casablanca, Lawrence of Arabia and Mr Smith Goes to Washington.  It was a fairly popular movie that would spawn at least 4 sequels with varying successful degrees of connection to this original movie.  Rains would return for none of them.

I’m not sure why I never watched this movie before now.  I’m well aware of the Wells’ novel and this movie based on that novel starring Claude Rains.  I’ve even seen several more modern invisible man movies like Memoirs of an Invisible Man with Chevy Chase and Hollow Man with Kevin Bacon.  I’m just not sure why I never went back to this movie like I did with Frankenstein, Dracula and The Wolf Man.

So, now that I’ve seen it, let’s take a look at the movie.

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It was kind of funny to see the “We Do Our Part” NRA title card pop up after the classic Universal bi-plane logo.  Different times, my friends.

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The movie is pretty good. Nicely directed and looks pretty awesome but that’s not to be surprised since…well, James Whale. Claude Rains in his American feature film debut is pretty great as Griffin.  It’s easy to see why he was picked to play the lead.

The movie itself begins “en media res” with Griffin already turned invisible and sequestering himself into a hotel room in a secluded town.  Rains spends 99% of this movie completely covered in bandages or completely invisible.

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The only thing we have to carry Rains’ performance, like I said, is his voice.  And it totally works.  His very deliberate way of speaking and the way his voice carries does everything to give the viewer what it needs for his performance.  And it’s especially effective the further into the movie you get and the more insane Griffin becomes.  His insane cackle is a thing to behold.

The movie was gorgeously dressed.  The set pieces were huge and very finely detailed.  From the hotel room and bar, to the cush offices of Rains’ former lab to the home of Gloria Stuart.  There is so much movie set “eye candy” to look at it almost distracts from the movie.  And I want Rains’ pimp smoking jacket in the above picture.  I wonder if he got to take that home.

Not much of the supporting cast lit me on fire. The main female lead is Gloria Stuart who is probably best known for playing “Old Rose” in James Cameron’s Titanic.  She is almost a non-entity in this movie, however.  We also get Una O’Conner who is a veteran character actor from the 30s-40s who would also appear in Bride of Frankenstein and The Adventures of Robin Hood.  She plays the wife of the innkeeper who shrilly shrieks her way through the first 20 minutes of the movie.  We also get a small, uncredited appearance by John Carradine who would go on to appear in several Universal Monsters pictures like Bride of Frankenstein, House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula.  He actually portrayed Dracula in the last two as well as the non-Universal Billy the Kid versus Dracula from 1966.

As for the invisible effects, they hold up pretty well, actually.  You can see some of the composite shots where they’ve placed footage of Rains disrobing in front of a black screen and superimposed it against the regular scene, but it’s honestly not that bad.  Some of the other physical effects, like footprints in the snow are actually very artfully done.

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So, this is clearly identified as an adaptation of HG Wells’ novel, The Invisible Man.  So how does it hold up as an adaptation?  There are several differences between the two.  Some in character traits and motivations.  I tried not to dwell on it too much and let Claude Rains just take me away.  But the events of the movie closely follow the novel.  Certain scenes are removed and certain characters are changed or modified.  Like I said, though, I tried not to dwell on the differences and let the movie stand on its own.

I’d definitely recommend this movie. If only for Rains’ superb vocal performance and watching an invisible man slowly go insane. It was a really good watch and I’m glad I finally marked this one off my list.  My only regret is that Hammer Studios never got around to making their own version of The Invisible Man.


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