Saturday, August 5, 2017

R.I.P. June Foray.

We celebrate the career of June Foray, “The First Lady of Voice Acting”, who passed away on July 26, 2017, at the age of 99. 

There’s almost nothing I could add to the many deserved tributes already out there, save picturing some of Ms. Foray's many, many characters that were particularly special to me, and ending with three oddities from my “Sixties TV Wheelhouse”. 

But first, here is June Foray’s amazing list of credits at IMDB. 

Oh, my… Now, where do we begin… Don't answer that, it's obvious!  

Hokey Smoke!  With Rocky the Flying Squirrel, of course!  

From the original TV series ROCKY AND HIS FRIENDS (1959) and THE BULLWINKLE SHOW (1961) and its many syndicated mash-ups that have been seen ever since!  

And, if you (even on occasion) "hear voices" while reading comic books, You've no doubt "heard" June Foray speak for Rocky, sultry Pottsylvanian spy Natasha Fatale, and Dudley Do Right's gal Nell Fenwick in comics ranging from classic and original Dell...

...To modern IDW...  

...With a new series in 2017 from American Mythology. 

Back to characters immortalized by June Foray...

Granny, from Tweety and Sylvester...

...Taking over the role from Bea Benaderet, the character was briefly redesigned for Ms. Foray (above), before returning to her "original" look, which remains to this day.   

"Witch Hazel" for Disney...

...And "Witch Hazel" for Warner Bros. 

Woody Woodpecker's nephew and niece, Knothead and Splinter.

Grandma Dynamite and other characters on The Flintstones... 

...Including the original version of Betty Rubble from the short pilot film "The Flagstones".  Oddly, Bea Benaderet would be cast as Betty for the series, so Bea Benaderet and June Foray essentially "traded characters"... Granny for Betty Rubble!  How 'bout that!  

Little Cindy-Lou Who.  

...And, on DuckTales (...the animated series I now refer to as "DuckTales Classic", as opposed to "New DuckTales" 2017), both Magica De Spell and Ma Beagle!

The original Mattel "Chatty Cathy" talking doll...

...and its evil counterpart from The Twilight Zone, "Talky-Tina"...

...Who was clearly the forerunner of "Chucky"!  

Now, as promised, three oddities from my "Sixties TV Wheelhouse" that feature June Foray...

Uncredited, Ms. Foray voiced Gundemar, a well-mannered and refined talking dragon (!) on the LOST IN SPACE episode "The Questing Beast" (1967).  

Gundemar is the quarry of an aged, bumbling, and quixotic knight, played superbly with alternating bluster and pathos by Hans Conried... effect, reuniting (...if only by ADR) Nell Fenwick and Snidely Whiplash, who was voiced by Conried! 

June Foray was also the "announcer voice" of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964-1968), as the DVD collection reveals.  

If it's not clear enough to read: "13) THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN AFFAIR - Play with original STATION BREAK ANNOUNCEMENTS by JUNE FORAY".  Who would wanna play this WITHOUT them?! 

Finally, June Foray joined host Hans Conreid and fellow Rocky and Bullwinkle voice actors Paul Frees and Bill Scott for producer Jay Ward's FRACTURED FLICKERS, a short-lived, early sixties prime time TV series where these talented performers would "voice" silent movie clips with funny and satirical dialogue, almost never having anything to do with the original films.  

There was also a regular segment where Hans Conried would interview a celebrity guest, as noted below.  

...Yes, I actually watched this as a little kid!  And will admit to owning the DVD!  Actually, it's great fun - especially for Jay Ward / Rocky and Bullwinkle fans like myself!  ...And for people who just plain like WRITING COMIC DIALOGUE, also like myself!  

Thank you, June Foray, for all of the wonderful characters you brought to life - in voices we will hear forever! 

Friday, July 28, 2017

On Sale July 19, 2017: DuckTales # 0 from IDW.

Make like your life is a hurricane, and blow to your local comic book shop!  Ride a race car, laser, or air-o-plane, if need be, and pick up a copy of DuckTales # 0 from IDW.  

Be a "duck-blur", or you might miss out... and never get that all-important chance to "solve a mystery", much less "rewrite history"!  You wouldn't want that, would you?  
Hmmm... I guess NOT! 

In it, you'll find two (Duck) tales of Donald Duck and reimagined versions of his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie, with all four ducks redesigned in what has become something of a contemporary standard angular-distorted style. 

The creators behind these stories may seem unfamiliar to regular readers of the "traditional" IDW Disney comic books, as DuckTales appears to have emerged from alternative system vs. what we've become accustomed to in the more classic titles such as UNCLE SCROOGE, DONALD DUCK, and MICKEY MOUSE - but they look on track to become fan-favorites in their own right.   

Beyond the redesign and reimagining, two things immediately leap out at me.  

One: Uncle Scrooge McDuck, the undisputed star of the 1980s incarnation of DuckTales is completely absent from this issue.  
Forget "Waldo" (WHO?), Where's SCROOGE? 
Perhaps that's why it's a "Zero Issue"?  We're starting off with Donald and the boys and, just as in the classic series AND in the Dell comic books of the 1940s, Scrooge will be introduced in what will be "Issue # 1" proper? 

Yeah, yeah! We're "astonished" too, Scrooge! Let's move on! 

Indeed, if I may digress, I will refer to the previous series as "DuckTales Classic", and this series as "New DuckTales" for the sake of clear and easy differentiation.  ...Wonder if that'll catch on like "Core Four"?  
"DuckTales Classic"
"New DuckTales"  ...You all cool with it?

Two:  At the bottom of Page One, we are faced with this.. 

Wait!  Let's dolly-in a little closer...

Liiii-tlllle clooooser...  Almost there...


"UNCLE" Donald?!  "UNCLE" Donald?! "UNCLE"?! 

Um, did Donald join the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement when we weren't looking?  

It's not as if he's never been a secret agent before...

...Plenty o' times, in fact! 

...And not-so-elegant!  

So, even if he HAS somehow become an "U.N.C.L.E.", has he also become... an "UNCLE"?

He's been "UNCA" Donald, ever since Clarence "Ducky" Nash first spoke for the boys.  Presumably, because that's how audiences may have heard it through Nash's "Duck-Speak". 

Al Taliaferro carried it over to the printed page...

...Where it was furthered by Carl Barks and others...

...To the present day! (By William Van Horn)  

Now, I've had my fun with this "Uncle stuff", but the fact is that, at this writing, I have not yet seen "New DuckTales", and honestly do not know HOW the nephews speak.  Perhaps they ACTUALLY DO say "Uncle Donald"!  

If so, then the comic is accurately referencing the show - and that's a very good thing.  If not, I guess we'll all discuss it later!

...And, hey!  Added bonus!  Donald, here, looks kinda like the way Al Hubbard drew him in the sixties!  How 'bout that!  

Now, that you've been briefed on what to expect from "New DuckTales" (at least as far as its "Zero Issue"), let's move on to the stories!  

"Big Trouble at Little Lake" 10 pages.  

Donald is operating a small tour boat over and across "Little Lake", to a small island and back to port.  

Check out the enthusiastic passenger...
"I love puns!?"  ..."I LOVE PUNS"!???  

Ladies and gentlemen, I can hardly believe my own eyes... but it's a SURPRISE CAMEO by yours truly, Joe Torcivia!  ...Though I don't wear my pants quite that "high-up"!  

Gosh, I don't even KNOW these people... but, it's really nice to find they're fans!  

Back to what passes here for reality... Just remember what happens to those "small tour boats", especially if they're only out for a (Ahem!) Three Hour Tour!
"...A Thr-eee Houu-wer Touuur!"

"The Nephews started playing rough!  The tiny ship was tossed..."

...Well, you know! 

And, so it's up to Donald and the boys to get themselves and their passengers off the island, facing some unexpected deterrents to swimming or rafting.  
No spoilers on how they do it!  

I am happy to say that I am VERY IMPRESSED with this story... as a DONALD DUCK story! 

All the classic comics elements are there... Donald is good at something until fate or ego lays him low, a rivalry between Don and the boys, and even an absurd secondary character to liven things up.  

And, at a length of TEN PAGES, this is a nice contemporary version of of the immortal "ten-pagers" Carl Barks created to lead-off decades worth of issues of WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES!  ...Well done!  

I hope this is an indication of the type of "Donald and Nephews story" that "New DuckTales" will deal in.  They can't go wrong, with a few like this! 

"The Repeating Revenge of the Screaming Duck!" 10 pages.  

How can you not love a title like THAT!  

Donald is fixing up an old hotel for a grand reopening, while the boys cut-up out of boredom...

Until they find an "Alfred Hitchcock parody character" who's been holed up INSIDE the hotel for ten years trying to complete his movie masterpiece... completely alone!  Whoooo!

The boys try to assist the demented director, and inadvertently involve Donald in a sequence of slapstick events!  

You would think, as a near-lifelong Hitchcock fan, that I would absolutely love this story... and, actually, I DO... for its FIRST SEVEN PAGES!  

After that, it veers off in a direction that few comic book stories have ever been able to properly pull off... that of near-wordless sustained slapstick action.  
Yes, Dewey... Comic book slapstick IS a sticky-wicket, isn't it? 

The comic book is a printed page of still images, and it has been long proven that "near-silent slapstick", while a successful laugh-getter in animation, rarely works "as-such" on the static comic page.  

That's why so many famous animated characters, such as Donald Duck...

...Tom and Jerry...

...And The Road Runner were modified to become more verbal, and less "slapstick-y" for comic books!

A scant few, very talented artists like the great Harvey Eisenberg could pull off slapstick - not just successfully, but magnificently!  As seen here, from TOM AND JERRY # 87 (1951).  

And, to offer a Disney example, enjoy these energetically charged panels by the great Romano Scarpa, from "The Bodacious Butterfly Trail", in IDW's UNCLE SCROOGE # 28 (2017).

However, in a comic book, even animated-style art as great as these examples still needs dialogue to fully carry it off.  ...Something to READ, or else you're just "looking at pictures"!

I will reproduce the entirety of pages 8-9 of this story as-is... more or less "wordless slapstick", and let you evaluate it for yourself.  I say, it would make for a good cartoon, but not necessarily a good comic book.  What say you?  

Click to enlarge, for additional detail! 

I'm not at all sure what the gratuitous Jack Nicholson parody at the bottom of this page adds to the story.  Perhaps it works better in animation.  

And, if you're going to "hit a door", you can probably do it funnier, more painfully, or both, than it is done here, in the weakest panel of the entire sequence.  

Again, your mileage on this matter, as they say, will vary!  

Once this sequence has passed, and Mallard Hitchcock yells "CUT!", we return to a more "normal" comic book story, with a good ending that I will not spoil!  (...Do I ever?)  

Overall, the slapstick sequence notwithstanding, I enjoyed DuckTales # 0!  It offers two good Donald Duck stories steeped in the Carl Barks tradition, lively art, and great coloring!  

I look forward to both future issues of this comic book series, and to the "New DuckTales" animated series itself!  

Just remember, I do not speak for IDW, or anyone in its employ.  I speak strictly for myself as both a long-time fan and as a dialogue creator – and those opinions are strictly my own.

Then, let's get a spirited discussion going in the Comments Section... because a dynamic Comments Section such as ours needs dialogue, just as much as an extended series of sequential panels of slapstick!  ...See you there!