Castle of Frankenstein #12

Background

Created by Calvin T. Beck, Castle of Frankenstein was a magazine devoted mainly to horror and science fiction television and films. Although its indicia lists it as a quarterly, it was published irregularly, totaling 25 issues from 1962 to 1975. Bhob Stewart edits this issue. Bhob was the creator of “The EC Fan Bulletin,” the first EC fanzine in 1953, which may explain why the cover features the blurb “A magazine calculated to blow your mind,” above the masthead. The original EC Mad cover-featured “Tales Calculated to Drive You Mad” during most of its comic book run.

Now, the reason this issue is getting the “From the Beginning” treatment is because it has Spider-Man (in a Steve Ditko drawing lifted from some previous ASM issue) in the upper right-hand corner of the cover, labeled “ABC-TV’s Spiderman” but Spidey is nowhere to be seen in the issue. There is, however, as the blurb in the lower left says, an “Interview with Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee.” The main body of the cover is taken up with a photo of John Richardson and Raquel Welch from “One Million Years BC,” but that isn’t featured in the magazine either. The bottom of the cover is designed like a strip of film and shows stills of Dracula, the Mummy, Claude Rains’ Phantom of the Opera, Lon Chaney Jr.’s Frankenstein Monster, and Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes. Only Basil Rathbone, who had died in July of 1967, is featured inside. Oh well, at least, the “Spock Speaks” blurb and photo are accurate, although Spock doesn’t speak for very long.

Story Details

  Castle of Frankenstein #12
Summary: Spider-Man on Cover, Stan Lee interview
Editor: Bhob Stewart

After skimming past a double-page still from “King Kong” and an indicia page with a still from the Hammer Film “The Viking Queen,” we arrive at the contents page, drawn as an old parchment, labeled the “Scroll of Thoth.” A still of Maurice Evans in his ape get-up sits alongside. “Planet of the Apes” was a new release at this time and we’ll get to it shortly.

Frankenstein Mini-Reviews covers 30 recently released films. Here’s the full review for “Oh Dad Poor Dad, Mamma’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feelin’ So Sad”: “Desperation shows through in incredibly botched Richard Quine film of Arthur Kopit’s off-Broadway success. Monstrous mother Rosalind Russell scurries about with stuffed corpse of husband Jonathan Winters and neurotic son Robert Morse. Flat, pointlessly weirdo mess, devoid of sense or humor. Drastic cutting and frenzied post-production work is no help.” And yet it makes me want to see it! Here’s the full review for a recommended film, “Deathwatch”: “Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy gets to display human feelings in this Jean Genet drama directed by Vic Morrow of TV’s Combat. Worthy effort captures pinball machine emotions, latent and overt, of imprisoned homosexuals. Vigorous and uncompromising; nice to know that Nimoy and Morrow do not suffer from the Blight of Blandness indigenous to West Coast TVdom.”

The interviewer for A Conversation with the Man Behind Marvel Comics: Stan Lee is Ted White, who was (and is) a music critic, Science Fiction author and editor, and comic book critic. Ted won a Hugo in this same year as Best Fan Writer and he is the author of the 1966 novel “Captain America: The Great Gold Steal,” one of the first (along with “The Avengers Battle the Earth-Wrecker”) novels using Marvel Comics characters. It is a fun little interview. Stan seems forthright, saying things like, “Well, what we usually do is, with most of the artists, I usually get a rough plot. By a rough plot I mean as much as I can write in longhand on the side of one sheet of paper…who the villain will be, what the problem will be and so forth. Then I call the artist in, whoever’s going to draw the strip…I read it to him…what I’ve written down, these few notes…and we discuss it. By the time we’re through talking for about 20 minutes, we usually have some plot going. And we talk it out. Lately, I’ve had Roy Thomas come in, and he sits and makes notes while we discuss it. Then he types them up which gives us a written synopsis, originally – I have a little tape recorder – I had tried taping it, but I found that nobody on the staff has time to listen to the tape again. Later…so, it’s just too much of a waste. But this way he makes notes, types it quickly, I get a carbon, the artist gets a carbon…so we don’t have to worry that we’ll forget what we’ve said. Then the artist goes home…or wherever he goes…and he draws the thing out, brings it back, and I put the copy in after he’s drawn the story based on the plot I’ve given him. Now this varies with the different artists. Some artists, of course, need a more detailed plot than others. Some artists, such as Jack Kirby, need no plot at all. I mean I’ll just say to Jack, ‘Let’s let the next villain be Dr. Doom’…or I may not even say that. He may tell me. And then he goes home and does it. He’s so good at plots, I’m sure he’s a thousand times better than I. He just about makes up the plots for these stories. All I do is a little editing…I may tell him that he’s gone too far in one direction or another. Of course, occasionally I’ll give him a plot, but we’re practically both the writers on the things.” There is very little said about Spider-Man and no drawings of him, even though there are drawings of Electro, Mysterio, and the Scorpion. Stan does say, “As far as the FF goes, they are getting a little bit science-fictiony. I would like to give them a different feeling than, let’s say, Spider-Man which isn’t science -fictiony. I’m very hard pressed to find out how to make Spider-Man very different from Daredevil. I, sooner or later, will find a way. I would like all of our books to be different from each other…to have their own individual style.” I’d like to hear more about that but, unfortunately, that’s about it. Here, though, is an interesting little snippet as seen from a 2020 perspective: “Our goal is that someday an intelligent adult would not be embarrassed to walk down the street with a comic magazine. I don’t know whether we can ever bring this off, but it’s something to shoot for.” And here is my favorite part of the interview: CoF: “What led you to do those? Up until then there had been no superheroes for what…about five or six years in this company.” Stan: “Before I answer…Would anybody like a sourball?” CoF: “Thanks…” Stan: “What color? I seem to have red, yellow, orange…couple of greens.” CoF: “I feel very strange conducting an interview with a sourball in my mouth.” Hah! If that doesn’t bring humanity (and immediacy) to an interview, I don’t know what will.

A Planet of the Apes photo feature follows. (“’Planet of the Apes’ is causing excitement on a grand scale among audiences and boxoffices, having broken all sales records at NYC’s Capital Theatre, surpassing even ‘Dr. Zhivago’s’ record there.”) It includes a montage of Maurice Evans being made up as Dr. Zaius.

The Conjurer and the Man Called Armageddon: He Who Walks in Shadow, with a font so psychedelic it’s hard to make that title out, is a comic story “Conceived, Written & Illustrated by: Marvin Wolfman & Len Wein,” both of whom will have a little something to do with the web-slinger later on. The “Scroll of Thoth” identifies this story as “Magic Theatre: Frankenstein meets the Steppenwolfman.” If you’d like to puzzle that out after reading the synopsis, be my guest!

The story and art are crude (Wolfman was about 22 years old and Wein was about 20 and neither made their names as artists) but, hey, it’s a start! They both went on to some pretty great comics. So, what’s it all about?

“Before the Earth settled from its magma beginnings there existed one island protected from the heat by a field of force! This island belonged to the Mystics – the strange and the powerful! Because of their powers they were exiled from their home planets and were forced to remain on the planet Earth!! For eons they lived in peace until…” the man called Armageddon is exiled there and is so powerful, he conquers the Mystics. They retaliate by funneling all of their energies “into one being.” (Sort of like Kirby’s Infinity Man in “The Forever People” or like Kirby’s Uni-Mind in “The Eternals,” both of which post-date this story.) The created being is the Conjurer who battles Armageddon to a standstill. Armageddon sends both of them to Limbo where the Conjurer seals the exit. “In this Limbo there can be only foreverness! No beginning and no end! And so must this fight with Armageddon be the same! To chase and to fight…always…!”

Here is Star Spock Speaks (which seems like a typo of a title) in its entirety: “I never aimed at being a TV star. I felt I could become a good actor and I still keep that goal as a working perspective. However, for years I played neurotic, hostile guys, or Indians or foreigners. Then Elliott Silverstein, my old Boston friend, did a complete switch and gave me a sympathetic role in ‘Dr. Kildare’ as a soft-spoken shy poetry-reading introvert who helps a blind girl. I showed I could play a human being as well as a nut, and my life changed. I had roles of greater variety. I finally was chosen to play a fun character – a flamboyant movie star, in an episode of ‘The Lieutenant.’ It was there that I came to the attention of Gene Roddenberry, its producer. When he created ‘Star Trek,’ he had me in mind when he wrote in the character of Mister Spock. It’s great working with Bill Shatner. He’s a pro and a gentleman. And he has a wonderful sense of humor. We break each other up with gags between takes. We need some comedy relief off-screen – the show is so intense. Now I have to tell you about my movie career. Don’t believe all those things your read about this picture and that picture. I got into ‘Seven Days in May’ to the extent of one good scene with Marty Balsam – which landed on the cutting room floor. So, John Frankenheimer tried me again in ‘Seconds’ with Rock Hudson. I was cut out of that one too. Yet he was impressed enough to offer me a part in ‘Grand Prix,’ for which I would have to go to London. I said, Oh, boy. But the morning of the offer, I got a registered letter telling me the ‘Star Trek’ pilot had been sold and I would be needed for work from then on. It has been a laborious year with all that Vulcanian makeup, 60 hours a week, 6:30 to 6:30. But it’s been worth it. This series has put me in an entirely different ball game. It’s like going from a farm team to the majors. You’re really up at bat every week. There’s a sense of identification that was lacking before.” I wonder how long he thought Bill Shatner was “a gentleman” with a “wonderful sense of humor?”

Let’s speed things up. There is a one-page piece on the Patrick McNee-Diana Rigg show The Avengers.

There is a two-page comic take-off of Flash Gordon, called Smash Gordon, written and drawn by Frank Brunner, who was about 19 years old at the time and who had his own successful comic career. In the story, Smash and his girl-friend Ale (parodying Dale) encounter the evil Min (Ming) who reveals himself to be Dr. Zookoff (Dr. Zarkoff) in disguise. Ale reveals “herself” to really be Min. The two prepare to kill Smash but he tells them they can’t because he’s not really Smash. He’s Barley Brown (Charlie Brown), who says, “Good Grief! This strip is not only confusing, it’s ridiculous!”

Mike Parry is the interviewer for CoF Interviews: Christopher Lee Part 3 and he asks Lee about playing Sherlock Holmes in “The Valley of Fear.” Lee says, “It was a hodge-podge of stories put together by the German producers, which ruined it. My portrayal of Holmes is, I think, one of the best things I’ve ever done because I tried to play him really as he was written – as a very intolerant, argumentative, difficult man – and I looked extraordinarily like him with the make-up. The picture, which, thank heaven, has never been shown here, really wasn’t well done. It was a badly edited deplorable hodge-podge of nonsense.” So I guess I won’t run out to try to find that one. Asked what his favorites are, Lee replies, “My favorite film that I’ve done is ‘Dracula,’ of course. My favorite performances would be ‘A Tale of Two Cities,’ ‘The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll [House of Fright]’ and, I think, now, my favorite of all –‘Rasputin’.”

The Frankenstein TV movieguide features “movies beginning with the letter K,” including, “The Killer Shrews”: “Deadly grade-D thriller with dogs dressed in ridiculous getups which are supposed to make them resemble oversized shrews. Amateurish, very dull.”

Dan Bates Reviews covers “An Illustrated History of the Horror Film” by Carlos Clarens. Dan likes it! “Clarens’ book, which I enjoyed immensely, is a most professional job, despite the lapses into ‘Films in Review’ irrationality.” Whatever that means.

A Farewell to Basil Rathbone has Calvin T. Beck really devastated. “While I have special deep affection for all creative people in the film world, I must confess there are just those very few – perhaps no more than there are fingers on a hand – whom I have grown to love the most…Few have been the artists capable of evoking such feeling; but the great and bellowed Basil Rathbone was one of them. This sense of loss has never been so badly felt since the passing of my father in August, 1964 – and this feeling has been sustained by many others if the numerous letters and flood of phone calls I’ve received since Basil’s passing mean anything.”

Let’s skip ahead to the “Television News” in Philip B. Moshcovitz’s Future Fantasy Films. “Bill (Batman) Dozier will produce ‘Colony One’ for CBS about the first moon settlement. It will be written by Lorenzo Semple, Jr. who penned the first ‘Batman’ episode.” (I’m pretty sure this never appeared.) And “Actor Lew Gallo loves fish so much that he got torn apart by sharks in ‘Time Tunnel’ and eaten alive by piranhas in ‘Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’.”

I’m jumping past the unfunny comic strip Baron Von Bungle and Calvin’s editorial. Let’s finish with a look at The Comic Book Council; ten reviewers (Mike Barrier, John Benson, Clark Dimond, Martin Jukovsky, Bill Spicer, Bhob Stewart, Don and Maggie Thompson, Trina Robbins, and Ted White) who grade over 50 comics from “No use bothering” to “Chef d’oeuvre.” Two Spidey issues are reviewed: ASM #51 and ASM #52. Since those are cover-dated August and September 1967, it’s pretty clear that I should have reviewed this magazine long ago but, hey, that’s what happens to these publications that only list a copyright year. Anyway, not all reviewers review each issue. Of those who reviewed #51, Mike Barrier, Bill Spicer, Bhob Stewart, and Maggie Thompson gave it two stars (“See”), Martin Jukovsky and Trina Robbins gave it the dreaded “No use bothering,” and Don Thompson gave it three stars (“See absolutely.”) Of those who reviewed #52, Martin and Trina again gave it “No use bothering,” Clark Dimond gave it one star (“See, if necessary.”), Bhob Stewart gave it two stars and Ted White gave it three stars. The only other comics reviewed here that we reviewed in “From the Beginning” are Not Brand Echh #1 (Two “No use bothering” from Martin and Trina again, one star from Clark and Bhob, two stars from Mike, and three stars each from Don and Maggie Thompson) and Not Brand Echh #2 (Martin, Trina, and Clark maintaining their same rating, Bhob going up to two stars, and Ted giving it two stars). So, are there any books that earned four stars (“chef d’oeuvre’)? Quite a few, actually. “Best of Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge” from Clark and Bhob, “Daredevil #31” from Bhob, “FF #66” from Ted, “Magnus #19” from Don and Maggie, “Wonder Warthog #2” from Martin and Bhob, and more.

And there’s more to this issue, including Lin Carter Looks at Books in which Lin also reviews Clarens, “An Illustrated History of the Horror Film,” but let’s leave it here. (Oh, except for the still from “Fantastic Voyage” on the back cover. Raquel on front and back!)

General Comments

It’s not easy to judge CoF #12 on its own terms because the nostalgia level is so high. Nowadays, the Stan and Spock features seem like cool little glimpses back to a day when Marvel and Star Trek weren’t such megaliths but what would they have seemed like at the time? I suspect they would have been compelling inside peeks but, also, frustratingly short. What of the strips by Wolfman, Wein, and Brunner? Would they have meant anything in the days before these men made names for themselves? And what about the reviews and inside information? Would any of that been helpful? Would we all have been sitting around waiting for “Colony One” to come on TV? Would we be running out to buy Carlos Clarens’ book? (I actually have it…somewhere.) And would we have bought the issue because Spidey was on the cover only to discover he wasn’t on the inside at all?

Overall Rating

There’s no way to say. The look at Stan still trying to come to terms with what Marvel was becoming, the look at Leonard Nimoy trying to find some confidence in his career, the looks at early work from Wolfman, Wein, and Brunner are all far more compelling now than then. Back then, I suspect I’d have quibbled about the fanzine feel of the magazine and given it two webs (except I wouldn’t have because, back then, I would have been ten). Now? The nostalgia pull is too strong. It’s got to be five webs.

Footnote

I don’t plan on doing British comics in FTB but I happen to own this one, so POW! Annual 1968 is next.