The Lesser-Known Geek Hall Of Fame #11: Horror Hosts

The month of Halloween continues here at Geekville Radio and we are inducting our Halloween-themed entry into The Lesser-Known Geek Hall Of Fame.

There were many Horror Hosts over the years. Not only too many to name, but some that became way too popular to be considered “lesser-known”. A certain well-endowed beehive hairdo-wearing hostess comes to mind… But the pop-culture icons of today wouldn’t have existed without many of the names we list below.

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31 Trailers for Halloween

As promised in our trailer for the Geekville Radio Sampler: 31 Horror Movies for Halloween.

Examining The Dead’s 31 Trailers For Halloween
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The Lesser-Known Geek Hall Of Fame #9: Amicus Productions

TLKGHOF #9

Our latest induction into The Lesser-Known Geek Hall of Fame is also our first induction of a movie studio. Amicus Productions existed from 1962-1977 as an English production studio, despite being formed by two American producers Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg.

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The Lesser Known Geek Hall Of Fame #8: The Black Hole (1979)

The Lesser Known Geek Hall Of Fame #8: The Black Hole (1979)

Seth and Crazy Train return for the latest induction into the Lesser Known Geek Hall Of Fame. As longtime fans may know, inductees are not limited to just characters or people. Superheroes, literary characters, heroes, villains, real people, etc… For the first time, we are inducting a feature film. And there is no better inaugural movie inductee that 1979’s The Black Hole.

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The Lesser Known Geek Hall Of Fame #7: Adam Strange

Inductee #7: Adam Strange

The latest inductee into The Lesser Known Geek Hall Of Fame is DC Comics’ rocket pack-wearing scientist Adam Strange. First appearing in Showcase #17 in 1958, Strange was hardly the first hero to don a rocket backpack. However, unlike his movie serial predecessors, Strange is still around today.

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Lesser Known Geek Hall Of Fame #6: Forrest J Ackerman

The Lesser Known Geek Hall Of Fame #6: Forrest J Ackerman

One of the things we emphasize with the Lesser Known Geek Hall Of Fame is that no franchise, hero, villain, etc. is ineligible except “A-Listers”. This also applies to real-life people as well as fictional characters.

This episode inducts the first real-life person into the Lesser Known Geek Hall Of Fame, Forrest J Ackerman. While the name may be familiar to people, how his name got known in the first place is something they may not know.

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The Lesser Known Geek Hall Of Fame #5: Flash Gordon

Flash Gordon: The Fifth Inductee into The Lesser Known Geek Hall Of Fame

A lot of people have heard of Flash Gordon, but how much do they actually know? This is why we induct characters such as The Lone Ranger or The Phantom. Sure, the name is well known, but their influence over the genre is bigger and deeper than a lot of people realize.

You can’t tell the story of Flash Gordon without a name we discussed in our second episode about The Phantom. That name is King Features Syndicate. In short, King Features Syndicate were distributors of newspapers and comic strips throughout the world. They were responsible for publishing characters such as The Phantom, Beetle Bailey, and Popeye.

Not only does Flash Gordon have a great hero and great stories, it also has a great villain in Ming The Merciless. Given that Flash Gordon set the template for science fiction, and especially for Space Opera, we induct him into our Hall Of Fame.

Creating a Science Fiction Hero

One popular title that King did not publish was Buck Rogers. In fact, Buck actually predates Flash by a few years. King Features wanted a sci-fi hero to compete against the established Buck Rogers.

First, King tried to buy the rights to publish John Carter stories. When that deal couldn’t be made, King turned to one of their own artists, Alex Raymond. Taking a cue from the novel When Worlds Collide, Raymond created a strip that would have three main characters: The athletic hero (Flash), the girlfriend (Dale), and the scientist (Dr. Zarkov). In fact, that is a common trope to this day when it comes to sci-fi.

The Characters

Alex “Flash” Gordon – Flash is the handsome athletic hero in the series. He is a professional polo player and graduate of Yale University. Flash is usually depicted as a swashbuckling action star who is never afraid to confront evil. Later adaptions have changed Flash’s athletic background to football rather than polo.

Dale Arden – The heroine of the series, Dale is always the one true love in Flash’s life. Her role can vary greatly depending on the adaption and writing. In the original comic, she had no given profession. Over the years, she has been a news reporter, a travel agent, a spy, and a highly trained scientist in her own right. One constant in all the adaptions is Ming’s desire to marry her.

Dr. Zarkov – Depending on the adaption, Dr. Zarkov’s first name is either Hans or Alexis. Either way, Zarkov is the scientist who discovers a rogue planet heading on a collision course with Earth. He enlists the help of Flash and Dale to save the world. Whether Flash and Dale go willingly or are kidnapped at gunpoint can also vary by adaption. Either way, Zarkov becomes a friend and heroic character over the course of the adventures.

Ming The Merciless – The constant adversary in all Flash Gordon adaptions, Ming is one of the more infamous villains in sci-fi history. He is the ruthless emperor of Planet Mongo who wishes to marry Dale Arden against her wishes. Ming is apparently killed several times over the years, only to return due to a pre-planned escape.

Vultan – Prince of his people, The Hawkmen, Vultan is a fierce warrior who sees the heroes as adversaries. However, his respect is earned when they save his people from destruction at Ming’s hands. In almost any iteration, he is a large barrel chested man who has honor and a heart of gold.

Barin – Another prince of his people, Barin is actually the rightful ruler of Mongo. He usually is romantically linked to Ming’s daughter Aura, but their relationship can vary given the different adaptions over the years.

Aura – Ming’s daughter and the princess of Mongo. Her character can also vary based on the adaption and the writer. Most versions depict her being smitten with Flash. Earlier material shows her to be as nefarious as her father, while more recent takes have her in a more sympathetic role.

Thun – Like Barin and Vultan, Thun is the prince of his people. Originally depicted as a Lion-like species, he has been altered for other adaptions to be fully human. In any regard, he is one of Flash’s closest allies.

Comic Strip Run

The first Flash Gordon strip was published in January 1934. Raymond was the only person credited for the strip, but he did have ghostwriters helping with the writing while he supplied the artwork. The initial story, which became known as “Flash Gordon On The Planet Mongo”, is what many of the subsequent adaptions have been based on.

Raymond was the main creative force in the weekly comic strips for approximately 10 years, from January 1934 – April 1944. A daily strip by Austin Briggs began in 1940. Briggs took over both strips when Raymond left King Features to enlist in the US Military for World War II. The comic strip would continue to run in some capacity for the next several decades. The daily strip ended in 1993. The Sunday strip ran until 2003 and featured comic book talents such as John Romita Sr., Al Williamson, and Joe Kubert over the years.

Radio Serials

A radio serial was produced in 1935. For the most part, it directly followed the comic strip for its first year. After that, it strayed from the comics to tell original stories. It ended the following year after 60 episodes.

Movie Serials

Three Flash Gordon serials were released in theaters. Former Olympic swimmer turned actor Buster Crabbe portrayed Flash in all three serials, opposite James Middleton’s Emperor Ming.

Flash Gordon was released in 1936 and mainly followed the story of the initial comic strip series “Flash Gordon On Planet Mongo”. The serial was a huge hit and launched Crabb’s career as an action hero. In 1996, the original serial was selected for preservation in Teh National Film Registry by The Library Of Congress.

In 1938, a sequel Flash Gordon’s Trip To Mars was released. It was adapted from the comic story “Flash Gordon and the Witch Queen of Mongo”. Most of the original cast returned, including Jean Rogers as Dale and Frank Shannon as Zarkov. As the title implied, the story took place on Mars. This was a significant change from the comic, which of course was still set on Mongo. However, Ming was still the principle villain of the story, though he had a more devilish demeanor.

The third and final serial, Flash Gordon Conquers The Universe, premiered in 1940. Carol Hughes replaced Jean Rogers as Dale, while Middleton once again played Ming. This time around, Ming was portrayed as a brutal dictator, probably due to the world getting swept up in war.

All the serials were adapted for TV in the 1950s. To avoid confusion with the unrelated original Flash Gordon TV show airing at the time, the serial was renamed Space Soldiers.

TV Series

In 1954, a TV series aired starring fashion model Steve Holland as Flash. Relatively unknown actors Irene Champlin and Joseph Nash portrayed Dale and Dr, Zarkov respectively.

Unlike all the other adaptions, this Flash Gordon had an entirely different premise. Instead of adapting stories from the comics, the series took place in the year 3203 where Flash and company travel through space on a rocket ship.

The show aired on the now defunct DuMont Network, and was a modest hit. Many fans dismiss the series due to its deviation from source material. However, there still are fans and critics who praise the show due to its depiction of Dale as an intelligent scientist as opposed to the stereotypical girlfriend in peril.

1979 Animated Series

In 1979, Filmation produced an animated movie that retold Flash’s origin by blending elements of several comic stories together. This adaption was a period piece set in the early days of World War II, where Flash was an Olympic Gold Medalist, and Ming The Merciless worked with Hitler. It also had more adult themes such as alcohol use, scantily clad females, and sexual innuendos between characters. Thun famously said, “You have never loved until you’ve loved a lion woman with fur so soft”. When NBC execs were shown the movie, they liked it, but wanted it turned into a Saturday Morning series.

With the change to a Saturday Morning series came a different setting. Instead of taking place in World War II, it was set in the present day. The more adult-oriented elements were removed, and characters like Aura were toned down. The series went on to be regarded as one of Filmation’s best series. Each episode was a chapter in an ongoing story, complete with a summary of events in the opening moments, much like the original serials. It ran for two seasons and ended its run in 1981.

The cast was largely the same between the movie and the series. The two most notable changes were Alan Oppenheimer taking over Ming and Dr. Zarkov, while Alan Melvin replaced the late great Ted Cassidy as Thun.

Introduction to the Flash Gordon animated series from 1979

In 1982, over a year after the series ended, the original movie was shown on NBC. It only aired once, and has never been formally released in the US. There have been releases in other countries, and various recordings of it are readily available online.

You have never loved until you have loved a Lion Woman with fur so soft…

Thun in Flash Gordon: The Greatest Adventure Of All

1980 Feature Film

This is the adaption modern generations are familiar with. It’s probably just as famous, if not more so, for the music soundtrack by Queen.

Former Playgirl model Sam J Jones played Flash. While Jones was a relatively unknown actor, the supporting cast of the film was full of talent. Brian Blessed was Vultan, Max Von Sydow played Ming, and Timothy Dalton played Prince Barin.

The film is a very loose adaption of the origin story. One change made was switching Flash from being a polo player to an NFL Quarterback. Thun, perhaps due to costume limitations at the time, was presented as human and not the half lion species depicted in the comics.

While the movie gained a bit of a cult following, it was not a box office hit. It grossed $27 million on a budget of $20 million.

Defenders Of The Earth

Marvel produced the animated series Defenders Of The Earth in 1986. It teamed Flash with fellow King Features heroes The Phantom, Mandrake The Magician, and Lothar. In this series, the setting was in 2015 and all the heroes had children who joined them in the adventures. The series ran for 65 episodes.

Defenders Of The Earth is, as of this writing, available on Amazon Prime.

Disney Feature Film

In June 2019, news broke that Taiki Waiti is developing a Flash Gordon feature film for Disney. It will likely be an animated film.

Influence

Flash is one of the most influential characters in science-fiction. It is no secret that George Lucas entertained the idea of making a Flash Gordon film in the 1970s. When that couldn’t be done, he created something called Star Wars.

One of the things most famously adopted by Star Wars was the scrolling text to introduce the story. The serial episodes began with just that.

For more on Flash Gordon, check out the links below.

Alex Raymond biography at Lambiek.
Flash Gordon history via Looper
The Flash Gordon radio serial from 1935
Thanks to the Flash Gordon: The Greatest Adventure of All Facebook page

What characters would you like to see inducted into The Lesser known Geek Hall Of Fame? Sound off below or catch us on Facebook and Twitter. You can subscribe to us using your podcast device or computer to catch up on past inductees.

The Lesser Known Geek Hall Of Fame #4: Green Hornet

The Lesser Known Geek Hall Of Fame #4: The Green Hornet

The latest entry in Geekville Radio’s Lesser Known Geek Hall Of Fame is The Green Hornet. Many fans remember the 1966 TV show with Van Williams and Bruce Lee, but did you know that the character had existed for 30 years before that TV show? Join Seth and Crazy Train as they discuss the long storied history of the character, and the surprising lineage back to the fictional Old West.

The Green Hornet was created in 1936 by George W. Trendle and Fran Striker, the same creators as The Lone Ranger. Like before, the character was originally conceived for radio serials. We previously discussed both men in our previous episode about The Lone Ranger.

Radio Origins

After the success of The Lone Ranger, Trendle and Striker looked to create another hero to add to their radio drama lineup. They opted for a contemporary hero, as The Lone Ranger was a Western.

Enter The Green Hornet.

The Green Hornet first aired on Jan 31st, 1936 for WXYZ radio. The origins of the character remain in line with many of the characters we’ve discussed so far. A wealthy individual who had a secret identity as a crimefighter. In this case, it was newspaper publisher Britt Reid, who donned a mask and took on crime lords as The Green Hornet.

Much like The Lone Ranger, Green Hornet had a partner who knew his identity and complimented his style. The Ranger had Tonto, The Hornet had Kato. Also, the show used actual classical pieces for theme and incidental music. In this case, the music was “Flight Of The Bumblebee” by Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov .

Britt Reid’s father Dan had inherited a silver mine, which was used to fund a newspaper called The Daily Sentinel. If you listened to the last show, you will know the significance of that silver mine. That’s right, Dan Reid’s uncle was John Reid, aka The Lone Ranger. Which makes Britt The Ranger’s grand nephew.

While traveling in The Orient, Britt Reid saved the life of a man named Kato. Kato would go on to be Britt’s partner in crimefighting. He was also a master engineer and a martial artist. This complimented Britt’s intellect and detective skills. Plus, Britt used guns that would stun opponents, as his fighting skills were inferior to Kato’s.

During the 1940s, Kato’s nationality was quietly changed from Japanese to Korean due to fear that a Japanese hero during World War II would cause a backlash. We’ll touch more on that later when discussing the comic book titles.

Kato and Britt tricked out Britt’s limo, and dubbed it Black Beauty. While no model of car was given for the radio show, it likely was a very large automobile since it was a limousine.

When he first started fighting crime, Britt had no gimmick and no mask. He and Kato were out in The Black Beauty when a gunfight broke out between rival gangs, ending in a fatal shooting. The Police noticed The Black Beauty speeding away. Since the car was at the scene of the crime, Britt was concerned that if he kept using it, he would be linked to the crime. This is when he donned the mask and became The Green Hornet.

In an interesting twist, Hornet did not overtly fight crime. He built a reputation as a criminal, using the connections he would get to secretly bring the criminals to justice. Only Kato and the District Attorney knew that Hornet was a crime fighter and not a criminal himself.

After 15 years of crime fighting, Britt retired in the early 1950s

When NOW comics got the licensing in 1989, they retconned the character’s history to fit different generations. More on that later.

Movie Serials

Much like The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet was adapted to movie serials. Trendle did not like the treatments The Ranger got, so he went to Universal Pictures for Hornet. Two serials were produced, The Green Hornet in 1940, and The Green Hornet Strikes Again in 1941.

TV Show

After the success of the classic 1960s Adam West Batman series, a Green Hornet series was produced, which ran for a single season in 1966. Van Williams was cast in the lead role of Britt Reid. Unlike Batman, which was designed to be comedic in nature, The Green Hornet was played for drama. As a result, it wasn’t remembered as fondly as The Caped Crusader’s show

The series is probably now best known for being Bruce Lee’s first major acting role as Kato. But it also had a crossover episode with Batman, where the two heroes met onscreen.

A link to the previous radio show was provided through the character of Mike Axford. During the radio show run, Axford worked for The Daily Sentinel. In the TV pilot episode, Axford tells Britt about the old days when he knew Britt’s father. This implied that the TV Britt was the offspring of the radio incarnation.

When the TV show ended, the character faded into relative obscurity for the next two decades. Though the TV version of The Black Beauty, depicted as a Chrysler Crown Imperial, gained a following with car enthusiasts.

Comic Book Adaptions

There were several attempts over the years to publish Green Hornet comics, starting in the 1940s. They did not sell nearly as well as those of The Lone Ranger, and didn’t last more than a year or two at a time.

When NOW comics started publishing Green Hornet comics in 1989, they released a four volume series Tales Of The Green Hornet. This retconned the TV series Britt Reid to be the nephew of the original, and established the new incarnation, Paul Reid, as the son of the TV version. Van Williams, star of the TV show, even wrote a few issues about his character’s run.

The Lone Ranger connection remained intact during the NOW run. However, due to potential legal issues over the likeness, the name was never used.

Kato’s history was also addressed in the NOW series. It was explained that Britt lied about Kato’s heritage out of fear that he’d be sent an internment camp during WWII.

It’s also worth noting that the miniseries killed off the original Britt Reid due to a betrayal by District Attorney Frank Scanlon, who revealed the identity to an enemy.

Like The Lone Ranger, Green Hornet is not the property of any specific comic publisher, it is self owned and licensed out. Currently, Dynamite comics has the publishing license. Recently, Dynamite did their own crossover with DC Comic’s Batman that was written by Kevin Smith

2011 Movie

Seth Rogan co-wrote and starred in a Green Hornet feature film. It was a complete reboot with no real connection to any previous incarnation, sans Black Beauty remaining a 1960s Chrysler. Unlike the TV show and radio serials, it was intended to be a comedic action film.

While the movie did well at the box office, it failed to perform enough to warrant a sequel.

What do you think, readers and listeners? Do you have any Green Hornet opinions? Feel free to share your thoughts below or on our social media pages!

The Lesser Known Geek Hall Of Fame #3: The Lone Ranger

Hi-Yo Silver! The mysterious masked man who has been an icon to TV and radio has made his way to the Geekville Radio Lesser Known Geek Hall Of Fame!

“What?” you may ask. “You said this is the LESSER Known Geek Hall Of Fame. Everybody has heard of The Lone Ranger. Why are you doing a show about a character everybody has heard about?”

That is a very good question. While it is true that the vast majority of people have probably heard of The Lone Ranger, how much is actually known about him? Do you know who the Ranger is? Do you know why he is called The Lone Ranger?

Seth “Zandrax” Zillmann and “Crazy Train” Jonathan Bolick open the doors to the Hall Of Fame to answer those questions and more.

The story of The Lone Ranger starts in Detroit Michigan during the 1930s. George W. Trendle, a lawyer, businessman, and overall renaissance man had invested in several Nickelodeon and movie theaters. In fact, he co-owned about 20 movie theaters in the Detroit area. When competition started rising in the theater industry, he sold the theaters for apprimately six million dollars. That’s six million not adjusted for inflation. Six million in 1930 dollars.

After leaving the theater business, George invested in the radio business. He bought the CBS affiliate radio station WGHP, and changed it to WXYZ (“The last word in radio”). Radio was arguably the biggest entertainment media at the time, since the television would not become a mainstay for another decade or two.

Trendle knew he had to have programming. Radio plays were popular forms of entertainment, so it made perfect sense for WXYZ to have their own shows. Westerns were a popular genre, so the chances were good that a Western themed show would be a hit with audiences. However, he would need actors to perform the stories. But he wouldn’t be able to get actors to perform the stories if he didn’t have stories in the first place. And in order to have stories, he would need characters to write the stories about.

Enter Fran Striker, a writer from New York. He had actually written radio shows before, even some in the Western genre. Who exactly did what to create the The Lone Ranger can be debated, but the official credit goes to Trendle. Striker was then hired to write the episodes, a duty that Striker would continue for the next several years in many forms of media.

The rest, as they say, is history. Trendle went down in history as the creator of arguably the greatest Old West hero of all time. Striker would find steady work writing stories. And, most of all, fans would enjoy these stories on the radio, TV, print, even the movie theater.

What may surprise many people who may not know the full history of The Lone Ranger is his direct relation to another famous crimefighter who became an icon of his own.

And of course, there are the two failed attempts at relaunching The Lone Ranger as a feature film franchise. One of which was very controversial due to the treatment of the beloved actor synonymous with the role.

All this and more in a fun-filled podcast about the one and only Lone Ranger! Hi-Yo Silver! Away!

Lesser Known Geek Hall Of Fame #2: The Phantom

You have probably heard of The Phantom, and yes you’ve probably seen him in a newspaper comic strip. But do you truly know the origin of The Phantom? Seth and Crazy Train talk the creation of The Phantom, as well as his origin. Why is the character called The Ghost Who Walks?

A lot of people may not know how long The Phantom has been around. Creator Lee Falk started writing the character in 1936, and continued to write up until his death in 1999. That means he had a 63 year run writing Phantom, which could be a record for longest stint for a writer on a specific character. The Phantom has also been in print regularly since 1936, which is a record for oldest superhero title at 82 years and counting.

The Phantom also has several other notable accomplishments. He was the first hero to wear tights, and was the first to have a mask that removed pupils from the eyes. Not only that, the ongoing Phantom comic clocks in with a staggering 1,700+ issues!

If you want to learn more about The Phantom,  there is the awesome Phantom Wiki. And check out the good people at Chronicle Chamber, who have a podcast dedicated to all things Phantom!