Saturday, October 16, 2021

Saturday's postcard: RPPC with family, jack-o'-lantern and cat

This CYKO real photo postcard dates to sometime between 1904 and the 1920s, according to Playle. It was never mailed, but there's a cursive caption on the back:
This was taken Election Day with the pumpkin from Halloween. How do you like the cat?
I wish we knew more about these two people and where they lived. We might presume they are mother and daughter. They're in a place where the leaves fall from the trees in autumn and it can snow in early November. From the way they're dressed, it's fairly chilly. There are some rolling hills in the background. I believe we can rule out Arizona. :)

And how about that cat?? I'll be honest that I didn't notice it at first. I'm sure I would have eventually, but it's the caption on the back that tipped me off. Let's take a couple of closer looks at the image.
It's not clear to me whether the cat is sitting on a tree branch behind her, or sitting on her shoulder. The way she's slightly hunched over makes me think that maybe the cat is sitting on her, but as I peer at it closely, my best guess is that that cat is actually right behind her. Great work on the photo angle, if that was purposeful!

What does everyone else think?

It's kind of funny that this postcard should come up for Mild Fear, because one of the new quirks our cat Monkey has picked up in recent months is that he loves to sit on my shoulder. If I hold my arm up so he has a ledge for his feet, he will perch there happily for a long time, even if I get up and start walking around. Does anyone else have a cat that does this? Why are our cats so odd??

Friday, October 15, 2021

Jack Gaughan covers for "Three Against the Witch World"

This is a pretty nifty old paperback. The kind that's made it fun to browse the sci-fi/fantasy shelves of used book stores for years (decades) and examine all of the wild stuff produced during the 1950s through 1970s, as the New Wave science fiction, high fantasy and sword-and-sorcery genres came to dominate and the Cold War hovered over everything. In those treasured bookstores, we can admire the covers and titles, smell the pages and perhaps also, for a moment, put ourselves in the shoes of those who were living through those times and reading these volumes when they were new, not yellowed.

What's shown above is, according to the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, the 1969 Ace Books edition of Three Against the Witch World, which was first published in the 1965 as the third book in Andre Alice Norton's Estcarp Cycle of the Witch World series.1 

The main reason I'm writing about this book tonight is because the cover artist is Jack Gaughan (1930-1985). He's popped up a fair bit on Papergreat over the years, without me quite realizing it:

Gaughan died at age 54 in 1985, and it seems from what I've read that his career had started to decline a full decade before that. But he was incredibly prolific during his peak period, centered in the 1960s, and he even found time to keep providing work for sci-fi fanzines. In a post for the DMR website last year, Deuce Richardson writes of Gaughan:
"Jack Gaughan is barely remembered today. Like many other fantasy artists of the '60s and '70s, Gaughan's art didn't make it past the Great Divide of 1980. Around that date, art directors started demanding more 'photo-realistic' art. ... The best of Jack Gaughan's work has power and dynamism to burn. Some of his compositions — the placement of elements within the picture — can stand up to many artists considered far better nowadays. Also, Jack was utterly unafraid of using a bold palette of colors to make his paintings leap out at the viewer."
Perhaps the covers Gaughan is best known for are Ace Books' unauthorized (pirated) editions of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy in 1965. If you've seen them once, you've never forgotten them. I have The Two Towers and would like to find copies of the other two some day (perhaps during a shelf-browsing session at some dusty bookstore). Personally, I think the Ace/Gaughan LOTR cover illustrations are better than those for the authorized Ballantine paperbacks that came out later.2

Of all the Gaughan work I've come across, I think my favorite piece might be from the back cover of the dust jacket for the 1974 Andre Alice Norton novel The Jargoon Pard. It's incredibly evocative and wouldn't be out of place alongside those LOTR covers. And to think that this was only a back cover illustration. What an artist!
1. For a couple of interesting analyses of Andre Alice Norton's Witch World series from a feminist perspective, consider these essays by Caroline Furlong and Violette Malan
2. And let me be very clear: Piracy is bad, kids. For a little more about the Ace, Ballantine and later LOTR covers, check out this 2020 post on James Malisewski's Grognardia blog and this 2016 post on We Are the Mutants.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Postcard: Chicken float at Carnaval de Nice

This vintage postcard, undated and unused, features a float from the storied Carnaval de Nice in France. This card probably doesn't qualify for Mild Fear 2021, unless you suffer from alektorophobia, the fear of chickens. In that instance, a three-story chicken coming down the street at you might seem worse than being chased by Freddy or Jason.

Brian Barth wrote an article about alektorophobia for Modern Farmer in 2016 and couldn't find much about the phobia beyond some Reddit posts, a book by Nicolae Sfetcu, an ebook-peddling hypnotherapist and the videogame Five Nights at Freddy's. Werner Herzog is mentioned in passing, because of course he is.

Getting back to Carnaval de Nice, it has a history that dates all the way back to 1294 CE. Its modern incarnation as a parade began in 1873. "Each year, a special theme is chosen, and artists create 18 floats and other figurines in traditional papier-mâché for the colorful parade," Wikipedia notes. The next celebration is set for Feb. 11-27, 2022.

While the chicken dominates the frame in this old postcard, a closer examination reveals something that might be more terrifying... 

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

1977's "Supermonsters" and 1920's "Der Golem"

When I was a kid, perhaps the first book that introduced me to "monsters" and their roots in world folklore was Supermonsters, written by Daniel Cohen (1936-2018) and published in 1977.

The book's cover is memorable but perhaps slightly misleading, as it features the fearsome fiend from the 1957 British horror film Night of the Demon (also known as Curse of the Demon).

Supermonsters covers monsters in movies and popular culture; Dracula, werewolves, mummies and zombies are all discussed. But much of its focus is on the historical origins of those creatures and the strange beliefs associated with them — beliefs that were then twisted and/or co-opted by books and films.

This book was my young self's introduction to the centuries-old tales of Europeans who had (trigger warming: not for the squeamish) little understanding of the science of plagues or how corpses decomposed. And so when they dug up the latter to try to solve the mystery of the former, they came to some very wrong conclusions. Beliefs in vampirism were thus strengthened and propagated across the land.

Supermonsters similarly delves into the myths and misunderstandings that informed modern ideas about other ghoulies. For example, there is the story of Peter Stubb. That's his name in the book, anyway; other historical accounts list him as Peter Stumpp, Peter Stübbe, Peter Stumpf, etc. As Cohen explains:

"Stubb was executed as a werewolf near Cologne, Germany, in 1589. ... Stubb said that the Devil had given him a magic belt made of wolfskin. When he put the belt on, he was changed into a wolf. ... Putting on a wolfskin belt was not the only way of turning into a wolf. One man confessed that he became a werewolf after eating wolf meat. Another said that he drank water that he had collected in the footprint of a large wolf. There was also a magic wolf ointment."

All of this eventually led to the tale of Lawrence Talbot on the silver screen. And that movie version took its own liberties with werewolf legends, adding some of its own out of the imagination of the filmmakers. 

Supermonsters also introduced me to some lesser known (by today's standards, anyway) monsters in popular culture. It's where I learned of Nosferatu; Varney the VampireWagner, the Wehr-Wolf; Lon Chaney as the silent and nightmare-inducing The Phantom of the Opera ... and a film that I finally, all these decades later, got around to watching this week: 1920's Der Golem.

If you've never seen Der Golem, I highly recommend it. Personally, I think it's even better than the excellent The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, which was released that same year. There's an outstanding Blu-ray restoration of Der Golem available from Kino Lorber. I think you'll see, too, how much it inspired some more well-known horror films that came after. For example, I'll leave you with this image from Der Golem...

Monday, October 11, 2021

1976 comic book advertisement for "Evil Show Rods"

From 45 years ago, here's a full-page advertisement for Monogram Models' "Evil Show Rods" from the May 1976 issue of Marvel Comics' "Werewolf by Night." Let's dive into the advertising copy:
Monogram's new "Evil Show Rods" ... four sinister-looking
four-wheeled creatures to build and enjoy
Sinister? Yes. But, what fun you'll have building and displaying these 1/24th scale plastic model kits designed exclusively for Monogram by Tom Daniel. Which one do you think is the most "evil"? Pick your favorite ... or better yet, build them all for the "evilest" kit collection in the neighborhood. Available wherever model kits are sold.
These four horror-themed vehicles look like they might have fit in with that era's Wacky Races competitors, right alongside the Gruesome Twosome, perhaps. Here are their descriptions, again from the advertising copy:
  • Hangman: A fiendish custom tow truck loaded with goulish [sic] features  right down to the realistic noose dangling from the towing boom.1 
  • Sandshark: One of the most menacing machines you've ever laid eyes on. A custom show rod with "shark" decals, fins, and custom features you'll really go for.
  • Rattler: The fork-tongued custom show rod that's sleek as a snake. With a deadly Pontiac mill and custom goodies to really rattle your cage.
  • Stinger: Deadly as a scorpion, this wild rear engine rail dragster puts the sting on its competition. One of the most unconventional dragsters to ever hit the asphalt.

The aforementioned designer of these "evil show rods" was Tom Daniel, one of the biggest names in the model kit business. He has a website that's been updated as recently as last month (Sept. 1, 2021). "Tom Daniel was the most prolific designer of wild automotive and cycle designs ever," it states, and that seems hard to dispute, given all the amazing model designs to be found in surfing through website.

There's even some ephemera that can be purchased: Tom Daniels notecards. Tom seems to enjoy connecting with his fans, writing: "As ALWAYS, THANK YOU for all the letters and e mail with your GREAT stories of your childhood modeling escapades! I DO read them all - and I WILL reply - (though sometimes it takes some time to do that)." That's really cool.

It seems some of the "Evil Show Rods" aren't too hard to track down on eBay or other websites, with some being pricier than others. Some of them got re-releases over the years. (Just do a search for Monogram and the car name.) 

Does anyone have any memories of building these "fearsome" models? Let me know in the comments section.

1. Nooses are not cool, kids. Not even a little bit.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Skottie Young's tribute to Edward Gorey

This is ephemera of a more recent variety, but I love this tribute to Edward Gorey that Skottie Young created as the cover illustration for the June 2009 issue No. 12 of Marvel's Captain Britain and MI13 comic series. I'd read a whole comic series about this Victorian/Edwardian version of Wolverine, if drawn by Young. (For some more fun along these lines, check out "Marvel And DC Superheroes Reimagined Throughout Time by Fans" on

If you need more Gorey (the perfect artist for October) here are some past Papergreat posts: