Monday, December 26, 2011

Behind-the-Scenes of the Jacob & Joaquin poster comic

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas! In the spirit of this gift-giving season, I'd like to share with you today a little behind-the-scenes look at my recent poster comic featuring a pair of brand new characters I created, Jacob & Joaquin.

Promotional image for the Jacob & Joaquin poster comic.

I had recently gotten the idea to create a one-page comic, to be printed up as an 11" x 17" poster comic. First step, obviously, was that I needed an idea. For a moment I thought about using one of my existing characters, but then decided that I wanted to feature characters that somewhat tied into the spirit of the holiday season.

For some time now, the names 'The Wandering Jew and Catholic Boy' had been floating around in my mind. (In my EL MUERTO comic book series, Diego de La Muerte, aka El Muerto, has a best friend, Isaac Silver, played in the film by Wilmer Valderrama and Joel David Moore of AVATAR fame. I'd long since given the comic book characters the nicknames of 'The Wandering Jew and Catholic Boy', just as a personal in-joke for myself. But those names always suggested to me an idea for a monster hunting duo, a pair of demonologists/exorcist types.

So when it came time to flesh them out, I fashioned them along the line of the old-school Batman and Robin archetype, with Jacob being the older of the two, and Catholic Boy the younger, brasher member. I dressed up Wandering Jew to evoke the look of a Rabbi, with a slight WWII-era look to his wardrobe. For Joaquin I went with a modified Catholic schoolboy look, the idea being to make both characters instantly recognizable as to their identities. I tend to create my characters in that mode, so their names, appearances and purposes all reflect one another.

For the story, I figured a quick hunt-and-destroy mission would work for what I wanted to accomplish. With a one-page story, you have to instantly introduce the characters (especially if they've never been seen before) and show them doing what they do best. My plot was simple: Jacob and Joaquin get called by the LAPD's monster investigation unit to assist on a case, but soon realize their spiritual-based powers won't work on this particular menace. A quick improvisational maneuver saves the day, and we've got a story!

In creating the comic, I decided to draw the original panels larger than their finished size. So instead of drawing the whole story on an 11" x 17" sheet of paper, I broke up the panels into three sections, drawing each section on a horizontal 11" x 17" sheet, using 3 sheets in total. I then scanned each page and shrank them down and put them together in Photoshop, ending up with an 11" x 17" single page.

The story was set in the Boyle Heights area of East Los Angeles, a neighborhood with a shared Jewish/Mexican heritage. Not only was Boyle Heights a thematic reflection of the two heroes, but back in 2005 we had filmed a week of the EL MUERTO movie at the Evergreen Memorial Park and Crematory, located in the same area. I actually filmed my cameo with star Wilmer Valderrama at the very front gates shown in the first panel of the story.

 A screenshot of the front gates using Google Maps. My cameo was filmed at the gate on the left, as El Muerto was walking into the cemetery and I was leaving!

It was quite fun setting a story at the same place we filmed the EL MUERTO movie, as the experience of making the film (some of it in East Los Angeles, where I was born) are among the most memorable moments I've had. Other than that though, the cemetery was a perfect location for my story.

Before starting the story, I took a look at the work of Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, a comic book artist whose created the majority of his work 
for DC Comics since the 1970s. Garcia-Lopez always had strong, vibrant pages, drawing figures overlapping into other panels, adding an extra dimension to the flow of the panels. I thought a technique like the one he uses would help me maximize the limited amount of panels I would have to tell my story. To the right is a page from Jose's SUPERMAN VS WONDER WOMAN comic book (1978).

Another element I wanted to experiment with was the coloring of the comic. In the late 50s/early 60s, Marvel Comics published numerous comics featuring monsters and sci-fi stories. What really impressed me was the coloring on many of those stories, often depicting a very expressionistic use of color. I love the bold patch of colors used, such as a yellow or blue background, with the characters painted in a monochromatic color, seemingly random in nature. It creates an unforgettable page, one where the rules of coloring flow with the story. Since I was doing the comic as a poster, it had to function as a story, but also I wanted it to stand on it's own as a whole, complete image, with a vibrant color scheme dancing across the panels.

"The Man Who Captured Death" from AMAZING ADULT FANTASY #9 (1962), written by Stan Lee, art by Steve Ditko.

My plot for the one-page comic came fairly quick, the challenge was pacing out the action over the limited number of panels I had. Like with any comic, regardless of length, the initial storytelling goal for me is determining each composition for each panel, and finding the best combination of narrative action from one panel to the next. And because I was conscious of how I wanted to approach the eventual coloring of the piece, I composed each panel with a possible color scheme in mind, such as leaving empty space in the background where I wanted to try a large, bright color.

Once I patched the 3 separate pages together into one 11" x 17" document, I spent time doing various touch-ups to the artwork. Then I was able to start playing with my color palette. This was actually the first comic book that I was coloring. Sure, I had colored some previous stories of mine in gray-tones, and I've had plenty of experience coloring single-piece illustrations, but this was my first full color comic to be colored from start to finish.

As you can see by the colored page in the right, for the background I tried to use colors that appeared elsewhere in the strip, such as the magenta from Catholic Boy's mask, or the orange from the monster. That was done to tie the panels together, as I wanted the viewer's eye to move around the whole page in various directions when taking in the complete poster image. From a story point of view, I need the reader to start at the first panel and proceed to the next, but as a single image, I wanted the colors to bounce across the page.  

There's definitely more stories to tell with Jacob & Joaquin, as well as Inspector Claye and the LAPD's 'Gravedigger' squad. I've thought up a rough idea for the origin of The Wandering Jew and Catholic Boy, but for now we leave them to their first comic book appearance, HAUNTED HOLIDAYS. You can read the comic here (click the image to enlarge it) and if you want to order a printed, signed copy, visit my earlier blog post when I first debuted the poster comic.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ed Wood has proven that he is "All right"!

This is the 3rd and final entry in my series of Ed Wood memorial posts. Starting on Saturday, December 10 (the 33rd anniversary of Ed's passing), I've posted two entries here on JAVZILLA about Ed's life & death and post-mortem fame.

One thing I didn't mention on the previous post was that in 1998, filmmaker Aris Iliopulos directed a film based on a then-recently discovered Ed Wood script called "I Awoke Early The Day I Died". The film, starring and produced by Billy Zane was titled I WOKE UP EARLY THE DAY I DIED. Not unlike Ed's luck in his heyday, the film was never really seen by the public, screening at the '98 Toronto International Film Festival (where it didn't get picked up by any distributors) then it played and closed within a week at a New York theater in 1999. Apparently, the studio which made the film went bankrupt soon after and the film has been in limbo ever since, although it did manage to get German and Japanese video releases.

What's the film about? Well, Ed's script involved a madman escaping an insane asylum by wearing a nurse's outfit (!) then robbing a loan office. He inadvertently loses the money while witnessing a strange cult funeral for the loan officer he shot. From there the madman goes on a murder spree, killing everyone who attended the funeral, his thinking being that one of them must know what happened to his money. The ending takes place back in the cemetery and involves bagpipes, and open grave and an Ed Woodian twist ending. The real interesting thing about the script was that it was created as a silent movie, no dialogue whatsoever. (Which is pretty ironic, as so much of the Ed Wood magic comes from his often mumbo-jumbo dialogue!). The trailer's a doozy:


Zane is fearless in his portrayal, playing it like a classic silent film star with all the jittery exaggerated moves he can muster. The film is played with campy laughs, but at the same time there are lots of great atmospheric moments in it. Most of the critiques I've read about the film is that the director doesn't mimic Ed's style, but then, why does he have to? He's not Ed! Plus the film has no dialogue, so naturally Iliopulos isn't going to be able to capture any moments of wacky dialogue. What he does give the film is an original mash-up of silent comedy, slapstick, cartoon action and an excellent soundtrack built around Ed's decades old screenplay. Plus, there are a large amount of cameos by a diverse group of actors/celebrities including Cristina Ricci, Ron Perlman, Sandra Bernhard, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Rick Schroder, John Ritter, Tippi Hedren, Will Patton, Karen Black, Andrew McCarthy and even Ed Wood's wife Kathy and Vampira herself! There's also a neat appearance by Eartha Kitt performing a great song in a nightclub scene. Eartha Kitt's name was seen on a marquee in a scene in PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, so it's cool to see her finally appear in an Ed Wood film almost 40 years after the fact!

You probably have to be an Ed Wood fan to like the film, and even then you might still hate it! I think it's a unique, wild experience, and I'm glad it got made, as the script was a favorite of Ed's in his later years. The film is currently available to watch on Youtube from a German print, and also apparently to purchase from at least one source online (I haven't bought from this site myself, so I can't vouch for the service). 

Since 2000, there's been several new books worth mentioning. In fact, I literally just got one in the mail Monday afternoon!

MUDDLED MIND: THE COMPLETE WORKS EDWARD D. WOOD JR. by David C. Hayes was originally published in 2001 and then updated in 2006. As I mentioned, I only got this book in my hands a day ago, but I've read some bits of it so far and it looks like a great book. MUDDLED MIND deals with Ed's literary output, from all accounts a staggering amount of novels and magazine articles he wrote during his lifetime. Granted, most of these were for the porn book & magazine market (although he's got some dealing with horror and crime), but the man was a prolific writer (in addition to a large number of scripts that were never filmed). There are a few short stories printed in the book, and one of them, THE NIGHT THE BANSHEE CRIED is just over 3 pages, but it's an amazing well-told, atmospheric ghost story. I really wish more of Ed's writing could be published, as he had some really creative ideas in his head. As I mentioned in my previous post, it's really a creator's ideas and imagination that first appeals to me, prior to experiencing the final execution. Of course, a poor presentation can stifle the idea, but then we get into the subjective matter of personal taste. I ordered my copy from LULU's print-on-demand service, and got the book within two weeks. I'll certainly be reading the book for the next few days.

Another book that I actually just finished reading a few weeks ago is Rob Craig's ED WOOD: MAD GENIUS. Published in 2009, I only recently got around to buying a copy, and I'm glad I did. This is the first critical analysis of Ed's entire film output. The author's approach is interesting in that he looks at Ed's work not only as the low budget, exploitation B-movies they are, but actually feels that Ed's work was produced with perhaps way more thought than most everyone has ever given the director credit for. Craig presents his theories that Ed was not only consciously working in the tradition of Absurdist Theater, but often drew direct inspiration from ancient mythology and even Biblical stories. Certainly Ed's obsession with life, death & resurrection, sinners and saints, reflects some tenants of religious doctrine. While not a saint himself, Ed's work would sometimes reference the Almighty, religion and an understanding of an afterlife, so I don't think all of Craig's parallels are unfounded. There were instances when I wouldn't agree with some of his conclusions regarding the source or intent of Ed's ideas, but I think the book is an important resource for those interested in Ed's work.

It's just very interesting to see an author really explore Wood's themes and obsessions as a filmmaker. Craig doesn't try to rehabilitate Wood's filmography to the level of an Orson Welles or Christopher Nolan, but he does make the case that even an outsider artist like Wood had deep, personal ideas he often explored in his work. That Eddie would often trip over his own written words or rush through a production with little money and resources, well, that's what helps defines his work as his own. If it wasn't interesting, it wouldn't be captivating people's attention half a century later. Even today, Ed's work is inspiring new generations. There's a movie called PLAN 9 currently in production, a remake of some type. Only time will tell... 

Two months ago, I had a the great fortune of finally seeing PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE on the big screen. The Alex Theatre in Glendale, CA, a palatial movie house dating back to the 1920s, ran a screening of the film on October 22. Walking up to the theater and seeing the name PLAN 9 on the marquee was a thrill. I took a seat in the huge balcony of the theater, which alone seemed as big as some modern theaters I've been to! It was really cool to sit with an audience of fellow Wood aficionados and catch the screening. The most exciting part was the opening titles, with the famous score blasting through the speakers. The applause as the credits flashed was heartening, with the loudest ovation upon seeing Ed's screen credit.

What was really amusing was that everyone laughed at the exact same parts, the same famous gaffs and blunders we've all come to know and love. It was a true fellowship of Ed Wood.

When PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE received it's release in 1959, it was part of a double-bill with a British film called TIME LOCK. Like me, you've probably never heard of that film either. (It featured a pre-James Bond Sean Connery, so it has something going for it!). Yet, decades later, despite being voted on as the so-called 'Worst Film & Worst Director of All Time", Ed and PLAN 9 continue to be written about, discussed, viewed and kept relevant. 

Some people no doubt consider themselves fans of Ed's films while still calling him an incompetent and untalented director. I've always thought of his films as extremely entertaining, with an unforgettable mixture of clunky writing, over-the-top or underwhelming acting, clever ideas, not-so-special effects, atmospheric settings and a go-for-broke run for the finish line, having a ball the entire step of the way. 

There's that terrible tragedy of his life, how beginning in the 1960s he slipped into heavy alcoholism and obscurity, working in the porn industry while always trying to get back in the game. In one letter to a friend in 1978 (9 months before he died), Ed talked about a new project called THE DAY THE MUMMIES DANCED, and how he hoped to film it in Mexico at the famous Caves of Guanajuato. "I feel", he shared in the letter, "this might be the vehicle to put me back in the field". 

There's a scene in BRIDE OF THE MONSTER, where Bela performs a famous speech. He's playing Dr. Eric Vornoff, the proverbial 'mad scientist'. He's visited by a colleage, Prof. Strowski. Strowski is sent by Vornoff's former countrymen to get him to return and use his knowledge in atomic science to create an army of supermen. Vornoff scoffs because years ago his own government rejected his theories, and now they wish to call upon him when they realize his experiments in creating super beings have succeeded.

"My dear Prof. Strowski, 20 years ago I was banned from my homeland...I was classed as a madman, a charlatan...Now here in this forsaken jungle hell I have proven that I am all right!"
Ed wrote that in 1955. Years later, I feel it's a poetic epitaph for him.

So, while Ed Wood Jr. has been long gone, his work continues to find new audiences, new fans, new life. That's really the ultimate vindication of any artist. As an artist myself, I look at his work, and how he created it, and take a few lessons from there. One is to keep my ideas as directly transplanted from my head to the paper, keeping my gut instincts in control, making sure the work retains it's visceral quality. Also, be your own critic. Change what you think has to be changed, if anything. Use your own discretion in judging your work. Also, get the work out there, let it stand or fall on it's own. There are always the following projects to work on. Each work won't be a masterpiece, but overall leave behind an interesting body of work that says what you want to say.

Here's a series of 6 sketchcards I created while working on these blog posts, as my own artistic tribute to Ed Wood. Featuring characters from Ed's movies. 

Starting at the top row, left to right:
Tor Johnson "Inspector Clay" from PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, Maila Nurmi "Vampira" from PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, Bela Lugosi "Dr. Eric Vornoff" from BRIDE OF THE ATOM, Jeannie Stevens "The Black Ghost" from NIGHT OF THE GHOULS, Ed Wood "Glenda" from GLEN OR GLENDA and Captain DeZita "The Devil" from GLEN OR GLENDA.

*As of Tuesday, December 13, 2011, I'm listing all 6 cards as a lot on Ebay! If you wish to bid on this set, please follow this link. Auction ends on Dec. 16.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ed Wood has risen from the grave!

In yesterday's post, I gave an overview of the life, and tragic ending, of filmmaker Ed Wood. Today I'd like to catalog the series of events that have helped propelled Ed from forgotten Hollywood has-been to cult film icon.

Ed Wood died on December 10, 1978. Having worked in Hollywood since 1947, his passing went relatively unnoticed in the press. By then though, some of his films had received rotation on television, featured on late night screenings and weekend 'Creature Feature'-type shows. When his films did air, Ed would happily call friends at all hours of the day to let them know one of his movies was playing.

In 1980, Harry and Michael Medved published their book THE GOLDEN TURKEY AWARDS, in which they had asked their readers of their previous book, THE 50 WORST FILMS OF ALL TIME, to name the Worst Film Of All Time. PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE was the winning Worst Film Of All Time with Ed himself awarded the Worst Director label. These 'awards' clearly helped spread much wider interest in Ed's entire oeuvre, sparking revival screenings and tributes to his work.

The 1982 comedy film IT CAME FROM HOLLYWOOD featured clips of forgotten B-movies, exploitation films and other shlock productions.  One of the segments, hosted by John Candy, lampooned the films of  Ed Wood, showing clips from PLAN 9 and GLEN OR GLENDA. While not a positive tribute, many more people were introduced to the work of Ed Wood.

In 1989, British TV host Jonathon Ross featured an episode on Ed Wood on his INCREDIBLY STRANGE PICTURE SHOW. The program featured interviews with Dolores Fuller (Ed's former girlfriend and actress in some of his films) as well as other Ed Wood cast members like Paul Marco, Maila Nurmi (Vampira) and Gregory Walcott. Really the first filmed production to try to present Ed Wood in a better light, with interviews with people who actually knew and worked with him. The film offers a quick sketch of the man and his work.

In 1990, the publishers of CULT MOVIES MAGAZINE, Buddy Barnett and Mike Copner, produced a movie called ON THE TRAIL OF ED WOOD, featuring one of Ed's loyal friend, Conrad Brooks. While shot with minimal production values, the documentary features an hour long interview with Conrad sharing his fond memories of his friendship and working relationship with Ed. I really enjoy this film as it presents Ed as a real human being who loved making his movies, especially when surrounded by his close network of friends. One of my favorite parts is when Conrad describes the time when he started to realize PLAN 9 was being revived as a cult film, with himself being invited to film screenings at festivals. The film doesn't appear to be available to view online, but you can currently find inexpensive copies via the web.

FLYING SAUCERS OVER HOLLYWOOD: THE PLAN 9 COMPANION, a documentary film released in 1992, provided a two hour behind-the-scenes look on the creation and influence of Ed's most famous film, PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE. A fascinating look at how this one-time forgotten film went on to achieve cult status for itself, it's cast and creator. This is a very detailed account, with lots of location shots of the various places Ed filmed the movie at, including the graveyard and the soundstage. With great insights into the film by historians and cast & crew, this is one of the best Ed Wood related spin-offs to experience. The documentary is oft-noted for being a half hour longer than the actual movie it's covering! The film is included on Image Entertainment's DVD release of PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, which is the perfect way to experience both films. The film is also currently available on YouTube, which I've included here as well. The version I found has German sub-titles.


Another milestone released that same year was Rudolph Grey's NIGHTMARE IN ECSTASY: THE ART AND LIFE OF EDWARD D. WOOD Jr. 
First released in 1992 (re-issued in 1994 to coincide to the Tim Burton movie), this is the first biography of the filmmaker. Some reviews complain about the format of the book, which is composed of snippets of commentary from a wide array of  people who knew Ed. While it's true the book isn't written in the standard narrative of most fiction and non-fiction, it's through the personal recollections of family members, friends and associates that an intimate image of Wood appears. Plus Grey has included various helpful extras such as a filmography, a bibliography of Ed's numerous novels, a chronology of his life and descriptions of every person interviewed for the book. There are numerous photographs from every decade of Ed's life, including his later years. What I found to be a real treasure trove was Grey's synopsis for many of Wood's unrealized projects. Ed truly had a vivid and hyperkinetic imagination, and while many people say the end results may have lacked so-called finesse, it's a creative person's imagination that truly is there thumbprint they leave on the world, I believe. 

NIGHTMARE IN ECSTASY was instrumental in my immersion into the world of Ed Wood back in 1994. And of course, Tim Burton's ED WOOD film released that year really brought Wood to the mainstream. When I saw the film, it left a huge impression on me. Not just in appreciating the struggles and work of Ed Wood, but also on relating to the constant difficulty as an artist in trying to find one's audience and using every single method at one's disposal to get the work out there. It remains to this day both my favorite Tim Burton film and favorite Johnny Depp movie, by far. The irony of Ed getting a big budget, high profile biographic film on his life is both charming and bittersweet, because Eddie would have been flabbergasted to be the subject of such a loving tribute. But really, it's such a great thing that there is such a movie. 

Depp of course knocks the performance out of the park, with a mesmerizing, award-winning performance by Martin Landau as the great Bela Lugosi. Bela himself has an amazing story, and the fact that he and Wood intersected for a few magical years only adds to the whole miraculous circumstances of Ed's life.

1994 was indeed a banner year for the cult of Ed Wood. Another film was released that year as well, this one by Rhino Home Video. LOOK BACK IN ANGORA, a documentary by Ted Newsom, featured Gary Owens narrating the life story of Ed Wood solely via clips from Ed Wood's own movies. Newsom's script very cleverly uses the dialogue from the films to illustrate and bring to life Ed's upbringing, filmmaking method & idiosyncrasies, gradual decline and eventual postmortem notoriety. When I first bought this videotape, I would watch it over and over again, quickly buying the videotape releases of Wood's movies as well. I was hooked! (Recently I upgraded my old videotape copy, which I haven't seen in years since I quit using my VHS player. Apparently, the film is only currently available as an extra on the DVD release of an adult film Ed wrote and starred in back in 1969, PRETTY MODELS ALL IN A ROW a.ka. THE LOVE FEAST a.k.a. THE PHOTOGRAPHER. So, wishing to once again LOOK BACK IN ANGORA, I ordered it.)  

And in 1995, yet another documentary appeared, this one premiering at the Chicago International Film Festival. THE HAUNTED WORLD OF EDWARD D. WOOD JR. featured several of the usual Ed Wood players, but also featured appearances by Bela Lugosi Jr., among others. In the film, Bela Jr. isn't particularly fond of Wood, calling Ed 'an abuser and a loser'. However, on the commentary track of the DVD release of the movie, Bela Jr. offers a more balanced attitude toward Ed, stating that he did indeed keep his father employed in down times, allowing Bela Sr. a certain amount of self-respect. The DVD release actually has some really great special features in addition to the commentary track. Ed's first film, the uncompleted THE STREETS OF LAREDO (1948), was finally released in 2005 with a musical score by Dolores Fuller and  Ben Weisman and a narrative track featuring Cliff Stone. This newly restored version was renamed CROSSROADS OF LAREDO. The DVD also features coverage of the premiere of LAREDO, a reunion of Ed Wood players at a film festival and several other extras. 

HAUNTED WORLD is currently available to watch online for free on

It may have been inevitable, considering the bizarre nature of the world of Ed Wood, but in 1996 Steve Galindo founded THE CHURCH OF ED WOOD! The church's site includes an on-line baptismal application if one chooses to get indoctrinated into the church. What can I say, it's Ed Wood's world, we're all just living in it...

The 90s certainly seemed like the Decade of Wood. But, there was more than enough interest in Ed's work to propel him into the 21st Century. I'll post about that in my next entry here, with a surprise or two...

"We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives! And remember my friend, future events, such as these, will affect you in the future!"

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Death of Ed Wood (December 10, 1978)

Have you seen the movie "ED WOOD", starring Johnny Depp and directed by Tim Burton? Martin Landau won a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for playing screen legend Bela Lugosi, who starred in 3 Ed Wood movies at the end of his career.

Depp plays Edward D. Wood Jr., the 1950s B-movie filmmaker behind such movies, to name a few, as GLEN OR GLENDA, BRIDE OF THE MONSTER and his most notorious creation, the infamous PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE (which in the 1980 book THE GOLDEN TURKEY AWARDS was named 'The Worst Movie of All Time', with Ed himself named 'The Worst Director of All Time'). Was he the worst director of all time, and PLAN 9 the worst movie ever made? I guess it depends on who you poll. 

Edward Davis Wood, Jr. was born on October 10, 1924 and died on this day, December 10, in 1978. The fact that Tim Burton persuaded Disney to back his black & white biopic back in 1994 speaks more to Burton's clout at the time than any widespread appreciation for Wood. However, there was already a strong cult following for Ed Wood and his movies at the time, and Burton & Depp's film really propelled Wood into the mainstream (to a point, as ED WOOD, while critically acclaimed, failed to find an audience at the time).

Ed Wood served in the Marines during WWII, and upon leaving the service joined a traveling circus, where his penchant for wearing women's clothes came in handy when playing the half-man/half-woman!

His Hollywood career started in 1947, when he started directing commercials and westerns, wrote and directed a stage play, and even worked as a stuntman (in drag!) in the Vincent Price movie THE BARON OF ARIZONA.

His first big break though came in 1953 when he wrote and directed GLEN OR GLENDA, a film about a cross-dressing man (played by Wood himself) and his desire to be accepted by his fiance and society at large. Ed was originally hired to make an exploitation movie based on Christine Jorgenson, who had made headlines at the time with her sex-change operation. But instead GLEN OR GLENDA became a somewhat auto-biographical message movie told with a convoluted, surreal narrative with Bela Lugosi playing on omnipotent god spirit overseeing the whole affair. 

 Ed as Glenda.


From there, Ed went on to create more films in his singularly individual, peculiar style. Crime films and horror pictures were his specialty, and using a stable of friends as actors, he was able to knock out over a half dozen movies throughout the 50s. Maligned and criticized by many for his  micro-budget production values, clunky dialogue, slapdash directing, nonsensical logic and often amateurish actors, Ed Wood today remains a cult figure of a status unimagined in his own lifetime.

The pinnacle of his film career is embodied by 1959's PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, an endlessly fascinating picture featuring space aliens resurrecting the dead, in hopes of stopping the Earth from destroying the universe. Now, on paper that's exactly how the story reads, but by the time Ed got done with it he had created his surrealist masterpiece! Footage of Bela Lugosi which Ed filmed before the actor's death in 1956 became the genesis for PLAN 9, and eventually Ed got the local branch of the Baptist Church to finance the movie (their hope being that with the profits from the film the Church they would be able to fund religious-themed films). Populating the film with TV horror hostess Vampira, 400 lb. wrestler-turned actor Tor Johnson, the late Bela Lugosi and the famous television psychic Criswell, PLAN 9 was destined for cinematic cult status.


In addition to his own films he wrote & directed, Ed wrote screenplays for other films as well, including his script QUEEN OF THE GORILLAS which became 1958's THE BRIDE AND THE BEAST and the girl gang picture THE VIOLENT YEARS (1956)

And in a startling bit of trivia a friend of mine informed me of a few months ago, Ed wrote a script in the 1950s called THE VENUS FLYTRAP which in 1970 was filmed in Japan by Toei Studios with an American and Japanese cast. Even today, Ed continues to surprise his fans....

There are several other films which he is reported to have written, but outside of speculation, none of these have ever been proven to be a fact. Although it's believed that Ed was a 'creative consultant' on Ronald Ashcroft's THE ASTOUNDING SHE-MONSTER (1957), which starred Wood regular Keene Duncan.

 In 1960, Ed Wood wrote & directed his last 'mainstream' film, THE SINISTER URGE, a crime caper dealing with the 'smut picture racket' and a psycho murderer. From there, Ed's luck at securing evern meager financing for his films dried up, while his drinking seemingly increased to the point of making him unreliable for the film business. With a new career as a writer of trashy sex novels (upwards of up to 75 by one account), Ed managed to keep money on the table for booze, groceries, and a string of living quarters that seemed to get more run down as the years wore on.

Beginning in the late 1960s and throughout the 70s, Ed was writing and/or directing (and sometimes appearing in) a growing number of adult movies (the very same pornographic films his movie THE SINISTER URGE seemed to rail against). He even created a series of 8mm films for the 'Sex Education Correspondence School'. Clearly, the man who created such low-budget, classic B-films like PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE and NIGHT OF THE GHOULS deserved better... but due to his own penchant for drinking and unreliability, he had to find some way to earn money.

By 1978, the end was near. He and his wife Kathy, who had been married since 1956, were evicted out of their low-rent apartment at 6383 Yucca Street in Hollywood. By all accounts, the building was a den of derelicts and drug addicts, with plenty of access to liquor stores and neighborhood bars. With most of their personal belongings left behind, the Woods were taken in by a friend, Peter Coe. Within a few days, on December 10, 1978, Ed Wood died in bed, watching a football game. He was cremated and his ashes scattered along the coast. No obituary appeared in any of the Hollywood trade magazines.

With Christmas approaching, I think it'd be nice to remember Ed in a better light. Here's a photo of him at a Christmas party with his friend Bela Lugosi in the mid 50s:

Just like in the film industry though, there is a 'sequel' to this tragedy of Ed's final days. Tomorrow I'll talk about Eddie's stardom rising from the grave, much like the characters in some of his movies. Ed Wood has died, but the legend had now begun it's slow rise to cult film icon!

The set of PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE. Tor Johnson rising from the grave, surrounded by Vampira, Dr. Tom Mason (who doubled for the deceased Bela Lugosi by hiding his face with the cape!) and Criswell.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Jacob & Joaquin POSTER COMIC!

Here it, my first-ever Poster Comic! Featuring Jacob & Joaquin: The Wandering Jew and Catholic Boy, two brand-new characters of mine. Starring in "HAUNTED HOLIDAYS":
(To view the poster at a readable size, go to my DeviantArt page here, and click on the image to enlarge)

A special Holiday themed comic, with a little monster-hunting thrown in for good measure!  U.S. readers, if you'd like to order this Poster Comic as an 11"x 17" full-color print, it's yours for $8. That includes shipping in a large, flat envelope with thick cardboard backing, and it'll be signed by me as well. Readers outside the U.S., please contact me at azteczombie (at) for shipping rates.

Please sign it to: