Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

The Greg Hatcher Legacy Files #152: ‘Geeky Gift Suggestions For Black Friday’

[Greg, as you know, was not a fan of Thanksgiving or Black Friday, so he and his lovely bride always tried to get away from humans at that time of the year. In this post (from 25 November 2011), he tells us he’s already holed up in an undisclosed location, but he has some gift ideas for people with nerdy weirdos in their lives! Take a look and enjoy!]

Actually, we don’t do Black Friday. In fact, we’re not even doing Thanksgiving.

Julie and I had so much fun last year running away to Whidbey Island [Edit: As that is a “Greg’s travels” post, I haven’t gotten to it yet!] and hiding out for the holiday that we’re doing it again. By the time you read this my wife and I will be sequestered in an Undisclosed Location on the Oregon coast, loafing around and reading and maybe doing a little bookscouting if the mood strikes us. Far away from the madness that seems to grip every shopping mall in the country the day after Thanksgiving.

But even though we are skipping Black Friday, it’s an excuse to bring some cool things to your attention that have crossed my path the last few months. Most of these are discounted books, comics or movies I picked up as impulse buys and they were so delightful that I think they’re worth recommending.

So … If you have a geek in your life that’s hard to shop for, that tends to acquire books and DVDs so quickly that you are afraid to even try to get him (or her) a book or a movie, these are far enough off the beaten path that there’s a good chance he (or she) might not have gotten to it yet. Or — more likely — if you are that hard-to-buy-for fan that gets kissed off with a gift card and a snarled “I never know what to get for you” every year, here’s a couple of suggestions for what you might blow that gift card on, down the road.


DVDs: It seems like every week brings the release of something so obscure I could have sworn we’d never see it on home video … for example, we now live in a world where The Invisible Man: The Complete Series is going to be available on DVD early next year.

Despite David McCallum’s unfortunate hairstyle, this was nevertheless a pretty cool show.

Between Claude Rains in 1933 and Vincent Ventresca in 2000, we had this 1975 version of H.G. Wells’ see-through scientist, retooled as a bionic-era superguy in the wake of The Six Million Dollar Man. David McCallum starred as Danny Westin, who was working on teleportation for the Klae Corporation when he accidentally turned himself permanently invisible. So he and his hot wife Kate went on industrial-espionage sorts of missions in return for Klae bankrolling Westin’s search for a cure. (Here’s a clip, on YouTube.) [Edit: Don’t worry, NBC Universal has blocked that … for your safety, presumably!!!!]

Since Westin was permanently invisible, he had to wear a lifelike rubber mask and gloves that duplicated his own face and hands, along with a lot of turtleneck sweaters; so when Westin wanted to become invisible, he simply disrobed. The show was canceled after twelve episodes, allegedly because viewers were turned off that Westin was running around naked — invisibly naked, but still, y’know, naked — while he sneaked around corporate offices and foreign embassies.

I think it probably bothered conservative viewers more that the scripts clearly implied at least once an episode that the Invisible Man was having great sex with his superhot wife, daringly braless Melinda Fee. No wonder he’s smirking. [Edit: The pictures Greg used have been lost, so I don’t know if this is one he used, but I like it because it shows his wife AND his ridiculous haircut!]

But it was a smart, fun series while it lasted, with clever scripts from Harve Bennett, James Parriott, and a young Steven Bochco. For years the only proof the show ever existed was Michael Jahn’s novelization of the pilot — which is actually a very cool book, and recommended — but the show itself is coming on DVD next February and right now you can pre-order the entire set for less than twenty-five bucks on Amazon. Such a deal. [Edit: As you can see, the link is still there, but the actual physical DVDs seem long gone!]

Also now available on DVD for the first time ever is Irwin Allen’s 1971 science-fiction epic, City Beneath the Sea.

This was actually a pilot for a follow-up series to Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, about the adventures of the citizens of Earth’s first underwater settlement, Pacifica. But it didn’t sell. So it got released theatrically instead.

On the left, Stuart Whitman is doing a great impression of Serious Captain Kirk. On the right, the science team at Pacifica tries to figure out how to divert the planet-cracking asteroid hurtling toward them. [Edit: Obviously, I don’t have the right image, and I don’t even know which image on a search to use!]

It’s got that goofy Irwin Allen SF style, but it’s also got a great cast and a fast-moving plot. I’ve always liked it.

Pacifica as seen from the Flying Sub. I guess Irwin loved that vehicle as much as we did, back in the day.

Anyway, it’s out now from Warner Archive, the fine folks that also brought you George Pal’s The Man of Bronze and Gene Roddenberry’s Planet Earth. Warner Archive movies are no-frills, burn-on-demand DVDs, but generally I am so happy to have these movies available that I don’t really care about extras.

City Beneath the Sea holds up pretty well for an Irwin Allen movie … the interior logic is considerably better thought out than, say, the later episodes of Voyage or almost any episode of Lost In Space. Faint praise, I know, but we like having it around. Trailer here.

Books and Comics: For the pulp-hero aficionado, here’s a couple of stealth releases from DC that hardly anyone noticed, but that I was very glad to see.

DC has collected the complete run of Marvel’s 1970s Doc Savage titles, both the color comics from Steve Englehart and Ross Andru in a trade paperback titled The Man of Bronze and the black-and-white magazine stuff from Doug Moench and Tony DeZuniga in Showcase Presents Doc Savage. Both are fun but the Showcase stories are all originals — the color comic from Marvel adapted four of the Doc novels over its eight-issue run. The magazine stories reprinted in the Showcase edition are, for my money, the best Doc Savage anyone in comics has ever done, but either collection is more entertaining than the First Wave version of Doc, if you ask me. (Although DC’s collected that in a trade too, along with the O’Neil-Kubert Doc four-part miniseries from the 1980s. But I can’t recommend those two. Just not good.)

There’s also the DC Comics full-cast audio dramatizations from Graphic Audio. I’ve loved every one I’ve tried so far.

DEAD WHITE and TRAIL OF TIME are my favorites, but your mileage may vary.

Great for listening to while you’re driving. (We’ve got Batman: Dead White cued up for our road trip.) You might nose around other areas of the Graphic Audio web site while you’re there, too; I found some interesting other titles alongside the DC stuff. (It tickles me that they’ve got Mack Bolan novels available as audio plays.)

I’ve run across some terrific deep-discounted Marvel hardcover collections, for those on a budget — of those, I think the most entertaining were Captain America: America First from Knauf and Chaykin, Beyond! by McDuffie and Kolins, and Giant-Size Hulk from a bunch of different folks including Roger Stern, Peter David, and Jeff Parker.

Waiting a few months for the discount really pays off.

I found each of them remaindered in hardcover, brand-new books, for less than the price of a new single-issue comic book. Can’t beat that.

Anyway, that should get you started. In the Comments section below, feel free to chime in with suggestions of your own — cool stuff you’ve seen that you think has been overlooked, or that’s suddenly available again, or maybe even just a wish list item of your own. Anything that falls into our particular little pop-culture neck of the woods is fair game.

I hope all our stateside readers had a great Thanksgiving, and that no one gets trampled today. The mall crowds are already starting to look a little scary out our way, and it’s only Wednesday as I write this. Personally, I’d try to get as much of my shopping done online as humanly possible.

See you next week.


  1. Jeff Nettleton

    Ah, yes, the Invisible Man! Used to watch that, back in the day. I mostly remember McCallum invisible, except the head and hands rubber coverings; don’t recall the hot wife. It got retooled as Gemini Man, with Ben Murphy, where he is turned invisible, in an accident and a watch helps him become visible again, within a specified time, or he would be permanently lost (something like that). It was decent, if not quite as good. That produced the movie Riding with Death (from two edited together episodes), which was savaged on MST3K, in the Mike Nelson years.

    I have City Beneath the Sea, which is decent enough. You can also get Captain Nemo and the Underwater City, with Robert Ryan and the telefilm The Return of Captain Nemo, with Jose Ferrer, at the Warner Archive site (or you could, last I was there, which has been a while. They also had The Man From Atlantis tv series and telemovies, the Girl From Uncle tv series, the Man From Uncle theatrical film edits and similar cool genre stuff.

  2. Edo Bosnar

    That Doc Savage Showcase book is definitely a great gift idea – and I did find a relatively reasonably priced copy about a year or two afterward. Don’t know if that’s still the case now, though.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.