Saturday, September 12, 2009

Out of the Vault - Rip in Time

Richard Corben was one of those guys who got the word "legendary" appended to his name almost from the time he was first published. His work in underground comics and in the adult-oriented magazine comics like Creepy and Heavy Metal was so unique, so appealing and technically polished and instantly recognizable--you'd be walking through a record store and see a Meat Loaf album and go, "Hey, it's Corben! Cool!"--that his reputation as an artist was guaranteed.

But here's the thing: no one ever, and I mean ever, read a Corben comic for the story. You read it for the airbrushing, the lovingly rendered environments and strange beasts and graphic violence and heroically proportioned over-muscled men, but most of all, perhaps even really in spite of all those other things that sometimes just got in the way, for the naked hypersexualized women with humongogigantonormous tits.

But what if Corben decided to expand his audience by doing a comic without naked women with, you know, tits that require a lot of typing to describe?

Then, my friends, you'd have 1986's Rip in Time, a 5-issue black-and-white limited series published by Corben's Fantagor Press.

Rip in Time was drawn and published by Corben and scripted by Bruce Jones, who had worked with Corben at Warren Publishing. Jones co-wrote, with April Campbell, one of my favorite comics of the 80's (which I believe is still in the Vault--I'll check and if not, I'll do it next week), Somerset Holmes. But without Ms. Campbell's moderating influence, Jones's characters could be astonishingly crass and unappealing.

Take, for instance, Rip in Time. A secret government project run by Colonel Sharon Nelson (an extraordinarily heartless bitch) and Dr. Philpot (who uses secret videotapes of her nude in a changing room to blackmail Col. Nelson into having a drink with him) develops a time-travel machine. They prepare a test to see if they can open a portal into the Cretaceous Period.

In the meantime, police detective Rip Scully--supposedly the toughest, best cop in the LAPD--is on a drive with his rich fiancee Maggie. Rip is using her for her money, and Maggie is using him because she likes strong, dangerous men. They run afoul of a liquor store hold-up by thugs Sid and Darlene. There's a shoot-out in which Darlene is wounded in the shoulder...

Sid takes Maggie hostage and escapes with her in her car. Rip follows in Sid's car, dragging Darlene along. By an extraordinary coincidence, both cars somehow crash into the secret underground military base just as the time-travel experiment is underway, and before you can say, "Cool, naked cavewomen vs. dinosaurs," the four of them are trapped in prehistoric times. Alas, though, there are no naked cavewomen.

Rip and Darlene battle their way through the hostile environment to find Sid and Maggie, because Rip is determined to a)save Maggie and b) arrest Sid. Along the way, he and Darlene fall quickly (and unconvincingly) in love. Meanwhile, Sid and Maggie are having their own bonding experience...

Heartwarming. And at the same time (millions of years in the future) Col Nelson has summoned another soldier named Roper to hunt down and assassinate the four time travelers--apparently, it doesn't cause any sort of time paradox if they step on butterflies or whatever, as long as they never come back to the present. If they do, it will be bad, says Col. Nelson.

So, to recap, here is our cast of characters:

heartless, murdering bitch soldier

devious, manipulative scientist

gold-digging but otherwise noble cop

rich girlfriend who likes to be slapped around

psycho criminal

psycho criminal's girlfriend who isn't really bad, she was just abused as a child

really psycho soldier-assassin, because cops=teh awesome and soldiers=teh eval

And no tits. Seriously. Not a nip in sight, which--let me repeat--NO ONE EVER READ A CORBEN COMIC FOR THE STORY.

Oh, yeah, and remember that time Darlene got shot in shoulder, ripping her shirt (see above)? Completely forgotten in subsequent issues. The shirt has even mended itself without even a spot of blood.

But let me say, the dinosaurs are awesome, lovingly rendered in big panoramic panels. There's a triceratops stampede in issue 2 which kicks serious ass, and best of all (for me, anyway), midway through issue 3 (which means midway through the series) there's this.

In case you've forgotten (or never learned) why that's awesome, let me remind you (or clue you in).

This was a throwaway moment in the original "King Kong" (animated by Willis O'Brien) which echoed another throwaway moment in the 1925 silent film, "The Lost World" (also animated by O'Brien)...

Which is mainly remembered today because the Great and Powerful Harryhausen then referenced it in "The Valley of Gwangi" (which was based on an abandoned Willis O'Brien project).

Since then, other animators have homaged the same moment, such as this moment from "Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World." Note the arm in the screencaps below. It's hard to see because the lighintg is so bad, but the motion is really visible in the movie.

I'm certain there have been other projects that have referenced that same ear/face scratch, but I haven't been able to find them. I know Harryhausen did it at least once more (in test footage he did as a teen that I couldn't find on-line). I thought he'd done it in some of his other films, but couldn't find a similar moment in either "Seventh Voyage of Sinbad," or "Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger," or "1,000,000 Years B.C." They didn't do it in Jackson's "King Kong" remake, either.

Anyway, if there's any doubt that Corben was deliberately evoking "King Kong" there, this should erase it.

One of my favorite moments in the Kong-T Rex fight, translated quite lovingly and faithfully into what was otherwise a pretty crappy comic book story.

You may wonder why I'm spending so much time and effort on a couple of throwaway panels like this. Number one, I'm a huge stop-motion fan from way back, and number two, this is what fans do. We pan the gold from the considerably larger amounts of dross so that we can feel as if our time was not wasted.

Oh, and by the way, Corben is fantastic, but seriously, write this upon your heart and remember it--nobody reads Corben's comics for the stories.

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