The Northwoods of Wisconsin’s 1980s Horror Films & FANGORIA Connection?!
I just visited my old stompin’ grounds up in the Northwoods of Wisconsin & it peaked my interest into a specific window of time in the late 1980s & early 90s when apparently horror movie productions were a hot commodity up there-Fangoria was on the cutting edge of “cheesehead” fright flicks! Who knew? So waaaay up north there’s a cluster of small towns, Eagle River, Three Lakes, Sugar Camp & Rhinelander that were the main staple in filming many of these late 80’s early 90’s horror films. There was a unique studio all the way from the UK that oddly made it’s headquarters somewhere between this little group of cities. My mom currently lives in Three lakes (we had a cottage on a lake there since the 80s, my dad grew up there, my Aunt does too and owns a property in Sugar Camp & my mom also just bough a property in Rhinelander) alas I have spent a LOT of time there throughout my life. In fact I was just up there for an entire month. However I never suspected it was a mini horror mecca until recently. Why? Well let’s find out! Wisconsinite horror fanatics, this one’s for YOU!
Windsor Lake Studios which was based in Eagle River, Wisconsin, (I’ve heard possibly Sugar Camp Wisconsin too?) population 1300, produced a number of films for Fangoria and a few other smaller VHS only companies, though a few actually have made it onto blu ray over the past few years. Oddly only one of the trio of Fangoria Films releases have seen blu ray releases. At the time it was a big deal in the horror community when they started producing their own movies. It’s strange to me how or why a movie studio that produced predominantly horror flicks was open and operational in this tiny region nestled in the thick of the Northwoods and it’s plentiful chain of lakes. It’s definitely NOT Hollywood in the Northwoods-I can fully attest to that! That being said you just might run into a Rhinelander, Hodag (pictured below) in the woods if you’re lucky enough..
Windsor Lake Studio was started in 1987 and attracted the talent of Eagle River native Hank Carlson, only a teen at the time but had ambitions to be the “next Tom Savini”. He went on to become quite an impressive practical fx artist getting his start at Winsdor Lake by being annoyingly persistent, visiting the studio property many times though univited. There’s a great interview with him right here for all of you locals who want the scoop on this regional horror legend. He also gives some excellent perspective in the commentary of the Arrow Video blu ray’s for ‘Trapped Alive’ & ‘The Chill Factor’.
The three owners of the studio were from the UK and producers of major Hollywood hits ‘Heathers’ and more notably ‘Hellraiser’ & ‘Hellraiser II: Hellbound’. Apparently the premiere for ‘Hellraiser’ happened at the Vilas theater in small town Eagle River where Hank Carlson worked. I wish I’d have known that back then dammit!
Comic Cover of the Week: Wisconsin’s Forgotten 1980s Superhero!
Here’s a flashback to late 1980s indie comics who’s covers pack a punch (or more so a KICK)! Wisconsin superhero Badger was always a favorite of mine, for one reason because the cheese state, from which I hail, never got much attention in the superhero spectrum. Mike Baron’s ‘First Comics’ creation was a truly unique spin on the genre. This incredible cover was one as a Wisconsinite always stuck in my mind! Badger was truly reppin’ the Midwest! A dynamic cover from 1988 by Steve Rude is one of my faves hands DOWN!
She-Hulk Ruins The Great Lakes Avengers’ MR. IMMORTAL?!
OMG! Disney Plus MCU really does make dreams come true?! I’ve been begging for the appearance of the Great Lakes Avengers, one of my favorite ridiculous “D-lister” comic book teams to appear in their cinematic universe for years. Today on the latest episode of SHE-HULK they gave us the live action version of the classic GLA team member/founder Mr. Immortal.
Unfortunately they of course, completely ruined the character, Craig Hollis, transforming him from a frumpy but charismatic, misunderstood, misfit, underdog superhero to a pompous, rich, lame, uninterseting, selfish old prick. Yet another unlikable character to add to the shows already long list of IMO crappy cast members.
Mr. Immortal from the comic books was a poor, down on his luck, extremely depressed person who mustered up the strength and courage to form a team of misfit superheroes at his local YMCA thrrough ads in the local paper’s want ads.
Being a native of Wisconsin of I’d always found this team particularly endearing being based in Milwaukee. The Midwest never got to have cool superheroes & their origin story, I always imagined, would be a unique one to see unfold on the big or small screen. Even the Russo brothers who helmed Avengers: Endgame/Infinity War had recently suggested the team would make a great addition to the Marvel cinematic universe. I really couldn’t agree more, there’s so much fun to be had with them…
So unfortunately everything on these terrible Disney MCU TV streaming shows seems to be cannon. Yep they have indeed officially ruined the character and likely any hope for a Great Lakes Avengers show to ever materialize.
Apparently they even inserted a QR code into the episode when the character appears which will lead you to West Coast Avengers #46, the 1st appearance of the team just to rub it in all of our faces..
If you’re going to change a character this much from the comic book version why not just avoid it alltogether and introduce someone different in the role? Ughh..After watching this pathetic attempt at comedy today, I can honestly now confidently say that She-Hulk is easily one of the worst things I have seen in the MCU. It’s absolutely incredible how “funny” they think their show is too, when in reality I think it’s completely possible that these scripts are being generated by AI. It also leads me on to believe another sad fact, if you were a die hard fan of the classic Marvel Comics, the current version at least of the MCU is most definitely NOT for you.
Hey I’m probably the only person out there who actually gives a damn about The Great Lakes Avengers or Mr. Immortal, but this one kind of hurt. They already completely ruined the live action version of The Wrecking Crew in this series so it’s no surprise I guess.
So at the end of the day I guess I really don’t care because The Great Lakes Avengers were always destined to fail. Especially if they were introduced into the current version of the MCU. They’d never have the guts to actually tell their truly unique darkly comedic origin story on their platform anyway. That all being said, if you’re diggin’ She-Hulk I’m really happy for you, no ill will there, continue on, however the exit from the MCU for me is looking much closer than it ever has before…
MOVIE MELT Heads Off to Michigan’s Lush & Legendary ‘WEREWOLF ISLAND’ !!
So I went back on the Movie Melt Podcast to cover yet another pretty impressive vanity project from 2018! This time we’re headed off to ‘Werewolf Island’ AKA ‘The Legend of ‘Dog Lady Island’ (a way better name imo) for some truly ridiculous midwest horror shenanigans straight out of Michigan!If you’re into stupid but ambitious low budget horror films then this episode will definitely NOT let you down- as a native Wisconsinite myself I’m fully on board for this voyage that takes us to a place where movies are rarely produced and rarely talked about-deep into the heart of the midwest. Director/star Michael James Alexander might be considered past his prime but he don’t give a DAMN, he’s gonna make his acting AND directing AND writing fantasies come TRUE whether you like it or not!
That’s what’s most exciting to me, cinematic dreams can sorta kinda come true even as you get older. It’s sorta somewhat inspiring as Werewolf Island kinda shows me that anyone with enough ambition and elbow grease can sorta produce, write, direct and start in a damn movie! So who knows maybe I’ll be next?!!
Yeah…so this is NOT from the movie but what the hell, there aren’t any other photos from it online! This’ll do!
So I suggest you grab a few drinks, sit down and chill out here for some mind numbing movie madness with more useless cinematic information than your brain can humanly comprehend!
Also some serious trash movie recommendations as well as some bonafide bangers, of what’ you might wanna be checking out if you’re a crazed mutant movie fanatic like myself! LISTEN TO MOVIE MELT RIGHT HERE!!
Comic Cover of the Week: Wisconsin’s Finest AVENGERS!
I’ve been saying it here literally for years, the MCU is missing the boat on one of their most outrageously hilarious superhero teams: The Great Lakes Avengers! Since the Avengers are still all the rage and essentially dismantled at the moment, it’d be the perfect time for the comedic gold of Wisconsin’s very own superhero team to get a series of their own on Disney Plus. The team was created way back in 1989 by none other than comic icon writer and artist John Byrne and their introduction back then meant a lot to me at the time being a Wisconsinite myself. Essentially a band of misfit z-grade superheroes who decide to start an Avengers team of their own to rep the Midwest, only problem is their crime fighting skills aren’t exactly “Avenger’s level”. Nope the team’s got A LOT of work to do-but none of that’s gonna stop em’ from tryin’ dammit!
Even at one point Hawkeye and Mockingbird attempt to train them, which of course proves to be quite challenging in itself. The team went on to later appear alongside Deadpool and also had a great 4-issue miniseries by Dan Slott that’s a must read. They more recently tried to give them their own monthly book, but it really lost the dark comedy angle and edge of their previous appearances and was cancelled. This great cover by John Byrne shows once again how effective simplicity can be as we got our very first look at the mighty Great Lakes Avengers!~
U-Dork Rock: 90’s Alt Pop Punkers DOUGHBOYS + MEGA CITY FOUR Lost Vids!
I rarely ever do music posts here, but every now and again I’ll throw something up that really means something to me. Well today I wanted to share a few videos that recently surfaced from one of my all time favorite nearly forgotten bands, Canada’s own DOUGHBOYS. The Doughboys, who formed in ’86 have been a staple in my teen years right up to today. My best description of them would probably be to call them Canada’s answer to HUSKER DU (except with more focus on vocal harmonies) another of my all time faves. Blending their punk roots with crunchy power pop before the likes of Blink 182 was everyone’s go to idea of what pop punk is. I’d even go as far to say that in the early 90’s they were kinda like what the the classic early Foo Fighters would eventually become.
They also were one of the most entertaining & energetic live bands I’ve ever seen, I often felt bad for any band who had to follow them on a bill and the sheer amount of hair this band had collectively would leave any metal band envious. If you like the sound of what I’m laying out here I recommend checking out their 5 albums, you won’t be disappointed. So back in 1996 these guys released their last album ‘Turn Me On’ and it was one of their best. My old band, Ben Grim, even opened for them once in Green Bay, Wisconsin at the iconic ‘Concert Cafe’ during this period, ah those were the days.
Ok so the one thing that was exciting about this era of the Doughboys was that they replaced their longtime lead guitarist. Normally I’d have been upset by the news, but they chose Darren “Wiz” Brown (RIP), the singer/guitarist of one of my other all time favorite bands, Mega City Four, to keep the band in tact. Mega City Four is basically the British counterpart to bands like Husker DU and the Doughboys & Wiz even co wrote songs with the band. So hearing he’d joined made me and my friends most excited for what they might come up with for their next album. However that sadly was not the case, the Doughboys career didn’t last much longer and to my knowledge they only recorded one song with the Wiz in the line up (unless of course they did some demos?!). Still, he was clearly a Doughboy and was pictured on the album and also in the videos that ‘Turn Me On’ produced.
Yeah there were a couple videos back then that never saw the light of day here in the USA, but now 25 years later they of course surface on Youtube! The damn wonders of the internet, I tell you. So hopefully this post might be seen by other fans of the band. who like me. missed out on them decades ago, it was a big deal for Mega City Four and the Doughboys to merge back in the mid 90’s. For a few minutes upon watching these videos I felt the pressures of the modern day vanish into simpler sweeter times of alternative 90’s rock. Check out ‘I Never Liked You’ one of the band’s best songs from ‘Turn Me On’ that also features the late great Wiz on guitar…
….and another great one ‘Everything and After’ from the same album:
Also some footage I posted from the same era:
Movie Reviews: Shatner Kills Demons with a Bazooka?! Killer Clowns from Wisconsin?!
I headed out to the local video store the other night (yeah in Portland we still got an amazing one called Movie Madness) to rent some movies, just like we used to do back in the good ol’ days. Let’s face it folks, sometimes it’s nice to take a break from the bland streaming services like Netflix and physically roam around a video store in hopes of stumbling across something entertaining. I decided this time I’d check out some new stuff I haven’t seen streaming out there.
First up was ‘Gags The Clown’ a movie I’d wanted to check out for quite some time now, being a Wisconsin native for much of my life & knowing this horror flick takes place in Green Bay (a place I’d personally hung out so many times in my teens & twenties) made this a no brainer rental. The cover art alone is pretty awesome and would look lovely gracing an old VHS.
Anyway I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not a giant fan of “found footage” horror movies and it’s been pretty played out these days in my opinion at least. But in this case I was lured in mainly because I’m just downright intrigued by movies made in ‘The Dairy state’. So the idea of ‘Gags’ was inspired by the whole creepy clown roaming the streets in real life viral video phenomenon a few years or so back. The interesting thing here is that creator of ‘Gags’ actually took advantage of this using his character to supposedly fool local Green Bay residents and the local news to report on it, eventually gathering up some worldwide interest in the creepy clown. A pretty brilliant marketing move to say the least. Continue reading
It’s The Perfect Time for ‘The Great Lakes AVENGERS’ to Enter the MCU!
True Believers, it’s never been a more perfect time for the ‘Great Lakes Avengers’ to make their grand entrance into the MCU! Ok, I know many of you casual Marvel movie fanatics out there are likely wondering just who and what the hell I’m talking about, but the “GLA” as they’re also referred to have been around since the late 80’s and have on a couple occasions attempted to actually replace The Avengers, most notably when they tragically disassembled in 2004 in the comics. The Milwaukee, Wisconsin based team are most well known as the ultimate gang of blundering misfit superheroes and when the Avengers disbanded they figured they’d simply take the mantle of the team for themselves to reap all the glory for themselves. Of course they quickly found out they weren’t quite qualified when it came down to taking out major threats to the planet. So why introduce these guys now into the MCU huh?
Well at the current moment in the movies The Avengers aren’t really a thing anymore, at least for the moment. With Cap old & retired and Tony Stark dead, it’d be the perfect time to check out the origin story and rise of ‘The Great Lakes Avengers’. In fact with the ‘Disney+’ streaming service there’s the platform needed to tell their ridiculously madcap story. Since 1989 when writer/artist John Byrne introduced the underdog team to the Marvel Universe (West Coast Avengers #46), I’ve been a big fan. In fact I listed them before as one of the obscure Marvel teams I thought would make a great movie or better yet today a comedic Disney+ series after the success of the D-listers The Guardians of the Galaxy. To me the team has so much more potential than GOG, with their origin story alone being a helluva good adventure, if even at times more of a dark comedy.
The name of the team alone would spark immediate interest and originally back in the comic books they’d even been coached by Hawkeye and Mockingbird who desperately tried to whip them into shape. You could even have Jeremy Renner make a cameo in an episode as Hawkeye to do just that. Considering the team’s ranks were filled from a classified ad in the newspaper would open the door to so many great comedic scenarios as well.
Then there’s the team themselves, which consists of Mr. Immortal, a mutant with a super-superhuman healing factor and the ability to survive the most gruesome deaths, Bertha who’s the most popular fashion icon in Milwaukee WI who has the ability to bulk up like the Blob, Dinah-soar the flying female reptilian, Doorman a mutant who can create doorways using alternate universes to pass through solid objects and finally Flatman, the team’s current leader & openly gay two dimensional version of Reed Richards. But wait the team was also home to the now iconic Squirrel Girl and this would be the perfect place for her to make her official MCU debut!
This team and their story would make for the perfect superhero series, there’s so many interesting angles to explore. From forming the team, to training to be the new “Avengers”, to their many failed missions and their attempt to square off against a real superhuman threat. There’s something truly charming about exploring an underdog group of down on their luck superhuman characters. The comedy practically writes itself and they’d be a surefire win in a series of their own as there’s nothing quite like them out there yet. So what do you think? Do you think now’s the time for this weird-o gang of midwest superheroes to enter into the fold?! If I’ve peaked your interest a good launch point of the team is the six issue mini series from Dan Slott from 2005 called “GLA: Misassembled”, I think that would be a perfect blueprint for a Disney+ series….
Comic Cover of the Week: The Great Lakes Avengers X-Mas!!
Holy shit it’s Christmas eve!! I thought I take slip in rad holiday themed comic book cover from one of my favorite Marvel comics super teams, The Great Lakes Avengers! Hailing from my old stompin’ grounds of Wisconsin, these midwest misfits don’t ever seem to get the respect they deserve! Aside from Squirrel Girl, who’s now a superstar, these dudes haven’t been given enough respect & deserve in my humble opinion their very own damn movie!! This great cover from 2006 drawn by Paul Pelletier is a ton of fun to behold. The issue itself is pretty damn great as well! A must read this Holiday!!!! Long live the Great Lakes Avengers!!
The All Time Greatest One Shot Comics: The Incredible Hulk’s Wisconsin Rampage!
Here’s the second installment of the all time greatest one shot comics, featuring small self contained stories that begin & end all within the span of one single issue! Today we’ve got an excellent story from 2001 in The Incredible Hulk #26 (vol. 2) written by Sean Mckeever and drawn by one of my personal favorites, the amazing Kyle Hotz. I immediately had a soft spot for this issue as it takes place in Wausau, Wisconsin (and even features ‘Eagle River’ on a highway sign, a place where my family’s had a cottage for ages) a state that we don’t normally see superhero adventures taking place. I had a feeling that Mckeever must’ve been a Wisconsin native to include such random small towns in this story and I was right as his Wiki page states he’s from Appleton (I used to live there!).
Anyway the story features The Hulk as he wanders aimlessly through the night on a lonely highway being drawn to a nearby city’s lights in the distance. The Hulk appears to be at peace in the quiet night, but hey we all know for the jade giant tranquility never lasts long. The cool thing about this particular issue is that Hulk kinda takes a back seat as the story really follows the exploits of b-lister down on his luck supervillain ‘The Killer Shrike’ and his wife Nadine who’re traveling the country aimlessly in his beat up van. I love what this one brings to the table as we’re able to see Simon Maddicks (The Killer Shrike) life as a real person. We witness the struggle of a woman who’s stuck by her mate as he’s chosen a life as a superhuman criminal constantly on the run from the law. She’s tired and ready to live a normal boring life. Shrike’s promising her soon he’ll be ready and willing to give up the life of crime and pulls into Wausau claiming that it could be the city for both of them to settle down in.
It doesn’t take long for her to realize Simon’s lying through his teeth as he eyes up a convenience store and tells her he’s got a new plan. Rather than looking for the big score like he has for years he’s gonna hit small towns hard where there’s no superhuman resistance. We get a real glimpse in to what life might really be like for a supervillain who at his core is just a regular small time crook. There haven’t been too many comics that have covered this topic so intimately and really given us a look at the starving supervillain’s daily life. It’s too bad The Killer Shrike doesn’t realize this small city’s also harboring the most powerful brute force on the planet-The Hulk. We get a compelling introspective into just what makes The Hulk tick and where his thoughts wander to when he’s in a state of peace with his surroundings. There’s a lot of great dialogue packed into this little story and Hotz’s unique artwork really brings this tale to life
The Killer Shrike suits up in his van and hit’s the convenience store with an easy small time score, or so he thinks. On his way out with the cash he nearly runs head on into you guessed it…good ol’ green jeans himself. The Shrike in sheer panic attacks The Hulk, who really just wants to be left alone. He’s doesn’t let up either as he’s convinced he can take down The Hulk himself, he keeps on striking until he levels an entire building upon the jade giant. The Killer Shrike however quickly realizes that very building also crushed his getaway van with his lover, Nadine inside. As things often go wrong when puny humans decide to pester the Hulk, this issue delivers a heartfelt punch to the gut as we witness one fateful night in the life of Simon Maddicks. I wish Marvel could capture this type of depth in their characters and villains more often as The Incredible Hulk #26 would be great issue to present to Marvel executives today as they ponder upon why their comic book sales have declined so much recently. Check this issue out next time you’re at the comic shop roaming through the back issue boxes, it’s a damn fine little slice of storytelling! P.S. here’s an old Marvel Universe profile for the Killer Shrike!