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Special Collections at the Movies: Planet of the Apes

Released today is the eighth film in the Planet of the Apes franchise, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.”  Set ten years after its predecessor “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” this film promises a darker, more engaging science-fiction world than any other Apes film before it.  In honor of the new movie, Special Collections is proud to bring you “Books of the Planet of the Apes”!  If you’ve got a monkey on your back, swing in to Special Collections and check out some of our simian stuff!

Gorilla-Hunter

This is a scan from one of the opening pages of “Paul Du Chaillu: Gorilla Hunter,” the noted French-American explorer and zoologist.  Du Chaillu is credited with confirming the existence of gorillas, and worked extensively with indigenous Pygmy tribes in Africa.  His exciting life of adventure and discovery is chronicled in “Gorilla Hunter,” and while some today might find the subject matter offensive, Du Chaillu’s legacy in ape history is unquestionable.

Tarzan

Up next we have a graphic novel adaptation of one of the most famous apperances of apes in popular culture, Tarzan the Ape Man.  Tarzan was created by Edgar Rice Burroughs and introduced in the 1912 short story, “Tarzan of the Apes.”  In Burroughs’ origin story, a family is marooned on the African coast and only their young son survives.  He’s adopted by a tribe of apes and raised as their own.  Burroughs continued to publish stories about Tarzan until his death in 1950.  Since then, Tarzan has been adopted once again, this time into popular culture.  Over 200 movies have been released that feature the Ape Man. 

Jungle-Book

Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” introduced the character of Mowgli, an inspiration for Burrough’s Tarzan.  It also inspired this graphic novel by Harvey Kurtzman, also called “The Jungle Book.”  Kurtzman’s work is a social commentary on the nature of man in society, and how quickly humanity can descend back into its more primitive forms.  Kurtzman satirically dedicates his novel to a half-man, half-ape creature. 

Classification

Lastly, and perhaps slightly less aesthetically pleasing, is a chart from former University of Missouri professor James Gavan’s “A Classification of the Order Primates,” which details the line of descent of different species of apes.  It’s interesting to note which species Gavan cites as being nearest to man – according to his work, gorillas, orangutans and chimpanzees are just one evolutionary step away from us.  Published in 1975, more than a century after Charles Darwin pioneered his Theory of Evolution, Gavan’s work still caused controversies.  He participated in a creationism/evolution debate in October, 1975, against a famous creation scientist called Duane Gish, author of several anti-evolution books, including 1972’s “Evidence Against Evolution” and 1986’s “Evolution: The Fossils Say No!”  According to audience reaction, Gish outperformed Gavan in the debate.  A “rematch” was scheduled, but never occurred.  Professor Gavan passed away in 1994, and Gish in 2013.

That’s just a small sample of our simian stockpile.  Don’t wait for the apes to take over – take a look at these (and other great monkey materials) today!

 

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Posted in Comic Collection, Rare Book Collection, University of Missouri Collection

Special Collections at the Movies: Days of Future Past

Marvel Comics' winning streak continued in 1963 when they debuted the X-Men, a group of teenage superheroes who received their powers through mutation.  Originally going to be called the “Merry Mutants,” creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby settled on the title “X-Men” since their characters had “EX-tra power.” 

However, this group of mutants isn’t the only one to ever call themselves X-Men.  As we’ve seen in “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” sometimes completely different generations of mutants must band together under the same moniker.  To start of our Special Collections at the Movies blog series, we’ll highlight several different incarnations of those Merry Mutants that we have in our collection.

1

This is a reprint of the first X-Men issue, published in September, 1963.  It introduces the original five-man team – Angel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman and Marvel Girl – and the X-Men’s most hated archenemy, Magneto.  We can see the team meeting Jean Grey, their newest member, and her amazing power of telekinesis.  Hardcore comic fans might notice something strange about this image – Cyclops’ name is Slim Summers, but we know him better as Scott Summers.  It wasn’t until the third issue of X-Men that Cyclops points out that Slim is just a nickname.

2Next we have an updated version of the same group of mutants, called the First Class.  We can see by the illustration on the cover that the lineup hasn’t changed, but the stories and events have been redesigned for modern readers.  It was this comic book line that was partially adapted into 2011’s “X-Men: First Class.”

3Our third incarnation is also an origin story.  A young Scott Summers is shown receiving his ruby visor, which holds in his optic blasts.  This series is meant to tie in with the animated TV show “X-Men: Evolution,” which focused on the very early years of the team.

4Finally, we have a collection of issues from the Generation X storyline.  Generation X ran from 1994 through 2001, and focused on an entirely different group of mutants.  This group, made of up primarily of Jubilee, Chamber, Husk, Gaia and Synch, often found itself in a moral grey area, often fighting for and against the X-Men. 

These four titles are just a sampling of the various X-Men series we have in Special Collections.  If “Days of Future Past” got you itching for more than the run-of-the-mill mutants, stop on by and check us out!

 

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Posted in Comic Collection

Celebrating 75 Years of the Man of Steel

It’s a bird!  It’s a plane!  It’s Superman’s 75th birthday!  On June 30, 1938, Superman debuted in Action Comics #1, marking the unofficial birth of superheroes in comic books.  Through decades of films, TV shows and comics, the Last Son of Krypton has permeated our culture and become as American as baseball and apple pie.

The creation and history of Superman is as fascinating and heartbreaking as Kal-El’s own fictional backstory.  In 1932, a young Jerry Siegel’s father died of a heart attack brought on by the robbery of the family’s small clothing store.  Within a few years, he and his artistically-minded friend Joe Shuster created Superman – an orphan who is virtually invincible, and who fights tirelessly to rid Metropolis of evildoers.  Siegel and Shuster are eventually commissioned to tell the character’s story in Action Comics. They agree to sell the rights of Superman for $130.

Superman radio serials, television shows and motion pictures soon followed.  While the radio was Superman’s preferred medium in the 40’s, come 1951, Iowa-born actor George Reeves donned the red and blue suit to portray the first live-action Man of Steel in the TV series, “The Adventures of Superman.”  Reeves stood for Truth, Justice and the American Way for the better part of a decade until he was killed in 1959 by a single gunshot wound to the head.  The circumstances surrounding his death are still a mystery.

After a twenty year absence, the Man of Tomorrow returned, this time played by Christopher Reeve in Richard Donner’s classic 1978 film, “Superman.”  Not only was the film a commercial and critical success, it holds a significant historical importance – “Superman” was the first major superhero movie ever released, paving the way for future blockbusters like “Batman”, “Spider-Man”, “Iron Man”, and “The Avengers.”  Reeve held the role for three more films, consistently surrounded by an all-star cast including Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Terence Stamp and Richard Pryor.  Tragically, the Man of Steel proved to be all too human off screen, as a horseback riding accident in 1995 left Reeve paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair until his death in 2004.

The 1990’s and 2000’s were a transitional period for Superman.  He appeared in two very successful television series, first in “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman”, starring Dean Cain as Clark Kent, and then in “Smallville”, with Tom Welling taking the reins.  Both series took root in the hearts and minds of a new generation of Americans, and once again, Superman was soaring. In 2006, Brandon Routh took the lead in Bryan Singer’s “Superman Returns.”  Cast partly for his likeness to the late Christopher Reeve, Routh’s Superman faced off against his arch nemesis Lex Luthor, portrayed by Academy Award-winner Kevin Spacey.  While the film was critically successful, it didn’t resonate well enough with audiences’ wallets to warrant a sequel.  For the last seven years, Americans haven’t seen much of Smallville’s favorite son.  Even the most recent actors to portray him – Dean Cain, Tom Welling and Brandon Routh – have all but faded from memory, as they struggled to find quality roles in Hollywood.

But that all changed last week with the record-breaking release of Zack Snyder’s “Man of Steel”, starring Henry Cavill as Superman and Michael Shannon as the villainous General Zod.  The blockbuster proved that Americans’ fascination with Superman is only growing.  That love for the character will only continue to grow in the next few years, as star Cavill and director Snyder have both signed on for a sequel.  Additionally, Superman is slated to appear in the upcoming “Justice League” film, surrounded by fellow superheroes Batman, Green Lantern, the Flash and Wonder Woman.

If your own interest in the character was piqued by the movie, feel free to fly in to Special Collections and check out our awesome assortment of Superman comics, graphic novels and books.  Everything you see here, and so much more, is available to you.  And unless you have X-Ray vision, you’ll need to get here faster than a speeding bullet and take a look yourself!

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Posted in Comic Collection
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