If you’ve ever been to Mexico, you might’ve noticed that most of the local business have a … casual … attitude about international copyrights. Whether it’s a gang of unlicensed piñatas in the mercado or a pizza joint named after a certain spinach-chewing sailor man, it’s not hard to find images of copped characters in the country. Kalimán himself wasn’t immune to borrowing a little juice from his American comic cousins, which is how we got Kalimán versus …
A GANG OF THINGS!
Kalimán: “I’m losing. My strength is abandoning me completely.”
A GIANT COSMIC BEING WHO IS DEFINITELY NOT GALACTUS!
I especially like that last one — the way Kalimán kneeling on the edge of the cliff echoes the classic Silver Surfer-on-his-board pose is pretty clever. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go read an issue of Kalimán where he fights a robot that only almost looks exactly like the one from Lost in Space.
Early on, I found myself addicted to science fiction, crime and other types of pulp genres in much the same way most people get hooked on their drug of choice — I was given free tastes in small, easy to swallow doses. In my case, I’ve been mainlining digests and anthologies since elementary school.
Spending time in my aunt’s bookstore meant hours of going through old copies of Analog and Asimov’s Science Fiction. After watching Psycho for the first time, I became hooked on Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and that eventually led to Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (more imagination went into the stories than the name on the covers, I guess). My aunt, gruff but generous, always sent me home with at least a couple of digests to pore through, and they introduced me to more writers and concepts than I can begin to pin down.
Years later, I found myself in junior high and hating almost everything about it. The school was different (not its fault), the teachers sucked (totally their fault), and isolation was at an all-time high (totally my fault). But the library was like this little, ignored jewel in the middle of a crappy crap-pile, and I’d find the most amazing stuff there. I remember one book about a kid who gets lost in some snowy woods and sees a vision of Socrates, and decides he’ll never lie again; the rest of the novel is about the fallout of his choice. There was another book that told the story of a young girl going through her sexual awakening, and discovering that she is a lesbian in love with her friend (surprisingly for the time, the falling in love was the dramatic part, not the fact she was gay). Unfortunately, the titles of both of these books are long gone now.
Those books I found by accident — but I gravitated toward the anthologies like the USS Cygnus into a black hole. For some reason the school library had all my favorites in big, hardcover collections and I tore through them. If it would have been possible to OD on Hitchcock and sci-fi, I’d have been found twitching on the floor of that library.
So fast-forward to a few months ago, and my wife and I are in my hometown visiting my family for the holidays. At one point during the trip we were browsing through a little bookstore/gallery in near-by Mesilla when I noticed a small bookshelf full of digests; Analog, Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Fantastic Stories, and some I’d never even heard of like Worlds of If. I asked how much they were per copy and while the seller was coming up with a number my mom, in her usual generous and spontaneous way, made an offer for the whole batch, telling me, “It’s your Christmas present.” Mom has always encouraged my habit.
Which is how I came to have a large box of sci-fi paperback novels, best-of anthologies and digests in my closet, including this issue of Analog. One of the things I always enjoy about these digests is trying to figure out what the hell is going on in these images, but this issue has the added pleasure of sporting one of the most bizarre combinations of image and story title I’ve ever seen. ‘Cause, man, that guy is pissed at those kites, and he really wants to know what happened to his purse.
(And just for the record, I … er … might’ve joined one or two sci-fi book clubs, too.)
Besides being the scourge of evil cultists, sorcerer crime lords and the Panthers of Istanbul, our pal Kalimán was also a genuine media sensation. As we’ve already seen, Kalimán made a successful leap into comic books and a mostly decent hop into movies, but until fairly recently he never strayed from his birthplace — radio.
The man of mystery came to life in 1963 after Radio Cadena Nacional broadcast its first Kalimán episode on channel 1110 AM in Mexico City. The show starred Luis Manuel Pelayo as Kalimán and Luis de Alba as Solín, though Pelayo wouldn’t get on-air credit since once of the conceits of the broadcast was that it was hosted by Kalimán himself. Joined by the smooth narration of Isidro Olace, the exploits of the peace-lovin’, face-punchin’ hero was pretty much a hit from the start.
Before it was over, the show would log more than 100,000 hours of radio, planting an iconic character so deeply into the Mexican psyche that you can’t bring it up to someone from Mexico without them belting out, “KA! LI! MAAAANNN!!” Like, right in your face. The same goes for Colombia — using the original radio plays and Colombian actors, broadcaster Todelar would have similar success with Kalimán, and no doubt just as much shouting.
Back in Mexico, Kalimán enjoyed a place on the airwaves with both original episodes and reruns as recently as 2008, where shows were still being broadcast on XERL Radio Colima. As far as I can tell, though, there aren’t any stations broadcasting Kalimán anymore, anywhere. And it’s a shame, but these radio shows (and the comics, for that matter) aren’t even available as any kind of collection. Just as it happened with Golden Age comics in the United States, it’s the fallout from producing something the general public viewed as disposable at the time and there’s precious little of it out there now. So if you’re sitting on a stash of Kalimán stuff, you let me know, OK?
Luckily, some Kalimániacs out there seemed to have grabbed some of the radio plays (recording it right from the speakers, from the sound of some of them) and put the original audio on YouTube and for download from … ahem … other sources. Even it is limited, we’re lucky to have anything out there at all, and a lot of it is great. Take, for example, Kalimán in “The Queen of the Gorillas.” Oh, yeah … you heard me.
The show starts with the classic Kalimán opening, thundering out the hero’s name and going on to describe him as, “A gentleman to men! Gallant with the ladies! Tender with children … RELENTLESS WITH EVIL-DOERS! That is Kalimán — EL HOMBRE INCREIBLE!”
Unfortunately, that’s almost how it ends, too: This is the only part of the episode that’s available. C’mon, YouTube user Alisal88, get crackin’!
Still, for something that comes in at just a little under five minutes it’s packed fat with action. The story opens with Kalimán and Solín finally reaching a life-saving, secret oasis in an African desert, where they fill their water bags and plan to catch up to an expedition that will surely croak without their help. Suddenly, shots ring out — someone is shooting at Kalimán and Solín! So much for secret oases!
The pair hit the dirt, and Kalimán soon figures out that they must have been followed, as well as that the shooter is using a Winchester automatic. (When Solín asks him how he can tell, Kalimán tells him he recognizes the sound of the gunshot. Dude’s good. Real good.) Solín tells Kalimán that he’s worried about the horses, since if they get shot they’ll be screwed seeing as they’re out in the middle of a desert that was close to killing them already. Kalimán tells him not to worry; the shooter is alone, and only has three shots left. He’ll get him to waste those bullets and then grab him while he’s reloading, using himself as a target.
Telling Solín not to move, no matter what, Kalimán stands up as another shot ricochets past and says, “Come, assassin! You’ve failed again! Shoot! SHOOT!”
And then … cliffhanger! Argh! It’s like a shot to the gut with a Winchester automatic.
Hey, guess how old I am today?
Luckily, in spite of my official status as “ancient,” I still feel like a pretty hoopy frood. And you can’t beat that with a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster.
Comic by Daniel Werneck
There are two things I love in this world — well, there are three things, but one of them is a secret, you nosey bastard. But the two things I can tell you my undying love for are comic books and movies.
Both have been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember, and on any given day it’s very likely that I’m watching a movie, reading a comic or both. So what could be better than getting the chocolate in my peanut butter with movies based on comic books? Good, bad and everything in between, I watch them all — and I’m inviting you to watch along with me as part of the Comic Book Movie Club.
Now, you might be saying, “Hey, wasn’t there another movie club here that I was totally ignoring?” and the answer would be, yes, yes there was. But while the rules for participating are the same as before, we’ll be taking a different direction from now on and will focus just on films based on comic books or strips. (And since I can break my own rules, movies that are obviously inspired by the medium so we can include titles like Unbreakable and The Iron Giant.) It goes without saying that most of the movies will skew toward the spandex-and-capes genre since that’s what gets adapted most, but I definitely want to make plenty of room for films like Road to Perdition and A History of Violence, so hopefully everyone will feel they have a chance to participate and contribute.
But with that said, we’re going straight to the cult-cheese with the first Comic Book Movie Club selection. Ladies and gentlemen, are you ready for a movie written and directed by Wes Craven? For a man transformed by science, but changed even more by love? For more Adrienne Barbeau than you can handle? Then I give you:
Monsters and midgets! This muck-and-latex encrusted cult classic is available on Netflix and YouTube, so get watching!
Now showing: Swamp Thing (1982)
Submit reviews by: Thursday, March 1
The deal: Write a review of this months’ selection, link it back to me and I’ll link back to you. Send me an e-mail or drop it in the comments so I know it’s there.
Make contact: maxoromero [at] gmail [com]