Saturday, February 21, 2015

Geekdom is a small world sometimes...

So, follow me here: a few nights ago, Wonder Wife and I watched The Rocketeer,  the 1991 movie based on the classic Dave Stevens pulpy comic book series (that had several homes and incarnations in its all-too-brief run). The movie is pretty goofy, more matinee fun than anything, and there are some great turns by folks like Jennifer Connelly, Alan Arkin, Timothy Dalton, and Paul Sorvino (and a pre-Lost Terry O'Quinn as Howard Hughes) as they support Billy Campbell as the high-flying hero.

Anyway, the main muscle for the bad guys is Lothar, a giant, hulking thug in a porkpie hat, played by actor Tiny Ron Taylor:

IIRC, Lothar wasn't in the original series (although he was apparently added to a later adventure created after the movie was made).  The character is clearly modeled on The Hoxton Creeper, a character played by actor Rondo Hatton in the 1944 Sherlock Holmes movie The Pearl of Death:

Now, Tiny Ron Taylor, the movie Lothar, was a big guy - seven feet tall according to his own website - but he was just a guy who gets his clothes at the Big & Tall Shop and was pretty average looking. Here's Tiny Ron without his Lothar makeup:

But Rondo Hatton suffered from acromegaly. This pituitary gland disorder is sometimes associated with gigantism, but surprisingly for his image, Hatton was only average height - maybe a little tall, but certainly not Tiny Ron size. The effects of his condition can be seen more in his facial features, which were distorted by the disorder - his Creeper visage was not done with prosthetics. Here's a typical publicity shot:

So as I was researching all of this after watching the movie, a little bell went off. Remember my review of  Different Ugliness, Different Madness from a few weeks ago? The French graphic novel about two lost souls finding each other? Here's their first meeting from that story:

Let's zoom in on that last panel:

Look familiar?

Now, that there are hommages in Paul Stevens's work is nothing surprising - his stuff was practically wall-to-wall period references and riffs. But why would a French cartoonist working in 2005 use the image of a Hollywood actor who had died in 1946 as the model for his forlorn and alienated character? I can't find a connection between Hatton and France besides his having served there in the First World War. Did Marc Males Google acromegaly and find a picture of Hatton? Or had he watched The Rocketeer too?

Or is is just that all of us nerdy types, whether creators or audience, are all drawn to the same stuff?

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