Friday, February 29, 2008

Falling Slowly

Last weekend I had to head off to the airport during the Academy Awards broadcast. I'm one of those who watch and watch every year. I didn't expect too many surprises during the remainder of the broadcast but I wanted very much to hear the nominated song from the film Once. I still have not been home and I'm sure the broadcast will not still be on my TiVo when I do, so I was ever so happy to find this on YouTube:

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Strange Adventures #211

Strange Adventures #211 (On Sale: February 29, 1968) has a nice dramatic cover by Neal Adams.

"How Close to Me My Killer?" is by Jack Miller and Neal Adams. Deadman follows the trail of the Hook to Mexico. He is surprised to find his twin brother, Cleveland Brand, living in Mexico. He begins to suspect that Cleveland was involved in his murder, but instead discovers that Cleve is really part of an immigrant smuggling operation. When Cleveland is ordered to kill the workers to prevent them from being discovered by police, he refuses. Deadman then helps his brother stop the other smugglers. This story has been reprinted in Deadman #4.

The back-up story featuring the Space Museum is "Earth Victory -- by a Hair." It is a reprint from Strange Adventures #124 and is by Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino.

Edited by Jack Miller.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

One Out Of Every 100

We're Number One! We're Number One!

Yea for us! As it points out here, the United States is the number one incarcerator on the planet, with one out of every 100 (actually one out of every 99.1) American adults in jail or prison. In California alone we spent $8.8 billion on corrections last year. How many of these are pot offenders or three-strikes offenders who stole a slice of pizza?

I'm sure all you big "law and order" Republicans are so proud of yourselves.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #110

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #110 (On Sale: February 27, 1968) features a cool Neal Adams cover. This thing reminds me of those great golden age Superman covers.

"Jimmy Olsen's Blackest Deeds" is by Jim Shooter, Curt Swan and George Klein. Jimmy Olsen volunteers for an experiment which allows him to go back in time and assume the bodies of men for which he is genetically similar (and by that they apparently mean other people who are side-kicks to heroes!). In one of his past lives, Jimmy was Janus, a friend of Julius Caesar. Jimmy learns that he betrayed Caesar and allowed the ruler to be assassinated.

In another of Jimmy's lives, he was Sir Oliver, a knight who served Richard the Lion-Hearted. During a battle, Jimmy was ordered to protect Richard, but he fled. Richard's attack succeeded, but the king was fatally wounded as a result of Jimmy's desertion.

Jimmy then takes the place of a Civil War soldier. After the war, the soldier is posted as a guard outside Ford Theatre while President Lincoln is watching a play. Jimmy falls asleep on guard duty and allows John Wilkes Booth to enter and kill Lincoln.

When Jimmy returns to the present he is disturbed that he brought about the downfall of great men. He worries that the same will happen to Superman, so he goes into exile.

The back-up story, "The Menace of Superman's Fan Mail," is a reprint from Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #35, by Otto Binder, Curt Swan and Stan Kaye. To increase circulation at the Daily Planet, Jimmy Olsen runs a promotion in which he will answer questions about Superman. Thousands of letters arrive, each asking a different question which Jimmy answers. Some letters ask for a personal response from Superman himself, who agrees to help.

A criminal named "Labs" Logan has developed a Kryptonite solution which he puts onto some return envelopes. When Superman licks them he is slowly poisoned. As the poison begins to take effect, Superman becomes weaker.

"Labs" forces Jimmy to give Superman another poisoned envelope, which when licked by Superman, causes him to pass out.

Edited by Mort Weisinger.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Signs of a Sick Species

In the Larry Niven/Jerry Pournelle novel The Mote In God's Eye, humanity meets aliens for the first time, aliens with a horrifying secret. The Moties (as humanity calls them) are sequential hermaphrodites, endlessly changing from one sex to the other. The horrifying aspect is that when female, the Moties must get pregnant or they will die. Population explosions are a way of life for the Moties and the only why to rid yourself of a rapidly growing population is to have wars, lots and lots of nuclear wars.

The true nature of the Moties is first guessed when in a desert, out in the middle of nowhere, the humans find huge buildings holding the making of civilization. The DNA for animals, the seeds for plants and foodstuff, the record of the current civilization. What a sad race that they must protect what they have from themselves, that they must leave clues for those who will follow them. You'd have to be pretty sick as a species to do something like that.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Copper Clapper Caper

I was listening to Sirius Radio channel 118, Radio Classics the other day and an episode of Dragnet came on. Before the show began the announcer went into the story of how Jack Webb had come up with the idea for Dragnet. The quote below from Wikipedia describes it in even greater detail...

Dragnet had its origins in Jack Webb's small role as a police forensic scientist in the 1948 film, He Walked by Night, inspired by the actual murder of a police officer in Los Angeles. The film was depicted in semidocumentary style, and Marty Wynn (an actual LAPD sergeant from the robbery division) was a technical advisor on the film. Webb and Wynn became friends, and both thought that the day-to-day activities of police officers could be realistically depicted, and could make for compelling drama without the forced sense of melodrama then so common in radio programming.

With writer James E. Moser, Webb prepared an audition recording, then sought the LAPD's endorsement; he wanted to use cases from official files in order to demonstrate the steps taken by police officers during investigations. The official response was initially lukewarm, but in 1950 LAPD Chief William H. Parker offered Webb the endorsement he sought. Police wanted control over the program's sponsor, and insisted that police not be depicted unflatteringly. This would lead to some criticism, as LAPD racial segregation policies were never addressed, nor was there a suggestion of police corruption.

The first several months of Dragnet were bumpy, as Webb and company worked out the program's format and eventually became comfortable with their characters. Gradually, Friday's deadpan, fast-talking persona emerged. Friday's first partner was Sgt. Ben Romero, portrayed by Barton Yarborough, a longtime radio actor. When Dragnet hit its stride, it became one of radio's top-rated shows.

Webb insisted on realism in every aspect of the show. The dialogue was clipped, understated and sparse, influenced by the hard-boiled school of crime fiction. Scripts were fast moving but didn’t seem rushed. Every aspect of police work was chronicled, step by step: From patrols and paperwork, to crime scene investigation, lab work and questioning witnesses or suspects. The detectives’ personal lives were mentioned, but rarely took center stage. (Friday was a bachelor who lived with his mother; Romero was an ever-fretful husband and father.) "Underplaying is still acting", Webb told Time. "We try to make it as real as a guy pouring a cup of coffee.” Los Angeles police chiefs C.B. Horrall and (later) William H. Parker were credited as consultants, and many police officers were fans.

Two announcers were used. Episodes began with announcer George Fenneman intoning the series opening ("The story you are about to hear is true; only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.") and Hal Gibney describing the basic premise of the episode. "Big Saint" (April 26, 1951) for example, begins with, "You're a Detective Sergeant, you're assigned to auto theft detail. A well organized ring of car thieves begins operations in your city. It's one of the most puzzling cases you've ever encountered. Your job: break it."

The story then usually began with footsteps and a door closing, followed by Joe Friday intoning something like: "Tuesday, February 12. It was cold in Los Angeles. We were working the day watch out of robbery division. My partner's Ben Romero. The boss is Ed Backstram, chief of detectives. My name's Friday."

Friday offered voice-over narration throughout the episodes, noting the time, date and place of every scene as he and his partners went through their day investigating the crime. At the end of an episode, announcer Hal Gibney would relate the fate of the suspect. They were usually convicted of a crime and sent to "the State Penitentiary" or a state mental hospital. Murderers were often "executed in the manner prescribed by law." Occasionally, police pursued the wrong suspect, and criminals sometimes avoided justice or escaped, at least on the radio version of Dragnet.
All of this brings me to the clip below. As most know, Dragnet became a popular NBC TV series and Jack Webb became a real live TV star. But though most thought him too stodgy and uptight, he proved on one episode of the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, that sometimes, if only for a few minutes, Jack Webb could let his hair down and not take his show, or his persona on the show, too seriously. Enjoy!

Johnny Carson - Copper Clappers - The most popular videos are a click away

Friday, February 22, 2008

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Star Spangled War Stories #138

Star Spangled War Stories #138 (On Sale: February 22, 1968) has a nice cover by newly promoted editor Joe Kubert featuring Enemy Ace, who takes over a book for the first time.

"The Slayers and the Slain," featuring Baron Hans Von Hammer, Enemy Ace, the German ace fighter pilot of 1917, is by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert. This story has been reprinted in Star Spangled War Stories #161, Sgt. Rock #17 and Enemy Ace Archives Vol. 1 HC.

Edited by Joe Kubert.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

White House To Assassins: Obama Is All Yours!

This despicable excuse for a government has given assassins the green light to take out Obama. May George Bush and all his cronies rot in hell.
DALLAS, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- The Secret Service told Dallas police to stop screening for weapons while people were still arriving at a campaign rally for Barack Obama, a report said.

Police stopped checking people for weapons at the front gates of Reunion Arena more than an hour before the Democratic presidential hopeful appeared on stage Wednesday, the Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram reported.

Police said the order to stop using metal detectors and checking purses and laptop bags constituted a security lapse, the newspaper reported.

Dallas Deputy Police Chief T.W. Lawrence -- who heads the department's homeland security and special operations divisions -- told the Star-Telegram the order had been intended to speed up seating of the more than 17,000 people who came to hear the candidate speak.

Lawrence said he was concerned about the large number of people being let in without being screened, but that the crowd seemed "friendly," the newspaper said.

Several Dallas police officers -- speaking on condition of anonymity because the order came from federal officers -- told the newspaper it was worrying to see so many people get it without even a cursory inspection.

The Star-Telegram said the Secret Service did not return a call seeking comment.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

19% and Falling

George W. Bush's overall job approval rating has dropped to a new low in American Research Group polling as 78% of Americans say that the national economy is getting worse according to the latest survey from the American Research Group.

Among all Americans, 19% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 77% disapprove. When it comes to Bush's handling of the economy, 14% approve and 79% disapprove.

I sure hope McCain keeps his promise to use this guy all the time to support him on the campaign trail.

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Superboy #146

Superboy #146 (On Sale: February 20, 1968) has an "OK" cover by Neal Adams.

"The Runaway Superboy" is by Leo Dorfman, Curt Swan and Sheldon Moldoff. Clark Kent leaves home and meets up with two runaway boys on the road. He deduces that one boy is Barry Porter who has left home after his father accused him of theft. Superboy proves to Dr. Porter that Barry is not a thief, so the boy returns home.

The other boy, Ducks, is an homely orphan. When a runaway steamroller threatens to hit a blind couple, Ducks helps them get out of the way while Clark secretly uses his powers to stop the steamroller. Ducks is then adopted by the blind couple.

Clark then continues on his own. His foster parents send out an anonymous notice that Superboy has run away from home. Superboy sees the notice, but he mysteriously refuses to return home.

The back-up is "The Notorious Captain Sinbad Kent" reprinted from Superboy #79 and by Robert Bernstein and John Sikela. For a school project, the Kent family line is traced back to Captain Sinbad Kent, a pirate in the days of the Revolutionary War. The town of Smallville learns of the Kent lineage and begins to harass Jonathan at the Kent store.

Superboy travels back in time to learn the truth about his adopted ancestor. He soon discovers that the accounts are true, and Captain Sinbad is indeed a notorious pirate. Later, however, Superboy learns that Sinbad is actually working undercover for the colonists in their fight with the British. Superboy aids the captain and then returns home to his own time.

With no way to prove the reasons for his ancestors actions, Jonathan plans to leave Smallville. A document is uncovered though that exonerates Captain Sinbad and reveals his true motives. The Kent name is finally cleared.

Edited by Mort Weisinger.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Happy Birthday Doc!

Over on the Tony Isabella board Anthony Tollin let us know that "The first issue of DOC SAVAGE MAGAZINE debuted 75 years ago on February 17, 1933." I've read a few of the Doc Savage paperbacks in my time, but I mostly collected them for the James Bama covers, not really caring that much for the stories.

The thing I remember most as a kid about Doc was my father talking about how much he loved the magazine when he was a kid and how much he thought was stolen from Doc when Batman was created. Doc was considered one of the first super-heroes, even when, like Batman, he had no real powers. But he was a millionaire philanthropist who did have his heightened physical strength, his scientist's mind, his utility vest carrying just the thing he needed to get out of the latest jam and a number of cool vehicles he kept in hidden hangers. Yeah, that does sound a lot like Batman, doesn't it.

Doc Savage was created by Lester Dent, who worked under the pen name of Kenneth Robeson. The thing I remember about the few books I read and something I also read in the Steranko History of Comics was that Dent had this really strange formula he used to write his pulp stories and he would, if he could, keep one secret till the very end of the story. Till the very last sentence, and if he could, to the very last word. This required some convoluted structure in both the story and the last sentence, but Dent swears that he sold every story he ever wrote using this formula.

Like I said, it was never quite my cup of tea, but it sure captured the hearts and the imaginations of millions, including a boy from Eunice Louisiana who just happened to on day be my father. Happy Birthday Doc!

The Sack Speaks More Lies! Be Afraid! Be Very Afraid!

As Keith Olbermann points out this week, that sack of shit sitting in the White House is once again lying through his teeth in an attempt to scare the American people and save the ass of his friends in big business and his woeful administration. No shame in this guy whatsoever!

The Horrors Of It All

Through a comment on my DC Comics 40 Years Ago blog I discovered this wonderful blog by Karswell, The Horrors Of It All! It covers 1950's pre-code horror comics and more. The site has news and fun stuff regarding horror, but it also has some full stories from the 1950s in all their horrific glory. Check it out when you have a lot of free time; you'll need it to go through all of the treasures compiled there.

Words To Regret II

As I mentioned before, a few months ago my friend and Pop Thought imagineer, Alex Ness, asked me if I would like to illustrate one of the short horror stories he was working on. I agreed and am getting closer to finishing my four pages, the first real comic work I have done in a very long time. The above is a nearly complete panel from the third page of Words to Regret.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Time Is On My Side?

The part of my new job that requires me to travel to far off distant lands (OK, only Florida) is about to "kick in." I'm not sure if this means I will have more time for devoting to my blogs, art and personal programming or less. My trips are supposed to be two-week long treks, which should mean I will have lots of time at night, but you never know how these things will work out until they actually happen.

Time, it may be on my side.

Friday, February 15, 2008

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Metal Men #31

Metal Men #31 On Sale: February 15, 1968) has a cover by Gil Kane, which, for some reason, reminds me of the covers Walt Simonson did years later on the Metal Men revival.

"The Amazing School for Robots" is by Otto Binder, Gil Kane and Mike Esposito. Doc Magnus creates a second team of Metal Men in case the first team is damaged. The second team which consists of Silver, Osmium, Gallium, Iridia, Zinc, and Cobalt are then trained by the original Metal Men. The new robots prove to be as good or better than their mentors and jealousy ensues. When Doc praises the replacements, the first team decides to quit.

Each of the original Metal Men take ordinary jobs, while Tina meets a disembodied intelligence from space named Darzz. She frees Darzz from an energy globe which then allows him to animate the inanimate. Darzz is secretly evil and uses Tina to take control of the replacement Metal Men.

The original team of Metal Men reunite to battle their replacements now under the control of Darzz. In combat, they exploit the weaknesses of the new robots and destroy them all. After Darzz has been defeated, Doc praises his original Metal Men and vows that he will not create another group to replace them.

Edited by Robert Kanigher.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

My First Concert

I have no idea what my parent thought they were doing letting me go to a rock concert when I was 11 years old, but I talked them into letting me do just that. My friend Jack Halsey and I must have had a good rap going as both our parents let us go together. For my part I remember telling my mother that this was a farewell tour for these two groups and I would never get a chance to see them if I didn't go to this concert.

It wasn't a bullshit line, this was both band's final tour. It worked. It was 1967 or 1968 and I was 11 years old.

Here is the opening act:

Yeah, the Buffalo Springfield with Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Jim Messina and Richie Fury.

Here is the headliner:

The concert was at the Swing Auditorium on the National Orange Show grounds in San Bernardino California. Growing up I saw maybe 25-30 concerts in this great hall, with the old wooden stage, but this was my first one. That night I learned that seating didn't mean anything in the Swing. If there were chairs on the bare concrete floor they didn't stay in neat rows our even upright for very long. The Swing was about standing in a crowd crushing in on the stage; maybe not in these early years, but as time went on shows at the Swing became less and less controlled. It was an amazing venue.

Growing up it was always a great time at the Swing and this was my first taste. I remember Jack Halsey and I were giddy when Eric Burdon sang, "Die. Die. Die you mothefucker, Die." Swearing was so taboo back then, well, it was if you were 11.

Small Change

My favorite Tom Waits' album is Small Change. Here is Tom doing the title song live, the story of the local hood Small Change who got "rained on, with his own .38."

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane #82

Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane #82 On Sale: February 13, 1968) has a cover by Neal Adams.

"The Tragic Fate of the Superman Sweethearts" is by Leo Dorfman, Irv Novick and Mike Esposito. Lois Lane is transported to the future after boarding a time machine space ship. She arrives in the year 4068 and learns that she is destined to marry Superman. However, the marriage is short-lived when the couple is killed on their honeymoon by the Executioners.

Lois then returns to her own time period. Superman proposes to her just as history had shown. She reluctantly accepts, but tries to avert their tragic deaths. Lois's seemingly fails to change history when Superman is exposed to Gold Kryptonite and the newlyweds' plane crashes.

The couple survive because Superman suspected trouble and took a Gold Kryptonite antidote prior to exposure (Same bat-time! Same Bat-Channel!). Lois then returns to the future with Superman and learns that the people of Katraz are actually criminals. The version of history Lois saw on her previous trip was rewritten to suit the criminals' wishes. When Lois and Superman return home, they agree to get an annulment of their marriage.

Edited by Mort Weisinger.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

More Tom Waits

Another of my favorite Tom Waits songs. What an amazing voice.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Eggs and Sausage...and a Side of Toast

It was 1976 and I was living with my brother Keith in Denver (my one exposure to real winter) and Keith put an LP on the stereo and said, "Listen to this brother; you've never heard anything like this before." It was Tom Waits and had I not been working during the days I could have seen him on the Mike Douglas Show that year. Not only is the song great, but stay for the discussion afterword, it is priceless.

My favorite part is when Douglas asks Waits, "How would you describe what you do?" and he responds, "I don't know. Perhaps a little bit of a curator. Yeah, a little bit of a curator...I'm an unemployed service station attendant most of the time. I'm a living, breathing example of success without college is what it all boils down to..."

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Friday, February 08, 2008

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- G.I. Combat #129

G.I. Combat #129 (On Sale: February 8, 1968) has a really nice Russ Heath cover (is there any other kind?)

"Hold That Town for a Dead Man" featuring the Haunted Tank is by Robert Kanigher and Russ Heath. The back-up story, "Combat Nightmare" is drawn by Jack Abel.

Edited by Robert Kanigher.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Falling In Love #98

Falling In Love #98 On Sale: February 6, 1968) features a really beautiful cover by John Rosenberger.

(Cindy the Salesgirl) is drawn by Winslow Mortimer and is followed by "Love is a Lonely Hunter" a reprint from Girls' Romances #60 drawn by Arthur Peddy and Bernard Sachs. The issue completes with "Please Take Me Back" drawn by John Rosenberger.

Edited by Jack Miller.

Reservation Hesitation

I spent the better part of two hours today dealing with the on-line hotel reservation system for the San Diego Comic-Con. What a nightmare! Nothing like 100,000 people trying to get a room at the same time to slow a system to a crawl. But if that was the only issue I could have lived with it. But after taking twenty minutes to just pull up the freakin' page and another ten minutes to select my hotel and verify that there were rooms available, the system repeatedly blew me off with a "Page Not Found" error.

Eventually I got through on the phone line. It only took an hour and 45 minutes of solid dialing, hanging up and redialing to get through. By then the room I should of had booked an hour and twenty minutes earlier was gone and I had to settle for hotel I have not stayed at before.

Not that there were not alternatives to the Con-promoted system. I did find a site that listed all the hotels in the area and if they were sold out or not. They all were except for the U.S. Grant. You could book a room at the Grant immediately, outside of the Con system at only $760 a night, or basically four-times the cost of a room at the Holiday Inn through the system. The people who run the Grant ought to be ashamed of themselves. I stayed at the Grant a few years ago, but after seeing their outrageous pricing today I will never stay there again.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Words To Regret

A few months ago my friend and Pop Thought imagineer, Alex Ness, asked me if I would like to illustrate one of the short horror stories he was working on. I agreed and am getting close to finishing my four pages, the first real comic work I have done in, whoa, a long, long time. The above is a nearly complete panel from the first page.

Worst Coach In Football

Tonight he taught his team that if you are sure you have lost, you can quit and leave the game before it is over; just march off the sidelines and into the locker-room. What a worthless fucking douchebag.

Friday, February 01, 2008

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Secret Six #1

Secret Six #1 (On Sale: February 1, 1968) features the second strange DC cover of the month. This Frank Springer cover is actually the first page of the story

(Code Name:Mockingbird) is by E. Nelson Bridwell and Frank Springer. The Secret Six are six trained specialists who are blackmailed by the mysterious and never seen Mockingbird (who communicates through pre-recorded messages) into going on missions. Think of it as Mission: Impossible with a twist. One of the six is not who they appear to be; one of the six is actually Mockingbird.

Which of the six are who they appear to be and which one is their blackmailer? How can they work as a team knowing that one of them is pulling all the strings? This was a completely new type of book for DC and a real breath of fresh air in 1968. I was a big Secret Six fan!

The Six are:

King Savage, who was a pilot during the Korean War, and was shot down and ended up revealing secrets to the enemy. Mockingbird freed him and allowed him to warn the UN. He works for Mockingbird or else Mockingbird reveals that he is not a war hero, but a coward. He was the stunt guy in the group.

Carlo di Rienzi, who was a magician in Italy, who fell afoul of the mob. They killed his wife and severely injured di Rienzi and his son. Mockingbird gave him the treatment he needs to be able to walk, but if he does not work for Mockingbird, the treatment vanishes. He was an escape artist.

Lili de Neuve was a famous actress framed for murder. Mockingbird came up with an alibi to save her, but if she did not work for him, the alibi would vanish. She was a masterful disguise artist.

August Durant was a famous scientist who was infected by enemies of America with a virus. Mockingbird devised an antidote, but he only gave Durant enough of the antidote so that Durant would need to keep coming back to him for more. And if he did not work for Mockingbird? You guessed it. Durant was the brains of the group.

Crimson Dawn was a socialite who was hoodwinked by a "suitor." She was so ashamed that she needed Mockingbird to create a new identity for her, as a famous model (Mockingbird did this with the help of Lili de Neuve). If she did not work for him, he would reveal her identity. She was the seductress of the group.

Tiger Force was a boxer who refused to take a fall. He was beaten by the mob, but saved by Mockingbird. He then created a new identity, which Mockingbird will reveal if Force does not work for Mockingbird. He was the brawn of the group.

This issue was reprinted in Brave and the Bold #117.

Edited by Murray Boltinoff.