Friday, December 25, 2009

The New Math or You Can Fool Some of the People a Lot of the Time

There is a TV ad on in the past few days for a sporting goods chain named Dick's which just points out how some people are not very good at math. The spiel is that if you spend $300 at Dick's they will give you a coupon good for $150 at any of their stores. This morning my son was telling us how he was going to Dick's to spend $300 and get that $150 in free money. I guess that is one way to look at it. Here is another.

I asked him if he would be as excited if they offered 20% off everything in the store. He said "No."
"How about 25% off?"
"Not really."

"30%?"

"No."
"40%?"

"You're getting close."

"Then why are you so excited by 33% off?"

"What do you mean? Dick's is offering 50% off."

So then I had to explain that spending $300 to buy $450 worth or merchandise is 33% off, not 50%. It took a while, but I think he finally got it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Honorable Mention


My painting, Beached, won Honorable Mention in the landscapes division at the USPA Gallery Show now showing in Laguna Beach.

Friday, November 06, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Aquaman #49

Aquaman #49 (On Sale: November 6, 1969) has just an absolutely beautiful cover by Nick Cardy. What a great design and a powerful drawing. One of Nick's best for sure.

The feature-length "As the Seas Die" is by Steve Skeates and Jim Aparo and is some of their best work together to date. Jim Aparo is really changing before our very eyes; each issue is like looking at a different artist. His layouts get more dynamic, his people get more real, his story-telling gets more and this issue features some wonderful work. Aquaman and Aqualad are off the coast of Alaska investigating reports of schools of attacking fish, when they themselves are attacked. The fish don't respond to Aquaman's telepathic commands, so they must fight the fish. However, they get some assistance in that effort from Phil Darson, whom Aquaman (and we readers) met in Aquaman #43.

Phil is there investigating the fish as well, which he says are not only being driven insane, but are also dying. Aquaman and Aqualad go see Professor Davidson, who is the one who summoned Aquaman. The professor believes that the fish are being poisoned by pollution, but that none of the factories int he area will talk to him since a saboteur has been attacking the plants in the last few days. Even as they talk the saboteur is striking again, blowing up part of a nearby plant. Aquaman sees the saboteur jump into the water and gives chase, but is taken out when an explosive is thrown his way.

The next day reports want to discuss the saboteur with the president of the Leland Factory hit the night before, but he won't talk, saying that there was no saboteur, just a boiler malfunction. When they leave he explains to an underling that he doesn't want anyone snooping around and finding out that they are dumping chemicals into the ocean. Back at Atlantis Ocean Master arrives and demands a meeting with Aquaman, but Mera tells him that Aquaman is too busy to see him right now.

Meanwhile Aquaman and Aqualad have found evidence of pollution at both factories that have been hit by the saboteur. that is when Aquaman reads int he paper that Leland says that the explosion at his plant was an accident, which Aquaman knows to be false since he chased after the guy who planted the explosives. They begin to wonder if the Professor might not be involved. Aquaman decides to check out the Leland factory that night, while Aqualad keeps an eye on the Professor. Aquaman sees the saboteur returning to the Leland factory and follows him. The Professor leaves his lab and Aqualad follows him.

The saboteur breaks into Leland's factory only to find Leland waiting for him with a gun. The saboteur disarms Leland and explains that he had asked Leland earlier to stop polluting the ocean and Leland had refused; taking out Leland's plant had seemed the only way to stop him from killing the sea. Aquaman arrives before the saboteur can harm Leland, but he overpowers Aquaman and set the plant on fire. As Aquaman goes after him he is knocked unconscious by Leland who heads out after the saboteur. Meanwhile the Professor has been trying to reach Leland at his home with no success.

Aquaman awakes int he flaming building and staggers out as he hears gunshots int he distance. He sees two figures struggling on a cliff. When he gets there he finds they have fallen over, but the saboteur is still alive. He tells Aquaman he meant him no harm and considered him a friend. He pulls off his mask and it is Phil Darson, who explains that there was no legal way to stop Leland and his kind, so he resorted to the only method he knew would work. Darson then dies from his wounds.

Later they meet with the Professor who says he found evidence that chemicals from the Leland factory were killing the ocean and when to confront him. Aquaman says that he has already talked to the new owners and that they will stop dumping the chemicals into the ocean. They then head off, back to Atlantis. This story was reprinted in Adventure Comics #501.

Edited by Dick Giordano.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

USPA Gallery Show


If you are in the neighborhood in the next month or so, I have two pieces in this show.

Friday, October 23, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Brave and the Bold #87

Brave and the Bold #87 (On Sale: October 23, 1969) has a Batman and Wonder Woman cover by Mike Sekowsky and Dick Giordano.

Batman and Wonder Woman star in "The Widow-Maker" written and penciled by Mike Sekowsky and inked by Dick Giordano. I remember being so very disappointed when this book came out that Neal Adams was not drawing it, particularly because I had read that Wonder Woman was the team guests and had wanted to see Neal's version of her. At the time it didn't even occur to me that the big news here was that Bob Haney's four-year run on Brave and the Bold ended this issue. Haney would be back next issue though, while it would be a year before Adams would return to these pages.

All those sour grapes aside, this is one of my favorite Brave and Bold issues and turning it over to Mike Sekowsky was exactly the right thing to do. With Wonder Woman Sekowsky was mining a new direction for pure action comics, aside from super-hero comics and this fit in well with the powerless Diana Prince/Wonder Woman and the equally powerless Bruce Wayne/Batman. Throw in a European local, and Formula One street-course racing, a homicidal driver, a little revenge and some jet-setter flirting between Bruce and Diana and you have a great story, sans super powers and traditional comic villains.

Diana and I Ching are checking out a fashion shoot taking place in the mechanic area of a European rally when she is spotted by driver Bruce Wayne and Willi Van Dort, the driver of the car Widow-Macher. Bruce butts in when Willi tries to make time with Diana, saving her from Willi's unwanted advances, but Diana doesn't recognize Bruce as he ex-JLA buddy Batman and remembers him only as a millionaire playboy. While watching Willi's qualifying lap they learn that Willi's car is called the Widow-Macher or Widow-Maker because the last seven drivers who seemed on the cusp of beating Willi have all died on the track.

When it is Bruce's turn to qualify his time is three seconds faster than Willi's and Willi and his team take notice. Later while passing a window Diana sees Willi talking to his men in sign language, which Diana can read. However, she does not speak German and does not know what Willi is saying, but as she spells it out I Ching translates the conversation and they learn that Willi has ordered his men to fix Bruce's car so that he will not win tomorrow.

Late that night as Willi's men go to work on Bruce's car they are interrupted by Bruce who begins to go all Batman on their asses until Diana and Ching show up. Bruce holds back in an effort to keep his identity secret from Diana and in the process get whacked in the head with a wrench. Willi's men escape capture and Bruce ends up in the hospital with a concussion. Told by a doctor that he cannot race Diana offers to take his place, but Bruce makes a call to Commissioner Gordon and Batman is (supposedly) soon racing to Europe to take Bruce's place.

The next morning it is Batman who is seated in the Wayne One Special. As he pulls out into a throng of press he is also met by Willi who informs Batman that he is the son of General Van Dort, a crazy lunatic that Batman once stopped. Willi promises to avenge his father's honor. After warning Batman of the Widow-Macher aspect of Willi, Diana uses binoculars to once again eavesdrop on Willi giving instructions to his men to see that Batman does not finish the race.

The rest of the story is one narrow escape from a Willi tactic by Batman followed by one take down of a Willi henchman by Diana and Ching. It's fun stuff excellently done by Sekowsky and Giordano. In the end Willi is killed in a trap meant for Batman and Diana needs Bruce's help to bail her out of jail when she and I Ching inadvertently used the wrong car to chase down Willi's men. This leads to the promise of a dinner date between Bruce and Diana. This story has been reprinted in Showcase Presents the Brave and the Bold Batman Team-Ups Vol. 1 TPB and Diana Prince :Wonder Woman Vol. 2 TPB.

They fill out one page of space with "A Matter of Life and Death" by Murray Boltinoff and Jack Sparling, a tale regarding the thoughts of a corpse in the back of an ambulance.

Edited by Murray Boltinoff

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Buh-Buh-Buh-Bump [Snap-Snap]!

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Vic Mizzy has died. Don't know who Vic Mizzy was? You are not alone. Not exactly a "house-hold" name, his work was none-the-less familiar to us all. Mizzy was a composer best known for two little ditties he wrote in the 1960s: the theme songs to "The Addams Family" and "Green Acres." The Times piece is a great retrospective of his career.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Bears Are Back

Tonight at about 8:15 we were upstairs watching TV in our bedroom when we heard the crashing of the trash cans next door. We went to the window and looked out at the side of our neighbor's house where they keep their trash cans and saw two bears. I went to get my camera and take some pictures, but I had the thing on video. This is what I got (best when viewed in full-screen mode):


Tuesday, October 06, 2009

And I Thought It Wasn't Possible For Me To Hate The Rams More Than I Already Do

But this will do it. A team I will be rooting to lose, and lose big, every single week (not that I haven't been doing that every year since Carroll Rosenbloom was murdered, uh, I mean died) . I mean the headline says it all: Rush Limbaugh says he's trying to purchase Rams

Friday, September 25, 2009

True Story

When I was up in Washington last month for my nephew’s wedding, my brother took my sister’s fiancĂ© and me out for a drive. In reality he wanted to take us to one of the coffee huts in the area to look at the women. In Washington they serve coffee out of these little huts that look like old Photomats. The deal is the women serving you coffee are in their underwear. Anyway he took us to a place called Grab-N-Go and when we ordered our drinks the woman serving us asked what we were doing and if we were out “looking for trouble.” My brother just sort of brushed her off, but I thought at the time that the “looking for trouble” was a code for, you know, “looking for trouble.” It appears I was right. This video is taken at the Grab-N-Go we stopped at.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Phantom Stranger #4

Phantom Stranger #4 (On Sale: September 16, 1969) has a cover by Neal Adams.

We begin with "There is Laughter in Hell This Day" by Robert Kanigher, Neal Adams and Bill Draut. In my mind I have always considered this to be the first real story of the modern Phantom Stranger. Before I get to the story though, I have to say that the strange combination of Neal Adams and Bill Draut came off pretty well, though it looks like Neal went back in and reinked quite a bit of this himself, so who knows what it actually looked like.

We begin in Haiti, where Dr. Terence Thirteen and his wife Maria are witness to a crazed tourist's dive from a waterfall into a pool during a native ceremony calling for Tala. Terry dives in to save the man but discovers an underwater vortex sucking everything into a tunnel. He barely makes it back to the surface and the next morning has the authorities use explosives to seal up the tunnel. No one notices the swirling smoke the explosion released that forms into the beautiful Tala.

As the Thirteen's jet back to New York to check on a supposedly sobbing brownstone building, their jet is engulfed by an enormous black cloud. From outside it is clear that the cloud is a manifestation of Tala's cape as sit stands astride the jetliner. A crackle of lightning from a vast white cloud signals the arrival of the Phantom Stranger. As they arrive in New York that evening the area is in the midst of a strange power blackout, when, low on fuel, the plane's lights and radio also die. Terry thinks he sees a beautiful woman standing on the plane's wing, but realizes it must be an illusion caused by strain.

A glowing Phantom Stranger guides the blinded plane in safely and Tala confronts the Stranger before flying off. Terry Thirteen also confronts the Stranger, calling him a phony stage magician, but the Stranger disappears in the smoggy darkness of night. the plane down and out of danger, the power suddenly returns to New York.

The next day a quartet of teenagers trade some junk with a Brooklyn junkman for some money and what he calls a "a book to raise the dead." The foursome then head for the supposedly haunted brownstone building where they plan on crashing for a bit and on of them mentions that the old how has been dead for years and that maybe the book could "wake it up again." Inside they find a huge old fireplace with massive gargoyles and above the mantle, a painting of a beautiful girl. In a mirror off to the side is the reflection of Tala.

Suddenly they hear the sobbing the house is infamous for and they drop the book on a dusty table where, unseen, Tala forces open the catch and flips the pages to a voodoo incantation for raising the dead. They read the incantation which asks Tala to bring them life. Unfortunately, the life is passed to the two gargoyles who attack the foursome. But the Phantom Stranger suddenly materializes as well and intercepts the gargoyles doing battle with them, turning them into a pile of broken plaster. Tala then emerges from the mirror and offers herself to the Stranger, but she is rebuffed and flies off in a fury.

Moments later the Thirteens arrive and Terry accuses the Stranger of playing upon the delusions of the youngsters. But they say they have heard the crying in the building. The wailing starts again and the Stranger cuts a hole in the wall with his finger and inside they find an old, skeletal woman. Thirteen tries to explain away her existence but the woman, barely alive tells of how she came to the building when she was 18, to visit her fiancé and how she told him of her love for another and how in a fit of rage he sealed her up in the wall and became a hermit, spending the entirety of his life in the house to be near her.

In his will he saw to it that the house could never be touched and so it and she remained. Suddenly the house begins to shake and tremble. As they run from the building Tala can be seen on top of the house laughing. Thirteen calls it an illusion. The woman says all she wants is to sleep forever and the Stranger promises her it will be. The next evening he places flowers on her grave. Thirteen is there, calling it all a hypnotic illusion staged by the Stranger. The Stranger tell him that there are "more things in heaven and Earth-- than one can imagine" and then disappears, leaving Thirteen still convinced that the Stranger has duped them all. This was Reprinted in Showcase Presents Phantom Stranger Vol. 1 TPB.

The back-up story "Out of This World" is by Robert Kanigher and Murphy Anderson and is presented as one of the "Strange Tales from the Phantom Stranger." This is the old story of a guy picking up a hitchhiker, taking her out dancing and falling in love with her. The next night he returns to the house he dropped her off at and discovers that she died one year ago yesterday. This is very close to the plot of the old Dickie Lee song, Laurie (Strange Things Happen In This World).

Last night at the dance I met Laurie,
So lovely and warm, an angel of a girl.
Last night I fell in love with Laurie -
Strange things happen in this world.

As I walked her home,
She said it was her birthday.
I pulled her close and said
"Will I see you anymore?"
Then suddenly she asked for my sweater
And said that she was very, very cold.

I kissed her goodnight
At her door and started home,
Then thought about my sweater
And went right back instead.
I knocked at her door and a man appeared.
I told why I'd come, then he said:

"You're wrong, son.
You weren't with my daughter.
How can you be so cruel
To come to me this way?
My Laurie left this world on her birthday -
She died a year ago today."

A strange force drew me to the graveyard.
I stood in the dark,
I saw the shadows wave,
And then I looked and saw my sweater
Lyin' there upon her grave.

Strange things happen in this world.


Reprinted in Showcase Presents Phantom Stranger Vol. 1 TPB.

The letters page features a letter by the late comic historian Richard Morrissey and one from letter column regular Gary Skinner.

Edited by Joe Orlando.

Friday, September 11, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Showcase #86

Showcase #86 (On Sale: September 11, 1969) has a Firehair cover by Joe Kubert.

Firehair in "River of Gold" is written and drawn by Joe Kubert. I can't tell you how much I am enjoying rereading these stories. In Firehair Kubert created the perfect tool for telling his tales of morality, human nature and the turbulent times on the late 1960s. An old prospector searching for gold stumbles into the land of the Crow and finds himself surrounded by warriors thirsty for revenge against the white men. Firehair comes across the confrontation and calls out the Crow for even contemplating "murdering defenseless of people."

Black Eagle, the son of the Crow Chief's issues a personal challenge to Firehair for interfering in their business. Years of having to fight for a place in his own tribe gives Firehair the advantage and he soon forces Black Eagle to concede. Firehair demands to be taken to Black Eagle's father, who as a great chief must be a just man.

The chief chastises his son for attempting to use his protection to right his loss in single combat to Firehair, but he also worries that the old prospector may not deserve the gift of life that Firehair has given him. He worries that the old man seeks the "yellow stones! The soft, worthless pebbles they value more than life or land" and that should he find any that their land would be "over-run by his kind!" Firehair explains to the old man that at tomorrow's sun dance ceremony he must fight Black Eagle again and that if he wins again that they will both be set free, but that the old man must not search for gold and must leave the land of the Crow.

The old man says he understands. but that night he attempts to sneak out of camp. However, he sees that he is being watched and returns to camp but not before spotting a trove of gold nuggets in the stream running through the village.

The next morning Firehair and Black Eagle once again square off in single combat and once again Firehair is victorious. The chief declares that they "will be as one -- in honor and trust!" and Black eagle and Firehair become blood brothers. The old man notes to himself that "they sure know how to settle their arguments!' but while the sun dance ceremony begins he sneaks off with his mule and a few sacks of gold from the stream.

Later when they discover he has gone, it is Firehair who must search for him as it is Firehair who has accepted responsibility for the old man. Firehair tracks him down and finds him just as a grizzly has also found him. Firehair intercedes and kills the bear. The old man however, pulls his gun on Firehair and says he will kill him rather than let Firehair take him back to the Crow.

Back at the village Black eagle wonders if Firehair will return when a moment later he and the old man are seen coming back. The old man turns over his gold saying that "I couldn't shoot someone who'd saved my life...twice! I guess...there's some things even more valuable than an whole river of gold!" The chief gives the old man his freedom and Firehair moves on in his search for a place he can belong.

"Saturday -- 1787" is written and drawn by Ric Estrada is a great little slice of frontier life and hardships of the early settlers. It does a terrific job of showing the hard choices the early settlers sometimes faced. A little gem from the late Ric Estrada.

Edited by Joe Kubert.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Who Needs Mapquest When You Have Al Franken?

This is seriously amazing. Franken is really growing on me as a different kind of politician, one that seems to be able to connect to his constituents in a number of new and unusual ways.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Katrina


How I spent my Labor Day holiday. Painting. Every day. I had a commission to complete and I spent all weekend working on it. Finally finished this afternoon. Not my best work, but then again I never said I was any good with watercolors.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

"Downtown" Jones

Anyone who reads Mark Evanier's News From ME blog (and you all should be doing so), knows that last month Mark got on sort of a "Downtown" kick. By "Downtown" I refer to the Petula Clark hit from the 1960s and Allan Sherman's takeoff of same, "Crazy Downtown." First Mark linked us to a video of Allan Sherman singing "Crazy Downtown" then a week or so later Mark related how he was almost sued by Mr. Sherman for writing his own parody of "Downtown."

So, I was alive when all this was going on. I was young, but I remember "Downtown," I even remember singing it in elementary school choir. But for the life of me, I don't remember ever hearing the song "Crazy Downtown," but it seems Mark was, shall we say, enamored with it and the Petula Clark hit as well. But exactly how enamored was Mr. Evanier? Just how big of a "Downtown Jones" was Mark in the clutches of? It was pretty bad folks.

You see, my other blog, DC Comics 40 Years Ago, causes me to spend some part of each week reading old DC comic books from, you guessed it, 40 years ago. On September 4, 1969 Batman #216 was published. It was a pretty good issue, but what I found really interesting was the letters page and a missive from one Mark Evanier of Los Angeles, California who extolled the work of new DC writer Frank Robbins is his own unique way. It went something like this:

Dear Editor:

The following is a song parody of the type I used to win original Inferior Five artwork with. It is sung to the tune of "Downtown"...

When there's a mag, wherein the stories don't drag,
The writer is probably--Robbins.
In all his glory, he can write a mean story,
Johnny Hazard's pop -- Robbins.
It may be in a Batman or it may be in a Flash,
If it's not his first issue then it's certainly not trash,
Superboy too.
Top it off with Novick art,
You have a Batman story that comes straight from the heart,
It's by Robbins...
Frank is a real find.
Robbins...Bad stories are behind.
Robbins...Immortalized in this song.
Oh yeah, that guy Evanier had a real "Downtown" monkey on his back!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Dismal Nitch

dayle_nitchWe are back from our weeklong+ trip to Oregon and Washington. One of the fun aspects of it for me was trying out my new camera (a Sony DSC-H20), which is the best camera I have ever owned. Here is a picture of my wife, Dayle, taken at a place called Dismal Nitch. We found a lot of depressingly named places along the Columbia River. Dismal Nitch is just across the river from Astoria, Oregon, where we spent the first night of our vacation. We wondered about the names of these places and learned that they go all the way back to the Lewis and Clark expedition. According to the Fort Clatsop Bookstore:

Heavey (sic) storms confined the members of the Corps of Discovery near the mouth of the Columbia River. For six days in November 1805, they set up camp at an area Wm. Clark referred to as a "dismal nitich". (sic) Today, this place is still called "Dismal Nitch" and is located just east of the Washington end of the Astoria/Megler Bridge.

Friday, September 04, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Flash #192

Flash #192 (On Sale: September 4, 1969) has a cover by Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson.

"The Day the Flash Failed" is by Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito. This is one of those rather convoluted Kanigher stories, but I found it compelling. The real interesting thing in this story is the reason Flash fails on the "Day the Flash Failed." I don't think this was ever done in a comic before or maybe since and for 1969 it is pretty progressive of ol' DC. The Flash fails because he is late getting to the launch of a Navy submarine because he was busy, uh, servicing his wife Iris. I kid you not. Check out the page below if you don't believe me. I will say as a horny teenager this subtle reference to Iris's carnal needs totally slipped by me.

So as we can see by page 2 here, the Flash is running late for a meeting with a Navy submarine that he was supposed to be aboard. We have to forget for a moment that the Flash can swim at super speed and can vibrate through walls and could easily "catch up" to the submarine because to remember that would just ruin the whole story.
Anyway, the sub disappears and Flash does do some super speed swimming and can't locate it and everyone blames him for the sub going missing and his life is hell, yada, yada, yada. Did I say I found this compelling?

Iris wants to get Barry out of the house and get his mind off of, you know, him being a failure and all, and so they go and visit a friend, Phil Anderson, at a lighthouse. There is a storm and the helicopter Barry is piloting is hit by lightning and Barry has to turn into the Flash to save them and Phil is a mess and his wife is missing and his heart is giving out and geeze, do the coincidences just keep a comin'!

It seems Phil and his wife went on a super-secret mission for the CIA, where they pretended to be a couple on their second honeymoon crossing the Atlantic in a small sailboat, but were actually looking for enemy nuclear subs lurking off the Greenland shelf, which just happens to be where Flash's sub went missing. Anyway Phil and his wife, Phyllis, get knocked overboard in a storm and picked up by a, you guessed it, enemy nuclear sub.

After being captured Phil and Phyllis escape through the sub but are trapped in the torpedo room, which is being filled with poisonous gas and Phyllis stays behind while Phil is ejected through the torpedo tube and eventually picked up by an American fishing boat. Phil is now waiting for Phyllis to come walking back across the water and into his arms because she promised she would.

OK, so the Flash goes looking for Phyllis and of course finds the underwater lair where the "enemy nuclear sub" is hiding with Phyllis and the missing sub that the Flash lost while he was busy "getting some" from the missus. Flash rescues everyone, but Phyllis was exposed to too much of the poison gas back in the torpedo room and is dying and the Flash super-speeds her to Phil, but she dies along the way and Flash sees her ghost walk across the water to meet Phil's ghost (his heart gave out at the same time). The end!

I have to give Robert Kanigher credit for the Flash gets laid and is late plot idea, proving that Barry is not "The Fastest Man Alive!" in all regards, but man, did this thing go south quickly.

Edited by Julius Schwartz.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Eye-Balling the Internet

As this article explains, we may be just a few years away from some Steve Austin-like eyewear, electronic contact lenses that could give you bionic eyesight and let you surf the web directly on your eye. They are not there yet, but in a few years? Who knows?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Ted Kennedy

As I recall, the National Lampoon Encyclopedia Of Humor was on the shelf for something like two days before it was recalled and this fake ad was removed. Click the picture to read the fine print.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

iGo Now

We are getting ready for a week+ long vacation and one of the things I am doing today is getting our cell phone chargers together. We use the iGo charger, which allows you to buy one charger and spend less than two dollars for the tip that fits your current phone. When you get a new phone, which requires a different charger you spend another buck+ on a new tip and you are good to go. We have three iGos, one for each car and one for the home. This all reminded me of what happened last year while I was traveling back and forth to Florida for work.

Yep, I left my iGo charger in my rental car, dumb-ass that I am. When I got home I called the rental car company (who shall remain nameless to protect the incompetent) and told them what had happened. They looked around, found my iGo in their lost-and-found box and said they would put it aside for me and I could pick it up the next time I was in Florida. I gave them the date of my next arrival (a week later) and said my "thank yous."

A week later I fly into Ft. Lauderdale and go by the nameless rental counter to pick up my iGo (my company had booked me this trip with a car from a different company). I tell them who I am and what I am there for and this woman takes my name and goes into the back room and is back there for about 15 minutes. She finally returns and says they don't have anything that looks like an iGo and I am just out of luck. I ask if I can look and so after a bit of huffing and puffing on the woman's part she retrieves the box of lost cell phone chargers from the back room.

"See, there is no charger like the one you described."

I said, "Did you look in the big envelope on the top of the box? The one with my name on it and today's date?"

Friday, August 21, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Brave and the Bold #86

Brave and the Bold #86 (On Sale: August 21, 1969) has another great cover by Neal Adams. Nothing like Deadman to bring out the best in Neal.

Batman and Deadman star in "You Can't Hide from a Deadman" which is written by Bob Haney and drawn by Neal Adams. Well, that's the story anyway, but I don't buy it for one minute because the Neal Adams Checklist on Neal's own site and my gut say this is Neal's work through and though. Now it is not that this checklist is all that accurate, as it only lists Neal as the writer and penciler of this story when he is obviously the inker as well, but my gut is pretty good on this stuff and this story so nicely wraps up the writing that Neal was doing on the Deadman strip in Strange Adventures, that I guess it is possible that Bob Haney did some of the dialog, but the plot has got to be Neal's.

This is Neal's eighth Brave and the Bold and his last of this run. Neal would draw one more full issue in a little over a year and finish up a Jim Aparo story a year or so later, but for all intents and purposes, this was the end of Neal's run as the regular penciler and it seems appropriate that he both began and ended his B&B run with Deadman.

It's just another night in Gotham as Batman and Robin break up an extortion racket, except that after mopping up the bad guys, Robin picks up a gun and tries to shoot Batman. Blinding the boy wonder with a smoke pellet saves Batman's hide and Robin strangely snaps out of it. When Commissioner Gordon and his men reach the scene Gordon uses an officer's service revolver to try and shoot Batman as well. Everyone is clueless, except Batman who has surmised that his "old friend Deadman is trying to kill me!"

Out on the street Batman runs a gauntlet of people suddenly possessed by Boston Brand's ghost and out to kill Batman. After almost being run over by a truck, Batman heads for the rooftops where Deadman will have a much harder time finding a host to possess. However Deadman finds a pigeon fancier and comes after Batman with a club. Batman tries to talk sense into Deadman, saying they are friends, but Deadman says he is trying to kill Batman. Batman's response is that Deadman is a liar and that he can prove it. "If you really want to kill me, do it the simple way...jump into my body and make me jump off the roof...clean and simple!" The logic of this causes Deadman to freak out and quickly exit the man's body.

Meanwhile, in Hong Kong at the secret headquarters of the Society of Assassins, the Sensei is listening to a report from Willie Smith. Smith recounts how Deadman found his killer, the Hook and after confirming that he was dead, returned to Nanda Parbat seeking out Rama Kushna and the end of his unnatural existence. Deadman interfered with Smith's plan to destroy Nanda Parbat and thinking Smith dead, Deadman met with Rama Kushna. Afterward, Deadman chose to leave Nanda Parbat and return to being a ghost (a pretty good recap of Strange Aventures #215 and #216). As Deadman was leaving, Smith shot him with a poison dart, but because he was only partially corporeal at the time it did not kill him but left him dazed and susceptible to suggestion. Smith used the opportunity to turn Deadman's hatred of the Sensei into a hatred for Batman. With Deadman busy trying to kill Batman the Sensei sees this as the perfect time to once and for all destroy Nanda Parbat.

Back in Gotham Batman visits the Hills Bros. Circus where Boston's brother, Cleavland, has taken over the role of the trapeze artist Deadman. Boston enters his brother's body and once again takes to the high platform, where he attempts his famous quadruple somersault, only to find that his brother's muscles are not as supple as his once were and he is saved only by the intervention of Batman. Boston is more confused than ever now that Batman has saved his brother's life. Just then circus mystic Vashnu arrives to say that Rama Kushna wants Deadman to return to Nanda Parbat.

Batman and Deadman in his brother's body are shot at as they parachute over the Himalayas down to Nanda Parbat. Deadman leaves his brother's body and leaps into the body of his attackers, turning one against the other. Returning to Cleavland's body Deadman leads Batman to Nanda Parbat where upon entrance he leaves Cleve's body and becomes corporeal once again. But as he does so the poison from Willie Smith's dart takes affect and he collapses to the ground.

Rama Kushna appears and explains that Boston has been poisoned but that one of the men coming to attack Nanda Parbat carries an antidote. Batman and Cleve head out to stop the assault on Nanda Parbat and to find the antidote. Using a now arrived blinding snowstorm for cover they take out the Sensei's men one by one, till they finally get to Smith and retrieve the antidote. The Sensei challenges them both, but they ignore him and hurry back to Boston.

Once back in Nanda Parbat Batman uses the antidote to save the life of a Deadman. Boston realizes the absurdity of it all and that Nanda Parbat is the only place where he can be harmed and therefore decides to leave and become a ghost once more. The Sensei is seen trudging down the mountain plotting his revenge on Batman and Deadman.

This classic story has been reprinted in Best of DC #26, Deadman #7, Deadman Collection HC, Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams Vol. 2 HC and Showcase Presents the Brave and the Bold Batman Team-Ups Vol. 1 TPB.

Edited by Murray Boltinoff.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Star Spangled War Stories #147

Star Spangled War Stories #147 (On Sale: August 19, 1969) has an Enemy Ace cover by Joe Kubert.

"A Grave in the Sky" is by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert and, my god, is Kubert on fire this issue. The story surrounds a British pilot who as a child was obsessed with the story of St. George and the Dragon. Years later he is still obsessed and sees the RAF as a way of attaining knighthood and flying a steed and using machine guns as his lance.

The delusional pilot wears the top half of a suit of armor when he flies and believes himself to be the reincarnation of St. George. As with all Enemy Ace stories, the real story is about the killer skies and the terrible strain leading men into battle is for Hans Von Hammer. It has some amazing Kubert artwork, bringing the aerial dogfights of Fokkers vs. Sopwith Camels to glorious life. Kubert in his early 40s at this time was a master of the brush for sure, but it is his amazing story-telling abilities that make these books come to life.

Suffice to say that in the end St. George is defeated by his own personal dragon, Hans von Hammer, the Enemy Ace. This story was reprinted in Enemy Ace Archives Vol. 2 HC and Showcase Presents: Enemy Ace Vol. 1 TPB.

Edited by Joe Kubert.

Friday, August 14, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- G.I. Combat #138

G.I. Combat #138 (On Sale: August 14, 1969) has a cover by Joe Kubert.

We began with The Haunted Tank in "The Losers" by Robert Kanigher and Russ Heath. This is the first story of the Losers, the cover calls them the Born Losers, who would eventually take over Our Fighting Forces. The team consisted of Captain Storm, Johnny Cloud, Gunner and Sarge. This Losers origin story was reprinted in Showcase Presents: Haunted Tank Vol. 2 TPB.

The back-up story "Bright Banner" was drawn by George Evans.

Edited by Joe Kubert.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

My Strats

If you do happen to take the 3D walkthrough of my new studio, check out the furniture. Not all of the objects are hand-built by me, but a lot of them are. I am particularly proud of the two strats I have on the guitar stand. Those took a bit of work.

Friday, August 07, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Unexpected #115

Unexpected #115 (On Sale: August 7, 1969) has a cover by Neal Adams.

We begin with "Diary of a Madman" by Carl Wessler and Ed Robbins. Some sources indicate that this was the last story Ed Robbins drew for DC, others say he drew some war stories in 1970 and 1971, but I haven't tracked those down yet. Robbins' last comic book work appears to be for Western in Grimm's Ghost Stories in 1975-76. Born in 1919 Ed Robbins died in 1982.

He was one of those guys who worked everywhere, but rarely made a name for himself. He worked at the Beck and Costanza Studio between 1942 and 1953, the Iger Studio in 53-54 and the Simon and Kirby Studio in 1955.

For Archie he drew Roy, the Super Boy, the Scarlet Avenger, The Shield, Steel Sterling and Zamboni, the Miracle Man. At Centaur he drew Craig Carter and the Masked Marvel. At Charlton he crime and war stories. At DC he drew Gang Busters in the 50s and horror, romance and war stories in the 1960s. At Dell he drew horror stories in the early 60s and at Feature Comics he drew romance stories during the late 50s. At Fawcett he drew romance comics for years along with Captain Marvel, the Marvel Family and Mary Marvel. In the 40s and 50s he work for Atlas/Marvel on the Black Avenger, the Human Torch, the Thunderer and assorted horror and war stories. He did one story for Warren in 1970.

If Ed Robbins ever made a name for himself though, it was during his two-years stint on the Mike Hammer newspaper strip in the 1950s, where his hard-boiled gutsy graphic style was years ahead of the British strips of the 60s, such as Jim Holdaway on Modesty Blaise and Yaroslav Horak on James Bond (I used to follow both of these strips in the wonderful Menomonee Falls Gazette in the 1970s).

Next we have "Abracadabra -- You're Dead" by Dave Wood, Curt Swan and Jack Abel. We end with "The Day Nobody Died" by Dave Wood, Werner Roth and Frank Giacoia. This story was reprinted in Unexpected #161.

Edited by Murray Boltinoff.

The New Studio

For going on five years now I have contemplated moving my home studio/office from the small bedroom it has been in to one about twice that size. I have planned meticulously for the day this can happen, and I do mean planned and it is all finally coming to fruition. I put a new drawing desk with a taboret and chair in there last year and moved one of my existing drawing boards in there last month. I moved my desk and computer into the room last weekend and have been moving bookcases and such each night since.

There is still one major piece of furniture (besides two large bookcases) which needs to be moved into the room, but that is the table/flat file cabinet I have been building in my woodworking class for the past seven months. However, it is all coming together and when completed it will look something like this:



You can see and walk through a 3D rendering of my studio if you like. I have been working with a shareware program, Room Arranger for five years now on this. Over that time Room Arranger has morphed from a room layout program to a fairly easy-to-use building designing package. Not on the level of the professional packages, by any means, but still worth having and purchasing.

The room is kind of a mess right now. Not all the book cases are in and there are a couple of pieces still in the room that need to be moved out. I have got to pare down the number of things I own!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Jury Duty

For the first time in my life they actually called me for jury duty this week. I spent most of the first day looking through old copies of the National Geographic Magazine and sketching any interesting faces I saw and reading Infinite Jest. In the afternoon of the first day I was called into a panel for selecting a jury. The case involved a residential burglary and the defendant was about my son's age and had similar issues. We spent the afternoon answering the judge's questions and the next morning answering those of the prosecutor and defence attorney. I was the first potential juror that the prosecutor dismissed. I think he though I would have too much identification and compassion for the defendant.

I think he was mistaken, but it was his call.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- House of Secrets #82

House of Secrets #82 (On Sale: August 5, 1969) has a cover by Neal Adams.

We begin with "Realler Than Real" drawn by Werner Roth and Vince Colletta. Most sources list this as Werner Roth's first work for DC since his first pencil job in Secret Hearts #42 in 1957, but Jerry Bails' Who's Who of American Comic Books contains a long list of Roth work for DC romance books covering most of the 60s. This includes long runs on Falling In Love, Girls' Romances, Secret Hearts, Young Love and Young Romance.

Roth spent most of his early career at Atlas/Marvel, beginning in 1951 when he started drawing the Apache Kid. Roth was so good at drawing women that Atlas publisher Martin Goodman had a comic created just for him: Lorna, the Jungle Girl. His last work at Atlas was in Strange Tales in 1958 and he didn't return till 1965 when now Marvel needed an artist to replace Jack Kirby on the Uncanny X-Men. At Marvel, Roth sometimes used the pseudonym Jay Gavin. He would remain the X-Men penciler till 1969, when he would return to DC starting with this story. However, in the later half of the 60s and the early 70s Roth also worked on a number of Marvel's other book, including The Avengers, Sub-Mariner, GunHawk, Kid Colt, The Rawhide Kid and Werewolf By Night.

Werner Roth also worked at Dell Comics and drew Mandrake the Magician for King Comics and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. for Western Publishing. He also worked for a time as an assistant on the On Stage newspaper strip.

In 1970 Roth became the penciler of Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane, a book he would work on til his death in 1973 at the age of 52.

Next is "The Little Old Winemaker" drawn by Jack Sparling. We end with "The One and Only, Fully Guaranteed Super-Permanent, 100%?" by Marv Wolfman, Dick Dillin and Neal Adams. This last story was reprinted in House of Mystery #224 and Showcase Presents: The House of Mystery Vol. 3 TPB, The entire book was reprinted in Showcase Presents: The House of Secrets Vol. 1 TPB.

Edited by Dick Giordano.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

The Bears Are Back In Town

Twice in the past week the bears have hit my next-door neighbor's trash cans. Why they insist on keeping them outside I'll never figure out. Last night it was a round 10:3- when the thrashing of the large plastic containers began. I was in my new office with the window open, not 40 ft. from the cans. The audible assault lasted for about five minutes and when the bears left and crossed the street in front of my house it was a mother with a large bag of trash in her mouth followed by two very cute cubs, one of which stopped in the middle of the street to munch on some of mother's dropped goodies before travelling on. Some day I've got to get a picture of these three.

Friday, July 31, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Detective Comics #391

Detective Comics #391 (On Sale: July 31, 1969) has a cover by Neal Adams.

We begin with Batman in "The Gal Most Likely to Be -- Batman's Widow" by Frank Robbins, Bob Brown and Joe Giella. Tim Clark a masseuse and physical therapist at Bruce Wayne's club is having problems with his girlfriend, Ginny Jenkins (from Detective Comics #380). She has started working for Mr. Arnold at Dining Out Magazine. Through an accidentally turned on intercom Tim and Bruce learn that Mr. Arnold is using the magazine to extort advertising money out of restaurants. While Bruce leaves to change into Batman, Tim learns of Ginny's inadvertent involvement in the plan, as she is the magazine's reviewer.

That night at a restaurant being visited by Mr. Arnold and Ginny, two good threaten to ruin the food if the owner does not buy an expensive ad. the plot is broken up by Batman, but the owner refuses to finger Arnold as the instigator. that night Tim tries to warn Ginny that Arnold is a crook, but Ginny just thinks he is jealous and won't listen to him. Tim thinks she would listen if Batman was the one telling her and then hatches a plan.

Arnold meets his henchmen in the sauna at the club once again and gives them the orders for tonight's restaurant attack. When they leave Batman is seen leaving the building and an unseen person removes a bar of soap from the sauna. At tonight's restaurant, the owner is prepared to pay the extortion money when Batman comes to him with a plan. Shortly the waiter brings Arnold and Ginny a souvenir of the restaurant, only Batman shows up and reveals that the small models actually contain the pay-off money. Arnold pulls a gun, but Batman knocks him out and then comforts Ginny.

Arnold comes to and calls for his men who sneak up on Batman and knock him out. Before they throw him off the balcony to his death they unmask Batman and find that he is Tim Clark. Only the real Batman shows up at that time and mops up the gang, reveals that the money they were given was marked by the owner and also reveals a small tape recorder hidden in a bar of soap that Batman used to gather evidence against Arnold and his men.

The back-up Robin story is "Strike" by Mike Friedrich, Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson and continues from last issue. Personally, I thought last issue was a pretty much jumbled mess and this issue doesn't really do much to rectify that feeling.I never liked the Friedrich Robin stories, they never rang true for me, though he sure wrote a lot of them in his five years at DC.

The head negotiator for the college has abruptly ended negotiations with the Teachers' Union. Dick Grayson and Gotham Owl editor Rocky follow the negotiator and see him talking to two kids wearing Skyline jackets, one of whom Dick recognizes as the one that got away from the skirmish Friday night.

Rocky leaves and Dick is free to change into Robin and after a relatively quick fight the head negotiator tells how he was blackmailed into ending negotiations and that someone had tried to run over his son. One of the Skyline kids tells Robin who their boss is, where to find him and what type of protection he has.

Robin quickly foots it to the bosses HQ, and knock out the two guards he was warned about outside the building. He then races into the big man's office only to find two more gunsels that he knew nothing about. Robin realizes he has been set up , but as the thugs prepare to blast him, the police call out over a loudspeaker for the thugs to surrender with their hands up. Robin uses the momentary distraction to take out the two thugs and the big boss. When he calls for the police to come in and take them all away he finds that it was only Rocky, who had followed Robin to the thugs hideout.

It ends up the big boss owned land adjacent to the college and wanted to make sure that his land was used for the campus expansion. Later the negotiations are begun again and a new contract is quickly signed. This story was reprinted in Batman in the Sixties TPB and Showcase Presents: Robin the Boy Wonder Vol. 1 TPB.

Edited by Julius Schwartz.

The Pie Man

Rev. Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter II, died this week. I haven't thought about Reverend Ike in years, but he is hard to forget. I was surprised that the Los Angeles Times obit did not contain my favorite Reverend Ike quote:

"Why have you pie, by and by, in the sky, when you die? Have your pie now, with ice cream on top!"

Friday, July 24, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Showcase #85

Showcase #85 (On Sale: July 24, 1969) has a very nice Firehair cover by Joe Kubert.

We have a feature-length Firehair origin story, "I Don't Belong Here -- I Don't Belong There" which is obviously a labor of love for writer/artist/editor Joe Kubert. the story opens sometime in the early 1800's with our hero riding bareback across the desert being chased by a gaggle of towns-people shooting in his direction. Firehair is a teen-aged boy in Native American garb, with white skin and glowing red hair in two long tails trailing down his back. he has been shot but continues to ride.

When he reaches a rock face he leaps for it and begins to climb its face. The towns-folk dismount and take aim just as a hand reaches out of a cave in the rock and pulls Firehair to relative safety. The enraged towns-people fire off so many shots that they cause a landslide which covers the mouth of the cave, trapping Firehair and his unknown benefactor. Inside we find a Shaman and Evening Star, a young woman of the Blackfoot nation.

Firehair has been shot multiple times and they cannot move him from the cave, As the Shaman dresses his wounds, Firehair is enveloped by delirious dreams of his past. He sees a tribal fire he never witnessed where the Shaman tells the tribal elders of the terrible destruction of the Blackfoot and their brother nations at the hand of the paleface that he has foreseen. He also speaks of a great warrior who will arise, who will not look like any warrior in the Indian Nations, who will be despised by his own people and those he will seek to help. A great warrior who is the Blackfoot's only hope for salvation.

As Firehair's vision continues he sees the same tribe gathered on a mesa and attacking the wagon train below. Attacking relentlessly until all the pale ones are dead, all save one child with flaming red hair, whom Chief Grey Cloud takes to raise as his own. The resentment and hostility towards the white child runs deep in the village, but to some extent hidden. As young Firehair grows he learns that in order to survive and to prove himself worthy of being the Chief's son, he must be better than all the other children in the village, and so he is. But he is also alone and friendless. The years pass and Firehair reaches the age of manhood and goes off on a vision quest; the only one in the village offering him good luck is Evening Star. He fasts for five days seeing visions of his past, present and future and arises a man.

Back at his village he tells his father he dreamed of others with skin like his and wants to find them, to see if he belongs in their world. And so, Firehair heads off for the town, where he is attacked by a bully in the general store and when he fights back the whole town wants his hide. The town Sheriff steps in to break things up, but Firehair has had enough and breaks away, riding out of town, the towns-people shooting at his back.

His feverish vision ends and he finds himself in the cave with Evening Star, who says that now that he is better they can return home. But Firehair says he does not have a home, not with the Blackfoot and not with the palefaces. And so he sets off to travel the Earth looking for a place where he can belong.

I can not say enough about Joe Kubert's artwork on this book. He obviously spent a lot of time doing research on the Blackfoot nation and culture and you see it in every panel. He littered the book with wonderful detail and employed a grease pencil on every page, some times just a little, some times a lot, to give the pages a look different from any of the other books being published at that time.

Firehair would appear in two more issues of Showcase before finding a spot as a back-up strip in Tomahawk for another three issues. He didn't show up again till the character-packed Showcase #100 and then again in Crisis on Infinite Earths. In 1989 he was in one issue of Swamp Thing and then completely forgotten until the publication of War That Time Forgot in 2008 and where he can still be seen today.

Edited by Joe Kubert.

Friday, July 17, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Teen Titans #23

Teen Titans #23 (On Sale: July 17, 1969) has one of the most popular Nick Cardy covers of all time. I know the 13-year-old me drooled over this one for hours, eh weeks... OK, months... alright, years! This cover always reminds me of Kurt Busiek's afterword in The Art of Nick Cardy where he recalls, "...I'm at a Marvel Christmas party and Cardy's name comes up, and Miss Jo Duffy, sitting on a desk, bursts out with, "Oh, man! He was the best--he did the best jailbait ever!" Indeed, and Nick Cardy's Wonder Girl was the queen of my Silver Age jailbait.

"The Rock 'n' Roll Rogue" is by Bob Haney, Gil Kane and Nick Cardy and is another example of Cardy's wonderful inking style. The Teen Titans are enjoying a Sammy Soul concert from the front row when Sammy suddenly runs from the stage causing the kids to start a major riot in the theater. Robin and Wonder Girl, showing off her new and improved costume distract the kids with a show of acrobatics while Kid Flash gives everyone on hand an instant refund. the immediate crisis averted the Titans take the Titan whirlybird to Sammy Soul's estate, where below Sammy's cousin Irmgard and her husband Luther are arguing with Sammy's manager over who owns him till he reaches legal age.

The Titans land and listen to Sammy's tale of woe, an orphan who grew up in a foster family who never loved him but now fight over custody since he has become famous and rich, how the only person who ever loved him was his Uncle Matt who was lost in South America years ago whole looking for treasure. Wonder Girl tries to come on to Sammy, to console him and Robin tells her to "Cool it." Looking back on these stories I guess, for a while there, they played up Wonder Girl as a little slut, something I never minded as a kid.

Anyway, the Titans leave but the next day they return to find Sammy is missing, but they find a clue in a guitar given to Sammy by his Uncle Matt and decide that Sammy has headed off to South America to find his Uncle. Sammy has landed in Los Santos Venezuela and is mobbed by fans even there, but is rescued by Juan Sastre, who tells Sammy he remembers Sammy's uncle, Matt Murdock (strange how that name gets around comics), who vanished in the great plateau of the interior of the country. Juan signs on as Sammy's guide and off they go.

Meanwhile, the Titans have tracked Sammy and locate his helicopter on the plateau. When they land to inspect the site, they are attacked by native headhunters, who are beaten back by an onslaught of arrows from Speedy. Sammy and Juan have been taken by the natives to their village where they find Uncle Matt unharmed in one of the huts, However, he has lost his memory, which Juan says is the only thing keeping him alive as the natives will not shrink the head of an amnesiac.

The Titans discover the village and using all of their powers they manage to rescue Sammy, Juan and Uncle Matt and thanks once again to Speedy and his amazing array of arrows they manage to keep the natives from following them. But, a short time later Matt's memory returns and he leads them through a tunnel to a hidden indoor pool,, which he says is El Dorado, where the old Indian civilization tossed their fortune in gold and emeralds to keep them from the Spanish conquistadors. It was while diving deep for the treasure that Uncle Matt lost his memory and was captured by the headhunters.

Wonder Girl says that she can swim very deep and will dive for the treasure but all she finds are the bones of those who tried to find El Dorado in the past. Convinced that he has not found El Dorado Uncle Matt agrees to return home, but on the way back to the choppers the natives capture Juan. Using Sammy's amps and mics from his helicopter, Uncle Matt booms his voice out into the jungle pretending to be the thunder god, Pichu Pichu and using Wonder Girl to drop Sammy Soul dolls from the sky as thunder god tributes the natives are convinced to let Juan go free. This story was reprinted in Showcase Presents: Teen Titans Vol. 2 TPB.

Edited by Dick Giordano.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Phantom Stranger #3

Phantom Stranger #3 (On Sale: July 15, 1969) has its first cover by Neal Adams, and the new Neal Adams logo. What is interesting is that while the logo depicts the revamped Phantom Stranger, using his hat's shadow as a mask, the cover shows an entirely different guy, closer to the Bill Draut covers of the first two issues.

We begin with the Phantom Stranger in "How Do You Know My Name?" a reprint from Phantom Stranger #5 (1953) by John Broome, Frank Giacoa and Joe Giella. A carnival mystic, Vasti, predicts supernatural behavior will increase at an amusement park. Suddenly ghosts and spectres are seen and cause trouble for the park. The Phantom Stranger investigates in order to debunk the supernatural explanation. He exposes Vasti as a fraud, trying to force the park owner to sell cheaply.

Next we have Doctor 13 in "No Such Thing as Ghosts" a reprint from Star-Spangled Comics #126 by France Herron and Leonard Starr. We end with the only new material in the book, the Phantom Stranger in "Some Day in Some Dark Alley..." by Mike Friedrich and Bill Draut. This was reprinted in Showcase Presents: Phantom Stranger Vol. 1 TPB.

Edited by Joe Orlando.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Paper Chase

They changed the paper towels in the men’s room where I work. The old ones were nothing to write home about, but I would compose odes to them if they would return.

The new ones have this insubstantial, tissue paper, magic-trick flash paper, communion wafer quality to them. You get the feeling that as they crinkle in your hands that they will simply disappear without ever having to be thrown away. These are a really sorry excuse for paper towels.

Friday, July 10, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- House of Mystery #182

House of Mystery #182 (On Sale: July 10, 1969) has another cool cover by Neal Adams.

We begin with "The Devil's Doorway" by Jack Oleck and Alex Toth. Wealthy student of the occult, Phillip Warren, buys a strange mirror from a New England auction. Phillip mentions his wife's misgivings about owning the piece and the auctioneer says that it is perfectly safe as the contents of the house were exorcised over a century ago and that the records of the exorcism are in the family records in City Hall.

Satisfied, the mirror is shipped home, but almost immediately strange things begin to happen. Phil's daughter Beth begins to disappear for hours at a time and when she does show up she says she has been in the mirror playing with Mr. Belial. Beth is told to stay away from the mirror, but just a few nights later she brings her father a gift, an ancient cult demon statuette used in black magic.

Beth once again claims that she has been in the mirror and the the gift is from Mr. Belial. Knowing the mirror has been exorcised, Phil tells his daughter to stop making up stories and sends he off to bed. But Phil can't sleep and that night while sitting in front of the mirror he sees inside it a strange world. He walks into the mirror and meets Mr. Belial, AKA Satan, who says that he has been expecting him to arrive. Satan explains that he finds students of the occult a challenge and since he could not leave the mirror he had to find a way to lure Phil into his world. He threatens to soon have Phil's wife as well.

Phil hurls the demon statuette at Satan and fights his way past demons to finally reach the mirror portal. Once outside he takes an axe to the mirror and then burns what remains. However, once the mirror is completely consumed Phil falls into a coma, yet a fitful coma of nightmare dreams. Days later the dreams end and Phil tells his wife that he was just sick and hallucinating. Now that Phil is better his wife tells him that their daughter Beth has vanished, that she has not been seen since the night Phil destroyed the mirror. But the mirror is harmless, the mirror had been exorcised. Phil heads to City Hall to look up the records of the house and finds that yes, everything in the house was exorcised, except a mirror that has been sent out to be gilded.

This story is a real winner and Alex Toth's artwork is an amazing workshop in minimalist line-work in the support of a story. This is wonderful work from Toth.

This is Jack Oleck's first credited work at DC, though he is known to have written both issues of Bother Power: The Geek. This only makes sense as Oleck was Joe Simon's brother-in-law and as Simon has said, "the number one scriptwriter for Simon and Kirby since the early days of Young Romance," though, it would seem, largely uncredited. According to the Jack Kirby Museum, Oleck also worked at Atlas in the 1950s when the company was publishing 85 titles a month, but exactly what work he did is not known as there are few records from this era. Jack also wrote for EC Comics doing war stories for Aces High and science-fiction for Incredible Science Fiction.

As a credited writer Jack Oleck would write more than 200 stories for DC, mostly in the horror/mystery books, but a few wars stories and humor stories for Plop! and the first three issues of Kong, the Untamed. Jack also wrote both of the paperback anthologies of adaptations of The House of Mystery stories and EC Comics The Vault of Horror paperback as well.

Oleck also wrote novels, including Messalina. As reviewer Joe Kenney says on Amazon, "Published in 1959 and continuously in print for the next several years, Jack Oleck's Messalina is now long out of print and barely remembered. Yet it is historical fiction of the best sort: trashy, exploitative, packed with violence and graphic sex. No "detectives in togas," no poorly-written military fiction, no thinly-veiled Christian glurge - this is a full-on romp in the salacious world of Imperial Rome, more Technicolor than Elizabeth Taylor's "Cleopatra."

Messalina recounts the tale of the real-life woman who married Claudius, the fourth emperor of Rome. She's known to history as a backstabbing schemer with an insatiable lust for sex, so don't go into this novel expecting a G-rated story of ancient Rome. Oleck takes us from her youth to her end, barring no details of her cold-blooded and predator-like ways: for Messalina, sex was a means to power, and boy did she know how to use it. "

Next is "Grave Results!" a "Cain's True Case File" by Marv Wolfman and Wayne Howard.
It tells the story of the Chase family of Barbados and how each time they go to bury a family member in the family crypt they find the caskets thrown about the crypt and overturned, even though the crypt is sealed each time with molten lead to keep anyone out. The two caskets belonging to the original owner of the crypt and her grand-daughter are never disturbed. Eventually the family has to leave the island to escape the cursed crypt. Reprinted in House of Mystery #229 and Showcase Presents: The House of Mystery Vol. 1 TPB.

This little piece of fluff was Wayne Howard's first work for DC and his first credited work anywhere. He contributed to comics fanzines in the mid-1960s before becoming an art assistant at the Long Island, New York studio of Wally Wood in 1969 and the Wood influence is evident in every panel Howard ever did. Wayne would only draw four stories for DC, though he would ink another 8 over the next 13 years. Howard also did work for the short-lived Web of Horror black and white book that also appeared in 1969.

Howard did work for a number of publishers. He penciled a story in Gold Key's TV-series tie-in The Twilight Zone and inked stories for Warren's Creepy and Eerie. At marvel he did inks for Worlds Unknown, Marvel Team-Up, Thongor! Warrior of Lost Lemuria in Creatures on the Loose and the Marvel black and white Haunt of Horror.

But none of this is what Wayne Howard is known for. Wayne Howard was the first American comics' cover-credited series creator, with the Charlton horror anthology book Midnight Tales which carried the blurb: "Created by Wayne Howard" on each issue. Howard did other work for Charlton, but it is with this book that he made his mark. Charlton writer/editor Nicola Cuti says that Howard's credit was granted since "it was his idea, his concept, his everything." Howard created the main characters, host Professor Coffin, The Midnight Philosopher, and his niece, Arachne, who in a twist on the horror-host convention would themselves star in a story each issue. Howard also developed the notion of having each issue be themed. He penciled and inked every cover, most of the stories and he even wrote a few of them.

In Comic Book Artist #12, Charlton editor George Wildman, described Howard as, "sort of shy. Easy come, easy go",and said Howard had married the sister of one of Wildman's early secretaries. In the same issue, Nicola Cuti said the heavy-smoker artist "always wore the same outfit: a white shirt, a kind of tan bush jacket, black hat, black pants and black tie. ...I was over at his apartment, and he opened up his closet, and there were 20 white shirts, 20 bush jackets, 20 black pants...."

Wayne Howard's last known comic work was for Warlord #64. Always a bit of a recluse, when Comic Book Artist attempted to contact him in 2001 they were told that "the artist/writer had no interest in delving into the past." Wayne Howard, one of the first African-American comic book artists of the Silver Age, died December 9, 2007 at the age of 58.

Next we have a one-page ad for the House of Secrets featuring Cain and written and drawn by Joe Orlando. That is followed by a Cain's Game Room by Sergio Aragones.

The last story in the book is "The Hound of the Night" by Robert Kanigher and Jerry Grandenetti. It was reprinted in Showcase Presents: The House of Mystery Vol. 1 TPB.

Edited by Joe Orlando.

Friday, July 03, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Tomahawk #124

Tomahawk #124 (On Sale: July 3, 1969) has another beautiful cover by Neal Adams. It is hard to believe this book was not selling well.

We begin with "The Valley of No Return" by Robert Kanigher, Frank Thorne and Joe Kubert. As Tomahawk and his Rangers march through the thick snow back into Echo Valley, they are faced with three lines of warriors under the guidance of Buffalo Horn, waiting for the Rangers to get into range of their riffles and bows. Behind Tomahawk stands the wagons of the Smith family, steadfastly refusing to go back into the valley. As Tomahawk and his men move forward they are attacked from all sides and Tomahawk thinks back to the first time he entered Echo Valley.

It was warmer days and Tomahawk and his men found the beautiful valley and thought it would be the perfect spot for the Smith family to settle. But Buffalo Horn and his warriors had other ideas and attacked the Rangers. The fight was heavy and brutal, but in the end only Buffalo Horn remained, awaiting Tomahawk's knife. But Hawk surprised him by showing mercy and letting him go, Buffalo Horn remarking that it was a weakness he would not have shown if the roles were reversed.

Tomahawk and his men get to the business of felling trees and getting the place ready for a settlement. Frenchie comment that Big Anvil smells like a bear and that pretty ladies are coming, but Anvil replies that he took a bath last spring and besides, "No gal ever looked at me!" However, when the Smith wagons arrive, Big Anvil meets Liza Smith and his life is changed forever. When the house and barn are completed a party is in order and Liza says she will save her first dance for Big Anvil. Smitten with each other it is only a matter of time before they profess their mutual love and Big Anvil tells Tomahawk that he plans on coming back to the valley and marrying Liza. The Rangers stayed till fall and then headed back to the fort, Big Anvil promising to return to be with Liza.

They find the fort under attack and it only survives due to the extra fire-power of the Rangers. Tomahawk tells Big Anvil that maybe he should slip back to Liza, but the big man says he will stay, that as long as "the Injuns are attackin' this fort -- Liza an' her kin must be safe!" One night while on patrol the Rangers see the warriors sneaking up on the fort with torches and in silence they attack them, fighting them till morning when the "Indians fade away like shadows."

The Rangers head back to Echo Valley only to find the cabin on fire and the Smiths leaving, saying they don't want to stay in the place where Liza was murdered. A shaken Big Anvil charges into the valley with the rest of the Rangers facing off the warriors gunfire. All of a sudden it becomes quiet as the gunfire stops and the whistle of arrows begins. Tomahawk thinks he understands why and has his men fire their guns off in rapid succession, firing everything they have. The gunfire starts an avalanche which buries Buffalo Horn and his men. In the end only Buffalo Horn emerges from the mountain of snow, saying he has had enough of fighting a white man who fights like an Indian.

The Smiths decide to stay on in the valley and as the Rangers leave a weeping Big Anvil kneels down in front of Liza's grave and places a flower. I can't let this one go without mentioning the wonderful art. Frank Thorne and Joe Kubert made a great team and the styles of both men survive the team-up. It's too bad that Kubert could not ink Thorne more as the results were a great treat.

The back-up story is "The Man Who Posed as Tomahawk" a reprint from Tomahawk #31 drawn by Bruno Premiani and Ray Burnley.

Edited by Murray Boltinoff.

The Bare Essentials of Safety

Last year I took approximately 20 airline flights. Actually, when you count the connecting flights, I took a lot more than that, and each one began with the safety spiel by the crew or a safety video by the airline, none of which I gave much attention. That is the problem airlines face, nobody pays attention to the safety instructions. Air New Zealand thinks they have that problem licked:

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Childhood Lost

In Jr. high school I had an English teacher named Mr. Sharpe. He was the only black teacher in my school, which had a 30-40% black student body. Mr. Sharpe was an odd fellow, looked sort of like Clarence Thomas and always dressed impeccably. He also had the trait of saying some things three times. One of his favorite lines was, "I want you to think, think think! T-H-I-N-K T-H-I-N-K T-H-I-N-K Think! Think! Think!" I remember too that the black kids did something that neither I nor my white friends did; they carried around with them pictures of their favorite singers. I think half the black kids at my school had a picture of James Brown in their wallet or notebook.

One day a girl in my English class pulled out a picture of the Jackson Five and showed it to Mr. Sharpe. "Do you like the Jackson Five Mr. Sharpe?" she asked.

He replied, "Well, they sing very nice."

"Do you like Michael?"

I remember to this day what he said. At the time I thought it was a really strange thing to say and that he couldn't be more wrong. Over the years, Mr. Sharpe proved to be precinct in his evaluation. "I think that boy being so popular so young is a very, very bad thing. Every child needs a childhood and this boy is not getting his. I think it will trouble him for the rest of his life."

How sad for Michael. He really was Peter Pan, the boy who could never grow up. To leave childhood behind, you have to have a childhood and Michael could never let go of what he never really had.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Brave and the Bold #85

Brave and the Bold #85 (On Sale: June 24, 1969) has the classic Neal Adams' Batman and the new Green Arrow cover.

I can still smell the paper and the ink of this issue, I poured over it so much, digesting every panel over and over. This book was a revelation to me; I think it hooked me on comics more than any other book. After living through John, and Martin and Bobby, the opening assassination attempt gripped me because it felt so real. The 1960's were a decade of liberal politicians being gunned down in our streets and this book gave us a revised hero, a modern-day Robin Hood, who was there to help fight the corruption of our country. He had a mustache and a goatee and cool new threads and he was an obvious good man. It put Batman into this world too, and said that he was more than just a crime fighter. Both of these heroes were the "rich guys" of DC, but both of them show that they cannot be corrupted by their wealth, as some are. A classic issue for sure.

Batman and Green Arrow star in "The Senator's Been Shot!" by Bob Haney and Neal Adams. Election day and Senator Paul Cathcart wins the race only to be shot while making his acceptance speech, falling into the arms of friend Bruce Wayne. Bruce changes into Batman and chases down the assassins, but is foiled by a low overpass. Bruce Wayne visits Paul's room at Gothan State Hospital where Paul's son Edmond is by his father's side, Paul in a coma.

Bruce gets a call from the governor who discusses the importance of an anti-crime bill that Paul was going to vote for and the need to appoint someone else in Paul's place. Bruce suggests Paul's son, Edmond, but the governor says that Edmond's psychiatric practice keeps him too busy and he wants to appoint Bruce as Senator. The governor mentions how the bill is aimed at the biggest crime combine of all run by Miklos Minotaur, who may be behind the assassination attempt. Bruce says he will think about it.

Meanwhile Oliver Queen is finishing up plans for "New Island" a second Gotham that could save the state from bankruptcy. The only other bidder on the project is Argonaut Unlimited run by Miklos Minotaur. After his assistant locks up the plans and leaves, Oliver pulls out his new Green Arrow costume. He ponders if he should give up Green Arrow completely and devote his energies to helping humanity instead as plain old Oliver Queen. At the same time he notes that his assistant has stolen the plans for New Island a man on a window-washing rig throws a grenade into Oliver's office, but an arrow with a hook on it flings the grenade out the window where it explodes harmlessly. He pulls out a duplicate set of plans for New Island and can't figure out which identity is more important, Oliver Queen or Green Arrow.

The next day Bruce and Edmond are at the gym working out when Bruce tells Edmond that he is not sure he will take the governor's appointment. Edmond lashes out at him, that people's lives are at stake and "you won't even stand up and be counted." Bruce confesses that he can't because he has another job to do, Batman's job, "because I am Batman!" Bruce continues that he told Edmond because he knows that, as a psychiatrist, Edmond will never reveal his secret and because he needs his advice. Who is more important, Senator Bruce Wayne or Batman?

Later Edmond is looking over the New Island project with Oliver Queen when Oliver confides that he is Green Arrow and needs Edmond's help is figuring out which identity is more important. That night in his office, as Edmond ponders the two heroes coming to the same crisis in their lives, he is kidnapped by two of Minotaur's goons. Hours later Green Arrow pays Edmond a visit but finds Batman there instead. They listen to a secret recording that Edmond had running. Hearing that Minotaur is behind Edmond's capture both heroes silently think Minotaur is trying to get to their civilian identities through Edmond.

The next morning Bruce Wayne is sworn in as a US Senator, while Green Arrow parachutes onto a small Mediterranean island and plants a tracking device on Minotaur's yacht as it enters a hidden grotto. The tracking device is found and destroyed, leaving Green Arrow lost in the grotto. Minotaur releases his private hunting stock into the grotto and Green Arrow is attacked by a bear, a boar and a lion. He takes them out but is floored by the charging lion.

He is awakened later by Batman, who has tracked him through his Justice League locator transmitter. Batman uses a real bat and another locator device to find their way out of the grotto. Batman and Green Arrow crash into Minotaur's lair, only Minotaur puts a gun to Edmond's head and tells them to stop or he will kill Edmond. Green Arrow jams the trigger of Minotaur's gun with a trick arrow and while they are fighting his men, Minotaur escapes.

Bruce flies back to Washington for the crime bill vote while Oliver invites Minotaur to a lavish party on the island. When Minotaur arrives Oliver tries to have him arrested, but Minotaur notes that he cannot be arrested in a foreign country. Oliver then informs him that he should have noticed that the party was at the American Embassy. Oliver knocks him out and they take him away in a helicopter from the roof. Meanwhile back in Washington, Batman lands at the airport and makes it by Batrope and leg-power to the Senate, where he quickly changes into his civilian duds in time to vote for the crime bill.

Later Edmond meets both Oliver and Bruce separately. Oliver thinks that there is room in his life for both of his identities, while Bruce has resigned his Senate seat and has chosen the road of Batman. Later, alone in his office Paul begins sessions of self-hypnosis to wipe the knowledge of the secret identities from his mind. This classic story has been reprinted in DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #23, Best of the Brave and the Bold #1, Millennium Edition: The Brave and the Bold 85 (#48), Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams Vol. 1 HC, Showcase Presents Green Arrow Vol. 1 TPB and Showcase Presents the Brave and the Bold Batman Team-Ups Vol. 1 TPB.

Some mention must be given to the loose artwork by Neal Adams. It has none of the stiffness that would creep into his work over the years as he labored to be "Neal Adams," rather than a great comic book artist. Just my opinion here, but Adams seemed to just be having fun in these days; he hadn't yet become the "it guy" of comics and with nothing to keep proving, he was free to just cut loose.

Edited by Murray Boltinoff.