Friday, March 27, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Detective Comics #387

Detective Comics #387 (On Sale: March 27, 1969) has a cover by Irv Novick. celebrating Batman's 30th anniversary.

"The Cry of Night is -- Sudden Death" is by Mike Friedrich, Bob Brown and Joe Giella. this story was reprinted in Best of DC #2 and Detective Comics #627. "The Cry of Night is -- Sudden Death" is basically an updated version of of the "The Case of the Chemical Syndicate" from Detective #27, only from teenager Mike Friedrich instead of teenager Bob Kane. The plot follows the original fairly closely, only adding a conflict between Robin and Mel Lambert, Robin feeling Lambert must be guilty because he is such a disrespectful youth.

The back-up story is "The Case of the Chemical Syndicate" by Bill Finger and Bob Kane from Detective #27. This is of course the first Batman story. Commissioner Gordon receives a call telling him that Old Lambert, the chemical king, has been murdered. Gordon leaves for the crime scene bringing his millionaire friend Bruce Wayne. The prime suspect is Lambert’s son, but the boy claims to have found his father stabbed. A telephone call from Steven Crane, one of Lambert’s partners, reveals that Lambert’s life had been threatened.

Crane is also murdered by two thugs, who also steal a contract. They are confronted by a masked man on a rooftop, the Batman. Batman dispatches the hoods in short order, recovering the contract which leads him to the laboratory of another of Lambert’s partners, Alfred Stryker.

Stryker is being visited by the final partner, Paul Rogers. Rogers is knocked out and nearly killed by Stryker’s assistant, Jennings. Batman arrives in time to save the man and stop Jennings. Stryker also tries to kill Rogers to protect himself from the knowledge that he made secret contracts with the partners for control of the Apex Chemical Corporation. Batman rescues Rogers again, and knocks Stryker into a vat of acid, killing him.

Edited by Julius Schwartz.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane #92

Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane #92 (On Sale: March 25, 1969) has a nice cover by Curt Swan and Neal Adams.

"The Unbreakable Spell" is by E. Nelson Bridwell, Curt Swan and Mike Esposito. Apparently Lois turns into a centaur in this one.

Edited by Mort Weisinger.

Friday, March 20, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Windy and Willy #1

Windy and Willy #1 (On Sale: March 20, 1969) has a cover by Bob Oksner. This is an updated version of the cover to Many Loves of Dobie Gillis #12 from 1962.

We have an untitled Windy and Willy story reprinted from Many Loves of Dobie Gillis #18 and written by either Lawrence Nadle or Bob Oksner and drawn by Bob Oksner. There are updates in the art to the clothing and hairstyles, something done in many of the romance comic reprints and the character names are changed to avoid copyright infringement.

Edited by Dick Giordano.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Date With Debbi #3

Date With Debbi #3 (On Sale: March 18, 1969) cover where Debbi has the same dark eyes as last two issues, so I am going to guess that this is also the work of Samm Schwartz.

Inside Debbie stars in "The Brain Game" and "The Cave-Man Cometh" by persons unknown. Flowers stars in an untitled story drawn by Phil Mendez and we end with another Debbie story, "The Minor Becomes a Drum Major" drawn by Henry Boltinoff.

This is the first of only three stories Phil Mendez would draw for DC comics, one in this and the next issue of Date With Debbi and one in Kissyfur #1 in 1989.

Phil Mendez started a comic strip in the Mercury Shopper’s Guide at the age of sixteen and was hired by Dancer-Fitzgerald-Sample at the age of eighteen as an assistant art director on the General Mills account. Phil freelanced on comic books at Charlton in 1966 and DC in 1969. He worked as a storyboard artist, head designer and layout director for Totem Productions' Voyager (NASA).

In 1970 he worked at Disney Studios on the feature film Robin Hood. He then worked for Fred Calvert Productions and Ron Campbell Films on projects including Nanny and The Professor, Sesame Street and the IBM specials The Great Blue Marble.”

Mendez designed presentations and layout work for Hanna-Barbara Productions on The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Scooby-Doo, The Yogi Bear Show, Hong Kong Phooey, The Buford Files, The Partridge Family, The Banana Split Show and more. He was hired by Mark Davis in 1975 as his assistant to design attractions for Disneyland where he worked on Fantasyland rides, Epcot Center and concept work for future Disney Projects.

He started his own company, Phil Mendez Productions, in 1982 where he designed the original presentation and characters for An American Tail and “Rose Petal Place. He created the children’s shows Kissyfur and Foofur, and he wrote The Black Snowman which won the Martin Luther King “Living the Dream Award” in 1991 (to date the book has sold over 1.7 million copies.) You can see much of Phil's work on his website. You never know who you are going to find in these old DC Comics.

Edited by Dick Giordano

IBM in talks to buy Sun Microsystems

Because if there is one thing we need right now it's a computer company that is too big to fail!

By the way. Since apparently we can alter the rules of the TARP fund anytime we feel like it, I have a new retroactive amendment. Take the money and you are cut in half. Take the money again and you are cut into quarters, again and you are cut into eights, etc. Eventually you will be in small enough pieces to fail all on your own. Too big to fail means too big to exist.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Of Bozo, The Beatles, "Bad Day at Black Rock" and Mr. Magoo

Saturday the Los Angeles Times reported the death of Alan W. Livingston, the creator of Bozo the Clown and, as president of Capitol Records, the man who signed the Beach Boys, The Steve Miller Band and The Beatles.

Today they reported on the death of Millard Kaufman, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of "Bad Day at Black Rock" and the co-creator of Mr. Magoo. And for those of you who think it is too late to try something new:

"I decided, knowing that nobody my age gets work in movies, and that I had to do something, otherwise I'd get into terrible trouble, that I would try writing a novel," he told The Times in 2007.

That was the year "Bowl of Cherries," which a New Yorker writer described as "equal parts 'Catcher in the Rye' and 'Die Hard,' " was published.

Kaufman's second novel, "Misadventure," is due out this fall.
Kaufman was 92.

Friday, March 13, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Showcase #82

Showcase #82 (On Sale: March 13, 1969) has a cover featuring Nightmaster by Joe Kubert. It also has added "Preview" to the appellation and a large DC logo. The irony of this is that this is one of the few three-issue tryouts that never went anywhere. And yeah, before there was a Conan comic at Marvel, DC tried sword and sorcery.

"Some Forbidden Fate" is by Denny O'Neil, Jerry Grandenetti and Dick Giordano. Thousands of years ago, the mighty warrior Nacht was driven from his other-dimensional world of Myrra by his rival Brom and the evil magician Farben. While Nacht's magic Nightsword inserted itself into a stone pillar, Nacht himself ended up on Earth where he settled down under his family name of Roke.

In 1969, Jim Rook, lead singer of the rock band called the Electrics, entered an abandoned store on Manhattan named Oblivion, Inc. and is magically transported to Myrra. One of Nacht's descendants, Rook reluctantly claimed his ancestor's Sword and became the new protector of Myrra – the Nightmaster. Although Rook really wantd to return to Earth, he finds himself in the midst on the conflict between Myrra's King Zolto and the evil Warlocks, when the Warlocks captures Rook's girlfriend, Janet Jones.

Edited by Murray Boltinoff.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Lesson

Give a man a fish
And he will eat for a day.
Give a man religion
and he will starve to death
praying for fish.

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- House of Mystery #180

House of Mystery #180 (On Sale: March 11, 1969) has another creepy cover by Neal Adams.

We begin with "Comes a Warrior" written and penciled by Gil Kane and inked by Wally Wood. This is the story of barbarian Rangarry and his search for an adventure that would immortalize his name. He finds an unnamed village haunted by demons and sets out on a quest to slay the dragon in a distant valley that is said to spawn the demons.

Next is "His Name is... Kane" by Mike Friedrich, Gil Kane and Wally Wood. Comic artist Gil Kane finds himself being sucked into the page he has just completed drawing, there to fight against demons. He remembers back to how it all began, how that cheapskate editor Joe Orlando wouldn't pay him until he finished his work. And what crap it all was, hack stories and even worse inkers.

Kane decides to go off to a quiet place to work on his own stories and takes a room from caretaker Cain at the House of Mystery, where he is soon interrupted by Joe Orlando again. In a fit of rage he kills the hapless editor only to find a small factory of creatures how drawing and inking and coloring his pages. Shrinking down into the pages he fights on against the demon editors and writers. Later Cain looks in on Kane only to find him gone, all that remains is his artwork...or is there something else there as well? Reprinted in Limited Collectors' Edition C-23 and Welcome Back to the House of Mystery #1.

This is followed by a Cain's Game Room page by Sergio Aragones and "Oscar Horns In!" as two-page text story by Cliff Rhodes illustrated by Joe Orlando.

Mext is "Scared to Life" by Marv Wolfman and Bernie Wirghtson. Lord Dufferin, the British Ambassador to Paris is vacationing in Ireland when a terrible moaning sound draws him out into the night and to his destiny. Reprinted in House of Mystery #226 and Showcase Presents: The House of Mystery Vol. 3 TPB

The book ends with another Cain's Game Room page by Sergio Aragones. Along with the previously noted, the entire book was reprinted in Showcase Presents: The House of Mystery Vol. 1 TPB

Edited by Joe Orlando.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sunday Drawing

A weekend ago I was finally back at William Stout's studio for a little "worshiping at the throne of feminine beauty." It's been a long time since I was there; one thing after another has taken my time away over the last year or so and driving to Pasadena on Sunday mornings just seemed to slip away from my agenda. But I have put it back on and hopefully I can get there every other week if not every week.

Having been away so long I was a little rusty to say the least, but I started out using my pastels for some quick 10-minute drawings. Our model for the day, Sandy, has an amazing back and she poses it to the best of results. She is one of those models that, as she strikes a pose, she can take your breath away.

Most of my early pieces were pretty bad, the result of months away from life drawing and me not being used to working fast in pastels. I love pastels, but I love to take my time with them as well. As we transitioned into the longer 25-minute poses I moved back into my life drawing comfort zone, which is black and white charcoal pencil on gray stock.

I find it much easier to be fast in this medium. Things don't always turn out exactly how I want them, and I have a bit of a rough hand with the charcoal now and then, but there is a certain comfort in working this way. If certainly feels familiar.

The things I like about Stout's is the closeness of the model and the dramatic lighting his dark studio affords (OK, I also love the fellowship of the other artists there, a great bunch of extremely talented people). Without proper lighting a model can just sit there and your artwork just sits there, but this is never a problem at Bill's.

I missed this weekend, but I will be back next weekend and hopefully for many weekends thereafter. There is nothing quite as invigorating as "worshiping" at Stout's.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Something Very Special

Through the years my wife and I have looked at a number of homes for sale that we know we could never afford to buy. No, we are not habitual "looky loos," but we do like to occasionally stop by a house for sale and take a gander. Sometimes though, you have to be satisfied just looking at the ad in the newspaper. Usually this is when the house is a real mansion, complete with Olympic pool, tennis courts, bowling alley, disco, chauffeur's quarters and a price tag that would choke a race horse. Usually these homes are overly ostentatious and, if we were to be completely honest, nothing we would actually want to own.

But every now and then you see a home for sale that just takes your breath away, a home that, for one crazy moment to try and figure an angle of how you could afford to pay for it. We saw such a home in the Los Angeles Times today and for one stupid moment we looked at each other, thinking, "Is there any way this could be possible?" It has to be something special to make us do this. In this case it is something historic, something magnificent. The Millard House in Pasadena was built in 1923 by Frank Lloyd Wright, and it is just a stunner. If you have $7,733,000 it can by yours, you lucky bastard.

Take a long stroll through the whole The Millard House site, drink it all in and tell me you would not want to own this masterpiece. So much more than a house (actually two houses!), an historic place of pure beauty and a work of pure genius.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Horton Foote, R.I.P.

Horton Foote died this week. Foote's Tender Mercies is one of my favorite films of all time and I try to watch it every couple of years. In a cynical world it is a testament to the goodness of people and Robert Duvall is simply amazing as the alcoholic Mac Sledge, trying to turn his life around with the help of a good woman and her son.

In fact the Los Angeles Times ran a story today entitled Comfort films to warm recession's chill, about "movies you've seen so many times you can whisper the lines along with the actors, the images nearly as familiar as the faces of your friends." Two of the ten films were written by Horton Foote. Tender Mercies and To Kill A Mockingbird, for which Foote wrote the screenplay. Foote won Academy Awards for both films.

I love the scene the Times selects from Tender Mercies:

"Hey mister, were you really Mac Sledge?" a woman asks after spotting Duvall's character on a dusty small-town street. With barely a glance in her direction, he breaks into a wry smile and settles the cowboy hat a little lower on his head, "Yes ma'am, I guess I was."
Foote's immense talent made you feel you were in the small Southern towns these films depict.

With A Little Help

My brother Jack sent this to me the other day. As you may recall, I saw Joe Cocker last year in Florida and was blown away by his performance. I don't know if that was on my brother's mind when he sent this to me, who knows? What I do know is that this is laugh-out-loud funny! Take a look!

Friday, March 06, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Adventures of Jerry Lewis #112

Adventures of Jerry Lewis #112 (On Sale: March 6, 1969) has a cover by Bob Oksner. Until I bought the old Neal Adams' issues last year, this was the only issue of Adventures of Jerry Lewis I had ever bought or read and the only one I bought from the newsstand.

We start with "The Flash Meets Jerry Lewis," which is the reason I bought this book. I remember liking this story, just not enough to spend money on Jerry every month. Next is "Wheeler Dealer Meets Jalopy Jerk" and we end with "Jerry-Flavored Ice Cream." Steve Rowe tells us that all the art inside is by Bob Oksner. There was a time when we could pretty much say with certainty that the stories were all by Arnold Drake, but with Drake's ouster along with all the other "old" writers, I have no idea who was writing the humor books for DC.

Edited by Murray Boltinoff.

If Only We Could Be So Lucky

Someone named Hunter has a wonderful piece over on the Daily Kos today. Here is just a small portion of it:

Does it feel to anyone else that we are in a national rut? That the entire economy of the United States has been predicated, for the last decades, on the following ingenious business cycle?

1. Someone -- probably Phil Gramm -- pushes for deregulation of a particular subset of a particular financial marketplace (see: energy markets, corporate insurance markets), or fervently insists that a newly discovered loophole in current regulations remain open.

2. Using the new loophole or deregulatory act, the companies that requested the financial deregulation in the first place make money hand over fist by exploiting that unregulated marketplace in increasingly sketchy ways (see: Savings and Loan crises, Enron, AIG). Someone who pushed for the deregulation -- probably Phil Gramm -- happens to have a relationship to one of the companies in question, and profits handsomely.

3. The unregulated financial sub-marketplace becomes so sketchy, so loaded with either implicit or explicit fraud, that it collapses under itself, taking the savings of millions of Americans with it (see again: Savings and Loan crises, Enron, AIG). Someone -- probably Phil Gramm -- calls on Americans to stop whining about it, it's just how the world works.

4. The government is forced to step in and repair the damage, but is restricted by the policy prescriptions of multiple somebodies -- usually including Phil Gramm -- to re-regulating the industry in the most minimal possible way, bailing out the companies that got themselves willingly into trouble through their own sketchy or asinine behavior.

5. A thousand other somebodies -- usually followers of Ayn Rand, the most communistic anti-communist to have ever lived, the woman who proposed that the rebellion against communism should consist of starting a commune, but being, you know, more selective about the membership -- chafes violently at the proposed fix in the process, because even in most gentle form it is far, far too harsh on those that created the problem in the first place. Rinse; repeat.

Are we becoming a nation intent on scamming itself, a nation that only values work or inventiveness when it is applied to new ways of squeezing more transactions between the same market endpoints, or milking out one more tenth of a percentage point in income by taking on thirty times that in risk?

It's not enough to produce energy anymore, or to transport it -- there's not enough profit in that. So any company worth it's salt, like Enron, knows the real money is in speculating on energy, not actually doing anything with it. Any Wall Street broker worth their salt knows that investing in a factory is an absurdist proposition, you want to invest in the companies that invest in the investors that financed the investment of that factory. What fool would want to provide actual healthcare, when all the actual cash is to be made in managing that health care by deciding what gets covered, and how much it should cost, and exactly how many files need to be moved how many times before your doctor will see even a dollar in cash from your visit six months ago, and how precisely your heath management company should invest that dollar in other marketplaces, during the ever-expanding length of time it is held between when the service is rendered and all possible paperwork has been exhausted and the dollar must, at long last, be forked over?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Aquaman #45

Aquaman #45 (On Sale: March 4, 1969) has a cover that just leaves me gasping in admiration. This is just one of those perfect covers that Nick Cardy was known to create in these years where he was given free reign. First it is impeccably drawn, full of all the emotional impact Cardy can give it. The sun rising on the body of Aquaman, awash in the surf, the grieving woman, fallen to her knees, her face buried in her hands, the sun rising behind her head. Second, look at the coloring; with the exception of the woman's dress, the entire cover is done in Aquaman's colors, orange, yellow and green. If you always wondered what perfection in a comic book cover looked like, this is it.

"Underworld Reward Part 2" is by Steve Skeates and Jim Aparo. Continuing his search for Mera, Aquaman tracks down a kidnapped woman who was taken by the underworld because they think she was given information by the Sea King. Once the girl is safe, Aquaman tracks down the head of the mob in an underground lair. A fight ensues which leads to an explosion. Aquaman escapes through a window to the ocean. Disoriented from the explosion he is caught in a whirlpool like the one that masked Mera's disappearance. When he finally breaks free and reaches a nearby beach he is shocked to find Mera standing in front of him.

Meanwhile, Aqualad continues his battle against the Bugala. The men of Eldfur, who were supposed to help him, panic and abandon the fight. Aqualad is left to fight alone. Reprinted in Adventure Comics #496.

Edited by Dick Giordano.