Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Ms. Molecule in Unusual Suspense


You won't find it at your local comic shops this week but the first issue of Charlton Neo's UNUSUAL SUSPENSE is now available! From Amazon! The title--which contains several of the previously online only comics from Pix-C, is highlighted by my lovely wife Rene's collaboration with artist Sandy Carruthers on the adventures of MS. MOLECULE!


All credit to Mort Todd for making it all happen and experimenting with this unique form of distribution. Act now and you can even save a little bit using the codes below! Go to http://morttodd.com/unusual.html 
and follow the Amazon links for either the actual comic book or the Kindle version!


Monday, July 27, 2015

Joseph-Beth and Booksteve


Longtime readers will recall that I began working for Waldenbooks in 1982. More than a decade before that, my 6th Grade self became the youngest manager of the bookstore in my grade school. I was fired for giving out the wrong change too often. I became a recess cookieseller instead.

I worked for Waldenbooks in downtown Cincinnati for one year, then moved to the Waldenbooks in Crestview Hills, KY for four years. From there, I spent nine years at the Florence Mall Waldenbooks before being promoted to return to the Crestview Hills store as manager for five years. 

In 2000, I transferred to the Eastgate Mall Waldenbooks on the outskirts of Cincinnati for three tumultuous years before jumping ship to Barnes and Noble at Cincinnati's Hyde Park location.

The Hyde Park location was near Joseph-Beth Booksellers, a large but independent bookstore based  out of Lexington, KY. I got one of my better ex-employees hired on there for a while. My B&N, however, closed after just a year and a half, and a sojourn at the Public Library didn't quite last that long.

Soon enough, I found myself back at Waldenbooks--although called Borders--at the Cincinnati Airport store where I bypassed assistant manager and finished up my bookstore career as manager once again when the concourse closed, followed by Borders going away completely soon afterwards.

Did I say "finished" my bookstore career?

After spending the past six years working with Craig Yoe, Martin Grams, Kathy Coleman, Greg Theakston, Dee Sutter, Jon B. Cooke, Roy Thomas, Shaun Clancy, Michael Eury, and Bhob Stewart--among others--on various books and other print projects, as of today I find myself once again working in a bookstore!

While I have no intention of giving up the successful writing career I'd always wanted, today was my first day at Joseph-Beth Booksellers! Ironically, I'm once again located at Crestview Hills, KY, where they took over the abandoned Borders location which replaced my former Waldenbooks!

I'm only part-time. It's all I wanted. And for now, I'm working in the stock room, but it's extra money, a reason to get out of the house, and hopefully the beginning of getting me back in shape and out of the funk that I've been in for a while now. 

Bookselling isn't just a job. It's a calling. I've told that to hundreds of people over the years and now I have once again answered that call.

Booksteve is BACK!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

R.I.P. Peg Lynch

Pioneering radio and TV writer and comedic actress Peg Lynch has passed at 98. For several years, beginning in the mid-1990s, she was a fixture at the Cincinnati Old-Time Radio and Nostalgia Convention and even showed up one last time, aged 95 or so, for the final one, just a couple of years back. By that point, she was in a wheelchair and seemed a bit weak...until she got in front of a microphone.

 
Peg had begun her signature ETHEL & ALBERT series on radio. It was similar to the better-remembered program, THE BICKERSONS, only better. In THE BICKERSONS, Don Ameche and Francis Langford often fought like a married couple on the verge of a divorce...or murder. In the case of Ethel and Albert, it was bantering more than bickering. Sometimes at his expense, sometimes at hers. There was never any doubt that the pair adored each other

Peg not only retained all her own copyrights over the years but steadfastly refused to admit that old time radio was no longer a valid medium. To that end, she kept on writing new ETHEL & ALBERT scripts and performing them in public at various events.


Alan Bunce was her Albert on radio and TV but was long gone by that point. In Cincinnati, Parley Baer played opposite her in her early appearances and later Bob Hastings took on the role.


They used to auction off professionally recorded tapes of the convention shows every year and I would always try to win them since I was in some of the re-creations. As such, I also have a number of the latter-day ETHEL & ALBERT sketches.

I have to say I never found Peg Lynch to be as warm and friendly as other guests over the years but she was a thorough professional, a clever writer, a funny performer and an important, unsung person in broadcast history.

Rest in Peace.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Booksteve Reviews: Archie Vs. Sharknado

To be fair, I've never seen any of the SHARKNADO movies. I gather they're so over the top as to be of the "so bad they're good" variety...to some folks. And it's not like I haven't seen plenty of violent movies. There are several Troma flicks I quite enjoy! And as far as gory comics, I've done work on the HAUNTED HORROR comic book and its hardcover collections.



That said, John Goldwater is undoubtedly rolling over in his grave over this one. The Punisher thing worked. The GLEE and KISS tie-ins were well done. I even surprised myself by writing a good review of ARCHIE VS PREDATOR in ACE Magazine. But I can find no excuse nor justification of this one. ARCHIE VS SHARKNADO reads like nothing less than a late seventies NATIONAL LAMPOON style parody with its particularly unpleasant violence against well-loved characters.


The usually wonderful Dan Parent, who has done so much of the stuff that Archie has been rightly praised for in recent years, drew it and seems to have taken great morbid delight in moments of both sex and violence such as the above.

But Archie--AFTERLIFE and PREDATOR aside--is still a comic book franchise believed by the masses to still be safe for kids and teens...and if any kids get their hands on this comic book and their parents find out, it won't be pretty.

One of the WORST single issue comic books I have ever read. 
Booksteve does NOT recommend!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Lost Girl--The Audio Book: Coming Soon!

Thanks to Stu Shostak of the great STU'S SHOW, it looks like Kathy Coleman will actually have an audio version of our LOST GIRL relatively soon! We were all on Skype earlier today doing some test recordings from Stu's studio (The man is a whiz when it comes to editing on the fly!) and figuring out how to do things. It's happening! Thanks, Stu!

Monday, July 20, 2015

WW II Propaganda From Fawcett Comics


These very effective propaganda pages from early 1940s Fawcett Comics must have scared young readers half to death but they definitely got across the importance of the real world situations to kids who just wanted to watch Billy yell, "Shazam!"


Friday, July 17, 2015

R.I.P. Alan Kupperberg


This interview with Alan Kupperberg originally ran on my HOORAY FOR WALLY WOOD blog in October, 2009 in slightly different form. Since then, Alan and I had become fairly close as online friends go, with him contributing to my various blogs and even, just a  few weeks ago, to an article I will have coming out in BACK ISSUE next year.  After a brief, courageous battle against a badly-timed cancer (aren't they all?) Alan Kupperberg passed away on the evening of July 6th, 2015. Rest in Peace, sir.

I first noted Alan Kupperberg's work on Marvel's WHAT IF...? and THE INVADERS back in the seventies but had no idea he had worked for Wallace Wood. His name popped up everywhere at both Marvel and DC for several years perhaps most notably in his Orson Welles act as writer/artist/letterer/colorist on 1983's infamous OBNOXIO THE CLOWN VS THE X-MEN. He went on to a troubled run on the ANNIE comic strip as well as work for many magazines such as SPY and NATIONAL LAMPOON. Recently Alan was kind enough to speak with me about his time with Woody.

Booksteve-Thanks for talking with me this morning, sir. I do appreciate it.

Alan Kupperberg-It's always fun to talk about comic books. There are not too many people around any more with whom to do that.

B-If you would, a little background on yourself for anyone not familiar with your work.
A-Well, I was born in Brooklyn in 1953 and I grew up reading DC and Marvel comics. I'm a third generation artist. My grandmother was an artist, a hand-painter, and my father was an award-winning amateur photographer. Comic books were the form of expression that caught my interest. Very early in my life, so I pursued it! Brooklyn is just across the river from Manhattan and about 1967 I started taking the subway and visiting the company offices. I got in trouble by being a stupid, bratty kid but I did get to know everybody.

B-Who were your own favorite artists growing up?

A-Well, Woody was one, of course.

B-Let's see...if you were born in '53 you would have discovered him during his first Marvel run, then?

A-No, MAD MAGAZINE.

B-Oh, that's right! Duh!

A-My mother has a younger brother. David was about eight or nine years older than me and he read SUPERMAN and MAD and that's where I first saw Woody's work. A favorite of mine was a feature that E. Nelson Bridwell wrote in MAD MAGAZINE that Woody illustrated about changing the characters' costumes--you know that one?

B-Sure!

A-When I saw how he could do that SUPERMAN, that cemented Woody into my "scrapbook of love," y'know?

B-I love to see his renditions of SUPERMAN but you know he never actually drew the feature! I'm told that was yet another sore point with him. I mean, he drew the cameo in CAPTAIN ACTION and then the Golden Age version in his JUSTICE SOCIETY strips in the seventies but...

A-He knew he blew that one. Especially, Captain Action #1. We spoke about it. I said, "You didn't get it." He said, "I know. I feel bad about it." He got much closer to the mark in SUPERDUPERMAN (in MAD).


B-Yeah, that's where I first saw that he could do something other than superheroes. I picked up THE MAD READER...had to have been around 1970 because it was the edition with the hippie cover...and it was SO different that I felt like I had to hide it from my parents.

A-Well, I didn't have to worry about that because my parents liked subversive humor, so I was safe. Woody’s art appeals to so many people. He's one of those guys whose work you'd see in so many places--the trading cards, MAD magazine, board game boxes, comic books--he was all over the place. Most guys stuck to one thing or the other.

B-After I recognized his style I did! I started seeing it everywhere. I literally taught myself to draw--not that I'm that good--by tracing and imitating Wood art.

A-That's how we all did it!

B-You hear about so many people that did.

A-Swiping Woody is how I started with Woody. I was up in the studio doing a job for Jack Abel called THE GODMOTHER for a parody rag called GRIN Magazine and Woody looked over my shoulder and said, "Oh, you can letter! You wanna letter the strips?"--SALLY and CANNON--so I said "Sure." I took it home and brought it back the next day. Gaspar Saladino had been lettering the strips. Now, I'm no Gaspar, but my lettering can be adequate. My ballooning stank in those days, so Woody did his own balloons. So then he asked me if I could pencil CANNON for him. I took the pages home and opened up my T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS and copied out the appropriate panels and adapted them to the situation. And Woody flipped out. He said, "You're hired." Within three weeks I was also writing SALLY and CANNON.

B-That would have been about...?

A-1971 or '72 probably.

B-Who else was working with him at the time?

A-Actually, I was the only person helping Woody at all, at that time. In the front room, renting space were Jack Abel and Syd Shores. I guess Woody and I must have worked together probably a year altogether, until I got on his nerves or did something awful to him. You know the SALLY FORTH page Neal Adams worked on?

B-No. I know at least one CANNON page he worked on.

A-Was it CANNON? I guess it was. That was my doing. Woody got sick or drunk that week...I guess sick 'cause he was usually sober during that period I was there. I took that week's SALLY and CANNON pages into Neal's studio and asked for help. Ralph Reese and Larry Hama did most of the heavy lifting that week. On SALLY, especially.

B-So you worked on SALLY FORTH and CANNON, how about the third strip?

A-SHATTUCK?

B-Yeah.

A-No, that strip had ended by the time I started with Woody.

B-There's very little info out there on that strip. You can find originals from SALLY and CANNON on Ebay or at some of these auction houses but never SHATTUCK. I finally found one Dave Cockrum drawing and that was it! I wrote to Howard Chaykin and he said, "That stuff is so long lost, I wouldn't know where to begin."

A-Come to think of it, I did draw part of one panel of SHATTUCK the day Howard and I became friends. He was living in some God-awful half-derelict hippie dump in Queens--I think Flushing. He was sharing it with two other hippies and he was living up in the attic, drawing SHATTUCK. I went out there to hang out with Howard one day and I ended up drawing a stagecoach bouncing along the road so I did work on SHATTUCK! Jack Abel worked on it I think.

B-Yeah, Abel, Cuti, Cockrum, Chaykin...

A-Wayne Howard?

B-Could be.

A-I haven't thought about who worked on SHATTUCK since those days!

B-We were thrilled to find even the one drawing I found online.

A-Wait-a-minute. I have a Jack Abel drawing of SHATTUCK right here. I can scan it and send it to you. It's a personal sketch of SHATTUCK that Jack drew for me in pencil. Got it right here in front of me.

B-Cool! Thanks!

A-Have you heard about Woody's personal pornography?

B-No.

A-(laughter) You know all that Naughty Wood stuff that he probably didn't pencil most of? That’s all crap. He had files that I understand he burned when he got sick. So they don't exist anymore. Woody kept these in a locked file cabinet. EC quality work, obsessively rendered; thick with ink, and Zip-A-Tone and he'd white things out with Sno-Pake and redraw and redraw. Just elaborate renderings of little people with huge sex organs doing all these awful things.

B-I've seen a picture of Wood sitting at his drawing table looking perfectly normal but if you look close there's a picture of what looks like Linda Lovelace pinned to a board behind him...hard at work.

A-Oh, Woody liked pornography as much as the next guy! (laughter)

B-The later stuff he did in California, if he had anything at all to do with some of it really I'd be surprised.

A-Just the inking, right?

B-I don't even see a trace of that in some of it. By the time the third issue of GANG BANG came out, Wood had been dead two years and they were still exploiting his stuff by reprinting old SCREW covers and fifties skin mag strips and cartoons.

A-I don't think I even saw that third one.

B-Going back a bit, what was your favorite Woodwork before you actually met him?

A-Probably the MAD stuff...No! Probably DAREDEVIL # 7!

B-One of my favorites, too! It's a nearly perfect comic right from that great cover!

A-Just about. There are a couple clumsy backgrounds by Woody but generally speaking...he used a lot of his stock shots, but it all worked.

B-Would you agree that Stan Lee was trying to turn Woody into the next Marvel superstar artist? I mean, they splattered his name all over the covers, let him redesign DD's costume, played him up on the letters pages...

A-I'm sure Stan was very glad to get Woody.

B-And yet his stay was relatively short. Maybe his legendary problems with people over-editing his work?

A-It was probably that and deadline problems.

B-Well he was gone for about four or five years, mostly doing T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS, but then he came back so he hadn't burned his bridges. When you left working with him about ten years later, did you two stay in touch?

A-Woody wasn't really too happy with me by the time we split up. I was just a stupid, unsocialized kid. I may have had some talent that these people could use but I didn't know what I was doing so I used to piss people off. Woody got pissed off with me. At the big 1972 EC Convention he showed up loaded. So I say, "Look, Woody. There's a panel. Why don't you go and get up there on the panel?" I thought it'd be very funny for Woody to get up on a panel loaded. He toddled right up there! So...I don't think he was very kindly disposed with me for things like that. Nor should he have been.

B-I have heard over the years that Wood could be the best Con guest or the worst Con guest, depending, I guess, on how much he'd been tippling before he went.

A-I wouldn't know which condition, drunk or sober would make him better or worse, when you think about it! (laughter) When I first met him, that week I went up to pencil that job for Jack Abel, Woody was just coming off a drunk. His hands were shaking. He couldn't even ink a line properly. He kept inking the same line and electric erasing it off and doing it all over again. But he was on the wagon for most of the year following that I think.

B-What do you think was the best result of you working with him during that period?

A-Well, I learned a lot of stuff, of course. He taught me a great many things. He taught me how to set up a reference file and how to use it...even though I don't. Not at all the way Woody did. He taught me how to set up your tools. I still keep my ink bottles set up just like his. An ink bottle is the easiest thing in the world to tip over with a careless swipe of your hand. He built a contraption--this big thing--out of cardboard and masking tape. And it's got holes in it and a water bottle on the top of that anchors it down so you can't knock the stuff over. There are places to keep the lids for the water bottle and the ink bottle tops... Once a month Woody used to filter his India ink. I think this was when he was still living with Tatjana over on the West Side here. He had a lot of assistants and drawing tables all set up with ink bottles. Woody used to collect all the ink bottles and they'd filter the ink. Woody would strain the ink through cheesecloth and then he’d add distilled water and glycerin to make the ink the right consistency again. Then he’d refill all the ink bottles.

B-What do you think Wood's legacy to the industry is today?

A-Nil. These days I’d say it's virtually nil. I don't think people are going to base their styles on Wally Wood anymore. I think Hilary Barta was maybe the last person to even attempt that kind of flavor.

B-In hindsight, what mistakes do you think Woody made that might have left him happier and more successful if he hadn't?

A-Well, it's not really a mistake, but his decision not to be able to tolerate William Gaines anymore definitely did him no good. He had cartoons that he drew in his personal files of Gaines nursing artists at his breasts. You've probably seen other versions of that picture in the story MY WORD he did for Flo Steinberg’s BIG APPLE COMIX. He never threw an idea away. I think his biggest mistake, though, was taking all those uppers in the fifties and burning himself out. Even when I was working for him, on the left hand side of his drawing board, there was always a hot plate with a teapot, with maybe twenty tea bags steeping away. He would just drink that strong tea and smoke cigarettes all day.

B-I've spoken with several of the people who worked with Wood or for him and many of them seem to have a kind of love/hate thing going. He could be nice or insulting but they'll still defend him to the end! They'll say things like, "I penciled this strip for him and even inked large portions of it but it's not my work. It's Wood's work." There's a wonderfully bizarre kind of loyalty going on there even now.

A-Yeah, I can see it. He might have treated me like that but I was kind of dense in certain ways and maybe I didn't get it. But I could make fun of him! There's that one line of dialogue Woody wrote in CANNON where CANNON and the farmer girl are skinny-dipping and CANNON says, "Last one in is a rotten egg." And the girl says, "Gee, we used to say that when WE were kids, too!" And I would say,
[girlish, falsetto voice] "Gee, we used to do that when WE were kids, Mr. Wood!" He was rolling on the floor. I could make fun of him. But Woody was not a funny guy in person, per se. He liked to play the guitar and sing Hank Williams songs.

B-I think I've only ever even seen one picture of him smiling.

A-It was probably a very shy smile, too.

B-Yep.

A-He knew how to enjoy himself but he was a consumer of humor, not a producer...verbally. He could produce humor on paper. But he was not generally a happy person. Woody might drop a devastatingly funny crack at an opportune moment but -- ! He was Woody-- a depression with legs. When he died he was an old man! Woody was 56. A HARD 56. I adored his work and I loved him. I miss him tremendously.

And we miss Alan already, too.