Wednesday, July 31, 2013

My Latest Mac Art

What with dealing with the flood and the cleanup and the insurance, etc, etc, all through July, there wasn't much inspiration but in recent days I have completed a few new pieces. Comments?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Captain Windy

One of my very first crushes growing up was Wanda Lewis, wife of Uncle Al Lewis, star of his own local kids show for three decades. Wanda played Captain Windy on THE UNCLE AL SHOW and Captain Windy could fly like Superman! She would mime to records in the manner that was popular in the late fifties and early sixties. She would also teach the alphabet and, of course, be infinitely patient with the youngsters on the show. I got to see her in person when I was 11 and almost got to actually meet her a few years back at a local TV event but she and Al had gotten snowed in and couldn't make it. Below is a national article on Wanda Lewis from a 1950s issue of TV-RADIO MIRROR when she was sidekick to another local TV legend, Paul Dixon.

Sunday, July 28, 2013


When I first started reading and collecting comic books, I read superhero comics. JUST superhero comics. Oh, there were a few exceptions like SUGAR & SPIKE and STANLEY & HIS MONSTER but I was pretty much all about the superhero comics.  Little by little, though, I learned that there was more to comics than just superheroes!

In 1967 or ’68 my cousin shared an issue of LIFE WITH ARCHIE with me that had the redheaded teenager in a spy spoof as “The Man From R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E. I went from there to the Archie superheroes, a natural shift, and then stuck with the whole gang from Riverdale when trends shifted and they went back to being just teenagers. With some genuinely funny scripts from Frank Jacobs and George Gladir and often amazing art from Dan DeCarlo, Harry Lucey and many others, I’ve stuck with Archie ever since and have even worked on several books on the history of the characters as well as doing some work for Archie creators.

It was around 1971 that I picked up my first issue of VAMPIRELLA under the influence of puberty. This led me to flip open issues of the long-ignored CREEPY and EERIE and discover some of the most amazing comic book art and writing ever from the likes of Archie Goodwin, Wally Wood, Rich Corben, Steve Ditko, Gray Morrow and dozens more! Years later I would be inspired to start long-running blogs in tribute to Wood and Morrow.

It was right around that same time that I discovered underground commix in Les Daniels’ history, COMIX. Crumb, Green, Williamson, Lynch, Bode, Shelton and so many others unknown to me before that. All writing and drawing about sex, politics, drugs, philosophy and themselves...things NEVER found in mainstream comics. Years later I would meet and host an autographing with Justin Green and help Skip Williamson publicize his eBooks online.

In 1972, I discovered European comics via fanzines. I had no earthly idea that anyone outside of the US made their own comic books until then! Tin-Tin, Asterix, Michel Valliant, Bruno Brazil, Luc Orient, Barbarella. Even if I couldn’t read them, the had some wonderful, imaginative artwork! Through the years, I’d discover more and more and in the eighties one of my very favorite comics was the UK’s 2000AD. 

 It was also in 1972, when DC Comics picked up the Tarzan license, that I read my very first TARZAN comic. I had seen the Gold Key version ever since I had started collecting comics but, in spite of a lifelong love of Tarzan movies and the sixties TV series, I had never bought an issue. With DC’s new beginning, I gave it a try and Joe Kubert’s art finally made a big impression on me! Then DC’s digest introduced me to the great Russ Manning! Years later, I’ve followed various companies’ Tarzan comics and recently transcribed an interview with the late Kubert on his time doing the DC stories.

In 1977 I attended a Comic Con where John Stanley was the guest of honor. I, of course, ignored him because he did “girl’s comics.” In 1983, I picked up a copy of THE SMITHSOMIAN BOOK OF COMIC BOOK COMICS with its long selection of LITTLE LULU comics by John Stanley and Irving Tripp. Without doubt the funniest comic books and some of the best to make full use of the comics medium itself. I have kicked myself ever since for ignoring John Stanley and LITTLE LULU so long!

Disney comics, at various points the biggest selling line in the world, were always ignored by me. Too much Scamp and the Little Bad Wolf I think. But the, in the mid-eighties, when one of my favorite fan artists, Don Rosa, came along to the newly formed publisher, Gladstone, to fulfill his lifelong dream of drawing a Disney ducks story, I gave it a shot. In one glorious issue, I discovered the great Scrooge McDuck and that type of stories that made him great. I returned regularly and discovered Barks, Gottfredson and the whole dynamic and wonderful world of Disney comics, US and foreign, some of them among THE best comics ever made!

HERBIE I ignored in the mid-sixties. Herbie Popnecker. A round kid with a limited vocabulary, a lollipop fetish and an abusive father. It just didn’t look funny. And it isn’t really. It’s more absurdist in the way that FLAMING CARROT is absurd. A few reprints and a new John Byrne story turned up in the mid-eighties and completely won me over!

DENNIS THE MENACE was a newspaper favorite of mine early on but I blissfully ignored the oversized comics that came out into the early seventies. Until I saw one about 2005 and realized just how much deeper the characterization and thus the humor cold go when it’s opened up from that single newspaper panel. Although signed by Hank Ketcham, most of the comic book Dennis’s adventures were apparently by Al Wiseman and Fred Toole and they are now amongst my favorites as well.

So the lesson here. To all of you who focus narrowly on any one comics genre, is that you don’t have a clue as to all the good stuff you’re missing out there! Personally, I love the fact that even after all this time I’m able to discover something great that’s new to me!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Booksteve Reviews: Super Boys

I believe it was 1989 when I almost met Jerry Siegel. He was scheduled as a guest at a ChicagoCon and I decided that would be a good time to attend my first ChicagoCon. Unfortunately, it was not to be as Jerry was ill that weekend and had to cancel.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve associated Jerry Siegel’s name with comic book stories I’ve really enjoyed, starting with Archie’s MIGHTY CRUSADERS and the other assorted Mighty Comics titles where he was sometimes billed as “Jerry Ess.” DC wasn’t crediting its stories at the time but Jerry’s name was frequently mentioned in the letters pages of the mid-sixties SUPERMAN titles. Somewhere in there, it was even mentioned that Jerry Siegel actually CREATED the Man of Steel! 7 year old me was impressed.

A decade later, 17 year old me had become vaguely aware of the problems Jerry, along with his artist co-collaborator Joe Shuster, had had over the years with the character’s corporate owners. Siegel and Shuster appeared on various TV shows in the mid-seventies and DC’s parent company was eventually shamed into giving them a pension and other benefits, as well as restoring their credit. As far as I knew in 1978 as I watched Jerry and Joe’s names up there on the giant screen for SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE, that was a long overdue happy ending to the Siegel and Shuster story.

Turns out what I didn’t know about Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster could fill a book. And now it has. Several, in fact. Gerard Jones’ brilliant MEN OF TOMORROW looked at the whole scope of comics history as it centered and grew around Jerry before throwing him to the wolves. Craig Yoe’s SECRET IDENTITY explored Joe Shuster’s clandestine career doing fetish art, Marc Tyler Nobleman’s unique children’s book, BOYS OF STEEL introduced the pair to a younger audience in his unique presentation. And there were a few others I haven’t even gotten around to.

Now comes SUPER BOYS. At last, an in-depth biography of the two most important men in the history of comics. Without Siegel and Shuster, there simply would NOT be a comics industry today. And taking their influence a bit further, movies and television and video games and cartoons would certainly be very, very different.

Don’t get me wrong. We’d still have superheroes. If Jerry hadn’t conceived Superman it would have been some other dreamer on some other moonlit night but somewhere along the way, in some form or another, heroic bigger than life characters would have still come about.

But the fact is that it WAS Jerry Siegel who did it first. It’s Superman who is and always has been the most iconic and it was Siegel and Shuster who made him that way.  And they got shafted.

Or did they? Author Brad Ricca draws on enough sources that he has nearly a hundred pages of footnotes and bibliography to tell the story in more depth than it’s ever been told before. Jerry and Joe weren’t just dumb kids whose work was stolen from them by the big bad corporate publishers. They had, in fact, been working for National for several years with popular features appearing in NEW FUN COMICS, ADVENTURE COMICS and, when it came along, DETECTIVE COMICS. They became early on the very first artist/writer team whose names appeared on the cover of an issue, presumably as they were thought to be a selling point! This was all before Action Comics # 1.

The amount they were paid seems low by today’s standards but it was actually quite good in the 1930s and 1940s.

One of the best parts of Brad’s book, though, is the long section preceding that period when the author’s research reveals over and over again the likely inspirations for all the various facets of the Superman mythos. From Jerry’s father’s sudden death to his own “secret identity” on the school newspaper, from the CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER’s story about how scientists had detected an exploding star to Joe’s obsession with bodybuilding.

Jerry Siegel was a writer. At the end of the day, he was not a GREAT writer, but his imagination was as unbridled as Jack Kirby’s in its own ways. He was a writer and a founder of sci-fi fandom which made him a contemporary of Forrest J. Ackerman, Ray Bradbury, Julius Schwartz and even his own future boss, Mort Weisinger.

After the success of Superman, Joe Shuster hired more and more artists to keep up with demand for new stories. National/DC also realized that since they owned the character outright, they could bypass the creators and hire their own writers and artists.
Jerry, on the other hand, did what he was born to do—he wrote. While still trying to stay on top of Superman scripts, he also created The Spectre, The Star-Spangled Kid and Robotman. After leaving DC against his will when he and Joe attempted an early legal action, they created Funnyman. He wrote Nature Boy for Charlton, The Shadow for Archie and later on in the sixties he wrote Marvel and UK comics and had a long run on Italian Disney comic books in the seventies. His last comics work was for Eclipse during the eighties indy boom.

Brad’s book gives us a look at what was going on in the lives of these two old friends while all of this was going on. The painful periods, the suicidal thoughts, the hope, the fear, the loss, the financial failures and successes, the’s all there in a non-exploitative way as the book tries to take us inside their heads through every step, with Jerry being a pretty open book and Joe remaining something of an enigma in many ways.

SUPER BOYS doesn’t judge. The story gives a simplified, straight-forward but fairly balanced look at both sides of the battle over the rights to the greatest comic book hero of them all. Jack Liebowitz and Harry Donenfeld come across as hard businessmen but not as the villains they sometimes appear to be. Siegel and Shuster come across as painfully human and NOT particularly good businessmen. Maybe in the end, they were not happy. Maybe they felt, as many fans do, that they had been cheated by fate. And financially, even though they were well compensated for their day, one can certainly make that argument.

But Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster pieced together portions of their teenage and young adult lives and created a character who has transcended ownership, a character who has meant more and reflected hope to more people than just about any other fictional character ever created. Few people today remember Donenfeld and Liebowitz. Few people remember Siegel and Shuster. But everyone remembers Superman.

When I grew up, it was George Reeves’ Superman, long after the actor’s own death, who reinforced my beliefs in right and wrong and helping people rather than hurting them. Superman was good. Period. And while we have the recent violent Superman of the movies, that’s the anomaly, not the rule. Superman IS good. Period.

SUPER BOYS does a darn fine job of showing exactly how he became that way.

SUPER BOYS by Brad Ricca has a few lamentable and obvious incidental fact-check errors but don't let that throw you into suspecting the rest of the facts. When it comes to the meat and potatoes of the story itself, it’s all meticulously detailed and documented. With lots of ultra-rare photos and art as well, SUPER BOYS gets Booksteve’s highest recommendation as a most important addition to comic book history. If you’ve ever cared about truth, justice and the American way, you owe it to yourself to find out just how they played into the stories of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


This is a slightly revised version of an early logo I made for this blog back eight years ago when it was brand-spanking new and no name had yet been settled on.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

You Can Help Professor Fester

What I said before about the unspoken fraternity of bloggers comes into play again, here. Seen above, along with his sidekick Sarah, is Professor Fester Faceplant. That's probably NOT his real name but, hey, it's the Internet. It counts. Fester has a blog I've recommended a number of times on my now-on-hiatus I.T.C.H. column. It's called THE CHARLTON COMICS READING LIBRARY. He also runs a great Charlton page on Facebook and has been putting together a great-looking Charlton fanzine on pure determination that has all-new contributions from a number of Charlton writers and artists! On top of that, he's a great student and historian of obscure music as seen at his FESTOLOGY blog!

Well, Fester took ill not long ago and now that's come back to bite him bad over the last 24 hours or so. Here are a couple of updates from Sarah.
so! today, Fester was sent home from work early. he'd been puking all morning, and his supervisor decided he was in no shape to be working. so he comes home, takes a nap, and wakes up in bad shape. we go to Urgent Care... from there, back home for a minute, as the doctors have told him to go to the ER in Winston-Salem, at the REAL hospital. when we pull in our parking space, we see a note in the door. it's holly, from the temp agency, saying that he's been fired.

we go to the emergency room at Baptist Hospital and wait another six+ hours. he has a MASSIVE kidney infection and has been admitted for possibly two or three days, so he can be blasted with IV antibiotics and fluids. he's in room A1172, feeling groggy, full of morphine, and on his way to a speedy recovery (we hope!)

what a shitty day.
Fester Faceplant update:

he's miserable!! so far, they're just pushing fluids. they are waiting on the cultures to grow, to best understand what's wrong and which antibiotics to utilize. he's not much in the mood for talking. nicotine patches make him sick, and he's jonesing for a smoke. since they're still waiting on cultures, Fester could be in that hospital room for DAYS. I can't say how much I appreciate your well-wishes and moral support 

if anybody is feeling generous, our paypal information is

a HUGE thanks to Roger McKenzie and David Pumphrey for their donations, and to Caroline Grout for helping us with the charity application, and Jason and Beverly Luffman for offering to help out with watching Quaidy, so he's not spending too much time in the hospital. hopefully we won't get evicted, nor have a 5-figure hospital bill.

my boy is still sleeping, but when he gets up, I'll be heading over to Baptist, to check on our hero, and bring him comfy clothes and reading material and ice coffee and smooches.
 What they need besides prayers and good vibes is a quick influx of cash to avoid being evicted. Sarah mentions their Paypal email address but I'll mention it again.
You guys have helped me when I needed it. Now I'm trying to pay it forward. If you have a little bit to spare this week, please consider a donation!

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Splashing Joke # 8

With the Clown Price of Crime's appearances becoming more infrequent--we go 11 years between appearances in DETECTIVE!--we are well into the Silver Age Moldoff era by the end of this installment.

For the entirety of the story below, check out our WORLD'S FINEST BLOG post for July 23rd, 2013! 


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Room At the Bijou

One of the things that folks always seemed to like on my high school journal blogs was the personal touch I gave to movies that I saw in the seventies. A few months back, I set up a new blog all about movies from my personal perspective. 

Only nobody goes there. 

On Saturday, THE BOOKSTEVE BIJOU had 5 visitors.

That's F-I-V-E. 

It's a fun blog. I swear! We look at particular movies that impacted me at various times in my life like KING KONG ESCAPES. Recently we ran a selection from my vast collection of celebrity obits.

I do a series where I choose my ten favorite films for one star or director.

There's a piece about the cartoons that were still attached to movies when I was growing up in the seventies.

Sometimes we do highlights from pressbooks.

Or discuss vivid childhood memories.

In the seventies, I kept lists of every movie I saw on TV or in theaters and sometimes I share excerpts from those lists.

Or rare articles I've either clipped or found scans of along the way.

Sometimes we discuss cool movies that I've only recently discovered like BREAKING POINT, a 1975  Swedish thriller with hardcore scenes but which is definitely NOT a porn film.

But then we DO discuss my early experiences with sex films as well.

And my favorite child stars.

Or favorite comedic stars.

And, of course, cult figures.

And good old fashioned rousing western adventures!

At least five of you know all this. I'd appreciate it if the rest of you would give THE BOOKSTEVE BIJOU a try at  Thanks! I hope you enjoy the show!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

More on Ray Middleton

Above is actor Ray Middleton on July 3rd, 1940--SUPERMAN DAY at the World's Fair. That's Ray at right, even though some sources seem to think that's Charles Atlas. Search "Ray Middleton" on my blog to find previous posts and see what you think.