Friday, August 29, 2014
Thursday, August 28, 2014
By all accounts, Jack Kirby was an unassuming man and I can't help but think he'd be flabbergasted by the continually building impact his long ago comic book work continues to inspire in the world's popular culture.
I started collecting comic books--as opposed to casually looking at the pictures before I could read--in 1966 and by the end of that year, I had noticed that Jack Kirby's name was on many of my favorites. The Human Torch! The Thing! Captain America! With back issues cheap and plentiful in those days, I soon found him also on X-Men, Avengers, Iron Man, Hulk, Nick Fury, Sgt. Fury, what seemed like a gazillion giant monster stories, and even something called FIGHTING AMERICAN!
When I hit the point that I decided I was too old to continue buying comic books, it was Jack who convinced me of the folly of that type of thinking. He did it with the Forever People, the New Gods and Mister Miracle, followed with a dose of The Demon, Kamandi and Sandman!
Via Steranko's history, I learned he had co-created kid gang comics and romance comics. I learned he had also co-created Fly-Man (as the Fly). But it was FANTASTIC FOUR that stayed with me the most, living to its pretentious subtitle of "The World's Greatest Comic Magazine." Kirby's long run on FF with Stan Lee providing the snappy dialogue still stands out to me as the milestone of comic book milestones. Always the remarkable craftsman, Jack's imagination seemed to grow by leaps and bounds in the Silver Age days of the so-called "Marvel Age of Comics." The FF themselves may have been throwbacks to Plastic Man, Invisible Scarlet O'Neil, Jack's own monster titles and the original Timely Torch, but from there things grew by leaps and bounds! Dr. Doom! Black Bolt and the Inhumans! The Black Panther! The Silver Surfer! The Kree! Galactus! It was as though Jack's consciousness expanded on its own without the need for any of the assisting pharmaceuticals utilized by some other cartoonists of the day.
Today, it is Jack Kirby's creations who still form the background basis of the Marvel Universe, both in print and on the big screen. It is Kirby's "failed" concepts--Darkseid, Apokalips, the New Gods, etc--that form the backdrop to DC's comic book universe.
Oh, and did I mention that along the way Jack Kirby's mother box concept foreshadowed today's pocket computer tech by about four decades? What was a convenient fantasy plot device in Kirby's Fourth World Saga is now an everyday reality of 21st century life.
By all accounts, as I said, Jack Kirby was an unassuming man. He lived long enough to know that thousands of fanboys worshipped him but I'm not sure he understood that. He just liked to draw and being creative was how he made his living. In real life, he wasn't a man of action. He never went out looking to help people in trouble. He just picked up his pencil in the morning and drew. For about 5 decades. It's what he did. But it was more than enough to make Jack Kirby one of my heroes. One of a LOT of people's heroes. He taught me that perseverance is a good thing, that good should always triumph, that imagination and creativity should never have any boundaries!
Jack left us far too soon but in a way he didn't leave us at all. Not a day goes by that I don't encounter him in one way or another. Not a day goes by nowadays when MOST people in the US don't encounter his legacy in one way or another.
Thanks, Jack. Sorry you won't be here for your 97th birthday today but don't worry. We remember.
Monday, August 25, 2014
The Archie comics characters represent an idealized teenage characterization that never really seemed to fit me. I didn't "hang out" anywhere, I didn't tinker with cars, I didn't have girls chasing me, I didn't swim, I didn't play in a band, I didn't go to friends' houses and listen to records...well...once I did, early on, at age 11. It was early 1970 when I walked down to my 6th grade girlfriend Debbie's house to share with her a new album I had--The Archies' third album, from late 1969, JINGLE JANGLE.
I had been a fan of the Filmation TV series since it began, in spite of what I now recognize as some shoddy production values and questionable voicework. I knew, of course, that it wasn't the same folks doing the singing on the albums but I had no idea at that time that it was Ron Dante, who had also sung one of my recent favorite songs, TRACY, as "The Cuff Links."
But I still remember that day as Debbie and I sat on her bed playing the LP over and over on her little mono record player--particularly her favorite cut--S.K.O.O.B.Y. D.O.O., and she'd dance around the room, even succeeding in getting ME to join her for a twirl once or twice! Her mother kept coming in to tell us to turn it down and also to get OFF the bed! Ahem! In reality, that was never once a consideration. We didn't even know about that stuff yet! We were having way too much fun being--perhaps for the only time in our lives...or at least mine--typical American teenagers...just like The Archies!
Sunday, August 24, 2014
I clipped this Kirby tribute from TBG about 35 years ago but I don't recall the context or even who it's by. Some of the interior art appears to be by Kirby himself but is that a set of stylized initials in the tape residue at right. If so, whose? I have an idea but...
Saturday, August 23, 2014
It's about TIME. Peter Capaldi's version of the venerable BBC Doctor finally premieres today and it will be interesting to see what the world makes of him. I was one of those who couldn't resist the leaked episodes, although I looked at them more as an extended tease. Can't wait to catch the real things! He quickly makes the role his own but he is a very different man than we've all gotten used to over the previous 7 series. No spoilers here, though, except to say that I enjoyed episodes 3 and 4 the best! Can't wait to catch them the way they were meant to be seen! Welcome, Doctor!
Thursday, August 21, 2014
Wishing a happy upcoming 5th Anniversary to IDW imprint Yoe Books where Craig and Clizia and a rotating cast of friends and sidekicks continue to release amazing collections of unusual comics work by the likes of Steve Ditko, Howard Nostrand, Tom Sutton and Eerie Publications as well as reprint comic books of 1950s horror, romance and Popeye stories! Past triumphs include books collecting Jack Cole, Frank Frazetta, Dick Briefer, Dan DeCarlo, Archie Comics, Milt Gross, Barney Google and Alice in Wonderland! Booksteve is proud to have been a part of Yoe Books since the beginning! Happy Anniversary, Yoes!
Monday, August 18, 2014
Here we see just two of the finds I made today at the local Public Library Used Book Sale. We may be perpetually broke and selling off old books but with a name like "Booksteve," sometimes you just have to splurge. Got $188 worth of new to me books (at original list prices) from 1966-2002 for exactly $5.25.
Sunday, August 17, 2014
Tom Spurgeon's COMICS REPORTER site has a fairly comprehensive and interesting list of comics-related people by geographical area and I am honored to be listed amongst them as far as the Cincinnati area goes. Thanks, Tom!
Friday, August 15, 2014
Hard to believe this is up to issue # 3 already! I actually have 3 pieces coming up in later issues to follow-up on my cowboy piece in issue # 1 but things are progressing so fast they haven't made it in yet!
Not yet available for order but when it is you'll be able to get it here:
Thursday, August 14, 2014
Today is the birthday of the late Rene Goscinny, creator of ASTERIX, generally considered the most successful comic strip of all time according to Guinness. I love the live action movies of recent years and the older animated films. Here, though, in its entirety and dubbed into English, is the 2006 ASTERIX AND THE VIKINGS. The US cast includes Brad Garrett, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood and Phil Proctor, plus many of the great modern voice actors!
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
I couldn't bring myself to say anything yesterday. This one stunned me. Robin Williams came into my life just as I reached adulthood and he's gone through it with me every step of the way. In fact, just yesterday, only an hour or so before the information about Robin's passing hit the Net, I was referencing him to one of our son's new teachers and just the thought of Robin Williams made both of us laugh. Then I came home to the news.
To say Robin Williams was the funniest man who ever lived--something we post about frequently in this blog--might possibly be an understatement. He was a whirling dervish of hurricane comedy without a trace of a net. He was also a brilliant actor capable of surprising subtlety.
I never met him. Most of us didn't. But unlike so many celebs that pass these days, Robin was more genuinely like family to all of us than I think we even knew. It hit us hard. All but the most hard-hearted among us.
We miss you already, sir.
Rest in peace.
Friday, August 08, 2014
Thursday, August 07, 2014
Joined a nifty new Facebook group dedicated to the classic intelligent game show, WHAT'S MY LINE? This prompted me to look up stuff on the series and I found this fascinating 1945 LIFE article on panelist Bennett Cerf--publisher, author, collector and compiler of jokes and funny stories, the man sort of responsible for making both James Joyce and Dr. Seuss household words.
Wednesday, August 06, 2014
Tuesday, August 05, 2014
Sunday, August 03, 2014
No, this one offers up a bunch of second string cosmic Marvel characters and ties it ever so vaguely to the continuity established by the other recent Marvel movies. It was preceded by some amazingly entertaining trailers that successfully created enough buzz that people who had no earthly idea who these characters were nonetheless wanted to see this movie.
And it's a good one. NOT, let me quickly add, a GREAT one.
What's right with it? For the most part, after a downer beginning, the whole film is a roller coaster ride--loud and colorful with a "safe" sense of excitement. You know it's all been done before but you relish the fact that you're along for the ride this time.
The plot is a standard one. The bad guys are out to get a McGuffin and a bunch of misfits come together to prevent that from happening and redeem themselves in the process. In this case, said McGuffin is an infinity gem, similar to other all-powerful objects we've already seen in AVENGERS and THOR: THE DARK WORLD. Foreshadowing? Thanos, who cameoed at the end of AVENGERS, cameos here as well, but the Big Bad is Kirby's Kree strongman, Ronan, the Accuser.
The heroes are: Peter Quill, Starlord, who had his own black and white magazine series originally in the seventies; Gamora, co-star of Jim Starlin's WARLOCK series; Bill Mantlo's Rocket Raccoon (who started as a joke and ended up in his own series), Jack Kirby's Monster-era living tree, Groot, and Starlin's Drax, the Destroyer. None of them would be recognizable to old-time fans except Rocket...because how many talking raccoons does one see?
Also appearing is Marv Wolfman's Nova Corps concept and Jack Kirby's Celestials. And, of course, the long since spoiled but I'm not gonna say it here post-credits appearance by literally the LEAST likely Marvel character to appear on the big screen...again.
The performances are uniformly good all around and make for the most enjoyment even when the script becomes cliched--which is much of the time. Chris Pratt as Quill comes off best in a cast with no losers although one has to give special props to Groot's Vin Diesel who manages to more than make the most of his basic three words of dialogue. My absolute favorite though, is running villain Yondu, whose name is the ONLY thing taken from one of the original comics Guardians. He is definitely NOT that character, though, being instead a scene-chewing Southern-fried blue skinned, metal-headed baddie played with great gusto by Michael Rooker, finally giving him something to be known for other than his early success, HENRY, PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER.
What doesn't work? Well, the trailers promised a music-filled romp but, while the songs do play a major plot role, most are heard only for a few notes or a line or two if at all! Parts of the film have a much darker tone than the trailers, and with some unnecessarily adult language.
It really is pretty cliched all around. There's the escape from prison scene, the pep talk scene, the tricking the bad guys scene, the save the day scene. The entire ending seems to combine the recent CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER finale with the original STAR WARS (with Groot as Chewie I guess). There's even a revelation about Quill's father! EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, anyone? In between the one-liners and the good character bits, everyone just seems to be going through the motions and checking off which cliches they've finished with before moving on to the next one.
There are familiar faces throughout, everyone from John C. Reilly, Benecio Del Toro and Glenn Close to an unrecognizable Nathan Fillion and Josh Brolin (as Thanos). Cameos include the required by law Stan Lee but also Troma's Lloyd Kaufman (who had given director James Gunn his start, I'm told).
One person who is thoroughly and completely wasted here is Karen Gillan, late of TV's DOCTOR WHO. Known for her red hair, her comic timing and her Scottish accent, here she's bald, unrecognizably blue and speaks deadpan metallic lines without any discernible accent. Seriously. What was the point of hiring her then?
All in all, an enjoyable couple of hours but not the belt it out of the park home run of a picture I was led to expect by the trailers. If ever there was proof that trailer-making is a whole separate art form unto itself!
Saturday, August 02, 2014
Having grown up in a very traditional lower middle class household, the counterculture of the 1960s was alien to me at first. One of the earliest of the underground artists whose work "spoke" to me was Victor Moscoso, whose birthday is apparently today! Happy birthday, sir! I later found out he did many of the colorful posters we know associate with the sixties and, in fact, I spent many an hour trying to do that great lettering. I see where he now has a font named after him. See below.