Saturday, December 31, 2005


Years that end in "6" are usually good to me so I'm looking forward to 2006. Nothing, however, will ever replace 1966 in my affections! In 2002, author Hal Lifson felt the same way and published this marvelous reminder of the joys of that now long ago year.

I was 7 years old and already feeling the beginnings of an early puberty. Barbara Feldon, Diana Rigg, Angela Cartwright and Stefanie Powers helped that along.

I began collecting comics that year with the first issue of BATMAN to come out after the TV series began. Comics writer Mark Waid told me that it was also his first issue and Lifson's book points out that it was his, too! In fact, due to the overwhelming and sudden popularity of the twice weekly TV series, I wouldn't be at all surprised to find out that "Death Knocks Three Times" was the biggest selling comic book of the sixties! My life was all things Batty for most of the year!

I discovered horror movies that year as DRACULA,PRINCE OF DARKNESS was inexplicably (bats?) double-featured with the Adam West BATMAN movie. Vincent Price soon became a favorite from TV reruns of HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL.

So many wonderful pop things were riding high that great year. Let's just list a few!
LOST IN SPACE-I later got to meet Bill Mumy, Mark Goddard and frequent director Ezra Stone as well as talk to June Lockhart on the phone.
U.N.C.L.E.- I enjoyed both MAN and GIRL but I only got the action figure of April Dancer. Later, Stefanie Powers became the very first celebrity who responded personally to a fan letter of mine!
THE MONKEES-Hey, the Mamas and Papas didn't play their own instruments either! Why can't people realize that even if Mickey, Davy, Mike and Peter didn't start out as a real group, they became one! This week in 1966, the number one song was the Monkees' "I'm a Believer."

I didn't really get into records or even radio until a few years later so most f my music came from TV shows like ED SULLIVAN or HOLLYWOOD PALACE so I got the best of the old and new that year, being exposed to the Monkees, the Beatles, Bing Crosby, Herb Alpert, Nancy Sinatra, Louis Armstrong and the Supremes. It was only later that I would discover that most of my favorite albums came out in '66 including the Beatles' REVOLVER.

Elvis films dominated my theatrical experiences in those heady days but in 1966 I began to pay more attention to those old black and white movies on TV and soon became a major film buff, starting with horror movies and working my way through gangster pics, screwball comedies and foreign films.

Sigh! Mustangs, Monster Magnets, Mattel Toys, THE SPIRIT, the spy craze, baseball cards and the Marvel Age of Comics! It's all too much nostalgia!. Get a copy of HAL LIFSON'S 1966! if you were there or even if you just want to get a vague idea of what the best pop culture year in history was all about. Here's a link to Hal's website: Hal Lifson Official Website

Friday, December 30, 2005

See-A-Show Superman

Okay, here are the three Superman strips from my Kenner See-A-Show viewer. Copyright dates on them are 1964, 1965 and 1967. I don't have a clue who the artist is but...say...see that panel on "Bridge Out Ahead" with the skinny, off-model scene of Clark changing into his super identity? The one with the multiple starburst effects behind it? You don't think this could be...Nah! Roy Lichtenstein??? Why, if it is...this could be worth quadrillions!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

See-A-Show Fantastic Four

While digging for holiday decorations in my basement, I stumbled onto a box of my own old toys including a good size set of Kenner See-A-Show slides with the viewer! They weren't that good but they were cool if you were under ten years of age. I believe these date from 1968 but it may also be a mix from a couple of different sets as the strips combine straight Marvel and DC super-heroes with sillier stuff such as cartoon revolutionary soldier, Hector Heathcoate and Bozo the Clown. I'll post more in days to come but for now, here's the FF! Read from the bottom up.

Dennis the Menace

Growing up in the sixties, there was a time when I really wanted to be a magazine cartoonist. Just about every grown-up magazine in the house from FAMILY CIRCLE and READER’S DIGEST to those other ones that my dad thought were well hidden up behind the clock on the mantle had single panel cartoons. Somebody had to be drawing them. Why not me?

According to the just published first volume of THE COMPLETE DENNIS THE MENACE, Hank Ketcham had the same dream. The difference is, he created a national icon and I’m just blogging about it. Following in the footsteps of their COMPLETE PEANUTS project, Fantagraphics (in the interests of full disclosure, my first ever employer as a writer in a long ago AMAZING HEROES) has come up with another perfectly formatted thick little book series to re-present the classic kid comic panels. Patrick McDonnell and Brian Walker offer insights into Dennis’ creator Ketcham and his times but in truth, the panels themselves do the same thing even better, evoking a long gone world of suburban dreams and totally innocent childish devilment.

If these early panels make you curious to see where things went, this 1991 book, DENNIS THE MENACE-HIS FIRST FORTY YEARS, offers a nice, decade by decade look at some of the best panels and Sunday strips (including a color section!). Ketcham, like most cartoonists other than Charles Schulz, used assistants and their work is as good or in later years better than his own. They also did the omnipresent Dennis comics. I never followed the Dennis comic books as a child but recently, I’ve been informed that they tend to be quite good, too, so when I get money, I may hit the back issue bins.

Ketcham himself also wrote THE MERCHANT OF DENNIS. Check your local library for that one as I never picked up a copy for some reason. Otherwise, check Fantagraphics' Dennis The Menace page and get THE COMPLETE DENNIS if you love classic, funny comics.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Stan Lee

You can argue all you want the merits of Steve Ditko's version of Spider-Man but the bottom line is--he left! The version of Spidey that became beloved by the general public is Stan Lee's version. Certainly John Romita's masterful visualization helped but I've never heard Mr. R claim that he influenced the character in any major way other than looks. Jim Mooney, Don Heck, John Buscema, Gil Kane, Larry Lieber, Alex Saviuk, and later scores of others have all added their takes but all of them have started from Stan's Spider-Man.

This book, THE BEST OF SPIDER-MAN is misnamed. Although it deals exclusively with the syndicated newspaper webslinger that began in the mid-seventies (of which I dutifuly clipped each daily and Sunday strip for several years) it isn't really even the best of that as it leaves out the very different but cool Doctor Doom story. The strip was like an alternate world version of the comic, re-introducing chracters with new twists. Even Peter Parker sported a new, longer hairstyle. Romita drew it beautifully for several years, easily coming to grips with the necessary differences between comic "book" art and comic "strip" art. Stan's stories, given the freedom from any and all official Marvel continuity, were, at least in the beginning, the best he'd written in years. This book also presents a long essay on Lee by Lee, illustrated with many photos. Besides Romita, representative strip stories appear by Lee with his brother Larry Lieber, golden-age artist Fred Kida, and one Floro Dery. Although the stories and the art became slow, boring affairs, due to the character's name recognition, the strip has continued since then with very little notice in an increasingly dwindling number of newspapers.

Although the book came out in 1986, I took my copy with me to San Diego a few years later to get Stan to sign it but I missed my chance. Stan's signing turned out to be in an upstairs room for exactly one hour and there were already what seemed like hundreds of folks waiting on a line that came all the way down the stairs so I opted out. I DID follow Mr. Lee for several blocks later that day as we walked through an outdoor shopping plaza on a very windy day. Quite frankly, I was watching to see if Stan's legendary toupee blew off. It didn't! Writer, editor, publisher, marketing whiz and movie star, today is Stan's birthday. I wish I HAD met him that day so I could have told him how much I've enjoyed his work. Happy birthday, Stan. No matter how you look at it, in the end, the true best of Stan Lee!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Christmas Spirit

Okay, Christmas is over for another year but that's no reason to pack away the Christmas Spirit...or in this case, THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT, this 1994 Kitchen Sink compilation of the late Will Eisner's holiday stories. Eisner was one of the greats we lost in 2005. His SPIRIT was not really a well-rounded character, acting often simply as a conscience for the stories Eisner really wanted to tell. At his best, the Master turned out exquisitely drawn (even when he used assistants) eight page morality tales. Even though he was Jewish, the annual Christmas Spirit tales were usually among the best comic book or strip embodiments of the true meanings of the holiday. In all of the talk on the blogs of great Christmas stories, I haven't seen anyone mention these so I felt I should. Once you read these stories, reproduced in this volume from the original newspaper printings, you'll want to keep THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT handy all year 'round...and that's not a bad thing at all.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Strangers In Paradise

One of my favorite Christmas presents this year is the latest STRANGERS IN PARADISE pocket book (#5). I discovered writer/artist Terry Moore’s comic book series last year after HarperCollins published an LP sized behind the scenes book that caught my attention. The Eisner and Rueben award winning SIP is without a doubt the most adult comic (in the true sense of the word) being published today. Honestly, I find it hard to believe that this book is successful in today’s market with no super heroes, no giant monsters, no aliens and no talking ducks. What it is about is…well…hard to explain, actually. At its heart it’s a love story, beautifully delineated in a wide and sometimes bizarre variety of styles by the quietly brilliant Moore. Hmmmm…or is it a Tarantinoesque gangster story, detailing the violent history of an organized crime group run by highly trained female assassins? Humor! That’s it! It’s the hilarious misadventures of two women and the men that love them. Of course, it’s also a fascinating treatise of pop philosophy. Y’know, reading and enjoying STRANGERS IN PARADISE is a hell of a lot easier than explaining it!

Moore has an absolute gift for creating realistic characters and the series ultimately defines even the most minor characters in complicated real world terms. Our heroine, if you can call her that, is one Katina Choovanski or "Katchoo." Katchoo is an artist with a past. Katchoo loves Francine…and David. David is NOT who Katchoo thinks he is. Francine loves Katchoo but marries someone else...after she sleeps with David. Katchoo’s ex-lover, Darcy, turns out to be David’s incestuous sister. David has sex with Katchoo’s assassin sister in order to get her pregnant. Francine’s ex, Freddy, marries Casey who divorces him and moves in with Katchoo. Francine’s conservative mom turns out to have been a Betty Page type model. Katchoo’s own model turns out to be an FBI agent. It’s been like this now for more than a decade!

Soap opera stuff to be sure but the art! Oh, the beautiful art. Some issues are clearly manga-influenced, others are just as clearly defined by Victorian illustration. Most offer pin-up quality pictures of pretty girls but none emphasize anything but the inherent beauty in the female form.
Speaking of females, Terry Moore is, along with Phil Donahue, one of those rare men that understands women. His women, young and old, are real and the things that make them women come through almost effortlessly from these pages.

Poetry, quotations, song lyrics, prose, art and a judicious use of color all combine in one long, amazing, violent, beautiful, hilarious, sad and incredibly frustrating story to which we already know the ultimate outcome. Hmmmm. When you put it like that, I guess Terry Moore has captured life on paper.
Here’s a link to Terry Moore’s official website: Go look at the beauty of Francine and Katchoo. Then go read some STRANGERS IN PARADISE.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Wonderful Christmastime

Paul Mccartney released WONDERFUL CHRISTMASTIME in November of 1979 as a solo single (in spite of the fact that Linda, Denny Laine, Steve Holly and Laurence Juber, the then-current members of Wings appear with him in the video. It was fairly roundly ignored in the US although it did chart well in the UK. I remember spotting the single in a department store that year and, being the Macca fan that I am, grabbing it up. A few weeks later, I saw Casey Kasem play the video on television. Paul was all over the news that season as one of the organizers of the Concerts for Kampuchea, a series of fundraising concerts that featured Wings as well as McCartney's "Rockestra." Pete Townshend showed up rather famously drunk for one of this all-star lineup's concert videos. Elvis Costello, Ian Dury, Rockpile, the Pretenders, Robert Plant, the Who and Queen were also featured at the concerts. A bootleg recording from this same period features what I consider to be the most polished version of Wings doing, among other things, WONDERFUL CHRISTMASTIME before a Liverpool audience. It was a busy year for Paul, a good year. That would change a few weeks later when he was arrested and nearly took up a long term residence in a Japanese prison.

Something happened to that song, however. Against the odds, this bouncy little piece of trivia, rather than being forgotten, was discovered and rediscovered year after year by audiences the world over. By this year, 26 years after its initial release, you couldn't go in a department store without hearing WONDERFUL CHRISTMASTIME. It was all over the radio, on compilations and favorites lists. The forgotten little holiday throw-off, recorded in the hot summer of '79 and backed with a throwaway instrumental recorded several years earlier, had finally became a modern Christmas classic.

Bob Hope

There's a story on AOL this morning about how some of our fighting men in Iraq are treating this as just another day. One young man actually said that he wouldn't have known it was Christmas if someone hadn't told him. So what do we send them: Rumsfeld. Sigh.
Not too long ago, we sent Bob Hope. From 1943 until he just couldn't do it anymore, if we had troops overseas at Christmas, Bob Hope was there with Lana Turner, Rita Hayworth and later Raquel Welch, Ann-Margret and Joey Heatherton. Still later he took folks with whom he himself was probably only vaguely familiar but that he thought would make the troops feel a little bit less alone. If someone was popular, Hope got to them and convinced them to go to the South Pacific, to Korea, to Viet Nam and to Iraq. This book, THE LAST CHRISTMAS SHOW, came out in 1974 and was one of a series of entertaining books credited to Hope but actually ghostwritten by others. This one admits that it's "as told to Pete Martin." At the time, after three decades of spending the holidays with US troops across the world, Hope actually thought he was done. As soon as the need arose again, however, Hope was there and the trips began again. Bob Hope died in 2003 at the age of 100 having seen far more wars than a man should see.
No sane person likes war and you can argue the politics behind getting our sons and daughters killed for years but the point is, when they're off fighting a war, we have to truly show our support and appreciation. For nearly 5 decades, we gave our fighting men and women Hope. Now we just give them Rumsfeld. There's no hope.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Goodtimes Christmas Video

Goodtimes Home Video put out a number of just marvelous themed compilations of rare public domain footage including this nostalgic holiday VHS from 1991. I've included the back cover so you can see what's on it so I won't go into too much detail. In fact, I think I'll go watch it instead of just talking about it!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Boston Charlie

Around my house growing up, it just wouldn't have been Christmas without my dad singing his favorite carol, DECK US ALL WITH BOSTON CHARLIE...endlessly...much to my mother's dismay.

I'm not sure that I knew that the nonsensical take on the traditional DECK THE HALLS came from Walt Kelly's classic comic strip, POGO. I'm also not sure that my dad didn't just make up a lot of the words. If he did, so did Kelly, as the carol appeared annually (and on ocassion off season) and usually contained different verses.

I never "got" the strip as it appeared in the newspapers of my childhood. It was too political, too inside and already too damn small for all of those animals to run around in comfortably. (Kelly himself once mused that there were so many characters that he presumed they must work in other strips on their days off.) I rediscovered POGO in the early seventies when I picked up a copy of the book TEN EVER LOVIN' BLUE-EYED YEARS WITH POGO. Being the obsessive collector that I was, I had soon amassed most of the POGO trade reprints that had been being published since the mid-fifties and started on collecting the comic book series.

For the uninitiated, POGO at its best is a delightful mix of gentle humor, Carrolesque wordplay and political and social satire. An odd mix to be sure but Kelly pulled it off more often than not and ended up with one of the top comic strips of all time in anyone's book.

Here's a link to the Pogo Fan Club site run by Steve Thompson who, oddly enough, is NOT me. It did confuse the heck out of the mailman back when I belonged to the club though when I would get copies of the great club newsletter, THE FORT MUDGE MOST, addressed TO Steve Thompson, FROM Steve Thompson! Merry Christmas, Steve!


As has been duly noted on several blogs and websites lately, there are multiple generations for whom the holidays just wouldn't feel right without Rankin/Bass TV specials. The first and most enduring of these is obviously the 1964 production of RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER, an "Animagic" Christmas special that has reappeared annually for more than thirty years now! (Actually, I seem to recall a couple of times where it didn't run but then maybe I just missed it those years.)

Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass and their surprising range of cartoons, holiday specials and even live action feature films are celebrated in this 1997 book, THE ENCHANTED WORLD OF RANKIN/BASS-A PORTFOLIO. A slick paper delight, it's a largely non-critical, gushing tribute book loaded with behind the scenes anecdotes and amazing illustrations and photos.

Some of my favorite aspects of the book deal with things that fell through the cracks like a mid-sixties CHARLIE MCCARTHY pilot that went unaired but apparently featured Edgar Bergen voicing an Animagic (stop motion) version of his wooden sidekick in an adventure with a two headed dinosaur. Also only dimly remembered is this 1970 animated TV special, THE MAD, MAD, MAD COMEDIANS featuring among many, Jack Benny, George Burns, Groucho Marx and Flip Wilson as themselves and Paul Frees (naturally)voicing others including Chico Marx. According to tyhe book, this was actually Rankin/Bass's highest rated TV special and yet, to the best of my knowledge, was never seen again.

The company's live action output, by contrast to their successful TV work, is more intersting than good, starting with the little seen KING KONG ESCAPES in 1968. I remember seeing this in the theater when it opened and thinking how cool it was. A Japanese co-production, featuring a guy in a really bad gorilla suit (Don't let that poster fool you for a second. It's bad!), another guy in a slightly better robot gorilla suit and a villain named Doctor Who (who carried over from the R/B 1966 animated version of KING KONG)

Author Rick Goldschmidt has crafted what is essentially an overgrown obsessive fan project but, hey, what's wrong with that? After all, anyone who's ever seen a Rankin/Bass special is a fan...especially at Christmas time.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Geoff Emerick and the Beatles

Yesterday morning I caught the closing credits of the dreadful movie, SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND on cable and I noted Geoff Emerick's name listed as Sound Engineering Consultant or something like that. I remember thinking that, except for Billy Preston and a few stars who appear only in the closing conglomeration of celebs, he might be the only one connected with this film who really knew the Fab Four! You know how it is. Off and on for the rest of the day, Emerick's name popped up in my mind for no apparent reason. Imagine my surprise come midnight when a friend presented me with an early Christmas gift of Emerick's new book! In fact, it's so early that the book won't even be out for another three months! (I may no longer work in bookstores but it's good to know people who do! Yay me!) I came home and started reading it immediately.

Geoff Emerick was the Beatles sound engineer from REVOLVER on, replacing Norman "Hurricane" Smith who went on to handle Pink Floyd (as well as becoming a one-hit wonder himself with the delightfully old-fashioned song "Oh, Babe, What Would You Say?" in the early seventies). This book offers his memories of working with the Beatles at their absolute peak and helping Producer George Martin to channel the creativity that just flowed from their (probably illegally enhanced) minds at that point. As you might suspect, there's a lot of technical stuff about boards and splicing and mixing and tracks but there are also some great anecdotes. According to Emerick, for example, Ringo had so little to do on the PEPPER album that his biggest memory was that he learned to play chess at that time.

My favorite part is the long chapter about the making of John's song, A DAY IN THE LIFE. The author details the craziness of getting a classical orchestra together and then asking them to play "noise." Paul suggests putting them in the mood by giving them all funny party hats and fake noses to wear and the intimidating form of Beatles assistant Mal Evans dutifully passes out the party goods! Then Beatle friends such as Mick Jagger and Mike Nesmith join the mix and they still can't figure out an ending to the song until much later! If you've ever seen the rare studio film of this recording session then you've seen everything he describes.

An issue that I have with this book, however, as well as with a number of biographies and histories, is that there are an awful lot of quotations. Is Geoff's memory really that good or is he paraphrasing from memory? When historians such as Alan Eckert write books with quotations, they have to call them "historical fiction" no matter how meticulously researched they might otherwise be because they weren't actually there. Okay, Emerick WAS there but still...

HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE (is there a Beatles song left that hasn't had its title co-opted for a book?) will also offer an introduction by Elvis Costello but my advance just has a placeholder. Same with pictures. Overall, though, a good read from a slightly different perspective than usual. Have the Beatles been analyzed well beyond the point of logic and good sense? Of course, silly, but nonetheless Beatles fans will want and enjoy this book come March!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Christmas Records

Contrary to popular belief, I do not still own every bit of "stuff" I ever owned. In fact, out of the vast collection of Christmas records I had as a child, only two survive. Oddly enough, one, Rudolph, was my all-time favorite and the other one of those "What were my parents thinking?" things.

For those of you under the age of "Ahem", 40, it may come as a surprise that most children's records used to be yellow. (It may, in fact, come as a surprise that there were such things as "records" but that's a different issue.)They were also, at least in my case, mostly 78's meaning that they played very very fast and it was fun to play them on 45 or even 33 for maximum sound weirdness...when you were seven. This Rudolph is credited to notorious rock and roll hater Mitch Miller (whom I knew from TV's SING ALONG WITH MITCH), the Sandpipers (who I understand were NOT the same group that recorded one of my favorite songs, COME SATURDAY MORNING from the movie THE STERILE CUCKOO) and somebody named Michael Stewart.

Lawrence Welk was a big band leader known for his mellow "champagne music" back in the forties.By the 1960's he had found a niche market that would carry him through that beloved, tumultuous decade and beyond--seniors! By offering light versions of familiar, non-threatening songs and styles to older folks, Welk outlasted better contemporary big bandleaders. His surprisingly popular TV show lasted in one form or another into the eighties (surviving even Welk's death!) and is still revived in clipfests and nostalgia concerts on PBS to this day! Unbelievable! As I said, to me, as a seven or eight year old kid receiving this record ( an EP yet!) my response then and now: What were my parents thinking!? Why did I keep it? NO ONE WANTED IT!!! I COULDN"T GIVE IT AWAY!!! AARRGGHH!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Elfquest Christmas Card

Wendy Pini doesn't know me from Ernest Borgnine. I'm sure she doesn't recall the frustrated 18 year old trying to find a pen to get her autograph in Philadelphia in 1977 while she was wearing a chain mail bikini. I'm equally certain that she doesn't recall the 31 year old whose wife insisted we drive to Chicago to meet the creators of her favorite ELFQUEST books. Now, I suppose it's possible that Richard Pini recalls a brief correspondance we had a few years back about my trying to keep the ELFQUEST books in stock at my mall bookstore but he still doesn't know me. That said, Richard and Wendy's work has meant a lot to me over the years and I will be discussing it in more depth at some point. I'm more than pleased to hear that the new year will be bringing even more new ELFQUEST stories! Thanks for everything!
For the rest of us, here's a look at a 1979 Christmas card from the Pinis that ran in the fan press at the time.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Super Jrs. Holiday Special

Now here's a REAL oddball comic--so much so that it was covered by guest writer Mike Sacal in Scott Shaw!s ODDBALL COMICS column here back in 2001 in what is probably it's original Mexican version. I'll refer you there if you're interested in plot details.

The English language version seen here kind of snuck out in 1984 as part of DC's mostly reprint digest line. Thus it went largely unnoticed by the fans. I vaguely recall reading several years prior to this comic (in THE COMIC READER?) that DC had developed these characters and that they would probably be seen mostly overseas. In point of fact, DC had been publishing quite a bit of interesting stuff ONLY overseas including all new SUGAR AND SPIKE stories by Shelson Mayer!!! Many of these were also printed in these early eighties digests and were probably assumed by most fans to be reprints.

Judging by the Oddball article's cover picture, it looks like the Superman character had blonde hair in the original. Again, if I recall correctly, these characters and other DC Jrs were heavily merchandised with dolls, toys and pillowcases, too, all outside the US. Apparently the blonde hair was considered a bit much for the US market. The cover is signed by Vince Squeglia and seems to be his only credit in the GCD :: Home. A little Net check comes up with a book on carving Dickens Christmas figurines by a Vincent Squeglia (what are the odds?) but little else.

Although hampered by size and printing quality, Former Wally Wood assistant (and a fine writer and cartoonist himself!) Nick Cuti edited the DC digest line for much of its run and snuck in quite a bit of surprises along with a superior selection of reprints. Although definitely not an award winner, the SUPER JRs HOLIDAY SPECIAL is certainly an enjoyable bit of pre-"grim and gritty" DC trivia.

Oh, perhaps best of all, this particular digest is rounded out with three classic SUGAR AND SPIKE Christmas stories! Allow me to add my voice to the growing call for S&S DC SHOWCASE editions! The only comics readers who don't love this series are those who refuse to get past thinking it's just for little kids.

1952 DC House Ad

I've been enjoying the DC house ads running on This is Pop! and DIAL B for BLOG lately but here's one from way back in 1952 that always struck me as a little weird. Far from jumping on the bandwagon of rotting corpses and bloodsucking fiends with EC and dozens of lesser publishers, DC Comics, even in these pre-code days, promotes two of its own "mystery" mags with this little disclaimer :

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Hoppy Bicycles

I must confess that in my entire life I have never ridden a bicycle. It just never came up, actually. Oh, I've sat on a few and tried to look like I knew what I was doing but... That said, in 1950, I would have definitely wanted one of these! Hopalong Cassidy bicycles were "the original cowboy bicycle!" In fact, I don't recall EVER seeing Roy or Gene or my personal fave (from years of 1970's reruns, mind you!) Tim Holt ride a bike. Being as marketing savvy as he was, I have no doubt that William Boyd probably appeared in a TV commercial riding to the rescue on his nifty bike with the attached sixguns! Is that a look of jealousy I see on Topper's face?

Here's a weblink to a page where someone restored a Hopalong Cassidy Bicycle last year! Cool! - Antique and Classic Bicycles. Paint and Restoration Services.

Wood Correction

Sorry. Wood actually took his life in November of 1981 but in those pre-Internet days, it was early December before I learned of it with the arrival of Cat Yronwode's obituary in my mailbox..

This self portrait, one of many by the artist, is from the back cover of ODKIN, SON OF ODKIN, the notorious second book in the Wizard King trilogy. Actually, the term "self portrait" might be a misnomer here as it looks to have been completed largely by assistants. Nonetheless it captures the essence of Woody's fantasy worlds.

Interestingly enough, in the early nineties, my wife and I lived in a third floor apartment in a lovely, tree-shaded area of the city here known as Wallace Woods.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Wally Wood's Lunar Tunes

Wallace Wood died in December, 1981, as did my mother. It was a rough Christmas. In a way, Woody was almost like family. I had grown up with his DAREDEVIL, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS and Warren stories, then discovered his MAD work in reprints by age 10 and his EC sci-fi classics as a teenager. I taught myself to draw by copying Kirby and Wood. I was an early member of his personal fan club, FOO, the Friends Of Odkin in the late seventies and was totally blindsided by his suicide.
After his death, a number of previously unpublished pieces have come to light, the best of which was probably a picture of Nick Cuti’s MOONCHILD and a surprisingly good (and perhaps older than it supposedly was) sci-fi short story printed in THE COSMIC BOOK. Perhaps the worst were the few pages of LUNAR TUNES printed in the final real issue of Woody’s legendary independent magazine, WITZEND.
David Spurlock’s Vanguard Productions recently issued THE COMPLETE LUNAR TUNES and did their best to put a positive spin on it. It didn’t work. Taken as it is, it’s an incomprehensible mess with more than half of it clearly screened, pasted up from Woody’s legendary "swipe" file or traced from his own earlier work. Although supposedly intended as a single piece, I’d bet anything it was intended to run…somewhere…in sections, almost like a daily comic strip. This explains the frequent punchlines that are followed by the creator’s philosophical moments before starting up again in a completely different direction a page later.
Taken in context, however, LUNAR TUNES offers a unique, disturbing look into Wood’s tortured mind just prior to his ultimate decision. He was a bitter, sad, soft spoken, alcoholic, gun loving country music fan who was beloved and admired by thousands who never even met him. After years of abuse, his body was failing him and he seems to have been trying to get his feelings out in the only way he ever seemed to succeed…in his art.
Eschewing any kind of coherent storyline whatsoever, LUNAR TUNES ostensibly stars Bucky Ruckus, from a 1967 syndicated newspaper Christmas strip the youthful astronaut with the nifty space/time machine seen on the cover. Also traipsing across the Zipatone lunar landscape are Nudine and Pip from WITZEND’S PIPSQUEAK PAPERS, Snorky the alien from SALLY FORTH and literally dozens of the artist’s throwaway humorous freaks like those that once decorated the covers to DC’s PLOP and the crowd scenes in his MAD stories.
Wood’s oft quoted "Never draw anything you can copy, never copy anything you can trace and never trace anything you can cut out and paste in." appears twice and, as stated, he clearly used it as a guide here. His vision was gone in one eye and with it, his sense of depth. Much of his other late work, including the second WIZARD KING book and the second GANG BANG porn comic he did to make money for medical treatments (the third issue was older reprints) were clearly finished by lesser assistants but this looks to me like all Wood, even if it is cut and paste. He was reaching out in the best way he could at that point but nobody saw it. Nobody knew. As I said, if you’re a Wood buff, you’ll recognize stuff from his WOODWORK GAZETTE as well as poses and layouts from a dozen or more better Wood pieces. It will also give you a bizarre look into the mind and imagination of a dying artist who just hadn’t made that final choice yet. If you’re not familiar with Wally Wood, whatever you do, don’t start here. This was the End.
My mother died of cancer that Christmas but we had been expecting that and as hard as it was, I could deal. When I opened that week’s CBG and saw a full cover of Wood art, I was at first ecstatic, then I saw the dates and I knew he was gone. The other piece here is the unfinished front and back cover wraparound to THE WALLY WOOD SAMPLER, a fan project I began but abandoned in 1982. It was my way of dealing. A few years later, I lost my father in December, also. Decembers are tough. I’m still dealing.

Nick Fury!

I don't recall for certain where I got this black and white Steranko poster but I believe it was for subscribing to COMIXSCENE (which became MEDIASCENE, which became PREVUE which became VUE which...who knows? My subscription expired back around 1982.), Jim Steranko's tabloid newspaper of comics, paperback and movie news. It was, however, originally done as a poster for Marvelmania and is probably the most cinematic of all of the artist's Marvel pieces. Can't you just see young Paul Gulacy (also a favorite of mine) lovingly copying every line of this poster as he learned to draw? Certainly his later MASTER OF KUNG FU splash pages often recalled this art with their movie poster layouts. Steranko's storytelling was unique in its day but if anything, it was bettered by his amazing sense of design that has since been incorporated into our pop culture. Mystery, evil, sex, monsters and heroism. It's all right there. This evocative illustration of the ultimate spy craze comic book epitomizes the artist at his best.

Friday, December 16, 2005

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Class Assignment

Please bear with me for today's post as it's part of an assignment for a class I've been taking on Internet Research. Thanks!

How to Create and Manage a Pop Culture Weblog
By Steven Thompson
Hello. My name is Steve Thompson and I am the creator of the weblog, BOOKSTEVE’S LIBRARY ( ), a repository of pop culture reviews, views and personal anecdotes. Although relatively new, the practice of creating one’s own updated daily log on the web has become an Internet phenomenon. By abbreviating the term "weblog" to "blog," this practice has become known as "blogging."
Many individuals have chosen to blog on the web about everything from their sex lives and their diets to humor, politics and religion. Another distinct type of blog is the pop culture blog, from which the blogger writes about music, books, TV, movies, comics or all of the above from either a semi-scholarly or an "average person" perspective. Since I began my blog in August, I have received a number of comments from readers who would like to start their own. My goal here is to teach you how to use the Internet as a research tool to share your own pop culture interests by creating and managing your own pop culture blog.
Lecture Notes and Activities
Once you’ve decided to start your blog, the technical aspects themselves are simple. There are a number of software sites that literally walk you though the specifics in a step by step fill in the blank fashion. You choose a template for your overall look, add a profile and set it up for comments, links, ads, etc. as chosen by your personal preference. Some of the more sophisticated sites such as TYPEPAD at charge fees so I recommend the novice try a free service such as BLOGGER at For our exercises, we’ll be using BLOGGER, which is now owned by GOOGLE.
Choose a memorable, fitting title for your blog. It should suit your subject matter and be as original as possible so as not to get confused with someone else’s site. Use a reliable search engine to check for similar names before you commit. Most people are familiar with Google and Yahoo but when choosing a search engine there are lots of other choices, many of which offer different features to narrow your searches. Type "search engines" into a search engine and you will have plenty of options to explore. I recommend a clustering search engine which is one that gets its information from multiple other search engines. My personal favorite is Clusty at as it has a separate category for blog searches and also breaks down your results into subcategories on a sidebar. In the case of my blog’s name, for example, I chose "Booksteve’s Library," as I planned to comment mostly on items from my own substantial home library and I had used the email name, "Booksteve," for five years while working in a bookstore and later a public library. Although I stuck with my choice, a simple search would have revealed several other "Booksteves" already on various different types of websites.
Activity One: Go to Blogger, set up a free account and create your blog.
Again, the site will walk you though the basics of registering and setting up the blog. (You can always delete it later with the touch of a button if you aren’t happy with it.) The most important question you will have is "What content do I use?" As to the answer, I suggest writing about your passion. Be it books, movies, toys, comics or baseball cards, odds are you already know a few good sites or even blogs on your favorite subject. You might want to start out with an introductory piece, then perhaps write some reviews yourself. Some blogging software allows you to post illustrations from your computer or from the web. There are also separate free sites such as HELLO at which enable you to post digital images on your blog. Remember to be careful not to violate copyright. Just because "everyone does it" on the web, doesn’t make it any more acceptable or any less illegal. On my site, although I know I’ve made some errors, I try to use covers, ads, promotional materials or other items that fall under the doctrine of copyright fair use (which can be read at
Activity Two: Write and post an Introduction and a review of your favorite movie.
Once you’ve chosen a topic for your blog, try to stick to it as much as possible. Many blogs tend to veer too far afield to get or sustain an audience. Use your search engine of choice to find blogs similar to yours and send them links to yours for them to review. Using the Blogger software, add favorite links to your site. Once again, the software walks you through it. The more plugs and links you can get from other sites, the faster you will be picked up by search engines so that more people will find you. This process is called "spidering" when the high tech hands of the search engines grab words from other blogs. If your site is mentioned, then its name is grabbed. The more times it’s grabbed, the more it appears in results listings. Ultimately, as you start getting reciprocal links, your site itself gets listed. Important: The way to do this is to offer top notch content, present it well and then "suggest" that other sites review it. The surest way NOT to get reviewed or linked is to insist on it. Even just asking for a site to link to you can be considered rude. Let them make the decision by giving them a reason to do so with quality work.
In the meantime, there are a number of sites that offer information on blogs themselves just for registering with them, which is usually but not always free. Many of them even email readers when requested sites are updated. One of these is : Even though my site is not exclusively about comics, this site notes whenever it is updated.
You’ll probably want a counter in order to tell how many people visit your site. BLOGGER itself does not offer counters but there are many sources that offer them free. Type "free counter" into a search engine. After comparing the benefits offered, I chose BLOGPATROL at for mine. Again, you simply register with them (I receive very little spam. If all of this registering worries you, though, you can always set up a free "spam email" account at Yahoo or hotmail and give that account when you register.) and they walk you through pasting it onto your blog. The benefits from Blogpatrol include interesting statistics on not simply how many people visit your site but how they came there (keywords, bookmarks or links), what they looked at while there, and even what type of computers they were using! This information can help you determine what is working and what is not working on your site, allowing you to accentuate popular subjects and perhaps leave others behind. It can also tip you off as to the best time of day to update your blog for maximum traffic exposure.
One of the benefits of a blog is that it disciplines you to write on a regular basis as well as to pursue your hobbies and interests more regularly so you will have something about which to write. Even experts factcheck, however, so you’ll need to bookmark some reliable reference sites on your topic. How do you know if they’re reliable? Explore all aspects of a site before you accept them as reference material. Click on the About screen and the Help screen and the Search screen. How easily can you find information? Who created the site? Is it a reputable person in the field that you might be familiar with going in? That’s a very good sign. Check, also the dates. If your topic is ever-changing, make sure your chosen reference sites are being updated. Look up a few obscure things you already know and see what the site says about them. If you find mistakes, is there a way to contact the author for a correction?
Example: The Internet Movie Database at is a well-respected source for all sorts of information on just about every star and/or movie ever made but even they can make mistakes. I looked up DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN (1971) and saw that it said that actor John Carradine was in the picture and I knew that he was not. I (perhaps along with others) emailed them this correction and, after verification on their part, Carradine was soon removed from the cast list.
Use your own judgement and common sense. Many flashy or even well designed sites have misinformation and are suitable only for the most general reference. Go to the sites to which your trusted sites are linking. Then check those out for errors, authorship and hidden agendas (IE: Is this site trying to sell me something or just present information?).
As you search the web for more information on your topics, you will find related topics and issues as well as entirely new subjects that catch your interest. The more diverse subjects you cover on your blog, the more keywords will be picked up on search engines when your blog becomes listed. This will bring more people to your site, presenting you with perhaps hundreds or thousands of people who share your interest in pop culture. As your researching skills improve, your writing skills will improve. As different thoughts are brought into the mix via comments and correspondence, you will become more knowledgeable all around and may become known as an expert in your chosen field.
Final Activity: Once you have created a new blog and written your movie review, send me a link. Within the next week, I will post links to all who have done so. Good luck and have fun! You’ve now joined the Webeloution!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Wayne Boring

Remember! Wayne Boring is the one who drew the key correctly! Perhaps best remembered for his trademark "Superman walking on air" pose, artist Wayne Boring began as an early assistant to the Man of Tomorrow's co-creator, Joe Shuster. After drawing long runs of the SUPERMAN newspaper strip in the forties, he emerged as the definitive Supes artist of the fifties only to be overshadowed by Curt Swan's much neater, cleaner version in the sixties. By the time I was reading comics, Boring's work looked antiquated in its infrequent appearances. Like most artists, his output became more stylized in later years but by the time he arrived at Marvel in the early seventies (might have been '69, actually) his CAPTAIN MARVEL art looked like somebody's idea of a joke! Only with time and wisdom (hah!) did I come to appreciate Boring both for his storytelling skills and his unique art style. Here's a quick look at a rare Wayne Boring painting of Superman (owned by Jim Hambrick) from the cover of the 1988 San Diego Con Program Book.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Pretty Things

Last year, a rare thing happened to me. I discovered a sixties band that I had never heard of and yet their music was amazing and sounded as if I’d known them for years. To be fair, I had in fact heard of the Pretty Things. It’s just that I guess I considered them "also rans" as I had somehow managed never to hear any of their music.
Founded in the early sixties "English white boy blues" period by Phil May and guitarist Dick (as opposed to Mick) Taylor, who had been with the pre-fame Rolling Stones, The Pretty Things outdid the Stones and the Yardbirds on their blues covers, slipped deftly into pop psychedelia and, in fact, crafted the actual very first "rock opera," S.F.SORROW, which Pete Townshend acknowledged as an influence on TOMMY.
They apparently have stayed together and/or, like Yes, regrouped in various configurations to this very day. I’m sorry to say that I don’t much care for their music since 1970 or so but nearly everything up until that point is gold, particularly catchy tunes like "Talkin’ About the Good Times," "Balloon Burning," "Walking Through My Dreams" and the bizarrely incredible "Defecting Grey." The latter would undoubtedly sound just pretentious if someone recorded it today but remember, no one had heard anything quite like it at the time (well…maybe Buffalo Springfield’s "Broken Arrow").
If, like me, you love sixties music, British rock and psychedelia and you, too, have never discovered the Pretties, try the two compilation CD’s scanned here for a revelation!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Superman's Key

Okay, if you're like me, one of the coolest things about Uncle Mort's "Superman Family" was that the Man of Steel had this great big house built inside a mountain in the Arctic with a giant golden door and a giant key that no one could lift except Superman. AS George Carlin taught us, you have to have a place for your "stuff." This was where Superman kept his "stuff." In his case, that "stuff" included a bunch of statues of friends and foes, robots, laboratories, a full zoo of alien creatures, a rather narcissitic trophy room and, oh, yeah, the entire bottle city of Kandor after it was discovered to have been shrunken by Brainiac. None of that ice crystal crap from the movies, this was HOME!

That said, I'm reading DC's recent SHOWCASE edition of SUPERMAN and I can't help but notice that artist Al Plastino apparently missed a memo or otherwise just refused to go along with the rest of the world. According to legend, DC often originated cover ideas first, then did the stories. Okay, so the cover to this issue of ACTION may have been the very first time the scene had been depicted.Wayne Boring drew the accompanying story, however and established that the key was shaped like a humongous arrow and weighed tons !! Plastino's key in later issues looks kinda heavy but I think I could lift it, y'know? That's just wrong!! Even the text says that it weighs "tons." Who's gonna mistake that little thing (that looks just like a KEY, I might add) for an "airplane marker?"And what about that door? Not only is it different looking every time but Plastino's version has a door knocker! What, does he expect the Martian Manhunter to drop in unannounced? Sigh. That was the Silver Age for ya. Nothing if not inconsistent but wonderful nonetheless if you were the right age!