Thursday, December 31, 2009

Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen-1981

Charlie Chan is, today, quite the controversial character. A few years back when TCM scheduled a Chan film festival, there were protests from supposedly outraged Oriental groups and the festival was tabled until it could be revamped to include a round table discussion of the issues to run prior to each film. The fact is that while the Charlie Chan books and movies and comics and cartoons do include racial stereotypes of the day, they also include Charlie himself who plays on those cliches and uses them to his advantage. In any medium, one thing is certain: If Charlie Chan is in the room, then Charlie Chan is the smartest person in that room.

That said, I have never been able to come up with a satisfactory explanation for CHARLIE CHAN AND THE CURSE OF THE DRAGON QUEEN. Oh, it's easy to see WHY it was made. Just look at these ads as they blatantly rip off the traditional seventies PINK PANTHER film ad campaigns. This was an attempt to combine the PINK PANTHER franchise with the MURDER BY DEATH style silly black comedy-mysteries of Neil Simon.

Star Peter Ustinov is one of the most interesting performers of the twentieth century--erudite, urbane, witty, a great actor/director and humanitarian and one of the all-time great talk show guests. He often chose some odd cinematic vehicles, however. He had made a bit of a film comeback in 1976's LOGAN'S RUN which led to him inheriting the role of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot when Albert Finney passed on the follow-up to MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS. As Ustinov fit the role of the persnickety Belgian detective physically much better than Finney, he made it his own and would ultimately play the character in a total of six films produced over a ten year period. With his facility for accents, his gentle humor and the unspoken tradition that the Hawaiian police detective was never played by a Chinese actor, it must have seemed like a brilliant idea to someone to cast Ustinov to star in this picture.

Director Clive Donner was a thirty year show biz veteran best known perhaps as co-director of Woody Allen's WHAT'S NEW PUSSYCAT? He also directed Gene Roddenberry's unsold pilot, SPECTRE and had been set to direct Peter Seller's ultimately unrealized ROMANCE OF THE PINK PANTHER script at the time of Seller's death. Just prior to CC&TCOTDQ, he directed the justifiably forgotten GET SMART feature entitled THE NUDE BOMB.

As for the script, it's credited to award winning writers David Axelrod and Stan Burns (THE MARY TYLER MOORE HOUR, THE DICK CAVETT SHOW, THE DEAN MARTIN ROASTS) from a story by the film's very controversial (Look him up. I'm not getting into it here.) producer, Jerry Sherlock and, of course, featuring characters created by the long gone Earl Derr Biggers.

The TV movie-style cast that rounds out the picture includes reliable presences such as the always fun Roddy McDowall (as a cynical,wheelchair-bound butler), Angie Dickinson (as the overdressed and badly acted Dragon Queen), Lee Grant, Brian Keith and Rachel Roberts. The latter two actors both committed suicide--one presumes NOT because of this picture. A young and cute (but vacuous) Michelle Pfeiffer also appears as does the always interesting African actor Johnny Sekka.

Richard Hatch (not the SURVIVOR guy) from the then-recent original BATTLESTAR: GALACTICA appears in what amounts to the lead role as Lee Chan. Hatch, of course, was also NOT of Oriental descent. I don't believe he's Jewish either but here he plays a Jewish-Chinese character who is the most oblivious bumbler this side of Inspector Clouseau (naturally).

The picture has been going for nearly half an hour by the time Charlie enters the plot (outside of an opening black and white flashback) and it becomes immediately obvious that he speaks almost exclusively in fortune cookie sayings.

Brian Keith,as the SF police Inspector, can't say two sentences without cursing and seems to be basing his performance on that of Jackie Gleason in the SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT pictures.

The plot itself is typical of the old films but with the accent on the silly comedy that was used as comic relief in the originals. A retired Chan teams with his bumbling grandson to solve a bizarre series of San Francisco murders that seem to be straight out of a Dr Phibes movie. Chan's old nemesis, the Dragon Queen, is suspected! The best part of the film is the San Francisco location shooting. It's like watching GOOGLE MAPS only with actors. The worst part would have to be the obligatory for the time disco scene! Or maybe the Old West-style horse and buggy chase? It's a toss-up.

Is it racist? Yeah...can't deny it. More than even the originals, CHARLIE CHAN AND THE CURSE OF THE DRAGON QUEEN plays on Oriental tropes and cliches and has Caucasian actors doing so with barely even any attempt at makeup. Peter Sellers' ill-advised final film, THE FIENDISH PLOT OF FU MANCHU, mined much the same ground with an equal absence of laughs around the same time. Oh, both have their moments but they are few and far between.

Peter Ustinov went on to become knighted in spite of CHARLIE CHAN AND THE CURSE OF THE DRAGON QUEEN. Michelle Pfeiffer continues a long and successful career in films of varying quality. Other than that...

Don't believe me? Did I mention the whole thing is on YouTube? See for yourself. Here's Part one. If you insist, you can follow it to the other nine parts!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Donald O'Connor Shilling For RC Cola-

Here's SINGIN IN THE RAIN's Donald O'Connor more than a decade earlier pitching RC COLA at the end of this 1944 "RC" AND QUICKIE strip, one of many that ran in magazines, newspapers and comics during the 1940s.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Random Panels of Comic Book Weirdness # 61

Apparently the supposedly family-friendly "Big Red Cheese," Captain Marvel, doesn't share Superman's rules against killing an opponent.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Beatles With Dusty Springfield-circa '63-'64

Stan Laurel's Funeral-1965

I Can Hear the Grass Grow-the Move-1967

One of my favorite psychedelic sixties tunes, this is from the Move which later would include Jeff Lynne who went on to front the Electric Light Orchestra and organize the Traveling Wilburys as well as the Threetles!

Alan Light and Rick Best-1980

We've talked a lot about the BUYER'S GUIDE FOR COMIC FANDOM here lately. Here's a brief TV segment interviewing TBG publisher Alan Light and Rick Best, editor of Light's other tabloid, FILM COLLECTORS WORLD.

Buster Keaton-Make the Connection-1955

Saturday, December 26, 2009

My Friend the Novelist

Okay, so as I previously stated, I did NOT finish the NANOWRIMO writing competition. Whilst I have every intention of restructuring what I DID get done into one heck of a short story, I have the utmost respect for those who came through and did actually end up with their completed novel...or at least most of it.

One such person is my friend, Dee. Visiting this past week on Christmas vacation, she graciously allowed me to help proofread and edit her novel in a marathon session that we will be continuing long distance after she returns home. It's good. Really good! It's original (as original as anything CAN be anymore, anyway) and I have no doubts whatsoever that she can successfully polish it up and actually get it published.

THE IMMORTALIS SAGA is now, in fact, projected as a fantasy trilogy (what ISN'T a trilogy these days?). Dee has a natural gift for creating interesting characters and pacing a story just right to keep it interesting. I hesitate to give away too much of the plot at this stage (so as not to have some unscrupulous person nick them!) but if you're at all intrigued, she has just started her own blog on the writing of her book, offering behind-the-scenes bits and details of its creation.

Check out MORE COFFEE PLEASE at and tell Dee that Booksteve sent you! Then keep your ears open for news of when her book gets published...and it will!
Oh, by the way, I know there are some folks in publishing who frequent this blog. Anyone interested can contact Dee through her blog or drop me a line here. Not saying she's necessarily the next big thing but it's a good, rousing fantasy adventure novel!

Friday, December 25, 2009

"Merry Christmas!!"

Maurice LaMarche--perhaps best known as "Brain" on the already classic PINKY & THE BRAIN, wrote the following as his Facebook status this morning-- Maurice LaMarche believes it's quite enough with the politically correct, deliberately generic "Happy Holidays!" What is that? Does it include St Thorlak's Day? Junkanoo? Rod Serling's Birthday? It's CHRISTMAS, for cryin' out loud! At least for today, say it! And only it! MERRRRRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!!

My comment--one of dozens he began quickly to receive--was as follows: I was a big supporter of the whole "Happy Holidays" concept for years before it became a politically charged issue.I wasn't trying not to offend anyone. I just wanted to include all the surrounding holidays. That said, I, too, have become sick of it in recent years being co-opted as "Newspeak" so I have made an absolute point of saying "Merry Christmas!" to all and sundry this year! How can wishing someone a Merry Christmas be conceived as offensive? It's a positive statement that is NOT dependent on the other person's religion to be effective! So Meeeerrrry CHRISTMAS, everyone!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas With the Super Heroes-1982

One of my favorite Christmas comics has got to be THE BEST OF DC # 22 from the holiday season of 1981. It's a digest-sized CHRISTMAS WITH THE SUPER-HEROES special issue edited by the legendary Julie Schwartz. The front cover is by Rich Buckler and Dick Giordano while the more stylized back cover is drawn by George Perez.

This Wintertime treat came out when I was 22 and features seven offerings--6 from DC (including one previously unpublished!) and 1 from Fawcett. It starts out with what has to be my all-time favorite DC Christmas story, the TEEN TITANS in 1967's "The TT's Swingin' Christmas Carol" by that wacky Bob Haney and featuring some of Nick Cardy's best comics art ever in my opinion. Wonder Girl, in particular, never looked cuter than she does here!

A simple "Merry Christmas" is the title of a 1970's BATMAN offering by the solid team of Denny O'Neil, Irv Novick and Dick Giordano who did a lot more Dark Knight stories during that period than fans seem to remember.

"Freddy Freeman's Christmas" naturally features DC's inherited character CAPTAIN MARVEL, JR in a short and sweet Santa story with art that looks to me more like Mac Raboy swipes than Raboy himself but the reproduction is so tiny I can't say for sure.

This is followed up by a Golden Age BATMAN AND ROBIN tale credited to the great Jerry Robinson, the Bob Kane assistant/ghost who is generally credited with creating or co-creating Robin and the Joker and who went on to become a teacher, a comics historian and currently one of the "grand old men" of the field.

Another gem of the issue is the Mike Fleischer/Jack Kirby/Mike Royer SANDMAN story that had remained unpublished from the title's then recent short run until this issue. Love that bizarre series or hate it, this is still a fun story with a fine-looking Kirby Claus.

"Robin's Very White Christmas" was a back-up story of the Teen Wonder from about a decade earlier by the always under-rated Bob Rozakis with some good art by old pros Jose Delbo and Vince (Go to your respective corners) Colletta. It even features a cameo by Dick Grayson's rarely mentioned in the comics Aunt Harriet!

The last story is a mid-seventies JLA story from one of that title's best periods, albeit one soaked in Marvel-style continuity and subplots. "The Man Who Murdered Santa Claus is a present from Len Wein, JLA workhorse Dick Dillin and inker Dick Giordano (him again) and features a very early appearance by the John Stewart Green Lantern as well as a cameo by the Phantom Stranger and a big change for the Red Tornado!

All in all, a fun Christmas comic for kids of all ages! Hope you found a good Christmas comic or two this year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Kool-Aid Ad

I'm off on an adventure 'til late tomorrow. Have some refreshing KOOL-AID whilst I'm away!
Pardon the scary clown.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Lightray & Darkseid by Klaus Janson-1972

I've been posting a number of pieces clipped from old issues of THE BUYERS' GUIDE FOR COMIC FANDOM (TBG) and its "successor" (CBG) lately, both here and over at HOORAY FOR WALLY WOOD. I subscribed after seeing an ad in the fanzine GRAPHIC STORY WORLD offering a free lifetime subscription! With my first issue, 1972's # 17, it was announced that they could no longer honor such a deal and would have to start charging. It was still cheap though and I had never in my 14 years had as good a time as I did reading that first issue with all of the ads and the beginnings of the columns and news reporting which would make the tabloid sized weekly newspaper THE rallying point for fandom for years afterwards! It won me over immediately when I finally managed to squeeze the thing out of my tight vertical mailbox and unfold it to see this amazing cover. The art is signed (although cut off here by my scanner) "Janson '72." This was, of course, my very first exposure to Klaus Janson who was here still a few years away from going pro I believe and a decade or more away from his peak years in comics! WOW! I remember sitting down on the steps to read it, not even waiting to get back into my apartment. I remember showing it to my landlady who could not have cared any less! I remember wondering what Jack Kirby thought of this stylish interpretation of two of his NEW GODS characters. I stayed with the paper all though Alan Light's original run and then, during a brief hiatus from my sub, I was sent a free sample copy of the "New" CBG. I re-upped and continued with them until I finally--around age 35--started losing interest in modern comics. I found this cover recently and it all coming rushing back.

Batman by Bob Kane-1976

Probably anyway. Here, from a TBG interview with Kane that was, based on what we know now, at least partly fictional, is a reproduction of a lovely BATMAN image done for influential cartoonist Milton Caniff. According to the piece, Caniff, whose TERRY & THE PIRATES and STEVE CANYON are the stuff of legend, proudly displayed this Bob Kane original in his studio. Assuming that the man himself did it, it is definite proof that he could still draw his classic character even if he chose not to all those years when it was being ghosted under his signature.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali and My Facebook Friends Are There!

I don't wish to sound like I'm bragging here--just noting the differences that modern technology has made possible since the heady days of 1978. At the time this treasury-sized comic (with some of Neal Adams' best comic book work in my opinion) came out, it was fun to go through the caricatures on the cover and see which ones I could recognize. Most of the big celebs, movie and TV stars of course, Bill Gaines, the Carters, Wolfman Jack, Raquel Welch, Cher, Kurt Vonnegut, the DC characters like Batman, the reunited Beatles (who go strangely un-noted on the interior key). Along with all of these famous folk, however, there were a lot of comic book pros "in attendance."

Last week I took a look at the list for the first time in a long time and found a surprising number of people that I have come to actually know one way or the other in recent years, largely though the Internet. So a shout out to these guys who appeared on the cover of one of the most famous comic books of its day!

1--Howard Chaykin and I exchanged a few emails awhile back.
2--Walt Simonson--Emails and a Facebook friend

3--Paul Kupperberg--Facebook friend
4--Anthony Tollin--Emails
5--Paul Kirchner--Emails
6--Jack C. Harris--emails and Facebook friend
7--Bob Rozakis--Facebook friend
8--Larry Hama--Emails and Facebook friend
9--Bob McLeod--Emails and Facebook friend
10-Michael Netzer--Emails, friend and Facebook friend
11-Greg Theakston--Facebook and Netgroup friend
12-Mike Gold--Emails, Facebook and Netgroup friend
13-Neal Adams--I'm in his Facebook group
Even the late Wally Wood was in that crowd! Who knew that someday I would become a large part of his unofficial "presence" on the Web. It's a wonderful age in which we find ourselves.

When I worked at the airport, even Muhammad Ali flew in once (He's from Kentucky). Word got around quickly but I never actually saw him. Now if only Superman would fly in...
Cover lifted from SUPERMANTV.NET as my scanner remains too small to do it justice.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Gildersleeve Comics-1944

Here's an unexpected find! A comic book story of radio's THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE from a 1944 issue of Street and Smith's delightful SUPERSNIPE COMICS. For no apparent reason, in the middle of one issue there's a two page biography of actor Hal Peary followed by a multi-page Gildy story guest-starring FIBBER MCGEE AND MOLLY! GCD doesn't even list this story which is signed in one panel by Charles Boland, an artist with whom I'm not familiar at all . With good likenesses of Peary and Jim and Marion Jordan, much of the art appears traced, probably from publicity photos. The rest is pretty standard work with the other characters bearing little resemblance to the actors who played them. I don't know about anyone else but I never envisioned the widow Leila Ransom(e) looking so much like a hot young babe!

By the way, Longtime Gildy writer John Whedon who is referenced here and on whose radio script this comic is based was the grandfather of geek fave Joss Whedon of Buffy, Dr. Horrible and Dollhouse fame!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Random Panels of Comic Book Weirdness # 60

Apparently that oddly drawn applauding dinosaur knows a geek when he sees one! Believe it or not this is actually from a Jesse Marsh TARZAN comic!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Charlton Hero Ad-1965

Tony Tallarico aside, Charlton hero comics of 1965 were pretty cool! Ditko on the revived CAPTAIN ATOM, BLUE BEETLE in his fotyteenth incarnation since the late 1930's, early Roy Thomas on the THOR-like SON OF VULCAN, Kubert-style art from Sam Glanzman on JUNGLE TALES OF TARZAN (mistakenly believed to be in public domain so Charlton put out 4 issues in spite of Gold Key's licenses TARZAN comic), Dick Giordano's SARGE STEEL and the Stan Lee-style scripting of THE FIGHTIN' 5! " The greatest action heroes of all time," though? Don't think I'd give 'em that...except maybe Tarzan!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Batman Debut Ad-1939

You really have to wonder what the readers of DETECTIVE COMICS thought when they saw the ad at the top of this strip in April, 1939's issue 26. Appropriately enough the strip itself is by Bob Kane...and at that point probably REALLY by Bob Kane! Next month would be quite a change from CLEO AND CLANCY. THE BATMAN. Who knew?

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Doctor on Christmas Presents

Ed Sullivan/Jack Benny

In the Fall and Winter of 1974, we lost two very important men in the history of show business. Thirty-five years ago this year Ed Sullivan died in October and Jack Benny died (at age 39 naturally) the day after Christmas. About 45 years earlier, it was newspaperman Sullivan who first put Vaudeville fiddler, emcee and all-round entertainer Benny on his radio show. Within a year, Benny started an early version of his own long-running (34 years counting radio and television) series. The stone-faced Sullivan didn't do so badly himself with a Sunday night staple TV series that lasted nearly 25 years during which time he introduced the world to both Elvis and the Beatles.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dick Tracy Crimestopper Tips-1990

As a tie-in with the Warren Beatty DICK TRACY film of 1990, McDonalds gave out these CRIMESTOPPER TIPS flyers done up by the venerable hawk-nosed comic strip detective's then current team of writer Max Allan Collins and artist Dick Locher.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Man in the Santa Claus Suit

As Christmas films go, I would hardly rank THE MAN IN THE SANTA CLAUS SUIT with such classics as WHITE CHRISTMAS or even SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS (or for that matter with such second-stringers as FITZWILLY or THE BISHOP'S WIFE either). No, this film is the proverbial odd duck. For all intents and purposes, in fact, it's an episodic variation on TV's contemporary FANTASY ISLAND. In this case, however--and this is what makes it the least bit memorable--the enigmatic "Mr. Roarke" character is played by the legendary dancer/actor Fred Astaire.

The great film star spoke in interviews that this would be, at age 80, his final time before the cameras. (It wasn't. That would be GHOST STORY two years later) He appears in a series of roles here--actually all the same person--, all of whom interact/interfere with three characters in unconnected semi-dramatic holiday-related stories. Gary Burghoff, John Byner and Bert Convy, three actors very much of their time, are actually the POV characters whose lives are eventually changed for the better by this mysterious (as if the title didn't give it away) stranger.

When television prevailed in the 1950's, Astaire was one of the first of the Old Guard to embrace the medium, starring in several critically acclaimed dance and variety specials. His effortless grace and easygoing acting style made him an always welcome character actor, too and before this he had, in fact, recently appeared on an episode of BATTLESTAR: GALACTICA. At the time, he said it was to impress his grandkids who had no idea of his importance in the history of motion pictures!

THE MAN IN THE SANTA CLAUS SUIT usually turns up on some of the off-channels at this time of year. Is it good? Not very. If you're a film buff, though, catch it for the whimsical performance of the one and only Astaire!


Captain Marvel Says Merry Christmas-1972

Another TBG holiday cover, this one from waaaaaaay back in 1972 and drawn by "Fandom's Fantucchio (John G. to be precise). A popular fan artist with a practically indecipherable signature, his best work always looked at least partially traced to me and his more obviously original work reminded me of Larry Ivie's. A nice take on the then newly revived "Big Red Cheese" here though, using dialogue used by SUPERMAN in the 1940's. Since much of said dialogue had to be cut off due to scanner limitations, what the Captain is saying is "I hope all you readers will remember to be generous to those less fortunate than yourselves--and now-Merry Christmas to you--and a Happy New Year!"
An explanation of Superman's comments appears inside the issue in an atypical "behind the cover" feature, also seen here.

My Santa Flyer-1986

Here from my days with Waldenbooks is the original art for a coloring flyer I did for the store in 1986. What's interesting to me looking at it now is the downright terrible work on the elf and the noticeable influence of Sheldon Mayer, Walt Kelly and even Wally Wood (the boots) on my Santa Claus. As I recall, we received only a handful of the colored ones back. It was a small store.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The DC Hotline-1976-77--a Checklist

In the mid-sixties, National Comics began utilizing a lightning logo'd yellow box labeled DIRECT CURRENTS to plug upcoming comics. "DC," get it? The title and logo were revived in the seventies for a column in issues of THE AMAZING WORLD OF DC COMICS. Later on it was done up as a mail-order newsletter. In between those last two incarnations, however, was THE DIRECT CURRENTS HOTLINE!

You called the number, originally once a week but later less often, and you were regaled by one of your favorite creators with hard to hear news and information about upcoming comics and related topics via the miracle of...taped messages. A few years later this might have been a pay call but the Hotline was free!

I called regularly at first and, like the packrat I am, collected all the information on a telephone pad! What follows here, then, though undoubtedly incomplete and subject to both my bad penmanship and the often indecipherabile recordings of the writers and editors involved, is a checklist of what was actually reported on the legendary DC HOTLINE. Remember--in those prehistoric times, what might seem like simple news here wasa ctually early scoops before they even hit the fanzines!

Mon, Nov 29--Marty Pasko spoke, hawking DC SUPERSTARS and presenting the news that SUPERBOY would be appearing in ADVENTURE and that AQUAMAN's title was returning.

Mon, Dec 6--Denny O'Neil reported that SUPERMAN FAMILY and HOUSE OF MYSTERY were now $1.00 titles and then plugging his KUNG-FU FIGHTER.

Mon, Dec 13--Joe Orlando spoke of JONAH HEX, SCALPHUNTER, BLACK LIGHTNING and creators Sergio Aragones, Ed Davis, Gray Morrow, Howie Chaykin and Alan Weiss

Mon, Dec 20-Publisher Jennette Kahn plugged the new line of $1.00 comics as having Neal Adams covers and then wished all of us fans a Merry Christmas.

Mon, Dec 27--Jack C. Harris (now one of my Facebook friends) mentioned that Inspector Henderson was a regular in BLACK LIGHTNING and plugged upcoming team-ups of Batman and Deadman as well as Kamandi and Omac.

Mon, Jan 4--Sol Harrison asks for the fans help in getting the comics to the newsstands, plugs tthe SUPERMAN movie contest and wishes us all a Happy New Year.

Tuesday, Jan 11--Answer Man Bob Rozakis (another Facebook buddy now) pushed Ditko's SHADE, THE CHANGING MAN, his own TEEN TITANS and an upcoming DC SPECIAL about dinosaurs.

Thursday, Jan 20--Marty Pasko was back plugging SUPERMAN projects and giving us a heads-up on the one-shot 5 STAR DC SUPER SPECTACULAR. He then offered get well wishes for us to quickly recover from the flu (??).

Tue, Jan 25--Future DC publisher Paul Levitz with lots of Legion news including a funeral, a wedding, an epic and a JLA team-up!

Sun, Feb 6--Gerry Conway was new to DC then and appeared to promote his projects including the revival of CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN with Swamp Thing, Deadman and Rip Hunter. He also spoke of "Atom's Quest (??)", the revived MISTER MIRACLE and NEW GODS titles and the oversized SUPERMAN VS WONDER WOMAN set in WWII.

Wed, Feb 16--Jack C. Harris back to summarize SHADE THE CHANGING MAN, a title that would never really get the respect it was due until many years later.

Thur, Mar 3--FBook pal Mike Gold with major news on the announced SUPERMAN movie! The lead had been cast and it would be an unknown actor named "Richard Leeds!" Hey, that's what I wrote down. Maybe he said Christopher Reeve and it crackled a bit too much or maybe he was so unknown that Mike actually got it wrong. Who knows? Anyway, the director was announced as OMEN director Richard Donner with a script by "a 007 screenwriter(??)". The good news for fans was that it was to be played straight, filmed worldwide and have a huge special effects budget!

Sat, Mar 27--Joe Orlando again, this time with news of an upcoming "Giant" monthly LSH title, a new JSA origin and info on upcoming issues of SHOWCASE, MEN OF WAR, MISTER MIRACLE and AQUAMAN.

Fri, Apr 8--Denny O'Neil plugs an upcoming Batman vs Ra's Al Ghul title, becoming the first person I'd hear say that name aloud so I noted the correct pronunciation. He also plugged a new BATMAN novel and an upcoming GL/GA storyline.

Tue, May 3--Paul Kupperberg (who was at many local cons back in those days and, you guessed it, is now a Facebook friend) makes an appearance to promote AQUALAD in ADVENTURE, THE NEW DOOM PATROL and POWER GIRL in the revived SHOWCASE title.

Tue, May 24--After all these execs, writers and editors, we finally get an artist! The late Marshall Rogers talked of two upcoming projects with Steve Englehart--the new MISTER MIRACLE and the DETECTIVE COMICS series that went on to define Batman for that era. Who knew?

Tue, June 21--Al Milgrom explains his new editorial duties at DC on titles including KARATE KID, WEIRD WESTERN, Kamnadi and LSH. He also introduces THE HUNTRESS and xplains that she will be appearing in the newly super-sized BATMAN FAMILY title.

Sun, July 24--Jennette Kahn returns for one final message, thanking us for calling and explaining that the Hotline was soon to be replaced by the DIRECT CURRENTS newsletter. Along the way, she hinted of new dollar comics and new heroes like Firestorm.

Then it was over. Again, I'm not sure if I just skipped weeks or if they just quit updating it on a weekly or regular basis but it was fun while it lasted. Interesting to note the different accents of the creators, many of whom were recognizably from the East Coast. Most did as good a job as possible, undoubtedly reading from a prepared script into a less than stellar microphone that sometimes had real issues on playback. Thanks guys!

A Goodguy Christmas-1979

Here's a sadly truncated scan of a 1979 holiday TBG cover featuring the late, lamented Alan (Jim) Hanley's GOODGUY, his version of the original Captain Marvel, in a nostalgic moment with Santa (as well as a fairly subtle Walt Kelly tribute).

Cartoon Character Actors-The Letters-1988

In mid-1988, the interest in classic cartoons was at a peak due to the much-anticipated release of WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT? with its first ever cross-studio teaming of characters. It was during that year that I developed the idea for a book on voice actors to be entitled CARTOON CHARACTER ACTORS-THE MEN AND WOMEN BEHIND YOUR FAVORITE ANIMATED STARS. I bought a book on how to write a proposal and found the name of an editor at Crown who had done a pop culture book I admired earlier that year. I wrote and rewrote and rewrote again my proposal, all on an old-fashioned typewriter with correcting tape! I have at least three complete variations on the proposal here and several incomplete. This, of course, does not even count the copy I sent out eventually!

I knew I would have to interview some of the legendary voice actors, most of whom were still with us at that time but how to get hold of them? I noticed that the name Andrea Romano was on a lot of the newer cartoons from Hanna-Barbera so I got the bright idea to write a dozen letters...and send them all to Andrea Romano. It made sense. As a director she obviously knew and worked with these folks! So I wrote her a cover letter and sent off individual interview requests explaining the project (with SASE of course!) and waited to hear something from either Andrea or Crown.

Unfortunately, the first thing I heard, just a few days after I sent off the package to H-B, was notice of the death of the great Daws Butler, one of my all-time favorite cartoon voices! Soon after that, though, I was heartened to hear from my hand-picked editor and she liked my book idea! She suggested some changes and offered some other ideas, most of which I liked but all of which I incorporated since, as a first-time author, I figured I should listen to my editor. We exchanged several letters and spoke on the phone once or twice and I was convinced Crown would go for the idea. She wanted to see something written before committing, though, so I spent most of my waking hours doing research (which, in those already ancient days, meant hanging out at the Public Library and digging through back issue animation mags in comic shops!)

In the meantime, letters from my cartoon idols started drifting in. Henry (Fred Flintstone) Corden, Jean (Wilma) VanderPyl, June (Rocky the Flying Squirrel) Foray, Janet (Judy Jetson) Waldo, Don (Scooby Doo) Messick , Daws Butler....wait a sec! Daws Butler? Apparently my letter arrived only days after his death and his widow kindly wrote me a bit about Daws and included some clippings and a bio sheet. I was shocked that she would take the time but very appreciative.

That was the year I flew out to San Diego in July to take one of June Foray's voiceover seminars. I recorded it for posterity and afterwards spoke briefly with her about my hopefully-upcoming book. (Who knew all these years later I would be involved with her autobiography? But that's another story already told.)

Then, literally as I was setting up specific telephone interview times, came the final blow. My project may not have been officially contracted but my wonderful editor had nursed me along for months by that point but then one day she was gone. I was told that her position was eliminated during one of the incestuous mergers that happen so often in publishing. In this case, Random House absorbed Crown. As my book was not actually on anyone's roster except that of someone now no longer present, they had no idea it existed. I sent them another proposal, this time with my guarantees of interviews and sample chapters on Jim Backus and Ross Bagdasarian that I had polished and repolished. I was informed that several similar books (which really weren't at all similar) had performed poorly for them so they would be passing on CARTOON CHARACTER ACTORS.

I spent the next six months racking up rejection slips from every other publisher I could find who might in the least be interested in that type of book. Outside of one from Pomegranate Press signed personally from its owner, DARK SHADOWS actress Kathryn Leigh Scott, these were NOT fun. I hated opening my mail.

Soon enough I moved on to another project which then became my first professional sale--my article on PUSSYCAT in AMAZING HEROES. Then another book idea, YOU'RE ONLY AS GOOD AS YOUR LAST PICTURE (now appearing as one of my blogs at long last) was researched, nurtured and shot down endlessly. A few more small articles appeared by me but I was disheartened and gave up on the idea of a book.
In the years since, after writing about this project online, there were a few nibbles from a small publisher about a revival. The problem was that so many of the classic folks had since passed. The industry had changed completely and a whole new generation of brilliant cartoon character actors was now on top--Rob Paulsen, Joe Alaskey, Maurice LeMarche, Billy West, Gregg Berger, Bob Bergen and a dozen more! They were all great and deserved a book but my book, as originally conceived, just wasn't it. Thus, I'm left with lots of notes, files, memories and a handful of letters and notes like the three seen here by some of my favorite cartoon character actors. Janet Waldo is, in fact, a Facebook friend. Maybe if I show her this I can still get her promised interview!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

RIP Stuart Kaminsky

Just found out one of my favorite authors passed away about two months ago--Stuart Kaminsky. A film scholar, one of the first books I ever read by him was a biography of Clint Eastwood. In the early 1980's, however, I discovered his Toby Peters series of mystery novels (which had only three books out at the time). Toby was an L. A. private dick in the Hollywood of the late 1930's (and later 1940's) whose name got around the movie colony as someone trustworthy. Thus his clients included celebs of the era such as the Marx Brothers, Bela Lugosi, Fred Astaire, Errol Flynn and even Salvador Dali and Eleanor Roosevelt! His backstory ran from book to book and included his estranged tough cop brother, his ex-wife, his deaf landlady and sidekicks like a professional wrestler turned philosophical poet and an intellectual former Munchkin. The Toby Peters books were fun, quick reads and after awhile probably served as a breather for Kaminsky who was by then being nominated for awards left and right for his various other, more serious police procedurals.

Seen here is a 1985 interview with Stuart Kaminsky from Waldenbooks' CRIME TIMES, the newsletter of the chain's then-popular Mystery Club.

Here's a link to his obit:

Peanuts Holiday Ornaments

We have never been the type of family who collected and proudly displayed Christmas tree ornaments. In fact, the two seen here have never been out of their boxes even today! This, of course, begs the question of whether or not they're actually in there. Schrodinger's PEANUTS? Or is that Schroeder's PEANUTS? Anyway, these two little off-model Hallmark gems (with Linus looking like Charlie Brown to me!) were picked up by us at some point back in the distant eighties and have literally been gathering dust on the Library shelves (along with several similar STAR TREK Christmas tree ornaments!) ever since. I gather some of them are a bit rare even. As you can see, these are part of the SNOOPY'S CHRISTMAS collection. Not sure how ol' Snoop ended up getting top billing over the more traditional CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS but I guess that's Hallmark for you.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Lex Barker's Memory Issues

A little-known rumor I just invented--even though he didn't exactly have a lot of lines, TARZAN actor Lex Barker had trouble memorizing his script.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Popeye Career Comics

When we recently wrote about the issue of TIM TYLER'S LUCK that was only distributed through educational channels by Charlton and yet credited to King as publisher, I had completely forgotten about a 1997 article by Maggie Thompson in CBG that described these educational POPEYE comics from 1972. Since today is (if you've checked Google at all) POPEYE creator E.C. Segar's birthday (as noted in a piece by myself over at I.T.C.H. this morning-- ), I thought I'd share these oddball comic covers.

Review-The Art of Ditko

Before writing a review of Craig Yoe's upcoming volume, THE ART OF DITKO, I should--in the interest of full disclosure--remind one and all that I am a member of I.T.C.H., Yoe's International Team of Cartoon Historians and, in fact, in future volumes from IDW's YoeBooks imprint, I'm actually listed as a "Media Associate" to Yoe Studios. I did NOT, however, have anything to do with THE ART OF DITKO.

That said, it's good. A nicely designed hardcover book with an amazing and unique self-portrait of the rarely seen artist on its cover, THE ART OF DITKO intersperses high quality full color scans from Charlton Comics of the 1950's, '60's and '70's with single page covers and original artwork, Being from Charlton comics, these scans are naturally better quality printing (on MUCH better paper!) than any of the originals ever were!

Content-wise, it's Ditko. If you are a fan, here's some good and little seen art spanning more than two decades. While the stories themselves often fall short, there's no denying the power of most of the art here. Although not printed sequentially, it's interesting to note the artist's rapid development as he led up to his arguable peak on SPIDER-MAN in the early '60's. You see his stock bits like floating eyes, dripping water and the DR STRANGE-style other dimensions but in the early strips you can also see the strong influence of fellow artists such as Joe Kubert, Mort Meskin and Alex Toth.

The introduction by Stan Lee, although entirely appropriate and quite flattering, may prove to be somewhat controversial in that its wording will no doubt enrage the artist's more militant acolytes in spots. Along with the continued careful wording over "Who created Spider-Man?," the legendary writer/editor/publisher makes reference to the fact that Ditko was "practically plotting the stories by himself" after awhile.

Others contributing brief essays are John Romita, P. Craig Russell and Jerry Robinson, all of whom give a little more insight into the artist and his work. Perhaps the best insights, though, come from Yoe himself whose anecdotal reminiscences of actually meeting and hiring the man come off as both amusing and telling.

With Ditko and his famously hardcore Objectivist values becoming more prominent on the Internet in recent years in a series of essays and more and more books and websites celebrating more than five decades of work from this singular comics creator, it is a grand time for fans old and new. If you're NOT yet a fan, this book may not be the one that will convert you but if you ARE a fan, it will be a necessary and most enjoyable addition to your library.

To see some pages and/or order the soon to be released book, go here:

Monday, December 07, 2009


Not much substance to this post I admit but I ran across this photo of Jaunty Jim Steranko that I personally snapped circa 1980 and wanted to share!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Another Gross Cover

Longtime readers may recall that we here in the Cincinnati area had the privilege of having several years of art from illustrator Daerick Gross (THE VAMPIRE LESTAT, GETTING IT ON) back in the late 1970's when he was a staff artist/editorial cartoonist for THE CINCINNATI POST. Here's yet another of his local TV mag covers, this one from January of 1977 with nice caricatures of Fonzie, Starsky and Hutch and the Captain and Tennille as well as the late Farrah Fawcett (-Majors at the time).

Addendum--this cover had to be carefully scanned as the cat had already scratched it nearly in half. After the scanning, however, it got caught on the edge of the scanner and ripped off the rest of the way. Sigh. Art can be so ephemeral.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Eerie Subscription Ad

Uncle Creepy tries hard to prevent the emergence of Cousin Eerie in this mid-sixties Warren Publishing subscription ad drawn by Angelo Torres. Not sure if it really did include the first issue of EERIE which was, in fact, a glorified ashcan edition published just to establish copyright in the wake of word that a rival compamy was about to use the title. For all intents and purposes, EERIE # 2 was the first real issue of the mag.

Friday, December 04, 2009


Each and every day (more or less) one can find me over at ITCH headquarters early in the morning linking to a handful of cool comics site postings. It occurred to me that over here at my own home base it's been quite awhile since we recommended any links. Lots of new, nifty stuff out there during that time. Here's just ten for a start. Visit some of these and see for yourselves.

ALPHAVILLE is a heady mix of atheistic humor and humanistic commentary from a guy named after the lead character in the surreal cult sci-fi film from which the blog takes its name.

At VINNIE RATTOLLE'S RECORDS you'll find music and TV stuff, mostly from the seventies and late sixties. Some you can read, some you can read about, some you can download and watch or read.

LUBBERT-DAS guru Colin Lorimer's spanking new COMICS site is currently offering one post only--a preview of the Irish-Canadian writer/artist's new project UXB which looks and sounds like post apocalyptic fun indeed.

Artist Sam Henderson has a fun blog that mixes his own works (both previously published and otherwise) with historical and eclectic slices from his own comics and pop culture collections. Blow THE MAGIC WHISTLE at:

FUNKTARDS is a repository of often genuinely surprising and amusing (and NSFW!) nerd humor found on and around the Internet.

Jim Hendrickson's pop blog, THE COMPLETEIST (sic) is a lot of fun, particularly with his regular posts of videos taken from the charting Top 5 in various years!

MARK KAUSLER'S CATBLOG offers comic strip reprints and histories along with some just general pop culture goodness on the side.

PANELOLOGICAL PANTHEON offers reprints and often very detailed commentaries on some little-known but fascinating comic book stories and series from the Golden Age.

MICHAEL BARRIER. COM showcases the historical animation perspectives of one of the most respected cartoon historians (and founder of the legendary FUNNYWORLD fanzine about four decades ago).

THE RAGGED CLAWS NETWORK deals with odds and ends from various comic book art legends but mainly serves as an archive of some of the lesser known (or lesser available) works of Jeffrey Catherine Jones, the great fantasy painter.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

RIP- Eric Woolfson

A nice fan-made video for my favorite song from THE ALAN PARSONS PROJECT, sung by co-founder Eric Woolfson who died yesterday of cancer.

The MSU Comic Book Collection

No comment necessary.

The Great Anti-War Cartoons

Here's a brief video preview of Craig Yoe's soon to be released book THE GREAT ANTI-WAR CARTOONS which I am proud to say I worked on behind the scenes in a couple of capacities. Order today over at SUPERI.T.C.H or check the usual online sources.

Don Adams-Electronic Detective Ad

From the early days of home computing, here's Don Adams and Joey Forman advertising what appears to be a cheesy electronic version of the venerable CLUE.

The Who Tragedy

With Kenny Jones on drums replacing the late Keith Moon, this version of the Who, here with their 1981 song "Don't Let Go of the Coat," is the one that played in Cincinnati, Ohio thirty years ago tonight. Eleven fans were killed in a rush to grab seats due to so-called "festival seating." Many more were injured but the concert went on as the band was not informed of any of this until after the show. A controversial move but I think it was the correct one at the time as the already fired up crowd would not have taken well to the news of the show being cancelled and more problems may have ensued. The band members each handled things in their own way but the event had long-lasting effects for Pete in particular, escalating his substance abuse for some time afterwards.

I knew a couple of folks who were there that night, one of whom suffered a broken limb and was interviewed by Walter Cronkite the next night on CBS News. A girl I dated a few years later told me she had flashed her boobs at a security guard around the other side of the Coliseum from where the tragedy would occur to get him to let her and her friends in earlier so she didn't know about the tragedy until the next day.

I myself had been knocked down in 1976 as I attended alone my very first actual rock concert--Wings. Every attempt to get back up as the crowds flooded the doors screaming failed and I was lucky enough that it happened near the door so I literally crawled inside and grabbed the first seat I could get. Not a great experience for my first concert. I left early even to avoid the crowds on the way out. Luckily I was just bruised up a little. That night in December of 1979 it was different.

Cat Stevens-Father and Son

Sometimes you just feel like a little Cat Stevens. Luckily, he's always back there for us in the seventies without all the baggage his very name (old or new) brings with it today.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009