Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Honey West by Elaine Lee and Ronn Sutton

There are a lot of comics out there these days competing for your hard-earned money...and not as much of that hard-earned money to go around anymore. Sometimes, a recommendation from a friend is what's needed to get you to try something out of your norm. Here comes that recommendation.

Tomorrow on the stands besides the 23 DEADPOOL titles, the 14 CAPTAIN AMERICA titles, the 9 GREEN LANTERN comics and the odd issues of anything DC that aren't tied in to the latest company crossover...you'll find HONEY WEST # 4.

If you aren't familiar with the character, Honey West is best remembered for her TV incarnation of the early sixties as played by the late Anne Francis. She was, in essence, designed to be an American Emma Peel before THE AVENGERS had even debuted on these shores. She was cool in her jumpsuits, she was clever, sexy and, quite frankly, she could kick your ass with martial arts. If that didn't work, she'd sic Bruce, her pet ocelot, on you. She also had lots of bathing scenes, got in lots of compromising situations and just generally had some fun TV times.

Well now she's back in a new comic book series from Moonstone, the second story arc of which is done up nicely by writer Elaine Lee (best known for the play STARSTRUCK and its subsequent graphic novel) and artist Ronn Sutton, a regular (and invaluable) contributor to our Wally Wood and Gray Morrow blogs.

The pair captures the spirit of the TV version of Honey quite well without outright imitation. The story has a Hollywood background and reminds me a bit of Mike Barr's MAZE AGENCY--with its fair-play mysteries and oh-so-clean artwork-- with more than a dash of Mark Evanier's CROSSFIRE thrown in.

Sutton as an artist is a talented industry veteran who's flown pretty much under the radar for years but he's also a comics fan and pop culture historian of the highest caliber and recognizably references the classic Wally Wood sci-fi style in the space movie scenes. His look is, as I said above, clean and easy to follow as opposed to, say, last week's KIRBY--GENESIS # 0 which had me thoroughly lost. Fancy art has a place in comics and elsewhere, but without storytelling, it really isn't comics, is it?

Yes, this is the second issue of a 4 issue story arc. While you're at your comic shop, there's a good chance they have a copy of the previous issue lying around or else can get you a copy. The good news is that there are two more issues after this one from this team. Actually, HONEY WEST by Elaine Lee and Ronn Sutton IS the good news. Buy it, read it and I think you'll enjoy it.

Many thanks to Ronn for the advance look!

UPDATE--Elaine Lee writes to say: if people can't find the first issue in their local shop, they can get Honey directly from the Moonstone site at:http://www.facebook.com/l/def40FI3n51Y5Vx7966R7MZWtGw/moonstonebooks.com/shop/category.aspx?catid=31

Random Panels of Comic Book Weirdness # 89

What's "her" name, you ask? Well at first I thought it was Superman but on second look, with moves like that, it may be Baryshnikov!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Meet Captain Flag

It's Memorial day. Take a moment and remember those who made today possible with their sacrifices.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Silver Age Sub-Mariner Splash Page Sundays # 15

A nice rendition of our hero, here, as usual at this point by Mirthful Marie Severin. In fact, the only problem I see is that there sure aren't many people out and about in Atlantis. Since this splash was inked by the much maligned Vince Colletta, known for erasing figures in crowd scenes, one really has to wonder if perhaps there were originally hundreds of those tiny Atlanteans there to which Vinnie responded, "Oh, hell no" as he broke out his eraser. Could be just me but looks like a little Herb Trimpe here and there in this splash, also. Who knows?

Roy T continues on script with this issue spotlighting Kirby's Dragon Man, a character who would be revived in a surprising manner in FF decades later to become an intellectual babysitter of sorts!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Vincentennial--Vincent Price at 100

On stage he was Oscar Wilde. On radio, he was Simon Templar, the Saint. On television, he was a Hollywood Square. On record, he worked with Alice Cooper and Michael Jackson. On film he was Roderick Usher, Anton Phibes, Matthew Hopkins and scores of other memorable characterizations in comedies, dramas, romances, westerns, noir films...but most memorably in horror films. The late Vincent Price, one of my favorite actors since childhood, would have been 100 years old today! Happy birthday, Vinnie...and thanks for all the smiles and all the scares!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Farewell, Brittany Rose

Some of you have noted and even complained that my photo blog, BRITTANY ROSE AND ME, has recently gone away. After several years of lighting my creative fires, my muse, Ms. Brittany Rose, a recent graduate and now a medical professional, is moving to Iowa this weekend to start her own business and be with the young man she will soon be marrying. Seen here are probably the final photos I'll take of her before she leaves town, snapped today and highlighting her new look--new hairstyle, new glasses and even a newly touched up butterfly tattoo. We had our private goodbye moment but I wanted to thank Brittany Rose publicly for her generally patient indulgence of my photographic whims and desires. There have been and will be other models...but there will never be one as good for me as Britany Rose.Below is an early photo-enhancement experiment, its subject being the very first photograph I ever took of Brittany Rose, from 2003.

Another early picture-editing experiment, showing the ten most important women in my entire life...now updated to eleven with the addition of Brittany Rose. In real life, many of these women never met one another at all. The photos seen here were taken over a 33 year period. Trivia: the fingers on the shoulder of the girl in the blue shirt may look like the belong to the woman next to her but in actuality they belong to George Clooney's dad, Nick! The young angel in the plate represents a daughter we lost. Brittany Rose represents the daughter we somehow ended up with.

We aren't losing her. It's long-past the point where we get to keep her...but for now, her own muse calls her elsewhere and we wish her all the joys and success possible! Farewell, Brittany Rose.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Review: The Adventures of Unemployed Man

As most of you know, I AM an unemployed man. Some months ago, I received a review copy of the graphic novel, UNEMPLOYED MAN. I did a quick read-through with the intention of going through the book in more depth the next day and writing down my thoughts. The problem came when my 14 year old son read it, liked it and took it to school to show his teacher who also liked it. Then it was misplaced for a while, then forgotten for a while, then pushed aside while I dealt with my own problems with health and...well…unemployment. To be honest, I just found it hard to get that deep into the concept after having had to deal with it so long in real life. I’ve even avoided reading all the other reviews of the book.

Today, however, I finally gave UNEMPLOYED MAN its due and let me say right up front that this Little-Brown publication is one of my favorite comics-related items in recent years. (By way of full disclosure, let me also just say that two of the several artists involved in this project—Michael Netzer and Terry Beatty—have become friends of mine through the Internet).

On the surface, UNEMPLOYED MAN gives the impression of liberal propaganda done up in the style of Harvey Kurtzman’s original MAD (with some Silver Age Marvel and DC twists) for a quick cash-in satirizing the USA’s economic woes. Luckily, there’s a lot more going on here than that.

The harsh realities are all here, done up in flashy comic book colors and metaphors. You get the sudden fall from grace, the eye opening, the depression, the collections agencies, the get-rich quick schemes, the disappointing and frustrating job scams, the homelessness, the helplessness and the hopelessness.

But underneath the fatalism is an inherent optimism. Our hero just won’t give up! Originally The Ultimatum, we see him in the beginning of the story, blinded to the harsher realities of his world’s economic issues. Espousing self-help platitudes as his “super-power,” he turns out to be but a figurehead of the corporation he thought he was running. As his eyes finally start to open, he is literally kicked out into the unknown.

His sidekick (visually based on artist Terry Beatty?) turns against him, the items in his secret headquarters get repossessed, and he ends up having to deal with a whole new class of people whom previously he had looked down on. The puns, both written and visual, come fast and furiously from this point as our hero, newly christened as Unemployed Man, “champion of all who’ve lost their jobs,” sets out to help people in ways that go far beyond the “attitude adjustment” he had previously espoused.

Everyone in this world is/was some kind of hero or villain. Among the clever character names are Plan B, Kollecticus, Wonder Mother, Super Lotto, Fellowman, the White rage, Outsourcer, Alien Greenspan and the Free Marketeers. As you might surmise, whilst comics references abound, a working knowledge of the past twenty or so years of American politics will net you even more jokes, gags and puns.

The art throughout has a style very similar to that of Dave Gibbons of the seminal WATCHMEN graphic novel with Unemployed Man himself even resembling that book’s minor hero character, Captain Metropolis.

THE ADVENTURES OF UNEMPLOYED MAN reminds me in many ways of the GREAT SOCIETY comic book that came out in the mid-sixties and featured superhero caricatures of the politicians of the day in simplistic satires of then-prevalent issues. The art in that nifty little gem (as well as its spin-off, BOBMAN AND TEDDY) was by the much-maligned Tony Tallarico.

The art here, however, is completely top-notch all the way, highlighted by the return of the great Ramona Fradon! Ms. Fradon was one of the very few women artists in Golden Age comics and was an early artist on AQUAMAN. Her best-known comic book work may be on National’s sixties cult-character, METAMORPHO. She went on to take over as the longtime artist on the BRENDA STARR newspaper strip.

Rick Veitch took over Vertigo’s SWAMP THING from Steve Bissette and John Totleben, one of the great teams of their day, and made it his own, eventually even picking up the writing reigns from Alan Moore. On his own, he has published a number of bizarre but always fascinating projects including THE MAXIMORTAL.

Michael Netzer is the controversial artist who started out as one of many Neal Adams clones at Continuity Associates and has long since developed his own unique but highly adaptable style. Much of Mr. Netzer’s best work over the years has been inked by artist Joe Rubinstein who reteams with him here for some lovely sequences.

Artist Terry Beatty is probably best known for his work with longtime friend and collaborator Max Allan Collins on comics such as MS. TREE but one of my favorite projects of his was THE PHONY PAGES way back in the eighties. Up next is the RETURN TO PERDITION graphic novel.

Additional art on specialty pages comes from Tom Yeates, Benton Jew and Shawn Martinbrough with some wonderfully pulpish coloring from Lee Loughridge.

The great comics letterer Tom Orzechowski is on-hand, too, along with Clem Robins and Thomas Mauer.

That great team wouldn’t have come together at all, however, if Gan Golan and Erich Origen hadn’t created and written THE ADVENTURES OF UNEMPLOYED MAN. They are also responsible for character designs, layouts and art direction. I am not familiar with the work of either of these gentlemen but they have an amazing feel for political, social and pop culture satire. Thanks go to them, also, for getting me this copy for its long-delayed review.

If you aren’t a victim of the economic mess these days, consider yourself lucky. THE ADVENTURES OF UNEMPLOYED MAN might open up your eyes the same way it does for its title character. If you are unemployed, this book will help you laugh through some of the nightmarish issues and maybe even, as it did me, help you to understand them a bit more.

It’s hard to classify THE ADVENTURES OF UNEMPLOYED MAN. It’s a graphic novel, a parody, a satire, a lampoon, and, as I stated above, more than a bit of political propaganda. It’s clever and at times absolutely hilarious. It’s pretty but at times genuinely scary. It’s not adult in the sense of dirty words or naked ladies but it is in no way a kids’ book. It’s a sleek, almost fancy package done up to look cheap on purpose. Had to categorize but read it for yourself and call it what you will. In the end, THE ADVENTURES OF UNEMPLOYED MAN is one of my favorite comics-related projects of recent years. I think most who read my blog will like it, too.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The CryptKeeper/Harold Camping

Which is which? Can you tell? Thanks to Brendan Spillane for the idea.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Silver Age Sub-Mariner Splash Page Sundays # 14

Another creative use of the story's title highlight this Marie Severin page. This one is one of my favorite SUB-MARINER issues, the one in which the Golden age Human Torch's kid sidekick, Toro, is brought back by Roy Thomas and given a good send-off. Like most other Marvel heroes, he would come back eventually in spite of that.

Here on the splash, however, there's no sign of the now grown Toro. Just a lot of fish, a lot of bubbles and Subby in what appears to be yet another dance move. Isn't he so graceful? The revolving inker's chair this month went to Mike Esposito in spite of the fake name seen here, one of several pseudonyms the artist used supposedly to keep DC from knowing he was moonlighting for the competition.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Review--My Lucky Life In And Out of Show Business by Dick Van Dyke

I lucked into a slightly water-damaged copy of Dick Van Dyke's new autobiography for half price. As one of my all-time favorite performers, I had to get it.

As a child, I often said that THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW was my favorite show and it was, in fact, what made me want to be a writer when I grew up! A little later, MARY POPPINS became big in my life to the point where we still have a re-issue poster on the wall upstairs. CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG was the film I saw on my first date (at age 10).

Dick Van Dyke comes across here as exactly who one always thought he was--a nice guy. Yes there were some issues including the alcoholism he has been open about for some time. But not one word of this book---as opposed to a couple others I've read in recent years--makes me like him any less than I always have.

Even at its dark points, it's a breezy read, more ancedotal than in-depth history. He glosses over some bits that seem like he should have dealt with to a greater degree.

Along the way, you'll read about his many friends and co-stars from Mary Tyler Moore, Rose Marie and Morey Amsterdam to Hope Lange, Andy Kaufman, Julie Andrews and Walt Disney. You'll learn about his faith and his political activism, his smoking and drinking issues, his family, his brother and, of course, his various TV series and feature films. Through it all, you'll feel like you're just sitting around chatting with an old and dear friend.

With an appropriate introduction by Carl Reiner, the accurately but awkwardly titled MY LUCKY LIFE IN AND OUT OF SHOW BUSINESS is a fun and informative read for casual or longtime fans alike. Booksteve recommends.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Casper Pencil-1972

I don't remember there being a ton of Casper the Friendly Ghost merchandise in the early seventies but this ad from 1972 shows that Harvey was still in there trying. A decade earlier, in the early sixties, the Harvey comics were the first ones I ever had when my dad brought me some home from the drugstore every time he stopped there. By this point they seemed on their last legs.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Comics Covers of Jeff Jones

The late Jeffrey Catherine Jones is often thought of as a comics artist but, in reality, it wasn't very long before he transcended comics to become a brilliant illustrator and painter. Seen here are most (not all) of the comics covers Jones did, most from the early 1970's.

R.I.P.-- Jeffrey Catherine Jones

More later.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Corozo Nut Rings-1945

I don't know about you but I'd never heard of a corozo nut. According to this comic book ad, rings made from them were all the rage back in 1945. Follow the ink below for more info on the corozo nut.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Friday the 13th and the 25th Annual Cincinnati Old-Time Radio and Nostalgia Convention

I really don't recall when I realized it but at some point I came to the conclusion that Friday the 13th could bring good luck rather than bad simply by maintaining a positive attitude. Mind over matter if you will. The power of positive thinking in action. And it worked!

Since then the oddest good luck things have happened as long as I remained optimistic. One year I won a hundred dollars on the Lottery. One year I got a promotion. One year I actually got a raise...just because. The letter in my paycheck said they realized they had been underpaying me for years so they gave me backpay and a raise! Seriously.

This year was kind of similar. At the beginning of the week we had fourteen dollars in our bank account and we were at least a month behind on all of our bills including the mortgage. My wife got a check on Wednesday and I spent the next day negotiating with creditors to dole out what little we had. We had already decided not to go to the Cincinnati Old-Time Radio Convention this year, even though we hadn't missed it in 23 years and there were rumors (again) that this would be the final year.

And then on Thursday afternoon we got a windfall. It wasn't entirely unexpected but it was three months ahead of schedule and much more than we had been been expecting! Suddenly we were able to catch up on all the bills. Suddenly the OTR Con was back on!

Neal Ellis and Ken Stockinger were broadcasting live from the Con on Friday morning when I decided to change my look completely. My hair had come in white from the last time I had shaved it but it was at that awkward stage where it was too short to comb and too long not to do something with. So I shaved it again. Then I decided to dye my beard. I don't mind the white haired look but I wanted something different. I was tired of looking
in the mirror at this depressed guy looking back at me. I wanted to see someone else in there. My face has been ruddy and broken out lately due to my health issues but the overall effect seemed to make me look more rugged. One person said I looked like a pudgy, middle-aged Hell's Angel. The final touches were to break out my rarely used fake teeth to replace the ones I lost a couple years ago and my equally rarely used bifocals.

I picked up David from school at 1:30 and--more good luck--Rene was working at the same school that day for the first time ever! Brittany Rose couldn't make it that first day. We drove straight up and even our car, worrisome to the point where I've tried to avoid driving on Interstates for several years now, was in fine condition and made it in record time.

Those few whom we had told not to expect us this year were suddenly all over us! Bob Hastings had not come this year due to last minute illness but Rosemary Rice and 93 year old Esther Geddes looked lovely as always. Not long after we got there were this year's auditions. David read but did not get cast this year. Rene received a particularly juicy part in Friday night's GUNSMOKE re-creation. As for me, even though director Don Ramlow didn't have me read for these particular roles, he cast me in the exact two parts that I wanted out of this year's shows--GUNSMOKE'S "Chester" and THE LIFE OF RILEY's "Junior." More positive thinking luck!

Friday night's performance went off without a hitch (well..two gunshots didn't work but other than that...) and Rene stole the show. I played Chester with a combination of Parley Baer's original portrayal and Gabby Hayes. Even popped my teef out for that!

Since I'm 50 pounds above my normal weight lately, I was concerned about the long day on Saturday but luckily we had no roles in the early shows and thus didn't need to be there before 3:30 for my RILEY rehearsal. Brittany Rose called, though, and said that she and fiance Thomas were coming with us so we went up around noon.

World's biggest Jack Benny fan Karen Hughes and her great and wondrous parents, Kathy and Dan were, as always, highlights of our weekend. It was particularly fun to watch Brittany and Karen as always--sisters from another mother. I spent a lot of time catching up with Martin Grams for whom I've been doing work this past year in several capacities, and picked up a free copy of his excellent new book on the Shadow which I had helped proofread some months back. Look for a full rave review soon but in the meantime, go ahead and by the book!

Had some great conversations also with Roy Bright, Rodney Bowcock, Steve and Laura Jansen (two of my all-time favorite folks! She even got to be MY sister for a change in LIFE OF RILEY!), Meredith Grainger, Chris Holm, Grant Gardner, Rick Keating and more. Was also good to see Barb and Dave Davies, Lenelle Herbert Marshall, Bob Burchett, Geoffrey Brittingham, Randy Larson and others I've known for years...and somehow managed to miss finding out their names. This was the second year for a young man named Chad who was welcomed into the family-like atmosphere of the show. Yesterday, I spent nearly an hour on-air with Neal and Ken on their live broadcast, mainly giving a well-deserved plug for Martin's Shadow book.

Since we had a little spending money after all, I even picked up the comics-related discs of radio series episodes seen above as well as a few sets of hard-to-find DVD's. Steve J even slipped me an I LOVE A MYSTERY cassette (yes, he and I both still use cassettes. What's it to ya?).

Attendance seemed to be down this year. Part of the reason for that was an unfortunate need to change the already announced dates for this year. Another reason could be the fact that WONDERFEST was yesterday in nearby Louisville and may have attracted some crossover fans.

Brittany and Thom greatly enjoyed the afternoon's production of THE WHISTLER featuring friend Karen but I missed it due to a great conversation on B Westerns. The LIFE OF RILEY script was quite amusing and everyone was on their game. My part wasn't big but hey, at my age when you continually get typecast to do teenage boy roles, who's complaining how many lines you get?

After the last show, the Awards presentations were highlighted by a surprise award to Bob Burchett himself for his 25th anniversary with this Con. He said flat out that tehre WILL be a 26th annual one next year. With the Friend of Old-Time Radio Convention in Newark disappearing after this year...Cincinnati may well become THE place to go for this type of thing.

Bob Burchett said last evening that someone described the Cincinnati Convention as a family reunion of people who aren't related (or something like that). It really is...and I'm glad we got to go yet again...thanks to that old Friday the 13th GOOD luck.

Silver Age Sub-Mariner Splash page Sundays # 13

Being just a couple of days past the luckiest Friday the 13th I've had in ages, here's the appropriate SUB-MARINER # 13 splash from 1969. Some Marvel artists did that innovative splash thing better than others. Here we have Marie Severin again, giving it a go with help from Joltin' Joe Sinnott, certainly near the top of anyone's list of great comic book inkers. The only real problem I see here is Namor's head. Is it me or does it seem to have somehow migrated down to his upper chest, losing its neck entirely in the process. Was Rob Liefeld even born by this point? Oh, and the title. lettered so classically here? Seriously..."Death Thou Shalt Die!" Okay, even Roy's flowery title skills have an off-day.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

25th Annual Radio Con

Blogger is finally back but I'm not. That ol' Friday the 13th good luck brought us an unexpected windfall this week and we were able to attend this year's 25th Annual Cincinnati Old-Time Radio and Nostalgia Convention after all. Seen here are world's biggest Jack Benny fan Karen Hughes, her delightful mother Kathy and Mrs. Booksteve for the past 20 years (next month) the lovely and ever-patient Rene. Convention continues today. Should be back here with Subby on Sunday.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011