Friday, June 30, 2023

My First Drive-In


In November of 1970, I talked (as in begged) my parents into taking me to see HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS at the Dixie Gardens Drive-In. Unlike many families in that era, we simply didn't do drive-ins. Ever. But the movie, based on my then-favorite TV show, had opened in September and never came to our neighborhood theaters so what else were we gonna do? Drive-ins usually offered triple features (or more!) but after the main picture, we left. I have long wondered what the movies were we missed that night. Now, I know. Ya gotta love the Internet!

EYE OF THE DEVIL was a 1966 film re-released in 1970 to exploit the then-recent death of its star Sharon Tate.

KELLY'S HEROES is the all-star Clint Eastwood anti-war war comedy which I had already seen at the Madison Theater in Covington.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Baby Bear Comes Back by Merrie Spaeth--Review/Promotion


Baby Bear Comes Back is the new illustrated children’s book written by my friend Merrie Spaeth. Merrie, as some of you may recall, has done everything from acting in hit movies, writing comic books, advising a US president, and running her own consulting business. One thing she had NOT done was writing a children’s book. That has now been rectified.


Although it has undeniable echoes of some of the timeless themes of Toy StoryThe Velveteen RabbitThe Giving Tree, and even Calvin and HobbesBaby Bear Comes Back most definitely presents its own unique take on them. It’s about the importance of imaginary friends in our lives, of stability, something familiar to hold on to as you slowly become aware that everything else constantly changes.


I teared up reading it. I really did. Yes, Baby Bear Comes Back is a book for children, and Merrie does a really good job channeling the feelings of very young children, but I consider it a book for adults, too. It reminds us of feelings we forget as we grow up, deep feelings that meant so much to us that we knew we couldn’t live without them…and yet in time they’re lost. 


It also comes with a coloring book and a beginner’s comic book!


Booksteve recommends, for your kids, your grandkids, and for yourself. To remember. 


You can order copies of Baby Bear Comes Back here:


And Merrie has stated that a portion of any books sold in the next two weeks will go toward my medical fundraiser. I had two stress tests this week and now we’re looking at an angiogram.  


If you’ll be in San Diego next month at Comic Con, Merrie Spaeth will be a special guest and will have copies of Baby Bear Comes Back on hand. Tell her Booksteve sent you!

Thursday, June 22, 2023

CBS TV Comics-Style Ads-1969

Comic books were just starting to be really hip in 1969 so CBS decided to launch its new season with a  series of TV GIDE ads with comics-style word balloons. Some had lines from the series, some had new jokes, some were serious. They even included THE SANDPIPER and DOUBLE TROUBLE, the feature films that premiered that week. 


Wednesday, June 21, 2023

TwoMorrows Double Play

For those that like my writing, I have a 13 page article in the brand new BACK ISSUE--my last article for 2023...

plus my latest single page column in COMIC BBOOK CREATOR about my 50+ year association with Archie Comics!

Both should hit the shops in a week or so but can be ordered online at the TwoMorrows site here:

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Wallace Wood and Me


My first favorite comic book artist was Warren Kremer, although I didn’t know his name then. The first artist whose name I learned was Tony Tallarico (believe it or not). Gil Kane then became my favorite artist from his Batman covers, his Atom and Green Lantern stories, and his Hulk and Captain America work at Marvel. Soon enough, though, I found myself obsessing on Jack Kirby’s art. Steve Ditko, Jim Steranko, Gene Colan, Marie Severin, Murphy Anderson, Curt Swan, and Neal Adams were also early favorites. 


But it was Wally Wood—WALLACE Wood—whose work really thrilled me. I had discovered him first in Marvel back issues of Daredevil, then T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents from Tower, Captain Action from DC, and soon enough his splendid Warren work, then the impressive record album covers he did with Dan Adkins. And Superduperman in the Mad Reader paperback! It would still be several years before I ran across any of his amazing EC artwork or even his stunning work in the later black and white Mad.


But I taught myself to draw by trying to draw like Woody. Tried to, anyway. I tried to copy his shadows and his lighting in particular. I wasn’t any good at it. I followed his work wherever I found it after that, though, bouncing back and forth between Marvel, DC, and the black and white pages of Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella. 


When he started his official fan club and began self-publishing, I was there, and even had him sign most of the books I ordered directly from him. I discovered Cannon and Sally Forth, probably my favorites of all his work. And King of the World! The Wizard King.


By that point he was also doing more adult work such as his Alice in Wonderland in National Screw and the Weird Sex Fantasy Portfolio. When I saw an ad for a flat-out porn mag with all Wallace Wood comics, I had to mail-order it but I was horribly disappointed in that clearly he was no longer what he had been. The second volume was even worse. Despite his name on the cover again, to this day I don’t believe Wood had much to do with that book at all. A posthumous third volume would be all reprints from healthier days. 


While I had no doubt that Woodwork had seen better days by that point, I was not prepared for the news of his passing via suicide. When I saw the TBG cover that day, I was excited at first, thinking the issue would have a new interview or new art or something. My mother had just died and I was in need of some good news to cheer me up. The news I got was definitely not good.


I continued to be a Wood fan, of course, and strived to collect as much of his work as possible, reprints or originals. My discovery of EC blew me away! 


Many years later, one of my first blogs was the first ever blog devoted entirely to Wood and his work. Hooray for Wally Wood remains up, although mostly inactive in recent years. 


As the 21st century hit, more and more books began coming out on Wallace Wood. I couldn’t keep up. I did pick up TwoMorrows’ Against the Grain, an anthology of Wood-related pieces by various authors, edited by former Wood assistant and friend, Bhob Stewart.


Imagine my surprise some years later when I get a call out of the blue from Bhob Stewart, a legend in comics and SF fan circles, telling me he was working on a second edition of Against the Grain and he was actively soliciting new articles from different perspectives…and he wanted ME to contribute! I was offered the choice of writing about Wood’s socially conscious Shock SuspenStories contributions or his Mad and Panic work. I chose the former, but when I had trouble with my writing, Bhob let me switch to funny stuff instead.


We spoke on the phone a number of times. He was so excited about the new edition and asked me to help him come up with a new name for it. We kicked around some I’ve long since forgotten but then word came that Bhob had died! It seems he had been ill for some time and may well have even been calling me, unbeknownst to me, from hospital stays. 


Bhob’s book was in limbo. Eventually, the publisher, Fantagraphics, announced that it would be released. In fact, it would now be two separate volumes, The Life and Legend of Wallace Wood. While the resulting books weren’t exactly what Bhob Stewart had told me he wanted, both volumes were beautifully packaged with incredible art choices. I remain honored to have a byline in the first volume, seen here, alongside so many friends, colleagues, and recognized experts on Wallace Wood and his work. 


Today would have been Wood’s birthday, and it seemed like a good time to reflect a bit on my own relationship with his work. After all, “When better drawrings are drawrn, they’ll be drawrn by Wood! He’s real gone!” Gone…but never forgotten.


Thursday, June 15, 2023

Early Stan Laurel 1918-1919

One of these pieces refers to Stanley as "The British Charlie Chaplin." Of course, Chaplin, himself WAS the British Charlie Chaplin! This may have been a reflection on the universality of Chaplin's character in that he was never thought of as belonging to any one country. 


Tuesday, June 06, 2023

Shel Dorf, Meet Dick Tracy-1965

In the 1960s, my dad introduced me to his favorite comics character, DICK TRACY. In the 1980s, he and I bonded anew over Blackthorne's various DICK TRACY reprints, all curated by Shel Dorf. In 1988, I even got to meet Shel Dorf (briefly) at San Diego Comic-Con, of which he was one of the founders.

Here we have a 1965 article about Shel Dorf from the Detroit Free Press. It's also about Dick Tracy. And it came out around the time I was just discovering Dick Tracy, long before I ever heard of Shel Dorf. 


Thursday, June 01, 2023

Meet Merrie Spaeth at Comic-Con 2023!

Now that the San Diego Comic-Con has announced her, I can tell you that Merrie Spaeth--the former teen movie star, politician, and Presidential advisor who, it turned, out wrote quite a few horror comic books for Gold Key's new York publishing division in the early 1970s--is going to be a special guest!

Longtime readers may recall I stumbled across her heretofore unknown comic book career a few years back while looking up one of my favorite '60s movies, THE WORLD OF HENRY ORIENT. Merrie starred with fellow actress Tippy Walker in the George Roy Hill film. Hill later gave us THE STING and A LITTLE ROMANCE, amount many other hits. Peter Sellers played the title role, but it's a decidedly secondary part. Angela Lansbury, Tom Bosley, Paula Prentiss, and Al (Grandpa!) Lewis co-star!

As she grew into young adulthood, Merrie became interested in politics and made an unsuccessful run for office early in her career. She began writing and wrote for everything from THE WALL STREET JOURNAL to GRIMM'S GHOST STORIES. These days she is a communications specialist and this will be her first ever convention of any kind! See the Comic-Con website for details!
Here are the some of the many Gold Key comics on which she worked in the early 1970s.