Friday, July 31, 2015

R.I.P. Rowdy Roddy Piper

My wrestling phase was really back in the early seventies with Bob Brazil and the Stomper. But I did slip back in a little a decade or so later and always liked the over-the-top antics of Rowdy Roddy Piper, also later the star of the flop--but now classic--THEY LIVE from John Carpenter. Piper passed last evening of cardiac arrest. R.I.P. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Ms. Molecule in Unusual Suspense

You won't find it at your local comic shops this week but the first issue of Charlton Neo's UNUSUAL SUSPENSE is now available! From Amazon! The title--which contains several of the previously online only comics from Pix-C, is highlighted by my lovely wife Rene's collaboration with artist Sandy Carruthers on the adventures of MS. MOLECULE!

All credit to Mort Todd for making it all happen and experimenting with this unique form of distribution. Act now and you can even save a little bit using the codes below! Go to 
and follow the Amazon links for either the actual comic book or the Kindle version!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Joseph-Beth and Booksteve

Longtime readers will recall that I began working for Waldenbooks in 1982. More than a decade before that, my 6th Grade self became the youngest manager of the bookstore in my grade school. I was fired for giving out the wrong change too often. I became a recess cookieseller instead.

I worked for Waldenbooks in downtown Cincinnati for one year, then moved to the Waldenbooks in Crestview Hills, KY for four years. From there, I spent nine years at the Florence Mall Waldenbooks before being promoted to return to the Crestview Hills store as manager for five years. 

In 2000, I transferred to the Eastgate Mall Waldenbooks on the outskirts of Cincinnati for three tumultuous years before jumping ship to Barnes and Noble at Cincinnati's Hyde Park location.

The Hyde Park location was near Joseph-Beth Booksellers, a large but independent bookstore based  out of Lexington, KY. I got one of my better ex-employees hired on there for a while. My B&N, however, closed after just a year and a half, and a sojourn at the Public Library didn't quite last that long.

Soon enough, I found myself back at Waldenbooks--although called Borders--at the Cincinnati Airport store where I bypassed assistant manager and finished up my bookstore career as manager once again when the concourse closed, followed by Borders going away completely soon afterwards.

Did I say "finished" my bookstore career?

After spending the past six years working with Craig Yoe, Martin Grams, Kathy Coleman, Greg Theakston, Dee Sutter, Jon B. Cooke, Roy Thomas, Shaun Clancy, Michael Eury, and Bhob Stewart--among others--on various books and other print projects, as of today I find myself once again working in a bookstore!

While I have no intention of giving up the successful writing career I'd always wanted, today was my first day at Joseph-Beth Booksellers! Ironically, I'm once again located at Crestview Hills, KY, where they took over the abandoned Borders location which replaced my former Waldenbooks!

I'm only part-time. It's all I wanted. And for now, I'm working in the stock room, but it's extra money, a reason to get out of the house, and hopefully the beginning of getting me back in shape and out of the funk that I've been in for a while now. 

Bookselling isn't just a job. It's a calling. I've told that to hundreds of people over the years and now I have once again answered that call.

Booksteve is BACK!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

R.I.P. Peg Lynch

Pioneering radio and TV writer and comedic actress Peg Lynch has passed at 98. For several years, beginning in the mid-1990s, she was a fixture at the Cincinnati Old-Time Radio and Nostalgia Convention and even showed up one last time, aged 95 or so, for the final one, just a couple of years back. By that point, she was in a wheelchair and seemed a bit weak...until she got in front of a microphone.

Peg had begun her signature ETHEL & ALBERT series on radio. It was similar to the better-remembered program, THE BICKERSONS, only better. In THE BICKERSONS, Don Ameche and Francis Langford often fought like a married couple on the verge of a divorce...or murder. In the case of Ethel and Albert, it was bantering more than bickering. Sometimes at his expense, sometimes at hers. There was never any doubt that the pair adored each other

Peg not only retained all her own copyrights over the years but steadfastly refused to admit that old time radio was no longer a valid medium. To that end, she kept on writing new ETHEL & ALBERT scripts and performing them in public at various events.

Alan Bunce was her Albert on radio and TV but was long gone by that point. In Cincinnati, Parley Baer played opposite her in her early appearances and later Bob Hastings took on the role.

They used to auction off professionally recorded tapes of the convention shows every year and I would always try to win them since I was in some of the re-creations. As such, I also have a number of the latter-day ETHEL & ALBERT sketches.

I have to say I never found Peg Lynch to be as warm and friendly as other guests over the years but she was a thorough professional, a clever writer, a funny performer and an important, unsung person in broadcast history.

Rest in Peace.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Booksteve Reviews: Archie Vs. Sharknado

To be fair, I've never seen any of the SHARKNADO movies. I gather they're so over the top as to be of the "so bad they're good" some folks. And it's not like I haven't seen plenty of violent movies. There are several Troma flicks I quite enjoy! And as far as gory comics, I've done work on the HAUNTED HORROR comic book and its hardcover collections.

That said, John Goldwater is undoubtedly rolling over in his grave over this one. The Punisher thing worked. The GLEE and KISS tie-ins were well done. I even surprised myself by writing a good review of ARCHIE VS PREDATOR in ACE Magazine. But I can find no excuse nor justification of this one. ARCHIE VS SHARKNADO reads like nothing less than a late seventies NATIONAL LAMPOON style parody with its particularly unpleasant violence against well-loved characters.

The usually wonderful Dan Parent, who has done so much of the stuff that Archie has been rightly praised for in recent years, drew it and seems to have taken great morbid delight in moments of both sex and violence such as the above.

But Archie--AFTERLIFE and PREDATOR aside--is still a comic book franchise believed by the masses to still be safe for kids and teens...and if any kids get their hands on this comic book and their parents find out, it won't be pretty.

One of the WORST single issue comic books I have ever read. 
Booksteve does NOT recommend!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Lost Girl--The Audio Book: Coming Soon!

Thanks to Stu Shostak of the great STU'S SHOW, it looks like Kathy Coleman will actually have an audio version of our LOST GIRL relatively soon! We were all on Skype earlier today doing some test recordings from Stu's studio (The man is a whiz when it comes to editing on the fly!) and figuring out how to do things. It's happening! Thanks, Stu!

Monday, July 20, 2015

WW II Propaganda From Fawcett Comics

These very effective propaganda pages from early 1940s Fawcett Comics must have scared young readers half to death but they definitely got across the importance of the real world situations to kids who just wanted to watch Billy yell, "Shazam!"

Friday, July 17, 2015

R.I.P. Alan Kupperberg

This interview with Alan Kupperberg originally ran on my HOORAY FOR WALLY WOOD blog in October, 2009 in slightly different form. Since then, Alan and I had become fairly close as online friends go, with him contributing to my various blogs and even, just a  few weeks ago, to an article I will have coming out in BACK ISSUE next year.  After a brief, courageous battle against a badly-timed cancer (aren't they all?) Alan Kupperberg passed away on the evening of July 6th, 2015. Rest in Peace, sir.

I first noted Alan Kupperberg's work on Marvel's WHAT IF...? and THE INVADERS back in the seventies but had no idea he had worked for Wallace Wood. His name popped up everywhere at both Marvel and DC for several years perhaps most notably in his Orson Welles act as writer/artist/letterer/colorist on 1983's infamous OBNOXIO THE CLOWN VS THE X-MEN. He went on to a troubled run on the ANNIE comic strip as well as work for many magazines such as SPY and NATIONAL LAMPOON. Recently Alan was kind enough to speak with me about his time with Woody.

Booksteve-Thanks for talking with me this morning, sir. I do appreciate it.

Alan Kupperberg-It's always fun to talk about comic books. There are not too many people around any more with whom to do that.

B-If you would, a little background on yourself for anyone not familiar with your work.
A-Well, I was born in Brooklyn in 1953 and I grew up reading DC and Marvel comics. I'm a third generation artist. My grandmother was an artist, a hand-painter, and my father was an award-winning amateur photographer. Comic books were the form of expression that caught my interest. Very early in my life, so I pursued it! Brooklyn is just across the river from Manhattan and about 1967 I started taking the subway and visiting the company offices. I got in trouble by being a stupid, bratty kid but I did get to know everybody.

B-Who were your own favorite artists growing up?

A-Well, Woody was one, of course.

B-Let's see...if you were born in '53 you would have discovered him during his first Marvel run, then?


B-Oh, that's right! Duh!

A-My mother has a younger brother. David was about eight or nine years older than me and he read SUPERMAN and MAD and that's where I first saw Woody's work. A favorite of mine was a feature that E. Nelson Bridwell wrote in MAD MAGAZINE that Woody illustrated about changing the characters' costumes--you know that one?


A-When I saw how he could do that SUPERMAN, that cemented Woody into my "scrapbook of love," y'know?

B-I love to see his renditions of SUPERMAN but you know he never actually drew the feature! I'm told that was yet another sore point with him. I mean, he drew the cameo in CAPTAIN ACTION and then the Golden Age version in his JUSTICE SOCIETY strips in the seventies but...

A-He knew he blew that one. Especially, Captain Action #1. We spoke about it. I said, "You didn't get it." He said, "I know. I feel bad about it." He got much closer to the mark in SUPERDUPERMAN (in MAD).

B-Yeah, that's where I first saw that he could do something other than superheroes. I picked up THE MAD READER...had to have been around 1970 because it was the edition with the hippie cover...and it was SO different that I felt like I had to hide it from my parents.

A-Well, I didn't have to worry about that because my parents liked subversive humor, so I was safe. Woody’s art appeals to so many people. He's one of those guys whose work you'd see in so many places--the trading cards, MAD magazine, board game boxes, comic books--he was all over the place. Most guys stuck to one thing or the other.

B-After I recognized his style I did! I started seeing it everywhere. I literally taught myself to draw--not that I'm that good--by tracing and imitating Wood art.

A-That's how we all did it!

B-You hear about so many people that did.

A-Swiping Woody is how I started with Woody. I was up in the studio doing a job for Jack Abel called THE GODMOTHER for a parody rag called GRIN Magazine and Woody looked over my shoulder and said, "Oh, you can letter! You wanna letter the strips?"--SALLY and CANNON--so I said "Sure." I took it home and brought it back the next day. Gaspar Saladino had been lettering the strips. Now, I'm no Gaspar, but my lettering can be adequate. My ballooning stank in those days, so Woody did his own balloons. So then he asked me if I could pencil CANNON for him. I took the pages home and opened up my T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS and copied out the appropriate panels and adapted them to the situation. And Woody flipped out. He said, "You're hired." Within three weeks I was also writing SALLY and CANNON.

B-That would have been about...?

A-1971 or '72 probably.

B-Who else was working with him at the time?

A-Actually, I was the only person helping Woody at all, at that time. In the front room, renting space were Jack Abel and Syd Shores. I guess Woody and I must have worked together probably a year altogether, until I got on his nerves or did something awful to him. You know the SALLY FORTH page Neal Adams worked on?

B-No. I know at least one CANNON page he worked on.

A-Was it CANNON? I guess it was. That was my doing. Woody got sick or drunk that week...I guess sick 'cause he was usually sober during that period I was there. I took that week's SALLY and CANNON pages into Neal's studio and asked for help. Ralph Reese and Larry Hama did most of the heavy lifting that week. On SALLY, especially.

B-So you worked on SALLY FORTH and CANNON, how about the third strip?



A-No, that strip had ended by the time I started with Woody.

B-There's very little info out there on that strip. You can find originals from SALLY and CANNON on Ebay or at some of these auction houses but never SHATTUCK. I finally found one Dave Cockrum drawing and that was it! I wrote to Howard Chaykin and he said, "That stuff is so long lost, I wouldn't know where to begin."

A-Come to think of it, I did draw part of one panel of SHATTUCK the day Howard and I became friends. He was living in some God-awful half-derelict hippie dump in Queens--I think Flushing. He was sharing it with two other hippies and he was living up in the attic, drawing SHATTUCK. I went out there to hang out with Howard one day and I ended up drawing a stagecoach bouncing along the road so I did work on SHATTUCK! Jack Abel worked on it I think.

B-Yeah, Abel, Cuti, Cockrum, Chaykin...

A-Wayne Howard?

B-Could be.

A-I haven't thought about who worked on SHATTUCK since those days!

B-We were thrilled to find even the one drawing I found online.

A-Wait-a-minute. I have a Jack Abel drawing of SHATTUCK right here. I can scan it and send it to you. It's a personal sketch of SHATTUCK that Jack drew for me in pencil. Got it right here in front of me.

B-Cool! Thanks!

A-Have you heard about Woody's personal pornography?


A-(laughter) You know all that Naughty Wood stuff that he probably didn't pencil most of? That’s all crap. He had files that I understand he burned when he got sick. So they don't exist anymore. Woody kept these in a locked file cabinet. EC quality work, obsessively rendered; thick with ink, and Zip-A-Tone and he'd white things out with Sno-Pake and redraw and redraw. Just elaborate renderings of little people with huge sex organs doing all these awful things.

B-I've seen a picture of Wood sitting at his drawing table looking perfectly normal but if you look close there's a picture of what looks like Linda Lovelace pinned to a board behind him...hard at work.

A-Oh, Woody liked pornography as much as the next guy! (laughter)

B-The later stuff he did in California, if he had anything at all to do with some of it really I'd be surprised.

A-Just the inking, right?

B-I don't even see a trace of that in some of it. By the time the third issue of GANG BANG came out, Wood had been dead two years and they were still exploiting his stuff by reprinting old SCREW covers and fifties skin mag strips and cartoons.

A-I don't think I even saw that third one.

B-Going back a bit, what was your favorite Woodwork before you actually met him?

A-Probably the MAD stuff...No! Probably DAREDEVIL # 7!

B-One of my favorites, too! It's a nearly perfect comic right from that great cover!

A-Just about. There are a couple clumsy backgrounds by Woody but generally speaking...he used a lot of his stock shots, but it all worked.

B-Would you agree that Stan Lee was trying to turn Woody into the next Marvel superstar artist? I mean, they splattered his name all over the covers, let him redesign DD's costume, played him up on the letters pages...

A-I'm sure Stan was very glad to get Woody.

B-And yet his stay was relatively short. Maybe his legendary problems with people over-editing his work?

A-It was probably that and deadline problems.

B-Well he was gone for about four or five years, mostly doing T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS, but then he came back so he hadn't burned his bridges. When you left working with him about ten years later, did you two stay in touch?

A-Woody wasn't really too happy with me by the time we split up. I was just a stupid, unsocialized kid. I may have had some talent that these people could use but I didn't know what I was doing so I used to piss people off. Woody got pissed off with me. At the big 1972 EC Convention he showed up loaded. So I say, "Look, Woody. There's a panel. Why don't you go and get up there on the panel?" I thought it'd be very funny for Woody to get up on a panel loaded. He toddled right up there! So...I don't think he was very kindly disposed with me for things like that. Nor should he have been.

B-I have heard over the years that Wood could be the best Con guest or the worst Con guest, depending, I guess, on how much he'd been tippling before he went.

A-I wouldn't know which condition, drunk or sober would make him better or worse, when you think about it! (laughter) When I first met him, that week I went up to pencil that job for Jack Abel, Woody was just coming off a drunk. His hands were shaking. He couldn't even ink a line properly. He kept inking the same line and electric erasing it off and doing it all over again. But he was on the wagon for most of the year following that I think.

B-What do you think was the best result of you working with him during that period?

A-Well, I learned a lot of stuff, of course. He taught me a great many things. He taught me how to set up a reference file and how to use it...even though I don't. Not at all the way Woody did. He taught me how to set up your tools. I still keep my ink bottles set up just like his. An ink bottle is the easiest thing in the world to tip over with a careless swipe of your hand. He built a contraption--this big thing--out of cardboard and masking tape. And it's got holes in it and a water bottle on the top of that anchors it down so you can't knock the stuff over. There are places to keep the lids for the water bottle and the ink bottle tops... Once a month Woody used to filter his India ink. I think this was when he was still living with Tatjana over on the West Side here. He had a lot of assistants and drawing tables all set up with ink bottles. Woody used to collect all the ink bottles and they'd filter the ink. Woody would strain the ink through cheesecloth and then he’d add distilled water and glycerin to make the ink the right consistency again. Then he’d refill all the ink bottles.

B-What do you think Wood's legacy to the industry is today?

A-Nil. These days I’d say it's virtually nil. I don't think people are going to base their styles on Wally Wood anymore. I think Hilary Barta was maybe the last person to even attempt that kind of flavor.

B-In hindsight, what mistakes do you think Woody made that might have left him happier and more successful if he hadn't?

A-Well, it's not really a mistake, but his decision not to be able to tolerate William Gaines anymore definitely did him no good. He had cartoons that he drew in his personal files of Gaines nursing artists at his breasts. You've probably seen other versions of that picture in the story MY WORD he did for Flo Steinberg’s BIG APPLE COMIX. He never threw an idea away. I think his biggest mistake, though, was taking all those uppers in the fifties and burning himself out. Even when I was working for him, on the left hand side of his drawing board, there was always a hot plate with a teapot, with maybe twenty tea bags steeping away. He would just drink that strong tea and smoke cigarettes all day.

B-I've spoken with several of the people who worked with Wood or for him and many of them seem to have a kind of love/hate thing going. He could be nice or insulting but they'll still defend him to the end! They'll say things like, "I penciled this strip for him and even inked large portions of it but it's not my work. It's Wood's work." There's a wonderfully bizarre kind of loyalty going on there even now.

A-Yeah, I can see it. He might have treated me like that but I was kind of dense in certain ways and maybe I didn't get it. But I could make fun of him! There's that one line of dialogue Woody wrote in CANNON where CANNON and the farmer girl are skinny-dipping and CANNON says, "Last one in is a rotten egg." And the girl says, "Gee, we used to say that when WE were kids, too!" And I would say,
[girlish, falsetto voice] "Gee, we used to do that when WE were kids, Mr. Wood!" He was rolling on the floor. I could make fun of him. But Woody was not a funny guy in person, per se. He liked to play the guitar and sing Hank Williams songs.

B-I think I've only ever even seen one picture of him smiling.

A-It was probably a very shy smile, too.


A-He knew how to enjoy himself but he was a consumer of humor, not a producer...verbally. He could produce humor on paper. But he was not generally a happy person. Woody might drop a devastatingly funny crack at an opportune moment but -- ! He was Woody-- a depression with legs. When he died he was an old man! Woody was 56. A HARD 56. I adored his work and I loved him. I miss him tremendously.

And we miss Alan already, too. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Lost Girl Sale!

So last night's STU'S SHOW ran for 3 1/2 hours and Kathy and I had a blast (even though I was just sitting in the dark in my Library for the whole time on the telephone). In case you missed it, you can pick up the whole show for only 99 cents at the Stu's Show Archive here. 

Meanwhile, the ebook of LOST GIRL is on sale for $2.00 off, bringing it down to $7.99! Things at Amazon change pretty quickly though, so get your copy soon. If you'd prefer the softcover, Amazon has lowered it a few dollars as well and Kathy still is offering autographed copies on eBay!

Lots of positive feedback from listeners to last night's episode and there's already talk of having us back next season!

Stu is also going to be helping Kathy do an audio book version of LOST GIRL! Thanx, Stu!

But now's your chance to grab a copy of the book or the ebook at a lower price here. And please remember to leave a review on Amazon! With 28 reviews to date, we have a 4.7 out of 5 star rating!


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Stu Shostak and Me (and Kathy Makes Three)

Do you know Stu Shostak? I’ve known him for three decades although we spoke for the first time on the telephone just last week. Tonight, I’ll be on the telephone with him again but this time you can (and should) all listen in to STU’S SHOW as Kathy Coleman and I join him to discuss LOST GIRL: THE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH SO HELP ME KATHLEEN. We’ll also be talking about Kathy’s standing room only LAND OF THE LOST panel at Comic Con last weekend, her appearance at Galacticon next week and lots of memories of her life and her legendary show. You can find us live tonight at 7PM Eastern and 4PM Pacific.

How did I first encounter Stu? Well, in 1980, I bought my first VCR with my life savings—$999.99. “Prices will never be lower!” lied the ad. It was a Sony Betamax which I still have (although the rewind is broken). Somewhere along the way—perhaps in FILM COLLECTOR’S WORLD to which I had already subscribed for several years—I saw an ad from Shokus Video offering old 1950s TV series on Beta tapes. I ordered one just to see how it was. I got four early episodes of THE JACK BENNY SHOW. Jack had been a lifelong favorite of mine but I had never seen his pre-1960s episodes. Soon I was ordering 1950s TV tapes every month, sometimes several at a time.

What I didn’t know at the time was that Shokus Video was run by one Stu Shostak.

Cut to a couple years later. In 1986 I was 27 and casually dating a young lady of 24 named Patty who was a nut for both PERRY MASON and I LOVE LUCY. She had actually contributed to author Bart Andrews’ I LOVE LUCY BOOK and is mentioned by name in the acknowledgements. I was impressed. As a gift, I once bought her a selection of first edition Erle Stanley Gardner books at a local used bookstore at a surprisingly low price.

When I heard that Lucille Ball was coming back to television with a new sitcom that year, I was excited as Lucy had, of course, been a lifelong favorite. Moreover, as I had gotten into old-time radio, I had come to realize what a brilliant actor Gale Gordon had always been! Needless to say, Patty was also excited and we agreed we would watch the debut episode of LIFE WITH LUCY with her entire family at her parents’ home. We did. Coincidence or not, Patty and I never really saw each other again after that evening.

What I DIDN’T know at the time is that comic Stu Shostak was working behind the scenes, warming up the audience—as he had previously on SILVER SPOONS, another series I watched quite often, as well as quite a few other shows both before and after LIFE WITH LUCY.

Time marches on and the Internet arrives. Stu sees this as opportunity and begins an Internet “radio” series interviewing folks about old television shows. I discover Stu’s show, literally STU’S SHOW, when Mark Evanier—a comics and TV writer whose name I first encountered in Marvel Comics’ Marvelmania fan club in 1969, whom I had met in San Diego at Comic Con in 1987, and whose blog became an early favorite of mine—gave it a plug. In 2006, he was the very first guest on STU’S SHOW.

By 2006, I had already started my own blog, inspired by Mark Evanier’s. I had, after all, wanted to be a writer ever since I had seen how much fun they had on THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW way back when I was a toddler in the early 1960s. I had published a few articles, written some trivia questions for TV and radio shows and was even the head writer of a local comedy troupe (two actually) in 1980-81.

Dick Van Dyke would, in fact, later be a guest on STU’S SHOW. Stu tells me Dick hears from writers all the time who say they were inspired by his series.

Other guests on Stu’s Show that I have ties to include Michael Hayde (with whom I appeared in an anthology on Jack Benny), Earl Kress (with whom I was involved behind the scenes on June Foray’s autobiography), Keith Scott (whom I once helped connect up with several folks), Frank Buxton (an early patron of my blog), Jerry Beck (the first person online to promote my blog), Eddie Carroll (with whom I performed at the Cincinnati Old-Time radio and Nostalgia Convention), Herbie J. Pilato(whose Classic Television Preservation Society reprinted several of my early articles), Bill Mumy (who I first met at a comic book store in the ‘80s and once interviewed for one of my blogs), Joan Howard Maurer (whom I interviewed for a book on 3-D), Shirley Mitchell, Herb Ellis, and Will Hutchins (again, co-stars in Cincinnati), Tony Dow (whom I interviewed on my blog), June Foray (with whom I took a voice acting seminar and then helped on her autobiography), Bob Bergen (a Facebook friend who encouraged me in my own voice acting dreams) my buddy and sometimes employer, Marty Grams, Scott Shaw (whom I first met at Comic Con and have spoken with many times online), Donna Loren (whom I interviewed and who once credited me with being one of several who convinced her to come back into the public eye), and Michael Schlesinger (whom I’ve known for 35 years since he hosted a local movie show, ran a local theater and beat me on a game show).

And that’s not even counting bigger name guests like Carl Reiner, Jonathan Winters, Leonard Maltin, Paul Peterson, Dwayne Hickman, Ed Asner, Margaret O’Brien, Jane Withers, Bonnie Franklin, Bill Daily, Gary Owens, Rose Marie and so many, many more!

And tonight it will be Kathy Coleman added to the list and to the archives (all available for 99 cents each!) I’ll be tagging along for the ride via phone. The show is unstructured, uncensored, sometimes uncontrollable and all together just a unique type of talk show that quite literally makes you feel like you’re right there in the room with Stu and his guests. You can even add YOUR voice by email.


For me, it’s going to be a treat and a real trip following in the footsteps of so many friends, acquaintances and idols and getting to hang out in public for a while with Kathy, whom I’ve still never met in person in spite of our year and a half of collaboration! She’s become one of my favorite people, though, and her personality is infectious. In her words, tonight should be a hoot and a half! Tune in if you can!  

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Rene in the 13th Dimension

Following in the footsteps of Neal Adam, Craig Yoe, Julie Newmar, Kelley Jones and Burt Ward, Dan Greenfield interviews my lovely and talented spouse Rene regarding MS. MOLECULE!

Booksteve Reviews: Harvey Kurtzman-The Man Who Created Mad and Revolutionized Humor in America

The following review would have appeared in ACE Magazine # 4 but that issue will not be appearing now. Thanks to Jon Cooke for allowing me to post it here.
In 1952’s Two-Fisted Tales # 28, Harvey Kurtzman, like other EC greats, got his single page “Artist of the Issue” biography. Actually, with his photo and ads for other titles down the side, it was more like half of one page. How influential has Harvey Kurtzman been in the 63 years since? Well, let’s just say that Bill Schelly’s recent hardcover biography from Fantagraphics clocks in at some 642 pages if one counts the extensive footnotes and index! !

In the late 1960s, Harvey Kurtzman was kept busy working on the world’s most expensive—and first fully painted—comic strip, Little Annie Fanny in Playboy. But I was 10 years old and my Dad didn’t even read Playboy. Well...not in the house anyway. Me? I read comic books. I was already a veteran comic book collector, in fact. Sometimes I even surreptitiously glanced at a copy of Mad, although I always felt guilty since it looked like a grown-up mag.

Then, one day, my mother and I were shopping at Woolworth and I spotted a copy of The Mad Reader on the store’s paperback racks. While Mom browsed through dime store bric-a-brac, I started flipping through the furshlugginer book and—even though I didn’t yet realize it—had my first introduction to the one and only Harvey Kurtzman.  

In case you’re one of those folks that somehow hasn’t heard of Kurtzman and is therefore wondering why he deserves a telephone book size biography (Do they still make telephone books?) let me give you a quick little info dump. Harvey created hilarious filler comedy for early Marvel—then Timely—Comics. He drew some Golden Age superheroes but developed a unique art style on classic EC war comic books, which he also edited. From there, he created Mad in both its comic book and magazine forms. Similarly, he later brought about Trump, Humbug and Help! The latter brought such diverse names as Gloria Steinem, Robert Crumb, Terry Gilliam, John Cleese and Gilbert Shelton into the mainstream. Harvey wrote the screenplay for the Rankin-Bass sixties comedy, Mad Monster Party. His Little Annie Fanny in Playboy served as a major component of the sexual development for baby boomer boys of the sixties. He became a mentor as well as an actual teacher for many underground and overground cartoonists and, in his final years, came out with a number of new and innovative comics-related projects.

I’m on record as saying that Kurtzman was modestly and passive-aggressively one of the single most influential people of the 20th Century. From its title alone—Harvey Kurtzman-The Man Who Created Mad and Revolutionized Humor in America, it becomes immediately obvious that author Schelly is on board with that.

To say that Kurtzman was overdue for a full-length biography is, of course, an understatement. No one questions that he was one of the few true geniuses of the comics field, the Orson Welles of comics, if you will. But, like Welles, Harvey was destined to have more brilliant ideas than brilliant projects. If Mad was Kurtzman’s Citizen Kane and Help! his Touch of Evil than Little Annie Fanny might represent Orson’s long radio career—showy and successful but somehow never quite seeming to live up to the artist’s full potential.

Make no mistake, though, while this volume rightly lionizes Harvey for all of his creations and contributions to culture—pop and otherwise—we do also get plenty of peeks at the man behind the curtain, an insecure but egotistical control freak with just as many—if not more—personal issues as the rest of us have.

Bill Schelly has obsessively and impressively pulled together information from both previously published sources and new research conducted amongst family, friends and former students. To be honest, other than some late in life health info, I didn’t come across any big, previously unsuspected revelations out of all his hard work but that’s completely okay. I’m glad to have Kurtzman’s story now conveniently located all in one place.

Schelly’s book follows a standard memoir format and does quite a good job of drawing the reader into the very different type of world where Harvey was born. These early segments are my favorite parts, really illuminating the world as it was then. We follow the young Kurtzman through his learning that he liked to draw at a very early age and on into family troubles, military service, marriage and art school.

It’s at the latter where our hero meets several fellow craftsmen who would become allies in later life, not the least being his best friend, Harry Chester, and his best collaborator, Will Elder. Al Jaffee was there, then, too, although the two wouldn’t become close until later.

What follows is the true meat of the book as both Kurtzman’s creativity and autonomy slowly flower when he enters the burgeoning comic book industry. After some false starts and time at Timely, he ends up at Entertaining Comics where he doesn’t like Bill Gaines’ horror or science fiction comics but draws them to pay the bills and stay in the industry he loved so much by that time.

Proposing a new type of adventure comic book called Two-Fisted Tales, Harvey impresses Gaines and the outbreak of the Korean Conflict sends sales on the book flying enough to merit a companion title, Frontline Combat. Kurtzman becomes so immersed in historical research that he hires Jerry DeFuccio as an assistant.

And then came Mad. To me, the absolute highlight of the entire book is the detailed history of the creation of those early issues of Mad comics and Mad magazine. Since the book itself opens and closes with double page Mad endpapers (both by Wally Wood) I think Schelly and/or Fantagraphics knew that would be the case. The Mad section is of particular interest to me as I wrote my own look at the Mad comic from an entirely different perspective for an upcoming 2016 Fantagraphics book on Wood. Looking back at my own piece, I prefer Schelly’s version.
From there we go on to detail the always fascinating but rarely fully realized or successful projects created by Harvey, his rediscovery first by the Underground artists, then the growing EC fandom. We also get a look at how much influence Mad and, in particular, Kurtzman began to have on later generations.

Through it all, Harvey Kurtzman seems to have somehow pulled off an odd and rare combination of self-deprecation and enormous ego. The narrative details not just his accomplishments and failures but also his sometimes philosophical thoughts on same. Often, these are offered up by Harvey himself. One of the benefits of his decades of fame is that he was interviewed a lot—a LOT! Bill has cherry-picked pertinent quotes from these many interviews throughout, which gives the reader almost the feeling that Harvey’s ghost is sitting right beside them, wryly commenting on his own life story as the rest of us wind our way through it.

But make no mistake. Harvey Kurtzman may be its subject but the book is Bill Schelly’s and based on the results here, I can think of no better person to have compiled and told this most remarkable, sad, frustrating, but ultimately upbeat and important tale. So much of the world we live in today has been influenced—knowingly or unknowingly—by Harvey Kurtzman. Now, finally, thanks to Bill Schelly, Fantagraphics, and Harvey Kurtzman-The Man Who Created Mad and Revolutionized Humor in America, a lot more people are going to be able to learn that.

Hoo-Hah, indeed!

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Saturday, July 11, 2015

Lost Girl Update

Above you see Wesley Eure, Phil Paley and Kathy Coleman after their panel today at SDCC, prominently displaying our book, LOST GIRL!

Next up is STU'S SHOW this coming Wednesday, where Kathy and I follow in the footsteps of such guests as Dick Van Dyke, Ed Asner, Jonathan Winters, June Foray, Alan Young, Dwayne Hickman, Mark Evanier, Jerry Beck and Michael Schlesinger! Uncensored, unstructured and always a blast, STU'S SHOW can be found at:

Friday, July 10, 2015

Unusual Suspense is Coming!

Surprise! My wife's MS. MOLECULE web comic strip with the great Canadian comics artist Sandy Carruthers is about to make the leap into print in a Silver Age Marvel-style split title, shared with N.E.O. by veteran Paul Kupperberg and P.D. Angel Gabriele. Here's a teaser for the cover of UNUSUAL SUSPENSE # 1, coming in August. Details soon on how to get a copy!

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Comic Con

I may not be in San Diego but if YOU are on Saturday, be sure to check out a morning panel with Kathy Coleman, Wesley Eure, Phil Paley and Tribbles creator (and LAND OF THE LOST co-creator) David Gerrold. Afterwards, Kathleen will have some copies of LOST GIRL for sale.
Then, later in the day, check out the Comic Con all-star salute to Criag Yoe!

Check the official schedule for times and locations. 

And take pictures! Send me any pics of either of these two panels and we'll post it here!

Oh, and best of luck to my sometime employer Jon B. Cooke whose COMIC BOOK CREATOR is up for an Eisner Award!

Tuesday, July 07, 2015


Happy 75th Birthday to Ringo Starr! Back in the day--love 'em or hate 'em--he was the first Beatle whose name everyone knew. He had an endearingly hangdog look and, when the group made what should have been a quick cash-in movie, film critics hailed him as the new Chaplin! His drumming seemed pretty standard until experts began to analyze it and concluded that looks can be deceiving. And then he married a Bond girl!! He may have gotten by all along with a little help from his friends but there's no doubt that Ringo is a STAR! Peace and love, Rich. Peace and love.