Monday, May 30, 2016

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Memorial Day Preparations-1883

I don't actually do anything or go anywhere for Memorial Day anymore. As a child we'd always go watch the local parade, visit the cemetery, and then go to an amusement park or the Zoo. In later years, I'd hit Taste of Cincinnati or the maybe the nearby Cinevent. Family would often invite us to cookouts. But things change. These days, I give a thought to those long gone, a quiet salute to those who sacrificed, and otherwise work on transcriptions or writing like any other day.  Interesting to note, though, from this 133 year old piece from the Cincinnati Enquirer, what the holiday was like early on.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Cap Thoughts

You've probably heard that Captain America this past week was revealed as having been a deep cover Hydra agent literally for the past 75 years--his complete existence. We have been assured by the writer and editor of the current issues that this is, in fact, the one true Steve Rogers and is neither a dream, a hoax, an imaginary story, a ruse, or any other comics trope one might use to weasel out of this.

Needless to say, there has been a bit of a fuss. DC is undoubtedly less than thrilled that coverage of this particularly nasty little plot twist--in the works for nearly two years, we're gleefully told--has knocked the just beginning coverage of their rebooting REBIRTH out of the comics headlines. 

First came those who were highly offended and went so far as to offer death threats to the folks behind it. Come on, people! That's just wrong! Stop it. Now!

Then came the apologists who try to put themselves above it all and tell everyone else to stop over-reacting. "It's just a story. In a few months, he'll be back to normal." We are reminded that in the past, Cap has been been turned into a Nazi, a white supremacist, even a werewolf for gosh sake! He's even been DEAD! Several times! He always ends up back to normal. 

Only Cap wasn't turned into a Hydra agent. We are told that he secretly ALWAYS been one. All those times he fought the Nazis, the terrorists, the haters, he was in actuality one of them and laughing at the big "joke" he'd put over on us all. 

And we aren't over-reacting.I must admit that I'm not losing any actual sleep over this but I feel I have a right to be indignant. I've known Cap a lot longer than Nick Spencer--a former Cincinnati politician whom I might conceivably have run into in my various bookstore capacities over the years. I can flat out guarantee you that Cap is not, nor has he ever been, a fascist. They can write whatever they want, of course, but there's something they don't seem to understand. They don't "grok." 

Captain America has transcended into more than just a fictional character. Like Superman, he represents "truth, justice, and the American way" to millions around the world who may never have even seen a comic book. He's bigger than Marvel. He idealizes our freedoms, our struggles, our history, and our future. 

Since DC and Zack Snyder have already effectively taken away Superman--the real Superman--Cap had stepped right into his position as the ultimate hero. Now, what Marvel has done is tantamount to telling the fans and long-time supporters of Cap that in the real world, no one cares about you. There are no ideals, no heroes, no one you can completely depend on, respect, and trust to help you when you need help. Everyone is secretly plotting against you. 

Just as my generation was positively affected by Cap's ideals, today's kids WILL feel the betrayal here, as this extremely ill-considered and ill-timed plotline ultimately does nothing more than promote paranoia, despair, and anger in a political climate where we need hope more than ever.

And yes, I know at the end of the day, it's just a story and just a fictional character and won't affect the outcome of the next election one single bit. But if YOU can't step back and see that there really is more to it than that, then I feel sorry for you. 

Marvel, I used to love you, warts and all.

I can't help but wonder how Disney approved this concept to come out just weeks after CIVIL WAR with literally millions of dollars of Captain America merchandising at stake. Or were they even told about it in advance?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Just Cos

It's been fascinating to watch America turn on Bill Cosby and it looks now like that's about to get even worse. Did he do what he's accused of? I don't know and neither do you. I think a large part of the public's about face is that we feel personally betrayed. There are certain celebs that no one would ever question would do this type of thing and so their careers wouldn't be affected like his has been. But Bill? Man! Fat Albert, Jello Pudding Pops, Noah, Scotty, Chet, Dr. Huxtable, The Electric Company. I mean, come ON! Cos was cool! Cos was safe! He didn't NEED to act like that. He WOULDN'T have acted like that. No way! Only now it looks more and more like he did. And we take that very personally. We feel sorry for the victims if he's guilty but beyond that, we resent the HELL out of what he's taken away from US! His routines are still funny. Hilarious as ever, in fact. Not one word has been changed. Only now we hate ourselves for laughing at them. And we hate HIM even more! How DARE your classic comedy be classic comedy still after...after...well...what you MAY have done. I feel it, too, nagging at me to stop quoting routines I've quoted for decades. The takeaway from this? It seems that in the end, nothing in life is ever really what it seems. Nothing is safe, no matter how comfortable you become or for how long. Everyone is human and idols have much further to fall and make a much bigger mess.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Riverdale and the CW

Over the past few years, I've developed quite an appreciation for the classic, iconic characters of Archie Andrews' fictional Riverdale. Since 2010, I've worked in one capacity or another on no less than six books connected with the history of Archie, doing everything from research and interviews to ghostwriting!
Even before that I was a longtime fan, having been introduced to the Archieverse by my cousin when I was 8 years old. I still have my cherished Archie Club pin and "press" credentials.
When the company decided to modernize the characters looks a few years back, I didn't mind.I understood that sometimes one has to make changes to stay relevant. I spoke with more than one Archie creator, though, who told me they truly hated those changes.
And now, the comics have changed yet again, with writer Mark Waid and various artists retooling the iconic characters in such a way that this time they're working even better than before.
But now comes the CW.
There have been numerous attempts at a live-action Archie TV series beginning with an early sixties sitcom pilot. In the seventies, following on the heels of the successful cartoon versions and the imaginary but mega successful pop group, there was even a musical variety pilot.
But the one that finally made it to series is RIVERDALE, coming this fall on the CW.

I was worried when initial reports said to think TWIN PEAKS meets DAWSON'S CREEK.
I was REALLY worried when I found out that the Archie character in the series is said to be having an affair with Ms. Grundy...and that THIS is Ms. Grundy!!!!!!

It's looking and sounding more and more like a MAD or NATIONAL LAMPOON parody rather than actually ARCHIE but it is what it is.

And it's headed your way.

Briefly, I'd estimate.

Because, yeah, the image below just screams Archie, doesn't it? Well, doesn't it?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Milton Caniff Clippings

One of the most honored, respected, and imitated comics creators of all time, here are a number of clippings about TERRY & THE PIRATES and STEVE CANYON creator Milton Caniff.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Booksteve Reviews: Induction of the Sycophant by Tiger Moody

When one gets offered a free review copy of a new book, one never knows what to expect. Especially if the author isn’t a known quantity. Happens all the time. I try to keep things in perspective and am genuinely impressed that these folks have managed to get a book published one way or another!

Thus it comes as a most pleasant and welcome surprise when said book turns out to be much more than you were expecting. This was the case with Tiger Moody’s INDUCTION OF THE SYCOPHANT. I had never heard of the author nor the book nor even the publisher, Kicks Books, which turns out to be a division of the wonderfully psychotronic Norton Records. The unnecessary periods after both title and author on the cover had me dreading chapter after chapter of poorly—or at least oddly—punctuated prose.

And what about that cover? From what I understand, Mr. Moody himself did the art and while it is not the most appealing or enticing cover I’ve ever seen, it does, at least, make some sense by the end of the story. Symbolically anyway.

The story. Here’s where it gets good. Comics fans will undoubtedly recognize the title, INDUCTION OF THE SYCOPHANT’s, vague echoing of Dr. Fredric Wertham’s SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT. The late Doctor himself, name intact, plays a major role throughout the story. Other characters are also folks a comics fan would know, although with most other names changed to allow for more “poetic license” with their characters.

Some of the folks whose literary doppelgangers you’ll find in INDUCTION are Will Eisner, Jack Kirby, Bob Wood, Bill Gaines, Wallace Wood, Mort Meskin, and most importantly, Jack Cole. In the story, despite some obvious changes in situations, they all behave and talk pretty much the way they behaved and talked in real life. They do not all come off in the best light, though.

In fact, part of the fun of the story—spot illustrated with PD comics panels from the period—is being able to recognize the lovingly accurate details Moody gives his people such as Wood’s interest in singing, Cole’s insecurities, Eisner’s gentrified airs, Meskin’s mental health issues, and Kirby’s boorishness.

The actual plot these people whirl around in is a pretty dark one, based around their varying reactions to the real-life mid-1950s Keafauver hearings on Juvenile Delinquency. In fact, while I haven’t checked, I’m pretty sure most if not all of Wertham’s testimony here is, verbatim, his actual Congressional testimony. Ditto for Gaines.

Cole is the closest thing to a POV character and, as in real life, his story is ultimately tragic, although here far from that reality. There are other, more original characters as well, including Leonard, the small African-American boy on the cover, and red-headed Archie Andrews, a profane vet with a couple of low-rent girlfriends. (He’s more like Harvey Kurtzman’s Starchie.) At the unexpected if not quite shocking climax, many of the book’s diverse elements come together, but the ending itself just sort of peters out in that way that life, in spite of everything, just keeps on keepin’ on.

Moody’s rich characterizations pull no punches, showing us warts and all for some of our artistic heroes. Some I knew about, others he may have just made up. That’s presumably why the names were changed after all.

The author’s writing style is almost purposely reminiscent of Burroughs (William, not ERB) but he pulls it off so it doesn’t really feel like an affectation. He genuinely captures the feel of his 60 years gone urban setting, complete with all that meant for women and other minorities. Unlike the fantasy perfect world older politicians keep saying they want to take us back to, there was discrimination, deceit, hiding, cheating, backstabbing, murder, and, of course, all those comics-reading juvenile delinquents Dr. Wertham kept warning everyone about! At the end of the day, it’s Wertham himself who comes off as perhaps the book’s most sympathetic character!

Although moments of humor pop up consistently, this is not a parody. Explicit, dark, violent, disturbing, and a real downer in very many ways, INDUCTION OF THE SYCOPHANT is certainly not for everyone. If you don’t know comics history (see THE 10 CENT PLAGUE), then there’s simply no way you’ll get out of this everything the author has put into it. But if you ARE familiar with comic books and the players in their history, you’ll easily appreciate that Moody is, too.

If you’re open-minded, INDUCTION is a quick trip through Tiger Moody’s noir-ish alternate history of the men behind the comics in their darkest hours. He’s now an author I plan to watch.

Booksteve recommends.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

IW/Super Covers

The short version of the IW/Super story is that one Israel Waldman bought a ton of printing plates from old comic books in the mid-1950s and somehow thought this gave him the right to reprint the otherwise copyrighted material and trademarked characters therein. So he did for about 6 or 7 years! There weren't a lot of covers in what he bought, though, so he commissioned many new ones, some of the best/worst of which are seen here. Artists he used included John Severin, Joe Simon, Jack Abel, the Andru/Esposito team and Sol Brodsky. Nearly a decade later, Brodsky would, in fact, team up with Waldman to create Skywald, publishers of NIGHTMARE, PSYCHO, and the like. BrodSKY and WALDman, get it? Skywald would continue reprinting from those old plates Waldman bought! 

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Easy-Show Movie Projector

This was one of my favorite things when I was 8 years old. I used to squeeze into the kitchen closet with my parents and show the films on the wall. 

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Dick Powell-1948

From an issue of STEVE SAUNDERS, SPECIAL AGENT comes this interesting piece on Dick Powell, a movie star with a most unusual career (and my late mother's all-time favorite actor!)