Brainiac On Banjo: Truth, Justice, and All That Jazz

“Faster than an airplane, more powerful than a locomotive, impervious to bullets. ‘Up in the sky – look!’ ‘It’s a giant bird.’ ‘It’s a plane.’ ‘It’s Superman!’ And now, Superman – a being no larger than an ordinary man but possessed of powers and abilities never before realized on Earth: Able to leap into the air an eighth of a mile at a single bound, hurtle a 20-story building with ease, race a high-powered bullet to its target, lift tremendous weights and rend solid steel in his bare hands as though it were paper. Superman – a strange visitor from a distant planet: champion of the oppressed, physical marvel extraordinary who has sworn to devote his existence on Earth to helping those in need.” – written by Allen Ducovny and Robert Joffe Maxwell for the original Superman radio pilot, 1939.

The above proclamation was not original to the Superman comic books or the newspaper comic strip. It was streamlined, and the phrase “Truth, Justice and the American Way” was dramatically appended to the opening as President Roosevelt had started making his plans to dive head-first into World War II. It was also used in the opening to the Fleisher/Paramount Superman cartoons, and later the syndicated 1950s Superman television series.

“Truth, Justice and the American Way” is not in the U.S. constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, or as far as I can tell, the bible of any “major” religion. It is and always has been a marketing slogan, not unlike Fisk Tires’ “Time To Re-Tire.”

Why should he? Superman, long acknowledged to be a world citizen, is not a native born American and never had been. He has acknowledged that being an alien he could not lawfully become president. If he wanted to cheat, he probably could have pulled off running as “Clark Kent” (not his real name), as long as nobody demanded to see his birth certificate. With a raised seal, of course.

Superman is an illegal alien. A dreamer who landed without government permission or knowledge in Kansas U.S.A. without any parents and was seized by a then-elderly heterosexual white married couple. We assume somewhere along the line “Clark Kent” probably forged those credentials he would need to go to school, get a driver’s license and a passport, get married, and so on.

So, of course, this native Kryptonian dropping the “American Way” tagline drove the Rabid Right completely around the bend. Because, you know, he’s posed with the American flag and stuff.

The new phrase, “Truth, Justice and A Better Tomorrow,” would sound great opening a network newscast, unless that network isn’t Fox, Newsmax, OAN or their fellow reality-challenged microcephalic internet rackets. The Rabid Right lost their collective mind. Again.

As I said in this space last week, I enjoy watching the Rabid Right lose its shit. They’re almost as fantastic at that as they are lying through their teeth and causing widespread death. First Superman Son of Superman is revealed to be bisexual, and now, about a week later, he’s an optimistic citizen of the multiverse who is absolutely not working to further any American interests per se. So if the entire idea is to keep the Right reflexively flinching, then right on, DC Comics!

(Mike Gold and Bob Harrison will be representing Pop Culture Squad at this weekend’s the Baltimore Comic-Con, October 22 through 24, at — of all places — the Baltimore Convention Center, the one in Maryland. Evidently, Mister Gold will be on separate panels about First Comics and Hawkman, both hosted by Mister Harrison. We smell a fix…)

With Further Ado #166: The Return of Conventions…?  (part 2) Wonder Con -Sort of

With Further Ado #166: The Return of Conventions…? (part 2) Wonder Con -Sort of

Last week I focused on the 2021 edition of New York Comic Con. As I’ve been reading and hearing everyone’s reactions (PW’s More to Come had a great podcast on it last week) it seems like most people were very happy and very impressed with the planning.

This past Saturday, I had my second convention in two weeks. It’s not really Wonder Con, the long-lived West Coast conference (I especially loved that one when it was in San Francisco), but a small comic con run by the team from Rochester’s Wonderland Comics. The folks behind Wonderland comics, the husband and wife team of Wayne and Carol, are great people – upbeat, forward-thinking retailers who really love comics.

Their positive attitudes are baked into this small convention. It’s all about the comics and collecting. They don’t focus on the media adaptations, celebrities, anime or cosplay here. In fact, they didn’t even have any comic professionals on site. It was just comics and comic-related collectibles.

And you know what? It was glorious!

There were long time fans and collectors, Central New York State’s finest comic exhibitors, and lots of families on site. Everyone was masked up without a fuss or protests.

A few highlights:

Money Was Changing Hands

At this stage, I tend to gravitate towards the bargain boxes to find lost treasures, but I was really struck by the vintage comics- so many 1950s books – that were selling for serious prices.  Kudos to those collectors and the sellers too.

Getting ready for ANOTHER One

Ken Wheaton was there – and he’s planning another Rochester based convention in November. It will have a little different vibe, as longtime pro Jim Shooter will be the Keynote Guest. Details for Empire Comic Fest are here.

A Treasure So Easy A Caveman Could Collect It

I rescued a few treasures at this con including issue #4 of Dell’s Naza. I never heard of this one before, but it did kind of strike a chord. As a kid, cavemen stories were a big deal.  It’s About Time was a kooky show we watched.  Dino Boy would adventure with Ugh the caveman in between Space Ghost adventures.  Movies and shows like Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea always seemed to have caveman and dinosaur stories.  The cover, by Vic Prezio is a beauty, but the interior art by Jack Sparling disappointed me a bit (as it often does).

Two conventions in two weeks. SOOOO invigorating. Another sign of hope!

Brainiac On Banjo: Superman and the Dingleberries of Society!

Number forty-seven said to number three: You’re the cutest jailbird I ever did see. I sure would be delighted with your company, Come on and do the Jailhouse Rock with me. — “Jailhouse Rock, by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, 1957.

Bill Maher has a segment on his show called “I Don’t Know It For a Fact, I Just Know It’s True.” Here’s my contribution.

The smaller your mind, the more likely it is to fall out your nose. This is why you’re called “blowhards.”

Case in point: the pathetically predictable response to Jon Kent’s coming out as bisexual. You’d think they discovered a couple dozen missing votes for Trump.

Ignoring the facts that Jon Kent is a fictional character, that the audience is familiar with the concept of bisexuality and aren’t likely to “convert” anybody just because a comic book character kissed a member of his own sex, and that the only thing that noticeably drives comic book sales is its perceived collectability, it’s kind of amazing that so many fools totally lost their little minds when they heard this story.

Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy watching people like Tucker Carlson go apeshit over “dog bites man” stories, although it’s becoming as boring as it has been predictable. If they think this is a recruitment issue for the White supremacists that are in our face 24/7, they’re preaching to their own choir. To be fair, these self-absorbed dingleberries of society are indeed the only ones who would listen.

Since I love tossing rock lyrics around, let me assure you Pete Townshend was right. “This is no social crisis. Just another tricky day. You’ll get through.” I don’t think Warner Media execs or even AT&T stockholders will, to quote Flo and Eddie, “pull their heads out of their own puke” over this one. It won’t kill their Discovery deal.

These toadlickers are still pissed that Heimdall has been played by a Black man in the Marvel movies for a bit more than a decade. To them, that’s heresy… which is weird, as American White supremacy is a movement that appears to mostly attract Christians (but no, not the other way around; give me a break). However, every controversy is fraught with comedic potential: I explain to these numbskulls that, given the turf and the times, Jesus Christ absolutely had to be Black — so why not Heimdall? Then I watch the nuclear cloud blow the top off of their bald, teensy brain pans.

Yet, somehow, these same neverlaids get stimulated by Joan Jett’s cover version of “Crimson and Clover.”

My advice to Jon Kent, who I remind you is a fictional character, is to fly above the bullshit. You know these psychopaths are simply jealous.

And, yes, my tighty-Whities. I did start this one with a Bill Maher reference just to piss you off. Like I said, you’re pathetically predictable.

(Mike Gold will be joining our own Bob Harrison as guests at the Baltimore Comic-Con, October 22 through 24, at — go know — the Baltimore Convention Center. If you would like to discuss the above words of wisdom, remember: you’ll be in public, even if you’re wearing a mask.)

With Further Ado #167: The Return of Conventions…?  NYCC in 2021

With Further Ado #167: The Return of Conventions…? NYCC in 2021

Conventions and trade shows are great places to find your tribe and celebrate your passions or professions. But for the first hours of New York Comic Con, just held last weekend at NYC’s Javits Center, I felt a bit out of place. At first, it felt, to me, like going to your college campus about 5 years after you graduated. The vibe was a bit weird, and I was constantly comparing and contrasting the show floor to what was there in prior years.

The good news is that I quickly ‘got over myself’ and really enjoyed the convention. There were so many good things bubbling up, and it felt terrific to see so many old friends in person again. Given the realities of the world, there were more fist-bumps than bro-hugs, but it was still invigorating.

Here’s a few highlights and observations from New York Comic Con 2021:

Serious About Vaccinations

I wasn’t surprised, but still happy that ReedPop, the company that runs the convention, took vaccinations serioucospsly.  The area that they had staged outside the Javits had rows of tents and workers, so it was quick and easy to prove you had the vaccination and that you were who you said you were. I had downloaded the Clear app, as was suggested, and it all was seamless.

Inside the convention center, just about everyone had their masks on and the crowd size was such that we weren’t all on top of one another. Part of that was smaller number of attendees, and part of it was the new Javits North Building

The new Javits building makes it seem like a real convention center.

So many convention centers worldwide, and stateside are grand and gorgeous. I am sad to say that the Javits Convention Center hasn’t been that way for a very long time. The joke has always been that the Crystal Palace, the main entranceway, is inappropriately named.

The new Javits North Building is spacious and grand. It overlooks the Hudson River and even the top of the ‘regular’ Javits building.  The openness and long areas to walk between conference rooms will surely help spread out the future attendees – and offer lots of opportunities for Cosplayers to pose for photos.

AfterShock was #1

Without the bigger, more established publishers (Marvel, DC, Image) officially participating in the show, the biggest comics publisher on the floor was AfterShock Comics. They’re a great company (full disclosure- I have many friends there) just celebrating five years in business and 100 published comics series.  Word was that they had their best convention sales day ever – on the Thursday of NYCC.  Sounds like a rousing success.

Captain America Cosplay

It was invigorating to see the many Sam Wilson Captain America cosplays on the show floor. As you may recall – I’ve been a big fan of the many iterations of Captain America (here’s an old column). And it was even nicer to just yell out “Hey, Cap” and have that instant connection.

Excited for Crime

My Hidden Entrepreneurs / Crime Fiction panels had fans lining up an hour ahead of time. That really surprised me, if I am to be 100% candid and frank. This panel was all about how authors, and crime/thriller authors in particular, have to not only be good writers but be also strategic marketers. Their publishers don’t really do the marketing anymore.   I was encouraged by the fans that were hungry to talk crime fiction and by my Hidden Entrepreneurs – J.C. Vaughn  and Charles Ardai.

Artist’s Alley Was Where It Was At

Another result of absence of big publishers was that Artist’s Alley seemed so vibrant.  Anchored by ComiXology Original’s debut of Scott Snyder/Best Jacket comic line, there was plenty of the usual suspects (amazing artists like Billy Tucci, David Mack, Art Baltazar & Franco – just to name a few) and new up-and coming creatives.

The coolest part of Artist’s Alley – for me- was buying old comics from longtime pro and visionary Denis Kitchen. How many hundreds (thousands?) of times has he done that? And he always seems to be “on” and happy to be there. There’s a lesson there for all of us.

 

Pop Culture Squad Will Be at New York Comic Con

Pop Culture Squad Will Be at New York Comic Con

Hey there Squad Members!!!

The comic convention season is in full swing and we are going to be at the biggest in person event so far. ReedPop Expo’s New York Comic Con is being held at the Jacob Javits Center in New York beginning today 10/7 until Sunday 10/10.

We will be walking the halls and talking with guests and attendees during the show. There are hundreds of vendors and professional presenters. There is a pretty full slate of panel programming including one from our own Ed Catto.

Stay tuned to Pop Culture Squad on this page or at our social media for updates of what we find.

 

 


Here are some good links on the NYCC site to find your way around at the show:

Panel Programming

Cosplay Contest

Family HQ


The show has strict health and safety guidelines for attendance. If you are planning to attend, please familiarize yourself with the requirements. The show requires ALL guests and attendees to be fully vaccinated or show proof of a negative Covid-19 Test within 72 hours of the event.

Health and Safety Guidelines

 

With Further Ado #166: Hidden Entrepreneurs In Publishing

With Further Ado #166: Hidden Entrepreneurs In Publishing

Beyond the creativity on the page, comic conventions are the place to find creativity in business. The best conventions have almost become pop culture incubators, inspiring people to make something happen.

With that in mind, I wanted to give you a preview of a panel I’ll be moderating at New York Comic Con this year. It’s called Beaten to a Pulp: Publishing Entrepreneurs in Today’s Crime Fiction.

Today’s authors have become Hidden Entrepreneurs, actively finding, developing and managing new ways to reach and connect with audiences. The industry realizes that the days of fiction writers just turning in a completed manuscript and sitting back while the publisher markets the book are long gone. In this panel, J. C. Vaughn (Second Wednesday, McCandless & Co.) and Charles Ardai (entrepreneurial publisher of Hard Case Crime) will be revealing, and debating, the best ways to build audiences in their chosen niche.

I contend these panelists are “Hidden Entrepreneurs”, i.e., non-traditional entrepreneurs. I’m fascinated by this topic. In fact, this is the focus of one of my courses at Ithaca College’s School of Business, where I am an instructor on entrepreneurism and start-ups.

(And hey, good news : Entrepreneurism & Innovation is now a minor at Ithaca College.)

The Beaten to a Pulp panel is part of Reed Expo’s New York Comic Con this October 7 -10th. More details are available at www.newyorkcomiccon.com.

Here’s the official write-up:

11:15 – 12:15 Friday October 8, 2021

Beaten to a Pulp: Publishing Entrepreneurs in Today’s Crime Fiction

The days of fiction writers just turning in a completed manuscript and sitting back while the publisher markets the book are look are long gone. Today’s authors have become Hidden Entrepreneurs, actively finding, developing and managing new ways to reach and connect with audiences. Authors Alex Segura (Miami Midnight, Poe Dameron: Free Fall), J. C. Vaughn (Second Wednesday, McCandless & Co.) and Charles Ardai (Hard Case Crime) will be revealing, and debating, the best ways to build audiences in their chosen niche – crime fiction. Moderated by Ithaca College’s Ed Catto.

Hope to see you there!

 


*NOTE: Unfortunately, Alex Segura had to cancel his appearance at NYCC. His presence will be missed.

With Further Ado #165: They’ve Got It Covered

With Further Ado #165: They’ve Got It Covered

I wanted to make a joke about when it is appropriate to judge a book by it’s cover, but then I realized IDW’s solicitation copy for the brilliant new book The Art of Pulp Fiction; An Illustrated History of Vintage Paperback already used that gag.

This brilliant volume, by Ed Hulse, seems like it’s another one in the recent Pulp art series of books, but instead focuses on the stepchild of the pulps – paperbacks.  There’s 240 pages crammed with brilliant covers, and preliminary sketches for covers that instead of satiating fans lust for paperback art, just leaves the reader panting for more.

Here’s a part of the official description:

The mid-20th century saw paperbacks eclipse cheap pulp magazines and expensive clothbound books as the most popular delivery vehicle for escapist fiction. To catch the eyes of potential buyers they were adorned with covers that were invariably vibrant, frequently garish, and occasionally lurid. Today the early paperbacks–like the earlier pulps, inexpensively produced and considered disposable by casual readers–are treasured collector’s items.

Award-winning editor Ed Hulse (The Art of the Pulps and The Blood ‘n’ Thunder Guide to Pulp Fiction) comprehensively covers the pulp fiction paperback’s heyday. Hulse writes the individual chapter introductions and the captions, while a team of genre specialists and art aficionados contribute the special features included in each chapter, which focus on particularly important authors, artists, publishers, and sub-genres.

Illustrated with more than 500 memorable covers and original cover paintings. Hulse’s extensive captions, meanwhile, offer a running commentary on this significant genre, and also contain many obscure but entertaining factoids. Images used in The Art of Pulp Fiction have been sourced from the largest American paperback collections in private hands, and have been curated with rarity in mind, as well as graphic appeal. Consequently, many covers are reproduced here for the first time since the books were first issued.

These brilliant covers, neatly divided by genre and timeframe, serve as much as an invitation to the stories, as they do as stand-alone testaments to the time long gone by.

They are more than just invitations to adventure, but kind of like windows into the very best that cheap fiction has to offer.

There’s a chapter for everyone too. I really enjoyed the chapter on the pulp hero revival. Hulse recruited Will Murray for this section, and in addition to showcasing paperback covers of Doc Savage and Shadow, rare stuff, like cover to Operator #5, The Phantom Detective and the preliminary images for that old Spider reboot are included. What a treat!

Is it wrong to collect paperbacks and not read them? I struggle with this ethical issue. I don’t need another thing to collect, but every once in a while I will snag a paperback with an engaging cover.

The book celebrates that guilty pleasure – without the guilt.


More information is available here.

 

Available now.


The Art of Pulp Fiction; An Illustrated History of Vintage Paperback
Diamond Code : APR210623
ISBN: 978-1-68405-799-3
By Ed Hulse
Introduction by Richard A. Lupoff
Various essays included by Will Murray, etc.
IDW Publishing
240 pp Full Color

 

With Further Ado #164: Thanks Heavens for My Commute

With Further Ado #164: Thanks Heavens for My Commute

One of the nice things about a driving commute is the opportunity to sit back, let your mind wander and enjoy something that sounds fantastic. I’ve got a bit of a commute these days. But to be fair, it’ nothing like I used to have going into the NYC from the ‘burbs every day.

I was looking forward to listening to a new podcast on my way into work. Batman: The Audio Adventures had a cool logo and seemed to signal that it would be a cool thing for an old-time radio/old movie fan, like myself, to enjoy on the morning ride. I gave it a try but only listened to about 3 minutes of it.

Ugh!  It’s awful.

Here’s what Rich Johnston had to say about it on the on long-running Bleeding Cool site:

Batman: The Audio Adventures is a new audio drama podcast produced by HBOMax, the first American-made Batman audio drama serial since the 1940s. What they didn’t tell us was that the series is what you get if Saturday Night Live made a Batman radio show. The publicity for Batman: The Audio Adventures mentioned that the show takes a comedic approach to Batman. Just about every trope in the Batman mythos is here – the supervillains, the Batmobile, Commissioner Gordon, Gotham City as a major character – but given a heightened, slightly campy, comedic twist.

What a shame and what a weird product. I thought we, as a society (albeit one obsessed with media) had given up on the silly, overused, poke-fun-at-the-super-hero style of comedy. To me, this show was stupid, misguided and goofy.  But hey, I know that I’m not the target. Maybe it’s aiming for the same kind of fans who love Star Trek: Lower Decks.

Instead, might I suggest two other radio drama programs disguising themselves as podcasts? And one “forgotten treat”? (Click on the images to find the podcasts and how to listen.)

The EC Vault of Horror Podcast is a lot of fun.  It’s the audio version of the old EC comics  with a little updating and tweaking.  When I think of EC, I tend to think of my old favorite EC artists, so I wasn’t sure I would like this one. Turns out it’s a riot. Certainly worth a try.

The Frozen Frights Podcast is extremely well done.  It actually owes a lot to that old 1950s style of horror comics – but like the EC Horror Podcasts, this one is updated and slick, so it appeals to both older and younger fans.  A creepy good time is waiting for you…if you dare!

Rod Serling’s Zero Hour was one of his last projects. It’s from the early 70s, long after the Golden Age of Radio had ended. But this was on last try to recapture that lightning in a bottle. Serling worked with Elliot Lewis, a giant of old time radio, and some of the top TV stars of the day – folks like William Shatner, Bob Crane and Lee Meriwether.  If you love The Twilight Zone, you’ll like this. Maybe not love it, but definitely like it.

Who needs a hackneyed, bloated Batman radio show? Sure, I’ve been waiting for a cool Batman radio show for a long time.  But it’s easy not miss something like that when there’s so many other OTR-ish things to listen to!

 


*Thanks to Yamu Walsh for turning me onto these awesome podcasts in the first place.

 

 

With Further Ado #163: Hosting Halloween

With Further Ado #163: Hosting Halloween

Halloween is seemingly right around the corner. There’s a lot of candy in the stores. Of course, we know that this is all part of a pantry loading strategy. That’s consumer-package-ese for a plan to make you buy more than you need right now.  In other words, the candy companies want households across America to buy their Halloween candy ‘early’, then give in to temptation and eat it, and then rush back to store to buy more candy to give out to trick or treaters.

Of course, in the this crazy world of delta variants and anti-vaxxers, it’s hard to predict just what will happen this Halloween.

I can safely predict that (1) I won’t be buying bags of Halloween Candy for trick-or-treaters (We always give away comics.) and (2) I’ll be reading a spooky story or two.

And in that… vein, let’s turn the spotlight on a few wonderful comics I recently rescued from bargain boxes from various comic shops.  And the theme for this week is Horror Hosts.

Spooky radio shows and comics have been using Horror Hosts to introduce, or queue up, creepy tales for years and years. They typically don’t engage in the story itself but rather just make a few ghastly puns and set the stage for a story. The fine of art of horror hosting is almost a lost art, I’m afraid.

Do You Believe in… Ghosts ?

This issue of DC’s long-running Ghosts touts the fact that is the 10th anniversary of the title (with 27 Spine cracking pages), but even cheesy sales copy can’t keep you from admiring the brilliant Joe Kubert cover.

The horror host for this one is a bit of a puzzler. He’s called Squire Shade, but he seems to be an almost total rip-off of that perennial Hawkman foe, The Gentleman Ghost. In some issues Squire Shade has a portly girth, but in this issue he could’ve been a ….dead ringer… for the confounding arch nemesis of the Winged Wonder. Continue reading “With Further Ado #163: Hosting Halloween”