Author: Ed Catto

A voracious reader, Ed has been enjoying “books on comics” ever since he’d read Jule’s Feiffer’s classic The Great Comic Book Heroes a chapter at a time at a local book store. The cover price was $14.95 and he knew that he could never afford such an enormous sum to actually buy this treasure. Things changed, and Ed could eventually afford the books he loved. His reading, and history illustration and art has guided him through a life-long love of comics, collections and graphic novels. As a branding and advertising executive, Ed’s career has evolved to include a focus on entertainment marketing in many ways: A founding partner of Bonfire Agency, Ed helped establish the world’s first marketing firm focused on connecting brands, in authentic ways, to passionate and enthusiastic fans of comics, graphic novels, games and movies. Ed has also shepherded the rebirth of the iconic 60s toy, Captain Action, in collectibles, books, comics and even a national toy line. An animated television series is currently being shopped for development. A convention enthusiast, Ed helped develop Reed Pop’s New York Comic-Con (now the nation’s largest con) and is currently doing the same for Syracuse’s Salt City Comic-Con. 
Ed speaks nationally as a panelist and moderator at conventions, leading conversations on entertainment marketing and comics history. Ed has also appeared on CNBC’s Squawkbox, BNN Business News Network , and PBS’s Superheroes documentary. Ed recently started teaching at Ithaca College, sharing his experiences and enthusiasm for business and entrepreneurship to both MBA’s and undergraduates. As an artist, Ed also leads graphic novel classes for kids of all ages. In October of 2018, The Adventures of Captain Graves will mark Ed’s debut as an illustrator for publisher Airship27. Ed and his wife Kathe currently live in New York’s State’s Finger Lakes Region, enjoying the area’s local comic book shops and wineries. Between consulting, teaching and drawing, Ed continues to work very hard to whittle down the teetering tower of books on his nightstand.

With Further Ado #113: The History of Comics in 3 Easy Steps

Well, if this column’s title doesn’t win the award for “Overpromise of the Year”, I don’t know what will. But the truth of the matter is that from anyone’s own personal vantage point, we are all able to see the broad scope and history of this unique medium on any given trip to the comic store.

That’s certainly not the same for other arts. You can’t envision the history of cinema during a trip to your local movie theater. (Let’s assume that we all will be able to go to the movies again soon.). You can’t get a sense of the broad scope of music at one live concert.  One might even argue that on any trip to a library, you can’t really get a sense of the history of publishing or of books.

But comics are different. The old and the new, the nostalgic and the cutting edge, all exist shoulder-to-shoulder at any comic shop or comic convention. (Again, let’s look forward to the time when we can all attend conventions again.)

Step One: New Fun

DC Comics just published a reprint of their very first comic: New Fun Comics #1.

My colleague Mike Gold wrote about this fascinating new book here.  It’s an oversize reproduction of the 1935 issue that would become DC Comics’ first comic.  It’s great fun and a virtual time machine you can hold in your hands. Continue reading “With Further Ado #113: The History of Comics in 3 Easy Steps”

With Further Ado #111: Wheatley’s The Witch of Everwhen

With Further Ado #111: Wheatley’s The Witch of Everwhen

Some people are just overflowing with talent, and when it spills over to other media, it’s a truly wondrous thing. Mark Wheatley is one of those people.  You may know him as an award-winning comics creator, a frequent exhibitor at San Diego Comic-Con & Baltimore Comic-Con, or as an industrious entrepreneur.  Knowing all those things about him, I was even more impressed when he told me about his newest project, a song & music video called The Witch of Everwhen.  Checkout the teaser trailer:

 

 

Wheatley is working out the details for the full-fledged Witch of Everwhen video debut. The announcement should be made soon, and you can keep up with it all here at the Mark Wheatley Gallery.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised because he’s created music videos before for previous projects like Dance with Your Brothers , Surrender and Earth’s Farewell.  But nonetheless, I had to find out more.

Ed Catto: This is a fascinating project – tell me how The Witch of Everwhen came about!

Mark Wheatley: I have been composing and recording music for as long as I have been writing and drawing comics professionally. In my early days looking for work in New York, while I was beating the pavement to show my portfolio to art directors and editors, I was also sending demo tapes to A&R reps at the various music companies. I was doing this right up until I landed my first monthly comic series, MARS.

The only musical “success” I had during that period was one of my tunes was picked for airplay on WNEW and one of their DJs was calling me to brainstorm how I would get more attention for my music. But when Marc Hempel and I signed our MARS contract [with First Comics], I decided that the time required to write and pencil a monthly comic was going to eat my life, and I stopped recording and sending out demo tapes. So, of course, two weeks after I signed the MARS contract Capitol Records offered me a three record deal, and I had to turn it down. A few months later, Columbia Records offered me a one record deal. Both of these offers would require me to also hit the road for live tours, so it was just impossible. After that, aside from recording some soundtrack music for radio and TV commercials, my musical efforts were limited to recording theme songs for my comic book creations. Continue reading “With Further Ado #111: Wheatley’s The Witch of Everwhen”

With Further Ado #111: Let This Be Your Guide

With Further Ado #111: Let This Be Your Guide

Just like with sports or politics, there are many anticipated milestones throughout the year in Geek Culture.  As kid in the late ’60s and ’70s, I knew that summer meant over-sized Annuals and the Justice League & Justice Society of America team-up.

Before Covid-19 interrupted every aspect of business and culture, there was a rhythm to the convention season, kicking off in spring with shows like Emerald City Comic Con and C2E2, reaching a summertime crescendo with Comic-Con International in San Diego, and then celebrating one last burst with New York Comic Con in the fall before a handful of smaller regional conventions.

One highly anticipated tradition that’s been around for fifty years is the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide.  Ostensibly, the place to turn for authoritative price documentation on comics, it’s morphed into a scholarly celebration of all domestic comics, an exploration of retailing trends, the last word in listings, a showcase for top artists and a validation for nerds everywhere.

Defying Covid’s grasp, the Overstreet Guide has delivered again.

Got it Covered

Each year, the Guide invites a top artist to contribute illustrations.  Back when I was a kid, we were enthralled with 1976’s Overstreet #4 with the Justice Society heroes on a cover. (All-Star Comics, home of the JSA, was revered in those days). We also loved the Joe Kubert Tarzan cover and the Will Eisner Spirit of ‘76 cover.  I remember laughing with our local comic shop owner, Kim Draheim, how Overstreet #7, spotlighting Porky Pig, missed the mark.  And Bill Ward’s Torchy cover on Overstreet #8 forced that year’s volume into the hide-it-from-your-mother category.

This year again offers top artists contributing cool covers featuring big properties.  This year fans can choose from:

 

  1. Spider-Man and Spawn sharing a cover by Todd McFarlane
  2. The Valiant heroes by John K. Snyder III
  3. Wynonna Earp by Chris Evanhuis
  4. The Defenders by one of my favorite artists, Kevin Nowlan

Continue reading “With Further Ado #111: Let This Be Your Guide”

With Further Ado #110: Lest We Forget…

With Further Ado #110: Lest We Forget…

When we were in college years ago, my pal Paul Barresi overheard two girls talking about music as they listened to a Wings song.  One girl was astonished when she learned that Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings.

That’s the way it often goes. The new generation is oblivious to that which is dear to the previous one.  But a wonderful thing that’s really different about Geek Culture is that it’s so accessible.  I always use the example that if you like rock music, it’s unlikely you’d be able to spend time with the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger. But if you like comics, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll be able to spend a little time with Neal Adams at one point or another.  It’s almost magical how the world of comics, especially when combined with conventions, provides robust opportunities for fans to meet, and spend time with their artistic heroes.

And with all that, it’s always debilitating when creators are not acknowledged. There’s been a bit of it lately. Continue reading “With Further Ado #110: Lest We Forget…”

With Further Ado #109: Dropping by the Frazetta Museum

With Further Ado #109: Dropping by the Frazetta Museum

I’ve been meaning to visit this spot for way too long. And that’s all the more reason I’m ecstatic I was finally able to make it out to the Frazetta Art Museum this past weekend.

This privately run museum, located in the middle-of-nowhere, Pennsylvania, was still surprisingly easy to get to. It’s just a few minutes off of Interstate 80 in the charming town of East Stroudsburg.

The museum is run by one of Frazetta’s children: Frank, Jr.  Although, he was quick to tell us, he’s not really a junior but “everybody” just calls him that.  When we arrived, my wife and I started walking about, but as soon as Frank, Jr. had finished with the previous guests, he stepped right on over to give us a guided tour.

That really made it special. The framing of Frazetta’s life and career was deeply fascinating, but Frank Jr. was able to deliver the highlights without getting too deep. On the other hand, even a long-time fan like myself learned a few new things. And Frank Jr. was able to provide so many humanizing details to Frazetta from the unique perspective of a son.  I quickly reached the conclusion that Frazetta’s temperament and disposition was very similar to many of my Italian relatives.

The whole museum is laid out smartly – starting out  with two display cases of paperbacks with Frazetta covers, and then showcasing Frazetta family portraits, his early work, the most famous paintings and even a recreation of his studio. His camera collection (it turns out he was a passionate collector) is on display and just makes the great talent Frazetta seem like a more ‘real’ guy. Continue reading “With Further Ado #109: Dropping by the Frazetta Museum”

With Further Ado #108: Virtually a Comic Con : Catching-Up with John Siuntres

With Further Ado #108: Virtually a Comic Con : Catching-Up with John Siuntres

Right now, the Democrats are working hard to create on online convention that resonates with true believers and motivates anyone still on the fence. And it’s gotta feel like an effort that’s worth it all.

American business, and specifically Geek Culture is doing the same thing. A few weeks back, San Diego Comic-Con. (officially entitled Comic-Con international) pulled together a virtual comic convention. Seem like a lot of folks participated at various levels. From a personal level I was pleasantly surprised; my typical on-location panels can fill a room of 350 fans but this year, online, they drew 5,000+ viewers!

Looking ahead to the weekend, FanDome will celebrate DC Comics, despite the depressing anguish fans felt from the recent corporate “bloodbath”.

And this past weekend, two online comic conventions debuted:

  • Reed Expo’s Metaverse – The pop culture division of Reed Elsevier (full disclosure; I worked there and frequently collaborate with them) created this online event which many thought, at first, to be a dress rehearsal for the virtual New York Comic Con in October.
  • Mainframe Comic Con – This live event virtual comic con from YouTubers Chuck Lindsey from Chuckload of Comics and Chad Ramsden of Comic Corps looked like a lot of fun. I really enjoyed a few panels. And it was all made better by the fact that this con’s Big Ideas is to support that worthwhile charity, The Hero Initiative.

Continue reading “With Further Ado #108: Virtually a Comic Con : Catching-Up with John Siuntres”

With Further Ado #107: The Marvelous Mister Beard

With Further Ado #107: The Marvelous Mister Beard

I’ve known Jim Beard for a while. He’s a dedicated creative writer with a plethora of passionate interests . He’s got his fingers in many pies, and I’m always excited when he teases new projects. We’ve worked together a few times, and I’m especially a big fan of his Sgt. Janus series.

With all that as background, there’s another writing gig that keeps Jim busy.  He’s been a writer for Marvel.com for years. It’s fascinating stuff, and I had to corral him and find out the story behind these stories.

Ed Catto: How did you get involved with Marvel.com?

Jim Beard: I tried to approach Marvel about writing for the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe series from back in the day, and they replied they didn’t currently have any openings, but did I possibly write press releases? I thought, huh, doesn’t sound too hard, and lied and told them yes. So, for about a year or so I wrote Marvel press releases for a variety of things and eventually they moved me over to the “dot com” to write content for that. Been there ever since.

EC: And how long have you been doing the “Didja Know?’ column for Marvel? 

JB: Every single week for, oh, I believe at least sixteen-seventeen years now? Longest job I’ve ever had, come to think of it now. Continue reading “With Further Ado #107: The Marvelous Mister Beard”

With Further Ado #106: In Short, There’s Simply Not

With Further Ado #106: In Short, There’s Simply Not

Way back in my freshman year of college, instead of taking a traditional English class, students could select a Freshman Seminar. These courses were full of a lot of reading and writing, just like those traditional English classes, for these Freshman Seminars, you’d choose a topic that really excited you.

One that I chose was Medieval Studies 106 : King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table.  I was surprised to find out that one could take classes in Medieval Studies.

It was really something! I had grown up enjoying King Arthur movies and books. In fact, John Boorman’s Excalibur debuted the summer before I went away to college. But the scholarly nature of the class opened my eyes wide to the rich, expansive landscape the Arthurian Legend.

There were quite of few stops along the way before that movie. The musical Camelot was a favorite as were the many King Arthur picture books I’d read as a kid. And so many King Arthur comics inspired me to learn more about the Round Table.  There’s an impressive new one that was just published that I’ll write about towards the end of this column.

The Road To Camelot – In Geek Culture

As a kid in the 1960s, for me World’s Finest #162 was an epic comic. In this adventure, those two great pals, Batman and Superman, adventured in medieval times with the Knights of the Round Table, and it turned out that the Arthur’s knights are essentially old timey superheroes. Oooooh! Now I got it. When you put it that way,  how could I (a young boy obsessed with superheroes ) not be enthusiastic about King Arthur stories?

Prince Valiant

One of the Knights of the Round Table, Prince Valiant, seemed to come into our life every week in the Sunday funnies.  I’d read his adventures every Sunday, just after The Phantom. Continue reading “With Further Ado #106: In Short, There’s Simply Not”

With Further Ado #104: Johnny Dynamite Is Back

With Further Ado #104: Johnny Dynamite Is Back

Back in the day, I was a big fan of Ms. Tree by Max Allan Collins and Terry Beatty. I liked hard-boiled fiction (and still do), but this comic was different.  Somehow Collins and Beatty took everything that private-eye fans liked, jumbled it all up and delivered a new series that seemed fresh as a counterfeit sawbuck and as enticing as a nightclub singer’s over-the-shoulder wink.

Collins and Beatty developed a rapport with the readers, and soon we all began to understand the stuff that influenced their work on Ms. Tree.  Soon it become clear that it all started with the hard-boiled detective author Mickey Spillane, although there was a little Dragnet in there too.  They also revealed they were influenced by a 50s Private Eye comic series, Johnny Dynamite.

Johnny Dynamite was a character who – “ahem” – borrowed many of the attributes of Spillane’s detective, Mike Hammer. Ms. Tree comics reprinted the old Johnny Dynamite  stories, and the character Johnny Dynamite even ended up crossing paths with Ms. Tree. Eventually, Collins and Beatty created a new Johnny Dynamite mini-series (with great Mitch O’Connell covers).

And it’s taken a while, but now, in the summer of 2020, there’s an explosive new Johnny Dynamite collection just published by the good folks at Yoe Books. It’s a stunner.

I reached out to Max Allan Collins to provide some details: Continue reading “With Further Ado #104: Johnny Dynamite Is Back”

With Further Ado #99: Jetta, Jeff and the Entrepreneurial Project that Turned Into An Artists’ Party

With Further Ado #99: Jetta, Jeff and the Entrepreneurial Project that Turned Into An Artists’ Party

It’s hard to believe that in 2020, the concept of “Archie” can mean so many different things to so many different people. To me, the first image I conjure up of Archie is that classic, squeaky clean strip about teenagers.  I read about a thousand classic Archie Comics in the orthodontist’s waiting room and a big box of Archie comics way when, and then my aunt Elissa bequeathed another big box of Archie comics to me too.

But today, it’s more likely that the images of Archie and his “pals & gals” from CW’s Riverdale are what comes to mind for many younger fans. Comic readers might think of the horrific Vampironica, or the Netflix’s Sabrina, or the new Katy Keene TV version of the characters.  (I can’t believe that the obscure character, Pepper is on TV!)  These different incarnations are all legitimate and all engaging.

Kudos to folks masterminding the Archie brand – for their creativity, flexibility and vision.

But it turns out that even the “classic” version of Archie – the house style established in many ways by Dan DeCarlo – was co-opted.  Before Dan DeCarlo started his long and impressive career at Archie Comics (MLJ), he worked on a title called Jetta Raye, the delightful teenage sweetheart of the future.  And back in 1952, that meant the 21st century.

In the 50s Jetta comic series, published by Standard/Nedor/Pines, teenager Jetta Raye went (would go to? syntax for future stories is tricky)  to Neutron High School in the year 2052.  That doesn’t seem that far off now, does it? She had a boyfriend named Arky (gulp!) and stumbled into zany adventures. To a reader today, it would seem to be a delightful mash-up of the Jetson’s and classic Archie. But the incredible part is that Jetta  pre-dated both of them!

More Jetta Raye Is On The Way

The good news is that there’s new Jetta Raye on the way. I caught up with the very creative Jeff Schultz and he told me all about it. Continue reading “With Further Ado #99: Jetta, Jeff and the Entrepreneurial Project that Turned Into An Artists’ Party”