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 #169: The Vast of Night

With Further Ado #169: The Vast of Night

Halloween is time for scary movies. That’s part of the fun. My utopian Halloween would consist of kids trick or treating, going to a killer (not literally) Halloween Party, and then settling in with a classic monster movie, preferably something from Hammer or Universal’s heyday.

And while we “meant” to watch a lot more movies during the recent Covid-19 lockdown times, we really didn’t, just a few here and there. I’m a little disappointed in myself, if I am to be honest with you.

Having shared that confession, it makes sense we missed The Vast of Night at first. I’m elated we finally stumbled across it. This is a brilliant indie film set in the 1950s at the pinnacle of the scary “Flying Saucer craze”.  It’s both creepy and gorgeous, a tribute to both small town Americana and the fears that bubble up from rural communities.

The heroes are an unlikely pair: a plucky teenager with a part time job, played by former Disney Channel actress Sierra McCormick, and a cool-cat radio DJ, played by Jake Horowitz. These two are actors to watch.

I’ve been learning about Rod Serling and enjoy teaching a bit about him.  Nick Parisi’s brilliant book, Rod Serling: His Life, Work and Imagination provided me with a such a rich background and dialing into Tom Elliot’s The Twilight Zone Podcast adds to my Serling knowledge.  Even so, I was really surprised to find that The Vast of Night takes place in a small town called Cayuga, New Mexico.  As you might know, Serling grew up and eventually returned to the Cayuga Lake area. He even taught classes at Ithaca College, far above Cayuga’s waters. Continue reading “With Further Ado #169: The Vast of Night”

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.

 

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”

With Further Ado #161: Jes’ Who Is This Hombre Called Tex?

With Further Ado #161: Jes’ Who Is This Hombre Called Tex?

Any longtime comic fan is called upon, now and again, to explain “comic stuff” to regular folk. Comic fans often get asked to provide the back story about a particular character who’s made it onto the Silver Screen, or for some insider insights on a guy like Stan Lee or Jack Kirby.  And if that fan is anything like me, it’s hard not to pontificate and go on for hours about all the trivia and historical knowledge that’s rumbling inside my fanboy brain, looking for the opportunity to get out, and to show off.

And then, all too often, the regular folk’s eyes will glaze over, they’ll be hopelessly lost and try wrestle the information to the ground and force fit it into convenient soundbites.

“Oh, I get it. He’s the guy who drew the comic books, right?” Or “Now I see, he flies kinda like Batman, right?”

The tables were turned on me (imagine that) when I was reading the introductions to a glorious new book Tex: the Magnificent Outlaw.  I don’t know much about this character Tex or the men behind his creation, but there’s many people who do and there’s a lot to learn.

I kind of knew that Tex is a cowboy from Italian comics, but that was about the extent of my knowledge. Here’s a primer from the Kickstarter earlier this year for this impressive book:

Who are we and who is Tex?

You may know us (Epicenter Comics) from publishing American editions of works by legendary Italian publishing house Sergio Bonelli Editore, and series such as Zagor, Dylan Dog, Magic Wind, Dragonero and of course, Tex!

Tex Willer, the most legendary western comic book hero in the world, who first appeared on Italian news-stands in 1948 and has been published continually ever since, comes again in English in a breathtaking new story, in a beautiful, oversize, hard cover, 252-page deluxe edition courtesy of Epicenter Comics.

With a self-contained, all-ages story by the main Tex writer and editor, Mauro “The Bos(s)” Boselli (whom those familiar with Epicenter Comics had already chance to meet on pages of Zagor: Terror from the Sea, Zagor: Voodoo Vendetta and Tex: Patagonia), and stunning artwork by maestro Stefano Andreucci (Zagor: Terror from the Sea), TEX: THE MAGNIFICENT OUTLAW (Signature Edition) offers us a glimpse into Tex in his younger, pre-ranger days, or better, his (magnificent) outlaw days! As Tex is framed for the crime he did not commit, he will stop at nothing to clear his name, and in the process he will both, teach and learn some hard-won life lessons. This will be our second Tex book published, and third Tex book published in English ever.

Continue reading “With Further Ado #161: Jes’ Who Is This Hombre Called Tex?”

With Further Ado #160: What is the Best Comic DC Is Publishing?

With Further Ado #160: What is the Best Comic DC Is Publishing?

Recently, DC Comics made a lot of changes, after the last time they made a lot of changes, and I thought I was kind done with them. But you know what? I find myself enjoying quite a few of their titles.

  • For example, I’m digging Swamp Thing, especially with that great Mike Perkins art . Who would have ever thought that a character with an impressive lineage of top artists (Wrightson, Yeates, Bissette, Paquette – the list goes on and on) could ever find another artist on that level? They did with Perkins. His work is top-notch.
  • Detective Comics -While the main Batman title has been become a little too creepy for me, I have been picking up the last few issues of ‘ It’s refreshing to see the trials and tribulations of a downsized Bruce Wayne.
  • Tom Taylor and Andy Kubert are killing it on Batman: The Detective. I believe that Andy Kubert’s art is better than ever. Every page is in the “astonishing” category.

Wing and a Prayer

The best kept little secret at DC might be the new Nightwing series. In fact, it might be the most enjoyable comic DC’s publishing right now.

I saw a social media post from one the world’s top comic shop retailers, Marc Hammond. He was extolling the virtues of this Nightwing series just as I was preparing this column.  He’s a guy who knows his comics and keeps up with everything in the industry.

“The creative team on Nightwing is absolutely knocking it out of the park,” said Marc Hammond, Co-Owner of Aw Yeah Comics.* “Every issue immediately jumps to the top of the stack. It has a classic Dick Grayson feel to it while definitely forging a new path, placing Nightwing prominently at the forefront of the DC pantheon.” Continue reading “With Further Ado #160: What is the Best Comic DC Is Publishing?”

With Further Ado #159: Summer Beach Reading …with the Saint

With Further Ado #159: Summer Beach Reading …with the Saint

Oftentimes when we think about characters like Batman, James Bond or Harry Potter, we imagine they will go on and on ad infinitum. Despite the overwhelming merchandising juggernauts that these properties have become, that’s not really the case.

Take Leslie Charteris’ The Saint. This character, a devil-may-care adventurer, debuted in a story called Meet the Tiger in 1928. He then went on to a long career of battling bad guys in more novels, magazines, radio shows, TV shows, movies and even comics.

But I feel if I offered $100 to the first of my college students who could tell me (without looking it up on the web) who the character the Saint is – I’d still have that C-note!

I was introduced to The Saint through the long-running  60sTV show. This was, in some ways, a multi-season audition for the star, Roger Moore, for his subsequent role as James Bond.  Moore was charming, focused and fun – just right for the part.

The series focused on light mysteries and adventures  in glamorous cities all around the world.  The Saint would usually romance a different co-star each week. And one of the cleverest bits of the show was a recurring gag right before the opening theme song. Invariably, some random character would recognize the ‘famous Simon Templar, aka The Saint” and call him out.  (Simon Templar was kind of famous in the world he inhabited.) An animated halo would magically appear over  Moore’s head and then he’d notice the animation, look up at it and shrug in resignation. He was definitely in on the joke. It was all very meta before meta was a thing.

And I have another thought for this week.  I think it’s always great to read a mystery or two during the summertime. On the beach, if possible. And I want to make it easy for you all to do just that.

So, this week I’m featuring the Saint + a mystery story. The following pages are from an old issue of Life Magazine* that present a comic (but with photos instead of illustrations) of a Saint mystery adventure.

For this drama, The Saint is played by the author Leslie Charteris. It’s set in the glamorous setting of Palm Springs. And it’s a “fair play mystery”, so see if you can figure out who the villain is before The Saint does!

*thanks to Professor Laurence Maslon for the heads up!

With Further Ado #157: A Kiss is Just a Kiss…?

With Further Ado #157: A Kiss is Just a Kiss…?

I just had Ken Quattro, the Comics Detective, come speak to one of my summer classes. You may also recognize his name as the recent recipient of an Eisner Award for his ground-breaking book, Invisible Men: The Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books. It’s an enthralling and important deep dive into the lives of several black artists.

And just like every time Ken rolls up his shirtsleeves and gets down to business, it’s meticulously researched. Ken brands himself as a comic book detective, but like so many focused writers, he’s an exceptional historian.

I love writing about comics history for publications like TwoMorrow’s Back Issue Magazine and Overstreet’s Comic Book Price Guide, but I’m not in the same league as a historian like Ken.

But having written that, I think I found something new in the pop culture milestones to which historians usually refer.

Kiss Me, Captain

The original Star Trek TV series was groundbreaking in so many ways – everything from thoughtful, allegorical episodes to anticipating devices like cellphones and voice activated smart speakers.

Star Trek was also gutsy enough to debut the first interracial kiss on network TV. Granted, the characters, Captain Kirk and Lt. Uhuru did not kiss of their free will – the bad guys made them kiss one another. But still, Captain Kirk and Lt. Uhura’s kiss was a milestone.

Back in 2016, Hollywood Reporter reflected on the milestone this way:

There were reasons for the cast about this TV first – the show was in its third season, and cancellation was imminent. But it was NBC that was reluctant to pull the trigger. Network execs were worried that the interracial scene would upset Southern affiliates, so an effort was made to shoot coverage where Kirk and Uhura don’t actually lock lips. “We did a few takes, but Bill was deliberately trying to flub it”, recalls (Nichelle) Nichols. “At one point, he even crossed his eyes to make me laugh.”

(To be fair, as a kid seeing Shatner behave like a horsey was the part that really bothered me, but that’s another story.)

In comics, the first interracial kiss was in Warren Publishing ‘s black-and-white horror-comics magazine, Creepy #43, published in January 1972. The kiss was part of the story, “The Men Who Called Him Monster” by writer Don McGregor and artist Luis Garcia.

For color comics, the first interracial kiss is generally considered to be in Marvel’s Amazing Adventures #31 from July 1975. This comic showcased a “War of the Worlds” series, where a hero named Killraven and his merry band adventured in a post-apocalyptic world of which H.G. Wells could only dream. Don McGregor wrote this series too. It’s illustrated by the alarmingly talented P. Craig Russel. Don recently told the story behind the story here.

It makes sense that Don McGregor wrote these stories. He’s a brilliant writer who always looked forward and delighted in writing about the human condition. He’s a kind guy full of warmth, enthusiasm and all the attributes that make good men become great ones.

He’s also a hopeless romantic. For my money, he’s written some of the very best love scenes in comics. And if you have the good fortune to meet him in person, he brings the definition of charming to a whole new level.

You might get the impression that I’m gushing about Don McGregor. And you’d be right. I think the absolute world of Don McGregor as a writer and as a person.

An Unrecognized Milestone

Even so – I think I uncovered a historic milestone. It’s in DC’s color comic, Korak, Son of Tarzan #54 published October-November 1973.

This series was all about Tarzan’s son, Korak, on a long quest to find his abducted girlfriend, Miriam. As you can imagine, he had many adventures along the way. In issue #54’s story, “Blood Brothers”, written by Robert Kanigher and illustrated by Murphy Anderson, Korak makes a new friend, Mnumbo. After a few close scrapes together, Mnumbo introduces his lovely sister, Salamma, to Korak.

It’s easy to see that Salamma is smitten with Korak. And either she or artist Murphy Anderson read a lot of Prince Valiant comics, because she performs a fetching campfire dance that may have been inspired by Aleta’s (Valiant’s girlfriend and eventual wife) most famous dance.

And as the adventure ends, and Korak is getting ready to ride into the sunset (well, to walk into the sunset, but you know what I mean), they share a passionate kiss.

I believe that this is the first interracial kiss in color comics.

And you know what? I think there was almost the second interracial kiss in color comics in the very next issue. In that adventure, an Asian woman, Lotus, is embracing Korak and is about to plant one on him until a bad guy interrupts them.

Let’s Get Serious for a Moment

I think this is important. In the early 70s, as a kid, it was important to me to be shown love ought to be colorblind. We didn’t say “love is love” back then, but that was idea.

And to a young fan like me, it was important that my favorite creators, guys like Don McGregor and Murphy Anderson, showed the way. There wasn’t a lot of fanfare. There were no cover blurbs proclaiming these were special collectible issues. It was more about measuring the true worth of someone and following your heart.

On a personal level, one of my favorite uncles, (he was actually a great-uncle), was my Uncle John. He was Italian by way of Sicily, and married my Aunt Ruby, a wonderful Jamaican woman. He was white and was black. As an adult, I’ve learned that he suffered, and fought, bias and prejudice. But he never let the struggles show. He was consistantly confident, fun-loving and in love with his wife.

I hope that 20-somethings reading this think “what is the big deal?” And I hope that their kids think it’s even less of a big deal, and the next generation thinks it’s even less of a big deal.

For my part, I’m so appreciative I had folks like my Uncle John, Murphy Anderson and Don McGregor to help me get my head on straight at an early age. And I’m grateful now for guys like Ken Quattro researching and spotlighting the lives of brave creators who often suffered discrimination.

One last thing: go find someone you love and kiss ‘em!

* * *

Just to be thorough, there is one technicality: some consider the very first interracial kiss in a color comic to be in a Golden Age Blackhawk story where the a dying woman’s request, a kiss from the hero Blackhawk, was platonically granted. The woman was Asian, and Blackhawk seemed pretty WASPy (even though he was really Polish).