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 #136: Look! Up in the Sky!

With Further Ado #136: Look! Up in the Sky!

As a kid in the mid-sixties, it was a big deal when there was going to be a new Superman show on TV.  Batmania had taken hold, and there was a ravenous hunger for more superhero stories. I loved the Justice League comic of the day, which had one dominant message for young readers – if you like Batman, he has a bunch of friends and you should buy their adventures too!

Filmation’s The New Adventures of Superman debuted on Saturday mornings, and it was a must-see. Never mind fellow-comic book alumni Casper on the opposite channel (although Secret Squirrel looked kinda cool). That was the show for me. Even though it was, in many ways, a retread of the old Superman radio show, we just knew these NEW adventures presented to best version of Superman ever! Continue reading “With Further Ado #136: Look! Up in the Sky!”

With Further Ado #135: Comics (M)Ad Men

With Further Ado #135: Comics (M)Ad Men

I don’t think this week’s review will be at center of a firestorm like last week’s review of Abraham’s Riesman’s The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee.  As you may have read, the “controversial” biography  is another deep dive Stan Lee biography.  And in this arena with so many passionate fans, everyone has an opinion. It certainly has generated heated discussions.

On the other hand, Fantagraphic’s Comics Ad Men by Steven Brower is also the type of book that I’m eager to read, but somehow had escaped my notice.  It came out in 2019, but I just learned about it and I snagged a copy last month.

Stan Drake Art

Many comic professionals don’t do just one thing.  In the up-and-down world of creatives, it’s generally important to be able to work on different types of assignments, sometimes in different industries. When one thing gets slow, there’s a need to work on another.

Neal Adams Ad Work

Steve Brower has assembled a top-notch showcase of comics artists that produced traditional (and some non-traditional) advertising.  There’s wonderful examples of from artists like Neal Adams, C.C. Beck, Stan Drake, Creig Flessel, Noel Sickles, Basil Wolverton, and so many more.

Brower also provides some background to help readers understand those halcyon Mad Men days of advertising firms.  There are fascinating stories about DDB, Young & Rubican, McCann Erickson, Leo Burnett and Johnston & Cushing. This informative look into the past is peppered by industry luminaries like Joe Kubert and one of his students-turned-pro, Thom (Love and Capes) Zahler.

Frank Robbins Art

In that classic age of ad agencies, Westport, Connecticut was a bedroom community for Madison Avenue . But I also learned here that there was an artist’s drop off spot in that town. Illustrators could drop off their work late at night. It would get to the agencies by 10 am., and then they’d get their next assignments later day.  Who needed email, Dropbox or Slack?

 

 

 

With Further Ado #134: Believing the Truth – A Look at the New Stan Lee Bio

With Further Ado #134: Believing the Truth – A Look at the New Stan Lee Bio

Maybe it is all about the marketing. I’ve been very surprised by the vehement reaction of many fans to Abraham Reisman’s new Stan Lee bio True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee. The cover, designed by Barbara M. Bachman, showcases a less than flattering photo of Stan*.  The whole look, in fact, seems to evoke the feeling of dread that fills us when we realize there is an exposé of a beloved figure, designed to shock us with all the awful disclosures.

In fact, the pre-publication reactions I’ve seen to this book in some online fan groups have resulted in online cat fights. Some fans say they have no need to ever read that trash, while other collectors and fans, who may already think of ill of Stan Lee, are eager for more fuel for their ire.  I interjected a few times with posts like, “I’m reading it now. That’s not really what it’s about”.  But when a person is in the heat of an argument, they don’t want to listen to that sort of thing.

I’ve read it and enjoyed it quite a bit.  Like 99.9% percent of people of who have walked the earth, Stan was a guy who did some good things and did some less-than good things.  And while I will say this book isn’t a tell all, it does provide a frame of reference to better understand motivations at different stages of his life. If anything, I would say that the book shines a new and harsh light on many of Stan’s family members and business associates.

I’ve recently reviewed a few other books in the rapidly growing “Stan Lee Book Category”. Danny Fingeroth’s A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan Lee was an exceptional and balanced read. John Morrow’s Kirby & Stan: Stuff Said was exceedingly well-researched and presented a detailed crazy-quilt of the public statements by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby as a way to better understand who did what and why they said all the (often-contradictory) things they said.

Riesman’s True Believer takes a deep dive into Stan’s Marvel years, the time that most fans, I imagine, want to know more about.  It’s clear he’s engaged in exhaustive research. He’s also a clever writer. But to me, the most fascinating parts of Riesman’s book are the details about Stan’s later years. This was “new information” to me. Riesman paints a picture of a man struggling on many fronts and seemingly, to an outside observer, making so many bad decisions and engaging in (so many) unfortunate relationships.

I remember when Leonard Nimoy died, and his frequent co-star Bill Shatner didn’t make it to his funeral.  To casual fans, this was unthinkable!  Their onscreen characters would have done anything for the other in the name of friendship. In reality, Shatner and Nimoy, were at a stage in their relationship where they were again feuding.  It probably wouldn’t have been appropriate for Shatner to attend the funeral. I believe he sent his daughters, which was deemed the right thing to do for those who really know about these things.

Likewise, with a man like Stan, it’s often difficult for fans to reconcile his humanity with the overwhelming goodness, sense of justice and heroic decisiveness that many of the characters he created and co-created embody.  But for those of us who are eager to learn more, who want to know what made our favorites tick, and who aren’t afraid to better understand their failures, shortfalls and humanity, True Believer is a must read.

***

*I kept thinking about what my favorite book designer, Chip Kidd, would’ve done with a cover like this.

With Further Ado #133: It’s an Ad, Ad, Ad World

With Further Ado #133: It’s an Ad, Ad, Ad World

I always kinda liked the ads in comics.  In stark contrast to prose books (I am a big bookworm and love to read books, too), the constant interruption of comic stories by advertisements sprinkled throughout has a charm all of its own. And when they fit in with comics, it’s even better. Sometimes the ads showcase other genre-related properties like movies, TV shows and licensed merchandise.  Sometimes they just serve as a nostalgic tether to days, and products, long gone by.

I’m proud to have had a few of my ads appear in various comics over the years. It was a thrill to see them in print. Like the Super Bowl, there were times when I’d look forward to seeing the ads more than the main event.  In a recent conversation with my old Nabisco pal, Doug Haase, we ended up talking all about our old Marvel comics cross promotion and the ads that went along with it.

I’ve worked with professional experts too. Creative types as well as sales folks. As far as I’m concerned, people like Marvel’s Renee Krumper, Valiant’s Seymour Miles, and DC’s Avery Stiratt have an important place in comics history.  Most notable is the entrepreneurial warrior, Kris Longo. He’s been fighting the good fight at Geek Riot Media, the firm he founded, for years now.

With all that in mind, I was especially delighted when I stumbled across Harvey’s Dick Tracy #99. I’m working on a Dick Tracy article for the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, and I need to get up to speed. Continue reading “With Further Ado #133: It’s an Ad, Ad, Ad World”

With Further Ado #132: Uncovered Delights

With Further Ado #132: Uncovered Delights

I find that as fans get deeper and deeper into comics, we often develop a slavish respect for the comic books themselves. While originally designed to be a cheap, disposable medium, the standard comic book becomes a thing of awe.

For example, I recently purchased a 1950s issue of Boy Comics for my dad as a Christmas gift. When I read it before I gave it to him (‘natch), I carefully placed the book on my drafting table. I gingerly turned the pages, keeping the book as flat as possible. I kept my coffee far away to avoid any clumsy spills. When I was done I put the comic into a new Golden Age comic bag with a new acid free backing board.

When my dad read it, he sat in his favorite chair, snacked a little and bent back the cover. “That was great,” he told me. He clearly enjoyed it, and he did it without that collector’s mentality. There was a time when I would have scolded him and explained things like “condition”, spine-roll and “collectability”. Now I’m envious of the way he enjoys it all and kind of think, “that’s the way to do it.”

Maybe that’s why I enjoy coverless comics so much. In the old days, the newsstands would buy a bunch of comics and then return the ones that weren’t sold.  Over time, everyone realized it would be easier, and shipping would be less costly, to  just to rip off the covers, return those and destroy the leftovers. (Sometimes they just ripped off the top third, with the logo.)  But newsstand owners often would pass along the coverless comics, or even sell them at a discount.

A comic shop in Cortland, NY, Heroes and Villains, is “a little shop that could.” It’s run by a hard-working husband and wife team. They just acquired a stash of coverless comics and are now selling them for 50 cents each.

I scooped up a small stack and reading them is joyous. Because they are coverless, and essentially non-collectible, there’s no carefulness to the reading. I still can’t bring myself to curl back the pages, but the reading process is very casual for 50 year old comics.  And I’ll probably put most of them into my Halloween Giveaway Comics Box, in fact. Continue reading “With Further Ado #132: Uncovered Delights”

With Further Ado #130: Unidentified Flying Obsession

With Further Ado #130: Unidentified Flying Obsession

One of my friends, prolific author Jim Beard, has been documenting (via social media) his episode-by-episode viewing of the old Gerry Anderson show, UFO.  When I was a kid, it was a favorite. They re-ran this British series on Saturdays in syndication, and my brother and I loved it.  UFO detailed the efforts the efforts of a secret organization called S.H.A.D.O. and their clandestine efforts to save the world from an ever-imminent alien invasion.

There’s so much to like about this 70s show!

  • There were cool vehicles (submarines, jets, tanks and even spaceships) they’d employ every episode (who cared if it was always the same stock footage shots).
  • It was set in the “future” – in the 1980s! And the future never looked better with the cool cars, slick hairstyles, and engaging “at work” attire. (The women’s work attire is a bit prurient, to be fair.)  And they even got some of it right.  Various episodes explored  the reliance on computers, wireless communications,  the frustrations of bureaucracy and fingerprint/voiceprint databases.
  • The brilliant theme song by Barry Gray was like no other. It’s an engaging, swinging call to arms, heralding the idea that “now we’re going to get down to business!”

Let the Music Be Your Guide

The theme song always stuck with me.  A few years ago, when I was working for the Reed Elsevier division that would become ReedPop (the group that manages New York Comic Con, Emerald City Comic-Con, PAX and more), I was attending a business meeting in Berlin.  I don’t speak German, but prior to the trip I had been diligently listening to language tapes. The idea was  to try and absorb some of the simple phrases that would facilitate rudimentary communication.

One night, walking back to my hotel, I heard a familiar song. It was a funky variant of the UFO Theme song! Like Ulysses being lured by a siren call, I followed the music to an urban park where an outside bar had created a “pop-up shop”, complete with a DJ. Our mutual appreciation of, and passion for, the UFO theme song allowed me to communicate with, and be accepted by, the locals.  I guess I didn’t need those language tapes after all. Continue reading “With Further Ado #130: Unidentified Flying Obsession”

With Further Ado #129: “Scout’s Honor” Earns AfterShock A Merit Badge

With Further Ado #129: “Scout’s Honor” Earns AfterShock A Merit Badge

I was never a Boy Scout. But from the outside looking in, it seemed like a pretty neat club: secret rituals and goals and uniforms and badges.  And they have that “Knights of the Round Table” mindset: to do some good in the world.

Way back when I was a kid, the only Boy Scout rule I ever knew was “As a Boy Scout I promise to do my best and the help the girl scouts get undressed.” And you know what? I don’t think that was a real rule. (I can’t believe the things we used to say back then.)

Fast forward to my professional adult life. When I worked at Nabisco on cookies like OREO and Chips Ahoy!, we really did plan around the inevitable sales dip for when Girl Scout Cookies went on sale. They were a force to be reckoned with.

When I worked at an agency in midtown Manhattan (in the original, beautiful Tiffany’s building, in fact) the National Headquarters of the Girl Scouts was right around the corner. They had a nice open area with benches in front of the main entrance where you could sit and have a sandwich during lunchtime.  I was always surprised that nobody ever tried to sell me a cookie.

I’m thinking about the Scouts because AfterShock Comics has just come out with an innovative new series called Scout’s Honor. The premise is clever. In a dystopian future, the ragtag survivors use the Scout Handbook (they are called Ranger Scouts in this reality) as their “instructional manual” for survival. Continue reading “With Further Ado #129: “Scout’s Honor” Earns AfterShock A Merit Badge”

With Further Ado #128: That Comic Book Movie Starring That Statuesque Raven-Haired Beauty That Stumbled

With Further Ado #128: That Comic Book Movie Starring That Statuesque Raven-Haired Beauty That Stumbled

So that statuesque, raven-haired beauty makes the leap from comics to a big time movie! And the leap, by most accounts, lands with a resounding thud.  How could it be? The actress was perfect for the part. The public adores her. The camera loves her too.  And there’s a real fondness for the comic/source material. But still fans are unhappy with it.

I’m talking, of course about the comic-to-cinema movie, Tamara Drewe. But don’t beat yourself up if you don’t remember this picture.

A decade ago, I wasn’t familiar with the UK strip, Tamara Drewe or the creator Posy Simmonds.   But Simmonds’ art looked engaging and I thought the movie might have a Love, Actually vibe to it all.  Meaning: both my wife, Kathe, and I might enjoy it. Inviting her to see a comic movie that is kind of like Love, Actually is easier than dragging her to…for example…Marvel’s Captain Marvel.  Although she’s patient and open-minded, I remember her eyes glazing over when I tried to explain, in preparation for Captain Marvel, about the Skrulls and the Kree. Continue reading “With Further Ado #128: That Comic Book Movie Starring That Statuesque Raven-Haired Beauty That Stumbled”

With Further Ado #127: 2020 – The Year of the Drive-In ..?

With Further Ado #127: 2020 – The Year of the Drive-In ..?

As the pandemic wreaked havoc on life and so many marketing promotions and businesses this past year, there was one retro-idea that gained traction: Drive-Ins.

I love Drive-Ins. We had two in my hometown growing up, and I have clear memories of seeing so many films there.  When I became a parent, I took my girls to the Drive-In once a summer. We all had a ball. I don’t remember the movies all that well, although Tom Cruise’s War of the Worlds and an Austin Powers movie come to mind.

Before Covid, Pop-Ups were becoming a hot marketing tool. It seems as if so many of the ideas behind Pop-Ups just migrated to all the 2020 Drive-ins.  And hey, as long as everyone was having fun and staying safe, it sounds good to me.

So it’s appropriate that the last book of 2020 I spotlight is all about a Drive-In: More Better Deals published by Mulholland Books.  It’s from a favorite author, Joe R. Lansdale,  and is another bumpy ride in a beat-up car on the back roads of noir fiction.

Many feel that Double Indemnity is the pinnacle of Film Noir. If you’re one of those folks, then this thriller, which has so many similarities, will lead you to inevitable and excruciatingly delicious, comparisons. Continue reading “With Further Ado #127: 2020 – The Year of the Drive-In ..?”

With Further Ado #126: Ripped from the Headlines: The Fake News of Rip Hunter

With Further Ado #126: Ripped from the Headlines: The Fake News of Rip Hunter

It’s funny how the looking at an old story with a contemporary lens can change things completely.

But before I get into that, I must admit I’ve always loved time travel stories.  Movie favorites include everything from A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court to Time After Time to Back to the Future. I love the simple ones and the complex ones.  I still think the main reason I was admitted to a top ten business school was because I turned my essay into a time travel story.  And in my comic collection, I have one short box that’s all time travel-y series, you know stuff like Aztec Ace, Chronos, Ed Brisson’s Comeback and Stephen Perry and Tom Yeates’ Timespirts. And DCs’ Rip Hunter…Time Master is right there in the front of the box.

I snagged a beat-up “readers copy” of Rip Hunter…Time Master #23 earlier this year, but I just recently got around to reading it. As you can see by the stunning cover – the shocker is that George Washington was really a spy!

(As an aside, I can’t help but draw parallels between Rip Hunter’s “You’re a spy/No you’re a spy” exchange the infamous “I’m not a puppet, you’re the puppet” debate exchange a four years ago.)

It seems that in 1964, many American school children believed, or were taught, that George Washington was the greatest American patriot of all. So, how could he, of all people, have been a spy?!? That’s what the whole sales hook of the cover was based on.

Here in 2020, there’s a contrary view for everything.  I am fascinated by the concept of the epistemic dissenter. As I understand it, this term refers to a well-informed individual who uses selective facts to develop a view or belief that is contrary to mainstream, commonly held and even science-based ideas.

As an extreme example, people who believe the world is actually flat, and have facts to support their theory, are epistemic dissenters.  And no, I don’t know if they can explain how their cellphones work. Continue reading “With Further Ado #126: Ripped from the Headlines: The Fake News of Rip Hunter”