With Further Ado #034: Getting Ready for Another Convention

With Further Ado #034: Getting Ready for Another Convention

Throwing parties, getting ready for parties, cleaning up after parties…there’s a certain flow to it all. I really like all these different stages, even when it gets nuts.

And for me, right now it is nuts. I’m helping throw a party. The 44th Annual ITHACON, Ithaca’s Comic Convention is this weekend.  It’s actually the nation’s second longest running comic con, right after San Diego Comic-Con. I’m part of a big team, including a group of dedicated Ithaca College students. They are learning about conventions and getting their first, hands-on taste of actually planning and running one.

But aside from the all the planning and ever-expanding to-do lists, part of my pre-convention ritual is gathering together some favorite comics for guests to autograph. There’s something about an autograph that makes a favorite comic become even more of a treasure.

Louise Simonson will be a guest at ITHACON. She’s had a such an impressive career- editing B & W magazines (Vampirella, Eerie, Savage Sword of Conan), writing top characters (Superman, the X-Men) and creating ground breaking characters (Power Pack, Spellbound).

But I think I found a favorite comic that I’d like to ask her to autograph.  Superman: The Man of Steel #63 was published in 1996. It was right before the big industry bust, and at that time this title was part of a quartet of Superman comics that created a rich, monthly Super-tapestry of interconnected adventure.  When this comic was published, Superman and Lois had just been married, and Clark had lost his super-powers.

One thing that makes this issue special is that Lois takes center stage in this story.

On John Siuntres’ Word Balloon Podcast, he recently interviewed Brian Michael Bendis who said he realized that Lois was one of the most interesting people in the DC Universe. This story from 1996 reinforces that view.

In this issue of Superman: Man of Steel, Lois is tough, determined and resourceful. She’s not stepping into the spotlight to save Clark because he’s in a temporary jam. In this story, she’s just “doing what she does” because that’s what she always does.

But there’s more: another nuanced part of this tale is how writer Louise Simonson cleverly makes the case to readers that it’s not the powers that make Clark a Superman.   She’s able to write the character and show his humility, his heart and his hero’s soul.

John Bogdanove’s art in this issue still stands up. He had this breezy, action-oriented style that delivered impactful scenes with plenty of oomph.  At the same time, he could pull the reins back for the quiet scenes as well.  And with his inker, Doug Janke, Bogdanove created textures in each panel that would delight and surprise the reader’s eye.

It’s a great issue, and I can’t wait to tell Louise how much I enjoyed it, and still enjoy it, at ITHACON. Fingers crossed she’ll give me an autograph.

One More Thing

Similarly, I also stumbled across another comic in my collection.  I had forgotten how much I liked it.  Doomsday Annual #1 is a collection of short stories focusing on the early days of Superman’s unstoppable nemesis, Doomsday. I was flipping through the comic to review the Louise Simonson story within, but was reminded how much I liked the obscure Green Lantern Corps story that was also included.  It was called “In Blackest Night” and was written by Roger Stern with heart-stopping art by Gil Kane and Jerry Ordway. 

Ordway’s at his best with crusty inks over Kane’s pencils (layouts?) here. Kind of like that delicious cocktail that you’ve just tried for the first time, this combination of two favorites created something special. Jerry Ordway has the roughs and inked pages up on his blog and they’re worth a look.  And Stern’s tragic tale of loss and sacrifice packs so much into a 12-page story.   

Roger Stern is another ITHACON guest, and you can bet I’m going to pester him for an autograph too!

And I don’t mean to slight our other amazing ITHACON guests. For a small show – we’ve assembled an impressive line-up that also includes Walter (Ragnarok) Simonson, award-winning YA author Tamora Pierce, Tom (AHOY Comics) Peyer, Jamal (The Wrong Earth) Igle, David (“Trouble with Tribbles”) Gerrold, Craig  (Behaving Madly) Yoe, Twilight Zone Author Nick Parisi, Frank (Stinger) Cammuso, Superman Expert Sid Friedfertig,  Steve (The Only Living Girl) Ellis, Harold (Small Monsters) Sipe, Ken (Popeye) Wheaton and more.  Maybe even one more super-surpise guest! And we’re trotting out some of the rare treasures from the Rod Serling Archives to put them on display for attendees. Can you tell I’m really looking forward to it? Hope to see you there.

With Further Ado #033: Where Are All The Toys?

With Further Ado #033: Where Are All The Toys?

Captain Marvel saved the universe this [past] weekend.  She did it onscreen but her economic dominance has hushed the hatred (even if it’s just a brief respite). As you may know, this movie suffered a backlash by a bunch of Neanderthals, who took to the internet to kneecap the movie’s success.  These hateful fans didn’t like what Captain Marvel stood for…or maybe they just felt aggrieved by the currents and eddies swirling about in the never-ending flood of today’s geek culture.

Captain Marvel crushed it at the box office this weekend, posting $153 million from 4,310 theaters. Overseas, this movie raked in an incredible $302 million (including $89 million in China), which is the fifth-highest international opening weekend ever.

Does that mean it’s a great movie? Not necessarily, but everyone agrees that succeeding financially is better than the alternative. I thought it was a lot of fun.

But once we get beyond all that nonsense, I have another issue to bring up: Where are all the toys?

Why isn’t every young girl wearing a Captain Marvel shirt? Or maybe a better question is: Why aren’t all kids playing with Captain Marvel action figures and dolls?

I haven’t seen a crush of Captain Marvel merchandise on store shelves. That’s what outrages me.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #033: Where Are All The Toys?”

With Further Ado #032: Only the Strongest Shall Survive

With Further Ado #032: Only the Strongest Shall Survive

Aftershock is calling this The Year of Reading Dangerously. Their newest comic, Stronghold by Phil Hester and Ryan Kelly, embodies that tagline. In this thriller, there’s something mysterious going on, the stakes are high, characters you care about are struggling and you can’t wait to read what happens next.

I recently heard Phil Hester on John Siuntres’ Word Balloon Podcast.   Each week, Siuntres conducts engaging interviews with comic creators.  Hester talked about his fascinating career for much of the interview, but he elaborated on the premise of Stronghold.  While he didn’t spoil any of the surprises, I think his insights (a) made me more eager to read the series and (b) gave me just enough backstory to get a head start on the narrative.

In Stronghold, there’s this guy with superpowers.  But with a few twists.  This guy doesn’t really use his superpowers often, and it’s unclear really how much he understands his “powers and abilities beyond those of mortal men”.   Meanwhile, there’s this whole organization (kind of like U.N.C.L.E. or S.H.I.E.L.D.) that’s dedicated to clandestinely monitoring this individual.  And the series’ lead, Claire, is a young agent who spies on the guy with superpowers.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #032: Only the Strongest Shall Survive”

With Further Ado #031: Kirby and Lee: Stuf’ Said  by John Morrow

With Further Ado #031: Kirby and Lee: Stuf’ Said by John Morrow

“It’s complicated” is a simple term that’s creeped into all facets of our lexicon. It’s now become something more than just a placeholder of a particular status category on social media. But let’s face it; whenever we deal with real people who live on planet Earth, things tend to get complicated. There are no simple answers.  Even the shades of gray have shades of gray.  And that’s the proper mindset for jumping into John Morrow’s phenomenal new book Kirby & Lee: Stuf’ Said.

This book is a fascinating deep dive into contentious relationships between the men, and women, who would shape what pop culture now regards as the Marvel Universe.   There are so many questions: Who contributed what? Did the writer actually write the stuff? Who came up with the ideas originally? Why didn’t everyone get along better? Marvel now generates billions of dollars in business, so we have to wonder if all involved had been compensated fairly? (Spoiler alert: “no”.)

There seems to be a lot of excitement for this book.  “John Morrow has done it again,” said Emil Novak, Sr, a pioneering comic book retailer since 1969.  Stuf’ Said chronicles the perplexing conversation of who fundamentally created most of Marvel’s comic book characters.  And the results will change your thoughts and history forever.”  Continue reading “With Further Ado #031: Kirby and Lee: Stuf’ Said by John Morrow”

With Further Ado #030: Twilight Zone Comics – Part 2

With Further Ado #030: Twilight Zone Comics – Part 2

There’s that old saying about imitation as the sincerest form of flattery.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the Twilight Zone, and I am focusing on that show, and Rod Serling, as it will all be a part of the 44 annual Ithaca Comic Convention.  My focus has expanded, and now I’m even taking a look at competitive, and or derivative, properties.

In the world of this particular niche – Twilight Zone type comics – I’m finding that imitation goes hand-in-hand with the notion of copy degradation. There’s less use of the actual Xerox machines today, but you understand the concept: every time you make a copy of a copy it tends to lose something. That’s exactly what I’m finding with comics series similar to Twilight Zone comics – copies of copies tend to lose something.

The Outer Limits was a science fiction anthology show from the Golden Age of Television. It was ushered in right about the time that The Twilight Zone was being ushered out by CBS. Despite scripts by top-notch writers (Harlan Ellison, Robert Towne, Joseph Stefano, etc.) and some great acting (Robert Culp, Jill Haworth, etc.), this series is often remembered as an also-ran to The Twilight Zone Continue reading “With Further Ado #030: Twilight Zone Comics – Part 2”

With Further Ado #029: Seeing Red for St. Valentine’s Day

With Further Ado #029: Seeing Red for St. Valentine’s Day

I’m seeing red for St. Valentine’s Day. No, I’m not upset. I’m actually pretty happy (and madly in love). What I mean is that when I walk into a drug store or a department store, there’s a lot of red driving their Valentine marketing messages. And when I walk into Wal-Mart to grab those DC 100 Page Super Spectaculars (they are pretty good!), it’s especially overwhelming.

But maybe I should just go with it. In fact, upon reflection, I’ve always loved the many Silver Age covers that sport red backgrounds.   I know that the legendary DC editor Julie Schwartz always thought purple covers (especially featuring gorillas) sold more comics, but I have to believe that someone back in the 60s felt the same way about red covers.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #029: Seeing Red for St. Valentine’s Day”

With Further Ado #028: Submitted for Approval

With Further Ado #028: Submitted for Approval

Imagine a place and time where experts share their love and knowledge of every pop culture topic dear to them.  Now imagine you couldn’t find an expert on that one corner of pop culture you need to learn more about. There’s a signpost up ahead – next stop, the Twilight Zone.

That’s only fitting.  I’ve been trying to find an expert on Twilight Zone comics, and I keep coming up empty-handed.

It’s important for this big project I’m working on. This March 23 and 24th at ITHACON (the Ithaca Comic Convention), we’ll be celebrating the life and works of Rod Serling. You probably know him as the creator and host of the Twilight Zone, but he’s so much more. And he was a professor at Ithaca College, where they maintain his archives.  We’re going to display these amazing treasures for fans at ITHACON.  That will be a special treat as we also celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Twilight Zone.

There’s a lot of Twilight Zone authors and experts, but everyone seems to ignore the comics. 

Continue reading “With Further Ado #028: Submitted for Approval”

With Further Ado #027: Pop-Up Pop Culture

Pop-Ups are one of the most fascinating, and most fun, trends in retail.  You know this concept even if you don’t think you know it.

There was a great disruption when American retail shifted from traditional downtown storefronts to malls. And more recently, disruptive retail shifts from malls to online shook it up again. As a result, the whole concept of zombie malls, those shambling, empty malls that serve as ominous monuments to the excess of the 80s, are frightening and tragic.

Today, even with the emphasis on online commerce, there’s another shift called Pop-Up retailing. At the core of it all, this term refers to the phenomenon of online retailers opening temporary retail stores to energize their brands and drive excitement for consumers.

The idea starts with the practice of setting up temporary retail establishments, but it certainly doesn’t end there.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #027: Pop-Up Pop Culture”

With Further Ado #026: Getting Reading for the Atomic Age

With Further Ado #026: Getting Reading for the Atomic Age

One very difficult part of launching something new, for both entrepreneurs and for creators, is to stay focused and on target.  It’s not easy to both have a vision and to stick to it.  But I’ve been really impressed by Christopher Mills, who has a clear vision and has been tenaciously sticking to it as he teases fans with what’s to come.  He’s got his future fans/customers all pretty revved up. I think that in turn keeps him engaged.   

Christopher Mills’ Atomic Action will be a new line of comics, embracing a 70s nostalgia and infusing it with freshness and excitement. Dare I say I’m really looking forward to his new endeavor? I caught up with Christopher to find out more.

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Continue reading “With Further Ado #026: Getting Reading for the Atomic Age”

With Further Ado #025: Who put the words into my comics?

With Further Ado #025: Who put the words into my comics?

Just a few years after Marvel re-licensed the rights to publish a science fiction property – Star Wars – there’s been another minor hullabaloo about Marvel re-licensing another old property – Conan the Barbarian. I decided to jump into it all and enjoyed the first issue.

I really didn’t care for the new logo, but everything else about Marvel’s new Conan the Barbarian #1 was fine. To be fair, the bar for this comic has been set so high by so many stellar past creators: Thomas, Windsor-Smith, Buscema, Jusko, Waid, Kane, Adams, Truman, Dixon, Alcatena, Nord…the list is long.  In fact, one of my guilty pleasures is picking up old issues of Savage Sword of Conan with stories featuring Rudy Nebres or Alfredo Alcala inks over John Buscema pencils. Those are spectacular.

One very pleasant surprise in the new Conan comic was the prose story excerpt. It’s an adventure called Black Starlight by John C. Hocking, and will be serialized over the next 12 issues. It seems to be part of integrated promotion with publisher Perilous Worlds.

For a bookworm like me, there’s something special about reading prose in a comic.  It extends the experience and allows one to enjoy the comic longer. There’s also that element of it making it seem like a better value.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #025: Who put the words into my comics?”