Author: Ed Catto

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!

With Further Ado #162: I Miss My Old Pals From Shang Chi

With Further Ado #162: I Miss My Old Pals From Shang Chi

Is it ever permissible to review a movie before you see it? And if so, can I give it four stars ahead of time?

I have yet to see Disney/Marvel’s latest superhero movie, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings . But given the track record of Kevin Feige and his teams, I’m sure I’ll enjoy it.  It’s looks to be both fun and important.

And you know what? A mostly Asian cast is a good start to rectifying wrongs of the past.  This movie blew past all early estimates and scooped up in nearly $100 million at the U.S. box office over the Labor Day weekend. Its now one of the top-grossing movies of the year. Not too shabby, right?

My one worry is that this movie doesn’t seem to be about my old pal Shang Chi and his friends, lovers and antagonists. I am glad that this character is now given Cinematic Validations, but back in the 70s, Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu was one badass title. It quickly became a favorite and a must-read.  Like Conan the Barbarian, MoKF (as we called it back then) existed in its own corner of the inter-connected Marvel Universe, mostly independent of the usual cross-over nonsense. And it had a tone all its own.

Shang Chi was the protagonist, but he also served as our entry point to the ongoing spy stories. Shang would often refer to his adventures as “games of death and deceit”.  It was a sprawling engaging tapestry: a James Bond world with nefarious villains, creative henchmen (ala Goldfinger’s Oddjob) and over-the-top plots.  The love interest was the beautiful – but deadly – Leiko Wu and Shang’s comrades in arms were Brits like Black Jack Tarr and other spies – pulled from the pulps or created as offspring of famous fictional characters.

In this old comic series, Shang Chi was the wayward son of master villain Fu Manchu, a pulp villain.  As a kid, my local library, the legendary Seymour Library, had several Fu Manchu adventures in the mystery section. When I found them I thought I had discovered treasure. I loved reading them. Continue reading “With Further Ado #162: I Miss My Old Pals From Shang Chi”

With Further Ado #158: Comic-Con Begins: Five-and-a-Half Questions with Mathew Klickstein

With Further Ado #158: Comic-Con Begins: Five-and-a-Half Questions with Mathew Klickstein

The latest comic from Mark Evanier and Sergio Aragones, Groo Meets Tarzan, is brilliant.  Tom Yeates is also along for the ride, and if you, like me, are ravenous for more of his artwork beyond the weekly Prince Valiant Sunday strip, his contributions to this one won’t disappoint you.  The first issue kicks off with a double page spread showcasing the main floor of San Diego Comic-Con and it had me laughing out loud and missing it all -both at the same time.

To be sure, San Diego Comic-Con, or Comic-Con International, has grown to become a sprawling, wonderous event. It will be fantastic when things ‘get back to normal’ for this annual celebration.  So… while we’re waiting for that, maybe now is the perfect time to learn a little about the origins of this event?

The new podcast Comic-Con Begins, is informative, illuminating and just plain fun.  I had the pleasure of catching up with Mathew Klickstein to get the lowdown on it all.

Question 1:

Ed Catto: Why do you think there is such an interest in comic cons and specifically in the history of comic cons?

Mathew Klickstein: One of the many reasons we thought a history of “the” Comic-Con would be something worth investing massive amounts of blood-sweat-n-tears into is that there really hadn’t been a history like this put together before, at least not in such an extensive, extremely deep-dive investigative/exploratory way. Certainly not involving the entire force of folks who made it all happen back in the day.

There’ve been some great books – mostly academic/scholarly or personal memoir – about cons and fandom over the years, along with a handful of well-crafted documentaries and the like. But we just hadn’t seen too much in the way of such a long-form history, which again, was a principal motivator for us to plunge into the project with such breakneck insane passion, and certainly a major factor in why we wanted to do all we could to get it done “right.”

We wanted to fill in that lacuna, the gap in our shared cultural history. We aspired throughout the process to achieve that with Comic-Con Begins.

As for interest in the conventions themselves? I’m hoping too that that interest has been, if anything, bolstered by this past year+ of the lack of their happening in-person (or, in many cases, at all).

That this last year+, I hope and believe, has reminded people why a true in-person, “I’m there with the rest of the fans all together in a finite space” singular experience of being at a con is something we truly need as fans, as geeks, as “misfits” or whatnot who connect with members of their “tribe” through certain pop culture and creative/artistic entities and that going to conventions to see old friends and enjoy these experiences together, in person, is not simply a luxury. It’s something we desperately require as a social species. (Fan or otherwise!)

Question 2:

EC: And even though it’s not the biggest comic convention, many would argue that San Diego Comic-Con is still the most important. Do you think that’s true? Why or why not? Continue reading “With Further Ado #158: Comic-Con Begins: Five-and-a-Half Questions with Mathew Klickstein”

With Further Ado #155: Back to Normal? Conventions and Movies Are a Go.

With Further Ado #155: Back to Normal? Conventions and Movies Are a Go.

Slowly, ever so cautiously, things are getting back to normal.  This was a big weekend for movies as Marvel’s Black Widow debuted in both theaters and on the Disney+ Streaming app.  Variety reported that this movie generated $80 million in the theaters domestically (far beyond any other post-pandemic release) and another $60 million via Disney Plus Premier Access, where you had to fork over another $30 bucks.

That worked well for my brothers and their families, who are vacationing together and created a fun shared experience.

I have no idea what that bodes for in-theater movies vs. seeing them on streamers.  I will say it was a bit odd to see an ad for an Amazon series (Tomorrow War)  before the Black Widow theatrical movie that my wife and I attended.

But all in all, it felt really good to be in a theater again. Even the annoying people in the theater weren’t really annoying – it was so pleasant to be enjoying a movie in a social setting again.

“It was good to be back in a theater, in the dark, with a crowd. It didn’t matter what the movie was,” said Steve Rotterdam of AfterShock Comics and Bonfire Agency. It seems likes that was the overall reaction to seeing movies in the theater.

Professor Larry Maslon of the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University made it back into the theater too:

So, in the summertime, our family decamps to a small town on the North Fork of Long Island that has only one movie theater.  Until the summer of 2020, of course, we saw all our summer movies there, and that means opening day of all the MCU movies.  Last week, I took my 13-year-old Miles and his pal to see the opening of Black Widow. Unlike our MCU excursions in New York City, where there are hundreds of fanboys in the debut audience, this weekend I was the only fanboy in a small audience of, say, 25 (and Miles, but only sort of because he’s more grown-up than I).  When the requisite MCU fan-service Easter egg joke appeared halfway through Black Widow (no spoilers–figure it out yourselves, it’s a heck of a reference), I shrieked with laughter. 

After the movie, Miles was furious with me:  “Dad, you always do that at a Marvel movie–you’re the only one laughing at these in-jokes.  It’s so embarrassing.” 

“Yes,” I replied, “But you only noticed because we just started going back to the movies.”

Back to the CONS?

It was a busy weekend for me, as I also attended my first live comic con in forever too. Ken Wheaton, a comics pro who’s never lost his excitement for collecting, launched Rochester’s newest comic convention, The Empire Comic Fest.  Upstate New York has a rich history of wonderful cons, and there was definitely an impatience to get things going again.

Emil Novak of Buffalo is holding a convention there next Sunday, and long-time “Convention Maestro” Teddy Hanes has several conventions on the calendar too.

It was refreshing to be back at a convention.  This one was focused on back issues, with dealers selling high value books.  A strong retailer from Buffalo, Dave and Adams, also exhibited, and it was encouraging to see and hear their enthusiasm.

I found a few treasures there – two Big Little Books (I’ve been looking for that Space Ghost one for years and years) and on issue of DC’s Korak, Son of Tarzan. I do believe this issue is a bit of a landmark and I’m eager to write about it next week.

As you can see from the photos, a good time was had by all. And isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be at a local comic convention?

 


 

 

 

With Further Ado #154:  En Garde!

With Further Ado #154: En Garde!

 When I was in a college freshman, it was mandated we take two gym classes.  I wanted to try something I had never tried before, so I signed up for fencing.  There was an Olympic fencer from my hometown who was a bit of a local celebrity, but the real reason I was interested in fencing was because I loved movie swordfights.

As a freshman in that class, we learned the basics for the first four weeks.  We studied and practiced lunges and parries and all that stuff.  Soon it was time to actually fence against another person.   Within seconds, I forgot everything I had been learning and it all reverted to any other backyard swordfight.  I relied 100%  on those summer days when my brother and I would swish sticks in the backyard and say things like “ah-hah!”   Needless to say, I was not invited onto the fencing team.

But… in the spirit of those summer swordfights, let’s review some comics!

The Fox So Cunning and Free

American Mythology is a new publisher, just celebrating its 5th anniversary. One of the licenses they have acquired is Zorro, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary.

The Mark of Zorro : 100 Years of the Masked Avenger is an impressive coffee table book celebrating this long-lived hero’s many incarnations.  James Kuhoric and Jason Ullmeyer have assembled a collection of amazing images from every Zorro adventure – all the books, pulps, movies, cartoons and comics. It’s heavy on imagery and light on text, so it is a quintessential ‘flip through” book.

Comics creators Matt Wagner and the legendary Don McGregor (who created my favorite version of Zorro) supply the introduction and forward respectively to make the proceedings all the more special.

D’Artagnan Returns

Seven Swords is a new comic series from another “new” publisher, AfterShock Comics. They’ve been putting out so many titles they don’t seem new anymore to me, though. Seven Swords is written by Revan Daughtery and the art is provided by Riccardo Latina.  This new series focuses on a middle aged D’Artagnan, who you will remember from Dumas’ classic The Three Musketeers. In this story, however, the Three Musketeers are offstage, and D’Artagnan seeks to avenge them by recruiting a new team . He goes all-in Magnificent Seven style.

Latina, an Italian artist who is new to me, employs a classic style that suits the material, but he leverages a sense of dynamic movement, so it never looks dated.

A Look Back at an Invincible Sword

Recently, Back Issue Magazine shined the spotlight on Conan, the Barbarian. One of the articles reviewed all the ‘other’ barbarian characters from the Bronze Age, and I was fascinated by Dagar, the Invincible.  A Gold Key/Western “Sword and Sandals” character, Dagar was created by Don Glut and Jesse Santos. Wonderful painted covers graced each issue, many may have been painted by George Wilson. I would have ignored this series as a kid, but lately I have I been scouring back issue bargain boxes for it.  Glut is an imaginative and clever writer, and able to pack so much into one-and-done single story issues.

Santos, part of the wave of brilliant Filipino artists who illustrated 70s comics, is simply fantastic.

The layouts, anatomy and inking are all inspiring.  All of Santo’s barbarian women look like they walked off the set of a 1969 Hollywood movie, but that’s not so bad.

Of note if you want to join me in the noble quest of collecting Dagar:  he didn’t really have his own title. It was officially Tales of Swords and Sorcery featuring Dagar the Invincible.


“Don’t leave home without your sword- your intellect.”

-Alan Moore

With Further Ado #150: The Prescience of Superman

With Further Ado #150: The Prescience of Superman

Last week I presented my interview with Roy Schwartz about his new book Is Superman Circumcised? The Complete Jewish History of the World’s Greatest Hero. This time around, let’s take another look at Superman, albeit in a decidedly batshit crazy way.

Rescued from the Bargain Box

Recently, I rescued a copy of Superman #184 from the bargain box at Ravenwood in Utica, NY.  This comic, originally from February 1966, sports a cover by Superman stalwarts Curt Swan, George Klein and Ira Schnapp.  Or at least ¾ of the cover. I love three-quarter-covers, although this mutilation renders it a pariah by many collectors. We used to see more of these ripped covers in the old days. Before the direct market was established, retailers would be required to send back their unsold comics for credit. After a while, that proved to be too cumbersome, so the practice of sending back only the cover, or only the top logo from the cover, was adopted.  The leftover comics were often not destroyed and instead illegally resold at a discount. Continue reading “With Further Ado #150: The Prescience of Superman”

With Further Ado #145: Guest Column Winner “Men Direct Feminist Films Too”

With Further Ado #145: Guest Column Winner “Men Direct Feminist Films Too”

We have made it to the final installment of the Ithaca College Writing Assignment awards. The students in the class that helps run Ithacon were tasked to submit a guest column entry for this space and we have a winner. You can see the previous runners up on this site from the past two weeks here and here.

The winner is Caleigh Clarke who took on a pop culture accepted opinion and challenged it. What really set her over the top is that not only did she take issue with prevalent take on movie making, she presented an alternative example of what she was looking for from feminism in pop culture movies.

Men Direct Feminist Films Too

By Caleigh Clarke

When I think of female-directed films with a superheroine, Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman comes to mind. It is the first of its kind, with Captain Marvel and Black Widow following and trying to erase the previous sexist works of Catwoman and Elektra. It follows Diana Prince, an Amazonian goddess, as she joins American spy, Steve Trevor, to fight in World War I as she believes it is a result of the Greek god of war, Ares.

This movie was definitely marketplace feminism. They wanted to appeal to the little girls who would go on to buy the lunchboxes, t-shirts, and costumes after watching the movie, like with most superhero films. However, does this have to be the case in our modern world saturated with superheroes? Are superheroines just there to be a “look, feminism” moment? Or are executives starting to break the mold?

I thought of comparing Wonder Woman to a superhero film that I personally loved and was critically praised- Black Panther . Released just one year after Wonder Woman , the movie follows the titular character who is crowned king of Wakanda after his father’s death, but is challenged by a man who seeks to use the country’s resources for a world revolution. Written and directed by Ryan Coogler, Black Panther is filled by many women, mainly Nakia, Shuri, Okoye, and Ramonda. These female characters are integral to the story and success of T’Challa. Nakia is not merely his love interest. She holds a lot of agency. Her goal is not to become queen of Wakanda, but rather convince T’Challa to reveal Wakanda as a country and open its gates to help people with their advanced technology. She is also a spy fighting for enslaved women, she is expertly trained which we see in her first appearance on the screen. Continue reading “With Further Ado #145: Guest Column Winner “Men Direct Feminist Films Too””

With Further Ado #115: Overstreet and the Hero Initiative

With Further Ado #115: Overstreet and the Hero Initiative

I’ve often said that The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide is more than just a much-anticipated book release with a bunch of back issue prices. It’s really an annual book release wrapped up as a pop culture celebration. Every year, collectors look forward to the new edition and opine on which cover – Gemstone Publishing releases many cover options each year – is their favorite.

But there’s another tradition within this tradition- a special charitable tradition that’s been going on for a decade. I caught up with Gemstone’s J.C. Vaughn, Gemstone’s V.P. of Publishing, to get the skinny!


 EC: Can you explain to me exactly what these Hero Initiative Editions are and how they work?

 JCV: Each year, beginning with The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide #40 in 2010, we produce a limited, hardcover-only edition of 500 copies of the Guide exclusively for the Hero Initiative, always with covers by top artists. Hero and their affiliates are the only source for these books. Gemstone Publishing does not sell them, and as a matter of fact, we don’t take a penny for them, and neither do our printers. All of the proceeds go to the Hero Initiative. Continue reading “With Further Ado #115: Overstreet and the Hero Initiative”

With Further Ado #105: Sharing SDCC’s Secret Traditions

With Further Ado #105: Sharing SDCC’s Secret Traditions

The San Diego Comic-Con is many things to many people.  For the business community, it’s an incredible commerce success story.  For fans and collectors, it’s both a celebration and a validation.   For entrepreneurs, it can be an enjoyable way to drive revenue quickly. For the entertainment community, it’s a fantastic marketing venue. For the entertainment community in Los Angeles and Hollywood, it’s also a great excuse to get outta town.

And for so many folks, professionals and fans alike, it’s an opportunity to spend time with 200,000+ of your closest friends.  It’s an annual journey to a real-life Disney World, mixed with a hefty dose of your best days on a college campus and the most incredible state fair ever, where the main dish on the menu is “all the stuff you love.”

This year, as the nation and the world struggles with Covid-19, the folks behind the convention shifted gears quickly to morph the show into a virtual convention. We’ll all be analyzing that for a while, but one refrain I heard time and time again was not so much how folks missed the big events, but how they missed the little things.

I reached out to a group of fascinating folks and asked them to share some of their more personal stories and traditions from their annual pilgrimage to San Diego Comic-Con and the little things they miss this year.

* * *

Rob Salkowitz is the author of Comic-Con and the Business of Geek Culture  (I use this as a textbook for one of my college classes)  a consultant  and a sayer of things. He wistfully remembers one tradition he and his wife Eunice especially hold dear:

Our oldest and longest running SDCC tradition is the Tuesday night dinner we instituted with Batton Lash and Jackie Estrada back in 2000, maybe earlier. We were fans with no industry connections whatsoever. They befriended us, introduced us to pros, made us formally part of the Eisner Award staff and brought us into the circle of Comic-Con. After we lost Batton a couple of years ago we continued with Jackie. We really miss seeing her in person this year.

Continue reading “With Further Ado #105: Sharing SDCC’s Secret Traditions”

With Further Ado #103: Ray Bradbury & The Fan Who Came In Late

With Further Ado #103: Ray Bradbury & The Fan Who Came In Late

It’s a big year for Ray Bradbury. Fans of this incredible author are celebrating his centennial.  Later this month, in fact, San Diego Comic-Con will feature him on the cover of their Souvenir Book* with a gorgeous William Stout illustration.  It’s appropriate as Bradbury was a frequent guest and attendee of Comic-Con. (And artist Will Stout is one of the few people who has attended every San Diego Comic-Con.)

During this centennial, the prolific author, Bradbury, is very much on the mind of an industrious fan named David Ritter.  Ritter kind of joined the party late, he admits. He started getting serious about Bradbury when he turned fifty, although he read E.E. “Doc” Smith and H.P. Lovecraft growing up.

But now, he’s making up for lost time, and he’s working hard on the First Fandom Experience. Here’s how David officially describes the effort: Continue reading “With Further Ado #103: Ray Bradbury & The Fan Who Came In Late”