With Further Ado #041: Making Comic Cons Look (Big) Easy

With Further Ado #041: Making Comic Cons Look (Big) Easy

Just about every year, I spend a week in Louisiana.  Sometimes I get over to New Orleans, but most of the time I’m with old friends in New Iberia parish.  My pals are folks like Dave Robicheaux, his daughter Alafair and his best friend Clete Purcell. They are good people, but boy, do they get into a lot of trouble.

My visits are facilitated by author James Lee Burke, and he’s been writing about these characters for years.  He’s prolific and his novels never disappoint. Have you read a James Lee Burke story yet? Ostensibly they are thrillers. He’s superb at ratcheting up the suspense each and every time.  Beyond that, Burke also has a way to peer into humanity’s soul and wrap it all up in poetic prose. His brilliant writing is achingly beautiful.

I just finished the second most recent one, called Robicheaux. His newest, which I should read soon, is called New Iberia Blues. Burke also writes other books outside of this series, and I’ve been enthralled by them too.  I’d strongly suggest you give them a try.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #041: Making Comic Cons Look (Big) Easy”

With Further Ado #040: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Victory Lap or Too Much of a Fan?

With Further Ado #040: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Victory Lap or Too Much of a Fan?

It’s an amazing time to be a comic fan. The latest Marvel movie, Avengers: Endgame, shattered box office records, earning $350 million domestically and $1.2 billion worldwide…in the first weekend of release. Everybody’s happy: movie goers, theater owners, Disney stockholders.  There’s a heaping amount of fan validation packed into it all. This incredible box office debut, combined with positive reviews, afford longtime fans the opportunity to say to the world at large, “See? I told this stuff is great!” 

But a funny thing happened on the way to the victory lap.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #040: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Victory Lap or Too Much of a Fan?”

With Further Ado #039: Look! Up in the Newspaper – A Super Interview with Sid Friedfertig

With Further Ado #039: Look! Up in the Newspaper – A Super Interview with Sid Friedfertig

The irony of a reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper appearing in the funny pages of a great metropolitan newspapers, and quite a few rural newspapers, is not lost on me.

Superman in comics, in the movies, on TV or the in the newspaper inspires the best in us. I had the pleasure of catching up with entrepreneur and super-fan, Sid Friedfertig, at the 44th annual Ithacon and it was a such a treat. He’s a guy with great passion inspired by Superman.  Through his Herculean efforts (or should I say “Kryptonian efforts”?) , fans can enjoy so many lost Superman adventures – and rediscover old adventures in longer stories with better, but still vintage, art!  “What is this?”, you say?  Well, read on and enjoy my chat with Sid Friedfertig:

Ed Catto: Can you tell me why you are such a Superman fan, and why do you feel Superman is so enduring? 

Sid Friedfertig: Superman endures because he is unique. With every other costumed hero the plots must be crafted so the hero’s ability is able to counter the menace facing him. Superman is the reverse, he is the All-Good, the ideal. To me that makes him more interesting.

EC:   How did you get hooked on the Silver Age Superman, and how did you develop such an interest in the Superman Newspaper Strips?

SF:  I grew up reading the Silver Age Superman comic books, which featured covers mostly drawn by Curt Swan, while at the same time watching the Adventures of Superman TV series. George Reeves was Swan’s Clark Kent come to life. Sometimes though, the story inside the comics was drawn by another artist. I wanted to see Swan’s artwork that went with those glorious covers. Later I realized that Swan had drawn those same stories for the Superman newspaper strip. Here were the stories that went with those covers, and I decided that I was going to find all of them.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #039: Look! Up in the Newspaper – A Super Interview with Sid Friedfertig”

With Further Ado #038: Planet of the Nerds from Ahoy Comics

With Further Ado #038: Planet of the Nerds from Ahoy Comics

I’m not sure why I’m generally not eager for 80s nostalgia. “I lived through it once,” I’ll jokingly say. But I had so much fun that decade. A lot of fun – that was a fantastic time for me in so many ways.  But generally, 80s nostalgia seems too kitschy for me.

But… that was before I read AHOY Comic’s newest series, Planet of the Nerds. It’s a fun fish out-of-water story with a great premise: What if 80s jocks were put into today’s world, where Nerd culture is so dominant?   Continue reading “With Further Ado #038: Planet of the Nerds from Ahoy Comics”

With Further Ado #037: Stepping into the Twilight Zone with Nick Parisi

With Further Ado #037: Stepping into the Twilight Zone with Nick Parisi

In one of those summers of my youth, my buddies and I would always wrap up our nightly mischief so that we could get home in time to watch The Twilight Zone reruns at 11 pm. The next day, my buddy David Locastro and I would eagerly ask one another, “Did you see that one last night?”  With our utmost fanboy authority, we’d begin to dissect the most recent episode.

Fast forward to late March when the 44th Annual Ithacon hosted Twilight Zone expert and Serling aficionado Nick Parisi. His recent book, Serling, His Life, Work and Imagination is a fascinating and engaging work. As Rod Serling was a professor at Ithaca College and Ithacon was exhibiting treasures from the Serling Archives this year, it made perfect sense to invite Parisi as a guest.

The show was great fun but, as all shows are, it was also a blur of activities. So, it was after Ithacon that I caught up with Nick to speak more about this book.

Ed Catto: So many of us grew up with The Twilight Zone and we all have our stories.  For me, I have fond memories of watching it on WPIX out of New York City. What was your interaction and how did you become so much of fan that you’re now an author and expert?

Nick Parisi: Ed, I have similar memories of WPIX. I started watching TZ on WPIX when I was nine or ten years old and I still remember the nightly schedule: The Odd Couple at 11, The Honeymooners at 11:30, Star Trek at midnight, and The Twilight Zone at 1 am. I would do my best to stay awake and I would usually make it! The show mesmerized me pretty much immediately and I became a fanatic for it pretty quickly. Then Marc Zicree’s Twilight Zone Companion came out and it kicked my fanaticism into another gear. That was a truly revolutionary book.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #037: Stepping into the Twilight Zone with Nick Parisi”

With Further Ado #036: Watching the Detectives

With Further Ado #036: Watching the Detectives

Detective Comics just hit an amazing milestone. This series just published its 1,000th issue.  Pretty impressive?  There’s been a lot of buzz about it.  But  to me, there’s another thing going on: the celebration of oversized issues of Detective Comics.

For “fans of a certain age”, the old 80 Page Giants hold a special place in our hearts. Before old comics were regularly reprinted and repackaged into real books -like today- we thought this was the closest we were ever getting to bookshelf-worthy collections.   Each one had so many stories, and even though the price tag was hefty (“Hey, who has an extra quarter just lying around?”, we would think), every 80 Page Giant was worth it.

Technically, though, there was never an 80 Page Giant for Detective Comics back in the day. The Batman series had a few (and yes, several were annuals), but Detective Comics per se never did.

Then in the 70s 100 Page Super Spectaculars burst onto the scene. They started focusing on DC’s top characters, but soon became a format for certain titles, like Justice League of America, Batman and, you guessed it, Detective Comics.

The changeover for Detective Comics – bulking up to these glorious 100 pagers, came during a magical time for the series.  The Batman stories were top-notch, but there was this quirky new back-up series included. It was called Manhunter. 

Manhunter was a character name that DC had used in the past.  This was an innovative reboot by a fantastic writer, Archie Goodwin, and a young writer, Walter Simonson.

IDW’s Scott Dunbier has claimed the title of #1 Manhunter Fan, but I think I’m a close second. When this series started, it seared my eyeballs and exploded my brain. If there was a word that means “wow times a thousand”, I’d have used it to describe Manhunter.

Manhunter was an adventure strip, but as Walter Simonson recently described at his ITHACON panel, the idea was to create a counterbalance to Batman.  Manhunter was everything that Batman was not.  Batman focused on domestic adventures in Gotham City, Manhunter globetrotted to exotic locales. Batman was dark and moody, Manhunter embraced a bright and garish look. Batman, other than the occasional batarang, eschewed weapons, while Manhunter was a weapons master.

At ITHACON, Walter Simonson described how he worked hard in his early days not to be pigeonholed as a “science fiction artist”. When assigned a short period piece, a story about the Alamo, he eagerly accepted it. He then thoroughly researched each setting for every panel.  His hard word was noticed, so much so that when it came time to pick an artist for the international Manhunter strip, he was approached. Manhunter was a such an impressive success at the time that soon every editor knew his brilliant work.

Last Wednesday, DC released Detective Comics #1000;  jam-packed with the work of outstanding creators.  Reportedly, comic shop retailers did well with selling this milestone comic.

But over in the Wal*Mart, there was another Bat-Surprise waiting for Detective Comics fans.  As part of DC’s 100 Page Comic Giant series, Detective Comics finally got another chance to shine with the 100 Page treatment. More than that – ‘tec (as we used to call the title) even got its own cardboard display case!

Unlike most of the Wal*Mart DC comics, which usually reprint more recent stories, this one dug deep into Detective Comics’ rich history offering the first adventures of Batman, Robin and Batgirl. There are a few wonderful surprises, including two of my favorite Detective stories, both with gorgeous Dick Giordano art.  Trivia fans will note these adventures showcase the first appearances of two regular characters on the Gotham TV show – Leslie Thompson and Barbara Kean.

Happy 1,000th Birthday, Detective Comics! Thanks for all the fun.

With Further Ado #035: Same Bat-Time

With Further Ado #035: Same Bat-Time

Jim Beard is a passionate and industrious writer who has a new project in the works called SAME BAT-TIME, SAME BAT-CHANNEL.  It’s a collection of essays focusing on the first season of the 1966 BATMAN television show.  Contributors include folks like Will Murray, Robert Greenberger, Paul Kupperberg, Keith DiCandido and more. I’m also involved with this project, but I wanted to get the big picture from Mr. Beard.

Ed Catto: This sounds like such an amazing project, Jim, can you tell me the genesis of it?

Jim Beard: It’s a way to “get the band back together” from GOTHAM CITY 14 MILES, but without repeating the same setlist. I want to keep the chat going about the show, but in a different way, which led me to hit upon the idea of episode reviews with the GC14M set-up of a group of writers tackling an entire season.

EC: You seem to write so much, both fiction and comic-based articles. You sure seem busy. How have you fit it in?

JB: Well, some days very poorly! I seriously don’t know how I’ve ever finished any project, as scatterbrained and unorganized as I am, but somehow the spirit of the characters I write about lend me their strength and it all comes together.

EC: And I know you just started a podcast too. Can you tell me about that?

JB: Yes, it’s called the Comic Chaos Podcast and my co-host is Toledo, Ohio radio personality Fred LeFebvre. We’re talking about comics and pop culture and everything in-between, and as chaotically as possible. And we’re having fun, which is important.

EC: What has the past response to your bat-projects been like?

JB: For GOTHAM CITY 14 MILES? It’s been nearly ten years of warm welcome and many, many great conversations. For the new book, we haven’t even gotten warmed up yet!  Continue reading “With Further Ado #035: Same Bat-Time”

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”