Author: Mike Gold

Brainiac On Banjo #061: Charlton Comics Goes To War!!

Brainiac On Banjo #061: Charlton Comics Goes To War!!

The Unknown Anti-War Comics!, by Steve Ditko, Ross Andru, Joe Gill, Denny O’Neil, Pat Boyette and others, edited by Craig Yoe • Yoe Books!-IDW • $29.95, 226 pages

Back when the three of us were laboring over at the DC Comics factory, I was blessed with having my office between those of Denny O’Neil and Archie Goodwin, two of the finest comics practitioners in American history. If they were to be branded A-listers, we would need to invent a new first letter for our alphabet. I’m going to start with Archie, but don’t worry. Denny comes into this story later.

Back around 1992 and 1993, Archie and I started frequenting a swell midtown restaurant where New York Times executives often brought advertising clients. Remember, this was about 16 years before Robert Downey Jr. and Jon Favreau put our beloved medium on the legit. Usually, our passionate conversations revolved around two subjects: frighteningly radical politics, and comic books; particularly EC Comics. To the chagrin of the over-wrought suits sitting within eavesdropping distance, we would conflate the two.

Of all of Archie’s massive achievements as a writer and an editor, my personal favorite is the four-issue run of Blazing Combat, the black-and-white war comic published by Jim Warren with the Frazetta covers and interiors drawn by Alex Toth, John Severin, Reed Crandall, Joe Orlando, Gene Colan, Wally Wood… you get the point. The series was influenced by Harvey Kurtzman’s Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat for EC Comics, and all the above-mentioned artists had drawn stories for Kurtzman. Archie was too young to have written for them, but he was a member of the EC Fan-Addict Club (fan-addict > fanatic, get it?). Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #061: Charlton Comics Goes To War!!”

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #065: Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #065: Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss

I’ll move myself and my family aside / If we happen to be left half alive / I’ll get all my papers and smile at the sky / For I know that the hypnotized never lie / DO YA? – Pete Townshend, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”

Why are we doing this? Well, I believe there is one very good reason.

The impeachment process formally started yesterday. Over the next couple weeks, a slew of highly respectable and well-credentialed witnesses will put their life savings, their careers and their family’s safety on the line in the esteemed names of truth and patriotism. The professional ass-lickers will call them a bunch of names and give shade to snark. Um tut sut.

When all is said and done, what will happen next will be what we all knew would happen. The House, under near-exclusive party line votes, will vote to impeach the traitor in the White House. Then the Senate, under near-exclusive party line votes, will vote to acquit. There’s no “vote to exonerate” option, so nobody on either side will get to score a rhetorical victory – although, unfortunately, that won’t stop anyone from proselytizing. Continue reading “Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #065: Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss”

Brainiac On Banjo #060: Crisis? Make Room! Make Room!

Brainiac On Banjo #060: Crisis? Make Room! Make Room!

Too many people going underground / Too many reaching for a piece of cake / Too many people pulled and pushed around / Too many waiting for that lucky break – Paul McCartney, “Too Many People”

OK, superhero television fans. Take your gloves and socks off, there’s math on this test.

Which project has more superheroes – Avengers: Endgame or next month’s Crisis on Infinite Earths?

Sorry; I’m being a prick. That was a trick question. We won’t know for a bit because the Crisis announcements are still barreling down the pike. It appears that some or maybe all the cast members of the Titans program on the DC Universe streamer will be deployed in the big caped clusterfuck. And, hey, go figure, the second season of Doom Patrol starts filming this week. It’s alleged they will be doing a fly-by as well. Yow! I wonder if Stargirl will be getting some love here.

Hell, this might be the first major DC event in decades that doesn’t include the Joker – or at least a Joker; it’s so hard tell them apart. Is it time for Mark Hamill to match his face with his voice? I’m not excluding the possibility. Maybe Harley will drop by. One of them, at least. Maybe all of them, who knows?

And will John Diggle become the next Green Lantern? That show goes up on the new HBO streamer next year or so. Or maybe John is the Green Lantern of Earth-90. This was teased before, when The Flash of that Earth, played (of course) by John Wesley Shipp, said to Diggle “Hello, John. You’re not wearing your ring… Things must be different here.”

Crisis On Infinite Earths – The TV Event certainly is shaping up to be quite a mammoth production… but, of course, not all “events” are worth following. We shall see, and I strongly suspect a whole lot of us will see. I also suspect this will be an all-or-nothing thing: it will either be very good and characters will not be tripping over one another (think Avengers: Endgame), or it will be one 270 minute mess with a bunch of long, mournful death scenes. Having actually met “people,” I strongly believe some will love it, some will hate it, and those who worked on it will simply be glad it’s over.

If Crisis With Infinite Costumes is as successful as DC-WB-CW wants it to be, history tells us there will be many more such “Crisises” to come. In addition to resurrecting one or two of the corpses from this one, who could they add to surprise us next time around? Space Ghost? Jonny Quest? Norville Rogers? That’s technically possible, you know. Keith Giffen could work that one out with ease.

Or maybe the Big Bad will be Mister Mxyzptlk. If he’s not too busy writing the thing.

The author would like to thank noted writer/artist Harry Harrison for the title to this here column. And maybe Edward G. Robinson as well.

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #064: A Priest, a Rabbi and a Minister…

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #064: A Priest, a Rabbi and a Minister…

This week’s off-off year election continues the trend that started a couple minutes after it became clear that the Electoral College was going to appoint the Great Orange Liar to the presidency. This quaint little anti-democratic system of ours has been kept in place for the past 154 years because some of the people who live in the Confederate States think they might have a shot at bringing back slavery, this time confiscating Hispanic and Muslim lives to fight it out with the Africans for the last bit of stale, moldy bread that once was America.

But it appears the worm might be turning, at least just a bit. 154 years ago, Virginia was home to the Confederacy’s seat of power. This week Virginia became as blue a state as Massachusetts with the governor’s mansion, the state House of Delegates and the state Senate all in the hands of the demon Democrats… which the Trumpublicans in both America and in Russia have defined as a bunch of commies. Both of their Senators are Democrats, as are seven of their 11 Congresspeople. Virginia is so blue now that even dogs can see it shine. Continue reading “Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #064: A Priest, a Rabbi and a Minister…”

Brainiac On Banjo #059: Four-Color Audio!

Brainiac On Banjo #059: Four-Color Audio!

In certain circles, I am known as a radio drama fanatic… and, of course, in certain pentagrams as well. Not just the old stuff whose echoes faded as television became a thing, but the new efforts as well. Even more so.

Full-cast audio means exactly what it’s labelled. Gather up a bunch of perfectly-selected actors, give them a well-written script, an awesome array of appropriate sound effects, a digital recording facility with more computing power than the Mars Rover, a director to beat the band and a producer whose pen ever runs out of ink, and together they tell fantastic stories into the microphones.

The listener provides the visuals. As such, the crew is ripping your sense of wonder out of your very soul and encouraging you to paint all those pictures within the comfort of your very own brainpan. As such, this is a perfect medium in which to grow heroic fantasy. Here, all the work percolates in your head and you become such a vital part of the production team that, really, you should ask for royalties. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #059: Four-Color Audio!”

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #063: Presidential Mathematics

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #063: Presidential Mathematics

Another day, another moral dilemma.

Soon, our Senators will be asked to vote on the fate of the current occupant of the White House. According to FiveThirtyEight.com as of October 14, 50.3% would like to see Trump removed, as opposed to 43.8% who want to see Trump stay in office. These number are somewhat volatile depending upon the day’s news, but the removal-to-remain arrow has pointing towards the exit sign since September 29.

America is not a democracy; it is a republic. We elect people to represent us by voting their conscience, but many of us are not stupid enough to expect they will. Those who think this man has been dangerous to the health and security of our nation would like to see him gone as soon as possible. Those who would like to see our government undue that damage want to see the Democratic party take the House, the Senate and the White House next November. These two are not necessarily compatible. Continue reading “Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #063: Presidential Mathematics”

Brainiac On Banjo #058: The Writer That Devoured Cleveland!

“Kick ’em when they’re up / Kick ’em when they’re down / Kick ’em when they’re stiff / Kick ’em all around.”

-Don Henley and Danny Kortchmar, Dirty Laundry

Popular culture is a living thing. It grows like amoebas on Viagra, constantly mutating into new life forms. This gives us an endless supply of new things and new people who create new things. Some of those folks last, others wish they didn’t take out that seven figure mortgage.

Brian Bendis was one of those new forces. He’s defied the odds — to say the least — by being on the comic writer’s A-list for, well, damn, over two decades. That’s quite a feat; but the fact that a dozen newer writers subsequently have joined that same A-list without pushing him off is nothing short of remarkable. He started out with the “independents,” went to Marvel, earned his way into getting screen credit for about a million movies and television shows while creating all sorts of cool characters, and then left the House of Mouse for Kryptonian pastures.

Anybody who can jilt Mickey like that deserves a guest shot on South Park.

I thought he had a slow start on the Man of Steel, but instead of annoying me (which is very easy to do), I was fascinated. He was taking risks and stepping on Superman’s cape — declining to adapt to overworked standards while working with the flow to scrape the barnacles off Superman. Watching that has been an interesting experience. Last week it all come together for this jaded reader.

Action Comics #1016 (whole number, 1016) is all about Superman’s losing his battle with a fairly new villain, the Red Cloud – not to be confused with either of the Red Tornadoes. The Daily Planet’s reporter / gossip columnist Trish Q is on the story, canvassing the neighborhood and interviewing those who saw the conflict. This is and of itself is pretty cool – as far as I can tell, the Daily Planet invented newsroom cutbacks 60 years ago by limiting Perry White’s on-panel staff to Clark Kent, Lois Lane, maybe Jimmy Olsen (who may or may not be the staff photographer who may or may not write stuff), and occasionally Steve Lombard and Cat Grant. Of course, lately Lois has been hiding in a very expensive Chicago hotel, doubtlessly searching for the world’s best Italian beef sammich like the rest of us. Trish is a very interesting character, and I hope she sticks around.

About two-thirds of the story is told through the comments made by Trish’s interview subjects. There’s nothing new about this storytelling technique, and it makes good use of Bendis’s gift for expository dialogue. But it is out-of-the-ordinary to tell the story of Superman’s defeat in battle in such a manner; writers usually focus on the flow of action with dramatic close-ups of the hero’s face being beaten to a pulp. In his “telling-through-interview” style, Brian is showing us the faith the citizenry has in the Man of Steel while avoiding the limp, overworked cliché of the masses turning on their champion for failing to defeat every evil that is foisted upon them.

In other words, this is a story about faith. It’s somewhat subtle, but faith is a subtle thing.

Bendis introduces his creation Naomi to the Justice League, creating another opportunity for him to play a bit with the world’s most psychotic costumed family jewel, the ubiquitous Batman. In the real world, such as it is, Bruce Wayne would be shackled to a wall in Arkham Asylum. In Bendis’s world, Batman is fleshed out a bit around the edges, giving purpose (legitimate or not) to his massive assholery. I’d read the story for this alone.

Much praise has been heaped on Brian Bendis over the past decades, and that, of course, makes him target for terminally obese trolls who dirty their own laundry. That’s how fame works. But if you think this guy didn’t earn his chops or that he’s past his prime, check out Action Comics #1016.

Special thanks to M.G. Krebs for the title to this week’s masterpiece. Brian Michael Bendis, like Jerry Siegel before him, is from Cleveland. To the best of my knowledge, neither are monsters… in the classical sense.

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #062: Cow Belches

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #062: Cow Belches

I love digging out under-reported facts that go against the grain of common wisdom. It’s the demonstration mode of the old axiom “Live and Learn.”

For example, it is common wisdom that one of the more serious contributing factors to global warming is cow farts. Yes, I said “farts.” Get over it. Of course, the people who most like to perpetuate this wonderful myth – outside of the vegan Morlocks – are people beholden to the energy industry. They don’t want you to cut back on gasoline consumption or get into renewable fuel sources. They don’t want you to maintain the anti-pollution standards that have brought massive reductions in air crap. You know, the very standards that our current president and his fellow Trumpublicans abolished, killing tens of thousands of people each year. Continue reading “Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #062: Cow Belches”

Brainiac On Banjo #057: Create A Better Universe

Brainiac On Banjo #057: Create A Better Universe

You might have missed it – there’s a lot going on these days that sucks all the oxygen out of every room – but we celebrated National Coming Out Day on October 11th. You might have missed this as well: this was the 31st anniversary of the event.

That last bit surprised me, but my personal relationship with the time/space continuum always has been a bit iffy. A quick run through Wiki showed me NCOD is also observed in Ireland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. It remains slightly controversial, both within the LGBTQ communities and without. That’s because every political activity is controversial, and that’s not entirely bad. Occasionally, people of differing opinions raise some interesting and useful points. Nothing ever pops out of the brainpan fully formed.

This year, our friends at Archie Comics joined in the effort. This is not a surprise: Archie long has been platforming educational issues, and, of course, writer/artist Dan Parent – heir to the Bob Montana chair of outstanding Archie talent – is the creator of Kevin Keller, the first openly gay character in the Archie Universe. That was a big deal in 2010, and it remains a big deal today. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #057: Create A Better Universe”

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #061: ENOUGH!

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #061: ENOUGH!

To the best of my recollection, the first time I was embarrassed to be an American was about 40 years ago. There was a severe drought going on in California, and one of their officials proposed we build a pipeline from the Great Lakes to help them out.

Forgot about how Californians would have been reduced to cinders long before such a pipeline could be built and put into service. The United States does not own our vast Inter-Ocean. All that fresh water borders on Canada as well as the States, and much of their population lives within about 20 miles of the live-giving wetness. Even a fairly slight drop in the water level would wreak havoc with the people and the economies of, among other places, Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, and Windsor.

It would severely undermine navigation, traumatize and end navigation on the St. Lawrence Seaway. By the way, it would have a similar effect on the people of, among other places, Detroit, Duluth, Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Erie. If you’re unfamiliar with the map — yes, I’m talking to you, my fellow New Yorkers — check it out. The Great Lakes are directly linked to the Mississippi River, part of a network that includes, oh, the Ohio River, the Missouri River, and much of Mark Twain’s work. Continue reading “Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #061: ENOUGH!”