Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #021: Steve King’s Not The Problem, by Mike Gold

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #021: Steve King’s Not The Problem, by Mike Gold

The headline states “Steve King’s Not The Problem.” He’s not. He is a problem, but not the problem.

Oh, sure, the Republican Party removed him from all his committees so, in effect, he can only wander the halls of Congress rattling chains like the Ghost of Racists Past. This is the Congressional equivalent of gelding, and in a democracy perhaps the punishment fits the crime. But off the top of my air-conditioned head, I can think of two bigger problems.  Continue reading “Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #021: Steve King’s Not The Problem, by Mike Gold”

Brainiac On Banjo #022: Life, Hope, and Funny Books, by Mike Gold

Brainiac On Banjo #022: Life, Hope, and Funny Books, by Mike Gold

Batton

I am reminded of a conversation I had with Batton Lash several years ago. We were at one of those massive comics conventions – after 51 years they now all blur together into one unending conflation of backpacks, unpassable aisles, and excessive body heat. As you may know, Batton died this weekend and our obituary speaks for itself.

That conversation probably started out with several insulting but vaguely clever comments and then went on to my trying to get him to do another Munden’s Bar story. That’s me as an editor on autopilot: I see great talent and I think of it as a piece of birthday cake. But there’s at least one difference between people and birthday cake – the former might engage me in conversation. And, of course, that’s one of the great pleasures of my job. I prefer the sugar buzz from conversation.

Harvey

Somehow our discussion evolved into my desire to do a contemporary funny book, by which I really mean “funny.” In a medium that calls itself “comic” but is largely full of violent conflict, I feel the need to be specific. Anyway, the challenge is to create a project worthy of the 21st century reader’s time but without any obvious nod to Harvey Kurtzman and Mad Comics.  Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #022: Life, Hope, and Funny Books, by Mike Gold”

Batton Lash, 1953 – 2019

Batton Lash, 1953 – 2019

Writer / artist Batton Lash died Saturday of complications from a “very aggressive” form of brain cancer. Whereas he was fighting the disease for several years, according to his widow Jackie Estrada it recurred two months ago.

A one-time assistant to Howard Chaykin, the Brooklyn native was a graduate of the School of Visual Arts, where he learned his craft from teachers that included Will Eisner and Harvey Kurtzman. He created Wolff & Byrd – Counselors of the Macabre in 1979 where it ran in The Brooklyn Paper as well as in The National Law Journal. From there Wolff & Byrd appeared in a wide variety of comics, including a rather stellar story in the Munden’s Bar feature in GrimJack (I’m not taking any credit here; the story was edited by the gifted Anina Bennett). Several years later, the series was published on its own as Supernatural Law by Exhibit A Press, an outfit established by Batton and Jackie.

Batton racked up quite a number of assignments, including The Big Book series from Paradox/DC Comics, the Eisner Award-winning Radioactive Man for Bongo (a Simpson’s spin-off title), and one of my personal favorites – the story is as good as the concept – Archie Meets The Punisher for Archie Comics. Recently, he produced The First Gentleman of the Apocalypse for David Lloyd’s Aces Weekly.

One of his classiest acts was having his studio, which he shared with artist Bob Smith, at the one-time home to EC Comics, 225 Lafayette Street. He racked up a sizable number of awards nominations and was the recipient of the 2009 Independent Book Publishers Association’s Benjamin Franklin Award for Graphic Novels.

Batton made no secret of his political views and worked with James D. Hudnall on an anti-Obama feature for Andrew Breitbart. He endured some criticism, and I should point out that he counted among his friends any number of left-leaning members of the comics community, as well as at least one outright radical.

Jackie, of course, was the long-time organization provocateur of the San Diego Comic-Con and past president of the Friends of Lulu. She will be continuing the publishing program at Exhibit A that she and her husband had established.

And, no, Batton was not a lawyer. He was one of the greats of the independent comic book field. His go-to attorney was Mitch Berger, a comics fan and a former member of DC’s legal team.

Memorials are being planned in both San Diego and New York City.

Batton was 65. He was one of the best.

– Mike Gold

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #020: Yeah. Just Another Brick, by Mike Gold

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #020: Yeah. Just Another Brick, by Mike Gold

Tuesday night His Petulance delivered an over-rehearsed message to America about the need to build his wall. This time it’s not only to halt the terrorists that haven’t been coming in on foot over the border, it’s also to halt the heroin traffic that the refugees haven’t been bringing into the United States.

For his effort, according to The Hollywood Reporter, he received a 28.1 household rating. This was according to the overnight numbers generated by ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CNN and Fox News – but not MSNBC. Conventional wisdom has it that MSNBC isn’t His Petulance’s best audience anyway.

His lies immediately were followed by a response from Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer. Broadcast-wise, neither would have done well in the Kennedy-Nixon Debate. Both looked very, very tired, as if to say “Crap, we’ve still got to be polite?”

Nonetheless, the Democratic Party rebuttal outperformed His Petulance, receiving a 29.3 overnight rating from these same venues. And conventional wisdom has it the uncounted MSNBC audience is more likely to be sympathetic to the Pelosi-Schumer less-than-Dynamic Duo.

Jeez. How many popular votes can the Donald lose before he realizes on his best day he’s an also-ran?  Continue reading “Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #020: Yeah. Just Another Brick, by Mike Gold”

Brainiac On Banjo #021: Raymond Loewy, Jony Ive, Bill Maher, and Stan Lee… by Mike Gold

Brainiac On Banjo #021: Raymond Loewy, Jony Ive, Bill Maher, and Stan Lee… by Mike Gold

Back when I was knee-high to a grasshopper, from time to time my friends and I would gather in the schoolyard and call out the makes, models and years of the cars driving by. You could do that back then, as damn near every car had its own identity, its own look and style. They were so distinctive that I think we could have ID’ed most of these cars by their silhouettes, as though we were World War II Civil Defense car spotters.

Between The Great War and The Great Vietnam Fiasco, the concept of “style” was critical to our culture. Movie theaters weren’t simply big rooms with white sparkly screens – many were cathedrals of film designed to inspire you to appreciate the entirely of the moviegoing experience. Drug stores had soda fountains that were overrun with chrome-plated art deco machinery. Designers unleashed mountains of energy defining the environment shared by four generations, led by the brilliant Raymond Loewy, who created the look of cars, refrigerators and other household appliances, furniture, corporate logos and packaging, and airplanes. In fact, he teamed-up with President John F. Kennedy in 1962 to design Air Force One.  Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #021: Raymond Loewy, Jony Ive, Bill Maher, and Stan Lee… by Mike Gold”

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #019: My Bed Is Getting Crowded, by Mike Gold

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #019: My Bed Is Getting Crowded, by Mike Gold

As I often say, the last two weeks of the year is the most boring time of the 52 weeks Pope Gregory XIII granted us. Nothing happens, and outside of maybe some parties there’s nothing much to do. Even with 666 teevee channels – plus streamers  – there’s nothing to watch. I’m amazed the birthrate doesn’t take a preposterous leap every Labor Day, and not simply to actualize the pun.

This void particularly annoys the 24-hour, broadcast, print, and ether news operations. Simply put, outside of a bunch of redundant and now-boring tweets, there’s no news to be dished out in Greater Newsland. Seeing as how the phrase “nature abhors a vacuum” has become a commercial dictum, the media need to surround their public service advertising and football promos with something and, really, making stuff up is harder to do than covering a flower show.

So we in the media (and, yes, this is part of the media – and so are you) do the next best thing: we direct our attention to the babblings of pundits who will pull predictions out of their asses and then make negative comments about those very utterances. Hypocrisy is just another word for short attention span.

This year, the theme is “look at how many Democrats are running for president!!!” Let’s ignore the fact that, technically, there are no announced candidates for the 2020 presidential ballot. Let’s also ignore the fact that the only race right now is for campaign contributions and the millions a candidate can raise from the Legion of Fatcats not only inures to their benefit but also keeps said loot out of the hands of their potential opponents. It’s that simple. Most polls put most likely candidates in single-digits, but that is meaningless. The potential candidate only wants to make his or her name recognizable to said fatcats. If these wannabes can’t raise enough money, they won’t declare their candidacy. Well, not without Vlad Putin’s help.

The waning weeks of 2018 also showed us the media think (without a uni-mind, contrary to the babblings of the professionally paranoid) America is fed up with the current Petulance-in-Chief so they consider these alternatives as saviors. Of course, as saviors none of these people can possibly measure up, and thus the media has something else to bitch about. As Don Henley sang before Mojo Nixon had him killed, “We can do ‘The Innuendo’ / We can dance and sing / When it’s said and done / We haven’t told you a thing.” So we’re grasping at straws – and, then, at straw polls.

Maybe there are something like two-dozen members of the Democratic Party who are dancing the Election Shuffle. In fact, I think that number is but a fraction of those who are really thinking it over. What of it? Is this news? Is this a surprise? Is this… anything?

No. It is not. The first primaries are in a bit over a year – the Iowa Caucuses are set for February 3 2020, there will be at least three more that month that month, and Super-Tuesday is set for March 3rd. That will involve interested voters in Alabama, California, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.  Continue reading “Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #019: My Bed Is Getting Crowded, by Mike Gold”

Brainiac On Banjo #020: Lee and Ditko – Thank You, by Mike Gold

Brainiac On Banjo #020: Lee and Ditko – Thank You, by Mike Gold

It appears today is the last day of the year. That’s just a construct, but it does support the weight of tradition. There’s a lot of Top 10 lists during this terminal week – they’re easy to write, evidently popular, and pretty much bullshit. Yes, I’ve written a few but, really, if you start your list with, say, April and end with the following March and you’ll have a different list. If you disagree with me – and how dare you! – think of all the movies that didn’t win Oscars that probably would have had they been released the preceding or succeeding year.

Yeah, I’m still pissed Bill Murray didn’t win for Lost In Translation.

Another tradition is to list the top stories of the year. This has a bit more value, although I prefer the “top underreported stories of the year” features because I might learn something. I suspect that, when it comes to the amazing world of everybody’s comics, two of the stories that made a whole lot of lists (aside from Bill Maher’s) are the deaths of Steve Ditko and Stan Lee. So I’m going to conflate them.

Together, if not for Stan and Steve I’d be writing about Trump again and a lot of stunt people would be on welfare. Let me explain.  Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #020: Lee and Ditko – Thank You, by Mike Gold”

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mind #018: Auld Lang Syne and The Draught of Good Will

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mind #018: Auld Lang Syne and The Draught of Good Will

I really didn’t want to do another Trump column. Honest. I mean, by now everybody knows what he is – please feel free to hum along to the theme to “The Emperor’s New Clothes” – and what you see is what you get. It’s up to you to decide the worthiness of his junk.

Assuming you can find it.

But this is Thursday, December 27th. The last Weird Scenes of the year. Seeing as how this is supposed to be a politically-themed column, we are reminded there was only one story in 2018. Oh, there was a lot of news, but no one has so completely dominated the national discourse more than our Petulance-In-Chief. Ever. Not even Hitler, despite Mel Brooks’ best efforts. Compared to the Donald, the Adolf was an also-ran.

This makes His Petulance seem all the more goofy. His constant support from and of the greater definition of the American Nazi party lessens him.

But we’re on the dawn of a new era. One week from today, the opposition party takes command of the House of Representatives and – if you’re into irony, this is a humdinger – Nancy Pelosi takes over from The Invisible Man as leader. Heh heh heh. She’ll drive His Petulance crazy. She’ll drive his supporters, the unaroused rabble, out of their minds. Being a Trump supporter requires you to murder your sense of irony: when the Idiot Right starts screaming about how it’s the Democratic Party that is holding up legislation, these fools just won’t get it.

That’s so adorable.  Continue reading “Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mind #018: Auld Lang Syne and The Draught of Good Will”

Brainiac on Banjo #017: Post-Reality Credits

Brainiac on Banjo #017: Post-Reality Credits

This might sound kind of bitchy, but then again regular readers of Brainiac On Banjo will note that my default writing style is set to “bitchy.” Hey, it’s a living.

If you watch superhero movies, you’ve undoubtedly noticed the plethora of post-credits teaser scenes. Don’t get me wrong: I love these post-credits teaser scenes. They were pioneered by Marvel Studios over a decade ago. I enjoy the fact that, recently, Marvel added a mid-credits sequence to most of their releases as well. I understand why those Marvel character movies that aren’t produced by Marvel Studios now have them as well – most of the current Spider-Man movies, the ever-widening X-Men cluster and, brilliantly, the Deadpool movies.

I like how Warner Bros imitates this in many of their DC movies, as have other franchises. To be fair, Marvel Studios “borrowed” the stunt from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, released 22 years prior to Iron Man I.I think there should be a law passed that each and every movie produced today and in the future – including documentaries – be compelled to have a post-credits sequence, preferably featuring Samuel L. Jackson and/or Robert Downey Jr. To lighten the budget, Sam can push a few credit cards if he so desires. But the last episode if the first season of DC’s Titans, lawfully available only on DC’s DC Universe streaming site, has an end-credits teaser that will most definitely screw you up.  Continue reading “Brainiac on Banjo #017: Post-Reality Credits”

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #016: … and The Doobie Brothers Aren’t Really Brothers!

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #016: … and The Doobie Brothers Aren’t Really Brothers!

Good news, potheads! You no longer have to drive down to Uruguay to hang out in a nation where your recreational smoking predilections won’t get you thrown in prison.

Yesterday’s Toronto Star gave us the news. Recreational cannabis is now legal north of the border. “As Canada stops treating cannabis as a ‘social evil,’ police look to ‘culture change’ in enforcement.” Their coverage of the event went on to discuss expedited pardons for pot possessors, a province-by-province breakdown of the price of weed, and photos of normal, average everyday Canadians standing in long lines at their newly opened weed shops as though they enjoyed waiting for that first iPhone a decade ago.

And, from the looks of the crowd, I’m sure many did.

Yesterday, cartoonist/storyteller Erik Larsen scored one of the biggest (probably unintentional) public relations victories in comics. The 239th issue of Savage Dragon (full disclosure: it’s one of my absolute favorite comics, for reasons I’ll probably explain in an upcoming Brainiac On Banjo column) went on sale the same day Canadian weed went legal. The lead character, his wife and children, and some members of the supporting cast relocated to the Great White North last year. Toronto, to be exact, which happens to be my favorite city in North America. I identify with, and am jealous of, any Chicagoan who moves to Toronto. Will the Savage Dragon mellow out and become the Magic Dragon?  Continue reading “Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #016: … and The Doobie Brothers Aren’t Really Brothers!”