Kickstarter You Should Be Backing: Mark Wheatley’s Giant… Songs

Kickstarter You Should Be Backing: Mark Wheatley’s Giant… Songs

I’ve known comics creator and illustrator Mark Wheatley since he emerged from the pupae stage. We were handed a proposal for a project called Mars – “we” being the late and lamented real First Comics. Said proposal was given to art director Joe Staton and production manager Bruce Patterson. Joe and Bruce were raving; this, in and of itself, was nothing new but they were raving about this specific project. So I read the proposal, and as the kids say, I immediately green-lighted it.

Mars was the work of Mister Wheatley and his studio-mate Marc Hempel and they were advocating a story that was unlike anything I could remember in American comics, and they were telling that story in a manner that was equally unique. Silly businessman that I am, that’s exactly the sort of venture that I find most appealing. No, I have never thought about being wealthy enough to retire. As work progressed and we started to promote Mars, the head of one of the largest comic book distributors (there were many back then) asked me, quite politely, if I were out of my mind.

Well, if I wasn’t sufficiently excited before that moment…

A couple years later, Mark and Marc pitched a project called Breathtaker. By then I was at DC Comics, still ignoring my savings account. My feelings about Breathtaker were like those I had about Mars, and I pitched it to DC. They agreed, but “they” did not include the publisher who was not part of that approval process. She thought we were somehow making fun of concentration camp inmates. Decades later, I’m still scratching my head over that one, but I was comforted in the knowledge I was still upsetting apple carts. And I maintained those feelings some time later at the premiere of the first graphic novels exhibit at the Norman Rockwell Museum, where Mark, Marc and Breathtaker commanded the real estate of an entire wall – and sundry staff curators came out with copies for us to autograph. Pretty heady stuff for a bunch of comics guys.

I’ve worked with Mark on various projects ever since, and we’ve maintained a friendship that no one can rend asunder, unless that person is disgusted by puns. Mark and I can flip them back and forth with a fervor that could empty out Camden Yards.

I’m not involved in Mark’s current project. Perhaps it was something I said. Or didn’t say. You can ask us April 12 – 14 at the Windy City Pulp show in Lombard Illinois; we’ll both be there, but the part you’ll enjoy is gawking at Mark’s massive… exhibit.

So… what, you might ask, is this brand-new project of Mark’s? How can you become part of it? And why did I bury the lead so deeply?

Mark has just launched a new Kickstarter called Song Of Giants: The Poetry of Pulp – Illustrated. It’s got 72 pages of “mind-blowing illustrations by all of Fame artist Mark Wheatley,” as the back cover so intriguingly states. He’s limited himself to three such giants: Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and H.P. Lovecraft. Oh, yeah, them again!

Of course there’s a website in addition to the Kickstarter page. Grow up! It’s 2019! It’s like gravity! Check it out for more info and even more pretty pictures.

Mark’s also coming out with an audio book, and he’s teamed up with noted producer / voice actor and all-around swell guy Mark Redfield. What can I say? He’s got a thing for guys named Mark. Or Marc. Yup, this is an audio book of a book of illustrations. Mark is still boldly going, I see… In these difficult times, it’s nice to see that somethings do not change – abruptly.

Check out the Kickstarter. Help make it happen. Tell ‘em Groucho sent you, particularly if you’re happening by a DeSoto dealership.

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”

With Further Ado #017: When Steve Rude Almost Saved Christmas

With Further Ado #017: When Steve Rude Almost Saved Christmas

Back in the early 90s, we needed to save Christmas and I almost got Steve Rude to do it.

I was in brand management when I was starting out my marketing career. I had the great fortune to be assigned to Nabisco’s OREO brand.  It was a lot of fun.  I worked on the launch of Mini OREO, introduced the Halloween OREO and a Christmas variant with red crème.  In those days, changing anything about Nabisco’s brand was a serious exercise only undertaken with the most serious thought and planning.   This is in stark contrast today, when every season there are several more flavor variants to the brand.

Christmas and cookies always go together, and one of the annual traditions for the brand was to create a collectible OREO tin. These were tins with a wistful, family-focused Rockewellian painting that would be sold with a 16 oz.  package of OREO inside it.  From a marketing perspective it served many purposes: it was one more reason for someone to buy OREO, the retailers had an excuse to build a display and we even had fans who collected them each year.

We typically hired a commercial illustrator to provide the painting of a family eating OREO cookies by the Christmas Tree. They were perfectly fine, but I had the idea that I wanted to step it up with one of my favorite artists.

Steve Rude had burst onto the scene the decade before with his brilliant Nexus series and other comics work.  His work was always exciting and fun to look at fun to look at, but one couldn’t help but be struck by both his brilliant design sense, and his ability to render expressive figures.  Many of the covers would be painted, while the interiors would showcase his impressive traditional comics work.  His paintings are what sparked my idea.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #017: When Steve Rude Almost Saved Christmas”

WIth Further Ado #005 Why Don’t You Know About Emanuele Taglietti?

WIth Further Ado #005 Why Don’t You Know About Emanuele Taglietti?

Here in the US, in the late 70s and early 80s, we were reading comics like Marvel’s The Human Fly. But there was something entirely different going on in Italy. The ‘sexy fumetti’ craze had taken hold. This fad put the the scariness of horror films and twisted humor into blender, and then topped it all off with another dollop of unabashed sexiness.  Some people have called them “the most shocking comics ever produced”, and I say that’s an understatement.

A counterbalance these lurid, prurient comics is the outstanding art of Italian master Emanuele Taglietti.  He painted over 500 covers for many comics including Sukia, Magnum 44 and Ulula.  Each painting has a sense of urgency combined with an off-the-charts level of skill.

Korero Press has recently published Sex and Horror: The Art of Emanuele Taglietti.  Clearly, it’s not for the faint of heart or the prudish.  Even liberal thinkers probably need to take a deep breath before reading this one.  Continue reading “WIth Further Ado #005 Why Don’t You Know About Emanuele Taglietti?”