Category: Art

Brainiac On Banjo: Let’s Stumble In The Jungle

Brainiac On Banjo: Let’s Stumble In The Jungle

“Walking through forests of palm tree apartments. Scoff at the monkeys who live in their dark tents. Down by the waterhole, drunk every Friday, eating their nuts, saving their raisins for Sunday. Lions and tigers who wait in the shadows; they’re fast but they’re lazy, and sleep in green meadows.” From “Bungle in the Jungle,” written by Chip Taylor, Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill, Trevor Smith, Stig Anderson, Kamaal Fareed, Malik Taylor, Pras Michel, Forte, Benny Andersson, and Bjoern K Ulvaeus.

Let me start this week’s disquisition with an apology. A friend of mine sent me the above piece of art which he copped off the internet. He did not know who the artist was, but it so directly relates to my experiences as a comic book fan that I’m using it anyway, with sincere apologizes to its creator. It’s fantastic, it’s right on the money, and it directly addresses one of my major four-color bugaboos.

Outside of the obvious, which is clearly seen in the above purloined artwork, I never understood the massive appeal of jungle girl comics. By and large, these stories were exquisitely drawn but horribly overwritten. Of course, there wasn’t a lot of room to do brilliant heroic jungle action stories, and usually there was a male companion/savior involved. The late 40s / early 50s were like that. I guess women in four-color or full color needed saviors back then.

Only a handful of jungle heroes had “legs” — that is, the ability to successfully endure in their own title for a long period of time. There were a lot jungle women, mostly white, all in terrific shape and clothed in barnstorming costumes. Mind you, they all wore more than, say, Tarzan, but they wore it better.

These women were immortalized by a plethora of terrific artists such as Matt Baker, Frank Frazetta, Bill Everett, Bob Powell, George Evans, Lou Fine, Mort Meskin, Ralph Mayo, and Maurice Whitman… to name but a few. Clearly, these casting decisions made everybody quite happy. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: Let’s Stumble In The Jungle”

Brainiac On Banjo: Dues For Artificial Intelligence

Brainiac On Banjo: Dues For Artificial Intelligence

“And now you dare to look me in the eye. Those crocodile tears are what you cry. It’s a genuine problem, you won’t try to work it out at all, you just pass it by.” Substitute, written by Pete Townshend

Image created by Jay Vollmar for The Washington Post

I’m about to ask a serious question that should, and eventually will, become central to the artificial intelligence story. It has to do with the conflation of reality and the effluvia of computer-created content.

First, I need to report the backstory that generated my concerns. It’s a tough story revolving around one of the societal taboos that most certainly should be taboo — but it’s not the actions of the perpetrator with which I take issue. This is a closed case: the criminal pleaded guilty and was sentenced.

This is a discussion topic, not an analysis of disgusting acts that the defendant says he committed. I’m discussing a point that rests at a legal and a moral juncture, at least in my mind. Here’s the news story, as reported in The Guardian last Friday.

CONTENT WARNING –  A text version of a news report concerning images of child abuse follows.

Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: Dues For Artificial Intelligence”

Brainiac On Banjo: Rare Praise Indeed!

Brainiac On Banjo: Rare Praise Indeed!

“The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that’s how the smart money bets.” ― Damon Runyon

My all-time favorite writer — I’m volunteering because you didn’t ask — is Damon Runyon. He’s the author of about a million brilliant short stories largely concerning the mobsters and the Guys and Dolls of Broadway, inventing a whole New York City that never existed, but should have, to the point where many New Yorkers think his Manhattan leaked verisimilitude. Sadly, it was entirely created by a master craftsman who invented his own American dialect to delineate those stories.

He wrote a column for the Hearst newspaper chain and wire services during the first half of the last century, which meant his words were presented to an audience in the tens of millions. His stories have been adapted to stage and to screen — for example, the aforementioned Guys and Dolls. He has written passages that have taken away my breath.

Including the one I’m about to offer. It’s about another astonishingly gifted man, master cartoonist George Herriman, creator of the deservedly legendary daily and Sunday Krazy Kat newspaper comic strip, which also ran for decades in the Hearst newspapers and elsewhere.

That effort of Runyon’s, my friends, is rare praise indeed.

As published in the Arizona Gazette on August 13, 1921, and in dozens and dozens of other newspapers on or around that date, here is “Father of Krazy Kat Admired As Mild-Mannered Genius,” by Damon Runyon.

Charley Van Loan – peace to his ashes! – used to tell me about “The Greek.”

George Herriman and Employee

“Funny guy, the Greek.” said Charley. “You’ll have to meet him.”

It so happened that the meeting never took place until one day out in Los Angeles. I was visiting at Charley’s house, and Charley answered a ring at the door bell.

Presently I heard him whooping, and in a moment he returned dragging with what seemed to me outrageous violence, a mild-looking gentleman in impeccable attire who was plaintively submissive to Charley’s handling.

“‘This is ‘The Greek!’” roared Charley; “meet ‘The Greek.'”

So I met “The Greek.” who is not a Greek at all, but who looked like a Greek to Van Loan’s fanciful eyes. I met George Herriman, the cartoonist who draws “Krazy Kat,” and one of the sweetest, gentlest and one of the souls I have ever known.

It is my opinion that fate originally intended George Herriman to write another “Alice in Wonderland,” or some new fairy tales for the children, but inadvertently it gave him great facility for drawing pictures.

Having arrived in an era when drawing pictures was productive of more immediate returns than writing stories, Herriman began drawing. In drawing, however, he also began telling his fairy stories, probably in a ruder form than his gentile artistic sense dictates, but none the less stories. “Krazy Kat” is the quaintest conceit in what I might call cartooning history. George has invented dozens of more or less famous pen and ink characters., including “Dingbat,” and “Baron Bean,’ but none of them ever compared with “Krazy Kat” in humor.

Only Herriman could have thought of reversing the real relation of the cat and the mouse, making the cat the victim of torment by the mouse, but always enjoying the inevitable brick bouncing off its feline head. And only Herriman could write the lines that accompany the pictures. lines, It is in these pictures, I think, that he attains a higher degree of humor than even in his pictures.

Take one of Herriman’s “Krazy Kat” strips and study it well. Note the amazing character delineation in the funny little birds and animals he draws. What could be more appropriate than having the “Mock Duck” a Chinese character, the coyote a Spaniard, the doctor a stork and the cop a bull pup?

James Montgomery Flagg, Ellis Parker Butler, Charles M. Schwab, Neysa MeMein, Enrico Caruso and Percival Grenville Wodehouse are among those who have praised Herriman’s work, but I imagine, knowing George, that the finest praise to him must be the praise of his brother cartoonists.

I don’t know whether he is aware of it or not, but he is the cartoonists’ cartoonist. By that I mean he is their favorite. I have talked with many of them in my time, and I have yet to find one that did not immediately declare that George the greatest that of them all in point of humor, originality and execution.

Now cartoonists, more than any professional other men, are quick to praise a contemporary if he is doing good work.

Personally. Herriman is so modest and self-effacing that he is almost annoying. He talks very little, and then in a soft, low tone. He is full of sentiment and it leaks out through his pen.

One of these days George may take it into his head to do some writing, and when that time comes I predict that we will have a new master of tales for children such as we have not had within the memory of the present generation.

If getting a guest contributor is supposed to save the writer time and energy, I failed miserably. But to dig up and share the opinions of one of our greatest writers about one of our greatest cartoonists — well, that’s a rare privilege indeed.

George Herriman and Damon Runyon. Two creators who deepened our understanding of genius.

 

Brainiac On Banjo: To Ramona

Brainiac On Banjo: To Ramona

I’ve heard you say many times that you’re better than no one and no one is better than you. If you really believe that you know you have nothing to win and nothing to lose, from fixtures and forces and friends your sorrow does stem that hype you and type you, making you feel that you gotta be just like them. “To Ramona,” written by Bob Dylan

Back in the post-WWII days when 10 cent comics cost a mere 10 cents, there were but a handful of ongoing superheroes, all of them were published by DC Comics, and each had a very distinctive look. Not the razor-sharp nearly photogenic linework of artists like Curt Swan and Carmine Infantino, but highly stylized and not quite real-world: Wayne Boring’s Superman, Dick Sprang’s Batman and Robin, Russ Andru’s Wonder Woman, George Papp (and, briefly, Jack Kirby’s) Green Arrow, and Ramona Fradon’s Aquaman. They maintained and advanced the standard for comics’ most enduring characters.

Of course, this was seven decades ago. Time seems to move on and, now, the last of these famous artists has left the building. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: To Ramona”

Brainiac On Banjo: It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s… the Mayor?

Brainiac On Banjo: It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s… the Mayor?

Oh, it’s a long, long while from May to December, but the days grow short when you reach September. When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame, one hasn’t got time for the waiting game. “September Song” written by Teemu Brunila, Ben Hudson, Jon Cobbe Hume, and John Paul Cooper.

If you haven’t been keeping up with the peoples of steel, well, I understand. It’s hard to find DC books that aren’t about Batman. It might come as a surprise that DC Comics still publishes Bat-less books. And now that DC’s daddy has licensed their Looney Tunes characters out to Dynamite Entertainment, it’s even harder.

But if you search the racks a bit you’ll see that there are quite a few DC titles that feature the many various Supermans flying around the ever-morphing DCU comics that do not have Batman grabbing the staples, at least not in every issue. In fact, you might be confused with all the different Super men, women, children and pets. If you’re in Metropolis, and you look up at the sky, if you don’t see a fast moving red blur, you’re probably visiting an Earth with four digits.

The fact that all these Supers, with the arguable exception of Krypto, keep trying on new costumes does not help lesson the mob mentality one bit.

So it might come as a surprise that some major changes have been going on and, even more shocking, these charges are evolutionary and not the result of typical obsessive-compulsive rebooting.

As we have seen in last week’s Superman #850 (an up-priced anniversary issue because it ends in “50”), Daily Planet E-I-C Perry White, on leave of absence, has decided to run for mayor of the City of Tomorrow. Before he took leave prior to his announcement, he put the Planet in the hands of his star reporter, Lois Lane.

Now, that would be unlikely to happen on whichever Earth we happen to be living on. Lane has won more Pulitzers than the next ten winners combined. She is worth far more to the paper as a reporter. But this isn’t our Earth, and on hers she deserves the appointment, if she wants it.

In 2023, the existence of a women editor-in-chief of a great metropolitan newspaper is no longer rare. In fact, as print papers have dwindled down to a precious few, women editors are doing better than the medium for which they toil. Yeah, that isn’t much, and if this were British opera you might take that as a sign of their end times.

Should Perry win, should Lois become permanent E-I-C — and either can happen without the other — all kinds of interesting plot paths come into being. How would the job affect her marriage to Clark? How would the job accept her marriage to Kal-El? To their kid, to their family, to the other Supers and to the Justice League members she knows so well? And… what about Lex Luthor? Besides, if she’s running the Planet, she is unlikely to have time to fall out of helicopters.

What kind of mayor would Perry be? Does he have sufficient political skills to get anything accomplished? What sort of enemies will he make, and how will they act out? Will Perry have any sort of relationship with the Planet and his old friends? Will Mayor White’s work place those friends in jeopardy? Hoe long will he be mayor — and what happens after that ends? Senator White? President White?

In fact, Perry White had been mayor of Metropolis on one of the best known infinite Earths. It was revealed that Perry had been mayor before he went to the Daily Planet in the hit television show The Adventures of Superman, a program whose exposure and longevity is among the highest in history — it’s in the I Love Lucy class. Which is vaguely funny as Superman crossed over into Lucy.

Of course, there’s a 500 pound gorilla with Kryptonite ray vision sulking in the corner waiting for a big-ass strike to be resolved. What will happen to all of this as James Gunn’s Superman Legacy comes out — July 11, 2025, as time currently is reckoned in Hollywood? Does that establish another “sell-by” date for the masters of seat-of-your-pants circumlocution at Warner Bros Discovery? Hell, given the past ten years or so, will Warner Bros Discovery still be a thing? I wouldn’t bet either way.

There could be some interesting and fairly original stories coming out of all this. Then again, it all could wind up looking like a 30-car pileup in a blizzard on I-80 in Pennsylvania. We can and need to pay attention to history, but be careful about taking odds on the endgame.

But I like the sound of a kick-ass Mayor Perry White.

A Few Words About Keith

A Few Words About Keith

Last night, as I write this, daughter Adriane came downstairs while I was watching a typically clever and compelling docuweird from James May. I knew from the expression on her face I was about distance myself from Mr. May’s well-honed sense of humor.

Adriane carefully informed me that my old friend Keith Giffen had died. Such an event has grown all too typical and they all hurt, but, damn, this one came right out of the blue. My editor Mr. Harrison and I were just talking about Keith on our weekly video Squadcast and I remember cutting myself short under the belief that Keith would get his due from us later. Yeah, well…

I’m going to ignore my journalism teachers and not give you the mandatory obituary routine. If you are not familiar with Giffen’s work, there’s a couple tons of it on the trade paperback racks at your favorite bookstores. I will point out that Keith co-created a many great characters and concepts, including Rocket Raccoon, Lobo, Ambush Bug, and the latest version of the Blue Beetle, Jamie Reyes, presently of motion picture fame. His Wiki page is quite good and most likely getting even better right now.

But all the bios and reflections cannot do justice to his work and his approach to storytelling. The word “unique” is an absolute term: either something is unique or its not and one thing can not be more unique than another. Keith Giffen’s work was unrelentingly unique. Keith Giffen was unique.

In all the decades I’d known him, I had never had a less-than-remarkable time. His wit, his charm and his creative courage were his and his alone. When first you encounter one of his stories your response likely would hit the high end of the vaunted Richter What-The-Fuck scale. By the time you were done with that first story, chances are you’d start looking for his other stuff.

Or it might just piss you off. Art is like that, and so was Keith. He told his story, his way, and did so brilliantly.

The first memory that escaped the attic of my brainpan was a conversation we had in 2016 at a massive party that preceded the world premiere of the first Suicide Squad movie. Dan DiDio and DC Comics threw one hell of an affair and everybody who was anybody in comics and was in the New York area at the time was there — and plenty of people flew in as well. I told Keith how much I was enjoying the work he and Dan had been doing recently and, while I was fumbling for a clever way to say “my appreciation seems to be the kiss of death” Keith kept interrupting me.

“Have you read my Scooby Apocalypse?” he asked repeatedly, cutting off my praise of his other recent work. “Well, no, I haven’t,” I admitted. “I think it will surprise you.”

It certainly did. Evidently, it also surprised the folks at Hanna-Barbera, which was and remains part of Warner Bros., as does DC Comics. Evidently, they had a hard time recognizing DC’s often brilliant reimagining of their characters — and when it comes to bringing home the animated bacon, nothing does that more consistently than Scooby-Doo. And Keith found an alien heart deep inside the property, and he ran with it. Proudly. And deservedly so.

I should add it’s become my favorite of Keith’s work. Well, his living work, at least.

Several days ago as Keith was dying from a stroke, he composed a farewell note for posting after his death. If you are about to check out of this reality, you’re going to have a hard time doing a better job than he did. His farewell was pure and complete Keith Giffen. He posthumously posted “I told them I was sick… Anything not to go to New York Comic Con, Thankx. Bwah ha ha ha ha.”

That New York Comic Con is happening right now, this very weekend, and Keith is wonderfully all over it.

That, my friends, is how to go out in class and style.

His work, of course, lives on. Along with his friendship.

Brainiac On Banjo: A.I’s Just A Photocopier.

Brainiac On Banjo: A.I’s Just A Photocopier.

I’m all alone, so are we all. We destroyed the government. We’re destroying time. No more problems on the way — Clones (We’re All), written by Alice Cooper.

According to last Friday’s Hollywood Reporter, “A federal judge on Friday upheld a finding from the U.S. Copyright Office that a piece of art created by AI [artificial intelligence] is not open to protection. The ruling was delivered in an order turning down Stephen Thaler’s bid challenging the government’s position refusing to register works made by AI. Copyright law has “never stretched so far” to “protect works generated by new forms of technology operating absent any guiding human hand,” U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell found.”

That certainly is good news to creators of all sorts — not just artists, but writers and other producers of copyrightable or patentable products. However, I suspect the majority of such gifted people will not waste carbon dioxide emitting a deep sigh of relief. Damn near all of them have been to this rodeo dozens of times; more likely hundreds. The longer you stay in the business, the more you slip on corporate dogshit.

Do not think the producers and corporate princes reading about this ruling will say “well, jeez, maybe we should start acting in a morally acceptable manner.” Hell, no. The vast majority of media moguls who possess an “annual compensation package” in excess of ten million dollars per annum confuse having their package reduced by as a direct kick to their… package. Whereas that seems fair to me, my WGA and AFTRA memberships expired a while ago. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: A.I’s Just A Photocopier.”

Rapid Con Review: HeroesCon 2023 Edition

Rapid Con Review: HeroesCon 2023 Edition

Heroes Convention, shortened to HeroesCon, and affectionately alluded to as simply “Heroes”, was put on this past weekend at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, NC. The show was a rousing success, as usual, thanks to the fine stewardship of the convention by Shelton Drum of Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find and the amazing talents of Karla Southern.

This show puts the “comic” back in Comic Con. There was a tremendous group of comic book creator talent on the show floor from all different levels of the industry. Also, there were back issue comic vendors as far as the eye could see. Some folks dealt in high end collectable editions while others had boxes upon boxes of $1 comics. The variety of the wares they were hawking served to have something for everyone.

One of the interesting parts about this year’s show was that there was a bit more to browse and shop for things other than comic books or comic book art. I really don’t know how they did it, but somehow they were able to fit in even more creators and still have so many comic dealers and yet add vendors of hand-made crafts, props, toys, and other geeky items.

Auctions and more Auctions..

A view of the Grand Ballroom at the Westin Charlotte as the auction was about to start.

One of the signature things of HeroesCon is the art auctions. There are several auctions throughout the weekend, but the Saturday night event was the jewel of the show. It was a fun and exciting atmosphere as one of kind pieces were up for bids. All the while, everyone was waiting for that one piece by Brian Stelfreeze that had everyone buzzing.

Great Panel Programming

Rich Fowlks, Michael Eury, and Ed Catto discussing The Team-Up Companion

The programming at HeroesCon this year was very interesting. We took in three discussion panels over the weekend. Two of them were related to TwoMorrows publications, including one hosted by PCS’s own Ed Catto. For the third one, we had a chance to sit in the room while Mike Grell educated listeners about the origins and behind the scenes stories of Jon Sable, Freelance.

Andy Kunka, Mike Grell, and Jeff Messer at the Jon Sable panel.

The panels that we didn’t go to also looked incredibly interesting and we heard great things particularly about the Comics Aloud! panel hosted by David Petersen of Mouse Guard fame that featured dramatic readings by comic creators of excerpt of stories with the characters they’ve written and drawn. It was a terrific lineup of diverse and interesting programing to break up the days and give your feet a rest.

Cosplay Too…

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the amazing cosplay that we saw at the show. While other shows may have more quantity and more elaborate cosplay contingents, Heroes had a great mix of enthusiastic people enjoying letting their geek flag fly. You can check out some of the cosplayers that we ran across below.

  • Storm Trooper Cosplay @ HeroesCon 2023
  • Apocalypse Cosplay @ HeroesCon 2023
  • Star Wars Cosplay @ HeroesCon 2023
  • Supergirl Cosplay @ HeroesCon 2023
  • Hope Summers Cosplay @ HeroesCon 2023
  • Optimus Prime Cosplay @ HeroesCon 2023
  • Illyana & Kitty Cosplay @ HeroesCon 2023
  • Dr. Mid-Nite & Dr. Fate Cosplay @ HeroesCon 2023

Hey, Don’t Forget It is June..

The fact that this convention takes place smack dab in the middle of June creates a magical trifecta of real world celebrations that make this a great place to spend a weekend. Father’s Day typically falls on Sunday of HeroesCon as it did this year, which makes it a great place to pick up that last minute gift for a nerdy Dad. Juneteenth weekend was also the same weekend of the Con, and that made taking Monday off  to recuperate an easier decision.

It is also Pride Month and there was a ton of things (books, toys, prints, other chachkas) that were available for anyone interested in that kind of merch. On Saturday, the publisher A Wave Blue World organized a group signing to celebrate the new retail printing of The Color of Always and the GLAAD Award winning Young Men in Love. From our experience, this felt like a very inclusive show.

Final Thoughts

We had a fantastic time at this show and are looking forward to going back next year. If you are fan of Comic Books, Comic Book Creators, or people who love Comic Books, this is the place to be.

Brainiac On Banjo: A.I. Swiping Honored By Government!

Brainiac On Banjo: A.I. Swiping Honored By Government!

I’m a substitute for another guy. I look pretty tall but my heels are high. The simple things you see are all complicated. I look pretty young, but I’m just back-dated. — Pete Townshend, “Substitute”

I’ve just done a couple of conventions over the past several weeks — C2E2 in Chicago and the always-fantastic Ithacon in – surprise! – Ithaca, New York. As always, I enjoyed pressing the flesh (in a neighborly way), signing a shitload of comics, including the ones I forgot I worked on, and talking with a lot of friends old and new. Even though my life has been one massive comic book convention that has lasted 54 years and counting, it’s a collegial environment chock full of swell folks.

Whereas I did not conduct a formal survey, it is safe to say the major topic of general conversation was “Artificial Intelligence.” No, not the type commonly used by our politicians in the southern states, nor the type often used in the corporate suites of many publishers. I’m referring to the computer devices that create imitations of the works of artists and writers all over this rapidly-boiling planet of ours. I suspect if some binary-workers created software that provided abortion care, our governments would be all over that as well, but ramming some people’s religious “values” such as matricide down the throats of those with differing religious values is a well-known diversion for our nation’s judicial systems. But, I think I digress… therefore I am. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: A.I. Swiping Honored By Government!”

With Further Ado #204: Greg Hildebrandt Part 4 – Dissatisfaction as Part of the Process

With Further Ado #204: Greg Hildebrandt Part 4 – Dissatisfaction as Part of the Process

Let’s get into the fourth part of our With Further Ado conversation with Greg Hildebrandt. The real purpose of this is talk about his two amazing 2023 calendars. During our last conversation, we were in the middle of a story, as Greg and Jean had just received an enthusiastic invitation for a one-man show at a prestigious Manhattan art gallery.

Please enjoy Part 4 of my interview with Greg Hildebrandt:


Greg Hildebrandt: Twenty minutes later Lou Meisel calls. He loved it! And he said “Okay, what are you talking about?” She <Jean> said, “A show. A one man show.” And he said, “Okay we’ll talk.”

Ed Catto: That’s incredible!

GH: And I got the same model back. Plus, another model in the meantime. Plus, a bunch of the jobs that I’m working on with about three other pinups. Get the model. Shoot the pictures. And Jean is talking with Lou. Lou is saying, “I’m going to need at least twenty-four paintings. I mean, how many does he have?“ And Jean replies, “Just this one, and he’s working on three photos.”

“That’s right – it’s three years until the show,” replied the gallery owner.

“No, no, no, no, at the end of this year you’ll have all the art,” said Jean.

He says, “What are you, kidding me?” She says “No, I guarantee you’ll have it.”

So now Lou wants to see them live – the paintings- so I finished off two more. We put them in the car, go into the city. He loved them. And he said “Okay!” We decided well what date was for the show, and we went home. And that’s all I did for the next ten or twelve months: it was pin-ups.

I put everything away, because she (Jean) manages everything – current business, family. You name it: she does it! I draw. I got twenty-four paintings done.

That show was terrific and that started a whole new thing. Of course, you’ve got to react, or respond to the kind of situation, where some people are saying, “Pin-up Artist?!? He does dragons and stuff. What do you mean pin-up art?” Continue reading “With Further Ado #204: Greg Hildebrandt Part 4 – Dissatisfaction as Part of the Process”