With Further Ado #044: Treasures… from a Used Book Sale

With Further Ado #044: Treasures… from a Used Book Sale

In Ithaca NY, there’s a “famous” twice-a-year used book sale. The Friends of Thompkins Library convince local book lovers to donate about a zillion books and then sell them to other book lovers for peanuts.  This generates revenues for the library because there’s an incredible volume of books, magazines, comics and calendars that change hands.  A guy like me, who loves old mysteries, men’s adventure paperbacks and comic-related books can always stumble across treasures at this sale for just a buck or two.

They are always treasures to be found in “them thar hills”.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #044: Treasures… from a Used Book Sale”

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 #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”

Brainiac On Banjo #033: Stream On, It’s A Crazy Feeling!

Brainiac On Banjo #033: Stream On, It’s A Crazy Feeling!

Most likely you have noticed the shift from static broadcast and cable television and movies to streaming services such as Netflix and DC Universe… to name but two. This stuff is growing like amoebas on steroids. In the relatively few years since this all began, it has knocked the poo out of the free media industries.

Unlike their cohorts in cable and terrestrial broadcasting, theater owners saw this coming and, in order to protect their investments, started offering new experiences such as larger, more comfortable and more adjustable seating, a wider range of unhealthy overpriced foods and snacks, new screens that can be viewed from the International Space Station, and sound systems that will deafen you. Great fun!

For the moment, at least.

The American comic book industry jumped on this concept out of the same cultural-shift that affected these other entertainment industries. Peculiarly, American comic book publishers have not shown much in the way of innovation over the past 86 years; the last huge improvement came when Major Wheeler-Nicholson decided to commission new work instead of relying upon newspaper strip reprints. That happened a mere 84 years ago.

When comixology came along offering comics new and old to their subscribers to be read (but not stored) on computers and tablets, as well as on cellphones for those who enjoy squinting, most publishers were quick to embrace this new means of distribution. Since then, the quantity of such material has skyrocketed and now DC’s stream-liner, DC Universe, is claiming they will be offering damn near every DC-owned comic online as part of that service. It’s also available on your television set, assuming you enjoy squinting but doing so on your smartphone requires too much effort.

That’s cool. Technology marches on, and the side benefit is that we’re saving a lot of trees, creating more oxygen and using fewer fossil fuels to distribute pretty colors printed on the corpses of saplings. Some people, not all of whom are nostalgia-soaked geriatrics, don’t like this and that is completely understandable. Just wait until they must move their comic book collection to a new abode. With two-terabyte thumb-drives available and heading towards affordability, you can put a copy of every comic book ever published in America on maybe four such drives and drop them in your purse or pocket.

So, last week Apple announced their new Apple News+ program which will stream more than 240 newspapers and magazines into the ethersphere for $10 a month. Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, National Geographic, Rolling Stone, the Los Angeles Times, Vogue… lots of stuff, with the promise of more to come. Well, that sounds convenient, particularly to those of us with tablets, and even more so to my fellow geriatrics with growing vision issues. That 13” iPad is looking better to me all the time, and I haven’t subscribed to this new service – at least not yet. Several more daily newspapers of note would be nice.

Immediately and quite predictably, the naysayers started screaming nay. “This will kill magazines and newspapers,” they say. Oh, yeah? If you live within a convenient walk of a retailer who offers more than 240 magazines and newspapers, consider yourself very lucky. Most people do not. If you want to choose from a variety of publications, you better be ready to drive out to one of the rapidly-dwindling big box stores such as Barnes and Noble and then pray for the best. This distribution method, pioneered by Apple with iTunes, saved the music industry. Is FYI still around? How about Borders? Ya wanna get this stuff somewhere.

If there’s but one rule that pervades Earth history, it’s that change is constant. Maintaining access to editorial content must adapt. If you lust for the smell of old paper – and I kinda do myself – pull apart one of those CGC clamshells and take a good snort.

(A tip of the hoodie to Buddy Holly for our headline this week)

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”

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.

With Further Ado #031: Kirby and Lee: Stuf’ Said  by John Morrow

With Further Ado #031: Kirby and Lee: Stuf’ Said by John Morrow

“It’s complicated” is a simple term that’s creeped into all facets of our lexicon. It’s now become something more than just a placeholder of a particular status category on social media. But let’s face it; whenever we deal with real people who live on planet Earth, things tend to get complicated. There are no simple answers.  Even the shades of gray have shades of gray.  And that’s the proper mindset for jumping into John Morrow’s phenomenal new book Kirby & Lee: Stuf’ Said.

This book is a fascinating deep dive into contentious relationships between the men, and women, who would shape what pop culture now regards as the Marvel Universe.   There are so many questions: Who contributed what? Did the writer actually write the stuff? Who came up with the ideas originally? Why didn’t everyone get along better? Marvel now generates billions of dollars in business, so we have to wonder if all involved had been compensated fairly? (Spoiler alert: “no”.)

There seems to be a lot of excitement for this book.  “John Morrow has done it again,” said Emil Novak, Sr, a pioneering comic book retailer since 1969.  Stuf’ Said chronicles the perplexing conversation of who fundamentally created most of Marvel’s comic book characters.  And the results will change your thoughts and history forever.”  Continue reading “With Further Ado #031: Kirby and Lee: Stuf’ Said by John Morrow”

Spotlight Interview with David Pepose and Jorge Santiago Jr. of Spencer and Locke

Spotlight Interview with David Pepose and Jorge Santiago Jr. of Spencer and Locke

Welcome back to another Spotlight Interview. We had the great fortune to get together with the creators of the Ringo Award nominated series Spencer and Locke.

Spencer and Locke first debuted in 2017, and was published by Action Lab. It was created by David Pepose and Jorge Santiago Jr.  The creators have described it as riff on the idea of what would happen if Calvin and Hobbes had grown up in Sin-City.

The concept is so audacious, a lot of people wanted to look to see if we could stick the landing.

David Pepose

The collected first volume of this ambitious mashup series can be found at your LCS or on Amazon or Comixology. We highly recommend it.

Capitalizing on the success of their hit series, the guys are back with Spencer and Locke 2, and it is beginning on April 24, 2019.  You can find the preorder information on PreviewsWorld.

Our conversation with David and Jorge covered topics ranging from the inspiration for the series to process techniques, and fan reactions. Take a look below. We think you will be impressed with these guys and definitely intrigued about what you will find in Volume 2 of Spencer and Locke.

Pop Culture Squad: What was the inspiration for the original series of Spencer and Locke?

David Pepose (Writer/Creator):  It took me a while to muster up the nerve to think that maybe I could write a comic. I think there is a lot of mysticism about creating stuff that people think it is kind of magic. Where, to me, it’s more like building a chair.  It’s hard work, but there is a form to it that you can build upon. So, people say to write about what you know, and I thought, “Well I don’t know anything about anything, except for comics.” The more that I thought about that, the more I thought it was not as limiting as one might think. Continue reading “Spotlight Interview with David Pepose and Jorge Santiago Jr. of Spencer and Locke”

WIth Further Ado #009: An interview with Jacque Nodell

WIth Further Ado #009: An interview with Jacque Nodell

An interview with Jacque Nodell, author of How to Go Steady: Timeless Dating Advice, Wisdom, and Lessons from Vintage Romance Comics

As a young reader, I would have told you out loud that I loved all comics. But that wasn’t really the case. I didn’t have much use for humor comics back then. Teen comics? Well, once my Aunt Elissa gave me a box of Archie comics, I warmed up to them.  War Comics and horror comics weren’t my cup of tea, but I’d read them now and then.

Romance comics, however, were never on the list.  Too icky. Just like girls. So icky.  Like many young boys, my tastes would do a 180 in just a few years. But I still wouldn’t read a romance comic.   

Over the last few years, however, I’ve relaxed these standards. I’ve started to enjoy them occasionally. In fact, I am on a Quixotic quest  for romance comics featuring Jay Scott Pike art. He was a master, and beyond that Showcase issue with the Dolphin story, I never really knew anything about him.  There’s many other great artists in vintage romance comics. It’s a great place to stumble across the early works of favorites like John Romita or Gene Golan, as discovering new favorites.

So it’s not a surprise that I enjoy Jacque Nodell’s Sequential Crush. It’s a celebration of romance comics. And out this page has come her first book.  I had a lot of questions for Jacque, and despite planning for a wedding (true love wins!) she found some time to answer them all!  Continue reading “WIth Further Ado #009: An interview with Jacque Nodell”

Brainiac On Banjo #014: Should We Ban Banned Books Week?

Brainiac On Banjo #014: Should We Ban Banned Books Week?

Do you remember all the way back to last Tuesday, when the Washington Post still was referred to as a “liberal” newspaper? Many people believe that. The following day, Wednesday September 26th, was the day the Post just might have turned the corner.

Ron Charles, the Post’s book critic, opined we might not need Banned Books Week any longer. “I just wish Banned Books Week didn’t appear to exaggerate a problem that’s largely confined to our repressive past… Are we winning any converts with this annual orgy of self-righteousness?”

He contradicted his point when he reported how many books were, indeed, banned last year. The label of self-righteousness rarely is self-imposed.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that, over the years, I have edited or contributed to a decent number of “banned books” and have been railing against banning books for, damn, a very long time. When it comes to the Pop Culture Squad, well, suffice it to say I am not alone.

Mr. Charles states, among other things (and I urge you to read his piece, to which I conveniently posted the link in my second paragraph), “Doesn’t Banned Books Week carelessly lump together the interested mother with the book-burning Nazi?” Well, part of the parenting process is the unfortunate imposition of mommy and daddy’s more disgusting values onto their children. Such is life, and many kids challenge those “values” as part of their maturation process. But my blanket response to this sort of challenge is “If you don’t want to be conflated with book-burning Nazis, stop acting like a book-burning Nazi!”

I am opposed to removing any book from any library or any bookstore. The librarian and the bookseller have no right to impose their self-indulgent mores upon an unsuspecting audience. By removing that which they find objectionable, they believe they have the right to transplant their views and politics onto everybody else. They most certainly do not.

For the record, I would not even ban Mein Kampf. Indeed, I encourage teenagers to read this book and to discuss it from both the moral and the historical perspectives. As I often do, I once again quote George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Arguably, that is the most important aphorism of all time.

You may ask “OK, smart-ass. Would you edit a graphic novel adaptation of Mein Kampf?” I’m hardly your go-to-guy for far-right-wing subject matter, although I have proudly worked with many conservative and right-wing talent and I never interfered with their points of view. Adolf Hitler… well, my own backstory just might get in the way of that.

In the hands of the right creative team, a Mein Kampf adaptation might work. But it most certainly would not get racked in libraries or placed on Apple Books.

Librarians are teachers and… well… teachers teach. That means discuss, exchange points of view, and listen. Point out the problems with allowing a person with a small gaggle of follows to shove his or her will down everybody else’s throats. That’s particularly important these days, no matter what your worldview might be. If we don’t keep these discussions going, the next thing we’ll see is these same librarians and teachers cart away all the copies of the greatest American novel, Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. Actually, we’ve been seeing this for a while now, but most of these culture vultures seem content to merely censor the hell out of the book – thereby voiding the author’s point.

I understand his concerns and I think Mr. Charles’ piece was well-written and rather clever. But when it comes to bringing attention to censorship and the imposition of limits to the acquisition of knowledge, his heart is in the right place but his head’s up his ass.

I say that with respect.

Seriously.