Category: Comics

With Further Ado #180: Five and a Half Questions with Christopher Irving about Mike Allred’s Madmania Saturday Morning Cereal Box Fun Pack

With Further Ado #180: Five and a Half Questions with Christopher Irving about Mike Allred’s Madmania Saturday Morning Cereal Box Fun Pack

Chris Irving is a creative guy who’s always got something cooking.  One of his early projects, Leaping Tall Buildings, is still a favorite book of mine. He’s a comics historian and an assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University.  But with the new year here and his new Kickstarter just launched, it seems like the perfect time to regroup!

He is the latest participant (victim?) of the 5 and 1/2 question format.

Question 1: Your new project looks wild and fun! Can you explain exactly what Mike Allred’s Madmania Saturday Morning Cereal Box Fun Pack is?

Christopher Irving: Sure thing, Ed! I’ve run Fun Pack Madman campaigns where we keep adding more swag (yoyos, stickers, trading cards, you name it!) the more we fund. I was trying to come up with a campaign that would have a great gimmick, and it just felt it was a natural for a cereal box with prizes inside. I’m also a huge fan of creating cool packaging for all my campaigns, so why not START with the packaging and then fill it as we go? By the end of the campaign, we hope to have a box full of more and more goodies, all for just $35 (plus shipping).

The initial Kickstarter goal of $4K funds the cereal box, a Madman yo-yo, a Joe Lombard yo-yo, and two lobby card style 4 x 6 postcards of both Red Rocket 7 and The Oddity Odyssey (think if they came out as drive-in movies in the ’60s). Stretch goals include some mad scientist yoyos, and– A whoopie cushion with THE PUKE!

As I write this, we’re moving towards two new yo-yos: one of Dr. Flem and another of Laura Allred herself (to go with the surprise Mike Allred yo-yo last year).

This campaign met its initial goal in just six hours! That is the benefit of having a regular stable of awesome backers who keep coming back for more.

Question 2: What’s the background on this one? How do you guys ever come up with it?

CI: I’m really, really lucky working with Mike Allred: I just pitch an idea his way and he often just gives me the thumbs up, with approvals and suggestions on the way.

I was really trying to think of creative ways to package a fun pack and nothing says fun more to me than “cereal box”. A good chunk of this also comes from my four-year-old son, Grayson, who is unlucky enough to get breakfast cereals that are BOR-ING when it comes to prizes in the box. Heck, even Cracker Jacks prizes are super-lame! This is a way to go overboard and give him the best cereal box prize experience ever.

Question 3: Exactly who does it appeal to? Old fans? New fans? Cereal fans?

CI: Definitely Madman fans of any generation who love the cool swag! If you’re new to Madman, I’ve been self-publishing pamphlet style essays on each run of Madman (called Madmania!), which can be gained as add-ons and help the newbie learn about the world of Snap City. As for cereal fans, if you collect cool prizes, then this box is for you!

Question 4: I understand you’ve had success with past Kickstarters. What makes your Kickstarters successful?

CI: The backers, first and foremost! I’ve built a really loyal, reliable, and supportive backer base of Madman fans over the past few years. I also build the campaigns with a relatively low overhead for the initial goal, and simply upgrade the main attraction as we continue to fund–which gives old backers more reason to help spread the word of the campaign and gain new ones. That then helps grow the campaigns and benefits everyone who pitches in.

My goal is to give the backers more than their money’s worth by the end of the campaign. I’ve lost my shirt on one or two and broken even on another, but it’s totally worth it when I get nice emails and social media posts from folks who love what I’ve sent out to them.

One thing I’ll never forget is sending a campaign out RIGHT when the pandemic started in 2020 and got a ton of comments from folks who needed that pick-me-up.

Question 5: When does it launch and what will people like most about it?

CI: I launched right after the New Year and we’re going really strong just two days later. I think the best part about the Fun Pack is it gives backers the chance to get even more than their money’s worth through stretch goals. It’s also a chance to get a really substantial and sweet box of unique, limited Madman swag in just a couple of short months. I don’t go back and reprint or have any backstock in case someone misses it–so this is the only chance to grab the Saturday Morning Madmania Fun Pack.

Question 5½ : I know there’s no real cereal involved. But if there was, what cereal, or cereals, would it be?

CI: The cereal on the box was actually made of Sculpie and would (hypothetically) be “berry” red yoyos with marshmallow exclamation bolts, but if I could choose a pre-existing cereal:

Ralston made a Spider-Man cereal and Teenage Mutant Ninjas cereal in the ’90s, that were basically the same thing. I’d sit down with a box and eat it dry with Mystery Science Theater 3000 every Saturday night at 1 AM in college, and the sugar buzz kept me up all morning.

EC: Thanks so much, Chris!

 


For more on Chris, check out his page here.  And for more on this project, check it out here.

With Further Ado #179: Five and a Half Questions With J.C. Vaughn

With Further Ado #179: Five and a Half Questions With J.C. Vaughn

J.C. Vaughn had a busy year – but every year is busy for him. You might know him from The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, Gemstone’s The Scoop, all the very best comic conventions (when we have them), or maybe even his comic book work. Ooops!  I almost forgot: he’s now a published mystery writer too.

I wanted to catch up with J.C. about a very cool upcoming project: The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide to Lost Universes. It’s more than just a price guide. It’s almost a passport to all your favorite comic universes.  I caught up with him and this is what he had to say:

 

Question 1: What a great idea! How’d you come up with this concept?

J.C. Vaughn:  There were four main things that went into the concept. First, we’re always looking for ways to build on the incredible foundation Bob Overstreet and Steve Geppi have given us through their combined fifty-one years of ownership of The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide thus far.

Second, for whatever reason, I’m completely intrigued by the topic, which started when I got my first Atlas-Seaboard comics (Ironjaw #1 and #4) in 1976.

Third, I put a good bit of effort into helping out on a DEFIANT fanzine and spent a fair amount of time online in groups for the original Valiant, Marvel’s New Universe, and Malibu’s Ultraverse. I think these are small but hardcore, under-served groups of passionate collectors.

Fourth, with all the record prices being paid for many comics, suddenly these affordable and mostly accessible comics in finite sets are very appealing to collectors who might otherwise be priced out of the market. Put all that together, and you get The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide To Lost Universes. I think the fact that this book is also a Photo-Journal as well as a price guide means that collectors and dealers will be using it well beyond the shelf-life of its pricing information.

Question 2: What was the first “lost universe” you were most eager to research?

JCV: I’m relatively crazy for Atlas-Seaboard and have subjected most of my close friends and associates to it for years. I’ve been researching it for years. Discovering that other people shared my curiosity for it only made it worse. I’m also pretty fond of DEFIANT, since they introduced me to Bob and Carol Overstreet, but every one of the companies or imprints we covered has devoted fans, people who love the comics they produced.

Question 3: Do you feel, especially with the recent Marvel movies, that the general public understands the notion of interconnected series better than they have in the past?

JCV: It’s not as if Star Wars, Star Trek, and other franchises hadn’t introduced the concept to pop culture fans and the culture as a whole, but perhaps we could point to tighter continuity being an element significantly furthered by the Marvel films in particular. I think their financial success has certainly made the culture as a whole more aware of and more accepting of our characters, and they now have a great understanding that comic books are the source material for so much.

Question 4: Were there any lost universes that you almost forgot, but included at the last minute?

JCV: Not really because the list is still growing, and we’re already working on the second edition!

Question 5: What Lost Universe didn’t make the cut?

JCV: The only things that didn’t/won’t make the cut are things that aren’t universes. For instance, I love DEFIANT, but Broadway, which followed – and which had some wonderful comics – doesn’t seem like it was a single universe.

As far as things not being in this first edition, without a doubt this is NOT because they didn’t make the cut, but because they will be in the second edition. At 640, full-color pages, there was only so much room in the first one. The second one will include Fawcett’s Marvel Family, Timothy Truman’s Scout mini-universe at Eclipse, Marvel 2099 and Ultimate Marvel, and several others, so again we’ll be covering the Golden Age to the recent past.

And I’m sort of sketching out Volume 3 at this point, as well. More to come.

Question 5 and a Half: If you could resurrect any one lost universe, which one would it be? And why?

JCV: This is a bit like my favorite Beatles song. I could give you an emphatic answer, and then ten minutes later give you a completely different, equally emphatic answer.

EC: Thanks J.C.! We’ll let it be. Good luck with the book!


The book will be available on February 16, 2022, and can be pre-ordered on Gemstone Publishing’s website.

The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide to Lost Universes
By Robert M. Overstreet, J.C. Vaughn & Scott Braden

The highly collectible world of lost universes gets a brand-new specially focused, full-color edition of The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide that also serves as a Photo-Journal of all the comics featured. From in-depth looks at the original Milestone and Valiant to Tower’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and Charlton’s superheroes, and from Topps’ Kirbyverse and the MLJ/Archie heroes to Malibu’s Ultraverse and Marvel’s New Universe, this full-color book dives deep into Atlas-Seaboard, Comics Greatest World, Continuity, Defiant, Future Comics, Triumphant and more. Not only is packed with images and prices, but it also includes creator and collector interviews and insights.

With Further Ado #177: Speeding into Christmas

With Further Ado #177: Speeding into Christmas

As we speed ahead towards Christmas Day, either from a religious or commercial POV, I sometimes find it hard to slow down and actually enjoy the many events along the way. Too often my mind races ahead, eager to check off that mental to-do list rather than focus on the here-and-now.

With that in mind, I rescued a wonderful Archie Comic issue from a comic shop’s bargain box!  Wonderland Comics in Rochester, NY, always has so many scrumptious treasures available.

It’s Laugh #203 from February 1968, which means it was probably on sale around Christmas of 1967.  Veronica, Betty and Mr. Lodge are admiring a retailer’s window, which features paper dresses. This was a short-lived fad, popular from ’66 to ’68.  Current movie fans may have revisited this craze in the stylish new movie Last Night in Soho. It’s a brilliant movie and highly recommended.

Cover 4

Back when magazines were a big deal, advertising executives called the back cover “Cover 4”.  It was usually the most expensive ad page. The thought process was that readers had a 50-50 chance of seeing the front cover or the back cover.

Cover 4 for this issue features a wonderful Christmas Ad. It’s curious to readers today but certainly was “normal” back in the day.  Kids loved their bicycles a generation or two ago.  Bike ads, and ads for bike related items (tires, brakes, speedometers, etc.).

This ad, from the Stewart-Warner Instrument Division (obviously not named in hopes of creating Christmas “must-haves” for kids) for their Cadet Speedometer.  It’s a special speedometer that kids would put on their bikes.

Today, of course, bikers like me just use the Strava app.  Yes, there’s now an app that has replaced this product.

This wonderful ad has the Mad Men feel to it. It’s clever and upbeat. It’s not particularly inclusive to consumers who don’t celebrate Christmas, either. The copy [the words in the ad] were thoughtfully written and creatively designed, with an alternating placement, as if two speakers were “talking” (or singing?) to the reader.  And back in 1968, it was assumed that kids were going READ the damn ad. It wasn’t about one big graphic image and a logo; instead, it was about romancing the consumer with a conversation.

There’s no focus on product benefits here. This ad isn’t about the joy a bike rider can experience when she’s whooshing down a steep hill at top speed.  This ad is all about the product features instead. Continue reading “With Further Ado #177: Speeding into Christmas”

Brainiac On Banjo: Ku Klux Luthor For President?

I just returned from a week-long driving trip to Chicago, hanging out with friends while doing as little work as possible. I used to do this three times a tear, but I haven’t for the past 21 months because, you know, Covid.

The driving part is, for me, wonderfully relaxing. I control the music, I nosh on tons of life-saving unhealthy food, and I get to enjoy long internal conversations with the one person who totally gets me. This time, while plowing through north central Ohio, my thoughts drifted towards Lex Luthor and the frightening growth of the white separatist movements. Now, before you can scream “oxymoron” let me state internal conversations often are 100 miles short of reality. It’s my brain, damn it, and it’s time I indulged it.

Back in 1961, DC published what I believe was the first story titled “The Death of Superman.” It said so right on the cover, which kinda gave away the ending. It was an “imaginary story,” meaning it didn’t really happen. Compare this with Marvel’s later What If? stories, which I gather really did happen…. somewhere.

To illustrate this bit of comic book logic: DC did not publish a series of Death of Superman comics based upon this imaginary story — they rebooted the concept many, many times, often under the same title. On the other hand, this March Marvel will be coming out with a Captain Carter series based upon the first What If? teevee episode. Reality is what happens between the staples.

In this imaginary story, Lex Luthor is pardoned from all crimes after inventing a cure for cancer. That made sense to me at the time because I was barely 11 years old when I read it at the counter of Normie’s Deli while consuming a plate of french fries and a glass of Green River. It didn’t occur to me at the time how the hell Lex actually could come up with a cure for cancer while incarcerated. Penal reform, I guess.

Upon his release, Lex buckled down to his real plan: killing the Man of Steel. SPOILER ALERT: In this story, titled The Death of Superman, Lex Luthor’s nefarious scheme was successful.

Being in 21st century Ohio, I wondered what would have happened had Lex Luthor been a Trumpster white supremacist.

In the original story, Luthor was beloved for coming up with the cancer cure — perhaps it did not involve getting a vaccine injection. He lost that love after murdering Superman. Go figure. But in my more contemporary scenario, I suspect about one-third of Americans, those who are avowed Trumpster while supremacists, would be quite happy about Luthor’s newfound prerogative.

Undoubtably, Lex would be invited to guest on Steve Bannon’s podcast. He might get his own television show on one of the lying far-right wing fake news networks. He’d go on tour raising money for Trump. He could even become the new Rush Limbaugh.

Indeed, I suspect Donald Trump would pick Lex Luthor as his vice-presidential candidate in 2024. If you think about it, this might be a grave mistake on Trump’s part — with emphasis on the term “grave.”

I mean, WTF, Lex just killed that not-white alien Superman. Killing anybody else would be no big deal. Luthor could be a better Trumpster than Trump himself.

We would have President Lex Luthor which, as I recall, happened in DC’s not-imaginary stories. These sagas, by definition, really happened.

It doesn’t take a political wag to note the Republican party would be fine with this. They are fine with the invasion of the Capitol building by violent insurrectionists, they care fine with eliminating, oh, school programs, health programs, social security, Medicare, abortion, and poverty programs in order to give the wealthiest of the wealthy another cut in the taxes they don’t pay anyway. That’s how these bastards roll.

The man who edited that original Death of Superman, Mort Weisinger, was a friend (of sorts) of the Kennedy administration, so perhaps he would not have green-lit this saga. But that way then.

This is now, and that story doesn’t seem so extreme today.

With Further Ado #176: Getting Chatty (and Catty) with Cliff Chiang

With Further Ado #176: Getting Chatty (and Catty) with Cliff Chiang

Cliff Chiang is a gifted artist, a boundary pushing creator and a helluva nice guy. He’s smart, upbeat and laser-focused on producing the best work possible. I’ve always enjoyed time his work and our conversations.  With all that in mind, I found myself enjoying the first issue of his latest, Catwoman: Lonely City, more than I thought I would.  I should note this oversized, four-issue comic series is from the DC Black Label imprint. There’s been a lot of Batman stories published lately (as Mike Gold pointed out here), and I worried I had had my fill of the character for a while.

Chiang has pleasantly surprised me yet again. I was so impressed with this book. I had to reach out to the artist, now writer-artist, to find out more. Here are the highlights from our conversation:


Ed Catto: I feel like right now, there’s a lot of Batman product out there. There’s a bunch of different projects coming out and part of me was like, “I think I’m reading too much Batman.” But somehow you broke through that clutter and really delivered something fresh with Catwoman: Lonely City.

Cliff Chiang: I wasn’t going to spend all this time on a throw-away story. I think you might be able to tell by the first issue, certainly by the second, that I’m trying to pay homage to those classic Batman stories, The Dark Knight Returns and Year One. You know, I almost hesitate to say “my take” take on it.  But I’m just looking to show the parts of Gotham and that don’t necessarily get shown.

Catwoman is such a perfect vehicle for that. She’s really a great character, but she’s also kind of not necessarily as rigidly defined as Batman . Certainly not the Batman that is popular today. I thought there was a lot of gray area to her that would be interesting, especially in the context of a more “crime story” showcase.

EC: Somehow it all seems very fresh. Visually I feel you tagged all the bases for fans, with all the old costumes and whatnot, and then you kind of faked us all out, with “here’s something new”.

CC: And that’s deliberate. Part of me wants to acknowledge all the publishing history that’s come before. That’s part of the mystery of the character. That’s part of what makes you feel her age as well. Because you’re like, “Oh wow she’s done this, and she’s done that. And this is the costume that she wore that time when she did this.

There’s a way in which all the publishing history, our character can be leveraged to make it feel the weight of the years.  And to celebrate that stuff to you know. A big part of this story is about is about getting older. Gotham gotten rid of superheroes, and sort of grown-up in the process.

And to take a look at how city like Gotham might function in the modern world. I wanted to play with that stuff as well.

So, you’ve got you the older stuff that we’re all fans of on one hand, and on the other hand, you can bring in new ideas. I didn’t want to throw away the old stuff.  I wanted to keep it and kind of look at different eyes and make you appreciate it again. And then bring in these other concepts to so that the whole thing is richer.

EC: This your first big venture as both writer and artist, Cliff. How was it working with a new writer (you) for “Cliff the artist”? How did that process change for you?

CC: You know, it’s funny. I started this two years ago, and the interesting thing about it is that, in order to get a handle on it all, because it’s such a big story and it’s a big job, I had to compartmentalize.  The writing –  it was a year of writing – included an outline and the full script.

I wrote in full script because I know how much information is there on the page. I’ve read so many scripts from other people, too. It allows me to kind of evaluate the story on an abstract level.

Whereas, by thumbnailing stuff (and not developing a full script- EC) ,you kind of get seduced by it because it’s a drawing.  It’s a comic all of sudden.  I wrote it all, and then I thumbnailed it and lettered it so it could be read by myself and the editors.

A lot of the writing was done, super focused, at the beginning.  Now as I’m drawing, I am thinking “Oh yeah, I knew this part was going to be a bear to draw.”

There’s so much stuff going on in every panel. Even for the city itself.  One of my goals is to make it feel really like New York City, and you can’t do that in a minimal way. Unfortunately. I wish I found shortcuts for this stuff, but at the same time, it’s what the story is. There were times when I cursed “the writer” a little bit. But it’s all going more or less “on plan”. It is taking longer than I ever expected.

EC: Do you think you would like to continue to create in this Black Label oversized the format for a while?

CC:  I do enjoy it. I think it needs the right kind of project. And I think you have to adjust your pacing for that.  That being said, I do enjoy the storytelling opportunities you get with the Black Label line.  It wasn’t until I held the thing in my and I realized the physical size of the page does have an impact.

EC: I was speaking with a local comic owner (Ash Gray from Comics for Collectors in Ithaca, NY) as I was preparing for our talk. It seems he under-ordered your series. He said that the orders were low initially on the first issue. Then there was a big buzz and it immediately sold out. Now he’s having trouble getting more copies to sell.

CC:  I was at the Baltimore Comic-Con. I met a lot of people there who are excited to read it. I met a lot of shop owners. Some of them knew to order heavy on it. [They had the opportunity] to read previews of it. They had two issues to read if they checked it out.  Some knew that, based on their store, based on their readers, that they could order “Batman numbers” on it.

Things do get lost in the shuffle.  Hopefully the buzz on it is that it sold out, and people bought it and that people came around asking for it.  Hopefully for the second issue people won’t be caught without it.

I just wanted to tell a story. I just want people to read it, and I think there’s a big audience for it. I think that’s the kind of book that you can, when all is said and done, hand it to somebody how might not be at the stores every week.  It could be someone who’s last Batman movie they watched was Batman Returns in 1992. What you need is just a basic pop culture knowledge of Batman and Catwoman. Everything else just falls into place.

It is a blank slate situation: Her name’s Catwoman.  She’s a cat burglar and she wears a cat costume. And sometimes she’s involved with Batman. And that’s all you need going into it.

EC: Upon reflection, of course, Catwoman is oftentimes portrayed as a sexy, young woman in a skintight suit. In Catwoman: Lonely City she’s not a young woman. I think it may have been a brave decision for you to have an older protagonist in this book.

CC:  Yes, I thought it immediately makes you reassess her. It puts both the reader and the character in a different place. It’s a pendulum. There’s a history of her as the sexy ingenue and then her involved in more hard-boiled crime.

For me, I felt making her older and having her grapple with ageism and sexism would force you to see her differently.  And in some ways, to tone that down, so you could see her as a person. Much of the story depends on you relating to her and to her losses and indignities and how she suffers. And you can’t do that with someone slinking around and purring and all that stuff.

I think that’s all part of her history. You see that in a couple of issues, too, but she’s not that person anymore. It’s a little bit of playing a part at one point in your life and moving past it.

EC: Working with your editors, was there every a point where you were told “watch out someone else is doing something similar?” Doing something with characters like Catwoman or Killer Croc?  Or was this separate enough from everything else.

CC: A little of both. My editors were worried about something being similar to what just happened. But then, once we squared that away, everybody was really happy with the story. I think the realization was that: there’s an audience for this book is separate from the audience for other books.

And that’s okay. It’s a bigger project and it’s kind of more evergreen than whatever it is happening in the monthly book. There are things I wish, maybe, that had more novelty to them.  But we’ve seen that happen.  When I wrote this story – I came up with this story two years ago – there were elements that hadn’t appeared yet. That’s just the nature of the beast.

You think you are ahead of the curve. But you are not. You are just part of the Zeitgeist like everyone else. You can think you’re clever doing a book about adolescents in 1988 and then, two months later, after your book, Stranger Things comes out.

EC: This is more of a technical question.  You are a very thoughtful artist and you’ve been doing this for a long time. Do you feel as if you deal with editors differently now than you would have years ago?

CC: Probably. I’m on the same wavelength as the editors. And Black Label is open to creators taking changes and thinking about things differently.  So, it’s a pleasure. All the interactions and all the notes and suggestions from the editors make the story better. As an artist I can appreciate that end of it. It’s so great that I can’t complain about it.

EC:  Well, Cliff this has been fantastic.  Good chatting with you, I hope to see you in person real soon. Good luck with everything and best your family during this Yuletide Season.

CC: Okay, all right. Hey, thanks a lot and take care now.


Issue #2 of Cliff Chiang’s Catwoman: Lonely City, a DC Black Label book, is on sale December 22nd.

 

 

With Further Ado #175: Ed’s 2021 Holiday Gift Guide

With Further Ado #175: Ed’s 2021 Holiday Gift Guide

Have you been good this year? I hope not. I strongly suggest you get into mischief all year and then clean up your act during the 2nd week of December. That’s been my operating procedure for years and it always seems to fool Santa. Unless he’s reading this column. Ooops!

Well, regardless, it’s time for my annual gift guide, which many readers automatically subtitle as “stuff I want to buy for myself.” That works too. Let’s not be judgey, shall we?


Kiddie Cocktails

Did you ever buy a gift for a child, and then decide to keep it for yourself because it’s so wonderful? Don’t beat yourself up about it. It happens to all of us. And it will probably happen again with this clever new book from Korero Press.

Kiddie Cocktails has a wonderful retro vibe – it seems like it jumped off the screen of a 1960s Drive-In (during the intermission) and became this incredible book. It’s as if it all starts with Shirley Temples and then just blossoms from there. There are brilliant recipes for all kinds of child focused cocktails, including The Blue Lagoon, The Golden Cadillac, The Dreamsicle and The Elephant Charger. And so many more.

This might just be the book we all need if we all do Dry January again, in fact.

Kiddie Cocktails
by Stuart Sandler Author, Derek Yaniger Illustrator
Korero Press
112 pages
ISBN-10‏: ‎191274015X

 


Is Superman Circumcised?

I wrote about this engaging book earlier this year, and what most impressed me was author Roy Schwarz’s focused and fan-friendly recounting of Superman’s history. And it wasn’t the straightforward deep dive that entertainment folks often do – this was nuanced and thoughtful. For example, here Superman’s comics history didn’t begin in Action and end in Superman comics. Schwartz thoughtfully explores the character’s appearances in other DC titles like Justice League and World’s Finest.

And it’s just been announced the winner of the prestigious Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of 2021. You can read all about it here.

Is Superman Circumcised?: The Complete Jewish History of the World’s Greatest Hero
by Roy Schwarz
McFarland
374 pages
ISBN-10: 1476662908


Pac-Man Birth of Icon

I was never that much of a Pac-Man enthusiast. In fact, I remember being impatient with my college pal, Dave Bloom, as he would always try to sneak in a “quick game” of Pac-Man before we’d go to Dunbar’s, our old “favorite bar”.

Likewise, I was perplexed when the new Comic Book Museum announced a Pac-Man exhibit early on. “Who cares?”, I thought. “It’s not really comics.”

After reading Terpstra and Lapetino’s new Pac-Man coffee table book I get it. This is an amazing recounting of the story behind the game. It’s a fascinating history of the video game business back in the day, as well as the entrepreneurial spirit of the developers to do create something new and different.

Pac-Man: Birth of an Icon
By Arjan Terpstra & Tim Lapetino
Titan Books
340 pages
ISBN-10: 1789099390


No Time To Die: The Making of the Film

The newest 007 thriller took so long to get into theaters. I remember showcasing this James Bond/Heineken Ad in class two years ago!  Some longtime fans, like my brother Colin and Professor Laurence Maslon, loved this movie. Others…not so much.

Either way- Mark Salisbury’s new book is sure to delight all fans. The pictures are gorgeous, and the insights are.. insightful. It’s always amazing just how much goes into a movie, a piece of entertainment that most of the world just focuses on for a couple of hours.  This impressive book helps us understand so many of the twists and turns that happened behind the camera.

This one is a perfect gift for anyone with room on their coffee table. Or maybe your own coffee table. But show a little class and don’t put your martinis on the book.  Use a coaster, will ya?

No Time To Die: the Making of the Film
By Mark Salisbury
Titan Books
192 pages
ISBN-10: 1789093597


Build the RMS Titanic

Let’s face it- some folks reading this column have too many action figures littering their homes and offices. And to be perfectly honest (after all, Santa is watching this time of year) I am guilty of that too.

Eaglemoss, the innovative company that you may know for their HeroCollector collections of things like Star Trek ships and DC Heroes, is rolling out something new.

It’s an authentic replica of the RMS Titanic.  It’s designed as an accurate 1:250 scale, and this is a build-up.  Each month, fans receive part of this massive model, and they build it bit by bit. Eaglemoss also sends a new Titanic magazine with every shipment too.

I love these Eaglemoss magazines, especially for Star Trek and Batman. They are always well-written and stuffed with engaging information.

The site explains how it all works here. I tend to like this kind of gift, as it “keeps on giving” all through the year.

Eaglemoss

LENGTH: 42.36 inches
HEIGHT (to top of funnels): 11.41 inches
WIDTH: 5.43 inches
MATERIALS: Wood, MDF, die-cast metal, brass and plastic

 

Brainiac On Banjo: Make Room! Make Room!

There once was a science fiction writer named Harry Harrison. He is best known as the author of “Make Room, Make Room,” which was turned into the 1973 movie Soylent Green, starring Edward G. Robinson, Leigh Taylor-Young, and that guy who says we can take his gun out of his cold dead hands now.

The story was about overpopulation and how there was no space for anybody to live, eat or, ironically, procreate. It was set in 2022. That’s 22 days from now.

Harrison also was a comic book and comic strip writer, and much of his artwork – for EC Comics and others – was inked by Wally Wood. He wrote the Flash Gordon comic strip in the 1950s and his s-f novel, The Stainless Steel Rat, was adapted into a long running series in the UK weekly comics 2000 AD.

I agree with his story’s message. In fact, I do not believe we have a shortage of any natural resources per se. I believe we have a massive overabundance of human beings. This planet wasn’t built to house and feed 7.9 billion people (as of November 2021). Indeed, the number of humans who stalk the Earth octupled in the past 200 years. Make room, indeed. And never forget: soylent green is people.

Not everybody agrees with me. For example, take Elon Musk, a man who has been dramatically unable to pull his rabbit out of his hat.

Yes, he’s the guy behind the Tesla, the wonderfully named, vastly overpriced and pathetically underperforming wondercar that is supposed to eliminate the need for both gasoline and drivers. Someday it might do that, maybe, perhaps… but thus far it is one of the most recalled automobiles of this century. Thus far, his six-figure four-wheeler has killed at least 221 people (source).

His SpaceX company appears to be more successful – unless you’re paying attention to Elon Musk. A couple weeks ago, he told his SpaceX employees that his Starship engine crisis is creating a “risk of bankruptcy.” Start updating your résumés, kids!

So it is with some amusement that I find Elon’s latest pronouncement that “so many people, including smart people, think that there are too many people in the world and think that the population is growing out of control. It’s completely the opposite. Please look at the numbers – if people don’t have more children, civilization is going to crumble, mark my words.” He said this at the Wall Street Journal’s annual CEO Council while he was promoting his newest baby, the Tesla Bot, which, according to Musk, is a “generalized substitute for human labor over time.”

More people but less human employment. This is a billionaire’s stickiest wet dream.

I should note Elon has six children. Well, at least he puts his, ahhh, dick where his mouth is.

The global birthrate fell by 4% in 2020, and it’s been slowly declining for the previous 60 years. To me, this sounds like great progress. Slow progress, to be sure, but slow enough to be in Elon’s comfort zone. Except it isn’t.

Musk also notes “it is important for us to die because most of the times, people don’t change their mind, they just die… If they live forever, then we might become a very ossified society where new ideas cannot succeed.”

I’m not exactly sure how he came to this conclusion as it’s not backed by anybody’s experience, but I can make an educated guess as to which orifice had incubated his speculation.

Bottom line: P.T. Burnum put on a better show.

With Further Ado #174: I Love a Parade

With Further Ado #174: I Love a Parade

It seems like it should be a rigorous process for a brand, or a character, to achieve the crowning achievement of being featured as a balloon in the Macy’s Day Parade. But it doesn’t work that way.

Way back when, when I was working in marketing for Lever Brothers on Snuggle Fabric Softener, I learned how it all really worked. It was simple economics. If you could pay, you could get your brand, or character, into the parade.

You might not see him so much now, but Snuggle was the cuddly bear mascot for the Snuggle fabric softener brand. In network TV commercials back in the day, we were forever throwing the Snuggle Bear into a pile of super-soft towels. They were so soft because, and you have already guessed it, the head-of-household had used Snuggle fabric with every load of laundry. You see, back then, parents expressed their love for their family through soft towels.

And yes, I know it all sounds silly now.

Anyways, Lever Brothers had created a Snuggle Balloon for the Macy’s Day Parade in 1989, and we ran it again in 1990. My firstborn was just a month old then, so I decided to forego the VIP seats. In retrospect, I do regret that!

Faster Than A Speeder Bullet

Still, I’m always surprised that Superman, who debuted in 1938, appeared as a balloon in the 1940 Macy’s Day parade.  According to the Macy’s Fandom Wiki, it was designed by the parade director, who evidently didn’t realize that Superman usually wore a red cape.  From the Wiki:

The colossal “Man of Steel” balloon was designed by a former Parade Director Tony Sarg and constructed out of neoprene coated rubber at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company  at Akron, Ohio headquarters. The “Giant Superman” measured 75 feet in height and 44 feet in width with 9,000 cubic feet of helium needed to help the superhero fly down the streets of Manhattan. A crew of 27 husky handlers helped guide the balloon down the street, all donning Superman-themed apparel. 

The original Superman balloon was retired after making only one appearance in the 1940 procession and was refurbished into Hugo the Football Hero the following year.

It really speaks to Superman’s instant, overwhelming success, that he could be in the Macy’s Parade so soon after his debut.  And by the way, who is Hugo the Football Hero?!?

But you may have seen Baby Yoda, although we call him Grogu now, in the parade last Thursday. He debuted in the 2019 Disney+ series The Mandalorian, and there he was in the parade, just two years later.

“Incredible!”, you say?  Maybe not. It’s not really the Star Wars character. It’s really the Funko version of the Star Wars character. This effort was driven by toymaker/collectible maker Funko, as detailed in this NYTimes article.

One more triumph for Geek Culture. And it also makes sense that this effort was a also a way to sell exclusive toys at Macy’s. From the NYTimes article:

For the occasion of the parade, Grogu Pop merchandise, including T-shirts, hoodies and figurines, will be sold at the Herald Square Macy’s and Funko stores.

“We’re beyond excited for the product to the hit shelves at Macy’s flagship store in a few days,” Jordan Dabby, Senior Director of Partnership Marketing and Media for Macy’s branded entertainment, said in an interview last week. “We expect the limited-edition Grogu Macy’s Parade balloon-inspired merchandise to go quickly.”

One can’t help but wonder what characters are in development right now for next year’s parade.

With Further Ado #172: Five-and-a-Half Questions with Tyler Jennes

With Further Ado #172: Five-and-a-Half Questions with Tyler Jennes

Tyler Jennes is a newly minted comics professional who’s on a career rocket ride. He’s currently working at Modern Fanatic, but there’s so much more to what he does. I was so impressed with everything he was doing and involved with at NYCC that I just had to catch up with him. I think you’ll enjoy what he has to say.

Question 1:

Ed Catto: What sort of comics and pop culture things did you like before you became part of the industry, and how deep into it were you?

Tyler Jennes: Well, I did go to Ithaca College as a film major, so I was definitely trying to watch as many movies as I possibly could. Besides that, I know I watched a hell of a lot of sitcoms when I was supposed to be doing work, so I can always talk shop about the Norman Lear and James L Brooks output! And I’d like to think I was pretty deep into the comic book scene before I was ever officially in the industry! I would go to NYCC annually and try to meet as many creators as I could (some of whom I now have the pleasure of working with!). But in terms of avidly following characters, there was a period of time where I’m pretty sure I had read every Deadpool title ever published. Now I try to keep myself caught up on all the hot new titles for work purposes!

Question 2:

EC: At Ithaca College, you were very involved with Ithacon (the nation’s second longest running comic con). Can you tell me a little bit about it?

TJ: Like you said, Ithacon has been around for a WHILE. I’m pretty sure it was even one of the first conventions that Frank Miller ever attended. It has a deep, rich history in the comic world, and what makes it even more special is that it’s now student-run! Of course, they still have the original organizers around to supervise things, but the convention is now hosted at the Ithaca College campus, and the student put together the whole thing, from handling guests to setting up events to running booths. I’d also like to add that you can find some amazing stuff at these booths. I vividly remember looking at used comic trades and coming across a Superman collection signed by Curt Swan, Murphy Anderson, Julie Schwartz, and John Byrne. The seller didn’t even realize what he had on his hands, so do you know how much I paid for that? Eight dollars.

Question 3:

EC: There’s a general consensus that many professionals have got to find their own way into the industry -there’s no set plan (unlike a classic profession like, say accounting). How did you get involved?

TJ: I was a junior poised to go off for a semester in LA and start the production assistant grind many film students go through when the pandemic kicked in. At the time, I was in the class for Ithacon, gearing up to put all our convention plans into motion. Obviously, the con wasn’t going to happen that year, so to make it up to us, our professor, the one and only Ed Catto, started having industry folks join the remote classes every week to talk about the biz. These were folks like Rob Salkowitz, Paul Levitz, and even Dan DiDio. But one of those guests was an IC alum, comic editor Will Dennis, who was involved with just about every title Vertigo put out. During the class I tried to make myself stand out by asking a bunch of inside baseball-type questions. He had also mentioned being overloaded with work recently and probably needing an assistant. So, I crossed my fingers and contacted him afterwards, and the rest is history. I started working on Scott [Snyder]’s stuff with Undiscovered Country, and after about a year, I fully hopped on the Best Jackett train and I’ve been running with those two guys ever since. Continue reading “With Further Ado #172: Five-and-a-Half Questions with Tyler Jennes”