Category: Featured

Weird Scenes #100: Black Like He?

Weird Scenes #100: Black Like He?

I miss the old Kanye, straight from the ‘Go Kanye / Chop up the soul Kanye, set on his goals Kanye / I hate the new Kanye, the bad mood Kanye / The always rude Kanye, spaz in the news Kanye / I miss the sweet Kanye, chop up the beats Kanye / I gotta to say at that time I’d like to meet Kanye – I Love Kanye, written by Kanye West, 2016.

You may have heard of Kanye Omari West. He is a very successful rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer, and fashion designer… and now, he’s a presidential candidate.

When it comes to businessmen as presidential candidates, I will say this: he is far more qualified, experienced and successful then the current clown-in-chief, President Orangeface. But he’s probably no more qualified than, oh, let’s say, you are. Or either of my cats. I’m just playing the odds here.

Don’t matter none. Orangeface has set the presidential bar so low it doubles as a sewer pipe. Yeah, West has made it onto a couple state ballots and doubtlessly will do so in a couple more — mostly swing-states, and that is for a reason.

As it turns out, major Republican campaign operators have been “assisting” West’s efforts to become our next president. You’d think they would be working for the reelection of Orangeface. Continue reading “Weird Scenes #100: Black Like He?”

With Further Ado #106: In Short, There’s Simply Not

With Further Ado #106: In Short, There’s Simply Not

Way back in my freshman year of college, instead of taking a traditional English class, students could select a Freshman Seminar. These courses were full of a lot of reading and writing, just like those traditional English classes, for these Freshman Seminars, you’d choose a topic that really excited you.

One that I chose was Medieval Studies 106 : King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table.  I was surprised to find out that one could take classes in Medieval Studies.

It was really something! I had grown up enjoying King Arthur movies and books. In fact, John Boorman’s Excalibur debuted the summer before I went away to college. But the scholarly nature of the class opened my eyes wide to the rich, expansive landscape the Arthurian Legend.

There were quite of few stops along the way before that movie. The musical Camelot was a favorite as were the many King Arthur picture books I’d read as a kid. And so many King Arthur comics inspired me to learn more about the Round Table.  There’s an impressive new one that was just published that I’ll write about towards the end of this column.

The Road To Camelot – In Geek Culture

As a kid in the 1960s, for me World’s Finest #162 was an epic comic. In this adventure, those two great pals, Batman and Superman, adventured in medieval times with the Knights of the Round Table, and it turned out that the Arthur’s knights are essentially old timey superheroes. Oooooh! Now I got it. When you put it that way,  how could I (a young boy obsessed with superheroes ) not be enthusiastic about King Arthur stories?

Prince Valiant

One of the Knights of the Round Table, Prince Valiant, seemed to come into our life every week in the Sunday funnies.  I’d read his adventures every Sunday, just after The Phantom. Continue reading “With Further Ado #106: In Short, There’s Simply Not”

Brainiac On Banjo #093: “What the Hell Was That?”

Brainiac On Banjo #093: “What the Hell Was That?”

One day I feel so horny / Next night I feel so bleh / Guess well have to take the whoppee! / along with the bleh / Each night I ask the moon up above / Why must I be a septuagenerian in love? ––Tuli Kupferberg, “Septuagenerian in Love,” from The Fugs Final CD, Part 1, 2003.

Well, this is goddamned strange. Not at all what I expected.

It’s not that I’m big on birthday celebrations. I have a hard time remembering such events; it’s an often embarrassing failing. The only reason I remember my own is because I’ve renewed my driver’s license approximately 18 times, thereby making it a habit. Well, I’ve just put my new driver’s license in my wallet – which was kinda fun because I didn’t have to break quarantine to get it — so unless something terminal happens in the next 24 hours, I turn 70 tomorrow. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #093: “What the Hell Was That?””

With Further Ado #105: Sharing SDCC’s Secret Traditions

With Further Ado #105: Sharing SDCC’s Secret Traditions

The San Diego Comic-Con is many things to many people.  For the business community, it’s an incredible commerce success story.  For fans and collectors, it’s both a celebration and a validation.   For entrepreneurs, it can be an enjoyable way to drive revenue quickly. For the entertainment community, it’s a fantastic marketing venue. For the entertainment community in Los Angeles and Hollywood, it’s also a great excuse to get outta town.

And for so many folks, professionals and fans alike, it’s an opportunity to spend time with 200,000+ of your closest friends.  It’s an annual journey to a real-life Disney World, mixed with a hefty dose of your best days on a college campus and the most incredible state fair ever, where the main dish on the menu is “all the stuff you love.”

This year, as the nation and the world struggles with Covid-19, the folks behind the convention shifted gears quickly to morph the show into a virtual convention. We’ll all be analyzing that for a while, but one refrain I heard time and time again was not so much how folks missed the big events, but how they missed the little things.

I reached out to a group of fascinating folks and asked them to share some of their more personal stories and traditions from their annual pilgrimage to San Diego Comic-Con and the little things they miss this year.

* * *

Rob Salkowitz is the author of Comic-Con and the Business of Geek Culture  (I use this as a textbook for one of my college classes)  a consultant  and a sayer of things. He wistfully remembers one tradition he and his wife Eunice especially hold dear:

Our oldest and longest running SDCC tradition is the Tuesday night dinner we instituted with Batton Lash and Jackie Estrada back in 2000, maybe earlier. We were fans with no industry connections whatsoever. They befriended us, introduced us to pros, made us formally part of the Eisner Award staff and brought us into the circle of Comic-Con. After we lost Batton a couple of years ago we continued with Jackie. We really miss seeing her in person this year.

Continue reading “With Further Ado #105: Sharing SDCC’s Secret Traditions”

Weird Scenes #099: Attack of the Ninja Stormtroopers

Weird Scenes #099: Attack of the Ninja Stormtroopers

When der Führer says, “Dis war won’t last too long” / Ve HEIL! HEIL!, although he could be wrong / If you doubt der Führer, you won’t last for long / So, ve HEIL! HEIL!, still he could be wrong.” Der Führer’s Face, written by Oliver Wallace, 1942.

There’s this goosestepper in Washington, DC named Chad Wolf, who enjoys the title “acting head of Department of Homeland Security.” Some might think his job title implies he’s merely a placeholder, a guy who need not know his job because it’s only temporary. You know, just like our acting president.

Well, it’s possible that the longevity of all Trump appointments (except judges) might be only temporary. But until that magic day in January arrives, I think we’re stuck with this Wolf fool for the duration. This is because he has the only talent needed by a Trump appointee — in addition to a complete lack of morality, the law, and “knowledge,” Wolf certainly knows where to put his tongue. Continue reading “Weird Scenes #099: Attack of the Ninja Stormtroopers”

With Further Ado #104: Johnny Dynamite Is Back

With Further Ado #104: Johnny Dynamite Is Back

Back in the day, I was a big fan of Ms. Tree by Max Allan Collins and Terry Beatty. I liked hard-boiled fiction (and still do), but this comic was different.  Somehow Collins and Beatty took everything that private-eye fans liked, jumbled it all up and delivered a new series that seemed fresh as a counterfeit sawbuck and as enticing as a nightclub singer’s over-the-shoulder wink.

Collins and Beatty developed a rapport with the readers, and soon we all began to understand the stuff that influenced their work on Ms. Tree.  Soon it become clear that it all started with the hard-boiled detective author Mickey Spillane, although there was a little Dragnet in there too.  They also revealed they were influenced by a 50s Private Eye comic series, Johnny Dynamite.

Johnny Dynamite was a character who – “ahem” – borrowed many of the attributes of Spillane’s detective, Mike Hammer. Ms. Tree comics reprinted the old Johnny Dynamite  stories, and the character Johnny Dynamite even ended up crossing paths with Ms. Tree. Eventually, Collins and Beatty created a new Johnny Dynamite mini-series (with great Mitch O’Connell covers).

And it’s taken a while, but now, in the summer of 2020, there’s an explosive new Johnny Dynamite collection just published by the good folks at Yoe Books. It’s a stunner.

I reached out to Max Allan Collins to provide some details: Continue reading “With Further Ado #104: Johnny Dynamite Is Back”

Brainiac On Banjo #092: John Lewis – The Great American Warrior

Brainiac On Banjo #092: John Lewis – The Great American Warrior

Hound dogs on my trail / School children sitting in jail / Black cat cross my path / I think every day’s gonna be my last / Lord have mercy on this land of mine / We all gonna get it in due time / I don’t belong here / I don’t belong there / I’ve even stopped believing in prayer — Nina Simone, “Mississippi Goddam,” 1964

The first time I was able to have a conversation with the late Representative and true American hero John Lewis was about six years ago at the Baltimore Comic-Con. It was during set-up so the room was comparatively open and, as I was attempting to locate my booth I saw Representative Lewis behind a table. His name was on the sign behind his table — “Congressman John Lewis.” I did one of those patented Tex Avery eyeball takes.

I previously had been at the Heroes Convention at the Charlotte North Carolina Convention Center. A bunch of older white guys were walking around wearing suits that, each, could feed a family of four for three months. In the midst of that gaggle was Sarah Palin. I looked around to make sure I was at the right place because I could not believe these folks were there to add to their Funko Pops collections.

I was right; the state Republican Convention was upstairs and the comic-con was downstairs. The white men in their expensive suits looked disgusted but, to be fair, they always look that way. Sarah saw the cosplayers and beamed a megawatt smile. So you can’t say I’ve never said anything nice about Sarah Palin.

But this time, the statesman at hand was there for a comic book show. Considering he worked in Congress, seeing a couple thousand people dressed up as The Joker (including babies) was just another day at work. I approached him, he offered me a seat, and we chatted about the relationship between comic books and political organizing. It was one of those “holy crap” moments that make life wonderful.

Rep. Lewis did say I was the first to recognize him at the show. I laughed and said “Oh, just wait until the show starts.” He looked skeptical, but my prediction quickly came to pass: that was just about the only time during the show that I could see him clearly from the aisle. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #092: John Lewis – The Great American Warrior”

Weird Scenes #098: A Truly Honorable American

Weird Scenes #098: A Truly Honorable American

The goalie committed, Buddy picked his spot / Twenty years of waiting went into that shot / The fans jumped up, the Finn jumped too / And coldcocked Buddy on his follow through / The big man crumbled but he felt all right / ‘Cause the last thing he saw / was the flashing red light / He saw that heavenly light — Warren Zevon, Hit Somebody!, 2002

Statue of General Black Hawk

You may have heard that the Washington Redskins football team finally moved to change its name a mere 72 years after its founding as the Boston Braves. They played in the same park as the baseball team of the same name. When they moved to the hallowed confines of Fenway Park, they changed their name to the Boston Redskins and took that with them to Washington, DC four years later.

That would be 1937, so the response “Well, it’s about time” is way too late. The term “redskins” is and always has been an offensive term, particularly to those people who, quite frankly, should be America’s landlords.

This is going to upset some of my liberal friends, but I don’t feel the same way about the names “Indians,” “Braves,” or “Chiefs,” et al. These names are not inherently bigoted. Yes, it is a fact that there aren’t a hell of a lot of Indians employed by professional sports teams outside of India. Then again, there aren’t a lot of lions, tigers and bears earning their livings in such fashion either… any more. Continue reading “Weird Scenes #098: A Truly Honorable American”

With Further Ado #103: Ray Bradbury & The Fan Who Came In Late

With Further Ado #103: Ray Bradbury & The Fan Who Came In Late

It’s a big year for Ray Bradbury. Fans of this incredible author are celebrating his centennial.  Later this month, in fact, San Diego Comic-Con will feature him on the cover of their Souvenir Book* with a gorgeous William Stout illustration.  It’s appropriate as Bradbury was a frequent guest and attendee of Comic-Con. (And artist Will Stout is one of the few people who has attended every San Diego Comic-Con.)

During this centennial, the prolific author, Bradbury, is very much on the mind of an industrious fan named David Ritter.  Ritter kind of joined the party late, he admits. He started getting serious about Bradbury when he turned fifty, although he read E.E. “Doc” Smith and H.P. Lovecraft growing up.

But now, he’s making up for lost time, and he’s working hard on the First Fandom Experience. Here’s how David officially describes the effort: Continue reading “With Further Ado #103: Ray Bradbury & The Fan Who Came In Late”

Brainiac On Banjo #091: DC Universe … From Streaming To Sinking

Brainiac On Banjo #091: DC Universe … From Streaming To Sinking

As of this writing, which is 9 PM EDT Sunday July 12, the DC Universe streaming service is still alive. It’s home to some of the most entertaining superhero teevee programing around, in my opinion. I can’t speak for yours. But that thing coughing up blood all over your Wi-Fi is, sadly, the DC Universe streaming service. And it’s the fault of their own artistic success.

Aside from hospitals, the only place that has had a worse month than the DCU has been the White House. In fairly quick order, the service lost future first-run episodes of Stargirl to the CW, saw The Doom Patrol multicast on the pathetic HBO Max sinkhole, Harley Quinn also airing on Syfy and Canada’s Adult Swim, and is thought to be migrating to HBO Max as well. Titans remains, but might be severely undermined by DC’s new Gotham City Police show (not necessarily the final title) spinning out of The Batman movie the now filming in Europe.

Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #091: DC Universe … From Streaming To Sinking”