The “Mars Attacks” Circle of Life

One fateful day in 1962, during a trip to a local corner drugstore on Chicago’s north side, a colorful box of garish trading cards on the counter suddenly caught my eye. Prominently featured on its red and yellow pop-up teaser top was a menacing bug-eyed alien flanked by the faux blood-dripping logo: “Mars Attacks.”

Intrigued, I plunked down my nickel, eagerly tore open a pack, and was immediately mesmerized by the most amazing trading cards I had ever seen. I’m sure I walked home in a near trance, thoroughly absorbing the colorful imagery on the front of the cards, and stories on the card backs. The Topps trading card company, in a brilliant bit of marketing savvy, put teaser images in a small box on the reverse side of every card highlighting the next card in the sequence, so if kids like me didn’t have that card, they knew exactly what they were missing.”

Resistance was futile for my eight-year-old brain. Like some sort of inescapable pop culture black hole, “Mars Attacks” had pulled me in — hook, line and sinker. I somehow scraped up another nickel or two – probably by scrounging pop bottles from area garbage cans so I could cash in on the bottle deposit money – and bought some more. But with duplicates starting to pop up, and more and more exciting teaser images tantalizing my brain, I needed some big money if I ever wanted to complete the set.  Continue reading “The “Mars Attacks” Circle of Life”

And now for a bit of humor from the Fish, man.

And now for a bit of humor from the Fish, man.

Sometimes, I make the jokes. This would be one of those times. Since I am here in New Jersey, getting ready for the East Coast Comic Con… I couldn’t attend my regular open mic night. So, they played this instead. Enjoy it…. Or don’t (in which case this becomes perfect anti-comedy)!

 

Continued After the Next Page #009: Conversation with John Workman – An Oral History of Comics

Last summer, as we were getting this site up and going, one of the first things that I did was reach out to legendary comic letterer and artist John Workman. I had met him at a couple of conventions in the past, and he had told me some interesting stories about how comics were made in the 1970’s and 1980’s. I felt that the stories were amazing insights into the world of comic making, and I wanted to get all the details so that we could share those incredible stories with all of you.

My intent for our initial interview was to clarify some details he had told me about making Thor in the 80’s with Walter Simonson. What ended up happening was an almost two-hour conversation and a truly life changing event for me. I clipped out a little bit of our conversation for a column last year called When Thor Road the Bus.

Before I get too far along, I must say that John Workman is one of the nicest people that I have ever met. He is thoughtful, considerate, inquisitive, and incredibly talented. Since our initial phone conversation, John and I have spoken a couple of more times over the phone, and my wife and I spent a lovely afternoon with John and his wife Cathy at their home last November. He has become a regular email pen pal of mine. I consider John a friend, and I am lucky for it.

The purpose of this article is to share with the world some of the amazing things that we spoke about. The topics range from the page counts for comics in the 70’s to his time at Heavy Metal. There are some funny stories about Harlan Ellison and Wally Wood. There is the tale of the “Lost Mignola Batman Story”, and much more. So hang on and I will try my best to navigate all this history and bring it into the world so that we can all share in its wonder.

Jeannette Kahn and Dollar Comics

I had mentioned to John that the title to my column on PCS would be called “Continued After the Next Page” as a throwback to comic days of yesteryear. He broke out into some pretty cool comics production history.

John Workman: I worked at DC from 1975 to 1977 before I went to work at Heavy Metal. During that time, as had been true since the early 1950s, there were thirty-six pages [thirty- two interior and four for the front and back covers] in a regular comic book. Of those pages, somewhere over 20 (27 in the ’60s) were devoted to actual comics material with the rest being made up of a combination of paid ads and “house ads” that let readers know about other DC publications. Shortly after I arrived at DC, the number of comics pages dropped to seventeen, and I remember two things that we had to do. We [the production department] had to white-out all the pages numbers down in the corner so people would be a little less aware that they were only getting seventeen pages of comics, and we had to go in a lot and put in “Continued After Next” or “Second Page” or whatever, because the seventeen pages of comic material was broken up by more ads. There were a lot of in-house ads to fill out the issue because seventeen pages was only one more than the total number of pages in a book.

I was shocked at this and felt the need to clarify Continue reading “Continued After the Next Page #009: Conversation with John Workman – An Oral History of Comics”

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #038: F-Bombs Away!

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #038: F-Bombs Away!

Frack. Frick. Fug. Frigging. Fenorking. Freaking. Funked-up. Boffing. Boinking. Deuced. The F-Word. The F-Bomb!

Generally speaking, these euphemisms are substitutes for the unholiest of all words,“fuck.” When you hear any of these terms — depending upon the context, of course — your brain understands them as “fuck.” Simply reading the word will send you straight to Heck, so I guess if you made it this far I owe you an apology.

Euphemisms are needless conduits to reality. They don’t work unless the real word already is in your head. Cut the cheese and say what you mean.

This past Sunday, Bill Nye The Science Guy dropped the F-Bomb (seriously; that term is far more banal than the source term) on Last Week With John Oliver something like five times in five minutes. It was hilarious, but the fact that it was just proves the word still has some power. This astonishes me, as it achieved commonplacehood a couple generations ago. Nonetheless, it persists.

We shouldn’t need these words to shock. Pick up a newspaper. Turn on the news. Take a look at your retirement fund. Think about all those people who voted for Trump. That’s the stuff that should shock you. The fact that most of the near-infinite circumlocutions truly are sophomoric shows how impotent the word fuck really is.

Yet these words continue to offend those who make the conscious decision to be offended, to show that they are superior to the riff-raff because they are better, because they think euphemisms show off that superiority. These are people who keep their noses so high in the sky they would drown in a light drizzle. They are elitists who want to delineate their moral dominance. They have no functional belief system other than their own elitism; they haunt the rosters of both the left and the right.

A week ago today, the National Review — one of the comparatively sane conservative publications — published a well-written essay by Heather Wilhelm, who probably is a very nice person with an obvious sense of humor, but who probably wouldn’t like me very much.

The piece was called “The Banality of the F-Bomb,” and she starts with several instances of the use of the word — starting with Maurice Chevalier, for which she deserves serious props. But Ms. Wilhelm establishes her moral superiority by asking “What is wrong with everyone? Have we lost our national “edit” button? (I’ll answer my own question, because the answer is obvious: Yes.)”

No. No, we haven’t. We’ve simply gone honest on your ass. We’ve accepted the fact that times change and some words that previously were unacceptable are now acceptable and other words that previously were acceptable are now unacceptable. Fuck is in common usage, but we now have the N-word to replace a previously common phrase.

Is that progress? Not really. It’s fashion. By 2076 other words will be verboten and some others will get a reprieve. Calm down; I’m not taking a position on which words should be good and which words should be bad. I’m simply pointing out the vicissitudes of history.

If a single word causes you to foam at the mouth and writhe around in an epileptic fit, that’s on you. If that word causes the overwhelming majority of people to foam at the mouth and writhe around in an epileptic fit, that’s on society.

Besides, despite common liberal philosophy words in and of themselves really are harmless. If I say the word fuck to you, you will still be the same person you were the moment before and it will be your reaction that might be childish. It’s concepts that are dangerous. I’m much more concerned about White Nationalists than I am about whether they use the N-Word itself or simply say “N-Word” as illegitimate proof that they are not racist. If they want to call me a kike, that’s fine. Forewarned is forearmed.

I agree with Ms. Wilhelm’s final observation that “Americans will get bored with using it.” Well, not bored so much as running out the fashion clock. Of course, what goes around comes around.

Euphamisers are shitheads. Is that the S-Word, or the S-Bomb? I dunno. Fuck ‘em.

• • • • •

Mr. Gold will be joining much of the Pop Culture Squad tomorrow (Friday) through Sunday at the East Coast Comicon at New Jersey’s Meadowlands Expo Center. He doesn’t make as many shows as he used to, so if you’re in the area drop by and tell him to bugger off.

With Further Ado #042: The Spirit …of Creativity and Entrepreneurialism

With Further Ado #042: The Spirit …of Creativity and Entrepreneurialism

Will Eisner was an astonishingly creative guy who was also quite the entrepreneur. All these years later, another very creative person with a strong entrepreneurial streak is combining these two strengths, with a dash of Einser thrown in. I was very excited to catch up with Chris Irving on his latest project:

Ed Catto: This new Spirit project sounds fascinating. Can you tell me about it?

Christopher Irving: Denis Kitchen and I have been talking about comics, comics history, and trading cards for a while, and it just seemed natural for me to create a set of cards on Will Eisner’s classic The Spirit. Truthfully: I’ve been jonesing to do a set on Denny Colt and company for a while, and am grateful to Carl and Nancy Gropper of the Eisner Estate, as well as Denis, for giving me this chance.

Also, this is a chance to work with Denis, who has long been one of my heroes as a publisher, creator, and advocate for comics. Funny thing is I was once going to intern for Kitchen Sink Press, but they then closed shop. In a way, this is my chance at finally getting to that internship.

The card set is fully funded, so far, for 50 cards and a tuck box; the stretch goals we’ve met include putting the character cards on old school vintage chipback (like the trading cards of yore!) and, hopefully by the time this sees print, a high quality thick card stock for the splash page cards. I think the real kicker with this set, and the reason I really want fans of Will’s work to know about the campaign, is there will be no backstock. 

In short: I won’t have packs for sale after the campaign and the only chance to get them is to pledge by May 17th.

[check it out here RIGHT NOW!  -Adriane Continue reading “With Further Ado #042: The Spirit …of Creativity and Entrepreneurialism”

Brainiac On Banjo #037: Pat Mills and the Mitzvah Patrol

Brainiac On Banjo #037: Pat Mills and the Mitzvah Patrol

Back when books were still printed on papyrus, those of us in comics fandom did what the Ashkenazis call a mitzvah. We started honoring the men and women in the comics world shortly after the time they had been been identified by Congress, the Saturday Evening Post, Reader’s Digest and Dr. Frederick Wertham as something akin to child molesters. We showed these talented people that their work entertained us and maybe even inspired us, and that we appreciated them for those efforts. These were creative people who, at parties and family gatherings, would self-identity as “commercial artists” in order to avoid being ostracized.

Most of us continue to shed light on creators who have not received their proper due. One such gifted human is well-known in his native United Kingdom, but here in the States… not so much. He probably doesn’t feel wronged, and if I’m helping to strip away some of that anonymity, I owe him an apology. But, hey, he signs his work. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #037: Pat Mills and the Mitzvah Patrol”

Lions, Dragons & Wolves #006: GoT S8E5 Recap: The Dragon Awakens

Lions, Dragons & Wolves #006: GoT S8E5 Recap: The Dragon Awakens

Warning: This recap contains nothing but spoilers for the latest episode of Game of Thrones. If you are reading this before seeing the episode “The Bells” or whatever they’re calling it, you are doing it wrong.

Continue reading “Lions, Dragons & Wolves #006: GoT S8E5 Recap: The Dragon Awakens”

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #037: Weed Prefer Reason

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #037: Weed Prefer Reason

My local newspaper (those things we used to wrap fish) says “Many Democrats view (marijuana) legalization as an opportunity to reverse some of the effects of the War on Drugs, increase state revenue and invest in urban communities. But Republicans and some Democrats believe the social costs of legalization – particularly concerns about driving under the influence, teen use and addiction – outweigh the benefits.”

Well, if that’s true — and it’s right there in black-and-white, so it must be true — then Republicans and some Democrats are a bunch of idiots who have been living under a rock… and that comment embraces truthiness. It’s like these people were hiding in church until the flood receded. America’s become a different place, whether these busybodies like it or not. Continue reading “Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #037: Weed Prefer Reason”

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”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #036: Spoil the Spoilers

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #036: Spoil the Spoilers

Teenage angst has paid off well,
Now I’m bored and old.
Self-appointed spoilers spoil
More than they have told.

If they gatekeep online now,
Plot-holes that they found?
All to piss off and to troll
And needlessly expound…

Bonus points if you get the reference. No Googlin’ either, kiddos.

It seems now that spoiler culture is abound throughout social media. With the Russo’s (of Endgame fame, don’t-cha-know) declaring specific rules as to their accepted window of spoilativity… my feeds have been choked to the nines with needless repetition and condemnation of those who seek to ruin the experience of a piece of pop culture by virtue of their ability to consume it first.

To be clear to all who I am friends with? Not a single soul said a serendipitous spoiler in any sense of the word for Endgame, Game of Thrones, or even The Price is Right. And trust me, I was on high alert. Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #036: Spoil the Spoilers”