Category: Featured

With Further Ado #216: See You at San Diego – A Review

With Further Ado #216: See You at San Diego – A Review

This weekend a Central New York comics show promoter, Teddy Hanes restarted his long-running Syracuse Comic Con series. It had been about two years since the last one. Hosting comic artists like Joe Jusko and Luke McDonnell as professional guests made it great fun for all, but I think that the fans and dealers were even more excited to just see each other and search for treasures in long boxes. There were so many smiles and so much laughter; it was lovely to get this convention “back on its feet” and for folks to gather amongst their tribe again.

The smiles, laughter and comradery of geek culture and conventions comes through loud and clear in Mathew Klickstein’s new book: See You At San Diego: An Oral History of Comic-Con, Fandom, and the Triumph of Geek Culture. It was just published by Fantagraphics, and it’s a treasure too. This oral history is about the size of a phone book (anyone remember what those were?), and it’s packed full of stories and photos telling the birth, and perhaps adolescence, of the San Diego Comic-Con. (Now also called Comic-Con International).

Mat Klickstein spins his tale using the oral history format. This allows the folks who were there from the beginning to share their memories of it all. It’s great fun, and although the format is new to me (I did just interview author Ed Gross about his excellent Star Trek oral history here), I just love it. It’s kind of like reading, instead of watching, a documentary. Continue reading “With Further Ado #216: See You at San Diego – A Review”

With Further Ado #215: A Tale of Three Treasures

With Further Ado #215: A Tale of Three Treasures

This past weekend we spent some time on the south end of Keuka Lake in the Finger Lakes region of Western New York. We were just north of the town of Hammondsport, which is almost famous for the nation’s fourth oldest winery and as the hometown of Glenn R. Curtiss, the guy who actually flew before the Wright Brothers. As the story goes, the Wright Brothers got the patent first, and all the fame too.  (More info available at the Curtiss Museum.)

When were there, we spent most of our time listening to live music and visiting a few entrepreneurial start-ups. If you were to guess they were mostly wineries and craft breweries, you wouldn’t be wrong.

We visited some antiques shops too. (Don’t you dare call them junk shops.)  And I found some wonderful comic books, and comic-adjacent treasures.

There’s a certain charm to the last issue of a comic, especially when the creators realize the party is almost over. Charlton’s The Partridge Family #21 (Nov 1973) is a perfect example.

The Partridge Family was an early 1970s TV series about a single mom and the musical act that she and her kids created.  From my pre-teenage point of view back then, it was kind of like a slightly hipper version of the Brady Bunch. And like that show, it was on every Friday night.  As a kid, I was a bit interested in Laurie Partridge, played by Susan Dey. As an adult, it’s the mother who’s the most interesting of the bunch.  How did I ever get so old?

Anyways, I picked up a nice copy of The Partridge Family #21, the final issue of the series, for just $6 bucks. I was initially drawn to it because the cover artist, Don Sherwood, captured the actors’ likenesses pretty well.

But the surprising part is that just about the whole comic is a series of full-page portraits. Don Sherwood, bless his heart, draws portraits and a few girls in bikinis for the beach scene, and the Partridge Family’s version of their Batmoblie, an old school bus repainted to transport their musical equipment.  I don’t think there was ever a comic, even the most bombastic 70s Kirby issue, that had so many splash pages!

There is such an emphasis on drawing faces that stories leave out things like “the rationale” and “the end”. One story is clearly missing pages. But in the end, who cared? I gather this was meant to be a fan magazine so that young fans could cut out the pictures. Continue reading “With Further Ado #215: A Tale of Three Treasures”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #077: “CM Punked?”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #077: “CM Punked?”

A little over a year ago, I wrote a love letter to Phil Brooks on this site. My feelings for CM Punk then are the same as they are now. He remains the reason I returned to pro wrestling fandom. He’s my favorite pro wrestler. Full stop. Cool? Let’s go.

First, let’s get the “facts” out here so we can get the the personal-opinion-penguin (which, trust me, is why you’re here):

On Sunday, September 4th, 2022, All Elite Wrestling (AEW) threw a pay-per-view, “All Out”. The main event saw CM Punk face Jon Moxley for the AEW World Championship. 

The story thus far? This year, Punk won the belt originally in May from Hangman Adam Page. 3 days after winning, Punk announced he had shattered his foot, and needed to take time off. AEW doesn’t have champions give the belt back. Rather, they hold a tournament to crown an interim champ. Say hello to Jon Moxely. Upon Punk’s return… the belts were unified in an impromptu match that saw Mox decimate Punk after a single botched kick seem to show that Punk came back from injury too soon. 

With no opponent to face at the pay per view, Moxley left a signed contract on the mat the next week. CM Punk’s long-time friend and coach Ace Steele marched to the ring, grabbed the contract, and later in the show… slapped the taste out of Punk’s mouth to “re-awaken” the Second City Saint. Smash cut to Sunday, Mox — the younger, meaner, current champ… now facing an underdog Punk (fighting from underneath is kinda-sorta his MO, after all). After a bloody battle, Punk became a 2-time champ — crowned in his home city of Chicago. A whole bunch of storyline stuff happened (another article, I promise), and the show goes off the air to uproarious applause.

After the show is why we’re here. As part of the presentation of these pay-per-views, AEW owner Tony Khan throws these odd “Media Scrums”. Faux-press-conferences where various show performers come out to answer questions from the pro wrestling media. Let’s go ahead and stop right there.

Reread that as many times as you need to.

During the scrum, newly crowned champ CM Punk — bloody, battered, and hungry for muffins (no, seriously…) — took his chair. He shot a barb or two at the assembled bloggers, podcasters, and pro-wrestling journalists as things settled. Without a single question asked, Punk began a deluge of word-vomit that started with his current relationship to fellow grappler Colt Cabana and ended with a five paragraph monologue about AEW’s EVPs/on-air talent the Young Bucks and their friend the “anxious millennial cowboy” Hangman Adam Page. In short: Phil Brooks loathes them all for any number of reasons… all of which are outside the purview of the on-air character of professional wrestler CM Punk. By all accounts (and you’re welcome to pull up the video on youtube yourself… I’m not linking it for many reasons), this airing of grievances burned down the fourth wall between storyline, and “dirtsheet” journalism. For the uninitiated, “dirt sheets” are pro-wrestling tabloids; backstage accounts of real politicking and drama behind the stage personas. Shortly thereafter, Phil Brooks left the stage. The ghost of CM Punk never seemingly entered the scrum.

Reports of Punk and the Young Bucks getting into a physical altercation following the presser dropped. Countless wrestlers, media members, and fans all took to the social media streets to give their opinion. It’s “Punk vs. AEW” in the locker room. Following the real fracas, AEW owner Tony Khan was forced to strip CM Punk of his title, as well the Young Bucks of their newly-won Trios belts — won on the same night with their bestie Kenny Omega. Punk, if the same dirtsheets that he glowered at are to be believed… suffered from a very real torn tricep during his match. So, even with a belt, Punk’s now staring down months of recovery… putting AEW and its fans right back to where it started in May. 

But unlike then, with a sullen-but-committed CM Punk vowing to come back stronger than before… now we were treated to a tirade of a tween having a hissy fit over mulled-over stories and unseen backstage peacocking. The once self-proclaimed “voice of the voiceless” suddenly self-immolated. The fans (myself included) left scratching our heads as to the why of it all. 

Personal-opinion-penguin time!

In my heart, I want to believe this is a scripted, Kaufman-esque storyline. With 7 years of downtime, and a deep love of comic books and pro wrestling in his heart? Punk is master storyteller. I could easily see him behind closed doors with Kahn and company concocting this whole affair. The “Punk who can’t stop smiling” act would eventually wear out its welcome. What better way to let Phil Brooks’ creativity loose than a supernova heel turn. Perhaps feeling the tricep injury post-match (assuming the adrenaline kept Punk going and he was unconvinced of an injury during the actual match) led to unleashing this self-destructive angle that seemingly removes the shine from the apple. I fear however, this is me swinging at any theory my mind can concoct to explain away the awfulness of it all.

If this is indeed a shoot? I’m disappointed in Phil Brooks as a professional. At 43 years old, he knew better (again: leading me to think this is all some concoction of fiction). During his electric comeback speech, he laid it out:

I’m back. And I’m back for you. I’m not gonna lie, I’m back for me too, and I’m back because there’s a hell of a lot of young talent that I wish I was surrounded by 10 years ago. So insane that I sit back and I say, well, hell, they’re here now, so why aren’t you? Here I am. I’m back, because I want to work with that young talent that had the same passion that I had stamped out. I’m back because there’s a couple of scores to settle in that locker room. I’m back for the young guys.”

And for the better part of a year? Punk was back for those young guys. He wrestled solid matches with Darby Allin, Powerhouse Hobbs, Daniel Garcia, Lee Moriarty, Wardlow, Max Caster, John Silver, and of course… an unforgettable series with MJF. The latter, of course, the heir to the throne that Punk’s sat at for so very long. Following that series, he transitioned to his match with Hangman Adam Paige, took the title, and well… here we are now.

What happened to Punk while he rehabbed his shattered foot? AEW’s ratings didn’t significantly shift up or down. Matches and angles remained as decent as they’d been with Punk actively competing — save anything as dynamic on the mic as his MJF feud. It’s hard to imagine Punk sitting at home and seething over things essentially remaining generally positive; save perhaps a scenario wherein he rages against the notion his absence was missed but not detrimental to the overall brand. The rarely-to-believed blogosphere seems to believe Punk’s diatribe was premeditated. That’s even more baffling to me; because going into business for himself by way of backing up the bus over beloved roster members would only wind up with everyone losing. “It’s them or me” seems shallow for someone who had nothing left to prove to the fans that loved CM Punk.

In the wake of the fracas, fans like me sit in idle. AEW’s television this week pulled an amazing WWE-esque smoke-and-mirrors show. Punk removed from the opening video packages and graphics. No mention by name, save only for MJF referencing that Moxley “went to sleep last night” and mimicking Punk’s taunt. YouTube news channels like What Culture and Cultaholic now have multiple reports daily, and think-pieces lending to their view count. The dirt sheets lap up every muffin crumb to drive click-baity BS while the fanbase sours. Social media is now choked with memes and carefully chosen video clips that rewrite Punk’s history to show him the villain of the piece all-along. 

Was this what he wanted? Like many, the line from The Dark Knight lingers in my mind. “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” It’s deflating to think that after deciding to return to the ring with nothing left to prove… Punk became so self-absorbed that he became blind to the irony his bang-the-table preening was no better than those he mocked during his pivotal pipebomb promo that pushed his career forward (and soon enough to its then-end). How could he not understand that publicly airing his dirty laundry with his coworkers was a better way to solve a problem then sitting down like adults in the back away from cameras and civilly discussing the issues at hand? We’ll likely never know.

I’ve met Phil Brooks. He was nice. Genuine. Dare I even say… a sweetheart. I wouldn’t want to believe the guy who snapped a shot of my birth announcement comic to send to his wife and was elated to be given a copy (because my second son happens to be Colton Mikel Fishman, aka CM Fish)…had grown so bitter — especially over so little. For better or worse… I believe in the long game. When Punk heals up, I pray for a return. An explanation. An angle. Anything to retcon or relight this dim ending to the brightest spot in my (and many others’) wrestling fandom.

CM Punk. Phil Brooks. You’ve said of yourself… you are the best in the world. Well, sir? Prove it. 

With Further Ado # 214: Kill Me If You Can – Spillane & Collins Celebrate Mike Hammer’s 75th Anniversary

With Further Ado # 214: Kill Me If You Can – Spillane & Collins Celebrate Mike Hammer’s 75th Anniversary

Every once in a while, I check in to see what Mike Hammer is up to. It’s always so freeing to live vicariously through him. The fictional detective, celebrating his 75th anniversary in print, never worries about being politically correct or resolving differences in a genteel manner.

No, Mike Hammer is all about the opposite of all that. He’s about violent solutions and getting even and snarky jokes. It’s what originally made him a publishing sensation. In fact, author Mickey Spillane has sold over 225 million books internationally. It has made him so popular that he’s spawned so many literary descendants, like James Bond, for instance.

Max Allan Collins (one of my favorite mystery writers) is one of those guys who met his hero…and not only got along with him, but was asked to carry the torch. Collins has told the story many times how he met the larger-than-life author Spillane, and eventually developed a friendship and professional respect. Today, Collins collaborates with the deceased author by building upon the unfished stories and notes left by Spillane to create new books. Continue reading “With Further Ado # 214: Kill Me If You Can – Spillane & Collins Celebrate Mike Hammer’s 75th Anniversary”

With Further Ado #213: Leave Your Ego at the Door: Drawing From Photos

With Further Ado #213: Leave Your Ego at the Door: Drawing From Photos

Drawing from live models is a fantastic experience. There’s something about the sense of community and living in the moment.

When I was working in New York, I’d love to go the Society of Illustrators for their live model drawing sessions. The bar would be open, and then have a jazz quartet would be playing. Now that was the way to sketch models, let me tell you. It looks like they still do it, in fact!

And let’s face it, when models are in dramatic poses, even the best ones tend to droop and relax a bit after a while. There are real downsides to drawing from real life.

Today, so many artists find themselves working from photos of models instead of live models. And that’s where this wonderful new book from Korero Press comes in. Drawing from Photos is a masterpiece from fantasy illustrator Patrick J. Jones. If you’re not familiar with this amazing artist’s work, that’s a shame. But for regular readers of this column, I can assure you he’s “one of us”. In the forward, Jones talks about his influences of folks like John Buscema and Alex Raymond. He talks about his favorite cover artists – folks like Frank Frazetta, Boris Vallejo, and James Bama. Continue reading “With Further Ado #213: Leave Your Ego at the Door: Drawing From Photos”

With Further Ado #212: Five-and-a-Half Questions with Devin Kraft

With Further Ado #212: Five-and-a-Half Questions with Devin Kraft

As part of our ongoing “Actual Comics at San Diego Comic-Con”, I’d like to you introduce you to Devin Kraft. I met him at a wild party at the Tiki Bar, hosted by publisher Bad Idea. He is the type of guy who is bubbling up with good ideas, and his current series, Neverender from Behemoth Comics is innovative and getting noticed. Enjoy my five-and-a-half questions with Devin:


Ed Catto #1: What’s your origin story, Devin? How did you ever start writing comics?

Devin Kraft: I’ve got a pretty amazing case of ADHD, so as a kid to keep me preoccupied my parents would give me legal pads and a pen. This helped me to both communicate visually and use art as a means of keeping out of people’s hair. I tend to move a bit faster than most people, so drawing in class helped me to slow down and not disrupt class as much.

I grew up on Archie’s Sonic line, and I’d make my own version of Sonic comics from time to time. Eventually I got hooked on Pokémon and Capcom’s various Marvel fighting series, and that led me to falling in love with anime and manga, and in seeking that out at comic shops I became interested in American comics – I’m sort of a student of both visual languages.

In high school, my friend (and incredibly talented artist) Logan Pack and I started to synthesize the Chinese gun-fu films we were enjoying into a neo-noir comic called Jabberwock. I planned on writing initially but started trying to hone my art during college – primarily during classes. Through a study abroad program, I was able to live in Japan for a bit and dive deeper into the wide variety of manga. I actually submitted a few manga to publishers, but my style was a bit more molten and my subject matter probably wasn’t what they were looking for.

I continued to create and self-publish indie comics throughout college, and for a short time I worked in the film industry. After saving a bit of money from a medical job, I went freelance in 2012 and ran Kickstarter campaigns for original comics pretty much yearly since, publishing Dragon Slayer (2012-14), Silence (2015-17) and the first two issues of Neverender (2019-2020).

EC #2: Neverender is such a cool premise. Can you give us the pitch and also let us know some of the main characters? Continue reading “With Further Ado #212: Five-and-a-Half Questions with Devin Kraft”

With Further Ado #211: Still More Actual Comics at SDCC – Jose and the Pirate Captain Toledano

With Further Ado #211: Still More Actual Comics at SDCC – Jose and the Pirate Captain Toledano

As I described last week, one wonderful San Diego Comic-Con panel in which I annually participate is called How to Get News Coverage. This panel is a way to focus on what do after you’ve created a comic; how to build a marketing buzz.

There’s a lot of great advice offered from smart folks like Tim Chizmar (Fangoria, co-chair of the Horror Writers Association, First Comics News), Glenn Hauman (Comic Mix), Michael Kingston (Headlocked Comics, BOOM! Studios), Heidi MacDonald (Comics Beat), Alexander Raymond (Monstar Public Relations), Rob Salkowitz (ICv2, Forbes), Amanda Sheriff (Gemstone Publishing), Francis Sky (First Comics News, Massacre Twins), and Josh Waldrop (Ultima Digital Media). Usually, J.C. Vaughn and Holly Golightly are on the panel too.

During this panel, I like to make an offer for creators to promote their comics in With Further Ado.

We did that last week, and let’s continue with a look at another creator: Arnon Z. Shorr. He’s not only a passionate comic creator, but he’s a film maker too. And unlike so many comic + film folks, he did it backwards. In other words, he made the film first and then made the comic. Here’s a look at Arnon Z. Shorr and his creative effort: José and the Pirate Captain Toledano:

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Arnon is a writer/director and author of character-driven adventures and thrillers, where heroes grapple with the extraordinary, and in doing so, learn important truths about themselves. He spent most of his childhood between worlds: a Hebrew speaker in America, a private school kid with no money, a suburbanite in a rented apartment. Whenever he’d set foot in one world, his other foot would betray him as different. For that reason, Arnon tells stories that embrace the peculiar, where encounters with the strange reveal who we are. Continue reading “With Further Ado #211: Still More Actual Comics at SDCC – Jose and the Pirate Captain Toledano”

With Further Ado #210: More Actual Comics at SDCC – Powers Squared

With Further Ado #210: More Actual Comics at SDCC – Powers Squared

One of the most fun panels I participate in at San Diego Comic-Con is called How to Get News Coverage?.  This brainchild of Rik Offenberger (the mastermind behind the First Comics News and G-Man Comics) has become an SDCC tradition, and for good reason. This panel is very focused on giving up-and-coming creators real-world advice about how to build buzz for their properties. Let’s face it, creating a comic is a lot of work ….and then promoting the comic is a lot more hard work too.

During the panel,  I like to make an offer for creators to promote their comics in this column. We’ll feature one this week and another next week.

Let’s start with David Hankins. He  is an engaging, passionate creator who’s found a way to make creating comics a family team effort.  Here’s a look at his Powers Squared:

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The comic book Powers Squared tells the story of identical twins Marty and Eli Powers, who discover on their first day of college that they share superpowers that they had been granted when they were young. These powers originate from an encounter with a Kitsune, a magical fox yokai, whom the boys rescued from under a fallen tree branch. As the boys learn how best to use their powers, they have to deal with the evil Dr. Atlas, who believes they have a special compound in their bloodstream that he wants to synthesize and weaponize to create an army of super soldiers. Continue reading “With Further Ado #210: More Actual Comics at SDCC – Powers Squared”

With Further Ado #209: Actual Comics at SDCC

With Further Ado #209: Actual Comics at SDCC

There’s a certain number of critical conversations, many would categorize it as “moaning”, amongst longtime fans that San Diego Comic-Con isn’t about comics anymore.  Some fans of traditional comic get overwhelmed by all the media hype and complain that SDCC has lost its way.

Of course, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, especially when industry publications, like Adweek, celebrate all the Pop-Ups surrounding the convention center.  I’m not sure I agree with their “Top Nine” Activations/Pop-Ups, but their recent listing is here.

I’m fascinated by everything at San Diego Comic-Con. I love the big ideas presented and promoted at the show, as well as the smaller, oddball collectibles, original art, and back issues.

So, my best shopping was with a back issue dealer who had “reader copies” of comics priced for a dollar.  (Reader copies simply refer to comics that aren’t in the pristine condition that many collectors seek out.) What a deal! Each comic cost only $2.50.  Let me celebrate these treasures that I rescued, and maybe you will agree that San Diego Comic-Con, while not exclusively about comics, still is a great place for comics.

Around The World Under the Sea – This is a 1964 Dell comic is based on a movie I never heard of. But maaaaaan, I wish I could’ve seen it at a drive-in!  It’s kind of Jules Verne-y. But it starred Shirley Eaton, who the whole world will always remember from Goldfinger, so it is sort of James Bond-y too.  Here’s the trailer.  The cover has all those things that teenage me and my teenage buddies needed in a movie: Scuba guys fighting, sea monsters and a girl in a bikini.  I was crestfallen when I realized the interior pages were by Jack Sparling. He’s never been my favorite. In his defense, I will say he just nails the Lloyd Bridges likenesses. Continue reading “With Further Ado #209: Actual Comics at SDCC”

With Further Ado #208: Ok, So I Was Wrong – A Visit to the Comic-Con Museum

With Further Ado #208: Ok, So I Was Wrong – A Visit to the Comic-Con Museum

Whew! This year’s San Diego Comic-Con (officially called Comic-Con International) was a fun one. Lots of smiling people happy to be there. Mostly, you had to tell they were smiling by the look in their eyes – everyone was pretty well masked up. But I can’t tell you how good it felt to be in the middle of Geek Culture, celebrating creativity and watching everyone promote everything.

SDCC always “starts” on Wednesday night. It used to be called Preview Night, but now it’s really “Just another night full of crowds on the exhibition floor”. Maybe it’s more crowded than usual, in fact, because there aren’t as many other places (panels, off-site activities) on Wednesday for places to visit.

Before Preview Night, however, we visited the San Diego Museum. I happened to be in town last month and tried to stop by then. Unfortunately, it was closed as they were gearing up for this show. And wow – did they ever gear up. This new museum is fantastic.

Continue reading “With Further Ado #208: Ok, So I Was Wrong – A Visit to the Comic-Con Museum”