Category: Columns

With Further Ado #069: The Forgotten All-Star

With Further Ado #069: The Forgotten All-Star

I’ve been reading stories by Gardner Fox all my life. And thoroughly enjoying them. His “upstanding citizen” version of iconic heroes may have, in some ways, fallen out favor today. But to so many fans, his work is the bedrock upon which superhero comics are built upon. Upon reflection, his version of herodom may also be what other comic innovators pivoted from.  For example, Marvel introduced flawed heroes with human shortcomings as an alternative to the Gardner Fox style of heroes. Indy heroes of the 80s introduced non-traditional protagonists as something new. Even DC comics, where Gardner Fox did so much of his writing, would, by the 80s, showcase heroes with dark histories or motivations, in stark contrast to their Golden Age and Silver Age heroes. 

I loved his stories. I loved his heroes and his twisty plots. His scientific explanations and extrapolations always made me think that much harder. And in the worlds that Gardner Fox created, friendships really meant something.

But I didn’t know much about Gardner Fox himself. I was enthralled when John Siuntres, in his excellent Word Balloon Podcast, interviewed Jennifer DeRoss  who just wrote the biography of Gardner Fox.  Forgotten All-Star: A Biography of Gardner Fox is a winner, and I had to reach out to the author.  Here’s what she had to say:

Ed Catto : I understand you had a family member who was very pro-comics when you were growing up. What’s the whole story behind that?

Jennifer DeRoss: Many people in my family read comics, but my grandmother was my biggest   literacy advocate. She is primarily a fan of the Sunday Funnies and would even clip out the strips she thought I would enjoy and mail them to me because I lived outside of any newspaper circulation areas. Garfield has always been her favorite and she still has quite the collection of Garfield related merchandise. She is also fond of Silver Age DC and when I took an interest in the superhero genre, she was more than happy to support that love.

My grandma would buy me comics right alongside her soap opera magazines every time we went grocery shopping together. She also exposed me to some of the older superhero cartoons, although she would eventually regret that a little after I began obsessively watching the Aquaman VHS every day.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #069: The Forgotten All-Star”

Brainiac On Banjo #061: Charlton Comics Goes To War!!

Brainiac On Banjo #061: Charlton Comics Goes To War!!

The Unknown Anti-War Comics!, by Steve Ditko, Ross Andru, Joe Gill, Denny O’Neil, Pat Boyette and others, edited by Craig Yoe • Yoe Books!-IDW • $29.95, 226 pages

Back when the three of us were laboring over at the DC Comics factory, I was blessed with having my office between those of Denny O’Neil and Archie Goodwin, two of the finest comics practitioners in American history. If they were to be branded A-listers, we would need to invent a new first letter for our alphabet. I’m going to start with Archie, but don’t worry. Denny comes into this story later.

Back around 1992 and 1993, Archie and I started frequenting a swell midtown restaurant where New York Times executives often brought advertising clients. Remember, this was about 16 years before Robert Downey Jr. and Jon Favreau put our beloved medium on the legit. Usually, our passionate conversations revolved around two subjects: frighteningly radical politics, and comic books; particularly EC Comics. To the chagrin of the over-wrought suits sitting within eavesdropping distance, we would conflate the two.

Of all of Archie’s massive achievements as a writer and an editor, my personal favorite is the four-issue run of Blazing Combat, the black-and-white war comic published by Jim Warren with the Frazetta covers and interiors drawn by Alex Toth, John Severin, Reed Crandall, Joe Orlando, Gene Colan, Wally Wood… you get the point. The series was influenced by Harvey Kurtzman’s Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat for EC Comics, and all the above-mentioned artists had drawn stories for Kurtzman. Archie was too young to have written for them, but he was a member of the EC Fan-Addict Club (fan-addict > fanatic, get it?). Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #061: Charlton Comics Goes To War!!”

“So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man” #050: All Elite? All Better than WWE

“So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man” #050: All Elite? All Better than WWE

A while back — long enough that I no longer feel guilty for writing too much wrestling content — I’d written up some thoughts about the potential that Cody Rhodes’ All Elite Wrestling had to disrupt the professional wrestling landscape.

Well, a few months into their debut, I’m ready to say this much: if they continue to listen and learn? AEW will change that landscape enough Vince McMahon should invest in new trousers.

If I can clarify upfront though: the WWE may suffer in their ratings, ticket sales, and merchandise movement as AEW continues to gradually cement their base in the industry… but it will remain the leader in profit, size, and scope due to it’s sheer volume of talent and foothold in the zeitgeist.

What AEW has done better than any other lesser company in the space (NWA, TNA / Impact Wrestling, New Japan, etc.) is to clearly present itself as an alternative to specifically counter the programming of the McMahon empire — and doing so similar in scope. This means in essence they are attempting to zig wherever Stamford zags. They’re targeting medium sized arenas, and being judicious in their talent’s schedules. The company is being run behind the scenes by working talent, and as such, it more apt to make decisions with said talent in mind. See also: NXT under the WWE umbrella — as run (for the most part) by Paul Leveque (aka the WWE’s Triple H). But put a pin in that. Continue reading ““So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man” #050: All Elite? All Better than WWE”

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #065: Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #065: Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss

I’ll move myself and my family aside / If we happen to be left half alive / I’ll get all my papers and smile at the sky / For I know that the hypnotized never lie / DO YA? – Pete Townshend, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”

Why are we doing this? Well, I believe there is one very good reason.

The impeachment process formally started yesterday. Over the next couple weeks, a slew of highly respectable and well-credentialed witnesses will put their life savings, their careers and their family’s safety on the line in the esteemed names of truth and patriotism. The professional ass-lickers will call them a bunch of names and give shade to snark. Um tut sut.

When all is said and done, what will happen next will be what we all knew would happen. The House, under near-exclusive party line votes, will vote to impeach the traitor in the White House. Then the Senate, under near-exclusive party line votes, will vote to acquit. There’s no “vote to exonerate” option, so nobody on either side will get to score a rhetorical victory – although, unfortunately, that won’t stop anyone from proselytizing. Continue reading “Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #065: Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss”

With Further Ado #068: Stan the Man by Dan the Man

With Further Ado #068: Stan the Man by Dan the Man

I’ve had a problem with the recent biographies I’ve read. They have left me feeling a depressed. I understand that we’re all just people, and no one is perfect.   

But, after reading Zoglin’s Bob Hope Biography, I was really bummed out by Hope’s infidelity, and the disastrous results it had on the lives of some his girlfriends.    Jay Jones’s insights into the life of Dr. Seuss in Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination, were fascinating, especially when viewing his creative output through the lens of entrepreneurism. But again, I had a sourness left in my mouth as I learned about the ending of Geisel’s first marriage. Florent Silloray’s Frank Capa: A Graphic Biography left me confused about the paths taken by a man with such a great creative talent.

So, you can understand how I was I was especially worried as I jumped into Danny Fingeroth’s A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan Lee, fearful this biography too might be a downer.

The stakes were, in fact, high for this book. Sometimes it seems like there are two extremes for comics (or Marvel) fans. There are those that hold Stan Lee in the highest regard for his incredible creations.  On the other hand, there are those that hold him in great contempt as a privileged, boastful promoter who ended up wealthy while so many of his collaborators were not able to benefit from their creativity and hard work.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #068: Stan the Man by Dan the Man”

Brainiac On Banjo #060: Crisis? Make Room! Make Room!

Brainiac On Banjo #060: Crisis? Make Room! Make Room!

Too many people going underground / Too many reaching for a piece of cake / Too many people pulled and pushed around / Too many waiting for that lucky break – Paul McCartney, “Too Many People”

OK, superhero television fans. Take your gloves and socks off, there’s math on this test.

Which project has more superheroes – Avengers: Endgame or next month’s Crisis on Infinite Earths?

Sorry; I’m being a prick. That was a trick question. We won’t know for a bit because the Crisis announcements are still barreling down the pike. It appears that some or maybe all the cast members of the Titans program on the DC Universe streamer will be deployed in the big caped clusterfuck. And, hey, go figure, the second season of Doom Patrol starts filming this week. It’s alleged they will be doing a fly-by as well. Yow! I wonder if Stargirl will be getting some love here.

Hell, this might be the first major DC event in decades that doesn’t include the Joker – or at least a Joker; it’s so hard tell them apart. Is it time for Mark Hamill to match his face with his voice? I’m not excluding the possibility. Maybe Harley will drop by. One of them, at least. Maybe all of them, who knows?

And will John Diggle become the next Green Lantern? That show goes up on the new HBO streamer next year or so. Or maybe John is the Green Lantern of Earth-90. This was teased before, when The Flash of that Earth, played (of course) by John Wesley Shipp, said to Diggle “Hello, John. You’re not wearing your ring… Things must be different here.”

Crisis On Infinite Earths – The TV Event certainly is shaping up to be quite a mammoth production… but, of course, not all “events” are worth following. We shall see, and I strongly suspect a whole lot of us will see. I also suspect this will be an all-or-nothing thing: it will either be very good and characters will not be tripping over one another (think Avengers: Endgame), or it will be one 270 minute mess with a bunch of long, mournful death scenes. Having actually met “people,” I strongly believe some will love it, some will hate it, and those who worked on it will simply be glad it’s over.

If Crisis With Infinite Costumes is as successful as DC-WB-CW wants it to be, history tells us there will be many more such “Crisises” to come. In addition to resurrecting one or two of the corpses from this one, who could they add to surprise us next time around? Space Ghost? Jonny Quest? Norville Rogers? That’s technically possible, you know. Keith Giffen could work that one out with ease.

Or maybe the Big Bad will be Mister Mxyzptlk. If he’s not too busy writing the thing.

The author would like to thank noted writer/artist Harry Harrison for the title to this here column. And maybe Edward G. Robinson as well.

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #064: A Priest, a Rabbi and a Minister…

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #064: A Priest, a Rabbi and a Minister…

This week’s off-off year election continues the trend that started a couple minutes after it became clear that the Electoral College was going to appoint the Great Orange Liar to the presidency. This quaint little anti-democratic system of ours has been kept in place for the past 154 years because some of the people who live in the Confederate States think they might have a shot at bringing back slavery, this time confiscating Hispanic and Muslim lives to fight it out with the Africans for the last bit of stale, moldy bread that once was America.

But it appears the worm might be turning, at least just a bit. 154 years ago, Virginia was home to the Confederacy’s seat of power. This week Virginia became as blue a state as Massachusetts with the governor’s mansion, the state House of Delegates and the state Senate all in the hands of the demon Democrats… which the Trumpublicans in both America and in Russia have defined as a bunch of commies. Both of their Senators are Democrats, as are seven of their 11 Congresspeople. Virginia is so blue now that even dogs can see it shine. Continue reading “Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #064: A Priest, a Rabbi and a Minister…”

With Further Ado #067: Gramercy Park

With Further Ado #067: Gramercy Park

Last week in this column, I celebrated Halloween with a look at the latest Yoe Books collection, GHOSTS: Classic Monsters of Pre-Code Horror Comics by Steve Banes. It features a smorgasbord of creepy comics from the 1940s and 1950s.  This week I need to tell you about another treasure, a just-published comic that takes place in the 1940s and 1950s. And in stark contrast to those old comics produced domestically, this a translated European comic. I started out kind of liking it, but by the end I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.

Gramercy Park, written by Timothée de Fombelle and illustrated by Christian Cailleaux, is a comic that the rest of the world will definitely feel more comfortable calling a graphic novel. It’s tight and clever, scattering just the right amount narrative breadcrumbs to keep the reader involved. Author de Fombelle mixes intriguing characters and thoughtful dialogue that rope you in. I had planned, in fact, to just read a few pages at a time. But at one point, about halfway through, the creators had me and wouldn’t let me go.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #067: Gramercy Park”

Brainiac On Banjo #059: Four-Color Audio!

Brainiac On Banjo #059: Four-Color Audio!

In certain circles, I am known as a radio drama fanatic… and, of course, in certain pentagrams as well. Not just the old stuff whose echoes faded as television became a thing, but the new efforts as well. Even more so.

Full-cast audio means exactly what it’s labelled. Gather up a bunch of perfectly-selected actors, give them a well-written script, an awesome array of appropriate sound effects, a digital recording facility with more computing power than the Mars Rover, a director to beat the band and a producer whose pen ever runs out of ink, and together they tell fantastic stories into the microphones.

The listener provides the visuals. As such, the crew is ripping your sense of wonder out of your very soul and encouraging you to paint all those pictures within the comfort of your very own brainpan. As such, this is a perfect medium in which to grow heroic fantasy. Here, all the work percolates in your head and you become such a vital part of the production team that, really, you should ask for royalties. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #059: Four-Color Audio!”

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #063: Presidential Mathematics

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #063: Presidential Mathematics

Another day, another moral dilemma.

Soon, our Senators will be asked to vote on the fate of the current occupant of the White House. According to FiveThirtyEight.com as of October 14, 50.3% would like to see Trump removed, as opposed to 43.8% who want to see Trump stay in office. These number are somewhat volatile depending upon the day’s news, but the removal-to-remain arrow has pointing towards the exit sign since September 29.

America is not a democracy; it is a republic. We elect people to represent us by voting their conscience, but many of us are not stupid enough to expect they will. Those who think this man has been dangerous to the health and security of our nation would like to see him gone as soon as possible. Those who would like to see our government undue that damage want to see the Democratic party take the House, the Senate and the White House next November. These two are not necessarily compatible. Continue reading “Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #063: Presidential Mathematics”