Category: Columns

Weird Scenes #097: Liberals — Love ‘Em or Hate ‘Em, They’re So Damn Cute!

Weird Scenes #097: Liberals — Love ‘Em or Hate ‘Em, They’re So Damn Cute!

You’ll be all in clover, and when they look me over / You’ll be the proudest fellow in the Easter Parade / On the Avenue, Fifth Avenue… “Easter Parade,” written by Irving Berlin, 1933.

“Pull my finger…”

It’s likely that Donald Trump just had the worst June of his life. I could be wrong; we don’t know what happened to him in the summer of 1953. He could have fallen off of a runaway turnip truck. This would explain a lot of stuff that his psychologist niece didn’t write about.

The first nine days of July haven’t been any better. He was just scolded by the Supremes for arguing he was above the law. They upheld the rule of law 7 to 2, and both of his (actually Moscow Mitch’s) benchplants voted against him… again. In fact, all nine justices said the president is not above the law. I wish they were around for Nixon. Continue reading “Weird Scenes #097: Liberals — Love ‘Em or Hate ‘Em, They’re So Damn Cute!”

With Further Ado #102: Interview with F.J. DeSanto about Bleed Them Dry

With Further Ado #102: Interview with F.J. DeSanto about Bleed Them Dry

Bleed Them Dry is a new comic series created by Hiroshi Koizumi, written by Eliot Rahal and illustrated by Dike Ruan, with colors and letters by Miguel Muerto and AndWorld Design, respectively . It’s published by one of those industrious “upstart” publishers, Vault Comics. This one looks like fun, and I appreciated the new twists and turns the creators brought to the party.

It turns out my old buddy F.J. DeSanto is involved with this one. Recently, as an invited guest speaker (via ZOOM) he enthralled my Ithaca College students  (and me!) with insights into his work developing comics (Vagrant Queen) and big properties (Transformers, Shazam) and bringing them to the screen. After enjoying the first issue of Bleed Them Dry, I was eager to catch-up with him and learn more about it.

Ed Catto:  How do you describe Bleed Them Dry to folks who ask, “What is this is about?”

F.J. DeSanto: I can usually hook someone with two simple words: Ninja Vampire.

EC: What makes Bleed Them Dry different from other vampire or sci-fi, or even cop stories? Continue reading “With Further Ado #102: Interview with F.J. DeSanto about Bleed Them Dry”

Weird Scenes #096: The Great AMERICAN Virus

Weird Scenes #096: The Great AMERICAN Virus

We live in a political world / In the cities of lonesome fear / Little by little / You turn in the middle / But you’re never sure why you’re here — Bob Dylan, “Political World,” 1989.

I am about to propose a hypothetical. If you are the least bit uncertain about the definition of that word, or you are associated with the Department of Homeland Security or any official law enforcement agency, or if you are a knee-jerk right-winger who believes in magical thinking and that “Black Lives Matter” means you are in greater danger now than you were before police were called out for their unchallenged murder of Black people, please use this convenient link so you know what I mean by “hypothetical.”

O.K. And now for my hypothetical.

Let’s say a lone gunperson assassinates this president. Shoots him dead. I mean, red blood gushing from orange skin with a chunk of dyed-blonde hair flying into Mike Pence’s lap dead. Hypothetical, remember? The gunperson is arrested and stands trial for first-degree murder, as well as whatever other charges that give Attorney General Barr an erection.

The Accused enters a plea of self-defense.

I think that might work. There’s a logical case that can be made for self-defense. Now, I told you this is a hypothetical argument, and if you think my scenario is a good idea, I’ll add that despite the worthiness of that plea it will remain quite likely that the Accused will still get the Needle, if not the firing squad at dawn. But the self-defense argument, if made with precise, calm logic, is understandable. Continue reading “Weird Scenes #096: The Great AMERICAN Virus”

With Further Ado #101: Books for the Beach, Summer Reading

With Further Ado #101: Books for the Beach, Summer Reading

Although I’ve reverted back to being a “Lake Guy” rather than an “Ocean Guy”, after 25+ years sunning myself at the Jersey Shore, I still just love burying my nose in a book on the beach. What could be better?  Here’s a few of my recent favorites:

 

The Fantastic Paintings of Frazetta
By J. David Spurlock
Vanguard Press
Trade HC ISBN13: 9781934331811  $39.95 • 120 pgs
DX LE ISBN13: 9781934331828  $69.95 • 138 pgs plus slipcase

There’s something about paintings and summertime that seem to go together. Is it true that we have more time during the summer and can enjoy art more leisurely?  I always tell myself that. But then again, I always tell myself that an occasional dessert won’t ruin my diet.

Vanguard’s new Frazetta book presents his “greatest hits”, and a few rare ones, in a spectacular format.  They are big and bold, and writer J. David Spurlock provides a virtual cornucopia full of backstories and the behind-the-scenes tales.  It’s a great way for long-time fans to celebrate a favorite or for new fans to get to know a unique American artist.

Continue reading “With Further Ado #101: Books for the Beach, Summer Reading”

Brainiac On Banjo #090: Powers Roughly Equivalent of God’s

Brainiac On Banjo #090: Powers Roughly Equivalent of God’s

Deep in the dark / I don’t need the light / There’s a ghost inside me / It all belongs to the other side / We live, we love, we lie – “The Spectre” written by Gunnar Greve, Jesper Borgen, Tommy Laverdi, Marcus Arnbekk, Anders Froen, Alan Olav Walker, and Lars Kristian Rosness, 2018

The comment expressed in our headline above was made by the fabled Jules Feiffer in his groundbreaking 1965 book The Great Comic Book Heroes. It was groundbreaking because Feiffer was the first to take the history and craft of comic books seriously — so seriously, in fact, that it was excerpted in Playboy.

The Spectre was created by Jerry Siegel, and if truth be told it’s probably my favorite of his creations — including the Big Red S. Feiffer was right: it’s a bitch to write a series where the lead isn’t really a “hero” and yet has, as Jules noted, powers roughly equivalent of God’s. And we’re not talking about the New Testament’s cosmic muffin — this is the Old Testament’s hoary thunderer, and The Spectre is his personal instrument of vengeance. Yup, the after-life might not be as sweet as you’d hoped.

I don’t know if the kids who were reading comics at the every end of 1939 were ready for that. Within two years the series was lightened up by a bumbling guardian angel called “Percival Popp, the Super Cop.” Think Frank Capra, but stupid. The Spectre became a founding member of the Justice Society, but when World War II ended he was out of the group, out of More Fun, and living off of Officer Popp’s police pension.

Still, the character made an impression and when Julie Schwartz was looking for another golden age character to revive after The Flash, Green Lantern, The Atom, and Hawkman, he chose The Spectre. That was odd, but with the arguable exception of Zatanna (or, really, her dad Zatara), The Spectre was the first character he brought back that Julie hadn’t edited during the Golden Age. Despite some decent scripts from Gardner Fox and artwork from the always amazing Murphy Anderson, it just didn’t click. The series was handed over to a relative newcomer named Neal Adams, who did some truly wonderful artwork, but it also did not find success.

But the guy still remained in the hearts of DC’s creative community. Editor Joe Orlando needed a new lead for Adventure Comics, so he brought in Michael Fleisher and Jim Aparo and let them go nuts. The Spectre took this “vengeance of God” thing to a fundamentalist level, and he would kill the bad guys with such creative cruelty that they might have made EC artist “Ghastly” Graham Ingles genuflect at his porcelain throne. It was great. And it lasted 10 issues.

Since then The Spectre has been floating around the DC Universe in all its forms, incarnations, and mistakes. Lots — and I mean lots — of A-listers handled his adventures, including my buddies John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake. They enjoyed one of the longest runs.

So it was with absolutely no surprise whatsoever that I stumbled across a DC Digital First thing called Ghosts. At first I thought that odd — thus far they hadn’t done resurrections of their mystery anthologies in their new digital line. Then I saw “Ghosts” was just another way of saying “The Spectre” and then I noted it was written by Dan Jurgens.

I really like Dan’s work, both as an artist and a writer. We worked together on Green Arrow for a long time, and instead of just leaving the series to do something new, he told me he was making a play to do Superman and, if he got it, he’d be moving on. As much as I liked Dan’s stuff — he and Mike Grell made a great team — he certainly earned the right to take a shot at the Man of Steel. I successfully fought back my overwhelming desire to mindfuck him into staying, although I did think about it. Dan did some remarkable work with the brightest of DC’s corporate jewels. Right now he’s writing Nightwing, and is damn good.

Dan, along with artists Scott Eaton and Wayne Faucher, did a fine job on the story. I don’t know if Ghosts is a one-shot or a play to resurrect The Spectre again, this time without having to resort to paper and staples. They were somewhat restrained in their story… if you compare it to the Fleisher / Aparo run. Then again, a head-on collision between two 10-car passenger trains would seem equally restrained.

DC has done a number of very entertaining stories in their almost-daily Digital First line, unburdened by a continuity that mutates as often as amoebas commit mitosis. Seeing The Spectre pop up in this format evoked a response characters rarely have when they cross his path: I was pleasantly surprised.

Weird Scenes #95: Gee, They Were So Young

Weird Scenes #95: Gee, They Were So Young

Whatever gets you through your life ‘salright, ‘salright / Do it wrong or do it right ‘salright, ‘salright / Don’t need a watch to waste your time oh no, oh no — “Whatever Gets You Through The Night,” written by John Lennon, 1974.

When it comes to sorting Americans into tribes based upon political beliefs — and we are so desperate to divide up into tribes — if you are thinking along the lines of “well, those [whatever] usually tend to be [whichever tribe you like, such as young conservatives, young progressives, young Libertarians, or jocks]…, you are most certainly full of two things, one of which is yourself.

We hear a lot about Gen-Z being very politically active and very progressive. Of course that’s not completely so. Like all previous generations, the largest subgroup are those who just don’t give a damn. These kids are much more politically active than the previous two, but they seem to be motivated not as much by some old fart’s progressive agenda as they are by the philosophy “You are destroying my planet, and I’m the one who is supposed to live here in the future. Not you.” And… that’s fair.

The younger you are the more cynical you might be, but I am living proof that cynicism is most likely to be a permanent lifestyle. For one thing, it’s more fun. This is a good thing: it’s easier to fight the good fights if you allow yourself to appreciate your victories, keep a sense of humor about absolutely everything, and never think about Sisyphus. It’s good to remember the words of some Joker: “Why so serious? Let’s put a smile on that face!”

So it came as no surprise that when I watched Donald Trump’s two pep rallies earlier this week, I saw a whole lot of kids. Almost entirely White kids, but there always are a few non-White people are there, some of whom were hired just like the large group of cheering fans at Trump Tower when the Donald floated down his escalator-from-heaven back in 2015.

Granted, the second of these sessions was held at a college, so it’s not a great an indication of teen-age lack of death-perception as the first. But both had this in common with our recruitment policies for our military: the younger you are, the less likely you are to be aware and protective of your longevity. By and large, if you were, say, a 45-year-old carrying a bayonet, and you were ordered to assault that well-protected Hill 59, you might hesitate. Then your problem becomes getting out of the way of the 19-year-olds who are much less concerned about maintaining their personal franchise.

It is at the core of military training: your master says jump and do not think, you jump without a thought as to your own mortality. 19-year-olds, by and large, have yet to fully develop that sense. I did all kinds of dangerous shit back when I was 19. And 18, and 20. I look back and smile, but I’m not smiling about those stupid risks. I smile because I’m still around to look back at all that dangerous shit. My actions were, and still are, quite serious. My cause is quite serious. My attitude is more “Why so serious.” Whatever gets you through the night.

So we’ve got several thousand southwestern young’uns shoulder-to-shoulder, in weather-appropriate dress (the southwest in late June demands less clothing), jumping up and down and shouting and screaming and cheering and carrying on, maskless, as though they were at the Titanic of high school pep rallies. As the Jefferson Airplane said back in my day, “bless their pointed little heads.”

Many of them think Covid-19 does not affect them because they are not old. Well, dig this kids: when all this plague stuff started, some Black people believed they couldn’t get it either. It was a big deal — a very big deal, until some of them folks started dying. Well, die and learn. Now we know that younger people are merely less likely to come down with Covid-19 than us old people who have little to lose but our memories.

Well, that’s America for you. This nation of ours is your go-to place if you want to age out of your own tribe.

Besides, our planet was overcrowded about five billion live-births ago. Soylent Green does not have to be made out of old dead bodies. I’ll bet the young dead bodies taste better.

With Further Ado #100: 100th Smash Column

With Further Ado #100: 100th Smash Column

Do you think wedding anniversaries are big deal? Anniversaries for comics series are a big deal too!  Fans of a certain age were trained to expect a mandatory celebration when a series reached a certain numerical milestone, and usually the celebration was self-congratulatory, and promotional. And the fans would be soaked for a higher cover price too.

As a kid, I remember when my neighborhood pal George Riley proudly proclaimed he had a copy of the Batman #200 Smash Issue.  I was perplexed.  How could George, whose forte was always war comics, have this important Batman comic? And one that I didn’t have?  And just what was a Smash Issue anyways?

<Note: I still don’t know what a Smash Issue is.> Continue reading “With Further Ado #100: 100th Smash Column”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #067: Speaking Out on Pro Wrestling

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #067: Speaking Out on Pro Wrestling

For any living under a rock, #SpeakingOut is a movement in recent weeks that has exposing a litany of professional wrestlers for their misogynistic behavior publicly calling them out to be dealt with. In the wake of everything occurring throughout the world, it’s a breath of fresh air to see those in the business who need action taken against them start to suffer for their behavior.

What we’re seeing is a systemic change; where allegations are being met instantly with action and repercussions. You might say that #timesup to live by the “wait and see” or “innocent until proven guilty” defense used by many who bear the brunt of the hashtag. But it’s clear by way of all that has come out:

Women will be believed. They will be heard. And those accused must deal with the ramifications. Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #067: Speaking Out on Pro Wrestling”

Brainiac On Banjo #089: Riddle Me This, Keaton!

Brainiac On Banjo #089: Riddle Me This, Keaton!

“I’ve seen the future and it will be / I’ve seen the future and it will be / BATMAN, BATMAN / I’ve seen the future and it will be / BATMAN / And where, and where … is the BATMAN?” – Batdance, written by Prince, 1989.

I enjoy going to comic book convention trivia panels when Mark Waid is on the dais. Not just because Mark knows almost everything, no matter how obscure, but because he is actually embarrassed that his knows minutiae as well as he knows trivia.

But this question might blow his brainpan right out his neck. Therefore, this Spoiler Warning is just for Mark Waid.

Question: Name all the different actors who have played the part of Bruce Wayne.

Follow-up questions: If he signs the new multi-picture deal, should Michael Keaton be counted twice? And will Bruce Wayne meet Adrian Toomes?  Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #089: Riddle Me This, Keaton!”

Weird Scenes #094: Copaganda Kills

Weird Scenes #094: Copaganda Kills

The silence is speaking / So why am I weeping / I guess I love it / I love it to death / We still got a long way to go / Yes we still got a long way to go — “Long Way To Go,” written by Michael Bruce and recorded by Alice Cooper, 1971.

With respect to rhetoric, I will admit that the phrase “Defund the Police” was just asking for trouble. Some people tend to react before they think, assuming they ever get around to the latter.

Some people who hear “Defund the Police” immediately turn off their brains, rejecting it without thinking it through, just like they did reacting to the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” While it’s fun to watch these lazy fools go apoplectic, I suspect few of them could find Camden New Jersey on a map. Their police force was defunded in 2012. Police had to reapply for their jobs with no guarantee that they would now qualify. Several interesting things happened: the city’s violent crime rate fell 23% and its non-violent crime rate fell 48% (source: that radical democrat communist organization called “the FBI”). Amusingly, police violence increased, until the newly empowered neighborhood watchdogs were able to slow that down. Excessive force complaints started dropping in 2015. Camden is a better place.

This is a good program, and the Minneapolis city government now is adapting it for their use. You’d think everybody would be happy: the cops became less of a threat to the community, and crime went down dramatically. But, of course, the hysterical right will not see that. They believe an unfettered police department is a bulwark and every black person killed or severely harmed by police, as well as their fellow travelers, further establishes law and order. Continue reading “Weird Scenes #094: Copaganda Kills”