Category: Columns

With Further Ado #157: A Kiss is Just a Kiss…?

With Further Ado #157: A Kiss is Just a Kiss…?

I just had Ken Quattro, the Comics Detective, come speak to one of my summer classes. You may also recognize his name as the recent recipient of an Eisner Award for his ground-breaking book, Invisible Men: The Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books. It’s an enthralling and important deep dive into the lives of several black artists.

And just like every time Ken rolls up his shirtsleeves and gets down to business, it’s meticulously researched. Ken brands himself as a comic book detective, but like so many focused writers, he’s an exceptional historian.

I love writing about comics history for publications like TwoMorrow’s Back Issue Magazine and Overstreet’s Comic Book Price Guide, but I’m not in the same league as a historian like Ken.

But having written that, I think I found something new in the pop culture milestones to which historians usually refer.

Kiss Me, Captain

The original Star Trek TV series was groundbreaking in so many ways – everything from thoughtful, allegorical episodes to anticipating devices like cellphones and voice activated smart speakers.

Star Trek was also gutsy enough to debut the first interracial kiss on network TV. Granted, the characters, Captain Kirk and Lt. Uhuru did not kiss of their free will – the bad guys made them kiss one another. But still, Captain Kirk and Lt. Uhura’s kiss was a milestone.

Back in 2016, Hollywood Reporter reflected on the milestone this way:

There were reasons for the cast about this TV first – the show was in its third season, and cancellation was imminent. But it was NBC that was reluctant to pull the trigger. Network execs were worried that the interracial scene would upset Southern affiliates, so an effort was made to shoot coverage where Kirk and Uhura don’t actually lock lips. “We did a few takes, but Bill was deliberately trying to flub it”, recalls (Nichelle) Nichols. “At one point, he even crossed his eyes to make me laugh.”

(To be fair, as a kid seeing Shatner behave like a horsey was the part that really bothered me, but that’s another story.)

In comics, the first interracial kiss was in Warren Publishing ‘s black-and-white horror-comics magazine, Creepy #43, published in January 1972. The kiss was part of the story, “The Men Who Called Him Monster” by writer Don McGregor and artist Luis Garcia.

For color comics, the first interracial kiss is generally considered to be in Marvel’s Amazing Adventures #31 from July 1975. This comic showcased a “War of the Worlds” series, where a hero named Killraven and his merry band adventured in a post-apocalyptic world of which H.G. Wells could only dream. Don McGregor wrote this series too. It’s illustrated by the alarmingly talented P. Craig Russel. Don recently told the story behind the story here.

It makes sense that Don McGregor wrote these stories. He’s a brilliant writer who always looked forward and delighted in writing about the human condition. He’s a kind guy full of warmth, enthusiasm and all the attributes that make good men become great ones.

He’s also a hopeless romantic. For my money, he’s written some of the very best love scenes in comics. And if you have the good fortune to meet him in person, he brings the definition of charming to a whole new level.

You might get the impression that I’m gushing about Don McGregor. And you’d be right. I think the absolute world of Don McGregor as a writer and as a person.

An Unrecognized Milestone

Even so – I think I uncovered a historic milestone. It’s in DC’s color comic, Korak, Son of Tarzan #54 published October-November 1973.

This series was all about Tarzan’s son, Korak, on a long quest to find his abducted girlfriend, Miriam. As you can imagine, he had many adventures along the way. In issue #54’s story, “Blood Brothers”, written by Robert Kanigher and illustrated by Murphy Anderson, Korak makes a new friend, Mnumbo. After a few close scrapes together, Mnumbo introduces his lovely sister, Salamma, to Korak.

It’s easy to see that Salamma is smitten with Korak. And either she or artist Murphy Anderson read a lot of Prince Valiant comics, because she performs a fetching campfire dance that may have been inspired by Aleta’s (Valiant’s girlfriend and eventual wife) most famous dance.

And as the adventure ends, and Korak is getting ready to ride into the sunset (well, to walk into the sunset, but you know what I mean), they share a passionate kiss.

I believe that this is the first interracial kiss in color comics.

And you know what? I think there was almost the second interracial kiss in color comics in the very next issue. In that adventure, an Asian woman, Lotus, is embracing Korak and is about to plant one on him until a bad guy interrupts them.

Let’s Get Serious for a Moment

I think this is important. In the early 70s, as a kid, it was important to me to be shown love ought to be colorblind. We didn’t say “love is love” back then, but that was idea.

And to a young fan like me, it was important that my favorite creators, guys like Don McGregor and Murphy Anderson, showed the way. There wasn’t a lot of fanfare. There were no cover blurbs proclaiming these were special collectible issues. It was more about measuring the true worth of someone and following your heart.

On a personal level, one of my favorite uncles, (he was actually a great-uncle), was my Uncle John. He was Italian by way of Sicily, and married my Aunt Ruby, a wonderful Jamaican woman. He was white and was black. As an adult, I’ve learned that he suffered, and fought, bias and prejudice. But he never let the struggles show. He was consistantly confident, fun-loving and in love with his wife.

I hope that 20-somethings reading this think “what is the big deal?” And I hope that their kids think it’s even less of a big deal, and the next generation thinks it’s even less of a big deal.

For my part, I’m so appreciative I had folks like my Uncle John, Murphy Anderson and Don McGregor to help me get my head on straight at an early age. And I’m grateful now for guys like Ken Quattro researching and spotlighting the lives of brave creators who often suffered discrimination.

One last thing: go find someone you love and kiss ‘em!

* * *

Just to be thorough, there is one technicality: some consider the very first interracial kiss in a color comic to be in a Golden Age Blackhawk story where the a dying woman’s request, a kiss from the hero Blackhawk, was platonically granted. The woman was Asian, and Blackhawk seemed pretty WASPy (even though he was really Polish).

 

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #075: Better Late Than Never — HBO’s Barry

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #075: Better Late Than Never — HBO’s Barry

In “Better Late Than Never”, join Marc Alan Fishman as he trips sideways into streaming his way through a series and comes back to his column here on Pop Culture Squad to talk about its greatness as if the series just came out.

Shortly after meeting our titular Cleveland-based assassin Barry Berkman in writer/star Bill Hader’s Barry, he sits, staring into the middle-distance — his face blank, but the body language and minimally adorned apartment he calls home clearly shows us a man 7 feet below ground in exhausting depression. A jump cut later, Barry collects a crappy sedan below a staggeringly cyan blue sky of Los Angeles. Another job — to assist the Chechen Mob — has Berkman out West. By the end of the pilot, Barry completes his initial hit, not without complications; Chief among them his sudden fascination with potentially becoming an actor and abandoning his hitman profession. Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #075: Better Late Than Never — HBO’s Barry”

Brainiac On Banjo: Del Close! Holy Shit!!!

Back in the day I was involved in producing a comic book called Wasteland. This effort led to the one question I have been asked most often in comics, particularly by my fellow field laborers. That question is “how the hell did you get DC Comics to publish that book?”

I was surrounded by a lot of talent who are as incredibly gifted as they are unique. This is a matter of fact: they unleashed some truly brilliant, emotionally terrorizing stuff. Artists William Messner-Loebs, Ty Templeton, Don Simpson, David Lloyd, George Freeman, Tom Artis and Tim Dzon, Lovern Kindzierski, Timothy Truman, William Wray, Michael Davis, Rick Magyar, Tom Ziuko, Joe Orlando, Tony Salmons. Writers John Ostrander and Del Close. Associate editors Robert Greenberger and Brian Augustyn. And a cast of dozens.

Working with these folks was an absolute honor and a joy.

Now, there’s a documentary about Wasteland called “For Madmen Only: The Stories of Del Close,” directed by Heather Ross and written by Heather and Adam Samuel Goldman. No kidding. It’s got an iMBD page to prove it.

The whole idea of using Wasteland as the basis for doing a documentary about Del is, if you’ll forgive me, dazzling. Hey, it wasn’t my idea; I’m just in it. Heather’s the one who pulled it off and it took her years to do so. That requires a lot of energy with an attention span to match. Del’s been subject of several biographies that are quite good – in fact, Howard Johnson’s is quite great – but revealing the marrow of that man to a 2021 audience is no easy trick. His days as a performer, a Shakespearean actor, a teacher and a director are well noted, particularly his long association with Second City, the iO (a.k.a. improvOlympics), the Upright Citizens Brigade and Saturday Night Live.

I’ve long felt my pals in sweet home Chicago should build a statue of him and place it in Lincoln Park, close to Second City. Those of us who appreciate the history of American comedy would enjoy it, of course, and I think Del would appreciate his providing a place for the pigeons.

In order to have a documentary, you probably should have interviews with some of the people involved with Del (you’ll see just how they are involved in the documentary) and among those in For Madmen Only are Bob Odenkirk, Patton Oswalt, Adam McKay, Tim Meadows, Charna Halpern, Howard Johnson, Susan Messing, Alan Meyerson, Jason Sudeikis, Dave Thomas, Michaela Watkins, George Wendt, as well as John and myself. There are flashback scenes where Josh Fadem plays John, James Urbaniak plays Del, and Matt Walsh plays me. There’s a ton of real Del Close footage, as is only fitting as his name is there in the title, and much of that feature some of the other well-known legends that Del worked with, trained, and/or got into trouble with.

Holy shit. I just broke my own world’s record for name-dropping.

To be serious for the moment – don’t worry, it’s a one-time thing – this is an honor that shakes me to my very bones. Wasteland was, and still is, the most fun I’ve had in comics with my clothes on. I think we all knew we were walking a tightrope when we did the series, but I doubt many of us realized we’d finish falling up!

Plus… please allow me one more snatch of egoboo. Having Matt Walsh play me, for crying out loud, is mind-bogglingly amazing.

At the top of this piece I said I’ve been asked about how I got DC Comics to publish Wasteland. Well, it just so happens that this very Sunday, July 25th, at the San Diego Comic Con – which is once again on You Tube this year because of the Plague – I’m on a panel where I reveal exactly that. It airs starting at 10 AM west coast time, which, for those of you who can’t work a slide rule, is 1 PM eastern time and 2:30 PM Newfoundland time. Hey, you never know. The You Tube link ishttps://bit.ly/3xTQHqj; the long link is https://youtu.be/7Xddm_N-djo.

OK.

We’re ready for our close-up, Heather!

 

With Further Ado #156: The Newness of the Nine

Steve Ellis is one of those artists that you can admire in many ways. The easy way is to just admire his lovely art. Everything he creates has such emotion and passion. A couple of years ago I purchased one of his convention sketchbooks and I was enthralled – his stuff looks great in black and white.   During the pandemic, he was doing live drawing sessions online, and it was a treat – and an education – to see his illustrations come to life.

The Nine #0 cover by Steve Ellis

The other way to admire Steve Ellis is through his thoughtfulness and ability to find ‘the next thing’. He’s always evaluating the business landscape and working to find the next opportunities. (I teach entrepreneur classes and that’s always one of the key mindsets we try to imbue into the students’ mindset.)

I was thrilled to find out that Ellis is part of a new project called The Nine. It’s from a forward-thinking group called InterPop. Here’s their official description:

InterPop is a digital comics, gaming, and collectibles company building the next generation of fan experiences. InterPop works with leading creatives, gamers, artists, musicians, and brands to redefine fandom through digital collectibles and experiences. InterPop is the publisher of Emergents, a new comics universe with three original series (Emergents Presents; The Nine; and #ZoeMG), and the creator of a new TCG based on the Emergents universe. InterPop is also the creator of Play with Brio, a skill games platform, and MinterPop, an NFT marketplace. For more information, please visit interpop.io

The Nine #0 cover by Mike Allred.

This is an ambitious group and there’s a lot here. Emergents is a new comics universe from President & Publisher of InterPop, Brian David Marshall and Group Editor, Rachel Gluckstern. Writer Will Pfeifer provides the story. The comic’s cover and interior art is by the aforementioned Steve Ellis. The zero issue will kick off the ongoing series for The Nine and introduce some of the characters in this new shared universe.

And there’s a lot more top talent involved. Artists for variant covers include Amanda Conner, Colleen Doran, David Lapham and Bill Sienkiewicz.

A Creative Launch

The team is trying something new. Again, this is from the press release:

Issue #0 of The Nine, the first NFT comic book in the Emergents universe, will premiere at InterPop Block Party on July 17th and will be available for free to attendees via the InterPop e-reader. All of the ongoing titles will be made available as Free-to-Read comics in the e-reader as they are released and also offered as NFT editions.

True digital ownership of an Emergents comic series issue unlocks new experiences for comics fans. NFT collectors and readers will be able to vote on the future of the Emergents universe on topics ranging from the cosmetic to the cosmic. This means fans may choose which characters live and which ones die — and what costume they are wearing when it happens. It also means that fans can trade or sell their NFT copies of InterPop’s comics just like they can with physical comics.

It’s a fascinating overlap of comics, gaming and crypto currency. Of interest?  There’s more info available at Interpop.

Here are some preview pages of the comic: Continue reading “With Further Ado #156: The Newness of the Nine”

With Further Ado #155: Back to Normal? Conventions and Movies Are a Go.

With Further Ado #155: Back to Normal? Conventions and Movies Are a Go.

Slowly, ever so cautiously, things are getting back to normal.  This was a big weekend for movies as Marvel’s Black Widow debuted in both theaters and on the Disney+ Streaming app.  Variety reported that this movie generated $80 million in the theaters domestically (far beyond any other post-pandemic release) and another $60 million via Disney Plus Premier Access, where you had to fork over another $30 bucks.

That worked well for my brothers and their families, who are vacationing together and created a fun shared experience.

I have no idea what that bodes for in-theater movies vs. seeing them on streamers.  I will say it was a bit odd to see an ad for an Amazon series (Tomorrow War)  before the Black Widow theatrical movie that my wife and I attended.

But all in all, it felt really good to be in a theater again. Even the annoying people in the theater weren’t really annoying – it was so pleasant to be enjoying a movie in a social setting again.

“It was good to be back in a theater, in the dark, with a crowd. It didn’t matter what the movie was,” said Steve Rotterdam of AfterShock Comics and Bonfire Agency. It seems likes that was the overall reaction to seeing movies in the theater.

Professor Larry Maslon of the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University made it back into the theater too:

So, in the summertime, our family decamps to a small town on the North Fork of Long Island that has only one movie theater.  Until the summer of 2020, of course, we saw all our summer movies there, and that means opening day of all the MCU movies.  Last week, I took my 13-year-old Miles and his pal to see the opening of Black Widow. Unlike our MCU excursions in New York City, where there are hundreds of fanboys in the debut audience, this weekend I was the only fanboy in a small audience of, say, 25 (and Miles, but only sort of because he’s more grown-up than I).  When the requisite MCU fan-service Easter egg joke appeared halfway through Black Widow (no spoilers–figure it out yourselves, it’s a heck of a reference), I shrieked with laughter. 

After the movie, Miles was furious with me:  “Dad, you always do that at a Marvel movie–you’re the only one laughing at these in-jokes.  It’s so embarrassing.” 

“Yes,” I replied, “But you only noticed because we just started going back to the movies.”

Back to the CONS?

It was a busy weekend for me, as I also attended my first live comic con in forever too. Ken Wheaton, a comics pro who’s never lost his excitement for collecting, launched Rochester’s newest comic convention, The Empire Comic Fest.  Upstate New York has a rich history of wonderful cons, and there was definitely an impatience to get things going again.

Emil Novak of Buffalo is holding a convention there next Sunday, and long-time “Convention Maestro” Teddy Hanes has several conventions on the calendar too.

It was refreshing to be back at a convention.  This one was focused on back issues, with dealers selling high value books.  A strong retailer from Buffalo, Dave and Adams, also exhibited, and it was encouraging to see and hear their enthusiasm.

I found a few treasures there – two Big Little Books (I’ve been looking for that Space Ghost one for years and years) and on issue of DC’s Korak, Son of Tarzan. I do believe this issue is a bit of a landmark and I’m eager to write about it next week.

As you can see from the photos, a good time was had by all. And isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be at a local comic convention?

 


 

 

 

As Is With Mike Gold: Fuck ‘Em If They Can’t Take A Poke

As Is With Mike Gold: Fuck ‘Em If They Can’t Take A Poke

Sharpen your teeth for the family feast. Let all the hungry drool roll down your chin. Hide the human and bring out the beast. Let all the animal games begin! – Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell, Silver Spoon, 1971.

Last week, reported COVID infections went up 11%. That’s not entirely a bad thing.

Those new cases, according to published accounts, are almost entirely among the unvaccinated. 99.5%, according to the CDC, which is closer than “almost entirely.” If recent history is an indication, this particular subset of moronacy does not believe COVID infections went up 11%. Or, alternately, that COVID has ever been a problem at all. Or, on the mutant’s third hand, it’s all a Democratic Party conspiracy.

With respect to that last idea, they might have a point. Given the overwhelming refusal of many in the Confederate States to get the jab – no nanites for true American patriots! – they are killing off each other. Perhaps they believe the Democrats have bred a new strain of COVID, the Delta Variant (which is not the name of an X-Men graphic novel) that spreads much faster and with far greater efficiency than that which attacked the Atlantic northeast blue states a year and a half ago. To hell with ending gerrymandering, we Pizza Pederasts have on our side… oh, my god… SCIENCE!

The fly in that slice of paranoid pie is that the Democrats haven’t shown the ability to get their act together to organize such a feat since they ended Reconstruction with The Great Compromise of 1877. I continue to question the use of the adjective “Great,” but in those days the Republicans were what we call Democrats today and the Democrats were what we called Republicans – until the remaining, unpurged “Republicans” bent over and turned their asses towards the ex-president.

Be that as it may, all these death worshipping insurrectionists have been warned repeatedly, in every manner possible, throughout the lamestream media. No doubt they’re still busy looking for that Washington pizza parlor’s basement. It’s possible the Cult might have heard about it through their misinformation venues of choice: Twitter, Fox News, the Qanon sites, Breitbart, The Epoch Times, Infowars, Newsmax, One America News, Twitchy, the Washington Times, and a great many others. However, these ill-dressed goose-stepping Goebbels replicants seem to share a different interpretation of the word “vaccine.” They confuse it with “Zyklon B.”

I wonder. WWAR do? What would Ayn Rand do? That disgusting, lying hypocrite took social security, so perhaps she’d take the jab as well. The far right has a hard time letting philosophy get in the way of their own personal… growth. We know her fanboy eye doctor wannabe devotee Kentucky Senator Rand Paul thinks this is a prime example of government overreach. Saving people’s lives is not something in which any Right-thinking American should engage.

As a person who believes in democracy, egalitarianism, freedom of and from religion, and the American Dream, I say to these individuals “Keep on truckin’.” We’ll see if we can bury you under the statues of your favorite treasonous Confederate heroes.

And here you thought COVID was a bummer.

With Further Ado #154:  En Garde!

With Further Ado #154: En Garde!

 When I was in a college freshman, it was mandated we take two gym classes.  I wanted to try something I had never tried before, so I signed up for fencing.  There was an Olympic fencer from my hometown who was a bit of a local celebrity, but the real reason I was interested in fencing was because I loved movie swordfights.

As a freshman in that class, we learned the basics for the first four weeks.  We studied and practiced lunges and parries and all that stuff.  Soon it was time to actually fence against another person.   Within seconds, I forgot everything I had been learning and it all reverted to any other backyard swordfight.  I relied 100%  on those summer days when my brother and I would swish sticks in the backyard and say things like “ah-hah!”   Needless to say, I was not invited onto the fencing team.

But… in the spirit of those summer swordfights, let’s review some comics!

The Fox So Cunning and Free

American Mythology is a new publisher, just celebrating its 5th anniversary. One of the licenses they have acquired is Zorro, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary.

The Mark of Zorro : 100 Years of the Masked Avenger is an impressive coffee table book celebrating this long-lived hero’s many incarnations.  James Kuhoric and Jason Ullmeyer have assembled a collection of amazing images from every Zorro adventure – all the books, pulps, movies, cartoons and comics. It’s heavy on imagery and light on text, so it is a quintessential ‘flip through” book.

Comics creators Matt Wagner and the legendary Don McGregor (who created my favorite version of Zorro) supply the introduction and forward respectively to make the proceedings all the more special.

D’Artagnan Returns

Seven Swords is a new comic series from another “new” publisher, AfterShock Comics. They’ve been putting out so many titles they don’t seem new anymore to me, though. Seven Swords is written by Revan Daughtery and the art is provided by Riccardo Latina.  This new series focuses on a middle aged D’Artagnan, who you will remember from Dumas’ classic The Three Musketeers. In this story, however, the Three Musketeers are offstage, and D’Artagnan seeks to avenge them by recruiting a new team . He goes all-in Magnificent Seven style.

Latina, an Italian artist who is new to me, employs a classic style that suits the material, but he leverages a sense of dynamic movement, so it never looks dated.

A Look Back at an Invincible Sword

Recently, Back Issue Magazine shined the spotlight on Conan, the Barbarian. One of the articles reviewed all the ‘other’ barbarian characters from the Bronze Age, and I was fascinated by Dagar, the Invincible.  A Gold Key/Western “Sword and Sandals” character, Dagar was created by Don Glut and Jesse Santos. Wonderful painted covers graced each issue, many may have been painted by George Wilson. I would have ignored this series as a kid, but lately I have I been scouring back issue bargain boxes for it.  Glut is an imaginative and clever writer, and able to pack so much into one-and-done single story issues.

Santos, part of the wave of brilliant Filipino artists who illustrated 70s comics, is simply fantastic.

The layouts, anatomy and inking are all inspiring.  All of Santo’s barbarian women look like they walked off the set of a 1969 Hollywood movie, but that’s not so bad.

Of note if you want to join me in the noble quest of collecting Dagar:  he didn’t really have his own title. It was officially Tales of Swords and Sorcery featuring Dagar the Invincible.


“Don’t leave home without your sword- your intellect.”

-Alan Moore

Brainiac On Banjo: Screw The Sick

When the men on the chessboard / Get up and tell you where to go / And you’ve just had some kind of mushroom / And your mind is moving low / Go ask Alice / I think she’ll know – Grace Slick, White Rabbit, 1965.

I will freely admit that when I first read about the medicinal uses for psilocybin, I was more than just a bit surprised. I had taken the stuff in 1971, had a swell time, found it to be an exceptionally intense and pleasurable experience, and never touched it again. No reason not to; it was just a sweet “been there, done that” kind of thing. My usage was recreational, if you define “recreation” as sitting in a wicker chair for four hours listening to the Grateful Dead’s Live/Dead album on an 8-track loop.

Ah, hippies. Lovable people. Really. And psilocybin was one of our generation’s many gifts to you young ‘uns. You’re welcome.

Lately, psilocybin has been receiving a lot of publicity as an effective treatment for a number of serious medical conditions and is being studied and even legalized for such use in an increasing number of states. Of course, the feds continue to treat it as the stuff nightmares are made of, just as they still do with cannabis. In these endeavors, the Biden administration continues to assert its anti-science role as the nation’s Morality Police, defining morality strictly in Billy Sunday terms. “Screw the sick,” they appear to be advocating. “We don’t want nobody getting cured if might make them feel good. The diseased must be punished for their crime!”

So it comes as no surprise that the DEA – the pathetically inept and life-ruining Drug Enforcement Agency – reached into its suitcase of clichés to site the most hypocritical and asinine argument.

Well, of course. Legalizing currently controlled substances despite their medicinal value will have one extremely negative impact on our society. It might put the useless, obstructionist and disgusting waste of taxpayers’ money Drug Enforcement Agency out of business. As Governor Lepetomane famously said, and I frequently repeat, “we’ve got to protect our phony-baloney jobs!”

So the federal busybodies are telling us limited medical access could boost the illegal drug trade. This, of course, is a pile of hypocritical bullshit that is 90 years past its expiration date. You may have noticed alcohol and tobacco are available over the counter to adults. Have these substances drifted down to the under-aged and the legally sanctioned? Why, yes, absolutely. Just like guns, cars, prescription drugs, marijuana (in over half of the nation), and people who are not “this high” to get on the ride. We have a word for those who break the law and deliver such joys to children. We call them “criminals.” Sometimes, we even bust them for doing so. That, too, is rare, but it happens. The fact that it is so rare underscores the hypocrisy of denying such medical treatment to those who need it. If it makes you feel good and is not represented by a well-healed lobby, you can’t have it. Nayh nayh nayh nayh nayh.

If, assuming its benefits are scientifically confirmed, I am prescribed psilocybin for whatever my condition might be, our government has no right to restrict my treatment unless and until they declare war on me.

Which they have. They’re quite good at it, too. Just ask any woman.

That great American profit Mojo Nixon wrote “we gotta help the sick and the addicted, but we’re killin’ ourselves with the new prohibition. Our government’s try to tell you what to do; decide for yourself what’s right for you. If ya go too far and ya get outta hand,
then ya take a little trip down to prison land!” (Legalize It, 1985)

That is truth to power, Brother Mojo.

 

With Further Ado #153: Toxic Fandom – 60s Style

With Further Ado #153: Toxic Fandom – 60s Style

Art by Sean Lewis

It’s a strange paradox.  You can love Star Wars but hate all the recent “Star Wars movies. You can be a passionate Batman fan but not buy a single issue of current Batman comics.  Star Trek might be your favorite thing, but you can still vehemently loathe the most recent Star Trek TV series. And you might even be hate-watching them each week.

All this opens the can of worms as to who “owns” characters and  intellectual property (IP)? Is it the creators? Corporations who buy the IP from creators? Or is it fans?

Look, I get it. It’s easy to understand each side of the argument, and I find myself hopping from one point of view to the other depending on the particular fandom.

And in certain fandoms, the fans get very pointed and passionate.  Star Wars fans, for example, can articulate their hatred of certain movie executives and directors with a high level of understanding that one might expect in academia or at The Hollywood Reporters internal meetings.

I was surprised to see this level of toxic fandom in 1967 in an issue of a “less popular” comic…that was about to close up shop.

“If I Had a Thunderbolt In Mine Eye…”

Thunderbolt was a unique superhero series that was ahead of its time.  As noted on the covers of this Charlton series, Thunderbolt was in reality Peter Cannon, a reluctant hero who was trained by in the mysterious ways of Asian spirituality. He learned to unlock the power of the “90% of the human brain that lay unused”.  Unlike typical 60s heroes, Thunderbolt would often lament that solving problems via superhero fisticuffs wasn’t the best way.

Even if you never read a Thunderbolt comic, you may feel like you know the character. One reason is that Thunderbolt sort of borrowed his costume design from the Golden Age Daredevil, created by Charles Biro and Lev Gleason. (And have you read Bret Dakin’s bio of Lev Gleason yet? It’s been nominated for an Eisner.)  The character lived on recent, subsequent iterations in both DC and Dynamite comic series.  And, most famously, Ozymandias, the Watchmen character, was based on Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt.

Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #59

For a couple years in the mid-sixties, Thunderbolt was published by Charlton Comics.  Each issue was signed by the mysterious PAM. He had a distinctive, almost Alex Toth-ian style, heavy on drama and storytelling.  At the time, PAM’s true identity was a better kept secret than Thunderbolt’s true identity. PAM was actually a NYC local, originally from Park Slope in Brooklyn:  Peter A. Morisi who had a whole ‘nuther career as an NYPD policeman.  In addition to Thunderbolt, PAM worked on several other series, including Vengeance Squad and created Johnny Dynamite.

The numbering was a bit wonky for Thunderbolt comics. It all officially started with issue #51, but by issue #59, in an Elvis-has-left-the-building moment, Morisi only supplied the cover.   The interior Thunderbolt story was written, penciled and inked by Pat Boyette.

Boy, were fans steamed!

Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #60

I recently rescued a copy of Thunderbolt #60 from the bargain box at Fat Cat Comics in Binghamton.  The cover is fascinating as it showcases, in a last-ditch effort, an entirely new logo.   The series is edited by Dick Giordano, and both the lead and back-up features are written by Denny O’Neil.  The back-up series is an odd one, deserving a whole column of its own, and is illustrated by Jim Aparo.   With three major (future) Batman creatives contributing to this issue, it almost should be filed under “B”.

And in this last Thunderbolt issue, it’s astounding to see the fan letters commenting on the previous issue, #59. These fans were NOT HAPPY with PAM’s departure in that issue, nor with Pat Boyette picking up the art chores. They let editor Giordano have it with both barrels.

 

Like fans today (fans of Star Wars, Doctor Who, etc.) these fans knew their stuff and weren’t afraid to let the “higher ups” and the world at large, know how they felt!

As Is With Mike Gold: Bullshit at the Speed of Light

As Is With Mike Gold: Bullshit at the Speed of Light

I’ve had enough of watching scenes / Of schizophrenic, ego-centric, paranoiac, prima-donnas / All I want is the truth now / Just gimme some truth — John Lennon, Gimme Some Truth, 1971

Okay, I’m a history buff. Have been since I was knee-high to a silkworm. I will now share with you the most important thing I have learned:

Everything you know is wrong.

Not just you. Me, too. And those several people on the planet who are not reading this. In 1916, Henry Ford told the Chicago Tribune, “History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present, and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history that we make today.” Whereas I am loathe to agree with anything that anti-labor super-bigot ever said, I think any careful examination will lend credence to this view.

A more commonly deployed reaction to “facts from friends” got its start in 1932 on The Ziegfeld Follies of the Air radio show. Vaudevillian Jack Pearl played the part of Baron Munchausen, classic teller of tall tales. When his veracity was questioned, the Baron replied in a thick German accent, “Vas you dere, Sharlie?”

Commercial radio, which hit its century mark this past November, greatly accelerated the spread of both Information and its sister, Miss Information. By then, newspapers were doing a fine job of spreading both, but even with the telegraph and seven editions a day news was reported a handful of items at a time. Sometimes — not often enough — corrections were noted in later editions, but we learn in our high school journalism class that whatever you read, hear, or see as “breaking news” has yet to enjoy the benefit of fact-checking, or even of knowing the full story. Today, if you hear something on broadcast news and they are claiming it’s a breaking story (and they claim everything is a breaking story), do not confuse it with the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

I read a lot of old newspapers, and I do not believe we are subjected to more incorrect and often wacky “news” today than we were a century ago. However, because “news” now travels unchecked at the speed of the internet, it seems like there’s a lot more truthiness because everybody knows something about the story, even while the body is still warm, so to speak. Unconfirmed stories gather credibility because all at once everybody seems to know about everything whether it’s true or not.

If feces is fertilizer for plants, then bullshit is the fertilizer for fake news. Reason goes straight out the window. What kind of idiot could actually believe that the Democratic Party is running a cannibalistic pederasty ring out of the basement of a Washington, DC pizza joint — that doesn’t even have a basement? Well, lots of idiots do. Perhaps millions. You don’t have to believe this particular Munchausen-on-crack tale in order to disbelieve the 2020 election, but there are plenty of other stories that thrive in this neighborhood of the absurd. The 74,216,154 Trumpsters can take their choice of such folderol. And they do.

Virtually everything that comes out of Tucker Carlson’s mouth is bullshit, and much of that is fantastically absurd. His moral comedy show attracts some four million viewers each night. Do they all think what he’s saying is true? Well, no, I’m sure there are some — perhaps many — who watch it because it is so ludicrous, like any other so-called “reality show.” Others are simply grateful the loon stopped wearing his bowties. But I think it is fair to assume that the majority of his flock is joyously lapping up his brain diarrhea. Continue reading “As Is With Mike Gold: Bullshit at the Speed of Light”