Category: Brainiac On Banjo

Brainiac On Banjo #106: “Be Original?”

Brainiac On Banjo #106: “Be Original?”

Having spent the better part of my life in the comic book field – define “better” as you wish – one might think that I wouldn’t be so hung up on originality. After all, when it comes to those companies big enough to hoist a catalog, for 60 years now the orders of the day have been “reboot, relaunch, revise, and retread.”

Those are my words and not those of any marketing whiz. I am reminded of one of the medium’s great intellectual property redevelopers, editor Julius Schwartz. His nickname was “B.O. Schwartz.” The “B.O.” part stood for “Be Original.”

But, for the purpose of this treatise, let’s put aside four-color history and, instead, let’s talk about television. Or streaming. Or whatever we’ll wind up calling what’s been flickering between those programming arms on either side of the big glass teat.

Take a good look at some of the new fodder that’s been appearing on the boob tube the past decade and what’s in the pipeline for the immediate future, and you’ll see the orders of the day are now “reboot, relaunch, revise, and retread.” Why? Because it’s worked so well for comics?

Nudging aside my sarcasm (no easy feat), look at some of the recent programming options we have been given in the fantasy drama field. We find the reassembled return of Walker, Hawaii 5-0, MacGyver, Star Trek The Red Shirt Years, Doctor Who, Battlestar: Galactica, Superman, and many others that walk in the shoes of others. If it was once extremely popular and it wasn’t a western set in the old west, chances are it’s been or about to be rebooted, relaunched, revised, and retreaded. A new coat of paint and you’ve got yourself a franchise.

So, what do we have in that ever-widening pipeline right now? Law and Order SUV Mach II. The return of Criminal Minds. Yellowstone The Prequel. CSI (OG). Even Frasier. One might quibble that the upcoming return of Sex and the City is not drama per se. I don’t have a fully informed opinion about that, but to the extent that I am aware that program has been dramatic and certainly quite fantasy-oriented.

I could offer the argument, one that was standard in the comics field until maybe the early 1970s, that there’s an audience turnover and thus, for today’s viewers, these revivals are something new. Except they are not. Television has been swimming in reruns since Ampex invented videotape recording in the 1950s. Just about everything broadcast on network television since their videotape recorder was first installed has been broadcast and rebroadcast ad infinitum ever since. DVDs gave all that another platform, digital television, and the decimal television stations have expanded that, and now streaming has turned such accessibility into an ocean of nostalgia.

(A digression: the history of Ampex, which heavily involves Bing Crosby, Les Paul, and Ray Dolby, is quite interesting to those so inclined, as well as to those who have worked for ABC-TV during the past 60 years.)

Ampex-AVR-2-Quad-TVR

I’m not suggesting that all these reboots suck, or even most of them. But there’s no catharsis in “been there, done that.” It used to be each market had between three and five television outlets; today the only restraints are bandwidth and speed (both are increasing) and the consumer’s willingness to subscribe. That creates a lot of opportunity for all sorts of stuff, and there is more good stuff on “television” than one could have been imagined back when FCC commissioner Newton Minow called the medium a “vast wasteland” in 1961.

Nonetheless, Julie Schwartz’s admonition to “be original” is just as valid today as it was back in the day. If watching images float rapidly as viewed between our toes continues to be a thing, it is impossible to offer enough originality.

Sorry, Stabler. I’d rather see a bit more innovation.

Brainiac On Banjo #105: The Fat Lady No Longer Sings [UPDATED]

Brainiac On Banjo #105: The Fat Lady No Longer Sings [UPDATED]

This past Monday, Dallas Mavericks maverick owner Mark Cuban decided to enact a policy he committed do a year ago: he stopped playing the American national anthem before home games. Evidently, since that moment nobody’s dick has fallen off.

Of course, Cuban’s obvious communist affiliations came to light a few years ago when he supported athletes who took a knee during the Star-Spangled Banner. Funny how that works: had he implemented the decision to shit-can Francis Scott Key at that time, the loony-right might have promoted him as a proto-Proud Boogaloo Boy.

There’s a phrase in common usage: “It ain’t over until the fat lady sings.” If you are unfamiliar with its roots, well, it’s not about body shaming. It refers to Brünnhilde’s aria that ends Richard Wagner’s 15-hour long opera Der Ring des Nibelungen. Generally speaking, a woman of rather large dimensions is cast as the Valkyrie Brünnhilde, although the true culturally elite more likely recognize the part as played by Bugs Bunny in Warner Bros’ 1957 masterpiece “What’s Opera Doc?” Bugs is neither a female soprano nor of rather large proportions.

A bit closer to the point, in some circles the phrase can refer to the singer who came out at the end of various British entertainments to close out the show with “God Save The Queen.” More recently, Monty Python replaced this with a slide that urges those who attended their live performance to “piss off.”

Which is what Mark Cuban did. What the hell does the playing of the national anthem have to do with the playing of professional sports? Why is that considered patriotic? It’s a gathering of temporarily gifted athletes who have signed indentured servant agreements with insanely rich people who conflate team ownership with the size of their respective penises.

Hmmm. Wait. Maybe that is the American Way after all.

After Cuban performed his act of sacrilege, NBA spokesman Tim Frank told the Associated Press “Under the unique circumstances of this season, teams are permitted to run their pregame operations as they see fit.” I would not want to play against Mr. Frank in a game of Dodgeball.

Nonetheless, some said Cuban’s move “disrespected the nation.” I beg to differ. I believe the opposite is true. Do we play The Star-Spangled Banner when firefighters show up to battle a four-alarmer? Not usually. Podcaster Ben Shapiro asked if they would play the Chinese national anthem instead, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is as dumb as shit. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #105: The Fat Lady No Longer Sings [UPDATED]”

Brainiac On Banjo #104: The Great Buck Rogers War!

Brainiac On Banjo #104: The Great Buck Rogers War!

For more than three decades now, “people” have been trying to figure out what to do with Buck Rogers, America’s first major science-fiction hero. Buck, then named Anthony, first appeared in Philip Francis Nowlan’s novella “Armageddon 2419 A.D., as published in the August 1928 issue of Amazing Stories magazine. The story was noticed by National Newspaper Service syndicate president John F. Dille, who hired Nowlan to turn it into the first major science-fiction newspaper comic strip. The strip debuted on January 7th of the following year, some six months after the initial pulp magazine appearance.

Buck Rogers was a hit. An enormous number of merchandising and licensing deals ensued and Buck was seen in toy stores, a movie serial (starring Buster Crabbe), a radio serial, several television shows, and comic books. The other newspaper syndicates jumped on the Buckwagon, offering us Brick Bradford, Don Dixon, Drift Marlo, Space Cadet, and the spaceman whose fortunes eclipsed them all, Flash Gordon. Buster Crabbe starred in the three Flash Gordon serials as well.

As the realities of the real space program captured the world’s attention, spaceman stories began to look naïve; their sense of wonder was co-opted by reality. Buck’s adventures were drawn by some truly top-notch artists, including Frank Frazetta, Howard Chaykin, George Tuska, Gray Morrow, and Murphy Anderson, following in the footsteps of the originating artists, Dick Calkins, Russell Keaton and Rick Yager, but by the time we tossed beer cans on the moon Buck was but a cultural memory. A vaguely successful television series started up in 1979 and lasted two years.

This has not kept people from trying to bring Buck back. Not at all. But such efforts were hampered by recent lawsuits claiming Buck Rogers had lapsed into the public domain. The Dille Family Trust had gone blooie, and a judge ruled they were not eligible for bankruptcy relief.

After three years of listening to the crickets chirp, Legendary Entertainment said they were doing a movie, and Flint Dille, an accomplished television writer and grandson of John Dille, got on board. Brian K. Vaughan is writing the script. And, lo and behold, George Clooney is an executive producer — prompting rumors that George would play the lead. As much as I like Clooney, this is nearly laughable. Dr. Huer, the not-mad scientist of the series, would be more acceptable but I doubt George is likely to shave his head for the part. Bill Murray might, but he rarely returns phone calls. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #104: The Great Buck Rogers War!”

Brainiac On Banjo #103: So You Want To Be An Editor!

Brainiac On Banjo #103: So You Want To Be An Editor!

Stan Lee and Roy Thomas

So… do you really want to be an editor? A comics editor? Really?

Why?

Seeing as how I’ve been editing lots of different stuff (newspapers, magazines, books, broadcast stuff, and a whole lot of comics) since President Johnson thought he was a shoo-in for a second term, I guess I’ve learned a thing or two about the job. I’ve come to that point in my life where I’m ready to share. I figure I’m no longer grooming any competition.

Here’s just a few of the skills you need for the job:

Marvel Editors 2017

1) A deep, ongoing desire to be eternally satisfied with struggling to make ends meet. Publishing is an iffy racket on its best day, and that was before anybody with an internet connection and a self-serving sense of ethics could download whatever they want without paying for it. Maybe someday that will change, maybe Russia will want to better monetize bootlegging, but right now the only gold in them thar hills is writing this piece.

2) You are a control freak. Honestly, it’s the gist of the job. I have tried to avoid being a control freak when I’m not on the clock, but, hey, white-collar workers work home from time to time. There’s a fine line between being a control freak and being an asshole, but as an editor, your superiors are going to put you into the position of being one lest you lose your job. After a while — but before I got into comics — I discovered that finding out exactly where that line in the sand is can be enormous fun, but my sense of entertainment is very anti-corporate.

3) You enjoy being in the middle of a lot of shit storms. If you’re the type of person who watches those camera people on The Weather Channel chase tornados and wonders who in their right mind would want to do that, editing is not the best career move you can make. Taking comics as my example — after all, that’s what I said in my lede paragraph — let me explain why a comics editor titled one of his creations “The Human Target.”

Will Eisner

Your job is to represent the interests of the company and all its contradictory and ever-shifting needs and practices to the talent. Because there is nothing more fun than owning a condo in the crossfire, if you have any sense of ethics your job also is to represent the needs and skills of the talent to the publisher, which includes the master of editorial, the master of marketing, the masters of art direction, the master of production, the grand-master publisher, the owners, their board of directors and the Grand Invisible Cop-Out, the stockholders. Oh, and the lawyers. Everybody’s lawyers.

(Fun fact: even lawyers dislike lawyers.)

Let’s make this even more interesting. Your job is to represent the needs and the skills of the talent to the needs of the other talented people working on the project. Let me remind you, I used the phrase “shit storms” in the plural. When it comes to creative vision, not everybody’s always on the same page. I’ve had to referee a great many such disputes, and, no, I am not going to rat out the perps. Talent is driven by ego, so what do you expect? It’s Chinatown, Mr. Gittes. But I’m just childish enough to note that the better the creative team is and the longer they’ve worked together, the more likely such conflicts will pop up like zits before a teenage orgy.

Chances are, you, as an editor, will be involved in several different projects at the same time. Let’s say you are handling five different projects, which might even be reasonable. Multiply everything I just said by five.

Now, let’s say you are a full editor and you’ve got an assistant and/or an associate editor or maybe several of them. Perhaps you’ve been around for a while and instead of offering you more money, which they probably don’t have, they make you a group editor or a senior editor or a master-of-Kung-editor and you’ve got several editors working under you… and they’ve got their own assistances and associates. Maybe you share a proofreader and other support staff. We used to have photocopy kids which, in many cases, was the only way to observe and learn the craft. Now that we have all these computers and scanners and wi-fi, these folks pretty much have gone the way of the buggy whip. Yeah, you might have to Google that. Anyway, managing all those folks is also a part of the job. What, you wanted to make friends?

So. Does all that sound like a barrel of monkeys? Well, life always is better with a monkey. There’s got to be a reason I’ve been doing this for decades, but at least it helps explain how I developed my warped worldview.

If you’re still with me, you’ve made it past your first hurdle. Congratulations. Continue following this series, the second part of which just might appear in this space next week.

But maybe not next week. The biggest hurdle you’re going to have to leap, every day of your career is what Marvel Comics long ago called the “dreaded deadline doom.” It is inescapable, and if it didn’t exist “they” wouldn’t need to hire you. I’ve got a way to train yourself to handle that, but I’ll hold that as bait.

Which is another stupid editor trick.

© 2020 Mike Gold – ArrogantMGMS. Watch your ass!

Brainiac On Banjo #102: Will Wonder Woman Destroy Life As We Know It?

Brainiac On Banjo #102: Will Wonder Woman Destroy Life As We Know It?

The answer to my headlined query is “yes, but don’t blame it on her.”

In eight days or so, I suspect the majority of Pop Culture Squadsters will be plopping our quarantined asses on our couches and watching Wonder Woman 1984. We might be eating microwaved popcorn and chomping the heads off of gummy bears. Some will be bitching about how they miss the magnificence of the shoebox movie theaters out by the Applebee’s, and to these folks I mutter the immortal words of William Shatner: Get a life!

Movie theaters were puking up blood long before The Joker weaponized Covid-19. The whole idea behind the contemporary movie theater was to motivate people into driving 10 miles, parking in a lot and walking 3500 icy feet to a gaudy poster-laden building, wrestling with an obstinate ticket machine and a debit card to ransom the tickets for which you’ve already paid, standing in a ridiculously long line to procure a 55-gallon drum of soda pop and a vat of popcorn upon which somebody hosed glow-in-the-dark oil, maneuver all that into the one theater out of maybe two dozen that is showing your movie in the format you paid for and juggle your way into your assigned seat, which, of course, is right behind the one occupied by The Incredible Hulk.

(Fun Fact: Those ever-rotating hot dogs at the candy counter? Yup, you’re absolutely right. They have been twirling in vain since Jimmy Carter announced his presidential run. I wouldn’t bite into that shit if it was sprayed with the Covid vaccine.)

Portal to portal, including gas, you’ve blown your kids’ college fund on a night out which, in December 2020, might kill you. Remember the good old days when all you had to worry about was getting an STD?

Yeah, I’m not a fan of the multiplex movie theater. I love seeing movies with a bunch of my friends. If some asshole is talking in my home theater, most likely that asshole is me. But with 65-inch 5K televisions now available in boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios, I can invite those same folks to my home to watch a streamer and charge less than half the theater rate for well-greased popcorn.

There’s lots of stuff from my youth that I miss. Restaurants that aren’t themed. Bars with less than a half dozen television sets all tuned to El Ocho. Cars with fins. Parking meters. Lime Lifesavers. Glittering movie palaces that inspire awe and put you in the mood for magic. The only thing these shoebox theaters give me, aside from a maxed-out credit card, is the thrill of listening to two movies at once to the light of dumb people’s smartphones.

So, now, the theater chains are screaming about streaming. I get it: their future is on the line, and that sucks. Pardon me if I’m just a bit more concerned about the neighborhood bars and other family-owned businesses that do not force me to go to a nearly-abandoned shopping mall where three of the four anchors went blooie because Macy’s doesn’t understand that buying up the local department store chains undermines the shopping experience.

Like I said, times change. Geriatrics bitch about how great the good old days used to be, and we’re often right about that. Childhood experiences are habit-forming. But tomorrow’s good old days will look a lot like a big parking lot that houses a Best Buy, a Denny’s, a Costco, a Pizza Hut, and maybe a Bed, Bath and Beyond. You know, the folks who are keeping the postal service alive.

Before you know it, the streamers will have gone the way of Blockbuster. They will have been replaced by something else. I’m hoping for that phone company brain implant chip predicted in 1967 in that truly wonderful movie, The President’s Analyst.

You probably can catch The President’s Analyst on one of the streamers.

Brainiac On Banjo #101: Let’s Go Get Screwed

Brainiac On Banjo #101: Let’s Go Get Screwed

You know I work so hard, all day long / Everything I try to do, seems to always turn out wrong / That’s why I wanna’ stop by, on my way home and say / Let’s go get stoned – written by Nickolas Ashford, Valerie Simpson, and Josephine Armstead, 1965.

You would think that after decades of legal entanglement, public ridicule, and media hostility, corporate America would have learned something from the Jerry Siegel – Joe Shuster “who owns Superman” slugfest. You might also think it would be swell if we could watch monkeys fly.

On his justifiably well-respected Word Balloons podcast last week, John Siuntres conversed with Alex Ross, and Alex dropped some shit. It seems the DC Comics daisy chain (DC < Warner Bros < WarnerMedia < AT&T, a.k.a. Ma Bell) no longer pays artists or writers when they use their work on screen. Alex discusses his Kingdom Come series with Mark Waid, his design of the current Batwoman, his re-design work with Wonder Woman, and his contributions to Black Lightning. His work has been seen, or closely imitated, in various WarnerMedia adaptations of the DC grimoire. Movies, teevee shows, streaming stuff, the whole enchilada has been heavily seasoned with buckets of Ross. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #101: Let’s Go Get Screwed”

Brainiac On Banjo #100: Wonder Woman Saves Lives! Really!

Brainiac On Banjo #100: Wonder Woman Saves Lives! Really!

Make a hawk a dove, Stop a war with love, Make a liar tell the truth. Wonder Woman, Get us out from under, Wonder Woman. All our hopes are pinned upon you. And the magic that you do.– Theme from the Wonder Woman television show, written by Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox

Yesterday (Wednesday, to the calendar-challenged), the folks on the Left Coast at WarnerMedia — those who still have jobs — announced that on Christmas Day they will be releasing Wonder Woman 1984 to those American theaters that may be open. This wasn’t a shock — it’s been in the can for about half of this year, and they’re probably tired of paying out all that interest. I don’t blame them one bit.

Surprisingly, they also announced they’ll be running the movie on their HBO Max streaming operation starting that very same day. They didn’t mention how long it will be available to pluck from the Cloud, but the media wonks feel that will be a month. Well, that’s damn cool. Happy New Year!

Shockingly, WarnerMedia also announced they will not be charging $30.00 for the privilege of watching the sequel to a movie that made almost nine-tenths of a billion dollars by putting people’s butts in theater seats. That’s how much Disney charged when they diverted their live-action Mulan to their Disney+ streamer, and they seem to have done pretty well with that.

So… get this! HBO Max will be charging absolutely nothing extra. They’re hoping they sell a lot of new subscriptions and renewals. I’ll bet right before Wonder Woman 1984 we’ll see a new trailer or three for their mostly-new five-hour “Snyder Cut” of the Justice League silver screen train wreck. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a trailer for their new Wonder Girl teevee series as well.

Like many others (including Pop Culture Squad’s HBIC), I would prefer to see Wonder Woman 1984 on a big screen. I loved the first one — it inspired a lot of little girls in the audience, and it gave me hope. Well, in that case it was hope that Warner Bros can make another superhero movie that’s at least half as good as those made by Marvel. But, hey, times suck and we’ve got to adjust. Personally, I’d also like to drive from Connecticut to Kansas for some barbecue, and right now that ain’t gonna happen either.

A lot of people will be driving during Christmas and New Years, assuming those mathematics-denying flat-earthers don’t kill themselves or others at their huge, indoor family-infested Thanksgiving dinners, believing there is some unstated provision in the Constitution that allows them to murder their friends and relatives while keeping the Covid-19 virus fat and healthy.

But, now, there’s an out for some of the more intelligent and reasonable folks in those families. They just might buy some holiday candy and stay home to watch Wonder Woman 1984. After all, not everybody is willing to risk their lives for the honor of watching a bunch of football games with people they really don’t like and dare not speak with. This will not only prevent or delay some spread of Covid, it will also reduce the number of family manslaughter arrests and, if we’re lucky, some DUI issues as well.

WarnerMedia might be taking a bath on the movie, but it’s quite likely their decision will lives.

Besides… those people who were planning on seeing Wonder Woman 1984 by gawking at their computer screens at a shaky camera-copy bootleg? Hey, Warners, you just did them a solid!

Seriously. AT&T, owners of WarnerMedia which, in turn, owns Warner Bros which, in turn, owns DC Comics deserves serious appreciation. They might be thinking they’re doing the only thing they can given the situation, but they should be aware they’re also doing the right thing.

Saving lives… in the spirit of Wonder Woman.

Brainiac On Banjo #99: A Master Leaves The Stage

Brainiac On Banjo #99: A Master Leaves The Stage

If Sean Connery had never made Dr. No, he would still be remembered as one of our most impressive actors. Except…

… Except if Sean Connery had never made Dr. No, it’s very doubtful that he ever would have been given the chance to make such movies as The Man Who Would Be King, Time Bandits, Robin and Marian, and The Wind and the Lion. Great actors are like great guitar players: for every Eric Clapton or Buddy Guy on stage, there are a thousand equally gifted musicians who never get out of the garage. It takes commitment, determination, and a very thick skin in combination with off-the-scale talent that brings about the possibility of success. Even then, the odds are against you.

Well, that’s show biz.

Prior to taking the James Bond gig, Connery had done a handful of appearances in movies and television shows, none that are well known. In 1957 he made his American media debut in a very brief appearance on The Jack Benny Program – “Jack Hires Opera Singer in Rome,” where he played a hotel porter. It’s in the rerun package and continues to be aired on one or more of those nostalgia decimal channels. It was Dr. No that brought him to the attention of the masses, to the surprise of the producers, to the studio, and to Bond creator Ian Fleming, who saw his master action hero as more of a Hoagy Carmichael type. After seeing the finished film, Fleming changed his mind… after counting his change.

(Note: In my opinion, singer/songwriter/actor Carmichael would have made an excellent James Bond, but he would have been a bit too old for the part in Dr. No and most certainly too old by the time United Artists made Thunderball. “What if” is the dross of all fandom.)

Cleverly, Connery parlayed his success as 007 into a career that proved he deserved to be in a paragraph that contained Humphrey Bogart, Robert De Niro, and Steve McQueen. He was courageous enough to take on roles that many found confounding – Zardoz, for example – and others where the “hero” proved to be less-than-heroic (my favorite Connery flick, The Man Who Would Be King). He showed his gentle side in Time Bandits, another of my favorites, and his age – something rarely seen from big movie stars – in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. He had no problem performing with actors who were equally gifted such as Michael Caine and Harrison Ford, and he never squeezed their screen presence.

Contrary to the position held by many otherwise reasonable people, James Bond is not an ideal. He’s a hero only because he takes his job seriously, thereby saving us from extinction. Bond is a killer; it is in his job description. His attitudes towards women, which mirrored those of his creator, were obnoxious from the very outset and ugly even in its time. Yet Bond is not a conflicted character. He knows who he is and how he’s supposed to execute his responsibilities to his employer and to his nation.

It took a very secure performer to make James Bond work on the screen, to get the point across where so many other talented actors in similar roles could not. Damn near each and every actor who succeeded Sean Connery in the role echoed the studio’s advertising claim – “Sean Connery IS James Bond.”

In Connery’s hands, 007 was the effective artifact the world needed to get through growingly conflicted times. It is very difficult to evaluate our past through contemporary standards, although it is vital we do so.

At the end of the day, Sean Connery’s varied roles were mostly strong, well-centered men who were slightly out of their time but, at that very instant, desperately needed. It’s heroic fantasy, folks, and heroic fantasy is very tough to make believable.

Sean Connery did just that.

Brainiac On Banjo #098: Zippy, Schlitzie, & Griffy

Brainiac On Banjo #098: Zippy, Schlitzie, & Griffy

Nobody’s Fool: The Life and Times of Schlitzie the Pinhead by Bill Griffith, 256 pages, Abrams ComicArts, $24.99 (print), $8.73 (digital)

Well, better late than never. When Nobody’s Fool was announced I got all excited, thinking this was a great idea from the one human on Earth best motivated to produce it. It came out about 18 months ago, I had ordered it from my friendly neighborhood comic book store, they never received it, and the whole thing faded from my brainpan. Maybe I was thinking I’d run into the editor Charlie Kochman at one convention or another — Charlie has no home and simply wanders from one convention to another.

Anyway, to make a long story tedious, I saw him a bunch of times but I didn’t put the arm on him, which is very unlike me. Finally, a little lightbulb lit above my naked pate and I went online and bought the thing. I read it yesterday, as I write this, and I’m writing this today. So you’d figure I must have liked it, right?

Well, I did. Books do not age, only readers do. But enough about me.

Almost 50 years ago, cartoonist Bill Griffith introduced his best-known and most beloved character Zippy The Pinhead in the underground comic book Real Pulp Comix #1; it was a romance story… kinda. I’d already been a fan of his work, and I thought telling a love story about a microcephalic was real gutsy. Of course, in 1971 we didn’t grasp the concept of political correctness the way we do today, but I’ll have more to rant about that anon.

The character took off and Griffith did a whole lot more Zippy The Pinhead stories. Fourteen years later, William Randolph Hearst III asked him to do Zippy as a daily strip in his San Francisco Examiner. This is amusing but not shocking; his grandfather (William Randolph Hearst-the-First) loved comic strips and was the guy who green-lit George Herriman’s Krazy Kat, which set the standard for non-sequitur humor.

Peculiarly, after Zippy’s inclusion the Examiner’s readers did not gather around the building with pitchforks in protest, so the following year Hearst-the-Third saw to it that his King Features Syndicate picked it up and pushed it nationally. Wiki says it’s in 100 newspapers, which is remarkable for a strip that doesn’t make sense to many and stars a pinhead. It’s also remarkable that there are 100 newspapers left these days, but that’s another story and a bleak one at that.

That same year I had moved to Fairfield County Connecticut, then the place to be for newspaper cartoonists. I got to know dozens and dozens of them, and I’d say these folks only had one thing in common: not a one understood why King Features picked the strip up. More than a few seemed resentful; the late great Gil Fox, one of the funniest and most courageous people I’d ever known to sit at a drawing board, once asked me to translate Zippy The Pinhead for him. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #098: Zippy, Schlitzie, & Griffy”

Brainiac On Banjo #097: Yeah, Baseball!

Brainiac On Banjo #097: Yeah, Baseball!

Steve Goodman

Give me a doubleheader funeral in Wrigley Field / On some sunny weekend day – no lights / Have the organ play the National Anthem / And then a little ‘Na Na Na Na, Hey Hey Hey, Goodbye’ / Make six bullpen pitchers carry my coffin / And six groundskeepers clear my path / Have the umpires bark me out at every base / In all their holy wrath — Steve Goodman, A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request, 1983.

One of the many differences I have with the Conventional Wisdom is that I see professional sports as part of our popular culture and not as a religion. If every player on the New York Mets were from New York City, and so on, that might be different. Root, root, root for the home team. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #097: Yeah, Baseball!”