Category: With Further Ado

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”

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”

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”

With Further Ado #066: Spooky Reading with Ghosts

With Further Ado #066: Spooky Reading with Ghosts

Happy Halloween!  Have you been partying at Halloween Parties all weekend? Are you ready for trick-or-treaters tomorrow?  And what do you hand out to the kids? Candy? Comics? Anything’s fine by me, as long as you’re not one of those dentists that gives out dental floss. What a bummer that is.

There’s something about that quaint, retro-spookiness of Halloween that makes it all so much fun. I especially applaud the hard-working entrepreneurs of Retro-Go-Go and all their wonderful Halloween merchandise. There’s such a charm in that idealized notion of Halloween that their creative seasonal merchandise evokes.   Continue reading “With Further Ado #066: Spooky Reading with Ghosts”

With Further Ado #065: It’s 1986 All Over Again

With Further Ado #065: It’s 1986 All Over Again

As I recall, 1986 was a great year. I was in Boston at that time and had just started a career in advertising. Boston was a glorious place; I enjoyed every minute of my time there. I especially enjoyed the town’s many comic shops – including Million Year Picnic, New England Comics and Newbury Comics- they were all in Harvard Square (if you can believe that) near where I lived.

It was good to have so many shops nearby because it was also a great year for comics. But in some ways, 1986 seems to echo through today with the resounding and triumphant evolution of Geek Culture.

I thought a lot about that as I was reading the big Sunday NYTimes article(s) on the new HBO Watchmen series.  The show looks interesting, but I couldn’t help but think how wonderfully odd it is, even today, to see Dave Gibbons’ panels in a major newspaper.

Watchmen debuted in 1986. We tend to forget, but right when we were all hooked, the twelve issue comic series started shipping late. It was a drag, but so worth the wait. And of course, those intricate Alan Moore stories could be read and re-read, and new meaning could be found each time while we were awaiting the conclusion.

One of the most satisfying parts of Watchmen used to be that it was finite. The comic series was a cohesive and comprehensive story. Like Casablanca, you kinda wanted to know what happened to those characters afterwards, but it was all so perfect that there was a “let’s just let it be” attitude. 

Buuuut… we’ve had a lot of new Watchmen adventures over the years. The series has been reprinted in many formats many times. (And that’s a whole ‘nuther story right there.)  And the Zach Snyder movie brought Watchmen to the big screen in 2009.

There have been new adventures in the comics too. I just rescued a few random Before Watchmen issues from the bargain box in Oswego’s A Comic Shop on Saturday. I was that guy who went into the store five minutes before their official closing (hey, I happened to be in the area). I wanted to be respectful to the owner (more likely than not it had been a long day for her) so I quickly grabbed those comics. Plus, my wife was waiting in the car.


DC Comics is currently publishing The Doomsday Clock series by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank. It’s a gorgeous-looking book that weaves the Watchmen characters into the modern DC mythology.  Frank’s artwork is stellar, and kudo’s to Johns for his characterizations of Don McGregor’s Nathaniel Dusk and the new heroes/villains, Marionette and Mime.

More 1986 in 2019

  • Just last month, Art Spiegelman charmed a full house at the Rockwell Museum event hosted in Corning, NY.  Spiegelman, still best known for his ground-breaking work on 1986’s MAUS, was fascinating and intriguing. It was hard to even think that all years had passed since 1986, except for the fact that Spiegelman has produced such an impressive body of work since then.
    • And as an aside, boy does that guy know his old comics. We had a ball at the after party talking about artists like Bob Powell and Dick Briefer!
  • The Mike Gold-edited Green Arrow series, debuting in 1987, actually started with a graphic novel called Green Arrow: The Long Bow Hunters. Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance’s adventures then continued in the first of many long-running Green Arrow monthly series. One can argue that without that series, there would be no CW superhero shows like Arrow or The Flash.
  • I tend not to keep up with all the CW shows, but the many ads/coming attractions I’ve seen teasing the crossover Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline again reinforces the 1986-ish-iness of modern pop culture.
  • And one could argue that new Batwoman TV show owes quite a bit to the 1986 thriller by Frank Miller, The Dark Knight Returns.  This gritty reimaging of the Batman legend is a nice adaptation of those luscious Greg Rucka/J.H. Williams comics, but it does owe quite a bit to Miller’s Dark Knight series. I guess so many comics today do.
  • Of course, some ‘ground-breaking’ series from that time aren’t remembered as vividly.  When Howard Chaykin reimagined The Shadow in his 1986 mini-series, it was deliciously subversive. Even to a longtime fan of the traditional Shadow adventures, like me, it was an urgent must-read.  For the world-at-large of today, it somehow just doesn’t quite enjoy the long-running traction of Watchmen or MAUS.  But at that time running with the big dogs.

Comic fans, by their nature, are always glancing over their shoulders to the past, while paradoxically always looking to the future – anxious to find out “what’s next”. We didn’t know 1986 would be a big deal then. We certainly didn’t think it would still be a big deal in so many ways.

With Further Ado #064: That Night Stalker, Carl Kolchak

With Further Ado #064: That Night Stalker, Carl Kolchak

I grew up in a time that was perfect for scaring ourselves silly. I was at that age where my friends enjoyed a steady diet of monster movies, and then Kolchak: The Night Stalker came along.  It wasn’t like anything we had ever seen. It took place in the here and now, unlike all those Universal monster movies. And the “hero” didn’t seem very heroic. He was kind of a…goofball.

And it was really, really scary!

Kolchak: The Night Stalker was a short-lived TV series in the early seventies, inspired by an incredibly successful made-for-TV movie. (Do you remember made-for-TV-movies?)  Each week intrepid reporter Carl Kolchak would stumble into an astounding story that inevitably involved the existence of real-life vampires, werewolves or aliens. 

Kolchak’s greatest motivation wasn’t saving people, and it certainly was not punishing bad guys. What really got under Kolchak’s skin was when authority abused power and subverted the truth. At the core it all, he was motivated to get the real story out there. He wanted to ensure that real news, as bizarre as it may be, was available for all.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #064: That Night Stalker, Carl Kolchak”

With Further Ado #063: Meanwhile….Beyond NYCC

With Further Ado #063: Meanwhile….Beyond NYCC

There’s a tendency amongst some passionate fans to grow weary of beloved comic conventions.  They bemoan the success of cons that have become too big and crowded.  You’ve been reading about last weekend’s big event. New York city played host to the 13th annual New York Comic-Con, now the largest convention in the U.S.  Fans, exhibitors and professionals all shoehorned into an aging building that just can’t seem to renovate fast enough.   

Despite all that, …. I still love NYCC.  I l just love the madness of this giant convention. I am always impressed by the many ways the management team works hard to innovate and evolve the ever-changing demands of Geek Culture. I enjoy seeing old friends and collaborators there.  I still love diving into the occasional back issue comic longbox to rescue forgotten treasures.

Paradoxically, I didn’t attend New York Comic-Con this year. Instead, I was in upstate at two other fan-focused gatherings. There’s good news to report : I had so much fun and met so many interesting people.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #063: Meanwhile….Beyond NYCC”

With Further Ado #062: Horizontal Collaboration

With Further Ado #062: Horizontal Collaboration

Originally Published in French as Collaboration Horizontale Writer: Navie 
Artist: Carole Maurel English Translation by Margaret Morrison 144 pp, Published in English by Korero Press in August 2019

Not long ago, my wife Kathe read a prose book about the women in France who “collaborated” with the Nazis who occupied their homeland during WWII. The term “horizontal collaboration” is a snarky way of describing the actions of French women who had relations with Nazis, either willingly or unwillingly. Although I never read that one, Kathe told me just enough about it to pique my curiosity.   With that background, I anticipated a good read about a difficult subject when I picked up the latest graphic novel from Korero Press:  Horizontal Collaboration by Navie and Carole Maurel.

Originally published in French, writer Navie stuffs quite a few characters into a small part of town… and into this story.  While some may find it confusing or cramped, once I focused on keeping everyone straight, I thought it worked really well.  Navie plays with so many traditional character conventions that upon reflection, every character seems to have just the right amount of stage time and is important to the larger tapestry of the story.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #062: Horizontal Collaboration”

With Further Ado #061: Larry Hama Conversations

With Further Ado #061: Larry Hama Conversations

Did you ever think you knew about someone, but then when you get into you realize how little you knew…and how fascinating that particular person is? That’s the experience I had after reading the new book from Christopher Irving, Larry Hama Conversations. It’s a fun read to be sure, but the more you learn about Larry Hama the more you want to learn. Hama is so much more than just the writer of GI Joe comics. Through this collection of interviews, I learned so much about him; everything from his time with folks like Wally Wood and Neal Adams to the secrets behind vintage San Diego Comic-Con vintages photos. This tidbit was revealed as Hama was speaking about a “lost project” where Vince Colletta was the photographer.

Christopher Irving is a gifted writer and an academic. Fall’s a busy time for him at Virginia’s Commonwealth University, but I caught up with him to talk about this new book.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #061: Larry Hama Conversations”

With Further Ado #60: On Target with Green Arrow

With Further Ado #60: On Target with Green Arrow

I was excited to read the announcement that DC is creating another oversize book to challenge the stamina of bookcases everywhere. The Green Arrow by Mike Grell Omnibus Volume #1 will be published next year. This collects a series that was a real favorite of mine.

It was the late ’80s, which somehow quickly turned into the early ’90s, and this series was such a breath of fresh air. The ever-brilliant Mike Gold (You are most certainly reading his columns here on Pop Culture Squad) was the editor who famously teased writer/artist Mike Grell with a pitch consisting of two words: “Urban Hunter”.  Gold knew that a more modern approach to the character would appeal to Grell.  For many years, the Green Arrow had been strange sort of a hero that mixed the best parts of Batman with Robin Hood. But those silly days were long gone.  Grell signed onboard, intrigued by Mike Gold’s vision, and the rest is history.

This series started with Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters, a mini-series with story and art by Grell.   Fans barely had time to catch their collective breath when Oliver (Green Arrow) Queen’s story continued in the regular comic. Mike Grell was still the writer, and supplied many memorable covers, but the art chores were initially handled by Ed HanniganDick Giordano and Frank McLaughlin impressively inked it. Continue reading “With Further Ado #60: On Target with Green Arrow”