Category: With Further Ado

With Further Ado #150: The Prescience of Superman

With Further Ado #150: The Prescience of Superman

Last week I presented my interview with Roy Schwartz about his new book Is Superman Circumcised? The Complete Jewish History of the World’s Greatest Hero. This time around, let’s take another look at Superman, albeit in a decidedly batshit crazy way.

Rescued from the Bargain Box

Recently, I rescued a copy of Superman #184 from the bargain box at Ravenwood in Utica, NY.  This comic, originally from February 1966, sports a cover by Superman stalwarts Curt Swan, George Klein and Ira Schnapp.  Or at least ¾ of the cover. I love three-quarter-covers, although this mutilation renders it a pariah by many collectors. We used to see more of these ripped covers in the old days. Before the direct market was established, retailers would be required to send back their unsold comics for credit. After a while, that proved to be too cumbersome, so the practice of sending back only the cover, or only the top logo from the cover, was adopted.  The leftover comics were often not destroyed and instead illegally resold at a discount. Continue reading “With Further Ado #150: The Prescience of Superman”

With Further Ado #149: Is Superman Circumcised?

With Further Ado #149: Is Superman Circumcised?

It’s getting to be that time of year when I want to get my summer beach reading all lined up. That’s one reason why I was so eager to speak with author Roy Schwartz about his new book Is Superman Circumcised? The Complete Jewish History of the World’s Greatest Hero.  Here’s my five-and-a-half questions and Roy’s five-and-a-half-answers:

Question 1:

Ed Catto: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, Roy? And are you a comic fan?

Roy Schwartz: I’m a huge comic fan. I grew up on comics, it’s how I taught myself to read and write. My favorite has always been Captain America—and this goes way back, when people would say “who?”

I used to have a decent collection. 42 long boxes, which isn’t huge, but it was well-curated. I had a complete run of every Cap comic published from October 1964’s Tales of Suspense #58 (signed by Lee & Kirby!) to October 2012, when Hurricane Sandy destroyed my storage unit and with it my lifelong collection overnight.

I’d like to give a shout-out here to Chuck Rozanski from Mile High Comics, who heard about it and sent me a few boxes of back issues. It was the sweetest gesture. This is a guy who spends his time and money volunteering for homeless causes around Denver. He’s a real-life superhero.

I don’t collect with the same gusto anymore, but my home office looks like a comic shop. I have a framed copy of Avengers #4, Cap shield and helmet replicas, life-size bust of Christopher Reeve’s Superman, a bunch of Hot Toys and other cool stuff.

When I’m not in fanboy mode I’m disguised as a mild-mannered director of marketing & business development for a great metropolitan law firm.

Question 2:

EC: Your book, Is Superman Circumcised? The Complete Jewish History of the World’s Greatest Hero looks fascinating. What’s the book about? Continue reading “With Further Ado #149: Is Superman Circumcised?”

With Further Ado #148: Two Giants Among Men – Kubert and Anderson

With Further Ado #148: Two Giants Among Men – Kubert and Anderson

In recent weeks, I’ve written about Bill Turner, who has been running the ITHACON comic convention for over 45 years. It’s quite a feat.  And when asked how it all started, Bill will tell the tale of the local comic club – where fans would meet to discuss and trade comics.

In today’s world, so many of those actual clubs have been replaced by online groups. I’m in a few comic-focused groups, and I find them to be (generally) fun and enlightening.

One group is dedicated to the DC character Hawkman. Ever since I was a kid in 1967 and I laid my eyes on Brave and the Bold #70, I’ve been a fan. This dynamic Carmine Infantino cover, with inks by Joe Giella, shows – astonishingly – Batman and Hawkman locked in a particularly brutal struggle. They aren’t messing around. Their costumes are shredded. The Batmobile is smashed-up.

”How could this be?”, my five-year-old mind screamed!

That sparked my Hawkman fascination. Just one step over from my Batman obsession.

Fast forward to today: Tim Board’s Hawkworld FB group has re-ignited my Hawkman passion. I’ve written about Tim back in With Further Ado #23.  And really, how could any classic comic fan not like Hawkman when so many fantastic creators have contributed their talents to this character?  Favorites like Gardner Fox, Ryan Sook, Rags Morales, Tim Truman, Mike Gold, Robert Vendetti, Tony Isabella, Graham Nolan, Tim Truman, Bryan Hitch …the list goes on and on.  And it includes two of my favorite, undeniable comic legends:  Joe Kubert and Murphy Anderson.

Joe Kubert worked on Hawkman in the Golden Age and then helped relaunch the character during the Silver Age. After a few try-out issues in Brave and the Bold (that was a thing back then), he handed the artistic reigns over to fellow New Jerseyan Murphy Anderson.

Note: Murphy would become the cover and interior artist when Hawkman #1 debuted in 1964.

I had the supreme honor of getting to know both Joe Kubert and Murphy Anderson a bit. Their artistic talents were off-the-charts. Beyond that I was really struck by how kind, humble and professional each of these gentlemen was. These were both exceptional people, in addition to being exceptional entrepreneurs, exceptional family men and exceptional artists.

That’s why, when I recently purchased a copy of Mystery in Space #87, one of the tryout issues for Hawkman, I was surprised-not-surprised to find the following letter in the letter column.  In this issue Joe was officially passing the baton to Murphy.  I was so impressed to find this gem as the first letter in the Letter to the Editors page, entitled (underwhelmingly) Via Rocket Mail.

Kubert rolls out the red carpet for his successor, Anderson. Does it get kinder, classier or more professional than this?

{And sharp-eyed comics fans will note editor Julie Schwartz stealing Stan Lee’s “nuff said” in his response to the letter.}

Joe Kubert and Murphy Anderson. Geez, what great guys.

*Although I will always think of Murphy as a true-blue Tarheel!

With Further Ado #147: Five and a Half Questions with Hard Agree’s Andrew Sumner

With Further Ado #147: Five and a Half Questions with Hard Agree’s Andrew Sumner

Andrew Sumner is a dynamo wrapped in a fireball with the limitless energy of a blazing supernova. I’m always fascinated by everything he’s doing and the launch of his new podcast, Hard Agree, (I’ve become a regular listener) provided a great excuse to catch up with him!

Question 1:

Ed Catto: You’ve got so much going on now and such a cool origin story, Andrew.  Can you tell us a little about who you are and how you ended up at your current position at Titan?

Andrew Sumner: My grandfather and best friend, Pops Smythe, served with an American unit in Normandy in WWII, and when he came back to Liverpool, England in 1947 (after spending two years as an MP on clean-up duty in post-Nazi-occupied Paris), he came back with a great love of America, Americans and American popular culture – as personified by movies, big band music and the comic books he’d received as part of his US Army rations. He transferred all of those passions to me – when I was three, he bought me my first US comic (Batman #184) and I was hooked for life. Continue reading “With Further Ado #147: Five and a Half Questions with Hard Agree’s Andrew Sumner”

With Further Ado #146: Five and a Half Questions with Adam Philips

With Further Ado #146: Five and a Half Questions with Adam Philips

You’ve read Adam Philips work for many years, but you may have not known it. He’s one of those hard-working, behind-the-scenes guys.  But now he’s embarking on a new stage of his career and it all seems fascinating. So, let’s catch up with Adam Philips in 5 and ½ questions!

Question 1:

Ed Catto: We’ve known each other a long time, Adam, but for this column, can you please give us a little background on who you are and how you came to be?

Adam Philips: Sure! I’m a lifelong comics fan – I was a Marvel zombie in the 1970s and an early proponent of the Indie comics scene. I got started in the field in the 1980s when I wrote articles for Marvel Age magazine, which led to me being hired as the assistant editor on Marvel Age, as well as the Doctor Who reprints, a Howard the Duck one-shot, and a few other Marvel projects. I also did freelance work for Archie, Eclipse, Topps, and Fantagraphics, and I even wrote about comics for Entertainment Weekly in an early issue.

After a few years in magazines, I joined Welsh Publishing Group as an editor, where I worked on titles for young readers starring Superman and Batman, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Real Ghostbusters, DuckTales, Garfield, the Simpsons, and more. I was hired by DC Comics in 1994 as their first-ever copywriter, where I conceived and wrote ads and posters. I then moved into marketing, where I ran DC’s solicitation process, created their retailer emails, and created and presented content at retailer events, and lots more. I left DC this past February.

Even after all that, I’m still a comics fan at heart! I’m currently blogging the entire run of Marvel Age at MakeMineMarvelAge, and I’m working on two comics-related podcasts that will debut soon.

Question 2:

EC:  Your new venture, Untold Stories Marketing sounds fascinating. What’s the idea behind this agency? Did you see an unmet need in the marketplace?

AP: A few months ago, I was having conversations with some comics companies about what my post-DC life might look like, and over the course of those chats we identified certain areas where they thought they could use some marketing help. That, aligned with something I’ve heard from retailers so many times, which is, “If I knew more about it, I would have ordered more.” What clicked for me was the idea of an agency that would provide information on new series to retailers so they can order with confidence and tell their customers what those titles are all about.

I’ve worked closely with publishers, writers and artists, distributors, and retailers, which makes me uniquely qualified to take a publishers’ direction, get information direct from the creative team, and use the distributors’ platforms to communicate to retailers in language they respond to.

Question 3:

EC: 3. Love the logo. What can you tell us about it?

AP: It’s orange! I worked with a friend who’s a logo designer and gave him some direction. I wanted it to have the vibe of a “Hello, my name is…” sticker, and the name itself is a play on the old “imaginary stories” and the concept of “untold stories of your favorite hero.” And I want to help creators tell their untold stories.

Question 4:

EC: Do you think it’s mandatory that an agency like Untold Stories Marketing is run by a long-time comic fan/enthusiast? Could the firm still succeed if that wasn’t the case?

AP: You probably don’t have to be a comics fan, but it helps. This is a quirky industry like no other, and while there are marketing concepts that can apply to just about anything, knowing the players and the institutions is important. There’s no substitute for familiarity with the history of the field, or with having actual relationships with retailers.

Question 5:

EC: 5. You’ve been in thick of it for a long time. What’s the most interesting thing, or the most challenging thing, about the industry today?

AP: The most interesting thing to me is the breadth of product out there. A lot of smaller publishers have come along in the past few years with some great titles – publishers like Aftershock, Ahoy, Vault, or Scout, to name just a few. That said, retailers are stretched thin in trying to keep up with it all. Helping publishers sharpen their messaging so retailers can take away what they need to know and order with confidence…well, that’s what Untold Stories Marketing is all about.

Question 5 1/2:

EC: How will your experiences at comic conventions – when they start up again – be different, Adam?

AP: I can’t wait to get back to conventions so I can run into folks like you, Ed! In the past, my convention experience tended to mostly be me running back and forth between panels, where I would run the A/V for a PowerPoint I created for DC. That let up a bit in the past couple of years, which gave me the opportunity to focus on my work as a retailer liaison. I anticipate a lot of meetings with publishers and retailers, and I’ll probably spend more time than I have in the past walking and talking in artists’ alley. And picking up some comics here and there!


You can find Untold Stories Marketing on their website or on Twitter and Facebook.

With Further Ado #145: Guest Column Winner “Men Direct Feminist Films Too”

With Further Ado #145: Guest Column Winner “Men Direct Feminist Films Too”

We have made it to the final installment of the Ithaca College Writing Assignment awards. The students in the class that helps run Ithacon were tasked to submit a guest column entry for this space and we have a winner. You can see the previous runners up on this site from the past two weeks here and here.

The winner is Caleigh Clarke who took on a pop culture accepted opinion and challenged it. What really set her over the top is that not only did she take issue with prevalent take on movie making, she presented an alternative example of what she was looking for from feminism in pop culture movies.

Men Direct Feminist Films Too

By Caleigh Clarke

When I think of female-directed films with a superheroine, Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman comes to mind. It is the first of its kind, with Captain Marvel and Black Widow following and trying to erase the previous sexist works of Catwoman and Elektra. It follows Diana Prince, an Amazonian goddess, as she joins American spy, Steve Trevor, to fight in World War I as she believes it is a result of the Greek god of war, Ares.

This movie was definitely marketplace feminism. They wanted to appeal to the little girls who would go on to buy the lunchboxes, t-shirts, and costumes after watching the movie, like with most superhero films. However, does this have to be the case in our modern world saturated with superheroes? Are superheroines just there to be a “look, feminism” moment? Or are executives starting to break the mold?

I thought of comparing Wonder Woman to a superhero film that I personally loved and was critically praised- Black Panther . Released just one year after Wonder Woman , the movie follows the titular character who is crowned king of Wakanda after his father’s death, but is challenged by a man who seeks to use the country’s resources for a world revolution. Written and directed by Ryan Coogler, Black Panther is filled by many women, mainly Nakia, Shuri, Okoye, and Ramonda. These female characters are integral to the story and success of T’Challa. Nakia is not merely his love interest. She holds a lot of agency. Her goal is not to become queen of Wakanda, but rather convince T’Challa to reveal Wakanda as a country and open its gates to help people with their advanced technology. She is also a spy fighting for enslaved women, she is expertly trained which we see in her first appearance on the screen. Continue reading “With Further Ado #145: Guest Column Winner “Men Direct Feminist Films Too””

With Further Ado #144: Guest Column First Runner-Up – Insecure Made Me Confident

With Further Ado #144: Guest Column First Runner-Up – Insecure Made Me Confident

As we bring you some of the highlights of the writing assignments from my Ithaca College Promoting and Managing ITHACON class, this week is the first runner-up by Maya Lewis.

Maya’s column spoke to us from the a very emotional and introspective place. Some of the things that good media can do is promote introspection and inspiration. Maya found that in the HBO show Insecure. The way that she relates to the show and how it has affected her are what we are looking to promote here at Pop Culture Squad.

Insecure Made Me Confident

by Maya Lewis

Growing up, my mother was always against me watching copious amounts of television, to the point where she had me convinced that if I watched too much TV, I would lose brain cells. And I believed her, that was until I got older.

I started to find a comfort and joy from bingeing shows and fell in love with the feeling of immersing myself into the lives of different characters and their storylines, both emotionally and mentally. It was both therapeutic and freeing, and nothing compared to the feeling I felt, when I was able to recognize parts of myself within certain characters, allowing me to form a deeper connection with both them and the show itself. Unfortunately, this feeling did not occur often, as I rarely encountered shows that starred young black women as leads, who did not play into stereotypical tropes. However, this feeling changed during the summer of 2017 when I discovered Insecure, which is a comedy-drama television series set in Los Angeles and stars Issa Rae and Yvonne Orji, who plays her best friend, Molly. The show is centered around these two women, who are both in their late 20s, navigating through different aspects of their lives. Continue reading “With Further Ado #144: Guest Column First Runner-Up – Insecure Made Me Confident”

With Further Ado #143: Guest Column Contest Second Runner-Up – Make Mine Marvel Movies

With Further Ado #143: Guest Column Contest Second Runner-Up – Make Mine Marvel Movies

At Ithaca College, the class Promoting and Managing ITHACON was presented with an assignment. They were challenged to write a guest column for this space. The submissions were varied and showed that the student writers gave the assignment a lot of thought and effort. Some of the topics that were tackled were surprising and made the reviewers challenge some of their own perspectives.

In the end, we found that there were three spectacular entries that we will post over the next three weeks. The second runner-up entry will be published first. It is by Jordan Green and it made our little old fanboy hearts well up with joy.

 

With Further Ado Writing Assignment

by Jordan Green

Marvel Entertainment has a special place in my heart. When the first Iron Man movie was released, I was nine years old. Today, I am 22 years old and cannot think about my life without reflecting on the impact Marvel Entertainment has had on me. My father used to read Marvel comic books growing up, but that love for reading comic books was not passed on to me. Marvel Entertainment found a way to close that gap between my father and I by creating so many amazing movies and series that have created long lasting moments in my life. Marvel Entertainment has created numerous fantastic projects that have impacted my life in ways both in and outside the movie theater.

The first Marvel movie that I remember watching was Captain America: The First Avenger. It is a fantastic introduction to Steve Rogers and how he became an American hero. History has always been one of my favorite classes in school, so having a story based in the second World War immediately grabbed my attention. Chris Evans was perfect for the role of Captain America, getting better with each new movie that incorporated my favorite Avenger. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one of my favorite movies of all time, not just Marvel movies. Joe and Anthony Russo perfectly brought Captain America into the present day and made a then 15-year-old Jordan love Captain America even more.

Starting the movie off with the “On your left” scene was fantastic at setting the expectations of fans everywhere and introducing fans to a new Avenger, one that will have a [current] Disney+ series. The elevator fight scene from Winter Soldier is one of the coolest action sequences I have ever watched. I was on Captain America’s side in Captain America: Civil War and further loved what the Russo Brothers did with his character arc in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. The Russo Brothers were able to show how a military hero lost faith in authority. I loved the ending Captain America was given in Avengers: Endgame. Every time I watch Captain America dance with Peggy Carter, I tear up. Steve Rogers finally got to have a dance with the love of his life after being denied that opportunity for so many years because of his heroic sacrifice. This was the ending to his story arc that I wanted for him. I truly loved Captain America’s character arc throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Marvel Entertainment has helped grow many of my relationships with family and friends. I remember seeing Avengers: Age of Ultron with my father and older brother in theaters. I remember the group of friends I saw Infinity War and Endgame in theaters with, and how much closer it brought us. Both movies were released on Fridays, and once all of us finished classes, we drove as fast as we could to the movie theater to get afternoon tickets to see these blockbusters. After seeing Infinity War, I frequently heard my friends quoting funny moments from the movie when we all spent time together. One of my best friends that I saw these movies with is incredibly tall, so we nicknamed him “Groot” based on the character from Guardians of the Galaxy. That made “I am Groot, I am Steve Rogers” even funnier every time that quote was referenced. This was one of the many moments that Marvel Entertainment helped strengthen my relationships with family and friends.

The sheer shock and awe in the theater during each of these movies are experiences I will never forget. Some of the moments I remember the most were Thor’s entrance in Infinity War, Captain America hoisting Mjolnir in Endgame, and the emergence of the blipped heroes from portals before the final battle in Endgame. It was too perfect that the Russo Brothers referenced Winter Soldier with Falcon saying “On your left” to Captain America. People in the fully packed theaters started clapping during these moments, which usually is highly disliked, but felt acceptable at the time. I look back on these experiences with a great deal of fondness, thinking about these moments as all-time life experiences I will tell my future children. As I write this during the COVID-19 pandemic, I wish I could relive these experiences again. I grew up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and my life would be drastically different

 

Editor’s Notes:

This type of fandom and excitement about pop culture is what we strive to support here. Thank you to Jordan for sharing your feelings about the MCU.

Also, Jordan submitted this before The Falcon and the Winter Soldier premiered on Disney+. We are very interested in what they think of the show. Maybe Jordan will come back with a guest review column if we can convince them. 

With Further Ado #141: Discussing “Invisible Men: The Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books”

With Further Ado #141: Discussing “Invisible Men: The Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books”

At Ithaca College, I teach a business course called Hidden Entrepreneurs. In this class, we explore and dissect entrepreneurial lessons from the lives and activities of non-traditional entrepreneurs.  These are the folks who are NOT on Shark Tank. These people are the often unrecognized entrepreneurs who nonetheless “make it happen.” Their stories are amazing, and there is so much to be learned from studying them.

Author Ken Quattro has done me one better in his brilliant new book, Invisible Men: The Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books. This new book details the lives and careers of black comic book creators.  Some are astonishing, some are heartbreaking, and they are non-traditional artists.  Their stories, for the most part, have been forgotten in the mists of time. So, it’s all the more important that historian Quattro, a real life comic book detective, has hunted down all the information and connected all the dots.

Quattro has done this all in a fun, engaging book. The stories of these artists’ trials and tribulations are almost all more interesting than the short comic stories included in this volume.   It shouldn’t be a surprise to any of us, though. His The Comics Detective site is brilliant and always informative. Continue reading “With Further Ado #141: Discussing “Invisible Men: The Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books””

With Further Ado #140: Vintage Marketing & The Power of Comic Book Storytelling

With Further Ado #140: Vintage Marketing & The Power of Comic Book Storytelling

“Bob West, Who IS This Woman?!?”

I am still enjoying, and sharing, my copy of Comics Ad Men by Stephen Brower. It’s a fantastic recent book, published by Fantagraphics, that celebrates the advertising work created by comic book artists like Neal Adams and Frank Robbins. I wrote about it recently here.

There’s a certain irresistible charm to those old ads. And that’s coming from someone who just loves new ads and all the innovative marketing that surrounds us today.  With that in mind, let’s take another look at vintage ads with a comic book connection.

The White Rock Fairy

The White Rock Company has been selling spring water for 150 years. The idea is that spring water, in this case from Waukesha, Wisconsin, is a little better for you than Royal Crown, Nehi or even Nesbitt’s sodas.  This independent company continues to innovate and keep afloat in an incredibly competitive market.  They are still independent.

Back in 1894, the company showcased a version of the Geek goddess Psyche as a spokesperson. She is often considered  the Goddess of Purity. That’s why they chose to use her in that iconic pose, leaning over a rock peering into a spring.   The corporate logo they created was based on the painting “Psyche at Nature’s Mirror” by German artist Paul Thumann.

The cynic in me can’t help but think that the strategy may have been more straightforward.  It doesn’t’ take a marketing genius to realize that a topless blonde is simply bound to be memorable.

In mythology, Psyche was gorgeous and that enraged her boyfriend’s mother, who happened to be Venus.  And when the Goddess of Love gets into a catfight with you, you know you have real problems. In the end, it all worked out and she married Eros. (Only he wasn’t a baby like you imagine when you use his other, more popular name: Cupid.)

The product itself, White Rock Seltzer, would enjoy an aura of glitziness, Celebrities of  yesteryear, including Gloria Vanderbilt (aka Anderson Cooper’s mom), Charles Lindbergh and the King of England, served White Rock in a showy way.

And that’s why this series of comic-style ads are so enchanting and perplexing. In the 1940s, White Rock launched this series of print ads, employing traditional panel-by-panel storytelling traditions (that’s comics to you, me, and Scott McCloud) to push the narrative forward. It looks like Holm Grey was the artist. Continue reading “With Further Ado #140: Vintage Marketing & The Power of Comic Book Storytelling”