Tag: Bob Harrison

Brainiac On Banjo: The Ultimate Reprise?

Brainiac On Banjo: The Ultimate Reprise?

Is he strong? Listen bud, he’s got radioactive blood. Can he swing from a thread? Take a look overhead. Hey, there goes the Spider-Man! “Spider-Man” written by Bob Harris and Paul Francis Webster.

As is our want, my dear friend and editor Bob Harrison asked me if I had read this year’s version of Ultimate Spider-Man #1. I said I hadn’t, and I felt the last thing this particular Earth needs is still another Spider-Man book. Bob is a family man without sufficient time to debate me on this; he knows my position on this sort of thing because it’s his job to read my stuff here at Pop Culture Squad, so his simply said “Well, you should. It’s very good, and Jonathan Hickman wrote it.”

Bob’s never steered me wrong and, yes, I really like Hickman’s stuff. I haven’t read all that much of it lately as I haven’t followed the sundry X-Mens since they became, much like Russian nesting dolls, the first comic book franchise to spawn its own massively incestuous comic book franchise. That was around 1983. Had I been more observant, I might have had a similar reaction to The Killing Joke.

Like the word “unique,” the word “ultimate” is an absolute. One thing cannot be more ultimate than another. Ultimate is the top of the peak, and grammatically speaking there isn’t room up there for another. Yet we’ve had more Ultimate Spider-Man #1s in the past few years than we’ve had Doctor Strange #1s in the past few weeks. Is this new Ultimate even Ultimater? Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: The Ultimate Reprise?”

A Few Words About Keith

A Few Words About Keith

Last night, as I write this, daughter Adriane came downstairs while I was watching a typically clever and compelling docuweird from James May. I knew from the expression on her face I was about distance myself from Mr. May’s well-honed sense of humor.

Adriane carefully informed me that my old friend Keith Giffen had died. Such an event has grown all too typical and they all hurt, but, damn, this one came right out of the blue. My editor Mr. Harrison and I were just talking about Keith on our weekly video Squadcast and I remember cutting myself short under the belief that Keith would get his due from us later. Yeah, well…

I’m going to ignore my journalism teachers and not give you the mandatory obituary routine. If you are not familiar with Giffen’s work, there’s a couple tons of it on the trade paperback racks at your favorite bookstores. I will point out that Keith co-created a many great characters and concepts, including Rocket Raccoon, Lobo, Ambush Bug, and the latest version of the Blue Beetle, Jamie Reyes, presently of motion picture fame. His Wiki page is quite good and most likely getting even better right now.

But all the bios and reflections cannot do justice to his work and his approach to storytelling. The word “unique” is an absolute term: either something is unique or its not and one thing can not be more unique than another. Keith Giffen’s work was unrelentingly unique. Keith Giffen was unique.

In all the decades I’d known him, I had never had a less-than-remarkable time. His wit, his charm and his creative courage were his and his alone. When first you encounter one of his stories your response likely would hit the high end of the vaunted Richter What-The-Fuck scale. By the time you were done with that first story, chances are you’d start looking for his other stuff.

Or it might just piss you off. Art is like that, and so was Keith. He told his story, his way, and did so brilliantly.

The first memory that escaped the attic of my brainpan was a conversation we had in 2016 at a massive party that preceded the world premiere of the first Suicide Squad movie. Dan DiDio and DC Comics threw one hell of an affair and everybody who was anybody in comics and was in the New York area at the time was there — and plenty of people flew in as well. I told Keith how much I was enjoying the work he and Dan had been doing recently and, while I was fumbling for a clever way to say “my appreciation seems to be the kiss of death” Keith kept interrupting me.

“Have you read my Scooby Apocalypse?” he asked repeatedly, cutting off my praise of his other recent work. “Well, no, I haven’t,” I admitted. “I think it will surprise you.”

It certainly did. Evidently, it also surprised the folks at Hanna-Barbera, which was and remains part of Warner Bros., as does DC Comics. Evidently, they had a hard time recognizing DC’s often brilliant reimagining of their characters — and when it comes to bringing home the animated bacon, nothing does that more consistently than Scooby-Doo. And Keith found an alien heart deep inside the property, and he ran with it. Proudly. And deservedly so.

I should add it’s become my favorite of Keith’s work. Well, his living work, at least.

Several days ago as Keith was dying from a stroke, he composed a farewell note for posting after his death. If you are about to check out of this reality, you’re going to have a hard time doing a better job than he did. His farewell was pure and complete Keith Giffen. He posthumously posted “I told them I was sick… Anything not to go to New York Comic Con, Thankx. Bwah ha ha ha ha.”

That New York Comic Con is happening right now, this very weekend, and Keith is wonderfully all over it.

That, my friends, is how to go out in class and style.

His work, of course, lives on. Along with his friendship.

Pop Culture SquadCast Live – Episode 16: Special Guest – Craig Rousseau

Pop Culture SquadCast Live – Episode 16: Special Guest – Craig Rousseau

Mike and Bob are back this week with artist Craig Rousseau. Enjoy the show.

Craig is comic artist who has been working in the field for over two decades. He got his start with long run on Impulse from DC Comics and is also well known for his work on Batman Beyond, Harley Quinn, and Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane at Marvel Comics. His creator-owned project The Perhapanauts that he works on with writer Todd Dezago is a classic example of embracing the magic of the comics medium. Recently he has had excellent runs Killing Red Sonia and the Young Hellboy franchise.

You can watch below or go to our Facebook, YouTube, or Twitch pages directly to interact. Continue reading “Pop Culture SquadCast Live – Episode 16: Special Guest – Craig Rousseau”

Pop Culture SquadCast Live – Episode 15: Special Guest – Tom King

Pop Culture SquadCast Live – Episode 15: Special Guest – Tom King

Mike and Bob are back this week with writer Tom King. Enjoy the show.

Tom King is an award winning writer of comic books such as Batman, Mister Miracle, Vision, Sheriff of Babylon, Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow, Human Target, and his latest release Wonder Woman. He has also published the critically acclaimed novel A Once Crowded Sky. A former intern for both Marvel and DC comics, King spent time in the counter intelligence division of the CIA before beginning his career as writer. He has been churning out hit after hit for the past decade and has worked with a Who’s Who of amazing comic artistic talent. We are happy to have the opportunity to talk to him on the SquadCast and hope you enjoy the conversation.

You can watch below or go to our Facebook, YouTube, or Twitch pages directly to interact.

Brainiac On Banjo: Important Advice For Freelancers

Brainiac On Banjo: Important Advice For Freelancers

Well, we know where we’re going but we don’t know where we’ve been, and we know what we’re knowing but we can’t say what we’ve seen — “Road To Nowhere,” written by Tina Weymouth, Chris Franz, David Byrne, and Jerry Harrison

The Ritz Brothers “Here Kitty Kitty”

Deadlines are a pain in the ass, but let’s face it: you became a freelancer because you were tired of holding down a real job. However, work is still work no matter what the clock thinks, and that realization puts you on the Road To Nowhere. You are going to have to up your “cover your ass” game, and I’m going to lose a few friends by letting a few cats out of the bag.

You can not succeed without knowing the rudiments of grammar school arithmetic. Yes, yes, I know. No math. That’s the main reason why you quit flipping burgers. Nonetheless, it is important to know how to do some simple addition and subtraction, the latter simply being adding in reverse. Here’s why: Let’s say your deadline is 11 AM Monday, and it is now 7 PM Sunday. You think it will take you about three hours to do your work. You’ve got dinner tonight, the latest issue of Hey Kids! Comics! to finish, and those teevee shows aren’t going to stream themselves. Then, it’s time for your late-night snack (you are a freelancer; act like one!), and then, you should get a little sleep. When do you start on your deadline?

Well, like everything else in life, that’s a trick question. Your deadline is 11 AM, it will take you three hours to do the job. You weren’t going to do it the night before; if you were, you would have started it back when you landed the gig. So you’re going to subtract three from eleven and start working at 8 AM.

Yeah, of course you are. Out of habit, you’re going to stay in bed until 9:30 or until your brain starts working. At some point, maybe around 10 AM, you’re going to remember you should wash the dishes. After all, everything in life is a choice.

Okay. Let’s say your editor actually gave you a real, honest deadline. I realize there’s only one editor in the history of deadlines who does this, and he’s the one writing these words right now. Silly me. “If you treat people honestly, they will be honest with you.” This is, give or take, the funniest thing I’ve ever said.

However, more frequently I’ve had to explain why they put the word “dead” in “deadline.” We’ll talk about the psychology of editing some other time; this piece is to offer advice to freelancers. So here’s some advice.

First, become an editor. Listen to the talents’ excuses for being late. They know what they’re doing, as they do this part for a living. Write down or memorize the best ones. Then, when you are freelancing and your editor wants to know if you are still among the living, use one of those excuses. Of course, you’ll need to remember which lines you’ve used on which editors — that is how lying works.

Second, just before your assigned deadline brays, put your smartphone in “silent mode” the way you’re supposed to when you’re at the movies or in Colorado attending the Beetlejuice musical. In fact, you might actually be at the movies — that’s a very handy source of motivation when it comes to blowing off deadlines.

Third, check out the weather conditions. If you are not in the same city as your editor, then you have been experiencing severe storms that have been knocking out power all over the county, and you don’t have a clue when the power company is going to fix the lines, and if your editor has a problem with that, ask them if they have a dial-up fax machine. It will help if you know they do not in advance.

Finally, if you are lucky — and, really, this is turning a pound of shit into a shit soufflé — your editor will be representing a corporation that owes you money. That isn’t hard at all; DC Comics has owed me $250.00 for a couple years now, and it’s worth more to me as leverage than its rapidly diminishing spending power. So when your editor is putting the arm on you, change the subject to “hey, I wish you were as diligent about paying me for my work as you are demanding that stuff!”

This can be great fun. If you get in first and your editor hasn’t read this piece (which is likely), you’ll be treated to a lot of amusingly defensive grunts and groans. Swiftly change the subject to the WGA strike — particularly if you’re working for DC (Warner Bros) or Marvel (Disney). Then, just as the topic devolves back to deadlines, seize the high ground and tell your editor you have got to get back to finishing your assignment.

You know. The assignment you have yet to start.

(With apologies to Chris Ryall, Jack C. Harris, Bob Harrison and all my other editors who did not know they were road-testing the details in this column.)

Brainiac On Banjo: No… Doctor No

Brainiac On Banjo: No… Doctor No

Have no fear, look who’s here…James Bond…They’ve got us on the run…With guns…And knives…We’re fighting for our lives…Have no fear, Bond is here…He’s gonna to save the world at Casino Royale! – “Casino Royale” (1967) written by Burt Bacharach.

I’ve long had a curious relationship with Doctor No, and it started with a comic book whose publication was truly weird.

It started in early 1963 — January 31st, if you’re setting your WABAC machine. That was a Thursday, new comics day at my friendly neighborhood drug store, and DC Comics’ Showcase was one of my favorites. Not that it mattered: my 12 year-old paws would claw through each and every comic on the rack. At the time the Doctor No adaptation interrupted their Tommy Tomorrow try-out series which offered some great Lee Elias art and some rather thin writing from Arnold Drake. I wasn’t disappointed about the interruption, but I still have a fondness for that Elias work.

I had not heard of Doctor No, nor James Bond, nor Ian Fleming. I was curious as to why the story looked like it should have appeared in Classics Illustrated. DC’s comics had a house style — more of a house attitude — and this did not fit in. But I enjoyed the book and was disappointed Bond did not return in the following issue. Showcase was a try-out book that usually introduced new series in three-issue increments. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: No… Doctor No”

Brainiac On Banjo: The Real Clown Prince of Crime!

Brainiac On Banjo: The Real Clown Prince of Crime!

Why do you want him? Why do you want him? Why do you want him? Why do you want him? — “Why Do You Want Him?,” written by Billie Joe Armstrong, John Kiffmeyer, and Mike Dirnt.

No doubt you’ve heard about this “internet” thing. It’s a place where we all go to show everybody else just how clever we are. For example, I’m doing that right now.

My guess is you have seen the Trump “Batman Villain” memes that have popped up all over the internet within minutes of the former Bastard-In-Chief getting fingerprinted and mug-shotted in a toilet of a Georgia jail a couple days ago. I understand the shock of this killed Harley Quinn, and that really sucks. But it’s understandable.

Legendary writer Mindy Newell and I got into a conversation about all this, and I took the position that The Joker is a better person than Trump and, for that matter, The Joker wears less makeup. Somehow that discussion boiled down to the best Trump meme would have him look like Davros, the classic Doctor Who villain who created the Daleks — and, to make a long story short, became one. I think he went to the Stanislavsky School of Villainy.

Be that as it may, the true winner of this debate is the rock group Green Day. They created, according to their Instagram post,

“the ultimate Nimrod shirt is available for 72 hours only. Limited edition shirt proceeds will be donated to T̶h̶e̶ ̶G̶i̶u̶l̶i̶a̶n̶i̶ ̶L̶e̶g̶a̶l̶ ̶D̶e̶f̶e̶n̶s̶e̶ ̶F̶u̶n̶d̶ @greatergoodmusiccharity, which brings food to those affected by the Maui wildfires.”

That meets my definition of humanity’s greatest ability, the know-how to be given shit and to turn it into a shit soufflé. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: The Real Clown Prince of Crime!”

Brainiac on Banjo: Bond… Hoagy Bond?

Brainiac on Banjo: Bond… Hoagy Bond?

Have no fear, look who’s here… James Bond… They’ve got us on the run… With guns… And knives… We’re fighting for our lives. – Casino Royale, written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

The US release of the first James Bond comic book.

Sherlock Holmes. Tarzan. Superman. James Kirk. James Bond. The public’s continuing appetite for heroic fantasy superstars has long been well established, and ever since communication went mass they have been at the center of the most prevalent form of entertainment worldwide. This is a truth that validates our low-brow culture: it turns out that both boys and girls just want to have fun.

Not all such characters live forever. Tarzan, like The Lone Ranger, The Shadow, Bulldog Drummond and many other superstars of action, are in serious danger of being relegated to the storage stacks of cultural history. Of course, that death need not be permanent: Doctor Who, Star Trek and several others have been successfully resurrected and modernized without destroying the fabric of their creation.

When it comes to one of the most successful heroes, at the present we are on hold. Daniel Craig has retired as the latest James Bond and, even though the next Bond flick is just entering its development stage I can’t help but wonder how they’ll pull off James’ inevitable resurrection. Continue reading “Brainiac on Banjo: Bond… Hoagy Bond?”

Brainiac On Banjo: Tits and Boobs and Breasts… Oh, My!

Brainiac On Banjo: Tits and Boobs and Breasts… Oh, My!

“‘Tits’ doesn’t even belong on the list! That’s such a friendly sounding word. It sounds like a nickname. ‘Hey, Tits, come here, man. Hey! Hey Tits, meet Toots. Toots, Tits. Tits, Toots.’ It sounds like a snack, doesn’t it? Yes, I know, it is a snack. But I don’t mean your sexist snack! I mean New Nabisco Tits!, and new Cheese Tits, Corn Tits, Pizza Tits, Sesame Tits, Onion Tits, Tater Tits. ‘Betcha Can’t Eat Just One!’ That’s true. I usually switch off.” – George Carlin, The Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television

Of course there are a lot of things going on in this world that confuse me, and I suspect that might be true with you as well. Much of that confusion comes from America’s new environment of interpretive truth. To be fair, that is exacerbated by our politically correct atmosphere — that which the Christian Nationalists, dullards and assholes call “woke” because they can’t cope with five extra syllables.

One of the things that confuses me, and it has for quite some time now, is the proper euphemism for breasts. Oh, c’mon. It’s not like we don’t all have them. I realize the holy-moly rounders are not allowed to say “breasts” unless they’re in a Chick-fill-A and their hunger overwhelms their religious angst. Yes, I’m looking at you, Mike Pence.

From watching television commercials these days, it is clear that the word “boobs” is the current preference. Some find the word “tits” to be rude or even outright disgusting. Whereas boobs sounds like it’s more fun than tits (which is nonsense; they are equally fun), I don’t quite get it. The Oxford Dictionary defines boob as “a foolish or stupid person” and, second, as “an embarrassing mistake.” The whole breast thing is noted further down the listing. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: Tits and Boobs and Breasts… Oh, My!”

Pop Culture SquadCast Live with Special Guest Dean Haspiel

Pop Culture SquadCast Live with Special Guest Dean Haspiel

In the latest live episode of the Pop Culture SquadCast, our hosts Mike Gold and Bob Harrison will talk with writer, artist, cartoonist, playwright, filmmaker, and heck of a good guy, Dean Haspiel.

Our Guest:

Dean Haspiel is well know for his web comic The Red Hook Saga on Webtoon.com. He has worked with Harvey Pekar on the American Splender comic and Jonathan Ames on The Alcoholic. He was an early adopter of the mass appeal of online comics and used it to cultivate projects like his Billy Dogma stories. He is currently working on Covid Cop which is a kickstarter campaign that is still going on.

You can watch the stream below, and we are also broadcasting live on our Facebook and YouTube pages.