Tag: Chuck Dixon

With Further Ado #281: Evangeline and Back Issue Magazine

With Further Ado #281: Evangeline and Back Issue Magazine

Back Issue Magazine #149 focuses on “80s Indie Heroes”. There’s a wonderful interview with Don Simpson focusing on Megaton Man (and more), Jarrod Buttery has a fantastic article on an old favorite, Aztec Ace, and there’s so much from outstanding creators like Steven Grant, Doug Moench, Chris Warner -and more.

For this issue, I contributed an article on Evangeline. It was a fascinating 80s series about, in essence, a nun with a gun. It was engaging, fresh, and then it was gone. Here’s an excerpt from my article: Continue reading “With Further Ado #281: Evangeline and Back Issue Magazine”

With Further Ado #236: Double Fisted Action and Few Laughs

With Further Ado #236: Double Fisted Action and Few Laughs

January is a great month for reading, wasn’t it? February is too. So, here’re three wonderful books that you should know about.


The Big Bundle
By Max Allan Collins

It’s so good to start the year off with another Nate Heller thriller. Like so many in this series, this mystery is brilliant. It’s hard to believe, but about 35 years ago I stumbled across Max Allan Collins’ first story featuring Heller. I had enjoyed the Ms. Tree strip, written by Collins and illustrated by Terry Beatty and Collins’ Batman adventures (although not everyone did.)

Nate Heller is a fictional detective, a hero yet a flawed person full of many regrets, who typically gets involved with the biggest cases and personalities in the last 50 years. Collins has written stories where Heller gets involved with the gangsters who ‘created’ Las Vegas, the Lindbergh kidnapping, Marilyn Monroe’s death, Huey Long’s assassination and more. And just when you think Collins has exhausted all the good stuff, the next novel comes roaring back.

The latest historical adventure, The Big Bundle, has a lot of roar in it. This one focuses on the Greenlease kidnapping in the 50s. I didn’t know anything about this one, and I don’t know much about St. Louis’s history, despite visiting the city a couple of times. My trips there were nothing like Heller’s, though. He gets into it all in a way that turns what you thought was going to be a casual read into a “I can’t put this down” book.

These Heller books are meticulously researched with juicy details. I found myself pausing to run down little rabbit holes along the way. For example, Heller rides the historical landmark Angel’s Flight. It was described in such a way that I had to learn more about this narrow gauge funicular railway. When I’m reading, I usually like to leave my cellphone in the other room, but with this Heller mystery, I had to keep it handy for additional research. Collins tends to introduce me to so many fascinating places, events and people.

As a writer, Collins always finds innovative ways to describe people and settings. This is a crime thriller to be sure, but I often pause at the clever descriptions. For example.

The hero walks into a diner and Collins gives the reader something to think about and to remember:

”The bedraggled adults in booths and at tables were like predictions of how the town’s teens would turn out.”

Or earlier in the novel, as Heller meets a key character:

“In his mid-thirties, my host was of average height and weight with a squared-off head and a rounded jaw, his forehead so high it was like his features had slipped down too far on his oval face.”

After reading a novel like this, my pal Mike Gold used to always make the joke “If you only read one Max Allan Collins novel this month, make it this one.” The gag still holds up and it’s truer than ever.

Title: The Big Bundle
Author: Max Allan Collins
Publisher: Hard Case Crime (Titan)
Hardcover:‎ 304 pages
ISBN-10: ‎ 1789098521
ISBN-13: ‎ 978-1789098525


Levon’s Prey
by Chuck Dixon

Back in the day, it seemed like you could “always” pick out a Chuck Dixon comic story because it would open in the middle of an action scene. That wasn’t always the case, but it seemed like it. And despite that, I always loved Dixon’s writing for his nuanced, tight-lipped characters more than his action scenes. He’d always get to the heart of the matter and then present it all in a way that you’d not forget anytime soon.

Levon’s Prey is the latest in long series. It’s subtitled as “A Violent Justice Thriller”, and that’s truth in advertising. It’s actually the second latest, as I’m one book behind. The 11th, Levon’s Range, was published late last year.

I almost wish the books were published in the old paperback format – so you could put them in your back pocket and carry them with you. They are each a quick and compelling read – the kind that make you smile, make you worry and make you cheer on the good guys.

And as a father of daughters, I especially can relate to Levon. Although I’m not nearly as tough as Levon. Not by a longshot.

Title: Levon’s Prey
Author: Chuck Dixon
Publisher:‎ Rough Edges Press
Paperback: ‎ 174 pages
ISBN-10: ‎ 1685491219


The History of Stand-Up: From Mark Twain to Dave Chappelle
by Wayne Federman

Auburn Public Theater hosted USC’s Professor Wayne Federman recently. As an expert in comedy and standup, he gave a greatly abbreviated version of his USC course to a local crowd. It was fascinating. I liked it so much I wanted to fly to LA and figure out a way to audit the course. And I don’t even consider myself a stand-up enthusiast.

His book, The History of Stand-Up: From Mark Twain to Dave Chappelle, was eye-opening. I didn’t realize how little I knew about Stand-Up. Oh, I guess I’m pretty good with understanding the radio comedians, and guys like Steve Martin were where it was at for me and my gang back in the day. I think I bought my brother a Steve Martin LP for Christmas one year because I wanted to listen to it.

Federman, who as you can imagine is hilarious onstage, keeps it light, bright and fascinating. This was an enjoyable read and never once did I have the urge to ask, “Is this on the final?”

Title: The History of Stand-Up: From Mark Twain to Dave Chappelle
Author: Wayne Federman
Publisher: Independent Artists Media
Paperback: 180 pages
ISBN-13:‎ 979-8706637026
ASIN:‎ B08YRP1R2G

Pour a glass of your favorite beverage, put your feet up and enjoy a little reading.

 

Brainiac On Banjo: Hey, Kids! VIOLENCE!!!

Brainiac On Banjo: Hey, Kids! VIOLENCE!!!

I’m a mean mistweetah, A wabbit feastah, And I pwedict, A bwoody Eastaw, A scuwowing shadow, And dah shadow was dis wabbit, And dah night aiwah echoes, Kill dah wabbit! — Bob Rivers, Kill The Wabbit, 2009

Felix The Cat was our first animated hero, making his debut in Otto Messmer’s Feline Follies in 1919. The plot: A stereotypical old lady goes out for the evening, leaving her house in the hands of her kitty, Mister Tom (played by Felix – look, just go with that). Being a tom cat, once the coast is clear Felix splits to his girlfriend’s house for an off-screen tête-à-tête.

Of course, while the cat’s away the mice will play. In fact, they’ll rip the old lady’s house apart. By the time Felix returns, the house is decimated but he’s too blissed out to notice. Then the owner returns, freaks out at all the damage, beats the poo out of Felix and slings him out of the house.

The slightly indignant Felix doesn’t care. He goes back to his girlfriend’s house and is greeted with open paws. Then about a billion newborn kittens, each looking exactly like Felix, swarms all over their papa. Evidently, cartoon kitties have a remarkably short gestation period. Be this as it may, it is now Felix’s turn to freak. He runs away, straight to the nearby gas field where he attaches a hose to an in-ground spigot and commits suicide.

Was there general outrage over Feline Follies? Was there an upsurge of kids running to gas fields to off themselves? Did anybody ban the sale of brooms to cat-owners?

Hell, no. People didn’t take this stuff seriously. It was a cartoon, not a documentary.

Was Messmer advocating violence by mice, cats or old ladies? Was he advocating unprotected kitty sex? Was he suggesting suicide was the best way to handle trauma? Again, hell no. It was a cartoon.

Because my brain is wired differently than yours, I thought of Feline Follies when I heard of a comics writer/artist being accused of being a fascist for working on a best-selling heroic fantasy comic book. Said writer/artist was accused by another writer/artist, who was no stranger to the concept of cartoon violence. If you labor in the fields of heroic fantasy, evidently, you are wearing an invisible SS uniform. Well, as Lenny Bruce pointed out, “Gestapo? I’m the damn mailman!”

Violence has been the cornerstone of heroic fantasy going back to the Year Gimmel. The line was blurry when the major source of such stories was in the realm of the religions that are now regarded as mythology as well as the religions that various warring factions today regard as gospel. But once it is removed from these trappings of conviction, fictional violence is just a plot device. If Elmer Fudd inspires your kid to want to get a shotgun, your kid needs professional help.

But once parenting became perceived as a science – which it is not; it’s an art form – “cartoon violence” had to be… edited. ‘Doilies for the mind’, to quote Mason Williams. The Three Stooges have been entertaining people since 1922, but their oeuvre became scissor-fodder in the early 1960s. How many of you have great-great grandparents whose eyes were poked out? Bugs Bunny is a latecomer, having debuted (as developed) some 80 years ago. He, too, has suffered the fate of a thousand cuts.

Entire generations of humans have been raised since we became smotheringly overprotective. Are we now a less violent society? Maybe you’ve never read a “newspaper,” but if your knowledge intake is limited to even the most anti-social of social media you should be aware that real-world violence remains a VERY Big Deal. Maybe we should deal with the real, physical issues that lead to such behavior instead of emasculating Wile E. Coyote and Larry Fine.

I have been known to toss the fascist tag around myself. I understand the definition of the term because I know how to work a dictionary. I try to use it appropriately, even when I’m being purposely offensive. Simply working on a heroic fantasy story that involves such violence does not make you a fascist, it makes you a storyteller. Batman could be perceived as a colloquial fascist, yet many of his better stories have been created by the late card-carrying liberal Denny O’Neil as well as by his opposite number on the right, Chuck Dixon. This does not make either a fascist.

Owning a gun, let alone writing about owning a gun, does not make you a fascist. Believing Smith and Wesson, Ruger and Colt should be in charge of our foreign policy just might – but any student of 20th century history should know better.

With Further Ado #006: Back Issue Bin Diving

With Further Ado #006: Back Issue Bin Diving

Everyone loves a bargain, right? And like many comic fans, I love finding lost treasures in a comic shop’s back issue bargain box. While I’ve never found an issue of Action #1 in a bargain bin, or even a friendly neighborhood garage sale, I am delighted and amazed that comics I find in these long white boxes. Like forlorn playthings trapped on the Island of Misfit Toys, these comics just need to find the right person to enjoy and appreciate them.

Now let’s be realistic.  If we all only spent money on back issues bargains, every comic store would go out of business.  But for shops, the bargain bin can be a way to invite customers in, add to a customer’s purchase or just blow-out inventory. And those are all good things. 

So, in the spirit, this column is a celebration of the recent treasures that I’ve rescued from back issue bargain bins, along with a little shout-out to each comic shop too.   Continue reading “With Further Ado #006: Back Issue Bin Diving”