Tag: Ed Catto

With Further Ado Extra: The Ebullient Artistic Audacity of Neal Adams

With Further Ado Extra: The Ebullient Artistic Audacity of Neal Adams

Cover by cover, page by page, convention by convention – every interaction with Neal Adams was like having him pulling up in a convertible in front of your house, laying on the horn and saying, “Come on! Get in! It will be fun!”  And we’d eagerly get in the car every damn time.

When someone is larger than life, it’s hard to come to terms with their passing.  Neal saw the world as some grand Arthurian Epic.  And through his phenomenal artistic talent, charismatic personality, and warm smile, he helped us to see the world that way too.

He had a big heart and big visions – and to me he was also always welcoming and supportive.  I was a fanboy first and foremost, but became a friend and collaborator too.  I was his so-called ‘art director’ on two projects: one for NYCC and another for a variant Batman cover.  What a laugh to think I was an ‘art director’ to Neal! I was just along for the ride. No one can art direct a wild tornado or a breathtakingly memorable sunset. They happen with a grand design all of their own. Continue reading “With Further Ado Extra: The Ebullient Artistic Audacity of Neal Adams”

With Further Ado #189: Star Light, Star Bright

With Further Ado #189: Star Light, Star Bright

There’s something special about writing and documenting comics history.  Part of it is celebrating cherished things, part is speaking with favorite creators, and yet another part of it is just starting a conversation amongst fans.

Back Issue Magazine, published by TwoMorrows, is one of those magazines that I both love and dread. I love reading it, and contributing articles to it, but, if I am truthful, I kind of dread it because I always find every article so compelling. I find I’ve got to carve out big chunks of time to read it.

But hey, if that’s my worst problem life isn’t so bad, right?

Here’s an opening excerpt of my latest article, focusing on one of DC’s many Starmen characters.  It was a kick to research and write, and here you’ll even see insights from fellow Pop Culture Squad columnist Mike Gold in this excerpt (and more in the full article).

Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art — John Keats

Imagine creating a comic hero with a proud historical name, the everyman quality of Marvel Comics and a unique fresh setting. It seems like a foolproof recipe for success. Instead, like a competent athlete overshadowed by a younger brother’s extraordinary success, the 1988 Starman’s fame was eclipsed. He would be relegated to the bargain boxes at the local comic shop and occasional guest appearances.

But there was something wonderful and bright and optimistic about this 1988 Starman series. Like a glance up into a sky full of stars on a summer night, this comic was full of hope, wonder and potential.

Another Star Is Born

While the name Starman has a long history, this incarnation of Starman was meant to be something new and different.   In the first issue, editor Bob Greenberger provided two text pieces. “Star Light, Star Bright, Fourth Star I See Tonight” explained the history of the various Starmen who preceded this character.  The second text piece, “The Rebirth of Starman” ran on the inside back cover (!) and detailed how Mike Gold challenged him to create a hero from an existing name.

“The retailers didn’t want to bet on the same thing,” said Gold. “They wanted to give something new a try.”

As Greenberg recounted, creating a new Hourman was of interest, but that name was already in use in Infinity, Inc.  And so, they moved on to Starman.  The company-wide Invasion series was also being planned, and there were natural synergies that could be leveraged with Starman. Greenberg also detailed how he recruited writer Roger Stern and artist Tom Lyle.

The first issue got things rolling along quickly. Readers are introduced to a hiker who is found in the wilderness. It’s all very mysterious and creepy.  Soon the hiker, Will Payton, is on the run from the authorities, discovers his powers, and tries to sort it all out.

His saving grace, in his evolution to becoming a superhero, is his sister Jayne. She’s what we would today call a Fangirl. Jayne has a deep knowledge of how superheroes operate and has the skills to design his costume.

Ed Konecny of Comics, Etc. has fond memories of the character. “Unlike most characters at the time, there was no direct lineage to the last generation of hero,” said Konecny. “Ted Knight (the original Starman) had long since been obscured by the Crisis events. Golden age characters had lost their appeal and the rise of characters of “true grit”. Amongst the strangeness of the late eighties, a story about a lone hiker being found within a circle charred into the ground, and without a mark on him, smacked of aliens and the title Starman was still fresh from Jeff Bridges attempt to bring a character of the same name.”

For more on this Starman, and so many other Starmen, grab a copy of Back Issue #133, on sale now at finer comic shops.  You can also buy it directly from TwoMorrows. Tell them Ed sent ya.

With Further Ado #186: Green Hornet Buzz

With Further Ado #186: Green Hornet Buzz

For comics fans, it’s always a balancing act between wallowing in nostalgia and finding something fresh or different.  Amazingly, author Jim Beard pulls this trick off with the new book The Green Hornet: How Sweet the Sting, published by Moonstone. It’s a clever adventure that, on one hand, is 100% true to the source material, and the other, reinvents the franchise as a crime novel.

This thriller has the feel of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillip’s Criminal series, but mixed in with a liberal dose of Kurt Busiek’s Astro City.  It’s grittier than I expected. But like a rollercoaster, it’s fun, exhilarating, and frightening – all at the same time.

Kato and his boss Britt Reid, who is secretly the Green Hornet, come across as just a smidge more badass than I expected. And then I was surprised to find the protagonist isn’t the Green Hornet, but an ex-Special Forces soldier who gets dragged into a life of crime.

Beard also brings one of the unsung heroes of The Green Hornet to center stage. Lenore Case, often called Casey, is given a realistic depth and warmth that she seldom exhibits in Hornet stories. Now that I think about it, the last time Lenore Case was this interesting was in Mark Waid’s clever Green Hornet series, published by Dynamite about ten years ago. (Tempus Fugit!)

In The Green Hornet TV show, she was played by Wende Wagner. Billy Wilder, while filming Some Like it Hot, discovered her when he saw her swimming.  She started as an underwater stunt double in TV shows like Sea Hunt, but soon moved on to movies including Rosemary’s Baby and Rio Conchos.

Like a magician who doesn’t show you all his tricks, Beard’s Casey is struggling on many levels, and readers, who are all in on the Green Hornet’s secret identity, are left to piece together exactly what’s going on.

Beard cleverly deals with several aspects of the Green Hornet mythology that don’t make sense, like Kato’s lack of a super-hero codename. As an author, he not only ponders the questions but also provides credible solutions.

Beard’s respect of and love for the source material is palpable. This story is built around several episodes of the TV show. For hard core fans that’s great, but for casual fans it doesn’t detract in the least.

Jim Beard has also been busy in the William Dozier-verse. His latest book, with Rich Handley, is OOOFF! BOFF! SPLATT! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Essays on Batman ’66 – Season Three. It’s the third in a trilogy, as authors take deep dives into each episode of the old Batman TV program. Rumors are swirling that there may be another entry to this series, although it’s not clear how he’d pull that off. *

Moonstone’s been experimenting with slimmer books and shorter stories. It’s such a pleasant change from the long books I usually read. I motored through this one in just three days. And like visiting a high-end restaurant with small, delicious portions – I felt totally satisfied.

I’m a member of the Men’s Adventure Paperback group, and we all agree that strong cover art is an important part of the total experience. Joel Naprstek provides an engaging painting.  One thing I’m not clear on is why Moonstone didn’t the use that classic Green Hornet logo for the cover, but did use it on the inside pages.  Maybe a trademark or licensor issue? But that is a minor quibble at best.

This story exceeds the original series – but it’s almost impossible to not imagine Al Hirt’s trumpet playing the classic theme song as you read it.

The Green Hornet: How Sweet the Sting
by Jim Beard Author, Joel Naprstek Cover Artist
Moonstone
130 pages
ISBN-13‏: ‎9781944017262

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Full disclosure: I’m a contributing author to this series.

 

Give Comics Hope Is Still Going Strong

Give Comics Hope Is Still Going Strong

As we head further into the weirdest Thanksgiving week in memory a lot of people are trying for some way to fill their time while frantically scrolling through an unending deluge of Black Friday ads, we are here to point out some great options from Give Comics Hope.

GIVE COMICS HOPE is an charitable initiative that is rallying together our comics community to help local comic book shops. Our own Ed Catto has been involved from the beginning and wrote about it here. There are plenty of eBay auctions going on for some excellent classic comics. The proceeds will go to support local comic shops in coordination with the Book Industry Charitable Donation (BINC). Continue reading “Give Comics Hope Is Still Going Strong”

With Further Ado #95: Go Big [or Go] and Stay Home

With Further Ado #95: Go Big [or Go] and Stay Home

We all know that phrase: Go Big or Go Home!  It’s a clarion call to seize the day and to live large. It’s not always the best advice, but sometimes it’s just what’s needed.  So during this crazy lockdown time, let me call your attention to a few treasures that literally decided to “go big!” while we all stay home.

 

Joker/Harley Quinn Criminal Sanity
Written by Kami Garcia
Art by Mico Suayan and Mike Mayhew
Black Label, an imprint of DC Comics

While I’m generally not a big Harley Quinn fan, I’ve been a big Mike Mayhew fan ever since his days on Topps’ Zorro and Lady Rawhide with the incomparable Don McGregor.  Mayhew has gotten even better over the years, and today he entertains readers with his off-the-charts artistic talent in the new Joker/Harley Quinn series.

This story is a multi-part series told in thirty-two page increments in DC’s oversized Black Label format. To me, it has the feel of a European comic. Much of story is told in B & W , and that makes it so very, very  evocative of an old Warren or Marvel Magazine.

The “other artist” Mico Suayan, is just fantastic. I’ve enjoyed his work on Valliant’s Bloodshot. Suayan unfurls his artistic wings with majesty and grace in this larger-than-usual formal. Continue reading “With Further Ado #95: Go Big [or Go] and Stay Home”

With Further Ado #091: Down These Mean Streets with MAX ALLAN COLLINS (part 1)

With Further Ado #091: Down These Mean Streets with MAX ALLAN COLLINS (part 1)

I like a lot of detective heroes found in books, movies and TV shows. Part of the fun of an adventure with any of Philip Marlowe, Jim Rockford, Pete Fernandez, Spenser, or Myron Bolitar is that I think it would be fun to hang out with that guy.  Even the heroes who are a bit prickly, like Sherlock Holmes or Stumptown’s Dex Parios, would still be a riot to run around with for an adventure or two. They are all so likeable.

But I never used to like Mike Hammer, the toughest of the tough guy detectives.  I knew he was a big deal and his novels, written by Mickey Spillane, were successful. I would learn later that, at one point, Spillane was the world’s best-selling author, having written seven of the top ten best-selling novels. It turns out that it happened was when he had only written seven novels.

Yes, this guy Spillane was seven for seven. Incredible, right?

I think that, initially, the character Hammer was just too brutal for me. He gave the bad guys what they deserved, however gruesome.  He always “colored outside the lines” of both the legal system and good taste. Unlike that classical 1930s and 1940s detective who would walk down those mean streets like a modern day knight of the round table, adhering to a personal code of honor, Spillane’s Mike Hammer took it way over the edge.

But my perception changed when I started reading the “new” Mike Hammer novels.  After an incredible writing career, and second act in a long-lived Miller Lite advertising campaign, Mickey Spillane left behind a treasure trove of partially-finished stories, and story ideas, that he only trusted one man to finish – Max Allan Collins.

Max Allan Collins has emerged as one of the top mystery writers in his own right. He’s incredibly prolific, and it’s astounding that he never seems let his level quality slip; not in any of his novels (Nate Heller, Quarry), comics (Ms. Tree, Batman), adaptations (CSI, Criminal Minds) and comic strips (Dick Tracy, Batman.) You might also know he was the guy wrote the brilliant graphic novel, The Road To Perdition, which also became a movie starring Tom Hanks. Continue reading “With Further Ado #091: Down These Mean Streets with MAX ALLAN COLLINS (part 1)”

With Further Ado #90 : The Prescience of Comic-Con

With Further Ado #90 : The Prescience of Comic-Con

Sunday’s New York Times had one of those stunning stories that “everyone” already knew about. The print version headline screamed “Despite Timely Alerts, Trump Was Slow to Act” across five columns. (Headlines that stretch over all six columns are deemed the most important news stories).  This article, written by Eric Lipton, Maggie Haberman and other reporters, details how many top officials tried – for two months – to warn the president of the coming pandemic and were, tragically, ignored or told to “stop panicking”.

As usual, Geek Culture was way ahead of the curve.

At last July’s San Diego Comic-Con (officially called Comic-Con International), there was a panel called Art of Infection: Fictional Diseases, Real Life. The intent of this panel was to focus on depictions of infectious diseases in literature, and how the real world would react to such events.

Panelists included Kelley Boston, an epidemiology and infection prevention expert who works for Infection Prevention & Management Associates of Houston, Bobbiejean Garcia, an epidemiologist at Texas State Department of State Health Services, Debesh Das, an infection prevention specialist in the California healthcare system and Tyler Houston, representing arts and culture. Continue reading “With Further Ado #90 : The Prescience of Comic-Con”

How The Comic Community Is Coping with Mass Event Cancellations

A national disaster has been declared due to the global pandemic of the COVID-19 coronavirus. We are being told to employ social distancing and further the work of the isolationist tendencies that our nerd culture has employed for decades.

The reality is that there is a very serious illness that is spreading through humanity and it is fatally dangerous to a large segment of our community. Unfortunately, the solution that have been implemented includes the cancelling of numerous chances for our normally isolationist community to get together.

I was listening to a special video version of John Siuntres’s Word Balloon podcast with Ed Catto. They were lamenting the understandable cancellation of Ithacon45, and noted that “Con Season” is a great way to get together with friends and colleagues. This is absolutely true.

The economic cost of this coronavirus pandemic cancelling mass gatherings is felt throughout various industries including air travel, hospitality, food service, and more. An often ignored real cost for the cancellation or postponement of events like Emerald City Comic-Con, SXSW, Planet Comicon, Wonder Con, and others is the loss of revenue for artists and creators who depend on those shows for a significant portion of their income.

In the spirit of coming together in crisis, we would like to highlight both the effects of these cancellations and offer ways to help those who are affected. Continue reading “How The Comic Community Is Coping with Mass Event Cancellations”

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”

With Further Ado #052: A Conversation with Mark Waid

With Further Ado #052: A Conversation with Mark Waid

San Diego Comic-Con was full of big ideas, creative thinkers, celebrations of fandoms and a heathy respect (and awe) for the comics industry and those that have come before us.  Mark Waid embodies all those things. At the convention, he was busy speaking on panels, meeting fans, promoting the new innovative line of comics from Humaniods and trying to get his hands on that Rainbow Batman exclusive toy from Mattel.

(But then again, weren’t we all?)

But just before SDCC, I had a chance to interview Mark. He was the Keynote speaker at a small convention in the Finger Lakes.  He had a lot to say and speaking to him was a blast.  Enjoy this video, and you can almost relive last weekend’s 50th San Diego Comic-Con…but without those long lines!