Tag: Steve Ditko

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?”

With Further Ado #163: Hosting Halloween

With Further Ado #163: Hosting Halloween

Halloween is seemingly right around the corner. There’s a lot of candy in the stores. Of course, we know that this is all part of a pantry loading strategy. That’s consumer-package-ese for a plan to make you buy more than you need right now.  In other words, the candy companies want households across America to buy their Halloween candy ‘early’, then give in to temptation and eat it, and then rush back to store to buy more candy to give out to trick or treaters.

Of course, in the this crazy world of delta variants and anti-vaxxers, it’s hard to predict just what will happen this Halloween.

I can safely predict that (1) I won’t be buying bags of Halloween Candy for trick-or-treaters (We always give away comics.) and (2) I’ll be reading a spooky story or two.

And in that… vein, let’s turn the spotlight on a few wonderful comics I recently rescued from bargain boxes from various comic shops.  And the theme for this week is Horror Hosts.

Spooky radio shows and comics have been using Horror Hosts to introduce, or queue up, creepy tales for years and years. They typically don’t engage in the story itself but rather just make a few ghastly puns and set the stage for a story. The fine of art of horror hosting is almost a lost art, I’m afraid.

Do You Believe in… Ghosts ?

This issue of DC’s long-running Ghosts touts the fact that is the 10th anniversary of the title (with 27 Spine cracking pages), but even cheesy sales copy can’t keep you from admiring the brilliant Joe Kubert cover.

The horror host for this one is a bit of a puzzler. He’s called Squire Shade, but he seems to be an almost total rip-off of that perennial Hawkman foe, The Gentleman Ghost. In some issues Squire Shade has a portly girth, but in this issue he could’ve been a ….dead ringer… for the confounding arch nemesis of the Winged Wonder. Continue reading “With Further Ado #163: Hosting Halloween”

With Further Ado #111: Wheatley’s The Witch of Everwhen

With Further Ado #111: Wheatley’s The Witch of Everwhen

Some people are just overflowing with talent, and when it spills over to other media, it’s a truly wondrous thing. Mark Wheatley is one of those people.  You may know him as an award-winning comics creator, a frequent exhibitor at San Diego Comic-Con & Baltimore Comic-Con, or as an industrious entrepreneur.  Knowing all those things about him, I was even more impressed when he told me about his newest project, a song & music video called The Witch of Everwhen.  Checkout the teaser trailer:

 

 

Wheatley is working out the details for the full-fledged Witch of Everwhen video debut. The announcement should be made soon, and you can keep up with it all here at the Mark Wheatley Gallery.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised because he’s created music videos before for previous projects like Dance with Your Brothers , Surrender and Earth’s Farewell.  But nonetheless, I had to find out more.

Ed Catto: This is a fascinating project – tell me how The Witch of Everwhen came about!

Mark Wheatley: I have been composing and recording music for as long as I have been writing and drawing comics professionally. In my early days looking for work in New York, while I was beating the pavement to show my portfolio to art directors and editors, I was also sending demo tapes to A&R reps at the various music companies. I was doing this right up until I landed my first monthly comic series, MARS.

The only musical “success” I had during that period was one of my tunes was picked for airplay on WNEW and one of their DJs was calling me to brainstorm how I would get more attention for my music. But when Marc Hempel and I signed our MARS contract [with First Comics], I decided that the time required to write and pencil a monthly comic was going to eat my life, and I stopped recording and sending out demo tapes. So, of course, two weeks after I signed the MARS contract Capitol Records offered me a three record deal, and I had to turn it down. A few months later, Columbia Records offered me a one record deal. Both of these offers would require me to also hit the road for live tours, so it was just impossible. After that, aside from recording some soundtrack music for radio and TV commercials, my musical efforts were limited to recording theme songs for my comic book creations. Continue reading “With Further Ado #111: Wheatley’s The Witch of Everwhen”

Brainiac On Banjo #072: Grave New World

Brainiac On Banjo #072: Grave New World

I dream of cherry pies / Candy bars, and chocolate chip cookies / We used to microwave / Now we just eat nuts and berries / This was a discount store / Now it’s turned into a cornfield / You’ve got it, you’ve got it / Don’t leave me stranded here / I can’t get used to this lifestyle – (Nothing But) Flowers, David Byrne

I have spent my entire life being a collector.

No, not a debt collector or a tax collector, not even a rubber band collector. I am a stuff collector, and I mean “stuff” in the George Carlin sense of the term. I collect music (over 43,000 tracks, thank you), I collect comic books, I collect books about comic books, I collect books in general. I collect movies, teevee shows, artwork… all kinds of stuff.

The question “now where do I put this?” spikes my second biggest fear. My biggest fear is having to move all my stuff from the house that has warehoused my collections for almost a third of a century, abetted by the many collections possessed by my daughter and my late wife. Comics collections from the three of us, a legion of statues, enough history books to fill a wing at the Library of Congress, flicks I am dying to see again but won’t live long enough to do so… All this has combined to define the most consistent and most dominant part of my life. But moving it all to another place will look a lot like photos of those ancient, beautiful houses that somehow get boosted onto a flatbed truck and taken cross-town so developers who bribed their way into eminent domain can turn the land into a parking lot.

This hasn’t been an investment thing, and in that I am lucky. If all this stuff was here to make money, I’d have to go down to Wall Street and jump out of a window. This is because, aside from the Daffy Duck “I WANT IT” syndrome, today nearly all that stuff, no matter what it is, is available digitally. A 30-terabyte hard disc drive will house it all in a box that is much smaller than the Collected Works of Michael Moorcock. Of course, with all the streaming services around covering virtually all media, you really don’t even need that disc drive.

It’s possible that moving or disposing my collections will not be my problem. It might become my daughter’s problem. Hey, none of us are getting any younger (you’ve probably noticed that) and, whereas that’s a nasty trick to play on her, she is merely 25 years my younger and I’d like to be around to see her have decide what to sell and what really neat shit to hold on to. Sort of a Sophie’s Choice… without the “wait; you’re going to kill one of my kids??” bit.

Overall, this is a rather minor concern. There are much more important things to be concerned about. I don’t wake up in a cold sweat thinking about this, although I’m certain I will if I ever have to move it. I’ve enjoyed this stuff and, besides, maybe the tons of dust my collections gather will cure cancer or the common cold or something. I mean, look, we do not know why the guy who first looked at penicillin in a petri dish said “Wow! Cool!! I think I’m going to hit this shit up!” However, I do wonder if, at that time, this cat had the clap.

You know the old phrase “Evolution Happens.” Well, okay, I poured some artistic license over that one, but you get the point. The focus should be on content and not possession. Buddha had tons of material possessions, as the story goes, but he gave it all away to charity. I wonder which charity would be most interested in my Steve Ditko collection.

Like most of us who have a strong sense of wonder but a short attention span, I always have endeavored to embrace change. But making plans for one’s personal end times is a whole ‘nother thing. I think it takes well over a decade to work all this stuff out but… Hello! Short attention span, remember?

The contradiction in this labor is that I’ve spent my entire lifetime acquiring all this stuff. My thinking about eliminating it, no matter how remarkably logical it is to do so, feels as though I am invalidating my mission, my passion for existence.

And you wonder why old men scream at the clouds.

Brainiac On Banjo #061: Charlton Comics Goes To War!!

Brainiac On Banjo #061: Charlton Comics Goes To War!!

The Unknown Anti-War Comics!, by Steve Ditko, Ross Andru, Joe Gill, Denny O’Neil, Pat Boyette and others, edited by Craig Yoe • Yoe Books!-IDW • $29.95, 226 pages

Back when the three of us were laboring over at the DC Comics factory, I was blessed with having my office between those of Denny O’Neil and Archie Goodwin, two of the finest comics practitioners in American history. If they were to be branded A-listers, we would need to invent a new first letter for our alphabet. I’m going to start with Archie, but don’t worry. Denny comes into this story later.

Back around 1992 and 1993, Archie and I started frequenting a swell midtown restaurant where New York Times executives often brought advertising clients. Remember, this was about 16 years before Robert Downey Jr. and Jon Favreau put our beloved medium on the legit. Usually, our passionate conversations revolved around two subjects: frighteningly radical politics, and comic books; particularly EC Comics. To the chagrin of the over-wrought suits sitting within eavesdropping distance, we would conflate the two.

Of all of Archie’s massive achievements as a writer and an editor, my personal favorite is the four-issue run of Blazing Combat, the black-and-white war comic published by Jim Warren with the Frazetta covers and interiors drawn by Alex Toth, John Severin, Reed Crandall, Joe Orlando, Gene Colan, Wally Wood… you get the point. The series was influenced by Harvey Kurtzman’s Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat for EC Comics, and all the above-mentioned artists had drawn stories for Kurtzman. Archie was too young to have written for them, but he was a member of the EC Fan-Addict Club (fan-addict > fanatic, get it?). Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #061: Charlton Comics Goes To War!!”

Brainiac On Banjo #018: Lee and Ditko – Thank You

Brainiac On Banjo #018: Lee and Ditko – Thank You

It appears today is the last day of the year. That’s just a construct, but it does support the weight of tradition. There’s a lot of Top 10 lists during this terminal week – they’re easy to write, evidently popular, and pretty much bullshit. Yes, I’ve written a few but, really, if you start your list with, say, April and end with the following March and you’ll have a different list. If you disagree with me – and how dare you! – think of all the movies that didn’t win Oscars that probably would have had they been released the preceding or succeeding year.

Yeah, I’m still pissed Bill Murray didn’t win for Lost In Translation.

Another tradition is to list the top stories of the year. This has a bit more value, although I prefer the “top underreported stories of the year” features because I might learn something. I suspect that, when it comes to the amazing world of everybody’s comics, two of the stories that made a whole lot of lists (aside from Bill Maher’s) are the deaths of Steve Ditko and Stan Lee. So I’m going to conflate them.

Together, if not for Stan and Steve I’d be writing about Trump again and a lot of stunt people would be on welfare. Let me explain.  Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #018: Lee and Ditko – Thank You”

Steve Ditko 1927 – 2018

Steve Ditko 1927 – 2018

New York City police announced today that Steve Ditko, one of the comic book medium’s preeminent creators, died on June 27th.

His body was found in his apartment two days later.

Best known for co-creating the Amazing Spider-Man with Stan Lee for Marvel Comics, Steve also created or co-created Doctor Strange, The Creeper, Captain Atom, The Question, The Destructor, Mr. A, Shade The Changing Man, the Hawk and the Dove, The Stalker, Static and many others, and drew such other characters as The Blue Beetle, The Hulk, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, The Micronauts, Tiger-Man, Warp, the Paul Levitz-written version of Starman, Machine Man, the Legion of Super-Heroes, Speedball, and countless science-fiction and horror stories for a number of publishers including Warren Magazines, DC Comics and Marvel.

A bold and unique artist – nobody drew like Steve Ditko – and one of the truly great storytellers, Steve was trained by legendary artists Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin. One of his first published works was in Harvey Comics’ Captain 3-D, where he assisted Meskin on inking Jack Kirby’s pencils. Ditko would ink Kirby many times in the next several decades.  Continue reading “Steve Ditko 1927 – 2018”