Tag: Wally Wood

Brainiac On Banjo: Wanna Buy A Duck?

Brainiac On Banjo: Wanna Buy A Duck?

“It paints you with indifference, like a lady paints with rouge, and the worst of the worst, the most hated and cursed, is the one that we call Scrooge. Unkind as any, and the wrath of many, this is Ebenezer Scrooge.” – Scrooge, written by Paul Williams.

O.K. I’ll admit it. When I first saw a cover to Uncle Scrooge and The Infinity Dime, I thought it was a variant for one of the Avengers titles. Obviously, I was mistaken. It was one of 13 different covers — you tell me which is not the variant — of Marvel’s first-ever (kinda) produced Disney legacy characters comic book.

I doubt I would have guessed Jason Arron would be the writer. Not that I have a bad opinion of his work; quite the contrary. It just didn’t occur to be that a Punisher writer, not to mention Superman, The (various) Avengers, Batman, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles — among a treasure trove of others — would be the person to waddle in the palmate footpath of Carl Barks and Don Rosa.

Back when I first entered the friendly confines of organized comic book fandom, and I use the word “organized” advisedly, it seemed as though there were four things “everybody” was collecting: Will Eisner’s The Spirit, EC Comics, All-Star Comics (the Justice Society of America, although no one would pass up those first two issues), and Carl Barks. Well, mostly Barks’ duck stories, although, again, nobody would pass up his Porky Pig. Barks’ nickname was “the good duck artist” because it took a while for us to learn the names of the rest of Disney’s flock of talent. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: Wanna Buy A Duck?”

Brainiac On Banjo: Mad About Claptrap

Brainiac On Banjo: Mad About Claptrap


I’m sick and tired of sitting back listening to all of your claptrap. If you could get me to take the rap, I guarantee you’d leave me with a backslap. “Angry,” written by Paul McCartney and Eric Stewart.

Claptrap— Idiotic Parodies of Iconic Films, by Desmond Devlin and Tom Richmond, published by Deadline Demon Publishing and available from the artist. If you’re looking to use up some credit card points, sorry: as of this writing, Amazon is sold out.

Like many mischievous baby boomers, I learned how to mischief from my addiction to Mad Magazine. I discovered Mad in my sister’s comics pile. The first issue I found was Mad #40, July 1958 (I was seven years old) and by the time #41 came out my subscription copy was delivered to the family mailbox. I don’t recall how I conned my parents into that subscription, but I presume I was so damn obnoxious they mailed off the check just to shut me up. This became my time-honored technique for everything.

I learned a lot from Mad — for example, how to pronounce “idiot.” The magazine affirmed my most obnoxious tendencies. It sanctioned and encouraged my more whimsical aggressions and did a great deal to make me the mannish geriatric boy I am today. I remain quite grateful to “the usual gang of idiots.”

But if there was one thing that bothered me about Mad, it was their movie parodies. Not that I didn’t enjoy them — hell yes I did! — but by the time each issue came out they were pretty dated. One of the hidden rules of parody: timeliness is funny. Now I can add to this another hidden rule: so is timelessness.

Eventually, Mad Magazine went the way of all flesh and right into reprints. It had grown a bit dusty and needed some new energy, and despite a massive boost from new editor Bill Morrison (of Bongo/Simpsons/Futurama fame) the powers that were running Warner Bros. that week plugged the cash flow. In terms of that wonderfully juvenile ability to shove establishment faces into their own fecal matter, Mad had been eclipsed by Beavis and Butt-head, The Simpsons, South Park, various HBO comedy specials, and the MAD TV show that was more-or-less based on Mad. Well, as George Harrison intoned, all things must pass. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: Mad About Claptrap”

With Further Ado #262: The Joys of Going Coverless

With Further Ado #262: The Joys of Going Coverless

I love going barefoot in the summer and wearing shorts. In a way, the fall ritual of wearing pants every day seems like I’ve done a poor job negotiating my terms of surrender to the cruel reality of the change in season. It’s tragic – to be sure – but it’s still a little ways off, isn’t it? Can’t I just enjoy the end of August and still consider it summer?

And along the lines of that whole idea of less is more, can I make a case for the joys of coverless comics? They are so carefree, so fun. When I read an old comic without a cover, I’m not worried about the condition of the comic, and certainly not worried that anything I do will deflate the value. In today’s grade-conscious comics work, it’s invigorating to read a comic like a kid again: to curl the cover back on the spine and maybe even to drip a little ice cream onto it.

(But my wife not set her coffee mug on them, nonetheless!)

I enjoyed a few coverless (and ¾ cover) comics this summer. As many of you know, in the old days, newsstands could return unsold comics to the distributor and get their money back. But after a short while, folks realized that sending the whole comic (or magazine) back was costly and inefficient. What if instead, they just ripped the covers off, sent them into the distributor as “proof” and then destroyed the comic? Or maybe they could just send in the logo of the cover for credit. That was the idea, but thankfully – so many “valiantly unscrupulous” newsstand dealers just didn’t have the heart to destroy the comics. So, they’d re-sell the coverless comics at a discount to other venues. Continue reading “With Further Ado #262: The Joys of Going Coverless”

Brainiac On Banjo: Make Room! Make Room!

There once was a science fiction writer named Harry Harrison. He is best known as the author of “Make Room, Make Room,” which was turned into the 1973 movie Soylent Green, starring Edward G. Robinson, Leigh Taylor-Young, and that guy who says we can take his gun out of his cold dead hands now.

The story was about overpopulation and how there was no space for anybody to live, eat or, ironically, procreate. It was set in 2022. That’s 22 days from now.

Harrison also was a comic book and comic strip writer, and much of his artwork – for EC Comics and others – was inked by Wally Wood. He wrote the Flash Gordon comic strip in the 1950s and his s-f novel, The Stainless Steel Rat, was adapted into a long running series in the UK weekly comics 2000 AD.

I agree with his story’s message. In fact, I do not believe we have a shortage of any natural resources per se. I believe we have a massive overabundance of human beings. This planet wasn’t built to house and feed 7.9 billion people (as of November 2021). Indeed, the number of humans who stalk the Earth octupled in the past 200 years. Make room, indeed. And never forget: soylent green is people.

Not everybody agrees with me. For example, take Elon Musk, a man who has been dramatically unable to pull his rabbit out of his hat.

Yes, he’s the guy behind the Tesla, the wonderfully named, vastly overpriced and pathetically underperforming wondercar that is supposed to eliminate the need for both gasoline and drivers. Someday it might do that, maybe, perhaps… but thus far it is one of the most recalled automobiles of this century. Thus far, his six-figure four-wheeler has killed at least 221 people (source).

His SpaceX company appears to be more successful – unless you’re paying attention to Elon Musk. A couple weeks ago, he told his SpaceX employees that his Starship engine crisis is creating a “risk of bankruptcy.” Start updating your résumés, kids!

So it is with some amusement that I find Elon’s latest pronouncement that “so many people, including smart people, think that there are too many people in the world and think that the population is growing out of control. It’s completely the opposite. Please look at the numbers – if people don’t have more children, civilization is going to crumble, mark my words.” He said this at the Wall Street Journal’s annual CEO Council while he was promoting his newest baby, the Tesla Bot, which, according to Musk, is a “generalized substitute for human labor over time.”

More people but less human employment. This is a billionaire’s stickiest wet dream.

I should note Elon has six children. Well, at least he puts his, ahhh, dick where his mouth is.

The global birthrate fell by 4% in 2020, and it’s been slowly declining for the previous 60 years. To me, this sounds like great progress. Slow progress, to be sure, but slow enough to be in Elon’s comfort zone. Except it isn’t.

Musk also notes “it is important for us to die because most of the times, people don’t change their mind, they just die… If they live forever, then we might become a very ossified society where new ideas cannot succeed.”

I’m not exactly sure how he came to this conclusion as it’s not backed by anybody’s experience, but I can make an educated guess as to which orifice had incubated his speculation.

Bottom line: P.T. Burnum put on a better show.

With Further Ado #132: Uncovered Delights

With Further Ado #132: Uncovered Delights

I find that as fans get deeper and deeper into comics, we often develop a slavish respect for the comic books themselves. While originally designed to be a cheap, disposable medium, the standard comic book becomes a thing of awe.

For example, I recently purchased a 1950s issue of Boy Comics for my dad as a Christmas gift. When I read it before I gave it to him (‘natch), I carefully placed the book on my drafting table. I gingerly turned the pages, keeping the book as flat as possible. I kept my coffee far away to avoid any clumsy spills. When I was done I put the comic into a new Golden Age comic bag with a new acid free backing board.

When my dad read it, he sat in his favorite chair, snacked a little and bent back the cover. “That was great,” he told me. He clearly enjoyed it, and he did it without that collector’s mentality. There was a time when I would have scolded him and explained things like “condition”, spine-roll and “collectability”. Now I’m envious of the way he enjoys it all and kind of think, “that’s the way to do it.”

Maybe that’s why I enjoy coverless comics so much. In the old days, the newsstands would buy a bunch of comics and then return the ones that weren’t sold.  Over time, everyone realized it would be easier, and shipping would be less costly, to  just to rip off the covers, return those and destroy the leftovers. (Sometimes they just ripped off the top third, with the logo.)  But newsstand owners often would pass along the coverless comics, or even sell them at a discount.

A comic shop in Cortland, NY, Heroes and Villains, is “a little shop that could.” It’s run by a hard-working husband and wife team. They just acquired a stash of coverless comics and are now selling them for 50 cents each.

I scooped up a small stack and reading them is joyous. Because they are coverless, and essentially non-collectible, there’s no carefulness to the reading. I still can’t bring myself to curl back the pages, but the reading process is very casual for 50 year old comics.  And I’ll probably put most of them into my Halloween Giveaway Comics Box, in fact. Continue reading “With Further Ado #132: Uncovered Delights”

Brainiac On Banjo #042: We’re Not Getting Mad…

Brainiac On Banjo #042: We’re Not Getting Mad…

All your children are poor unfortunate victims of lies you believe / A plague upon your ignorance that keeps the young from the truth they deserve. – Frank Zappa, “What’s The Ugliest Part of Your Body?”

For those who have been following the long and lingering death of Mad Magazine, a couple days ago things took another turn for the worse when it was announced that after two more inventory-burning issues, the legendary publication would stop running new material.

That’s sad. 67 years ago Mad changed the nature of our culture, being the first comic book to confront our nation’s culture and its many foibles head-on. It was an important part of a vital movement in the 1950s spawned by innovators such as Lenny Bruce, Dick Gregory, Second City, Ernie Kovacs and Moms Mabley. Mad was all the more important by being the first specifically oriented to those not yet old enough to vote. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #042: We’re Not Getting Mad…”

Continued After the Next Page #009: Conversation with John Workman – An Oral History of Comics

Last summer, as we were getting this site up and going, one of the first things that I did was reach out to legendary comic letterer and artist John Workman. I had met him at a couple of conventions in the past, and he had told me some interesting stories about how comics were made in the 1970’s and 1980’s. I felt that the stories were amazing insights into the world of comic making, and I wanted to get all the details so that we could share those incredible stories with all of you.

My intent for our initial interview was to clarify some details he had told me about making Thor in the 80’s with Walter Simonson. What ended up happening was an almost two-hour conversation and a truly life changing event for me. I clipped out a little bit of our conversation for a column last year called When Thor Road the Bus.

Before I get too far along, I must say that John Workman is one of the nicest people that I have ever met. He is thoughtful, considerate, inquisitive, and incredibly talented. Since our initial phone conversation, John and I have spoken a couple of more times over the phone, and my wife and I spent a lovely afternoon with John and his wife Cathy at their home last November. He has become a regular email pen pal of mine. I consider John a friend, and I am lucky for it.

The purpose of this article is to share with the world some of the amazing things that we spoke about. The topics range from the page counts for comics in the 70’s to his time at Heavy Metal. There are some funny stories about Harlan Ellison and Wally Wood. There is the tale of the “Lost Mignola Batman Story”, and much more. So hang on and I will try my best to navigate all this history and bring it into the world so that we can all share in its wonder.

Jeannette Kahn and Dollar Comics

I had mentioned to John that the title to my column on PCS would be called “Continued After the Next Page” as a throwback to comic days of yesteryear. He broke out into some pretty cool comics production history.

John Workman: I worked at DC from 1975 to 1977 before I went to work at Heavy Metal. During that time, as had been true since the early 1950s, there were thirty-six pages [thirty- two interior and four for the front and back covers] in a regular comic book. Of those pages, somewhere over 20 (27 in the ’60s) were devoted to actual comics material with the rest being made up of a combination of paid ads and “house ads” that let readers know about other DC publications. Shortly after I arrived at DC, the number of comics pages dropped to seventeen, and I remember two things that we had to do. We [the production department] had to white-out all the pages numbers down in the corner so people would be a little less aware that they were only getting seventeen pages of comics, and we had to go in a lot and put in “Continued After Next” or “Second Page” or whatever, because the seventeen pages of comic material was broken up by more ads. There were a lot of in-house ads to fill out the issue because seventeen pages was only one more than the total number of pages in a book.

I was shocked at this and felt the need to clarify Continue reading “Continued After the Next Page #009: Conversation with John Workman – An Oral History of Comics”

With Further Ado #004: (Not) Afraid of Flying

With Further Ado #004: (Not) Afraid of Flying

I was struck by how many smaller publishers were exhibiting at San Diego Comic-Con. Maybe “smaller” is the wrong word. It diminishes the efforts and passion that’s behind all these efforts. Maybe I should instead call them up-and-coming publishers.

And I’m drawing a line between this idea – the hopes and dreams of small publishers –  and the fascinating book I’m reading, Double Ace by Robert Coram.  It’s the story of one of the most celebrated World War II pilots, Robert Lee Scott, Jr.  He was a war hero who shot down an astounding number of enemy pilots during WWII. 

Comic fans used to love aviation heroes. There were titles like Wings, Flying Aces and Air Fighters. There were heroes like Airboy, Blackhawk, Flying Jenny, Black Venus ( a couple of them, in fact) and Sky Wolf.

Guys of a certain age, like me, graduated from the TV steam punk of the Wild, Wild, West to Baa Baa Black Sheep, a (mostly) fictionalized TV series about another real life war pilot, Pappy Boyington.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #004: (Not) Afraid of Flying”