Monday, November 27, 2006

Credit Where Credit Is Due

I was very sorry to read of the passing of Mr. Jerry Bails. Comic book fandom as we live it today would certainly not exist if not for the organizational efforts of this pioneering gentleman over forty years ago. Click here to read what Newsarama has written about Mr. Bails.

I never met Mr. Bails, but I do have a connection to him that I want to tell you about. It turns out that one page in my since-dismantled original art collection had previously belonged to Mr. Bails! I didn't purchase the page directly from Mr. Bails, but it was stamped on the reverse side with his name and address.

The page, from the 1960s and drawn by Fred Fredericks, featured King Leonardo lunching with his pal Odie Cologne (a skunk!). Click here for a history lesson about King Leonardo and click here to view a somewhat frightening King Leonardo doll.

Whereas stamping one's name anywhere on a comic book would be wildly inappropriate, the reverse side of a page of original comic book artwork is a looser and freer milieu. I never minded that Mr. Bails had put his identifying mark on the back of that piece of artwork; on the contrary, that mark made the page more special to me than it otherwise would have been.

And it gave me the idea to create my own identifying mark. I had begun the process of dispersing my art collection to all four corners of the earth, so why not leave a little smudge of myself on each of those pages just as Jerry Bails had done on his collected pages many years before?

I marched over to Officemax and designed a stamp that said "From the Hayfamzone Collection" inside a thought balloon. I ker-clicked the stamp on the reverse side of each page of artwork in my collection, and to this day I still use the stamp on packages of comic books that I send to lucky ebay high bidders. Thank you Jerry Bails for giving me this great idea!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Remember When I Told You About Jordi Bernet?

Maybe you don't remember what I said about Jordi Bernet. Understandable, since that was over twenty years ago. Allow me to tousle your memory a bit.

In the 1980s, Spanish comics artist Jordi Bernet made his international mark by drawing the very salty crime series Torpedo 1936. The editions are long out of print, but click here to see an image of the character I found on a foreign site.

At the time, I was writing and drawing commentoonies for the Comics Buyers Guide. Anything in the world of comics that sufficiently made either a positive or negative impression on me was fair and fertile fodder for my pen and brush.

The Bernet artwork on Torpedo definitely impacted me, and I wasted no time in whipping together a commentoonie about the artist and the strip. Click here to see what was printed in CBG #607 back in 1985.

I bring this up now because Mr. Bernet has been making his way back into American comic books lately. A few months ago DC Comics dedicated an issue of their SOLO series to him, and just a couple of weeks ago he drew the cover and interior of Jonah Hex #13. Mr. Bernet will likewise be drawing issues 14 and 15 of Jonah Hex. I would encourage any fan of excellent comic artwork to seek out these issues. I found a recent interview with Mr. Bernet that you can read here.

An interesting aside: It seems to me that J. Hex 13 is the first DC or Marvel comic book in quite some time to number the story pages. Marvel numbered their pages throughout the 1960s and up to 1971 or 1972, and DC numbered theirs through the 1980s and I think into the 1990s, but I had given up hoping that the practice might be resurrected. Being a math teacher, I am ALWAYS pleased to look at numbers!

One other sly aside: Did you notice how I slipped the 'word' "commentoonie" into my narrative as if it were actually a word? Well, now it is!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Art in New York City

It is with great glee that I now reveal that the Directorship of the Hayfamzone comes with a peppy little expense account. I was recently sent to New York City so that I could visit the third and latest incarnation of the Masters of American Comics exhibit and report exclusively about my findings right here in the Hayfamzone Blog, for you.

This exhibit originated in 2005 in Los Angeles, which unfortunately I did not get to see.

It moved to Milwaukee for the summer of 2006, which I did get to see. If you haven't already read what I wrote about my Milwaukee experience, you have such a treat in store! Click on the August 2006 Archives off to the right of this screen and buckle your safety belt for FOUR great blog entries on the subject!

Now the exhibit has opened in New York City, where it continues through 27 January 2007. The comic book art portion of the show is being shown at the Jewish Museum, while the comic strip art portion is at the Newark Museum. My top priority was to see the Jack Kirby pages, so it was off to the Jewish Museum for me. Click here to read the Jewish Museum's write-up about the show. (And, so you know, the Jewish Museum is directly across the street from Central Park, and there seemed to be ample nearby street parking on the Saturday that I attended.)

Many comic art greats have joined the show since its Milwaukee days, like Joe Kubert and Lou Fine and Jerry Robinson. On one wall a Golden Age Kubert page is juxtaposed with a Silver Age Kubert page, which makes for fun study. There are many more Jack Kirby pages now than in Milwaukee, most of the additions being Fantastic Four works. Click here for an interview I found with Jerry Robinson in which he explains that he was tapped by the Jewish Museum to curate their portion of this show.

I must apologize for the brevity of my observations, but I needed to be in and out of the Jewish Museum in ten minutes! I do encourage everyone who is able to see the exhibit. This is the last stop announced for the Masters of Comic Book Art, so it may be now or never! If there's no way you're making it to the show in person, however, there's been an attempt to capture the milieu between two covers and if you click right here you'll see what I mean.

An expansive "review" of the museum exhibit appeared in the New York Times, and by clicking here you can see that article for yourself. I have QUITE a few bones to pick with this "art reviewer," but let's save that for another day.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Tragedy in a Comic Book Store

This is the first time I'm blogging something not because I want to but because I feel the need to disseminate the information. It is not light-hearted the way my entries usually are.

Roselle is a suburb of Chicago, about ten miles from where I live. In Roselle there is a comic book store I have never been in, I have never driven past it, and in fact I had never even heard of it before yesterday.

But, suddenly on Saturday, this comic book store was in the lead story on every local news show and was even splashed across the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times.

It seems that an armed gunman entered this comic book store on Lake Street in Roselle, Illinois, USA. He confronted the owner, who had a gun of his own. Shots were fired and both men were hit. To read the reports offered by local news outlets, please click here and here and here and here.

Whether you're reading this ten miles from Roselle or in a far-away corner of the globe, the story is frightening.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Jack Kirby Himself

The Masters of Comic Book Art is a videotape that came out in 1987. I own a copy of the tape, although I have no recollection of ever having watched it. Interesting, then, that I see the tape position is not at the beginning. Maybe my kids watched it, or maybe I watched it and all memory of the experience has drained out of me. This will remain a mystery.

"Journey with author Harlan Ellison through this unique video experience. Spotlighted for the first time are ten of the greatest storytellers of the comic book medium. Via interviews and examples of their incredible artwork, these artists reveal their philosophies and the creative processes behind the most memorable works of this indigenous American artform, from the 1940's to the present."

That's what the back cover of the VHS box says. It goes on to identify the ten artists as Will Eisner, Harvey Kurtzman, Steve Ditko, Neal Adams, Berni Wrightson, Moebius, Frank Miller, Dave Sim, Art Spiegelman. And Jack Kirby.

Someone, wisely, has posted the five-minute Jack Kirby interview from this tape on YouTube. I learned of it because Mark Evanier wrote about it in his News From Me blog that I've told you about previously. Jack Kirby is my favorite comic book artist of all time and Harlan Ellison is my favorite living writer, so you know I am very fond of this video snippet. Click here to see the interview for yourself.

Rumor has it that one of my ebay auctions this week involves a Kirby comic book. Any truth to it? Click here to see for yourself what all of my current ebay offerings are. And click here to see the original artwork by Jack Kirby that it is my privilege to own.

I already know some other things I want to write about, so it won't be long at all until I blog again. Check back soon!