Monday, April 30, 2012

Mando, Baxter, (blank)

Remember how we used to know the names of the various paper grades our comics were printed on?

Of course there was always newsprint, but its quality seemed to worsen drastically by the end of the 1970s. With the publication of DC's Camelot 3000 in 1982, the arrival of Baxter paper was hailed. It was very white and the colors were very bright. DC's learning curve was steep and the palette became far more muted by the time Lynn Varley was coloring their Thriller in 1983. Our fascination with the heavy Baxter paper lasted a few more years but it was, well, just a little too showy.

I was far more impressed with Mando paper when it came down the pike. Almost as white as Baxter but not as heavy, Mando held the color well and the image did not bleed through from the other side of the page (as had been happening with newsprint). When I would see some beautiful Don Newton artwork on Mando paper I remember thinking to myself that this was the perfect quality of paper for a comic book. But they would not leave well enough alone.

Over at Marvel Comics, the Marvel Fanfare title experimented with a glossy, slick, coated magazine stock. They described it as having every page feeling like the cover. For weeks now I have been trying to remember the name of the paper that Fanfare was printed on. It was a word that was not bandied about with the same regularity as Baxter or Mando, but I knew I had read it once or twice anyway. As I was researching to find the missing word, I found that many other individuals had struggled with locating it. I even found out from Facebook that one person in Phoenix is named Mando Baxter!

After many frustrating dead ends I did find out what that word was. It may take a while sometimes, but we do get to the bottom of things in the hayfamzone. The glossy, slick, coated magazine stock that Marvel Fanfare was printed on was called Hudson paper. Maybe I shouldn't say was. Maybe it's still called Hudson paper, and now we're getting to my point (finally, did you say?).

The vast majority of today's DC and Marvel and most other comics are printed on what I would call Hudson paper. Oh, they don't call it that. The one or two times I originally read the phrase "Hudson paper" was over twenty years ago. But (with rare exceptions) today's comics are printed on glossy, slick, coated magazine stock, and that is a tragedy.

I hate it! It doesn't look or feel like what a comic book should look or feel like! I've suffered in silence because I hadn't heard any other rumblings and I thought I was alone in my dislike for the glossiness, but no! There is a whole underground of comics fans who hate this glossy, slick, coated magazine stock for their comics! Look what I found written by Kim Thompson of Fantagraphics:
It is profoundly astonishing to me that ANYONE, let alone major publishers, is still subscribing to the weird notion that printing a comic on coated (a.k.a. glossy, a.k.a. shiny) stock is somehow fancier and better and more collectalicious. Granted that we (and Kitchen Sink and that whole generation of alternative publishers) went through that madness back in the 1980s and 1990s, we got cured eventually and realized that 98% of comics look better on uncoated stock, and NO comic looks good on outright glossy stock.
So if anybody's ready to organize the revolt, I will march by your side. And if you're not sure what all this noise is about, take a look at the latest issue of Vertigo's Fables. Notice how that title, one of the few exceptions in today's world of comics, is not printed on glossy, slick, coated magazine stock. It's just a nice, white paper, equivalent in my mind to Mando paper (but nobody seems to use that phrase anymore). Imagine a paradise where all comic books are printed on that nice paper and I think you might be ready also to lace up your marching boots.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The 1978 Avengers Movie

No, there wasn't one. But what if there had been a film in 1978 based on Marvel's Avengers comic book? What might it have looked like?

Somebody with some time on his hands spliced together clips from 1970s superhero TV shows and the result plays like a trailer for a film. The 1970s music is right on target also. Have some fun and take a look at the two minute video over here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

DC Comics Headquarters

Last year, The Hayfamzone Blog gave you a personal little tour of the DC Comics offices in New York City, and you can take another look at that tour over here if you like.

A new  article has shown up online that is in the same vein and it shows some great new photos that I thought you might like to see. The picture above shows the large wall mural featuring many DC Comics characters and signatures of the associated artists. The last two photos in the new article make it clear that the signatures on the wall are actually above the mural. The article is entitled "Working at DC Comics Looks Like  a Dream Job" and you can read it over here.

I always like to give you just a little bit more here on Hfz, and you might like to take a look at this interesting site I found. (You can sign in to that site with Facebook you'll get even more of the scoop!)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Jack Kirby Collages

Every once in a while, the great Jack Kirby would grace one of his comics pages with a handmade collage of his own design. They didn't print all that well because of the technology available at the time, but I have come to appreciate them greatly in retrospect. I have bid on two of the originals that showed up on ebay the last couple of years and I came thisclose to winning one of them. (Here is a look at one of the collage originals that I found over on

Mark Evanier has brought to my attention a dissertation by Steven Brower that extensively examines the wonder of the Kirby collages. You can enjoy that treatise over here.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Green Lantern and Hamburgers

If you hurry over to McDonald's you can get a Green Lantern toy in your Happy Meal. A site called The Blog of Oa shows each of the toys individually and here is a video that shows you how to play with the illuminated Green Lantern figure. But wait! Did I see a sign indicating that Green Lantern toys are simultaneously available at Burger King?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Two Last Cents About C2E2 2012

I've been writing about last weekend's C2E2 comic convention and I realize that many of you have no idea what I'm talking about; I have no doubt that many of you are convinced I'm delusional
and are relieved that the wall of cyberspace is safely distancing you from a raving hayfamlunatic. I admit to being fond of the moon, but I'm no lunatic. Let's back up a bit.

In just its third year, C2E2 is a well respected regional convention. It has not yet attained the destination status of, let's say, a San Diego Comicon, but it's growing and getting stronger every year. Attendance records have not yet been released for last weekend, but there were 27000 attendees two years ago and 34000 last year. An estimate of 40000 for this year has been uttered. Those are hefty crowds!

The dates for C2E2  2013 have been announced and, if you'll be making it a destination, I have some advice for you. Arrive early and park in Lot A before it fills up. On two days of this year's convention I arrived a little later in the day than I might have liked and was relegated to parking in Lot B. I guess it's better than being waterboarded, but parking in B is far from a day at the beach. It's also far from the site of the convention. I had to walk about 1 mile to get to convention central, most of it through the wheezing underbelly of the massive McCormick Place convention center. As I trudged that desolate mile I couldn't help but think of Jack Kirby's Armagetto on Apokolips; I took a picture so I could show you the frightening trail. (And I have two words of advice for the C2E2 organizers: Shuttle Bus.)

One things you can't help but see at C2E2 are all the fans that attend wearing costumes; I'll direct you over here if you'd like to examine those. (The dress-up has never seemed so prevalent to me at WizardWorld, Chicago's other big annual convention.) I did snap a photo of a very young Batman flexing and patrolling the convention grounds and you saw it up at the top of this page (don't worry! The boy's dad gave me permission to publish the picture).

By the way, I asked a question of the panelists during one of this year's convention panels. I've written previously about the excellent DC Nation cartoon block on Saturday mornings, and one of the "shorts" that aired on that  Cartoon Network show the weekend of the convention was entitled Green Care Bear. It featured Hal Jordan becoming a Green Care Bear instead of a Green Lantern and the writers totally rewrote his oath and it was funny and excellent in every way. At Sunday's DC Kids Panel I asked: if something clever like Green Care Bears is created for a DC cartoon episode, could that concept then be included by the writers in a DC comic book? The answer from editor  Ian Sattler was: it depends. (You can enjoy Green Care Bear for yourself over here; I am startled to learn that it was not a new production for DC Nation but had appeared previously on Mad TV!)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I Shook Hands with Joe Kubert

 Joe Kubert has been drawing comics for 65 years! I have been a fan of his powerful artwork my entire life and I look forward to every new project that is fortunate enough to benefit from his involvement. I can hardly wait to see his Joe Kubert Presents series coming from DC later this year!

Last weekend's C2E2 convention had a 90-minute panel devoted to The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art. While a graduate of the School described the school's curriculum, Mr. Kubert was on the stage drawing a poster of Nite Owl from Watchmen. The original drawing was to be raffled off the following day with the proceeds going to charity. (I bought a raffle ticket but did not win the artwork.)

Let me show you the two gentlemen on the dais before the drawing began and also a projected view of the drawing as it was being created. Mr. Kubert used a brush marker to draw the poster, so he seems to be partial that instrument just like Sarah Becan and I am. (By the way, I drew the Hayfamzone Ashcan 2012 comic with a brush marker.)

After the panel ended I went up to the front to meet Mr. Kubert. I waited in line and when my turn came I asked the gentleman if he please would hold up his drawing for a photo, and I share that snapshot with you up at the top of this page. I told Mr. Kubert how I had considered applying to his School the year it opened and how Jenette Kahn at the 1977 Chicago Comicon had heaped praise on Mr. Kubert's artwork when she said that every brick he drew was charged with emotion. (I have previously shared those tidbits here on the blog but it was a wonderful feeling to get to relate them to Mr. Kubert himself.) I also mentioned how I had been a charter subscriber of his Sojourn Magazine that was produced as a benefit for his School back in the late 1970s.

Here is a life-affirming photo that the superb artist (and Kubert School graduate) Amanda Conner tweeted of her posing at C2E2 with her former teacher.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012 Springs to Life!

That's Jeanette in the photo above clarifying for you that Springs to Life! was at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, 15 April 2012. The Hayfamzone Panel at C2E2 has entered the annals of history! The panel that preceded me in the room (spotlighting the actor who portrayed Mr. McFeely on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood) ran a couple of minutes overtime but then they did clear out so I could get my computer set up for the festivities. Some technical difficulties were overcome and the presentation was off and running!

I started the Panel by saying that it was dedicated to Jack Kirby, just as the entire Hayfamzone Blog is. Then I projected onto the wall-sized screen Jeanette's animations of the cover to Big All-American #1 and to my Jack Kirby Jimmy Olsen splash page. Of course you'll want to look back here and here to catch another glimpse of those hayfamzone classics.

There was a Hayfamzone Trivia Contest to reward the faithful hayfamzonders who have combed over every paragraph I have ever written. The handsome prizes were Randy Bowen cold-cast porcelain busts of Baron Zemo and the Beast and Iceman from the X-Men; one of the statues was won by the C2E2 staff member assigned to our room, and that goes to show that everybody was involved with the fun!

I also had an easel set up with a huge pad of bristol board pages. To the music of Sabre Dance I did a fast drawing of Batman (as requested by an audience member), and it (intentionally) came out looking like Salvador Dali had visited Gotham City. Then to a much-slower-paced dual-tuba recording of Baby Elephant Walk I drew a more detailed Batman that two of my students in the audience were very pleased to get to take home with them. I also drew a Spider-Man to the tune of The Syncopated Clock, but I didn't get a picture of that one before it got away.

To put the icing on the cake of the Panel, I wrapped it all up by handing everybody in attendance a signed and numbered limited edition (only 100!) of The Hayfamzone Ashcan 2012! (I have an extra few of those 12-page minicomics and I'm thinking about offering one or two for bid over on ebay.) Springs to Life! was a blast and everybody who attended had a great time!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Countdown is Over!

My C2E2 panel presentation Springs to Life! will be today at 4:00 pm in Room N426b!

The Macintosh to VGA adapter that Best Buy sold me yesterday does not fit into my computer. I decided to try it out ahead of time right after the Neal Adams Panel wrapped up today, but it does not fit!  Is Springs to Life! over before it begins? Stay tuned! See you at 4:00 pm (with good news I hope!).

The crisis was averted and the Panel took place at its scheduled time. Much fun was had by me and by all who attended! There are many specifics I want to tell you about the proceedings so please keep watching for future articles.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

At the Watchmen Panel

A lady dropped a golden jacket as she walked up toward the stage after today's C2E2 Watchmen Panel concluded. She didn't notice she had dropped it and nobody around was focusing on it either so I scooped it up and hurried to catch up to her. I got her attention and asked if she had dropped her coat.

She said it was her husband's and, as she looked up to thank me, time seemed to freeze as I recognized the lady as Christine Valada. I asked if Len Wein was her husband. A bit startled, she said yes. I said Nice job on Jeopardy! and the world started turning again.

The Mr. Silver Age Trivia Panel

I attended the Mr. Silver Age Trivia Contest panel at the first day of C2E2 yesterday. Triviamaster and Comics Buyer's Guide columnist Craig Shutt began his annual get-together long ago at Chicago's WizardWorld convention and then switched it over at the first C2E2 convention two years ago. (A couple of years ago a fan participant was needed from the audience to join the group on stage and I almost answered the question correctly; yes, I said almost.)

The format is a game show in which the Triviamaster asks questions of the Fan Team (consisting of four knowledgeable comics fans) and the Pro Team (consisting of Mark Waid). I think I remember that in the earliest years there used to be four players on the Pro Team, but that was quickly proven to be unnecessary. (One time Mark Waid was not in attendance at the convention and he participated from afar via a cell phone propped up in the chair of the Pro Team, or did I dream this?)

As the curtain was raised yesterday, Mr. Waid got the ball rolling by inviting audience members on the far side of the room to hold up any Silver Age comics they had with them and he would identify the issue number. He did quite well at this challenge other than (surprisingly) having a bit of weakness when it came to Hawkman issues.

Both Teams found this year's slate of questions to be more difficult than those of past years. Some samples: How many people were on the cover of Fantastic Four #1? (The answer is 9) and How many faces are on the cover of Avengers #4? (The answer is 11). Mark Waid commented a few times that this was the lowest scoring Contest ever and, when he would occasionally give a wrong answer the Fan Team ribbed him by saying That's what happens when you sell all your comics! (For a reminder of what that reference is all about, please take another look at this hayfamzone article.)

It was a fun panel, as always. If you haven't yet but you'd like to experience the Mr. Silver Age Trivia Contest, here is a youtube video of the first ten minutes of the 2006 Contest.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

I Spoke with Mitchell Mehdy

To comic collectors of a certain age the name Mitchell Mehdy might seem faintly familiar.

In 1973 Mitch Mehdy paid a then-unheard of $1800 for a copy of Action Comics #1 and, in so doing, he changed the face of comic book collecting forever after. Newspaper articles about his purchase abounded nationwide and he even made an appearance on The Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder. I didn't see that show myself but I do seem to recall that it was the talk of the schoolyard the next day.

I had a chat on the phone with Mr. Mehdy this week. I plan to have a longer conversation with the gentleman in the future, but this week I was calling to see whether he had a tape of his Tomorrow Show appearance. I was hoping to give that footage its first public viewing in forty years at my C2E2 panel this weekend! (When I told this to Mitch he was unfamiliar with C2E2 but he said I should host a panel in San Diego. I mentioned to him that that summer convention is already sold out and Mitch said that if I host a panel they have to let me in. As you can tell, Mitchell Mehdy believes in getting right down to business!)

It turns out that Mitch does not have a copy of his NBC television appearance but he wishes he did so he could show it to his family. If you know the whereabouts of a copy of that Tomorrow Show segment would you please let me know? Mitchell Mehdy and I would both like to see it!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Hayfamzone Filing System

Back when I was VERY actively collecting comics in the 1970s and 1980s, I organized my acquisitions on index cards. There was a separate index card for 100 consecutive issues every title I collected. Of course you want to avoid buying a duplicate of something you already own, and the index cards were very useful in this regard. I had about 50 index cards that lived comfortably together inside one baggie.

Those cards have been missing for years.

Above I exhibit for your interest the one index card that I did not lose touch with. I combined all of the various Romance titles on one card since I never intended to get a full run of any of those series (but I still wanted to avoid duplication).

The Romance card is misleading because of its fairly jumbled nature. When I eventually do find the rest of my comic cards (and why wouldn't I?), I'll show you one so you can see that I had a pretty nice system.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

My New Darkseid

This Darkseid painting is by artist Ryan O'Reilly of Canada, and you can contact him (Ryan, not Darkseid) on ebay where he (again, Ryan) is known as ryanovision. I have an entire gallery room on devoted to Jack Kirby characters as drawn by other artists and one day I'll give you a tour of that room but right now I'm very, very busy getting ready for C2E2!

Monday, April 09, 2012

Jack Kirby's Son

Jack Kirby is my favorite comic book writer and artist of all time. Neal Kirby was interviewed by The Los Angeles Times regarding what it was like to grow up as the son of Jack Kirby. It's a wonderful article and is accompanied by a slideshow of photos that includes a few that are new to me.

Sweaters by Hanie Mohd

I like this artwork very much and have been anxious to share it. Hanie Mohd has designed fall weather fashions for a number of DC Comics heroines (and villainesses also, since that is Harley Quinn in the sample above). You can see the entire beautiful series of designs over here.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Batman in Maryland

Yes, Batman was in Maryland. But I'm sorry to say he was pulled over by the police.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Man Smuggling Birds

This is one of my favorite photographs of all time, of a man who was caught at the airport smuggling birds that he had attached to his socks. Here's the whole story.

So what does this have to do with comics? Well, nothing, except that I find this man's plot equal in preposterousness to the plots of some of the weaker comic books I have read.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Todd Klein and Tom Orzechowski are On Board the Hayfamzone Train

Yes, that's an Ames Lettering Guide pictured above. (I bought a new one at the art store last week rather than to try and find the one I used back in the 1980s.)

Last year when I was trying to figure out the identity of the letterer of the early issues of Jimmy Olsen, I contacted Todd Klein and Tom Orzechowski. The two of them are not only top-tier letterers themselves but I also consider them both to be knowledgeable historians of the artform of comics lettering. They did not know the answer to my Jimmy Olsen question, but they wished me well in my pursuit of the answer.

I did get to the bottom of that mystery last fall, as you can remind yourself by looking back here and here. It took me until last week, though, to report back to Todd and Tom in order to enrich them with the answer to the mystery I had taunted them with. Each of them wrote a very nice reply and I'd like to share those missives with you (because that's the way we roll in the hayfamzone).

Todd (who of course was the letterer of Neil Gaiman's Sandman and so many other DC and Vertigo series) got right to the point:
Great post, Brian, you've added to my own knowledge. Thanks!
Tom (who lettered The X-Men for decades as well as so many other Marvel series) wrote to say:
You have absolutely gone above and beyond. It's great to be able to bring Laura's identity to light after all this time. She brought a fine and understated clarity to all those Weisinger & Schiff books.
About a decade ago I handled a squarebound comic for Joey Cavalieri called World's Funnest Comics. It was written by Evan Dorkin, and followed Bat-Mite and Mxy through all the eras and properties of the DCU. It was drawn by someone else every third page or so, each evoking those different times and places. It was my job to match all the lettering styles, from Sam Rosen on the Quality books to Gaspar on Julie Schwartz' and so on. The splash, by Dave Gibbons, matched Dick Sprang's approach to a 1961 World's Finest page. I have plenty of Superman family books from that time, but this was the first time I had to do practice runs on that precise and attractive approach she had. I hope I did her justice!
My best,
I extend my thanks to both chaps for all their years of beautiful lettering and for being such nice guys to boot. You can see what Todd is up to over at and you can visit Tom at (LATE-BREAKING UPDATE: Todd has written a very nice article about The Hayfamzone Blog's reporting and you can read it over here.)

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

I Went to Aw Yeah Comics

Last week Aw Yeah Comics in Skokie, Illinois opened for business. I went for a visit on their second day so I could give you the lowdown on the what's up.

Let's be clear that this is a "soft opening" in that not everything in the store is finalized. The characters being painted on the wall and the shelving for the merchandise and, well, everything on the premises is a work in progress.But hey, once you start paying rent you might as well open the doors. The Grand Opening will be on Free Comic Book Day, 5 May 2012, and that's when the chimes will ring with perfect pitch.

The gent in the picture above is Action Cat, I mean Marc Hammond. (Action Cat on the wall, as painted by Art Baltazar, was not quite finished on the day of my visit but probably is by now. Adventure Bug is on the opposite wall.) Marc is the manager of the store, and he and Art and Franco are equal partners in the business (but wait, Marc thinks one of them actually has 34% while the other two have 33%). Marc was very pleased to report to me that the very first customer in the store was a young lady, and later that first day a family came through the doors.

The drawing table that Marc is standing next to will be a permanent fixture in the store, and any professional artist that stops by will be invited to take a load off and draw at it for a while. There will also be comfy chairs for kids to sit around and read comics in and, starting in May, the store will host Sunday brunches every week featuring doughnuts or bagels or some other treat in an attempt to encourage folks to hang out and talk about comics with each other. Isn't that fun!?

Here is an article from The Skokie Review that tells even more, and the Aw Yeah Comics Facebook Page makes new announcements about upcoming events at the store on just about a daily basis. Good luck to all three guys in their fun venture!

Comics and Money

I've come across two newspaper articles that both have to do with comics and money, but in very different ways.

First, VISA has contracted Marvel Comics to produce a custom 16-page Avengers comic designed to teach students about financial litetracy. VISA is distributing 150,000 free copies of the comic worldwide. Here is the article that gives more details, including the address from which to request copies for your class if you are a teacher.

Second, the original check that DC Comics wrote to buy the rights to Superman in 1938 is currently being auctioned off. Writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster were paid the kingly sum of $130 for their creation, and the current bid for this historical document is a little over $40,000. Here is an article with more details, including a detailed video and also (while it lasts) a link to the auction itself.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Hayfamzone Marks 10 Years on ebay Today

It was ten years ago today that the hayfamzone set up shop on ebay. This is not an April Fool's Day joke! Since that fateful day in 2002 I have sold 100 pages of original artwork and over 1000 comic books to some very nice collectors all over the world.

To celebrate this anniversary, here's what I'll do. Anyone who places a bid on one of my current auctions today and goes on to win that auction will receive a bonus comic book in addition to the one they won, an unusual comic book that probably is not already in their collection. (By "today" I mean at any time on 1 April 2012 as measured by ebay's time counter.) Here is a link to my current auctions. Good luck!

You might be wondering then if this all means that the word "hayfamzone" is likewise ten years old today, but the answer is NO! You can't drag it out of me just yet though; the Secret Origin of the Hayfamzone will be revealed in the near future, but not today.

Here is a fun poster designed for me by longtime hayfamzonder Mark Plastrik:

It began as a blog . . . AND NOW IT'S OUT OF CONTROL!!!
Who is it?