Thursday, May 31, 2012

Don't Eat Batman's Cake

The above image was drawn for Kurt Busiek's blog by Joe Quinones (who drew Busiek's Green Lantern story so well for DC's Wednesday Comics a couple of years back). But you're probably wondering why Batman is eating his cake so protectively. I'll get to that.

Last week I mentioned to one of my fellow teachers (who is a fan of comics himself) that the current Cartoon Network DC Nation Green Lantern series is so very, very good. His response was, But why did they make a Green Lantern cartoon anyway? Why not just make a Batman or a Superman?

The answer, of course, is that there will always be another Batman or Superman cartoon. Why not try something different in the meantime! Thirty-three flavors, not just two! This new GL series mines the Green Lantern Corps mythos wonderfully, leading to stories that could not and would not be told with Batman or Superman.

Writer Noah Berlatsky has addressed a related issue on his blog.Somebody asked why Bruce Wayne has never been given a Green Lantern ring and the great answer to that question is that everybody wants Green Lantern stories and Batman stories, not just Green BatLantern stories. Noah quotes Kurt Busiek as follows:
It’s fun to have Batman stories, and it’s fun to have Superman stories, but it’s fun to have Justice League stories, too. It’s not really any more complicated than that. It’s entertaining.

The stories are the cake, and the shared-universe stuff is frosting. Things tend to go horribly wrong when people start to think the frosting is more important than the cake, and then get better when they remember that it’s about the cake after all.
So don't eat Batman's cake; it's his. And don't offer him a ring either. Let him be Batman!

You can visit Kurt Busiek's blog over here.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Yes, I Said Popeye

My favorite comic book of the last two months was Popeye #1 from IDW.

Why? Because it's a great comic book with a complete story. No, this is not a company-wide Court of Goons crossover issue. There aren't any even double-page splashes to add to the "drama." But there is a clever and entertaining story by Roger Langridge and great artwork by Bruce Ozella, both of whom are perfect for this series. Plus, the comic is printed on real paper, not that shiny stuff that DC and Marvel think readers prefer.

Now brace yourself because I'm going to interrogate you. Did you buy this comic? Did you know that it was going to be published? Did you shrug it off without a thought feeling that it was published for the 'little ones?' If you answered Yes and Yes and No then you may step down from the stand. Otherwise, keep reading. (Your honor, permission to treat the witness as hostile.)

It's our responsibility as comic book fans and readers to always be on the lookout for anything new and wonderful. I try to do my part by passing on the word about great comic books like Popeye or Mudman. Don't lock yourself into a box or wear blinders.

There are plenty of great comic being published today. You just have to look!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

In Support of Vince Colletta

Vince Colletta has never been my favorite comic book artist. But still.

Back here I showed you an "Unwrapping Video" for the hardcover reprint of Jack Kirby's Spirit World that was recently published. The video helped me understand exactly how to take the wrapper off the book and the edition is a wonderful collection of Kirby story and art.

Some of the art in the book is inked by Mike Royer but the majority is inked by Vince Colletta. I don't mind telling you that Royer is my favorite of all the many Kirby inkers through the decades, but Colletta's inks in this volume are thoroughly professional. And Colletta on Kirby's Thor gave that comic a look all its own for many years. Erik Larsen wrote the following in 2008:
Colletta would soften Kirby's often-mannish woman and he would add texture to figures and backgrounds that worked especially well on “Thor.” There was a period where it seemed to click and the work, as printed, looked amazing -- and his inks were ideally suited to the book -- it worked. As much as I liked Joe Sinnott's incredible inks on the “Fantastic Four,” I think that line on “Thor” would have been too slick. Colletta's inks gave it an almost etching-like quality, which suited it perfectly.
So what's my beef, you're wondering? On a closing page of the Spirit World volume, biographies appear of Jack Kirby and Mike Royer. But not one single syllable about Vince Colletta. DC Comics had seen fit to hire Colletta as their Art Director in the mid-1970s but now they can't bring themselves to write a short entry about him for inclusion in this book? It's just not right.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Man Who Laughs

This is not a photo of Cesar Romero or Jack Nicholson or Heath Ledger. It is Conrad Veidt as he appeared in The Man Who Laughs.

I first heard many decades ago about how the appearance of Batman's nemesis The Joker could be traced back to that film.  I never felt any particular yearning to see the movie for myself but, well, here I am with a Netflix subscription and (chuckle) all this copious free time...

I was shocked at the weirdness and depravity of the 1928 film. Gypsy doctors performing surgical procedures on children to disfigure their faces into permanent smiles? Yikes!

Unfortunately the movie drags on far too long, zooming right past at least three spots that would have served perfectly well as the ending. You can watch the entire movie on YouTube (now you tell me!) where it is split into eleven separate segments each running about ten minutes. The first segment is the best one (interestingly, it has been viewed seven times as often as some of the later segments) and you can sample it yourself over here.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Worst Comic Book Ever?


Published in today's Wall Street Journal, here is possibly the most negative article I have ever read about comic books. I was writhing as I read it. Thinly veiled as a book review, the article does its best to indict the mass market comics of today and those who produce them.

Author Tim Marchman does make some good points in his scorching piece but I would be curious to know what fuels his anger that freely drips from every paragraph. Isn't he a baseball columnist?

Every comic book fan should read this article for himself or herself.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Four Decades of Appreciation for Jordi Bernet

I was immediately entranced by the artwork of Jordi Bernet when I first saw one of his Torpedo 1936 volumes in the 1980s. In my first incarnation as a comics commentator (for Alan Light's Comics Buyer's Guide) I drew the above (ahem) commentoonie to do my part in spreading the word about Bernet's Torpedo character. (A larger, readable, version of the drawing is available for viewing over here.)

I was pleased as punch when Bernet drew his first issue of Jonah Hex and I wrote about the event in late 2006, in the infancy of The Hayfamzone Blog. (Of course Bernet has drew many more issues of Hex in subsequent years and I was always glad to see one rolling into the comic book store.)

I mailed a hard copy of my article to Jonah Hex co-writer Jimmy Palmiotti in care of publisher DC Comics, just because I wanted to share the love. But you'll never guess what happened next! The letter was returned to me, unopened, RETURN TO SENDER written in black marker on the envelope. Thanks a heap, DC Comics!

Without identifying at the time what I had sent or to whom, I wrote about An Experiment in the Hayfamzone, Part One in early 2007. You can read at the end of that article that I intended to try re-sending my letter (to Mr. Palmiotti) and see if I would have better luck breaking the barrier.

Sometimes it takes five years but, yes, we do follow up on things in the hayfamzone! I now follow Jimmy P on twitter and I will direct-send him a link to this article you are now reading and I'm fairly certain he will finally get to read what I had meant for him to read so long ago. Hooray! The subtitle of this article that you are presently reading is An Experiment in the Hayfamzone, Part Two. Case closed!

I invite you to read more about Mr. Bernet over on Wikipedia, and let's close off with a drawing by Mr. B of his own character.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sheldon Mayer GLX SPTZL GLAAH!

 Sheldon Mayer was a genius of comics! How much I enjoyed reading his Scribbly when I was a teenager and what immense satisfaction coursed through my veins when I completed my Sugar and Spike collection in the 1980s.

Many collectors feel just as strongly about Mr. Mayer, and Jay Zilber and Ken Gale in 1977 boldly published GLX SPTZL GLAAH #1 as a love letter to a fabulous artist and writer.  I am selling my copy of this fanzine over on ebay this week so I want to document the great publication before it leaves my fingertips forever.

An article about Sugar and Spike is written by Mark Evanier and, more surprisingly, the cover featuring that lovable duo is drawn by Mr. Evanier! Curious, I investigated and found out that Mr. E has a hefty handful of drawing credits to his name. I had been guessing that the cover lettering was by Milt Snappin but Mark E has just written and told me that the cover was his own handiwork from top to bottom. (And at the time of the article he was eighteen issues short of a complete Sugar and Spike collection, but Mark's email indicates that he now has the full run of all 98 issues.)

An article about Scribbly is written by Ron Goulart and one on Black Orchid is written by Rich Morrissey, plus some spot illustrations are drawn by then-letterhack and now-author-of-comics-and-novels Bob Rodi.

Probably it's on the tip of your tongue to ask if I ever drew any Sugar and Spike images. (Don't be shy; we're all friends here in the hayfamzone.) The answer is yes! Twice, both times for my "column" in Alan Light's Buyer's Guide for Comic Fandom. My first take (from 1982) shows both tykes (especially Spike) drawn way off-model, but below you can see my 1984 return engagement with Spike.

I will write far more in the future about Mr. Sheldon Mayer, but today was Glx Sptzl Glaah's day in the spotlight.

(P.S. Do you want to read more about Jay Zilber? Look over here to see my previous article in which I told you how his character Ear-Fall-Off Floyd managed to make an appearance in a Legion comic.)

Darkness and Light at the Gallery

A little bird has tweeted to me that a Gallery Exhibition entitled Darkness and Light: Art Inspired by Heroes & Villains, Hope & Heroism had its opening in California this week. It will travel to other cities later this year but a schedule has not yet been announced. For now, you can read about the Exhibit and see more of its 100 original paintings over at this link.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Good Advice

I have never affixed a bumper sticker to any car that I ever owned and I never will. But I saw one on a car when I was driving this morning and it impacted me sufficiently that I want to transcend comic-talk to share that sticker with you.

It's in my nature to rank-order things into a list. I could tell you what my favorite restaurant in the world is or my favorite song of all time. In a past post I have already shared with you what my favorite music video of all time is. I never before gave a second's thought to rank-ordering any bumper stickers, but I can tell you without a doubt that the one I'm showing above is my favorite bumper sticker in existence.

What better place to put that one-word hopeful command than on the bumper of your car where everyone you pass on the road will see it. Good advice, that's what I call that single word. And, since we're already off-topic (in for a penny, in for a pound, as we always say here in the hayfamzone), we might as well ride our bumper-stickered chariot into the sunset with this song.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Lynda Barry (Chicago Conference, Part 3)

"Everybody loves a smoking monkey!" That was Lynda Barry's answer to a question last weekend as to why she often draws herself as a monkey. I've chosen a non-simian L.B. self-portrait to share with you above but I encourage you to look at her many self-representations over here.

I found Ms. Barry to be the rollicking highlight of the already-excellent Comics Philosophy and Practice conference at the University of Chicago. I tweeted "If I were a network television executive I would on the spot offer a show to Lynda Barry" during one of her panels.

An excellent article about the conference appeared in The Chicago Tribune and you can read it over here. Some great news for anyone who missed this comics event is that all three days of the Live Webcast of the conference will be posted on the University of Chicago website! I will let you know when those videos are ready for viewing.

(Other hayfamzone articles on this Conference can be found here and here and here.)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

R. Crumb (Chicago Conference, Part 2)

The Comics Philosophy and Practice conference at the University of Chicago moves into its second day today. Charles Burns, Daniel Clowes, Chris Ware, and Seth will be on a panel entitled Graphic Novel Forms Today at 2:30 p.m. CST, and I am especially looking forward to the appearance of Robert Crumb at 4:15 p.m. (The movie Crumb was wonderful but I have never seen the gentleman in person.) The schedule for the entire conference can be viewed here.

As was true yesterday, all of the presentations and panel discussions will stream live on the internet! The conference organizers are tweeting that some seats in the auditorium have become available because of NATO-related cancellations, but I will probably watch it from home in my pajamas rather than take the chance of being turned away. Here is the link to the Live Webcast (which did stream very smoothly yesterday).

During the Webcast they display a live twitterfeed side-by-side with the frame showing the main event, and yours truly was right there shooting out the tweets (one of which sufficiently touched a nerve that a fellow tweeter responded to it). Of course I invite you to Follow me over on twitter!

(Other hayfamzone articles on this Conference can be found here and here and here.)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Art Spiegelman (Chicago Conference, Part 1)

It's a beautiful day in Chicago, and so very many things are occurring across the city. There is a NATO gathering on the south side, the Cubs are battling the White Sox at Wrigley Field on the north side, and the first day of a weekend conference about comics is convening on the campus of the University of Chicago.

The conference is entitled Comics Philosophy and Practice, and I have a feeling that many of you have not heard advance word of it. But I have an additional feeling that you have heard of many or most of the speakers at this conference. Scheduled to be in attendance are Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Daniel Clowes, Chris Ware, Charles Burns, Lynda Barry, Justin Green, Seth, and nine other great cartoonists. As you can tell by those names, this is a comic book convention of a different stripe.

I had planned on heading over to the conference so I could report to you about it, so I was upset yesterday to read on the conference website that registration is closed. They are full to capacity and nobody else will be admitted. But wait! I read further and was delighted to learn that all of the presentations and panel discussions will stream live on the internet! This is great news for you no matter where in the world you are.

Art Spiegelman will get the ball rolling tonight at 6:15 p.m. Please keep in mind when you look over here at the Comics Philosophy and Practice website that all times listed in the schedule are in Central Standard Time. That same link is your gateway to the Live Webcast of the conference. I am anxious for the festivities to begin!

(Other hayfamzone articles on this Conference can be found here and here and here.)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Rob Imes' Comic Filing System

Last month I gave you a glimpse into the high-tech manner in which I catalogued my comic collection back in the 1970s. Just kidding about the high-tech bit! The fact is that tech doesn't get much lower than listing things on index cards, but it worked pretty well for me so please don't think that I'm complaining. I wouldn't get my first computer until a decade after I wrote those comic cards.

How about you youngsters who were raised with computers, though?

Recently I happened to see a little article posted by Rob Imes in which he exhibited the catalog of his comic collection. The list struck me as a thing of beauty and I asked him if I could share it. Yes was the answer, and you can view Rob's list over here (it is a PDF file that your computer will open for you).

(Rob Imes, by the way, is the editor and publisher of the fine fanzine entitled Ditkomania, about which you can read more back here and here.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Put Your Rage into a Cartoon

Again with The New York Times. They had an article last week about how you can channel and defuse your anger into a cartoon that you draw. They say that the process of drawing gives you a catharsis  and then you'll be happy again.

Well, okay.

It seems like a funny angle to take, though. Why not draw a cartoon when you're happy about something and thereby multiply your happiness? Drawing is a wonderful exercise no matter what mood you're in. And you don't need to be Alex Ross or Lou Fine to put your thoughts to the drawing pad; anybody can draw a lopsided circle and put two dots for eyes and take it from there.

The article is over here.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Superman is to Batman as ...

The drawing above is by Tom Tomorrow and appeared in the Sunday New York Times. Now let's see if I have its analogy straight.

Superman is to Batman as 
fish is to bird as 
ketchup is to mustard as 
yes is to no as 
hammer is to screwdriver as 
Don't Walk is to Walk as 
apple is to orange.

I think that just about says it all.

(But, in case you think more could be said, you can read the article that accompanied the drawing. It's right over here.)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Stan Lee (and Jack Kirby)

I just saw a nice article about the life and current activities of Stan Lee and it's good enough to share. There are also a few paragraphs about Jack Kirby and you can read the writeup for yourself over here.

By the way, I am a proud owner of Randy Bowen's Jack Kirby and Stan Lee busts. I've been wondering (as have some other gents in various locations across the internet) whether there were ever any other statues produced in that Creator Busts series. My guess is a resounding "no" but I have just directed a query to Bowen Designs and I'll be sure to let you know if I'm wrong.

UPDATE on 5/14/2012
Heather at Bowen Designs writes the following:
Hi Brian,
 Thanks for your interest. The Kirby and Lee busts are the only creators that have been featured so far. If something develops in the future, we will post the information on our website.
Bowen Designs

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Unwrapping Jack Kirby's Spirit World

Have you stumbled across the relatively new phenomenon of the "unboxing video?" YouTube currently has about 450,000 of them posted! Somebody videos himself opening a box containing a new computer or a new cell phone, and then the video is put up on YouTube to show future purchasers of the item what they can expect.

Now it seems that this concept is extending to the unwrapping of new books. A nice reprint of Jack Kirby's wonderful 1971 Spirit World was recently published by DC Comics, and I know exactly what I will be dealing with when I get my copy because of the "unwrapping video" that you too can watch right over here.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

A Stranger on Free Comic Book Day

Free Comic Book Day is a great idea! The above photo is from the FCBD website; I visit that page every year so I know ahead of time what titles will be available before I set foot in the comic store.

This year I went to Rick's One Stop Comics in Chicago. I was impressed how Rick had cleared off the racks where he usually displays the new comics of the week so the FCBD comics could roost in that kingly location. (I've been visiting Rick's various locations since 1988 when his store was the only spot where I could find Fantagraphics' Prime Cuts.)

One of the free comics I partook of was the DC Comics New 52 Special Edition. Quite a mouthful! I wish the comic could have been all story pages and no house ads, but writer Geoff Johns was in fine form. At long last the Phantom Stranger gets a sort-of origin story. (I suppose some youngsters don't realize that the Stranger had a 1970s series with wonderful Jim Aparo artwork, and maybe even some oldsters don't know that the same Stranger had a 1950s series with just-as-wonderful Carmine Infantino artwork.) I am grateful to Rich Johnston of Bleeding Cool for pointing out a significant detail that had escaped me in the new story; how characteristic of Geoff Johns to retrofit this detail into an aspect of the Stranger's garb to which nobody had ever previously assigned any significance!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

I Gnawed on the Bait

Do you know the cartoon sound effect of a dog chomping down on something? I think it's funny every time I hear it! You can listen to it yourself by clicking on the button over here.

Well, that's the sound of me chomping on the bait that a treacherous trickster left out for me!

In the previous post I wrote about how there was a person named "Mando Baxter" living in Phoenix. Ha ha ha. If only I had gone to that "person's" Facebook page instead of just reading the summary on the Search Results page. Because then I would have seen in the photo field an image of Reid Fleming. And I would have known that it was a put-on. That there really is nobody named "Mando Baxter."

The oldsters among you will remember that Reid Fleming, World's Toughest Milkman, was a highlight of the independent comics world of the 1980s and into the 1990s. Yes, it was a comedy, and Reid Fleming was a psychotic who would start fighting with anybody at the drop of a hat. If different comic book characters could be acquainted with each other, I think Reid Fleming and The Flaming Carrot would be the best of friends.

You got me good, "Mando Baxter." But still, I'll do you a favor. Go ahead and update the image on your Facebook page with the below photo of Reid Fleming that I found.

Unbowed by this turn of events, I went back to Ye Olde Searche Engine and you'll never guess what I found. In Florida there is a lady named Mandy Baxter Hudson!