Tagged: Captain Action

Ed Catto: Live and Let Love the One You’re With

Last week, the front page of The New York Times mourned the death of Roger Moore. Shockingly, they ran a photo from Live and Let Die showing the actor, as James Bond, in bed with Jane Seymour, right there on the front page.

How fitting. But there’s a catch. While I’m a big James Bond fan, amongst 007 fans, Sean Connery is always revered at the “real” face of Bond. I get that. And if fact, when I read James Bond prose adventures I generally conjure up Connery’s face and voice as I visualize the scenes.

On the other hand… there was a 70s sentiment that admonished us all to love the one we’re with. And growing up, Roger Moore was the Bond I was with.

I clearly remember the day when my parents were debating the merits of taking my brother, Colin, and me to see a movie. Now, my family reads a lot, so it was natural my parents read the James Bond novels. And Mom and Da, like much of America, had enjoyed the Sean Connery movies. So they knew the deal about James Bond movies. But my mom also read, and loved, Charlotte’s Web. The animated version was playing locally. But also in the local theaters was Roger Moore’s first outing as James Bond in Live and Let Die.

We were little boys at this time. My mom suggested that we all have a sweet, charming night out and enjoy the Charlotte’s Web movie. My dad, usually an easy going guy, roared, “I’m not going to take these boys to see some movie about a pig!” We went to see Roger Moore in Live and Let Die and our lives were changed forever.

Do you remember how this one starts out? Instead of being summoned into M’s stuffy office, there’s an urgent need for Britain’s top agent. It’s so urgent that the head of the British Secret Service and his secretary, unable to reach James Bond, travel to Bond’s apartment to fetch him for the mission.

And I do recall there’s also some exposition about Italy’s diplomats being upset because one of their top agents is missing, or “off the grid” as we’d say today, after completing her last secret mission.

Well… in a scene that would make any modern HR manager cringe, M, the head of the Secret Service, and Miss Moneypenny, his secretary, arrive and knock on the door of Bond’s flat.

There’s a quick scene where a groggy James Bond, played by Roger Moore for the first time, checks his watch. But it was a digital watch, and those were bleeding edge cool at the time. My brother and I were had never seen one before and were captivated by it. And then we realized that the missing Italian agent was naked in James Bond’s bed! Wow! My brother and I had never seen that before and were even more captivated by that!

I think this introduction, doubtlessly duplicated by millions of boys across the world, helped a generation embrace Roger Moore as their James Bond.
Sean Connery was great – but wasn’t he the guy who complains about the Beatles? Kind of like my grandfather?

No, Roger Moore was our guy.

A Dashing Rogue in a Pre-Bond Phase

The Saint, often called the Modern Robin Hood of Crime, was a globe-trotting adventurer created by Leslie Charteris. The character appeared in way too many books and short stories. Although largely ignored today, the Saint enjoyed very healthy cross-media exposure in radio, comics, serials, movies and television. To many, the first actor to portray the Saint on television, Roger Moore is regarded as the best. Moore brought a dashing sense of unflappable whimsy to the role, romancing beautiful women in gorgeous cities around the globe, while inevitably being drawn into some mystery or crime by a dastardly foe.

I discovered Roger Moore as the Saint after I discovered Moore as 007, although he played the character before becoming James Bond. It all seemed like a Junior Varsity warm-up to the James Bond series.  It was all there – the car, the bravado, the globetrotting, the casual affairs. But, there was no ignoring it was Bond-Lite compared the cinematic James Bond,

I lived in upstate New York, and watched one of the New York City stations, WNEW, that used to run episodes of The Saint after their “Late Movie.” The problem was that the movies were all of different lengths, so The Saint would start at different times each night. There was a stretch where I’d scour TV Guide to discover the precise time that the Saint started, and set my alarm so I could sneak downstairs at 2:20 am or 3:05 am to watch an episode. It was important to never miss the beginning of an episode.

The theme song had that Rat Pack coolness to it, and each week Roger Moore would break the fourth wall right before it played. In the show’s teaser, before the theme song, the Saint would be in Rome or Madrid or some other exotic locale and another character would recognize him. “Wait, aren’t you Simon Templar… the Saint? ” they’d always ask. Then Roger Moore would sheepishly smile and look upwards, at the animated halo (he was the “saint”, get it?) above his head. This bit never got old and to his credit, Moore made it work for six seasons and 118 episodes.

As the story goes, one reason Roger Moore kept doing The Saint series was because he was saddled with overbearing alimony payments following an acrimonious divorce. I can only imagine.

Persuaded by the Riviera

But then the crew of The Saint magically transformed everything into another show called The Persuaders! This was bromance adventure of two wealthy rivals who became chums and started gallivanting across Europe. Roger Moore played a British aristocrat named Lord Brett Sinclair and his counterpart was a Brooklyn-American, charmingly overacted by Tony Curtis.

One can’t help but wonder if there might have been some financial or personal incentives to filming this series on locations across Europe. In The Persuaders!, viewers were taught that if you were clever or rich enough, all of Europe was just one big cocktail hour and there were more than enough beautiful women waiting to be charmed off their feet. Nice work if you can get it, eh?

Although The Persuaders! was shown during primetime on ABC in America in the early 70s, I discovered the show much later in syndication. While I certainly didn’t romance beautiful women as frequently as Lord Brett Sinclair did, I think the easy-breezy attitude of confidence and mischief was good to learn, at least in moderation.

Years later, after one of my business partners Joe Ahearn and I assumed ownership of the character Captain Action, we created a female counterpart. It was partially in as a result of exhibiting at comic shows, and partially a desire to create “James Bond’s daughter.”  Of course, we couldn’t make our character actually be James Bond’s little girl. Instead, we named her Nikki Sinclair and alluded to the fact that her father was an English Lord. So in essence, since Roger Moore played a similar character in The Persuaders!, we kind of found a way around making her James Bond’s daughter.

Oh sure, we saw Roger Moore as a mercenary in The Wild Geese (a kind of pre-Rambo Dirty Dozen movie) and we suffered though him as Sherlock Holmes (somehow it just didn’t feel right). He was also Beau Maverick, cousin to Bret and Bart and father of Ben, and starred in The Alaskans (the rumors were that he fell in love with his beautiful co-star). He could be a lot of things, but even Roger Moore couldn’t be everyone.

Roger Moore always seems cool and composed when not on camera. He was dapper and in fact took pride at developing his character’s wardrobe in The Persuaders! Gee, that was all so much fun – thanks for showing us how it was all done, Roger!

Ed Catto: Play Nice in the Toybox

He never made a comic. He never created a TV show. He never even went to a comic convention. But his impact on Geek Media was profound.

Without him, toy store aisles would be very different. Without him, comic shops would be very different. Without him, licensing deals would not be where they are today. And if he didn’t do what he did, millions of children would have had very different childhoods.

Last week, the news broke that the creator of Captain Action and GI Joe, Stan Weston, had died.

Creating GI Joe – and creating a category

Stan’s biggest idea was to create what would become the action figure category. He had this idea to transform the 12” Barbie Fashion Dolls into a something for boys. Just as the 1960s Barbie could transform, via a simple costume change, from a fashion model to a teacher to a nurse, he envisioned a soldier who could shift from an infantry man to a Navy diver to a fighter pilot.

At that time, the idea to create a Barbie Doll for boys was a radical one. Boys might play with soldiers, but never dolls. In the sixties, I remember my grandfather, who’s approval meant the world to me, get confused about his grandsons playing with dolls. We tried to explain how off-base he was, but someone from his generation just couldn’t wrap his head around it.

It was a big deal. And with a series of comic book ads drawn by Irv Novick, GI Joe became the next big thing for a generation of young boys

Captain Action

Captain Action was Stan’s “next idea” after GI Joe. While GI Joe could change from a soldier into a frogman, or an astronaut, Captain Action could change into different superheroes. And the amazing thing was, Captain Action could change into different heroes who were owned by different corporations. He could change into Marvel Comics heroes like Captain America or Sgt. Fury. He could change into King Features heroes like The Phantom or Flash Gordon. He could even change into the NPP characters, owned today by Warner Bros’ DC Comics.

Paul Gulacy is the only artist to draw covers for both GI Joe and Capt. Action.

He explained to me that it was “easy.” They’d just hop into NYC cabs, have a meeting, ask the secretary to type up the contract and a carbon copy and they’d be all set to go.

It was simple idea that wasn’t capitalized upon before this. Kids would mix-and-match the toys in their toy box for creative play. Why couldn’t they mix-and-match the toys in one particular toy line too?

Contrasting those Mad Men days with the complexity of finalizing deals now makes today’s licensing executives want to cry. No lawyers. No emails. No conference calls. No style guides. Just a firm handshake, a focus and a little personal integrity.

Stan Weston wasn’t a one-trick pony. He did a lot of other things that become the favorite things of a lot of people. He was involved in ventures that included everything from Nintendo to Thundercats to Farrah Fawcett.

Passing the Torch

When my business partner, Joe Ahearn, and I acquired the Captain Action property, I had the opportunity to speak with Stan. He was everything you’d want him to be. He was gracious, and confident and so very encouraging. His whole attitude towards our acquisition of Captain Action was, “Wonderful! You boys have fun with that! Make some money and have some fun!”

I had an idea that Stan should be a guest of honor at New York Comic Con. I think it would have been fantastic for fans and especially for Stan. Sadly, at that point, he was living in France and was reluctant to add more travel to his schedule. In retrospect, perhaps I should have pushed harder.

But like so many of the iconic comic creators, or a guy like Chuck Berry, Stan would not reap the financial rewards of his category-creating ideas. He’d take a run at re-negotiating/re-litigating with Hasbro, the company that grew out of the little toy company started by the Hassenfeld Brothers. Hasbro had grown into the behemoth it is today based upon, in no small part, the success of Stan’s ideas. But those agreements aren’t public knowledge and it’s unclear where it all ended up.

Weston, and his heirs will have to just take pride in the worldwide industry established, innumerable jobs created and countless hours of fun resulting from a few great Stan Weston ideas.

Ed Catto: Neal Adams’ Mighty Team-Ups!

Geek Culture, unlike other passion businesses like sports or music, affords fans the opportunity to collaborate with fellow fans and rub elbows with professionals. I’d argue that it’s unique to this industry.

For example, music fans would find it difficult to imagine playing with Mick Jagger or Sir Paul McCartney. Oh, you might see them in concert, but to really spend time with them probably isn’t going to happen.

Likewise, even if I was a big football fan, I couldn’t realistically plan a way to spend quality time with an NFL Superstar. I did briefly meet football legends Larry Czonka and Rocky Bleier back in the 70s, but hey, that was the 70s.

But Geek Culture is different. There are so many opportunities for fans to meet their favorite creators. Like super hero movies, comic conventions are sprouting up just about everywhere.

With all these new conventions, and the inevitable competition for available weekends, I’m thrilled that our invitations to talent for Syracuse’s Salt City Comic-Con were so well received. This show has quickly developed a very impressive guest list. I anticipate it will be a fantastic opportunity for all kinds of fans to meet many of their favorite folks.

The legendary Neal Adams will be one of the creators attending. He’s a guy who’s been contributing groundbreaking art for many years. He’s also been a trailblazer – with his own entrepreneurial efforts and on behalf of creator’s rights. He seems to love conventions. He brightens up with a big smile and genuinely enjoys meeting his fans.

For this convention, Adams created a variant convention exclusive. The cover to this comic showcases Batman, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and (for the first time on a comic cover) Syracuse’s iconic Niagara Mohawk building.

I’m a big Batman fan from way back, so collaborating with Neal Adams, IDW, DC and the convention to create this Batman cover was really fun.

The more I thought about it, though, this was fun because it wasn’t really a Batman cover. This was going to be, essentially, a Brave and the Bold cover. B&B, as we called it back in the day, was a long-running comic series showcasing Batman with all his super hero pals. It was always an engaging read and was a strong seller for DC as well.

Neal Adams worked on many of the early issues of B&B, but he has always been good at team-up covers. He’s great at capturing diverse characters and making them work together.

Neal Adams has also illustrated quite a few Marvel Team-Up covers to, as you can see on the top of this column.

All this got me thinking, “What would this special Batman/TMNT cover have looked like if it was published in the 60s or the 70s?” My Captain Action business partner, Joe Ahearn, brought my ideas to life with a faux Brave and the Bold 60s cover:

 

We then took it one step further and created an imaginary cover with a funky 70s vibe:As a marketing consultant, I collaborate a lot. Collaborations are fun – be it on work projects, fan projects or even comic book covers. Especially comic book covers, now that I think about it

•     •     •     •     •

And if you like “Imaginary” team-up covers, might I recommend the clever SuperTeamFamily: The Lost Issues site at https://braveandboldlost.blogspot.com And for more information on that Batman/TMNT variant, just check out SyracuseComicCon.com .

 

Michael Davis, In The Comic Book Closet

public-enemy-paul-simon

America still has a problem with accepting comics as anything other than kid stuff. There may be millions of “regular” people hiding their comic book lifestyle. This cannot stand and has to stop.

As you’re reading ComicMix, most likely this will not apply to you. Pass this on to a friend who you suspect may need it. If you’re trying to stay in the closet, yes this will help you avoid getting caught but consider the damage you may be doing to yourself.

For god’s sake – stop living a lie!

Don’t see any comic books around his or her place? Somehow they manage to have seen or “has a friend” who has viewed that “stupid” superhero movie? If you’re dating anyone who spends considerable time and or money on things you just can’t understand, chances are you’re in love with a comic book person.

Here’s a few simple tests and topics to find out if someone is hiding a comic book past.

Ask them to name a Captain. Any Captain. If they describe Captain Action, Captain America, Captain Kirk or Captain Nemo, chances are they’re comic book people.

If Captain Morgan is the first name out of the box and they slur, droll and or lick their lips while doing Captain Morgan pose you’re dating a comic fan… and an alcoholic.

Most fans of comic books are fans of movies, bookstores, and bacon. They either like Star Wars or Star Trek a few of us like both but if pressed will pick a side.

A comic book fan will respect both the Beatles and Jay-Z, both Public Enemy and Paul Simon. Yes, different music but all icons. Symbols are important to comic book people. Even if we don’t love what they do, we have an appreciation for what they represent.

Ask if they know anything about Dark Horse Comics, Kevin Eastman or an Apple product besides an iPhone. See if Norman Rockwell or the Wu-Tang Clan sparks a gleam in their eye. If you know anything about those subjects, try and act they like you don’t. We do so love to hear how smart we are or at least how cool we sound.

If the above questions or secondary inquiries don’t work for you, then hit them with one of the following:

  1. Tell them (name of someone with basement or attic) was about to throw out a box of old comics from the 30s they found. You had no idea Batman had real pointy ears and carried a gun back then.
  2. Ask if anyone they know wants an ancient Superman comic with him lifting a car over his head while running.
  3. Say “Some crazy guy named Stan has a flat tire in front of our house. Seemed OK until he said he created Spider-Man…”

If none of the above gets a reaction, they are in deep denial or don’t read comics. If there is a response, stand clear of the door because you’re about to be run over.

Being a closeted comic fan takes work. That fan is often placed in the “never get a mate” or “mentally challenged” category, so he or she hides their obsession.

As an example, I have a mint in the box Japanese G.I. Joe. An ex-girlfriend of mine brought her little brother to see my toy collection.

This 10-year-old little snot opened my display case and was a second away from tearing open the box and 2 seconds away from ever reaching 11.

I yelled no! so loud the Hell Spawn dropped the box and started crying.

My ex, she who must not be named, girlfriend could not understand why I had reacted that way. In what I thought was a well said and reasonable explanation of my behavior I explained to her just what little Satan was about to deface.

All she heard was blah blah, I don’t want anyone else playing with my doll, blah blah. She asked me what I would save first in a fire, her or my “doll.”  I said, “Not the doll…the action figure.”

She said she didn’t think that was funny.

Hell, neither did I but I’m smart enough to know I was talking myself into a cold shower. I said I’d save her and would if there was sufficient time to do so after I got Captain Action to safety.

What?

Rarely are folks like us understood by those who don’t share our love for comics and related stuff. Trying to explain why we do something to those who don’t is like yelling at someone who does not speak English.

No matter how loud you get, they still won’t understand you.

Comics needs all the support we can get, and you in the closet will come out once that respect is granted you won’t have to hide.

Nonetheless, we need your voices too, but no one can hear you with the door closed.

 

Ed Catto: Paul Gulacy – More than just the Master of Kung Fu

MoKF Inked Gulacy

Headshot Paul-Gulacy2016 is looking to be a big year for Paul Gulacy, with the long-awaited reprinting of his groundbreaking Master of Kung Fu series and as a guest of Honor at the San Diego Comic-Con. But in some ways every year is a big year for Paul. He’s a tireless workhorse who is always creating and producing gorgeous artwork. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Paul on a few projects (please don’t ask about the Lady Gaga thing) and it’s always been enjoyable and invigorating. This interview is no exception. As you’ll see, Paul is witty and wistful and, as always, honest and authentic. He’s the real deal.

MOKF 64 GulacyEd Catto: Marvel has announced that the trademark and licensing rights to Master of Kung Fu have been resolved and they are finally reprinting the series. How do you feel about that and how do you feel about your work from the period?

Paul Gulacy: It’s wonderful news. It’s about time and everybody I talk to is going nuts. They can’t wait. The way I feel about it is probably the same way everybody feels about it – including Stan Lee. It’s simply terrific news. Not to mention about time. I can’t think of any other popular comic that had to put up and deal with so much nonsense.

EC: When you think about your run on Master of Kung Fu, what are your fondest memories?

PG: Having a ball. Working for Marvel, a great series, a fantastic writer like Doug Moench. It was awesome. We were the springboard creators that launched an entirely new direction and new wave for the industry. We were the 70s guys that some pop culture enthusiasts determined to be a revolutionary period especially in the world of pop culture. When you think of some of your favorite 80s tunes you might be surprised to find out that those songs were recorded in the 70s. The Talking Heads come to mind… and Blondie.

PrintEC: This past year you contributed a cover to the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide as one of their prestigious cover artists. Can you describe that process and how you went about it?

PG: Yeah, that was quite the honor. Very nice to make a contribution to such an iconic Americana pop culture treasure. Many people don’t realize just how popular Captain Action and friends were. I recall the TV commercials for the toys when I was a kid. It was an honor to do the commemorative anniversary cover.

EC: You’ve illustrated Batman a number of times, and I’m struck by how often you brought something new to the party – things like a clever costume tweak or a new Batmobile. What’s it like to work on Batman on how does that differ from other assignments?

legends-of-the-dark-knight-11-paul-gulacyPG: If I’m not mistaken, Doug and I were asked to re-introduce the development of the Batmobile. And that took place in the series called “Prey” (in Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight). Later on we also re-introduced Gordon’s idea of utilizing a bat signal and why.

EC: Recently you contributed to an issue of the DC Western series, Jonah Hex. The issue was stunning, and the opening sequence with a burning building still sticks with me. What can you tell us about illustrating other genres?

PG: Maybe it might be a good idea to stay away from matches, Ed. No, Hex was a blast. Justin and Jimmy always came thru with a doozie storyline. And of course I come from the era where the western was all over television. Plus, I grew up in Ohio riding horses. As a kid I couldn’t stop drawing horses. But again, those guys always came through with an inspiring script.

EC: You’re well known for illustrating beautiful and sexy women, Paul. What’s your secret?

Batman Catwoman GulacyPG: Perhaps it’s the Jonah Hex after-shave I splash on every morning to start my day. I admire pretty women. They catch my eye and capture my attention. All kinds, shapes and sizes. On my Catwoman run I used three different models who posed for me, and at this point I better shut my big trap before a frying pan comes down in my direction.

EC: By looking at your finished artwork, it seems to me that you’ve enjoyed all your assignments. You never phone it in. But I know that can’t be the case. Were there any projects you were less than thrilled with?

PG: Too many to count. Everybody has those clunkers that make you roll your eyes and shake your head at. I’ve dialed it in on more than one occasion, often to just pay the rent, or get some fast cash. You have to take it on the chin.

EC: Conversely, what projects did you work on in the past that you wish would get another lease on life?

Lady Action Model GulacyPG: Some independent company characters like Sabre or The Grackle come to mind. The characters that Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Grey developed for a series called Time Bomb for Radical Publishing I thought were awesome. I really had fun on that story. They come by once in a blue moon, and the fact that they are indie gives you more latitude. My entire career is established for the most part for working on obscure, oddball titles. I’m certainly not known for my Captain America contributions.

EC: Dark Horse is publishing The Rook. It’s a relaunch you’re working on with writer Steven Grant. How did this one come about and what are your thoughts on the character and time travel stories?

Gulacy Catwoman PortraitPG: Both Steven and I were contacted by Ben Dubay who holds the rights to the Rook character that was developed by his uncle, Bill Dubay. Bill passed away a couple of years back. I actually worked for Bill when he was on staff at Warren Publishing in New York City. Among a handful of stories I did for them was a still unpublished Rook story.

The Rook is a time traveler. Maybe it’s a good time to get that in here. Anyhow, Ben was on a mission to get it in the hands of Dark Horse and that worked out. We have one four-part series completed and we are currently working on the next series of four issues. We’re having a ball. Steven’s scripts are just off the hook fun. And don’t be surprised to see this character appear beyond the printed page.

EC: Thanks so much for your time, Paul.

Paul Gulacy’s 2016 convention appearances include: Cal Comic Com January 31st in California’s Orange County, Comic-Con International (San Diego Comic-Con) July 21- 2th in San Diego,
Monster and Robots, August 27 and 28 in New Jersey’s Garden State Convention Center.

Ed Catto: Murphy Anderson – A Legend and a Gentleman

kryptonite_snack2

The world lost just lost another shining light: a brilliant artist who regularly shared his vision of heroes and adventures as he created countless pages of comics and an upstanding gentleman who shared his vision of living life with courtesy, kindness and class as he led by example.

Jet-Pack Captain-Action MURPHY ANDERSONMurphy Anderson passed away Friday at age 89. He had been struggling in recent years, but it’s still a crushing blow to those who loved the man and his work. Murphy, a prolific comic artist, was in facet one of the first wave of “fanboys” to turn professional. He was a big Lou Fine fan, and you can see wisps of that great artist’s work in Murphy’s figures and rendering. Murphy was also an enormous Buck Rogers fan and would one day professionally illustrate the adventures of this hero. He had a rich career in comics’ Silver and Bronze Ages, but also enjoyed great entrepreneurial success, managing the Army’s PS Magazine and running his own color separation business.

Murphy was an especially important artist in the Sixties, establishing the artistic gold standard of many iconic heroes for a generation of fans. His Justice League covers showed the world exactly how the leading DC heroes should look. His images of heroes like Hawkman and the Atomic Knights provided clear and engaging thrillers with solid storytelling. And his inking over so many great artists, from Gil Kane to Carmine Infantino to Curt Swan, provided something close to a house style that reflected the refined, best-in-class attitude of the DC line of that day.

Murphy was one of those rare artists who could compose fantastic stories with full artwork (pencils and inks), and yet, with his fine and precise inking, partner to make almost any artist to a little bit better. Even usual pairings, like Murphy inking over Neal Adams’ innovative and hyper-realistic pencils, produced memorable artwork, visual singing in perfect harmony.

JLofA-1A Gentleman and His Women

The females that Murphy drew were consistently pretty, but demure. They all combed their hair, had applied their make-up ‘just so’ and had spotless complexions. Any young man would feel confident in bringing a girlfriend who looked like a Murphy Anderson woman home to mother.

For me, that all changed when DC adapted Edgar Rice Burroughs’s John Carter of Mars series. In this series, a cavalry solider adventures on Mars amidst exotic landscapes and bizarre aliens. But many of the Martian cultures eschewed excessive clothing. And the strip’s love interest, the beautiful Dejah Thoris, was no exception. She was a raven-haired beauty with whom the hero was madly in love. And when Murphy drew her, it was very easy to understand why any man would be head-over-heels for her.

This series also provided Murphy opportunities for creative and non-traditional panels and page layouts. But these innovations were lost to many of us, as the eye was distracted by the beautiful figures and lush inking.

Years later, during one of my lunches with Murphy, I brought along several John Carter comics issues of Weird Worlds for Murphy to autograph. I hadn’t realized it before, but his son, Murphy, Jr., who often accompanied us, was a dead ringer for John Carter!

gospel-supermanMan And Superman

For me, the quintessential Superman will always be inked by Murphy.

As the Silver Age wound down, Murphy’s inks on Curt Swan’s 70’s Superman helped update the character, making him a little hipper and more relevant. Murphy’s inks rejuvenated the strip, with a more realism, longer sideburns and a vulnerable humanity. For me, the images of Superman casually eating a Kryptonite meatball (the deadly substance was temporarily rendered harmless) helped humanize the character in ways previously never imagined.

Murphy was a one of the most polite gentlemen I’ve ever met, and surely was not comfortable with being asked to “fix” the Superman renderings of Jack Kirby in Jimmy Olsen or Mike Sekowsky in Supergirl. But he was a true professional, and the editorial dictate of the day demanded that Superman look “on point”. And while I hate to see other artists’ work modified in this manner, now one could argue that a Murphy Anderson Superman sure looked like the real Superman.

One time as a child, my family was visiting my dad’s alma mater, Cornell University, for his Homecoming. After the football game, we were shopping at the campus bookstore and I found a curious book. It was called The Gospel According to Superman by John T. Galloway, Jr. The cover showed Superman, rendered by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson, flying over a small town church. At that time, the last thing I was interested in was theological philosophy, but I somehow knew this was legitimate and important because it had the ‘”real” Superman on the cover. And although I couldn’t have articulated it at the time, the “real” Superman meant an image rendered by Murphy Anderson. My mom and dad thought I was nuts when I started begging for this strange, hybrid book, but as they were more understanding than even Ma & Pa Kent, in the end they relented. I read the book, but I really loved that cover.

Captainaction1exclusiveAbout this period, there was a life-sized Superman poster offered via mail order in the DC comics. The 6-foot poster, rendered by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson, was impressive and overwhelming. Superman was flying up through the clouds complete with a peace sign hand gesture. I’m not sure why, but I brought it to my Second Grade class and it was hung on the blackboard for a day. I might have trying to impress my beautiful teacher, Mrs. Beardsley, but that’s another story for another day. I’m sure my thinking then was “What woman wouldn’t be impressed with Murphy Anderson art?”

The first time I met Murphy was in 1984 at an Ithaca Comic Convention. Now, the year before I had the distinct pleasure of being the inker for a penciled Superman image provided to us by Curt Swan. It was a valiant effort, but I was certainly no Murphy Anderson when it came to inking. As you have gathered by now, my visual“ gold standard” for Superman was the character as inked by Murphy Anderson.

At the convention, I thought maybe this provided me a kinship to Murphy Anderson. While I’m sure he was mentally rolling his eyes at me, I recall his overwhelming politeness. He almost made me feel that he and I were part of an exclusive club, having both inked Curt Swan. That’s preposterous, of course. But somehow Murphy’s most amazing talent, far beyond his art skills, even surpassing his entrepreneurial efforts, was his amazing ability to make a person feel special by just speaking with him.

Ready for Action

Flash Murphy AndersonMurphy was the quintessential artist for one character even though he never drew the character’s comics adventures. In 1966, Murphy Anderson was chosen to be an important contributor to a toy called Captain Action. Much the same way that Barbie could become a teacher or an astronaut, or GI Joe could become an infantryman or a frogman, Captain Action could become other superheroes via costume sets. For many of these toys, the packaging artwork was expertly provided by Murphy.

He created images for the packages featuring heroes like Batman, The Phantom, Flash Gordon, Superman, Aquaman, Superboy, Robin and Aqualad. As the line progressed, Murphy also created impactful representations of Captain Action on in a variety of poses for expansion sets. And when the line was extended to include heroines, Murphy outdid himself with gorgeous packaging illustrations for Batgirl, Supergirl, Wonder Woman and Mera, the Queen of the Seven Seas.

Years later, Joe Ahearn and I would acquire the rights to Captain Action and one of the first things we did was to bring Murphy back onto the project. How thrilled we were when he agreed to pencil and ink a new Captain Action comic cover! He agreed to recreate the classic Batman and Robin rooftop image, which was originally a poster by penciled Carmine Infantino and inked by Murphy. In the updated version, it’s Captain Action and his sidekick, Action Boy, on the rooftop, as Lady Action flies by in the Sliver Streak. Gerry Gladston, the CMO of Midtown Comics, loved the idea and we made the cover an exclusive variant.

We had discussed him doing another cover for Captain Action. The vision for this was to pay homage to Justice League of America #1’s cover, where the Flash and Despero were playing a game of Kalanorian chess – using JLA chess pieces. My vision was to have Captain Action facing off against Dr. Evil with chess pieces of all the Captain Action costume sets, but it wasn’t meant to be. At that point, Murphy just didn’t feel he could pull it off with the standard of excellence he demanded of himself.

* * *

Murphy was a Tarheel, who made good in New Jersey, and was surrounded by a loving family and adoring fans. I had studied his thoughtful inking for most of my life, but when gifted with his friendship, I soon realized that there were so many bigger lessons to be learned from this humble, kind-hearted man. Murphy we’ll miss you and thanks for showing us how it’s done.

Black Canary Murphy Anderson

Ed Catto: The Fantastic (Four) Adventures of Tom Tataranowicz

TomT at Marvel

For the past week the pop culture world has engaged in a post game analysis of the under-performing Fantastic Four movie. Instead of offering further analysis, I think it’s time to provide insights into an instance where the Marvel’s first family had more creative and authentic success onscreen.

My friend Tom Tataranowicz is a talented animation professional and a longtime comics fan. I’ve gotten to know him as we’re working together, with a talented team, to create the new Captain Action animated series… But that’s another story for another day. Tom’s impressive resume includes his work on the 1990s Fantastic Four animated show and, understanding his passionate dedication to his craft, I wanted to get his perspective on that “fantastic” experience.

When he is presented with a project like the Fantastic Four, Tom explained his approach to me. “I’m not trying to reinvent it. That’s not my job. Fealty to the original source material is key. Otherwise, fans say, ‘Where’s the comic I like?’ And I have to agree with them. I need to bring the fans’ dreams to life.”

1994_Fantastic_Four_Cartoon_Season_2_TitleThe Secret Origin

Tom recalled just how he got involved with this Fantastic Four animated series. He had been working on the Biker Mice From Mars animated series and was completing the last of 65 episodes. The organization was called New World Animation at the time, and then the Marvel Films animation division started.

Avi Arad had just made the first season of the Fantastic Four cartoon with another unit, but they weren’t as well received as they had hoped for. One thought was that there were just too many characters crammed in there, in an overly zealous effort to support toy sales.

As Biker Mice From Mars was ending and they liked what he had done with that series, they reached out to Tom to take over both the Fantastic Four and Iron Man shows.

“I proposed that ‘I’m going to revamp everything,’“ recalled Tom.

319253_2628633872647_1503137669_nOn the FF show, Tom was rather perplexed that the previous team had chosen not to follow the comic’s official canon, focusing instead on often not too good, original stories. So his idea was to adapt classic stories from the comic book. The overall arc of the season that Tom developed revolved around the Inhumans’ introduction and subsequent exile.

And he also felt that it was important to change the look of the look of the main characters as well. The first season was using a robin’s egg blue color for the FF costumes that mirrored the existing toy line. But Tom’s vision was to establish a more heroic look by adapting the darker, blue/black, John Byrne style costumes of the 1980s.
“So I mapped out the season’s storylines and arcs and pitched it to Avi Arad and Rick Ungar. They liked it. I pitched it to Stan Lee. He liked it. I pitched it to Toy Biz and they liked it,” said Tom.

A Blind Man Shall Lead Them

But the question for season 2 was… Where to start? Looking over those old comic book stories, it became apparent that it was difficult, if not almost impossible, to get adequate material from just one issue to be enough for one very good episode. It often required story lines from multiple issues. “One particular story I always liked was the two parter from issues #39 and #40, A Blind Man Shall Lead Them, with Daredevil. It was also a real fan favorite. Plus, I thought having Daredevil in there would be very cool. And then, of course, it had the exciting bonus of being a Dr. Doom story. A perfect second season opener. As Stan Lee was fond of saying – Excelsior!”

“With the second episode, we launched into the Inhumans saga. That was the season’s arc and it was kicked off by a three parter,” Tom explained. “My B storyline for that arc was Johnny meeting and subsequently searching for Crystal.”

In the first season, the previous team had already told the “ultimate” Silver Surfer/Dr. Doom story, Doomsday. Tom didn’t like the way it turned out. “For the second season finale, I – admittedly, somewhat arrogantly – decided to redo that story and do it right; to do it as it truly deserved,” said Tom. He used the “Garden of Eden” beginning from Silver Surfer #4 as a way to introduce the Surfer and dovetailed it into the threat of Dr. Doom stealing the Surfer’s powers.

“I wanted to treat the Fantastic Four as if the stakes were always really huge. The Kree, The Skrulls, the Inhumans – they were all part of this epic comic book saga”, said Tom. “I even went to some of the John Byrne stories – to mix things up as well as to help amplify on stories while still staying faithful to the comics,” recalls Tom. “For example, there was this one episode where the FF were going after Ego, and encountered Thor and Galactus. It was one of the best animated shows ever done at that the time. After it aired I got calls from friends, colleagues and other studios – people I didn’t even know – saying that was one helluva good-looking show,” mused Tom. “That high degree of artistic success was why the series’ cancellation proved to be so bittersweet.”

In the first season, each episode had a minute-long introduction from Stan Lee in his office. “Stan is a lively, very personable guy, but I didn’t particularly see the necessity of doing those things in the beginning. I would much have rather used the time for the stories. Well, that didn’t sit particularly well with Stan, and I have to admit I completely understood his position.” said Tom. As a compromise, Tom added 15-second introductions that validated Stan’s contributions and creativity and had him matted in against cool painted backgrounds from the show.

375228_2628616232206_1693887972_nBack then, most series, especially animated ones, were not told in sequential continued story arcs. Stand alone episodes were simply the way it was. Because there was the season long Inhumans continuity, around the eleventh episode of the season, Tom developed a recap episode. He used the Impossible Man (with a stellar voice performance by Jess Harnell of Animaniacs) in which he and Johnny interacted to cleverly segue into clips of the season’s events that had earlier transpired. As the Impossible Man was a more cartoony character, the animating studio, PASI, really went for it and did a great job on this episode, even though there was only 5 or 6 minutes of new animation. “From there we went on to the freeing of the Inhumans and everyone was then up to speed and ready for it.”

Crystal Clear

For the second season, as Voice Director, Tom kept most of the original voice cast. Brian Austin Green had bowed out as Johnny Storm and was re-cast. But one character Tom really wanted to change was Doctor Doom. “The first actor was certainly good but I felt the character came across as a bit too much of a mustache twirler,” said Tom.

Victor Von Doom was from Latveria, which seemed to be one those Eastern European/Germanic countries. And the aristocrats from those countries were well educated, as if they went to Oxford and thus often spoke with an English accent, Tom reasoned. So he recast Doom with Simon Templeman, whose voice had that nobility and who laced his performance with a unique aspect of condescension and decadence. “He did a memorably great job,” remembered Tom.

With the Inhumans being new characters to the series and so integral to the season’s arc, Tom had a clean slate to cast whomever he thought best for any particular role. Mark Hamill, who impressed everyone with his animated Joker, was a natural for Maximus the Mad. Likewise Star Trek – The Next Generation’s Michael Dorn was the perfect voice for Gorgon. “Black Bolt was easy he was basically mute, so he didn’t need a voice,” joked Tom.

313034_2628617472237_2033074401_nThe young Inhuman love interest for the Human Torch, Crystal, was very important to the storyline and she needed to be fresh. She was young, but she wasn’t a kid; she needed to have a womanly quality. “Then I saw supermodel actress Kathy Ireland, on television. I liked the quality of her voice and thought she’d be good.” Even though she wasn’t primarily a vocal actress, Tom was impressed at how hard she worked and how seriously she took it. The results were terrific – the perfect, definitive Crystal. And it all also helped with publicity – as her casting became a story on Entertainment Tonight.

“I always liked casting against type,” explained Tom. “The Silver Surfer was tough. What does he sound like? Stentorian? No. Too easy and cliché an approach.” So, it took a couple of attempts with various actors, but finally Tom cast Eddie (Green Acres) Arnold’s son, Edward Albert, as he felt the philosophical sound to the actor’s voice ideally suited the Surfer’s musings.

Keeping it Fantastic

Tom and his talented crew worked hard to keep the show true to what it was. “To me, the Fantastic Four was the self-proclaimed crown jewel of the Marvel Universe,” remembers Tom. “Even though I may have personally liked Spider-Man more as a kid, the FF was always the big kahuna, with the biggest stakes.”

So for the new main title sequence, Tom wanted to showcase the FF’s rich history. And he would tell it through a great iteration of iconic Kirby covers: FF #1, the tiny FF in the gigantic Dr. Doom’s hand from FF Annual #2, “Beware The Hidden Land” from issue #47, the four panel split screen from a later issue, in which the FF were each individually fighting an android.

859_10201981800284139_1428367397_nHe also used this main title to showcase the history of the FF’s costumes. From issue #1 with no costumes, through the 60’s Kirby look, a nod to the Season #1 robin egg’s blue costumes and finally to the then ‘current costumes’ inspired by John Byrne.

Tom did what he always did when creating a main title. He’d listen to the new music provided by the composer, Will Anderson. He’d drive and drive in his car, just trying to viscerally imagine where and how he’d place which visual images that were conjured up by beats with the music.

For the new look of the show, everyone’s first knee jerk reaction was to “do Kirby.” But Tom took issue with that. A big Kirby fan, Tom’s point of view was that if you mimic Jack Kirby’s work, it would run the almost inevitable risk of looking bad. Kirby’s art worked so well because of the strength of his uniquely individual talent. Only Kirby could truly be Kirby and thus there was also a realistic danger that the overseas studio artist working on the show just wouldn’t understand Kirby’s Style.
319249_2628625832446_957424239_nSo Tom took another approach. He hired legendary artist John Buscema to redo the characters. He based the show upon John’s also iconic Marvel look and own tenure on FF after Kirby left. In addition, he was able to send the overseas Philippines studio, PASI, that did the actual animation, John Buscema’s book, How the Draw Comics the Marvel Way, as well as the accompanying video of the book to explain it visually. “Buscema was an illustrator. He drew realistically and the anatomy made sense. Especially to the Filipino artists who loved American comic art. Everybody was extremely happy with that approach,” recalls Tom.

Clobberin’ Time!

Overall, Tom was very pleased with the show. Great stories. Terrific animation. Top notch voice acting. Unfortunately, the show didn’t earn the ratings needed to continue, and many believe that was because fans just thought it would be more of the same from the first season and never gave it a chance.

There were plans for a third season. Tom had developed the arc that focused on Sue’s pregnancy, Agatha Harkness and the birth of Franklin. But Tom wanted to start the season with the Invisible Woman running away with Namor, the Sub-Mariner. “There could be Sub-Mariner action figures, so the toy people liked that”, he explained.

During production, it was mandated that the Hulk guest star in an episode (and also in an episode of the companion series Iron Man), so the progression to the subsequent Hulk series made sense.

The Incredible Hulk series on UPN came next. “I had an overall plan of what I wanted to do with each new series – I wanted to do them (all the Marvel Series) so they all looked very different from one another. My idea was that each series would be unique. Here’s our Gene Colan show, here’s our John Byrne show, or our Ditko or McFarlane show. Like how it would be if you picked out one of the comics from the rack. Not cookie cutter” said Tom.

“As always, it was hard work, but it was gratifying,” said Tom. “I am very proud of what we accomplished. It was one of the few times in television that a studio had truly done right by a comic book.”

Fantastic Four - Cast Photo - 2nd Season - 1996[1]

 

 

Ed Catto: Family Reunion – Geek Culture Style

xReunion Comic-Con 3

Reunions remind me that I am definitely in the “Lucky Guy” category. Celebrating recent wins and remembering the good times invigorate me – and I’ve done both at my recent reunions. I may need my time alone to recharge – it drives my creative process and keeps me sane – but deep down, I’m truly a social creature blessed with an abundance of family and friends.

SDCC-LogoBut I’m not the only one who’s been focused on reunions this summer. Choice Hotels’ recent advertising campaign targets all those folks who are undecided about attending an upcoming reunion. The Clash’s Should I Stay or Should I Go? reinforces our natural indecision as a wide variety of people anxiously prepare for their reunions. “It won’t be the same without you, bro”, taunts one bearded man who undoubtedly represents a friend we all have. Take a look here if you haven’t seen it yet.

I’ve always enjoyed my college reunions. I haven’t missed many. I love being on campus without those ‘pesky’ students running off to interesting classes I’d like to follow them to or flaunting their seemingly endless time to relax in the Quad. Reunion is like a private party at Disneyworld without the other customers. Or the Bottled City of Kandor without the Kryptonians.

Reunion Comic-con 1And my family reunion was a fantastic time to reconnect with 25 family members, get some family business done (we’re struggling with the inevitable elder-care issues) and have fun together. It was another opportunity to hand-deliver Archie, Boom! and IDW comics to the upcoming Catto generation. I also played with my young nephew, explaining the story of Thor (via a Captain Action toy) and blaming the thunderstorm later that night on his mighty hammer. Fans of Greg Rucka’s Lazarus comic will understand when I say that my internal mantra for the weekend was “Family First,” a phrase I borrowed from that outstanding Image series.

Reuinon Comic-Con 2I believe that “Comic-Con International,” the event that the rest of the world calls San Diego Comic-Con or #SDCC, is an event with the same kind of reunion magic – generating energy and creativity, support and hope.

I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with Geek Culture for some time now. Business acquaintances have become friends. Favorite artists, writers and publishers, at the core of Pop Culture, have likewise evolved into business acquaintances and friends.

Oh sure, for me SDCC is a time filled with business meetings, panels and interviews. It’s also an opportunity to discover new ideas, new creations and new ways of doing business. But so many of us connect with old and new friends, celebrate shared passions and just hang out.

When I was a Vice President of Strategic Marketing at Reed Elsevier’s Exhibition division, I traveled to conventions across the US and around the world. In most cases, these tradeshows share a congenial element of friends gathering together. Some conventions are more business-like than others. But I don’t think any other industry’s trade show has the unique vibe of Comic-Con. Those other conventions simply don’t have that overwhelming passion baked into the DNA of the exhibitors and attendees at Comic-Con and the connections that come from that passion.

For so many of us, last week’s San Diego Comic-Con was a place to spend time with people that feel like family. Over 130,000 of them. And it was a time to learn news about shared interests and then share it – both within the tribe and beyond to the world at large. But like the mystical cities of Brigadoon or K’un Lun, this magical reunion in San Diego appeared all-too-briefly and then shimmered away. It was a the ideal spot to gather together and I never thought, “Should I stay or should I go?”

 

Michael Davis: Deathlok Joins The Milestone Universe

Last week we ran part 1 of my ComicMix conversation with J. August Richards. Part two will print next Tuesday, on the same day as the season finale of Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD.

Yeah, that’s a fucked-up misleading title, eh?

Well, ask anyone over at Bleeding Cool. I can be a dick sometimes and try as I might, just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in…to being a dick.

So, that happened.

So in the meantime I will answer more Milestone questions and deal with one bold statement, from Steve Chaput and Ryan Dean respectfully.

Please keep in mind these Milestone articles do not run sequentially (like some two part interviews), some questions may require a few sentences and others may require entire articles.

I’m looking at you Doctor.

Ryan asks:

Last time we saw animated versions of Milestone characters was in the great Young Justice series. What are the chances of seeing them pop up in any of the upcoming DC animated features or the DC Nation shorts?

Ryan, I can’t say when but I can say I’m pretty certain that will happen. More than one conversation about Milestone animated has happened. DC Animation is just kicking ass and taking names. The stuff that comes out of that studio just gets better and better. Not too long ago when it came to live action movies, Marvel was DC’s bitch.

Now? Errr, no.

Today Marvel, maybe not by much, makes the best superhero movies. Possibly they are making the best superhero movies ever made.

Animation? They still be DC’s bitch.

I recently saw the Avengers Confidential: Black Widow and Punisher animated movie. I felt I was the one being punished. It was, in my opinion, god-awful. If you’re not sure what that means in this case, it means almighty God said it was awful.

Steve really didn’t have a question but he had quite the point of view:

I’m with Paul Smith on this one. It just seems to me that it DC, for whatever reason, that is holding things back. I think any other company (Image, Dark Horse, IDW, etc.) would love to have the Milestone characters published under their banner. This would totally separate them from the DCU and the Milestone books could either start over fresh or take up where they left off when the initial titles were ended.

You can’t tell me, either, that there aren’t number directors, producers and actors that would not love to bring Icon & Rocket or Static to the big screen. Personally, I’d love to see Hardware in 3-D action.

Steve, I answered Paul’s question in detail last week. Perhaps you’ve read it, if not please do. It addresses all of your observations. Because those observations are widespread and considered by many a certainty, I’d like to use your post to underscore a point if I may.

With all due respect, what something seems to some seems entirely different to others. Many people see Ted Cruz and Allen West as reasonable public servants who will only make this country better.

I don’t see that.

I see two men who will stop at nothing to roll back civil rights, discard the poor like trash and take away health care from those who most need it.

I see them this way because of what they have done and said. I see them this way because of what I read and witness with my own eyes via media news outlets.

From what I see, these men seem to be at war against anyone that does not think like them. In the case of Mr. West, I see a self-hating Negro giving racists everywhere another reason to believe black people are indeed the shiftless, lazy coons they always thought they were.

But…

I could be wrong. It’s possible what I’ve heard and the context in which I heard it were not how they were intended to be. Perhaps if I met them my opinion would change. I’m not above making judgments only to be proven wrong.

As an example, Ed Catto is a friend of mine who also just happens to be one of the people behind the return of what is to me my favorite thing ever, Captain Action.

Not the greatest toy ever; the greatest thing ever. Ed is not nor did he become a friend because of his Captain Action connection. I don’t do that.

A year or so ago before he and I became friends, I spotted something on his Captain Action Facebook page which to me seemed racist.

You could not tell me it wasn’t.

I then proceeded to say so on his page and ended up making a complete and utter fool of myself. It was in no way racist and I feel like shit each and every time I think of what I did.

Let me be very, very, very clear. My examples were meant to communicate the earnestness in which I write this. I am in no way suggesting your statement has any semblance whatsoever to the instances I set forth.

They do not.

Your assertion that DC is holding back Milestone suggests there is intent there to do such a thing.

There is not.

I give details on the what, when, how and why I think that in my last article.

I’m confident that Ted Cruz and Allen West are what they appear to be. Having said that I will concede I may be wrong. I don’t know them; I certainly was not privy to the genesis of an idea, which by the time it reached me may have became something different.

I wasn’t there.

Steve, I’m using your post to say as loudly and as clearly to as many people as I can, DC Comics has no organized agenda to hold Milestone back. I know this my friend as well as I know my own name.

I was there dude, really, I was.

Now you were spot on when you surmised directors, producers and actors would love to bring Icon & Rocket or Static to the big screen. In fact, a film about Milestone

In a meeting at Warner Bros Studios, Chris Rock was mentioned as the actor chosen to play me. DC suggested that role go to Bernie Mac or no one.

That meeting was yesterday. Give that a sec.