Tagged: Joe Staton

Ed Catto and The Charlton Comics Documentary!

I’ve been writing about several of the impressive Geek Culture entrepreneurs I met at this year’s New York Comic-Con, but the real-life Gotham City certainly doesn’t have a monopoly on these passionate creators who are making it happen.

The Buffalo Comic-Con is run by Emil Novak and his team. They’re also the folks behind Buffalo’s long-lived comic shop, Queen City Bookstore. It’s a great shop full of treasures, staffed by people who love both comics and customer service.

I was invited to be a panelist at their convention a few weeks back. As we were wrapping up our panel, the next folks were setting up and I realized that was the panel I wanted to see. Keith Larsen and Jackie Zbuska are creative entrepreneurs and they are passionate about their Charlton Comics documentary.

Ed Catto:  This project seems like a lot of fun! How’d it all start?

Keith Larsen & Jackie Zbuska: So what’s our origin story? It’s not spectacular, or even exciting. Tired feet and washing dishes. We were at the 2014 ComiCONN in Bridgeport, CT. It was an awesome venue with lots to do, but after a few hours, we really needed a break off. Keith noticed a ticker ribbon message advertising a panel featuring Denny O’Neil, Bob Layton, and Paul Kupperberg. Perfect! Comic book legends and our excuse to sit!

We snuck into the panel room as Paul took the stage and announced the panel topic: Charlton Comics! Huh…what? Charlton? Didn’t they go away like, 30 years ago? “And, what the heck is a Charlton? One of those candies you put in the freezer…?”

What about Batman, Denny? What about Iron Man, Bob? Why did you kill Archie, Paul? Charlton?!?!? But, what the heck, we’re nerds who like comics, and the room is pretty packed, so let’s give it 10 minutes and then get back to walking the floor. The whole panel included Paul Kupperberg, Bob Layton, Denny O’Neil, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Frank McLaughlin. After maybe two minutes, we moved from the back of the room to the second row. By the end of the hour, we were hooked. These guys had some hilarious stories!

Cut to the next morning: Keith is doing dishes thinking about the Charlton panel… wait a minute!!!! Why not do a documentary about Charlton! Keith called Jackie with the idea. To get things going, Keith would call Mitch Hallock, who produces TerrifiCon. Mitch knew some of the guys from Charlton, so maybe he could help us track them down! Jackie’s response: “Nope, I’ll be there in 20 minutes. We’re driving back down to the con and cold pitching these guys.” The guys obviously said ‘Yes’ to the pitched idea. Since then, we’ve expanded the team, done more interviews, and have been hitting the books to crack the whole saga wide open.

EC:  Now, can you remind me how Charlton as a company started?

KL & JZ: The Comics division began only out of the necessity to save money. The Charlton factory was an all-in-one publishing establishment that made their money off Music magazines – like Hit Parader – and crossword puzzle books. They found that it was more cost effective to run the printing presses overnight – and thus Charlton Comics was born!

Oh yeah, and apparently, the idea of Charlton proper was hatched from two guys who met in jail. Weird, right?!?

EC:  Did you have a love of Charlton before undertaking this project?

KL & JZ: HAHA. NoooooNoNoNo. As we mentioned above Jackie had never heard of it and Keith has a slight recognition once he saw the bullseye logo, but that’s about as familiar as we got. We take our fair share of social media trolling for it, but as far as we are concerned we see it as a good thing. Approaching the project as filmmakers first and comic book fans second, gives us a fresh and unique perspective on the story. Had we been big Charlton fans, we may have told the tale with a bias or fan perspective. Not knowing anything about it lets us take a clean and honest approach to making the movie.

EC:  I’m excited to hear about some of the fans you’ve met along the way. What is the typical Charlton fan like? What are the atypical Charlton fans like?

KL & JZ: Funny enough, the die-hards we encounter are punk rockers from the hey-days of CBGBs. Our one atypical fan is truly unique. He’s a Generation Z 16-year old who’s got a substantial Charlton collection. He’s also a student of the silver age of comics in general. We’d say that his knowledge of the genre rivals that of any adult comic book historian we’ve spoken to. We interviewed him for the movie and we talk to him regularly as he finds Charlton gems at flea markets, tag sales and conventions all over the Northeast.

EC:  It seems like you have been making the rounds on the comic-con circuit. What’s that been like?

KL & JZ: We’re always surprised to meet new Charlton fans at every one of the stops we make. It’s a unique community of people and happy that our project is exciting to them. It charges us up to know that people are finding out about this movie and supporting us. It’s very flattering that true Charlton fans are trusting us to handle telling this story about something that they cherish so much.

EC:  Several Professionals have a spot in their hearts for Charlton. Who carries the torch for Charlton these days?

KL & JZ: Well, a super-fan named Fester Faceplant started a Facebook fan page and set up an online Charlton reading library of digitized Charlton books for fans to read. From there, it ballooned into a full-blown revival in the form of Charlton Neo Media spearheaded by Paul Kupperberg, Mort Todd, Roger McKenzie, Joe Staton and Nick Cuti amongst others. They’re first retail issue of “Charlton Arrow Vol 2” hit stands in October 4th of this year!

EC:   I’m sure you’ve learned some surprises in your research. What can you share with us now?

KL & JZ: Hmmm, if we tell you, then we’d have to kill you! Hahahaha.

What we can share is that most of the lore of Charlton that exists online is far from the truth. It really lends an extra cutting edge to what our movie will show – the real story behind Charlton Comics – and trust us, life is stranger than fiction.

EC:   After all this – What was your favorite Charlton Comic originally and what’s your favorite one now?

Keith Larsen: My first taste of some “real” Charlton was from a coveted gift I received from our new pal Joe Staton the day we interviewed him for the movie. He gave me a collected edition of E-Man published by First Comics. That was my favorite until I was able to read every Question back-up story in Blue Beetle comics from a digital collection we purchased on eBay. But Joe’s book is still awesome!

Jackie Zbuska: I instantly gravitated toward their expansive collection of horror titles, which despite the Comics Code, are subversively graphic. I have a soft spot for Gorgo stories, but my true favorite is John Byrne’s Rog-2000. He was in backup stories in some of the E-Man comics.

EC:  What’s the timing of the project and how can fans help?

KL & JZ: Honestly, we were hoping for the project to be finished by the end of 2017, but funding dictates how fast we can work. We had financial help via crowd funding, but the money has run out. Unfortunately, with something as unheard of as Charlton Comics with as niche a fan base as it has, it hasn’t allowed us the ability to break into the sphere of pop culture awareness. So, in the case of crowd-funding, our reach has been limited to the marketplace of serious comic book fans or collectors. We’re hoping that our future efforts for raising funds will make strides into appealing to that larger audience potential. Any ideas are welcomed!

You can contribute via our website, www.CharltonMovie.com

EC: Which Charlton comic series is cooler, Judo Master or Gorgo?

Keith Larsen: Judo Master!
Jackie Zbuska: Keith’s wrong, it’s totally Gorgo!

For more information, check out their site at : http://www.charltonmovie.com/ or their panel at the Rhode Island Comic-Con on Friday, November 10, 2017.

Mindy Newell: Days Of Yore

Presenting two real-life stories from my days of yore, although names have been changed to protect both the innocent and the guilty.

Story The First:

I knew a girl in high school – I wouldn’t say we were friends, but she was someone who had never participated in the Piggy horrors. Sally was an A+ student, on the track to an Ivy League school. Pretty (but not gorgeous) and popular (but quiet about it), she came to me one day and said that she needed to talk to me privately. I was surprised… and a bit suspicious. What did she want? But because Sally had never been overtly mean to me, even though she was part of the clique that instigated most of the callous cruelties upon me, and because I still hoped to be “accepted,” and I wanted to believe for some reason she was about to warn me of some new devilishness about to be inflicted on me – forewarned was forearmed – I agreed. But it had nothing to do with me at all.

Sally was pregnant.

I was, frankly, shocked. Not just about what she said, but also because I was thinking, why are you telling me?

She seemed to be reading my mind about that last part. “I can’t tell Laura, or Toni, or anybody. It would be all over the school in a second. You know how they are.”

Did I ever. Still –

“But they’re your friends.”

All she said was, “I made an appointment with Planned Parenthood in the city. Will you come with me?”

I know exactly why I said “yes.” Out of kindness, certainly. But to be totally honest, I also thought that this could be a way in. Hey, whaddya want? I was a teenager.

We had to cut school the day of her appointment. I met her at the corner bus stop, about an hour after classes started. Sally was very quiet, she didn’t say anything, but I remember she was very pale. As for me, I was sure I would see my father in his car on the way to work. I wasn’t so worried about my mom – I knew she was already at the hospital, where she worked in the ER. At any rate, both of us were very nervous and impatient, waiting for that bus to the PATH train into the city.

At the time – September 1971 – there was a Planned Parenthood in Manhattan on First Avenue between 21st and 20th Streets.  I guess – and I don’t blame her – that Sally made the appointment there rather than the one in Jersey City because Jersey City is too close to Bayonne… too close for comfort. Anyway, I don’t know what either of us was expecting, but it was modern and clean and the staff was professional, kind, and, most importantly, totally non-judgmental.

Sally’s name was called. I sat in the waiting room. It seemed like a long time, but the receptionist at the desk assured me everything was fine when I asked.

Interjection – as an RN in the operating room, I can tell you that the actual procedure takes very little time, especially in the first trimester [as Sally was]. Frequently I’m not even done with my charting before it’s over and I have to assist in transferring the patient to the PACU (Post-Anesthesia Care Unit, commonly referred to as the Recovery Room). Most of the intraoperative period is taken up with other things involved in any visit to the OR – anesthesia induction, proper and safe positioning, emergence from anesthesia, transfer to PACU, and monitoring in the PACU, which lasts about an hour or so on average, until discharge.)

Afterwards, as we had planned, we used our pooled resources and took a cab home. This was well before Uber or Lyft. Sally didn’t’ say much except to complain about some cramping – totally normal, btw – but the “worry” was off her face; she was visibly relieved. The cab dropped us off about a block from her house; I walked her home, and before she went inside, she turned and said: “See you in school tomorrow.”

No, we didn’t become best friends after that; things pretty much went back to normal, actually. Hey, we were teenagers, and there were rules of engagement. But I do remember that Sally was never around when it was time to “play Piggy with Mindy.

Sally went on to graduate in the top 25 of a class numbering 750 (I finished 145) and went on to that Ivy League school. I didn’t see her much after high school, a couple of parties and a reunion or two at the Jewish Community Center. I don’t even know what she went on to become as an adult, though I’ve heard she was “successful and happy.”

Story The Second:

Jack and Jill were my high school’s dream team. Every high school has one. Jack was the champion quarterback. Jill was the head cheerleader. Jack was the president of the Student Union. Jill was the editor of the school newspaper. Both had bright futures. Early admission to the colleges of their choice, with Jack receiving a full scholarship based on his football prowess to a Big Ten school, and Jill planning on majoring in journalism at NYU.

They were great people.

And they never treated anybody like Piggy.

Anyway, sometime in the late fall of our senior year, after the Thanksgiving holiday, Jill suddenly disappeared from the school hallways. First, we heard that she was sick with mononucleosis (the “kissing disease,” as it used to be called), but as January became March, rumors began spreading, rumors having to do with pregnancy and forced marriages. Especially after Jack dropped out – two months before graduation.

The truth broke free, as truth is apt to do, sometime in the fall of 1971. During the Christmas break when everybody came home from college, it was the talk of the town, the bars, and the parties.

Jill had become pregnant, and, since back in those stupid days, girls “in the family way” were not allowed to finish high school, she had been forced to leave under the cover of the mononucleosis story, though she refused to go to one of those “homes for fallen women” or whatever they were called. (Do they still exist?)  Her parents had gotten her a tutor so she could finish her high school degree, but not only had she disappeared from the school hallways, Jill had also been confined to the house to “hide her shame.”

Worse, when Jill wanted to go to Planned Parenthood for advice – and advice only – her parents would not allow it. They were very observant Catholics and the name Planned Parenthood was as abhorrent as the name Judas Iscariot. Jill’s pregnancy was treated as if it were a monstrous sin.

She had also finally admitted that Jack was the father because her father had beaten it out of her. Her father then called his father, and they decided that Jack and Jill would get married right away.

And in 1971, not only could you not be pregnant in high school, you couldn’t be married, either; which meant that Jack had to drop out, too, meaning, of course, that he lost his football scholarship and any hope for college. And in case you’re wondering – no college for Jill, either.

Of course, there was always the future, but…

After they got married and Jill had the baby, and Jack got some kind of job, nothing much, he started drinking. Drinking hard. And doing drugs. Hard drugs.

And that’s how the story stood that Christmas break, the last week of 1971.

But it didn’t end there. About 10 years later I met one of Jill’s cousins at the mall. We got to talking about high school, and eventually – of course – Jack and Jill came up. I’ll never forget that conversation.

Jack’s downward spiral had continued. He lost one job after another. The drinking continued, and he was chippinghttp://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=chipping on some weekends, too.

Then he started abusing Jill, and it hadn’t stopped.

“But Jill was always so smart. Why doesn’t she leave?” I said.

“Jesus,” her cousin said.

“Jesus?”

“Jill’s become really religious. That’s why she won’t leave. I think she thinks she’s atoning for getting pregnant and fucking up Jack’s football scholarship. “

“Jesus.”

“Yep.”

That was the last time I ever heard about Jack and Jill. I have no idea what happened to them. Or their kids.

•     •     •     •     •

As if this writing (Sunday, September 10) there are five days to reach the $50,000 goal to produce Mine!: A Celebration of Freedom & Liberty Benefitting Planned Parenthood. We are almost but not quite there.

And, look, guys, I get it. This has been a summer and early fall of donating funds. I understand it’s a matter of priorities. I get the feeling of being “donated out,” too. And our hearts go out to the many caught up in the current round of hurricanes.

Even if it’s just $5, hell, even if’s just a $1, just think about what Bernie Sanders accomplished with an average of $27 to his campaign.

When people think of Planned Parenthood, they think “abortion.” But I’m telling you, and now I am speaking to you as a member of the professional healthcare community, the organization does so much more: Counseling and cancer screenings and preventative and maintenance health care. For women and for men.

The anthology features work by:

 And even more.

Just do it, okay? Because one day, you or yours could be just like Sally or Jack and Jill. Because, just when you or yours need it, Planned Parenthood could be gone.

Don’t let that happen.

Ed Catto: Respect – for the Presidents and for Geek Culture

JSA All Star Wood 65 and 64

As a kid, I had book called Our Country’s Presidents by Frank Burt Freidal. It was an important looking book published by the National Geographic Society. This heavy tome devoted a few pages to each president along with a handful of gorgeous, colorful pictures. In retrospect, the model they used was a precursor to today’s magazines, complete with sidebars and sections-within-sections.

Freidals Presidents BookWay back when, the U.S. presidents were held in high regard.

I didn’t think I could ever read it all, but it was great fun to skim a few chapters now and then to get a perspective on all these great men and the times in which they lived.

During that same period, as you can imagine, I was also reading a fair amount of comic books. And in one comic series, The Justice League of America, each summer they’d have an adventure with their out-of-town “relatives,” the Justice Society of America.
This made all the sense in the world to me. As an Italian-American family, we were all about gathering the family together at wonderful events. One of the leading restaurants in my hometown was founded by a relative, so getting the invite to their enormous annual summer picnic was always such fun.

Our family would just eat a lot at these gatherings. But when the Justice League of America, essentially a super hero family, would meet annually with their older, wiser, mentor-ish counterparts, the Justice Society of America, there would always be a grand adventure. Oh, sure, they’d typically have one or two pages showing all the heroes enjoying hors d’oeuvres and chatting, but that wouldn’t be very interesting for the entire story.

To help readers identify and understand the visiting characters, the comic would typically devote a couple of pages to each Justice Society member and explain a little bit about their background. To me, it seemed exactly like that U.S. presidents book. The message I got was “These old heroes are important and you should really learn about them- just like you should learn about presidents.”

JSA All Star Staton 72I dutifully obeyed and complied with this imagined directive. Chalk it up to the power of Geek Culture. Whenever there was an adventure with these Justice Society heroes, it was a treat for me and I took it seriously.

So with this background, you’ll understand how I was thrilled to find out that these “out of town” characters, the Justice Society, would return to star in their own comic. All-Star Comics #58 was published in 1976 and starred the JSA heroes.

There they were – these fantastic characters doing amazing things, presumably in the times between those family get-togethers.

For some odd distribution reason, this wasn’t available at my regular newsstand, the fabled Pauline’s News in Auburn, NY. I had to make a special trip to a specific drug store on the other side of town to get this comic. The extra effort was worth it.

There was a new character introduced in this series too. She was kind of like Supergirl, but not as demure and sweet. She was aggressive and always displayed her assertive personality.

She was also very attractive. One artist on the series was the legendary Wally Wood, who could draw anything but had a particular aptitude for rendering pretty blondes. To a 13-year-old boy, this was of great interest to me.

I’m writing about this because I’m thrilled to announce that I was given a great honor. Gemstone’s vice-president of publishing, J.C. Vaughn, asked me to contribute an article about the Justice Society revival series to this year’s Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide.
The Overstreet Guide is another of those grand summer traditions. It’s a detailed price guide to just about every comic book ever published, but it’s more than that. It’s an incredible reference detailing the history of American comics, and provides insightful historical articles and industry trends by the nation’s top comics experts.

OverstreetThe book also celebrates creators with the annual showcase of legendary talents providing special cover artwork. This year’s cover is really special, in fact, as J.C. has recruited Amanda Conner to create a two-part diptych cover, one of which features that “pretty blonde” from my youth – Power Girl.

The limited edition cover is by a true master as well. Russ Heath is a phenomenal artist, whose life story is as fascinating and fun as is his art. Heath has created a moody, moving piece evocative of the old war comics covers. As usual, the Overstreet team has designed a unique alternative logo that always thrills evokes the original 60s war comics.

J.C. Vaughn treats the annual publication like one big party. As is the tradition, the book debuts at San Diego Comic-Con and then is on sale nationwide at comic shops and traditional bookstores.

Writing my article for The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide was such fun. I talked with creators of the series, young pups just starting out when the series was first published: Paul Levitz and Joe Staton. Each has gone on to establish incredible careers in the industry. I also spoke with Justice Society expert Roy Thomas. Although he wasn’t directly involved with this iteration of the JSA, he still had great insights and revealed a story or two I hadn’t heard.

David Spurlock is the wry, charming publisher of Vanguard Productions. You may enjoy Vanguard’s fantastic books spotlighting artists like Frank Frazetta, Paul Gulacy or Wally Wood. I sure do. On the other hand, my wife just likes talking to the guy because he’s charming and witty.

But he carries the torch for many artists, and Wallace (Wally) Wood is one of them. David pulled back the curtain and revealed some great stories (some of which I couldn’t publish) about Wood’s participation in this 70s Justice Society revival.

It was great fun to write and I think it will be great fun to read! Be on the lookout and don’t be shy about reserving your copy of The 46th Annual Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide.

And if anyone has a copy of Freidel’s book on the presidents …. I’ll trade you an extra copy of the Overstreet Guide for it. I’ve got to finish reading that one!

Ed Catto: Paul Kupperberg Looks Up Into the Sky!

Supergirl Covers

I have a friend who loved opera and music growing up, and now she sings in the chorus for the Metropolitan Opera. There’s something energizing when you witness someone leverage their passion and turn it into a wonderful and fulfilling career.

And my friend, comic writer Paul Kupperberg, is exactly that kind of person.

PK-SA SGirl NYCCAs a kid back in 1976, Paul was buying comics at My Friend’s Bookstore in Flatbush, Brooklyn. “My ideal book store,” Kupperberg explained. “Carts out front, loaded with cheap books. The counter on the right had all the Golden Age issues. Superman #1 was $100. They used the Howard Rogofsky price list. Behind the counter there were boxes on the shelves. A magical place – we’d go on weekends. We would even work there.”

Even though Superman was his favorite, Kupperberg has had a long experience with the character, Supergirl. “I didn’t come to the Supergirl strip until the sixties,” he said. Supergirl was “one of the first characters I collected.” These adventures were unique as they employed an internal continuity. Certainly more than other DC series at that time. “It was a very different strip for that era,” said Kupperberg.

But by the late 70s and early 80s Kupperberg had the opportunity to contribute professionally to Supergirl’s mythology. “I did stuff for Superman Family. It was an oversized book. I was writing Jimmy Olsen. Marty Pasko was doing Supergirl. He left and I picked it up. Win Mortimer was drawing it – about a year’s worth,” said Kupperberg.

“Then she got her own title. A big deal.”

Kupperberg finally got his chance to fly with Supergirl. Supergirl debuted in her new comic – The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl in late 1984.

UnusualTales1“Julie Schwartz was the editor,” Kupperberg recalled. “and Julie was famous for reinventing characters. Supergirl was, at that point, a soap opera star in New York City. I had a problem with a grown woman as Supergirl. We wanted to push it back, so we sent her back to college. We didn’t say if she was an undergrad or a graduate student. In those days, hard reboots didn’t exist. The idea of totally changing a character didn’t exist. You could bring them back and reinvent them.”

Kupperberg wrote the series for almost two years, until it ended with issue #23.

Due to slow sales, this Supergirl series was cancelled, along with Superboy. But there were plans to combine Supergirl and Superboy into a single, oversized, 40-page comic called DC Double Comics. The two characters would rotate as lead feature and back-up feature.

Plans called for Kupperberg to write the stories. Carmine Infantino and Klaus Janson would provide art for Superboy. The revised premise would showcase Superboy’s intergalactic adventures with the Galaxians. “They were like the Legion of Super-Heroes but in the present day,” explained Kupperberg.

Supergirl fans would have enjoyed a real treat. The brilliant Eduardo Barreto was assigned as penciller on this strip. Bob Oskner was to be the inker. The first issue was penciled and lettered.

“Life had caught up with Supergirl,” said Kupperberg. The premise was that she was going to visit her parents on New Krypton, and have adventures on the new planet recently established from the restoration of the the bottled city of Kandor.

SecRom_2Unfortunately, as DC developed the Crisis on Infinite Earths, a company-wide reboot of DC mythology, these two characters were written out of continuity. Plans for DC Double Comics were scrapped.

In the DC mythology, the Supergirl of Earth-2, that alternate earth where the Golden Age heroes still thrived, was called Power Girl. Originally created as a Wally Wood heroine appropriate for all ages.

After the Crisis on Infinite Earths streamlined the continuity, “they wanted to keep her around,” said Kupperberg. Gerry Conway and Bob Greenberger rejiggered her backstory in an issue of Secret Origins where she became the

granddaughter of Arion, Lord of Atlantis. (This was a character that Kupperberg created.) Kupperberg wrote several Power Girl adventures, including a mini-series illustrated by Rick Hoberg.

“I love my Wally Wood,” said Kupperberg. “But Rick Hoberg drew her in human proportions.”

As for the new CBS series, “I’m enjoying the show,” said Kupperberg. “They got it right. They got the heart and soul of Kara correct, and that’s what’s important.”

Kupperberg sees a bit of the DNA of his Supergirl run in the TV show, but concedes there’s no direct influence. One character they’ve used is Reactron. “I came up with him,” said Kupperberg. “So there’s that. That’s cool.”

But he watches it just like every other fan. “Hank Henshaw – when they turned him into Martian Manhunter – I knew it was coming but I was still like: EEEK!”

Kupperberg is very philosophical about different interpretations of characters. He related a story where he and longtime pal John Byrne were bitching about evaluating one of the recent comic versions of Superman. They were saying that those guys aren’t writing the real Superman. But then he realized, “neither were we. The only person who wrote the real Superman was Jerry Siegel. Everyone else is just writing his own version. Sure, we stuck close to the original source material, but <even> we were pretty far from the original. The original Superman was like Bernie Sanders. He was democratic socialist. He was knocking down doors and saving an innocent guy from the electric chair. He was battering down the Governor’s door.”

Today, Paul Kupperberg is involved with myriad ventures. One is Charlton NEO, “a revival of the old Charlton comics in name if not in spirit.” His collaborators include Roger (Daredevil) McKenzie and Mort Todd.

Paul Kupperberg’s Secret Romances is a comic that attracts an A list of comic professionals, including Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Dean Haspeil, John Byrne, Joe Staton & Nick Cuti (on a new E-Man adventure), Rick Burchett and Neil Vokes.

He’s also working on The Scary Squad, a Scooby Doo style team of cosplayers, a Planet of the Apes story for an upcoming anthology, and a trilogy of Atlantis stories. “These are essentially my last Arion stories.”

Kupperberg has always enjoyed writing strong women: Supergirl, Power Girl, and Chian in Arion. “Even my Betty and Veronica” (in the recent Life with Archie series). I like women. I respect women,” said Kuppperberg.

For more information check out Paul’s site http://kupps.malibulist.com.

John Ostrander Cons Around in Baltimore

Baltimore Comic ConSo, I wasn’t here last week. Some of you may have noticed. So, where was I? At the Baltimore Comic Con (BCC), which was dandy, and I enjoyed it very much. Usually when I’m gone somewhere around the deadline for this column, I’m supposed to get it in earlier and most times I do. This time? Just screwed up the time. What can I say? I’m (mostly) human.

Lots of my fellow columnists here at ComicMix have already done their columns this week on the BCC last week. Mike Gold, Emily Whitten, Martha Thomases, and Molly Jackson all contributed. Marc Allan Fishman wrote about an aspect of the BCC and he wasn’t even there. Makes you wonder what I could add to the (comic)mix. I wondered too, but Mike has already speculated I would probably write about the Con and I wouldn’t want to make a liar out of him.

One of the big pleasures of the Con was getting to see so many of my old friends. I shared a table with my bro, Timothy Truman, and he was considerate enough to bring his wife, Beth, who is a real treat. I hadn’t seen Tim in ages and Beth for even longer; she gave me a great hug and if that isn’t a great way to start a Con, I don’t know what is.

I had dinner with them the first night and we ran into Mike Grell who joined us. In fact, we were going to have a First Comics reunion of sorts over the weekend. In addition to Tim and Mike and Grell and me there was the two Marc/ks, Wheatley and Hempel, and Joe Staton. We even got our picture taken together to commemorate the occasion. The Mighty Gray Panthers of the real First Comics!

In addition, there were all the fine people over at the ComicMix table such as Martha Thomases, Glenn Hauman, Evelyn Kriete and Emily Whitten. I’d never met Emily in person before; she’s delightful and sat to my left at the Harvey Awards on Saturday night. I hatched an idea for a project with her and you’ll hear more about it as we get that act together.

There were lots and lots of other old friends there such as Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Connor and my old Suicide Squad editor and ComicMix reviewer Robert Greenberger. I want to take this moment to acknowledge how much Squad owed to Bob. He’s the one who suggested the title to me and helped guide it through its debut and onward. Take a bow, Bob.

As I mentioned, I was also at the Harvey Awards on Saturday night, sitting between Emily and Mike Gold. Vivek Tiwary was the host; I’d never met him before (among an amazing list of accomplishments, he wrote the graphic novel The Fifth Beatle). He was very personable, very enthusiastic about comics, and very generous when he introduced me (I was a presenter). I got to follow both Russ Heath and Jules Feiffer as they accepted their inductions into the Harvey Awards Hall of Fame. These men are legends and, if you don’t know them, go Google their names or look them up on Wikipedia.

And I followed them! Ye gawds. Well, at least I didn’t stutter.

As you may have read elsewhere, there was something of a controversy at the BCC. Some of the comic book guests charged for their autographs and some didn’t. Neal Adams charged 30 bucks per autograph; Mike Grell was also charging a much smaller sum and he donated what he made to The Hero Initiative.

I didn’t and I do not charge for autographs; I never have and I doubt I ever will. This is not to suggest any sort of judgment on those who do. Neal is a legend in the industry and an unquestioned leader in the fight for the rights of freelancers. He’s a long standing hero of mine, both as an artist and as a champion of our rights.

My rationale for not charging is pretty simple: the fan bought the book and it had my name on it and that has supported me. If they want me to deface it with my autograph, it’s the least I can do. Yes, I know that some dealers get them signed and then re-sell them on eBay or some such. I don’t think I ran into many of them, if any, while I was at the BCC. I can’t really sort out the dealers from the fans and I don’t bother trying. If others see the matter differently, so be it. This is just how I do it.

I want to say that the fans were wonderful. They were knowledgeable and enthusiastic and warm and friendly. There were all ages, too. Lots of kids, which wasn’t so true a few years ago. That was wonderful to see and hopeful for the industry.

I think it was Mike Gold who defined the BCC for me: it was really comics orientated. Other Cons are very orientated to the media guests. BCC had some but the main thrust was comics. It also seemed very much like family; other cons, such as NYCC, feel more like business. That’s okay, too; it’s New York City and that’s appropriate. In Baltimore, however, it felt like old times in the industry to me, in between the Con, the fans, and my friends. I think maybe that’s why I really enjoyed it.

I didn’t get a chance to see much of the city, which is usual for me at Cons. What I saw was interesting and nice. I ate a lot of crab which I take it is what one is supposed to do in Maryland. I think I’ve had enough Old Bay Seasoning for a while.

In short, it was a great weekend and I’m so glad to have been invited. It had been maybe two decades since I had last been there; I hope not to make it so long again. Of course, if I did, I’d be really old. Geezer City.

Thanks to all who made it a good time/ I hope we can do it again soon.

Mike Gold: Re-Union

First Comics Reunion Baltimore 2015

You probably read Emily’s column yesterday. It was all about the Baltimore Comic-Con. You’ll probably read Martha’s column Friday. It is all about the Baltimore Comic-Con. And, damn, I wouldn’t be surprised if John’s Sunday column is all about the Baltimore Comic-Con as well. This is because ComicMix invaded the place.

Emily, Martha, John and I were joined by fellow ComicMixers Glenn Hauman, Ed Catto, Bob Ingersoll, Robert Greenberger and Evelyn Kriete, all in a combined effort to make Adriane Nash feel bad that she missed a big one. I believe Nelson Muntz said it best: Ha-ha!

But I’m not here today to talk about the Baltimore Comic-Con. I’m here to talk about something that happened at the Baltimore Comic-Con. Something that Hilarie Staton captured in the photograph that (hopefully) appears above. Something that Baltimore Comic-Con’s official photog, Bruce Guthrie, also captured but, since he took so many photos last weekend even Carl Barks couldn’t come up with the right-sounding number, I don’t have them as of deadline-time. Bruce is quite the artistic guy and I look forward to seeing his… well, his pictures of me and my buddies.

Let’s identify the folks in Hilarie’s picture, from left to right, physically but not politically.

Marc Hempel, Mark Wheatley, Mike Grell, some pudgy asshole, Joe Staton, John Ostrander, and Timothy Truman.

Yep, that’s a reunion. The First Comics class of 1984, sans Howard Chaykin, Lenin del Sol, Hilary Barta, and Rick Obadiah. Rick had a pretty good excuse for missing the party.

It was about 34 years ago when Rick Obadiah and I were, literally, lying on the floor of an office in the mighty Video Action Magazine complex with our sketches and notes, detailing what was soon to become First Comics. The act of creation takes on many forms and an enormous amount of time, and Rick and I further developed the company through a wonderful series of elaborate restaurant meals that would provoke a vegetarian to a massive seizure. I know that it worked – actually, I’ve finally accepted that it worked – because dozens and dozens of people still stop me at comics conventions such as the Baltimore Comic-Con to tell me how much they enjoyed our work.

Yes, and more than a handful of fans whose introductory sentences started with “I discovered my dad’s comic book stash and…” Sigh.

The above-pictured people were responsible for Mars, Jon Sable Freelance, Starslayer, E-Man, and GrimJack. Our work either remains in print in trade paperback form or, as in the case with Starslayer, about to be so memorialized.

That’s really cool and sort of life-affirming.

I am not alone in saying that the Baltimore show is my favorite, and that it is my favorite because it’s by and for comic book fans. There aren’t many faded teevee stars there eking out a living; it’s all four-color, all the time. A celebration of what makes comics and comics fandom great. It’s also the home of the Harvey Awards – John and I were presenters this year – and as Martha will tell you Friday, the Harveys is all about family.

The combined age of all those guys up above is about 400 years old. Please note: all of us are still working, and still turning out great stuff. In many cases, better stuff. And signing all those comic books (sometimes in front of a CGC witness!) and chatting with you-all remains completely… what’s the word you kids say?… oh, yeah. Awesome.

For that, I thank you.