Tagged: Jules Feiffer

Ed Catto’s 2016 Holiday Gift Guide

ragnarok-bookI have wonderful Yuletide memories. Like every young boy, I quickly learned that the true meaning of the Holiday Season was… getting more stuff. And being the greedy little monster I was, (and, I guess, I remain) I also learned that I could extend that wonderful feeling of “Christmas Acquisition” through books. More than a toy, or apparel or certainly candy, the enjoyment of a book would linger well past the twelve days of Christmas.

As a comics fan back in the day, actual books about comics were few and far between. One that did make it onto the traditional bookstore shelves was Jules Feiffer’s The Great Comic Book Heroes. Soon after Superman: From the 30’s to the 70’s was a one of those “big wow” books about comics that was gifted to me. It was so massively thick that I couldn’t imagine anyone would be able to read the whole thing in one lifetime!

zorro_precode_webThat holiday-hardcover comic tradition carried on each year with Stan Lee’s Origins of Marvel Comics, The Son of Origins, Bring On the Bad Guys, The Superhero Women and that Silver Surfer graphic novel that reunited Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. (It was kind of a dud for me.)

When I was a parent, my kids would always get me similar treasures – most often DC Archive Editions and Marvel Masterworks. I’ve been one fortunate bookworm.

So with all that in mind, here are a few suggestions for holiday books:

sensuous-frazettaThere’s something about Norse mythology and the Yuletide season that just naturally go together. On the other hand, any day is a good day to enjoy the incredible work of comics legend Walter Simonson. IDW just published Ragnarok: Last God Standing as a collection of the first few issues of the ongoing comic, featuring Thor, the last of the Asgardians. It’s a fresh thriller by a comics master, and keep an eye out for my upcoming column spotlighting Walter’s Ragnarok series.

IDW has also teamed up with Eaglemoss to produce an ongoing reprint series of all the Star Trek comics. And the nice thing about this effort is that each volume mixes and matches Star Trek comics from all the different publishers over the years: Marvel, DC, Malibu, IDW, Gold Key and even the strips from the British weekly comics. What a great way to experience it all. While I love the Gold Key strips, I can’t read more than a few at a time. With this series, fans get a smorgasbord rather than just one heaping main course. Check out Star Trek: The Graphic Novel Collection.

from-the-files-of-mike-hammer-fullIt seems like it’s a golden age for Classic Comic Strips reprints. While some brilliant artists like Thomas Yeates, Mike Manley and Terry Beatty are doing great things with comic strips printed in the actual newspapers, there are now s great many options for reprint books. In fact, in the Diamond’s most recent Previews Magazine (the one with the cool Kamandi by Bruce Timm Cover) “From The Archives” was the monthly theme, celebrating comic strip reprints.

Hermes Press is the run by a passionate guy named Dan Herman. When it comes publishing and reprinting old comics with the respect they deserve, he’s the real deal. A few books of particular note:

star-trek-eaglemossAlex Raymond was a phenomenal artist and a groundbreaking entrepreneur for what would evolve into Geek Culture. But at that time, the world thought of him as an advertising artist who made a living doing those silly comic strips. And today, when comic fans look at his work, I’ve heard comments like “That looks like Dave Stevens’ art.” Hermes’s gorgeous coffee table book Alex Raymond: An Artistic Journey: Adventure, Intrigue and Romance offers readers a ringside seat to experience Raymond’s work again or for the first time.

phantom_avon_cover_1_smallAnd while it’s not a collection of reprinted comic strips, The Phantom: The Complete Avon Books Vol. 1 looks to be fun. This ongoing series reprints the old 60s prose Phantom paperback stories. The first one is an origin story by series creator, Lee Falk and it’s wrapped in a gorgeous painted George Wilson cover.

Max Alan Collins is a favorite here on ComicMix for so many reasons, and he’s contributed essays to two fantastic Hermes books. His thoughts aren’t the only reasons, or even the main reason to check these out, but like a good bottle of wine, he makes the main dish that much better. So I’d also recommend:

  • Zorro: The Complete Dell Pre-Code Comics which gathers together wonderful Zorro adventures from Dell’s Four Color
  • The collection of Mike Hammer strips from the mid-fifties in Mickey Spillane: From the Files of Mike Hammer.

wally-woodMy highest recommendation will probably go to Vanguard Press’ The Sensuous Frazetta by J. David Spurlock. I purchased this book at San Diego Comic-Con in July, and haven’t been able to officially move it from my reading pile to my shelf of favorites in the bookcase. Each time I pick it up I see something new and enjoy it more.

Also on my short list is another Wally Wood book from Vanguard. The latest is called Wally Wood Jungle Adventures and it features the “lost hero” Animan. I’m not sure how much of an Animan fan I am, but you can never go wrong with Wally Wood.

Have a great Yuletide Season and be kind to your friends and foes alike!

Mike Gold: Reality’s Slippery Slope

HostilemanSeven random thoughts on a post-Valentine’s Day afternoon.

I’ve started to measure time in “DC Comics Reboots.” Usually about four years, give or take. In other words, if Abe Lincoln used that designation his most famous speech with have started “21 DC Comics Reboots ago…” Yes, I know DC insists it’s not a reboot, despite cancelling and replacing their entire superhero line with new versions of the same old thing. And I suppose Superman doesn’t have a Big Red S.

Jughead 4O.K. Jughead is asexual – although I’d bet he won’t be in the CW teevee series. But I ask you this: did Kevin Keller out him by saying so in public at Riverdale High? Don’t get me wrong; that was a great scene and it feels as though the revelation was common knowledge. But, like Martha and Joe before me, I hadn’t thought about asexuals being a class of people subject to routine discrimination. It’s been a while since a mainstream comic book actually lit the flames of thought inside my fevered brainpan.

Deadpool was the Airplane! of superhero movies. Brianna Hildebrand’s scene where she halts the big battle sequence in order to finish texting was brilliant and Stan Lee’s cameo was the finest use of a nonagenarian comic book writer ever. However, I think Stefan Kapicic owes Paul Frees’ estate a check for his use of Boris Badenov’s voice, and at the end where Morena Baccarin worked things out (no spoiler alert), I kind of felt sorry for Detective Jim Gordon. Although, to be fair, Morena’s had a great deal of varied superhero work in recent years.

IDoctor Faten last month’s issue of Doctor Fate – a wonderful and soon-to-be-cancelled New52 series – writer Paul Levitz deployed my favorite verse from the Koran. Yes, sports fans, I actually have a favorite verse from the Koran. Of course, Islam being an organized religion and therefore greatly disorganized, the verse is phrased in a variety of ways and its veracity has been questioned by some. But the line goes “Blessed is he who makes his companions laugh” and I think that’s a great sentiment. Nice job, Paul.

Riddle me this: How many Spider-Men does it take to fill the Marvel Universe? Answer: How many have you got? I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more Spideys right now than Green Lanterns. So stop bitching about the inevitability of concurrent Sam Wilson and Steve Rogers Captains America. That’s only two. Thus far. Oh, wait. Isn’t there a teen-age girl from 2099 or from another, no-longer existent universe? O.K. Three.

Wonder WomanCounting up the number of secret origins devised for Wonder Woman over the past 75 years is akin to defining π to the last decimal point: you’re going to give up or die of old age before you complete your mission. I might have read them all, but I’ve probably read nearly all. And the current one that’s unfolding in Legend of Wonder Woman is, by far, the best thought-out and best realized of the bunch. Kudos to Renae De Liz and Ray Dillon on a thankless job – thankless because it’s not the origin in the upcoming Wonder Woman movie and, therefore, probably will be ignored. I hope not.

Now that Playboy magazine has dropped the tits’n’snatch, the relic from the beat generation has decided to off the cartoons as well. This surprises me only because its two most famous cartoonists, Gahan Wilson and Hugh Hefner, are still alive. Well, in ‘Ner’s case, that’s subject to debate. Nonetheless, it’s a shame that the magazine that regularly gave us the work of Jack Cole, Jules Feiffer, Shel Silverstein, Bobby London, Harvey Kurtzman and Willy Elder will not extend that welcome to a new generation of artists. I’m not sure what Playboy’s place in this world might be, but I’ve been asking that question for several decades now… as have a great, great many of former and current employees and contributors to the publication. It’s not the end of an era; that era ended the day Al Gore learned how to spell “Internet.”

 

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.

Ed Catto: No More Shh-ing in the Library

Seymour LIbraryIf you’re passionate about Geek Culture, you probably should (1) promote it by bringing new people into the fold, and (2) prune your collection to keep it robust and manageable. I’m typically pretty good at the first and pretty bad at the second. But last weekend I tried something new and I had an experience that was better than expected.

First, a little background. I grew up in Auburn, a small town in New York State’s Finger Lakes region. I was surrounded by about a million Italian relatives, a downtown that could have been the basis for Smallville, and an outstanding library. It was called the Seymour Library and was built around the turn of century by the firm of Carrere and Hastings. You may know them from another one of their works – the New York Public Library.

My mom led us on weekly excursions to return and borrow books. She’d choose a bunch from the new fiction/mystery section, read the best one or two, and then repeat the process the following week. Likewise, my brother and I would do the same in the children’s section. I’d shift my focus from time to time. I’d be interested in Hardy Boys books for a while, then Robin Hood books (he was big back then), then sports books (Matt Christopher was a favorite) and then dinosaur books. Always dinosaur books, in fact.

After I had checked out every dinosaur book in the children’s section at least once, I got a little pushy. I boldly told our beloved librarian, Mrs. Pine, that she needed to get more dinosaur books. I was a bit of a brat, eh?

Library Lisa Carr Books DonatedBut my real passion was comics. Back then, there were only a few books about comics. To me that universe was confined to Jules Feiffer’s The Great Comic Book Heroes, Batman from the 30’s to the 70’s (and the Superman companion book) and Les Daniels’ Comix: A History of Comic Books in America. One other one, All In Color for a Dime by Don Thompson and Dick Lupoff, was like Bigfoot/ I just knew it was out there but never saw it.

So, flash forward to 2015. I’m a guy with overgrown collections of comics and books about comics. It’s time to prune those collections. And I thought my hometown library might be good pass along some of these books.

My Aunt Marcia, a well-read and supportive relative, introduced me to Lisa Carr, who is now the Library’s Director. She’s the energetic type that makes you realize how far libraries have come. I can’t imagine her ever shh-ing anyone in Seymour Library.

She’s all about creating excitement and addressing the ever-changing needs of her community. I explained that I’d like to make a donation of comic related books and graphic novels. She was both excited and gracious.

Lisa, and her staff, welcomed me with open arms (literally) as I brought my donation into the library. We chatted about Batman and Raina Telgemeier and how things had changed over the years. She then showed me the graphic novel section that they had built and I was so impressed. I checked out IDW’s The Outfit by Darwyn Cooke for my dad, in fact.

One of the other librarians explained that the character Nightwing was her favorite. My eight year-old self would never have believed that one day I’d be talking about Nightwing, essentially a grown-up Robin, to an authority figure in the library. It’s amazing how far Geek Culture has come.

So, a nice little chunk of my collection now resides in the Seymour Library Graphic Novel section. It was a great experience for me and I’d encourage any fellow hoarders collectors out there to consider the benefits of donating. Mrs. Pine, that wonderful librarian who fanned the flames of my passion for reading all those years ago, would be pleased to know that each of my donated books will have a special bookplate with a dedication to her.

And I think they have plenty of dinosaur books now too. I can’t really help with that.

Ed Catto: The Spirit at 75, part 2

A Spirit Eyes

In last week’s column I started to explore some of the history and issues of managing a brand in its 75th year. As I mentioned, I have had the privilege of managing several brands with long histories, most notably Oreo. I know how tough it can be to keep a brand respectful to its roots, yet relevant for today’s passionate consumers.

1 The Spirit_347_the_school_for_girlsThis week the San Diego Comic-Con will be celebrating the 75th anniversary of Will Eisner’s The Spirit, so I was eager to speak with The Will Eisner Foundation’s Carl and Nancy Gropper. And it made sense because they also live the same town as I do – and we have a fantastic local restaurant for breakfast meetings. And I love breakfast.

I was curious how the Groppers got involved with the foundation, and Carl explained that Will Eisner was his uncle. Growing up, Carl lived in New York City and Eisner lived in White Plains. On weekends, Carl and his brother would visit their uncle in “the country” and sleep over on a pullout couch. Initially, he had no idea who The Spirit was, but he and his brother would stay up late discovering a curious treasure: hardbound collections of the actual Spirit newspaper stories. This was in the fifties, after The Spirit’s weekly adventures had ended.

2 Spirit LoreleiThey both were enthralled with their uncle’s adventures of The Spirit. But they felt like they were the only two Spirit fans in a world that had forgotten the hero.

“Who else knew about the Spirit?” Carl said. “Our friends didn’t. It was ancient history. We were 5, 10 or whatever. There were no <reprinted> collections in those days. We might be reading comics, but they were Superman and Batman.” Nancy agreed and added that she was a fan of Archie and Veronica at that time.

Carl explained further that during this period, Eisner was focused on “running the business”, meaning his studio, PS Magazine and the booklets he’d regularly create for Fortune 500 companies. “He was a businessman. Man, was he a businessman!” said Carl.

3 PGELLEssentially, Will Eisner didn’t maintain The Spirit “as a brand” for this period. In fact, Carl suggests that it wasn’t until the release of Jules Feiffer’s classic book The Great Comic Book Heroes, which featured a segment on the Spirit, that the public “relearned” about the Spirit. This classic collection was one of the early “real books” about comics. Feiffer started it with a wonderful essay and then reprinted early adventures of heroes such as Superman, Batman, Captain America and … the Spirit.

Seeking to understand Uncle Will through his nephew’s eyes, it’s no wonder that Eisner was leaving The Spirit behind and exploring new things. One of the great qualities about Will Eisner, according to Carl, was his continuous experimenting and pushing things forward. “He believed the medium could do anything”, said Carl.

4 Great Comic Book Heroes FeifferAnd Eisner was also eager to expand his relationships to include others who were trying new things. For example, Eisner forged a relationship with Dennis Kitchen. Carl told the story how at one of the old Phil Seuling comic conventions, Dennis Kitchen was hoping to meet Eisner, only to find out Will was actively looking to meet him.

Eisner created his first graphic novel, A Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories in 1978, and then continued to produce nineteen more graphic novels. All the while, he returned to the Spirit for an occasional illustration or project.

5 Spirit and Batman detective comics 600 p65Nancy paused a moment to remark about the type of person Will Eisner was, and fondly remembers him as very warm and kind. She recollects that Eisner was very modest and had no idea about of his substantial contributions to the industry. “It isn’t by chance that the Eisner awards are named after Will. In our opinion, he’s the best person to be acknowledged for this,” added Nancy.

But for the here and now, just how does a brand celebrate a 75th Anniversary? The Eisner Awards at San Diego Comic-Con this Friday, the annual “Oscars-style” ceremony for the comics industry, will embrace the anniversary theme. The annual San Diego Comic-Con Souvenir book will spotlight the 75th Anniversary with a gorgeous Michael Cho illustration on the cover, and Spirit articles and artwork within. And after the San Diego Comic-Con, Geppi’s Entertainment Museum in Baltimore, a leading venue of pop culture, comic and graphic novel art, will feature a Spirit exhibit. (More details on that soon!)

6 SDCC-cover-Spirit ChoHow do they define where to take the brand in the future? “We’re only trying to do what Will would’ve wanted to do, ” said Carl.

 

Mindy Newell: Je Ne Suis Pa Charlie Hebdo

SoBigYesterday I had a thought – which I do have on occasion.

I have always considered myself a “socially conscious” comics writer. This means that, if you look over my body of work, you will notice that I have told stories that, in one way or another, reflect “real world” events and the consequences of those events on my characters. Notably, of course, in my 1986 Lois Lane mini-series about child abduction and abuse, “When It Rains, God is Crying” (coincidentally edited by ComicMix’s Robert Greenberger when we were both working for DC, he an editor and me a freelancer), but also as far back as “Moon River,” my first story in New Talent Showcase, an admittedly tyro effort to portray the outcome of a closed, dictatorial society on an individual. And of course there was “Chalk Drawings,” which I co-wrote with George Pérez for Wonder Woman, which was a story about suicide.

These efforts do not make me Edna Ferber (a member of the Algonquin Round Table, a group of renowned and influential New York City writers, critics, actors, and wits who gathered at the Algonquin Hotel every day for lunch from 1919 to 1929), whose “socially conscious” novels include, among others, So Big (1924), for which she won the Pulitzer Prize, Show Boat (1926), which was adapted into a musical by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein, and Giant (1952), which was made into a movie directed by George Stevens and starred Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and James Dean – his third and last role before his death by car accident – who did admirable jobs in a no-way-was it-as-good-as-the-novel script adaptation. So Big was about the war between art and finance, Show Boat was about the racism between black and white and its price, while Giant dealt with the racism between brown and white, the antipathy between cattle ranchers and oilmen, and, as well, the clash between liberalism and conservatism. All are issues we face today.

Nor am I Laura Z. Hobson, whose 1947 Gentlemen’s Agreement attacked post-World War II anti-Semitism in the United States. It was made into a film produced by Darryl F. Zanuck, who, according to Wikipedia, was approached by Samuel Goldwyn and other Jewish filmmakers. They asked him not to make the film because it could “stir up trouble,” and feared that Hays Code enforcer Joseph Brown would not allow the film to get by the censors because of his openly known anti-Semitism. But Zanuck essentially said, “Fuck him,” and the film went on to be nominated for eight Oscars and to win three – Best Picture, Best Director (Elia Kazan, no stranger to controversy), Best Actor (Gregory Peck), and Best Supporting Actress (Celeste Holm). Just a brief aside here: in my not-so-humble opinion, John Garfield should have won a Best Supporting Actor for his role as Dave Goldman, a Jewish WW II vet and best friend to Gregory Peck’s main character, journalist Phil Schulyer. Oh, and young Dean Stockwell (Quantum Leap’s Admiral Al Calavicci and Battlestar Galactica’s Brother John Cavil) played Schulyer’s son.

But, getting back to my original sentence, in which I said I had a thought…

Am I still listed in the phone book?

Of course it sounds silly. I mean, who uses a phone book these days?

But the point is, how easy am I to find?

And the answer is: All too easy.

So what if I offended someone out there? Certainly in these past two and so years I have stated my opinions loudly and frequently. And I’ve done the same on my Facebook page.

Is it that inconceivable some one could decide to meet me in the parking lot at work, or in front of my apartment building, or even in my apartment? Some one with a pathological chip on his or her shoulder and a knife or a Luger or a Kalishnikov?

Or maybe while I’m shopping at the Jewish deli?

No, I’m not inflated with self-importance.

No, I am not Edna Ferber or Laura Z. Hobson. Neither am I Lawrence Wright or Bob Woodward or Carl Bernstein. I’m not Maureen O’Dowd. I’m not Rachel Maddow. I’m not Chris Matthews or Ed Schultz. I’m not Megan Kelley or Sean Hannity or Ann Coulter. I’m not Jon Stewart. I’m not Steven Colbert. I’m not Louis Black or John Oliver or Bill Maher.

I’m not Thomas Nast. I’m not Art Spielgman and I’m not Jules Feiffer. I’m not Nigar Nazar of Pakistan.

I’m not Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman or G. Willow Wilson.

I’m not Mike Gold or Denny O’Neil or John Ostrander or Marc Fishman or Martha Thomases or Michael Davis or Emily Whitten or Bob Ingersoll.

I am Mindy Newell.

Je ne suis pa Charlie Hebdo.

But I could be.

We all could be.

And so could you.

 

Martha Thomases: Comic Without Book

Robin WilliamsLast year, I noticed an ad for Apple. I mean, you can’t not notice them, since they air every few minutes. This one was special, though, quoting someone quoting Walt Whitman. I wondered if it was made by the same agency that made the Patti Smith Levi’s commercial. And I wondered why the unseen narrator sounded so familiar.

It was Robin Williams, from The Dead Poets Society.

As I’m sure you know, Robin Williams died Monday. God, I’m going to miss him

Now is the time when I would like to tell you what good friends we were, but that would be a lie. Instead, I have only loved him since the first times I saw him do his stand-up on television shows. I was lucky enough to see him perform, twice.

The first time, back when John and I were publishing Comedy Magazine (and why isn’t there a Wikipedia page, damn it!), was at a benefit for the First Amendment Improv Group. Our pal, Jane Brucker, was the emcee for the show and she had to vamp for 45 minutes because Williams’ plane was late. By the time he arrived, the audience was exhausted, but he put on a full and energetic show. To this day, I don’t know how I had the strength to get home, because I laughed so much my muscles were sore.

The second time was at a fund-raiser for Michael Dukakis. This was in the days before everybody put everything up on YouTube. It was before YouTube. Which is just as well because no politician could get elected after being endorsed by someone whose act was so filthy.

Williams was a brilliant stand-up, and a manic improviser. You can see a bunch of his genius here, but it’s not the same. He was so immediate, so of-the-moment, that seeing old material doesn’t capture the wallop of seeing it as it happened. It would be like watching old episodes of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. One can admire the craft and the wit, but it’s so much less funny when it isn’t happening now.

Robin Williams was, for a time, one of the biggest (if not the biggest) things in comedy. It is to his everlasting credit that he used his celebrity to draw attention to and raise money for Comic Relief <http://comicrelief.org>, which helped the sick, the homeless, and others in need.

His acting work was less well-respected. Many critics didn’t like what they perceived to be a sentimental streak in some of his performances, especially in films like Patch Adams or Hook. I understand what they say, but disagree in some cases. Hook never fails to make me cry like a baby, although as much for Maggie Smith as for Williams.

My favorites of his movies have comics’ connections. I adored Robert Altman’s Popeye, based on everyone’s favorite spinach-eating sailor with a script by Jules Feiffer. Everyone in the cast chews up the scenery with glee, and there is a sweetness with the movie that one does not often associate with Altman.

I equally love Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King. Gilliam, aside from being an integral part of Monty Python, worked with Harvey Kurtzman on Help magazine <http://www.helpmag.com> Williams plays a man driven mad by the murder of his wife, describing himself as “The janitor of god.” Yes, his performance is sentimental. I don’t care.

His television show from last season, The Crazy Ones, wasn’t picked up. He has three movies scheduled to be released in the next year, including a new Night at the Museum.

Sweetness and sentiment are part of the human experience, just like anger and hate. We deny them at our peril. Robin Williams combined them in his work in a way that was cathartic and hilarious.

I only wish it had worked for him.

Editor’s note: Yesterday, Robin Williams’ widow revealed her husband was diagnosed as in the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease. He was not suffering from substance abuse issues, but he long had been trying to cope with the disease of depression,