Tagged: Michael Eury

Ed Catto’s Holiday Gift Guide 2017

Yesterday The New York Times devoted a full page to this perplexing moment in Geek Culture we find ourselves in: a time when there are “too many versions” of Batman on the big and little screen. This persnickety topic is worth a deeper dive at a later date, but the big headline for this gift-giving season is that are a cornucopia of options for Geek Culture lovers. I could devote a whole column to Batman stuff available, but instead let me just touch on the Caped Crusader and instead offer up a broad range of Geek Culture gift ideas.

I love just about all of the Titan publications, and their merchandise is quite impressive as well. Their list of new goodies includes everything from The Beatles to Preacher to Pulp Fiction to Kill Bill! Titan’s Yellow Submarine vinyl figures blind box series is especially fun for Beatles fans as it includes obscure and esoteric figures. And each one looks fab.

Eaglemoss creates so many cool products for Doctor Who, Lord of the Rings, DC characters, Marvel characters (via their chess set series), Walking Dead and Alien that it’s hard to choose favorites. But let me spotlight a couple I really like – their new Batman Animated Series figures and their Star Trek starships. One spectacular item is the new 11” classic Enterprise. Each item comes with intensely detailed guides that are produced by professionals who know their fandom.

Dan Gearino educates and entertains in Comic Shop The Retail Mavericks Who Gave Us a New Geek Culture, recently published by Ohio University’s Swallow Press. It’s an engaging read that explains the birth of comics’ direct market and also provides up-to-the-minute profiles of retailers and their comic stores.

In Lady Action: The Sand of Forever, author Ron Fortier delivered a thriller cocktail that’s one part Modesty Blaise, one part 007 and one part Indiana Jones. It gets even better, as Airship 27 just released the audio book version. I think Kalinda Little does a superb job reading it, but find out for yourself here.

Michael Eury’s Back Issue Magazine celebrates comics of the 70s, 80s and today with insightful articles and columns. Sometimes I’m afraid to pick up an issue because I can never put it down! An annual subscription http://tinyurl.com/BackIssueSub makes an enduring gift that fans will appreciate throughout the year.

FanSets is a company run by fans for fans – and it shows. They have created gorgeous enamel pins featuring characters from Star Trek, Valiant, DC, Harry Potter, Firefly and more. I am in awe of their choices for DC characters pins like the Golden Age Sandman, Saturn Girl, and the grown-up Robin of Earth Two. It’s hard not to agree with Star Trek fans that this series of pin, including Discovery, look incredible too. Available at your local comic shop (look for their new displays!) or FanSets.com.

John Siuntres’ Word Balloon Podcast offers one-on-one interviews with the industry’s most interesting creators. Siuntres, a longtime radio professional, knows how to get folks talking. I listen to this show to find out more from creators I like and to learn about new things from creators with whom I’m less familiar. The podcast is free, but you could make someone a part of the League of Word Balloon Listeners with a gift donation. Find out more at http://wordballoon.blogspot.com.

This fall, I bought a copy of Classic Comics Press’ Kelly Green: The Complete Collection by Stan Drake and Leonard Starr from Emil Novak at Queen City Comics. I promptly wrote about how much I enjoyed it. Classic Comics Press Publisher Charles Pelto does a great job with all his books and you can’t go wrong with any of them for gifting.

I haven’t completely finished Craig Yoe’s Super Weird Heroes even though I wrote about it earlier this year. That’s because it’s so much fun that I just don’t want it end. Another Yoe book, Behaving MADly is a refreshing read for hard core and casual fans. It’s a wonderful book all about the many MAD magazine knockoffs. I gifted a copy to my pal Walshy (who is completely nuts too) and he was thrilled.

The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide always seemed like a “must have,” but each year publisher J.C.Vaughn and his merry band make it even more and more “must have-ier”! I especially liked Jim Steranko’s Batman cover on this year’s edition. Oh wait, it’s another version of Batman!

All the best to you and yours this Yuletide Season!

Ed Catto: Michael Eury’s Hero-A-Go-Go!

I recently covered a mini-trend of fascinating and well-researched books lovingly that looked back at goofy super-heroes here. Now that we’re on the cusp of the debut of one of these books, Hero-A-Go-Go, it’s time to take a deeper dive. I cornered author Michael Eury and asked all those questions that I’ve been dying to ask him:

Ed Catto: You reminisce about Jill St. John’s role in the debut episode of the 60s Batman TV series. Isn’t this really the start of the Camp Age?

Michael Eury: Well, as I wrote in my introduction: “No, Batman did not create the camp movement of the Sixties. Yet Batman was its zenith, its very poster child. And from my perspective, it was a wonderful way to go-go.” I can’t pinpoint an exact beginning of the Sixties camp age (I doubt there was a single moment, but instead a growth, an evolution)… but as your question suggests, the premiere of Batman was its most visible moment.

EC: You’ve included some wonderful interviews in Hero-A-Go-Go. How did you decide whom to pursue?

ME: I wanted to add some celebrities to the mix for their behind-the-scenes insights, then targeted some folks whose work was fundamental to the Camp Age but whose stories are not as visible as, say, Adam West’s Batman anecdotes.

I loved the album Jan and Dean Meet Batman when I was a kid, and spoke with Dean Torrence for a couple of wonderful hours. Very nice guy and an incredibly frank interview.

I was also determined to give Bob Holiday, the Superman of Broadway, his due, and he was genuinely moved by my interest. Another great interview! Sadly, he passed away while the book was going to press, so he didn’t live to see this, his last interview, in print.

There are a lot of other interviews, including some comics artists, throughout the book. They add a valuable insider’s perspective to my essays.

EC: As a kid, I remember being so confused by Dell’s Dracula. Now, I love him and all the Dell monster heroes. What was the deal with these guys?

ME: Dell’s monster-heroes (Dracula, Frankenstein, and Werewolf) became my sleeper favorite from my Hero-A-Go-Go research (which consisted of roughly a year of reading campy comic books and watching tons of Sixties’ cartoons and TV shows – in other words, reliving my childhood).

They were, at heart, a great idea: merge two things kids love, monsters and superheroes, into one concept. Essentially, Dell’s Dracula was Batman-meets-Dracula, the other titles being Superman-meets-Frankenstein and James Bond-meets-the Wolf Man.

Unfortunately, the comics themselves were haphazardly produced at a breakneck pace, and even the writer and artist, D.J. Arneson and Tony Tallarico, shrug off the final results.

EC: Being a marketer, I was especially interested to reach about the licensing deal for Batman Milk. In my hometown (Auburn NY) we always asked mom to get the Hogan-Souhan All Star Milk cartons featuring Superman! Was there a lot Superman and Batman milk out there?

ME: Definitely a lot more Batman than Superman, but both were represented.

The Batman All Star Dairy essay is one of my favorites in the book, not simply because it’s a story from my childhood, but because it tells a tale of the universal small American town.

tiger-girl-150x225-2022678riverdale-archie-150x225-7795464EC: Your section on super hero paperbacks was a lot of fun. Why do you think there were so many and which one is your favorite?

ME: Remembering that kids were only half of the camp movement – with adults being the other – these paperbacks were an effort to get superheroes into the hands of readers older than the standard comic-book demographic.

My favorite? It’s a tie between the first Signet Batman volume and Bill Adler’s Funniest Fan Letters to Batman.

EC: Archie Comics is experimenting with several reboots of their classic characters, in both comics and on TV. In Hero-A-Go-Go, you discuss some of the 60s Archie reboots. What were they like?

ME: As I note in the book, Archie Comics as a publisher has never been shy about capitalizing on current trends. During the Camp Age, there was an Archie for everyone – the standard teen fare, an Archie for superhero fans (Pureheart the Powerful), an Archie for spy fans (The Man from R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E.), and an Archie for Monkees fans (the Archies). Funny how a small community like Riverdale attracted so many supervillains back then…

marvel-paperbacks-150x122-5381741EC: I recently picked up an old copy of Charlton’s Go-Go (complete with Miss Bikini Luv and some Jim Aparo artwork) and it was bats*t crazy fun. Can you tell us more about that series?

ME: It was a weird but wild book, editor Dick Giordano’s MAD-meets-Tiger Beat hybrid. Charlton was publishing music fan magazines back then and had access to teen heartthrob pinups and such, and those shared pages in Go-Go with parodies of TV shows, superheroes, and fairy tales, in comics form.

Jim Aparo was the break-out star from Go-Go – and who’d have thought he was such an amazing humor cartoonist? His Miss Bikini Luv work was fabulous!

EC: You know I’m a big Wally Wood fan, and in this book, you have fascinating sections on T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, Miracles, Inc. and more. What do you think of those properties and Wood’s 60s contributions?

ME: Well, if anyone could’ve elevated the so-called lowbrow camp movement to a highbrow art form, it was Wally Wood. He was just amazing.

I knew little of Miracles, Inc., Wood’s oddball superhero team spoof, before beginning my research. His first Miracles tale was short but sweet. Too bad he left the strip, as it floundered afterward.

EC: Your animated heroes section is very robust. Any surprises in your research?

ME: There was a lot of material in that section, wasn’t there? What a fantastic lineup of TV programming we had to choose from back then!

Most of the material I write about, I knew from my previous readings and studies, but I was surprised to discover from Ralph Bakshi the behind-the-scenes issues with Krantz Films’ Rocket Robin Hood. Also, before my research I didn’t know that the King Kong cartoon had two movie connections!

EC: Whose vinyl records are best to listen to when reading Hero-A-Go-Go: The Modniks or the Maniaks?

ME: Well, since they were both patterned after the Monkees, I’d say, listen to the source material! Actually, I did – through Hero-A-Go-Go, I developed a deeper appreciation for my two favorite bands from my childhood, the Cowsills and the Monkees. The Monkees, in particular, had a diverse range of music outside of the bubblegum pop hits that everyone remembers, and rediscovering them was a joy. Plus, I got their reunion CD, Good Times, and nearly played it to death!

* * *

Hero-A-Go-Go will be released April 19th by Twomorrows Publishing – look for it at your local comic shop or neighborhood bookstore! And remember, they can always order it for you. My bookstore gets books in for me so quickly –oftentimes the next day!

Oh, and by the way, our good pals over at the 13th Dimension are exploring 13 different sections of this book each Saturday too.

Ed Catto: Podcasts… and an Enduring Favorite

angie-thriller-550x356-8724567

john-siuntres-150x190-8726065I’ve been driving a lot more since my move to the Finger Lakes and I’ve been trying to use my time wisely. For music, I catch up on Pete Fornatale’s Mixed Bag from WFUV and ComicMix’s own Mike Gold’s Weird Sounds Inside the Gold Mind from The Point Radio. Both offer great tunes and insightful, thoughtful commentary.

And for thoughtful discussion, I’ve been really enjoying John Siuntres’s Word Balloon Podcast. John’s an incredibly passionate interviewer with a deep knowledge of and respect for pop culture and comics. Each week, he sits down to have an extended conversation with a creator. John has the uncanny talents of getting people to open up (often a creator will say “I haven’t told anyone this before”) and for making the listener feel like he or she is part of it all too. When I listen to Word Balloon, I feel like I’m sitting right there with them, but just can’t get a word in edgewise.

batman-king-146x225-7831740celebrate-eisner-week-150x197-3707283Recent interviews have included:

  • Tom King – one of the industry’s hottest writers, talking about his recent work on the Vision and Batman, and all the while framing it against his real life as a husband a father of young kids.
  • Danny Fingeroth – talking about Spider-Man and Will Eisner Week. It was so compelling, that I’m now working with my local librarian on an Eisner Week event. (More on that soon!)
  • Rob Liefeld – a polarizing figure who provides great insight into his creation Deadpool and the box office success of the movie. No longer a “young punk creator,” Rob is now able to offer a unique perspective to his success and the marketplace’s wants and needs
  • cursewords_01-1-146x225-3272401paul-dini-jingle-belle-144x225-2161893Ryan Browne – on Image’s new Curse Words Normally, I have passed over this series, but the passionate discussion and insights on the Word Balloon Podcast got me excited enough to give it a try.
  • Paul Dini – providing great insights into his new animation work on Justice League Action and his Jingle Belle character.

I’ve been doing more writing, and I just finished my first article for TwoMorrow’s Back Issue! magazine. Editor Michael Eury asked me to write about the 80s comic series from DC called Thriller. Created by Robert Loren Fleming and Trevor Von Eeden, Thriller was one of those innovative series that DC launched during the excitement of non-traditional comics like Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns & Ronin, Barr and Boland’s Camelot 3000, and Howard Chaykin’s The Shadow. During my research, it was amazing to find out how many fans fondly remember Thriller too.

thriller-01-00-fc-147x225-6104927Maybe it was the tagline. Fans vividly remember how the series announced, “She has seven seconds to save the world!” This actually had a double meaning. On one hand, Trevor Von Eeden’s innovative page layouts pushed the reader along the page with a real sense of urgency. And we were all soon to find out that the main character had seven agents, called “seconds” that she guided on her Mission: Impossible-like adventures.

Maybe it was characters. Robert Loren Fleming packed Thriller with so many unique characters. Most series would build a story around one fresh new protagonist. Fleming had eight heroes, two villains and another half-dozen supporting characters that the reader was dying to learn more about. And that was just in the first story arc.

Maybe it was the creative risks the creators took. Robert Loren Fleming and Trevor Von Eeden were trying something new and different. They took risks on a very public stage. They didn’t play it safe. They gave it 110% and left it all onstage. We all can applaud that. And even after all these years, that’s just so very impressive.

And I was able to dig up some fantastic insights and track down the startling truth behind a secret Thriller rumor. Back Issue! #98, focusing on DC in the 80s, will be on sale this July, just in time for San Diego Comic-Con. It should be a lot of fun.

Ed Catto: So Bad It’s Good

regretable-heroes-villains-%e2%80%a2

It wasn’t that long ago that comics enthusiasts would cringe at all the silliness. It used to be so hard for comic fans to be taken seriously by the world at large. I vividly remember being so enthusiastic about those moody “serious” 70s Batman stories like Night of the Stalker (Detective Comics #439) or There Is No Hope in Crime Alley (Detective Comics #457). But I knew if I ever were to discuss these comics with any non-comics fan, I’d simply get an eye roll and sarcasm along with a “Holy Comics” pun or a “POW, ZAP, WHAM” pantomime. There was no respect for comics.

detective-comics-457-%e2%80%a2In fact, this led to the adoption of the term “graphic novel” in 1978. Will Eisner coined the phrase to inoculate creative endeavors in sequential art (comics) against the public’s dismissive mindset for all comics.

Today, the world understands that not all comics are silly and all comics are not about superheroes. So much so, that there is a conversation bubbling up in many places that argues that maybe we don’t even need that highfalutin term – Graphic Novel – anymore.

Geeks have won. The world now knows that comics can be many things and can be enjoyed by many different people in many different ways.

Which now brings us full circle. I also believe there’s no need to cringe at the silliness of comics anymore. Comics occupy such a big wide world that all of it can be celebrated – from the silly and whimsical to the grim and gritty.

And maybe that’s why there’s been a mini-trend of books that simply have fun pointing out all the silly comic super hero characters. So consider this a sequel of sorts to my Yuletide Book Guide column last week. This week, let’s get ready to rumble giggle with a few wonderful books.

The League of Regrettable Superheroes: Half-Baked Heroes from Comic Book History by Jon Morris is an excellent introduction to 100 of the goofiest heroes ever. Morris spotlights each with background, vintage artwork and colorful commentary. It’s divided into three sections: The Golden Age, The Silver Age and the Modern Age. Some readers might take offense at the heroes he’s selected to ridicule (Hey, I remember when we took Marvel’s Human Fly seriously) but it’s a great primer!

I’ve know a lot about many of the characters featured, but super-obscure characters like The Bouncer, Dr. Vampire and Captain Truth were new to me –and I’m so glad I know about them now.

superweirdheroes-%e2%80%a2In fact, this book is so much fun, that I’m glad that Morris just came out with a sequel: The League of Regrettable Supervillains: Oddball Villains from Comic Book History.

Craig Yoe is man filled with passion and wit – and both always come out in everything he does. I enjoy all his comics and books, but Yoe Books, in association with IDW, just published Super Weird Heroes. This amazing book also spotlights these goofball heroes of yesteryear, but here you can also read their adventures. This book is 500 pages total, but offers 320 pages of glorious goofy reprints.

Michael Eury is likewise an author filled with passion for his subjects. I really enjoy his Back Issue magazine, obviously a labor of love. His upcoming Hero-A-Go-Go: Campy Comic Books, Crimefighters, & Culture of the Swinging Sixties zeros in on the goofiness for a specific time period.

“Whereas Back Issue magazine allows me to explore the comics and culture of my adolescence, Hero-A-Go-Go is my love letter to my childhood, the Swinging Sixties,” said Eury.

This book is not on sale until April of 2017 so you’ll have to be patient. But there’s so many good things that I can’t wait to read – everything from Dell’s Monster Superheroes and Joe Simon’s Jigsaw to the story behind All Star Dairy’s Batman Milk! And there’s a great preview available right here.

hero-a-go-go-%e2%80%a2“It was a thrill interviewing folks like Bill Mumy, Ralph Bakshi, and Dean Torrence (Jan and Dean Meets Batman) about their contributions to Camp culture, but I was most charmed by Bob Holiday, who brought the Man of Steel to life on Broadway in It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s Superman,” said Eury. “He took the role of Superman seriously, and I’m honored to shine a much-deserved spotlight on his valuable, but too often overlooked, contributions to the Superman saga.”

So don’t take yourself too seriously and spread a little fun this Yuletide season –and beyond – with these treasures. Here’s your handy ComicMix summary:

Both League Regrettable Superheroes  and Supervillains books are published by Quirk Books and the hardcover versions retail for $24.95.

Craig Yoe’s Super Weird Heroes is published by IDW and the hardcover retails for $39.99.

Michael Eury’s Hero-A-Go-Go: Campy Comic Books, Crimefighters, & Culture of the Swinging Sixties is available for pre-order now and will be published on 4/19/17 for $36.95.