Tagged: Neal Adams

Michael Davis: The Terrible Art of Walt Simonson, Neal Adams & Frank Miller

Simonson like Neal adams was great in his day, but clearly cuz of old age, the hands are probably much more worn and weary. Not like frank Miller who was ALWays a terrible artist, who just became unbearable

Walt Simonson posted the above tweet on both his Twitter and Facebook pages. 

I asked my old friend for the Twitter account of the writer. Walt, the cool mofo that he is, got a laugh out of the post but didn’t give me the info cause he’s a classy guy. 

I could not let that comment stand. I had to respond. Why? The kids are why. Back when lions, tigers, and bears were the spirit animals of America, that post wouldn’t have mattered. 

Those spirit animals have been replaced by sheep. Not the kind of sheep some men seek out when their eyesight is failing, and the palms of their hands look like furry mittens.  

The kind of sheep I’m talking about believe anything. A riot was an ordinary tourist day, bleach will heal you, and Obama killed Kennedy at 5 years old before returning to his home in Africa and job as a pimp. 

There’s no hope for those sheep, but maybe, just maybe, we can save their kids.

ComicMix is OK with outing the person who posted the tweet. I, like Walt, will take the high road and address said person as ‘Twit’ and proceed with my response as planned. 

Dear Twit,

I read your post calling Walt Simonson, Frank Miller, and Neal Adams ‘terrible artists.’ Walt and Neal, because of their age, and according to you Frank, always sucked. 

Those artists, along with Howard Chaykin, Bill Sienkiewicz, Denys Cowan, Jay Muth, Kent Williams, Dave McKean, and other ‘old’ creators are doing the best work of their careers NOW.

Their careers changed the game in comics and then some. 

You are welcome to give your opinion. However, you write as if your opinion was a fact. Er, nope. The facts are that the artists you think are terrible operate at a level so high you most likely can’t see it. Yes

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, that level is high, but it’s also clear. So clear Ray Charles, who was blind and is dead, could see it.

Each artist I mention is a friend. Howard and I butt heads every ten years or so, but his work is always on good terms with me. 

Speaking of Mr. Chaykin…

If you’re reading this, Howard, I owe you an apology. 

I reacted to words attributed to you. I didn’t take my own advice, which was to reach out and see if there was a problem or if you even said it. I’ve written a zillion articles on character assignation through hearsay.

It’s a dick hater move. 

I was a dick but never a hater, so once again, my apologies. 

Now back to Twit.

That aside to Howard gave me pause to think. Perhaps Twit, I owe you an apology also. I’ve done what you did. 

I said a famous aging artist, “Really sucked.” 

I said this at an exhibit that was a retrospective of his entire career. This guy was big time. His early work I loved. His early drawings were so realistic, almost like a photo. As he got older, he obviously stopped using reference and drew from his head. His storytelling was all over the place. 

His inked stuff was pretty good but didn’t do much of that as he aged. His color work looked like it was painted in one color. By the end of the exhibit, I hated this guy’s art. So

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, me being me, when asked what I thought of his work, said, “His early stuff was cool, I liked the ink stuff but everything else, “really sucked.’ 

The place was packed, and everyone who heard me began laughing. I felt pretty good until my cousin, who took me to the exhibition, explained people were laughing at me, not with me. “He still sucks,” I said.

“Grow up,” he said.

Twit, Once again, an aside has given me pause to think. Nope, no apology. I found out soon enough how wrong I was about the artist. His name was Picasso

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, and I did need to grow up. I was 11. 

Simonson and company are the Picassos of the comics industry, Twit. 

Grow up. 

Mike Gold: Neal Adams’ The Brave and the Bald

Would you like to know how to make a baby boomer fanboy’s head explode?

O.K. That was a trick question. There are plenty of ways to make a baby boomer fanboy’s head explode. It’s our fault, really. Many of us had children. But I digress.

One way to make a baby boomer fanboy’s head explode is to ask him (well, I said fanboy) which Neal Adams’ project is his favorite. My knee-jerk response would be Green Lantern / Green Arrow #80 for personal reasons, and The Spectre #3 (the one from 1968) to prove I’m still a fanboy at heart.

That is, until last week. Now I’ve got a clear favorite. And it’s not a comic book… although it is about a comic book. And a damn good one at that.

Last week, our pal and mystical production overlord Glenn Hauman, who occasionally writes something or other here at ComicMix when he’s not busy being killed off in New Pulp short stories (we’ll tell you about that some other time), sent “us” a link. In this case, “us” is the Imperial Council of ComicMix Wizards and Schleppers (ICCWS). The link was to something that was just getting some traction in the ethersphere. And, obviously, it concerns Neal Adams.

Background: About a month ago, DC Comics released their second set of super-hero crossovers with the famed Warner Bros cartoon characters, due to their common ownership. Maybe we’ll define “common” some other time. Among these new titles was a one-shot produced by Tom King and Lee Weeks titled Batman / Elmer Fudd Special #1, implying someday there will be a second issue.

And maybe that will happen. I hope so. It was terrific. I ran around telling people – and co-workers – that they should read it. It had a real story, it was clever as all get-out, it was perfectly drawn, and if the reason you passed on it because you thought it was stupid… you were mistaken. It is the opposite of stupid. Of course, my fellow comics readers looked at me as though I had two heads. Whereas this may be the case and I got used to it decades ago, I don’t think I ran into anybody else who read it at the time.

Except Neal Adams.

And Neal didn’t simply read it and take it up as a cause. Nope. No way. Neal actually turned it into a full cast audio play that was illustrated with Weeks’ art from the Special. I didn’t do an A/B comparison, but I think Neal used all the art in the book. And, in its own way, Neal’s production was just as clever as the comic book.

Neal did much of the voice work, and it’s first rank. As a radio guy since shortly after Nixon’s inauguration, I think I’ve developed something of a trained ear for this sort of thing. I’m no Mark Evanier (Mark directed voice work from the likes of June Foray, Stan Freberg and Frank Nelson), but I know good. And Neal’s good. So good he might have made a serious career mistake.

Well, no. That’s crap. Neal’s a well-respected and much-desired cartoonist for good reason. But his “adaptation” of the Batman / Elmer Fudd Special was an absolute delight. So was the comic book. Enjoy them both.

Whereas it would be wrong for me to reprint the comic book here – something about copyrights – I can make it easy for you to see and hear Neal’s adaptation.

Neal did justice to Tom and Lee’s story. And to Batman and to Elmer Fudd.

Go figure!

 

Ed Catto: On Target with Green Arrow and Richard Gray

Moving Target: The History and Evolution of Green Arrow by Richard Gray. Sequart, $17.99 paperback; $6.99 Kindle edition

Way back when, Green Arrow was sort of the “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” of the superhero set. For a long time, fans could enjoy a new Green Arrow adventure just about every month, but he didn’t enjoy the headliner popularity of his hero pals like Batman or even Wonder Woman.

That’s all almost forgotten now. Today, so many fans enjoy this modern-day Robin Hood in comics, on TV and with licensed merchandise.

For some, Green Arrow became “a thing” when he debuted on TV, first as one of Superboy’s pals in Smallville and then in his own series. (He was briefly on Saturday morning cartoons before that too.)

Comics fan, and local dad, Greg Parker started with the TV series and now reads the comics. “In today’s world of income imbalance and overall division, Oliver Queen represents someone willing to do the right thing, whatever that may be,” said Parker.  “Green Arrow has no superpowers. He simply wants to help defend his city from criminals and corruption. This is why we read about superheroes, someone doing the right thing regardless of the consequences to his fortune or popularity.”

For some fans, certain points of Green Arrow’s long comics career was their jumping on point. Many readers started to embrace this character during the groundbreaking Green Lantern/Green Arrow series by Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams. Or it might have been when he finally headlined his own comic in a four-part mini-series by Mike W. Barr and Trevor Von Eeden. Other fans sat up and took notice during the 90s with The Longbow Hunters comic prestige series and the subsequent ongoing comic series by Mike Grell, Mike Gold, Ed Hannigan, Dick Giordano, Dan Jurgens and so many other talented folks. I should note that this iteration was shepherded by ComicMix’s own Mike Gold.

For me, Green Arrow was a “barbershop hero.” As a young boy, I distinguished the tattered comics I’d read in the barber shop from the new comics my dad would buy for me. For whatever reason, the local barber had a lot of old DC Comics with Green Arrow backup adventures. I never gave Green Arrow a lot of thought outside of getting my hair cut.

But one day I finally gained respect for Green Arrow. There was an adventure when a small child was confronted by a wild moose and Green Arrow saved the day with his “Antler Arrow.” I realized it takes a special kind of superhero to anticipate moose-related dangers, I realized.

I always liked the character after that. In my mind, it was years later, during the 90s Urban Hunter phase shepherded by Gold, Grell, Hannigan and others, when Green Arrow really grew up.

And It was during this Urban Hunter era that Green Arrow became a favorite of Australian writer Richard Gray. Those 90s comics were his starting point. Now he’s made himself something of a Green Arrow expert – searching out all the old stories and keeping up with the new comics, TV appearances and merchandise.

Gray wrote Moving Target: The History and Evolution of Green Arrow, which just debuted and is published by Sequart.

He revealed that as part of his podcast, he had wanted to create one article on Green Arrow. But then he found there was too much to fit into one post. One blog became seven blogs, and that eventually became a book.

Gray’s pal, Ryan K. Lindsay, had written a Daredevil book, referred him to Sequart and Moving Target happened.

As I started my interview with Gray, I first wanted to understand if his Australian POV was similar to that of standard US comic fan. I was familiar with Australian titles like Tip Top (reprinting DC titles in the 60s and 70s), but more recently I had heard about how wonderful the Australian Comic Shops are. And that always seemed to be during the Eisner Awards Spirit of Retailer discussions. Gray explained to me that Australians now get their comics about the same time as stateside fans do. So it’s easy to keep up with Geek Culture and characters like Green Arrow. The direct market made it happen, although he remembers when he started reading comics and every corner had a “card store” that sold comics.

It was really right about the time when Oliver Queen died, and Conner Hawke took over, that Gray became a big Green Arrow fan. His passion for the character was ratcheted up when Kevin Smith started writing the adventures of a “returned from the dead” Oliver Queen.

“I did miss Conner Hawke – he was underused,” recalls Gray. “The story I wanted to see was with the two Green Arrows. I wanted to see what the interaction would look like. I wanted to see two Green Arrows on a page.”

He’s less enamored with the recent changes to character in the New 52 and Rebirth, although he noted that the GA we know has seemed to return with the legacy elements.

But as the guy who wrote the book on Green Arrow, Gray asserts that for this character, all roads lead back to O’Neil and Adams era.

“It was during that period where they established he was a liberal and wasn’t afraid of standing up to the gods of the Justice League,” said Gray. “In the very first issue of that run – he’s holding up them up to task. But also proving, in the process, that he can be wrong too. Green Arrow’s single-mindedness can be a weakness for him.”Gray talks about how enjoyed seeing the character struggle as a regular guy. And he mentioned how a favorite Green Arrow story was from that Mike Barr and Trevor von Eeden series. I learned, in my recent research on the cult hit comic Thriller, a bit about this Green Arrow mini-series. Artist Von Eeden was assigned to his mini-series in order to slow him down and keep him from starting work on Thriller.  In retrospect, the Green Arrow series certainly holds up and Von Eeden’s art is spectacular.

There’s so much to Gray’s Moving Target, including:

  • Speedy – Green Arrow’s sidekick was always a favorite of mine. Gray does not disappoint and provides a meaty section focusing on Speedy.
  • Kirby – Likewise, Gray has a long chapter on Jack Kirby’s contribution to the series. Although Kirby’s run on Green Arrow was painfully brief, and how it important it has been in defining the character.
  • Interviews – There’s plenty of in-depth interviews too. Gray chats with long-time creators like Neal Adams, Mike Grell, and Chuck Dixon as well as some of the modern era writers like Jeff Lemire and Brad Meltzer.
  • Foreward – And while not really an interview, Phil Hester kicks it all off with a humble and insightful forward.

Moving Target covers a lot of ground with care and detailed analysis. There’s something here for every Green Arrow fan.

Mike Gold: This Empire Strikes Out

Well, it’s over. Or… is it?

Does anybody else remember Marvel’s Kree – Skrull War? It was one of those mammoth, Marvel Universe shifting events: damn near everybody was in it, it had tons of intergalactic action, some serious character development… everything you could want in a major storyline. Of course, its legendary status was exacerbated with a truly stellar list of creative talent: Roy Thomas, Sal and John Buscema, and Neal Adams.

Here’s the part that might stun “younger” (as in “not-geriatric”) readers. The entire story was told in eight issues! No tie-ins, no auxiliary sidebar rack-space-wasting and largely unnecessary crossovers and mini-serieses. No phony “death” scenes and, therefore, no waiting until those dead people were mysteriously resurrected.

Now, let’s compare that with Marvel’s just-sort-of-ended Secret Empire “event.” You know, the one that came close to burning down the House of Ideas.

Putting aside the antipathy and even outrage expressed by those few fans and retailers who prefer heroes with white robes and pointy hats, Secret Empire consisted of 11 issues written by Nick Spencer (yes, I’m counting issue #0), “fleshed out” by what seemed like thousands of additional comic book tie-ins, auxiliary sidebar rack-space-wasting and largely unnecessary crossovers and mini-serieses and phony “death” scenes. And by “fleshed out,” I refer you to Franz Kafka’s short story “In The Penal Colony.”

Here’s the rub. Spencer’s basic story concept is solid. The cosmic cube, given the form of a little girl who just wants to make everybody happy by improving the world, screws up and retcons time so that the pre-Captain America Steve Rogers actually was a Hydra sleeper agent. He still became Captain America and (I think) just about everything that happened in the Marvel Universe still happened, until Captain America wakes up, takes over Hydra and then takes over America.

There’s nothing wrong with that story, and it could have been told in less than 11 issues, preferably in alternating issues of Spencer’s two Captain America titles. The story would have reflected on writer’s vision and not be watered-down and screwed-up by an infinite number of additional hands. The “Crusty Bunker” model only works when you are seriously behind schedule and have no other options. I suspect readers would have enjoyed it, and retailers would have been eager to rack the series.

It’s not even over. There are several epilog issues coming, some as crossovers, some as “stand-alones” – depending upon your definition of standing alone.

Just as Secret Empire really was an extension of Avengers: Standoff and Civil War 2, Secret Empire leads into a whole bunch of remarkably superfluous-sounding events. You want to restore the original numbering to end long-time confusion and create brand-new confusion? Then do it. You want to restore the “classic” characters to their original white and almost-entirely male visages? Then do it. We all knew you would eventually.

But if you want to restore the magic that was Marvel Comics, then stop doing all these meaningless, overwrought and overpublished events. Stop telling two-issue stories in eight. Stop tying in to more comics simultaneously than most readers can afford to buy, even if we had the time to read them all.

Secret Empire could have been a contender. It could have risen to the level of the Kree – Skrull War. It could have brought big ol’ smiles to the readers’ faces and left retailers with a lot less unsold inventory.

There’s at least one additional reason why so many people have soured on Marvel Comics, and I’ll tell you all about it next week… if I remember.

Ed Catto: It Creeps! It Crawls! Beware the Comic-Con!

It’s indestructible! It’s indescribable! Nothing can stop it!

Every one of you watching this screen should look out! Because soon, very soon, the most horrifying monster menace ever conceived

No, this isn’t advertising copy for a comic convention coming to your town. These lines are from the trailer for that old monster movie, The Blob. But it could be used to describe any upcoming comic con.

Comic conventions are not only thriving but, like the Blob, they are now oozing out from the walls of their convention centers and invading local towns. Geek culture cannot be held within its original confines.

Who would have ever thought, way back when Geek Culture was nestled in little comic shops in the scorned section of town, that we’d get to this point? Unlike the foreboding tone of that Blob movie trailer, this expanding, oozing primordial mass inspires a sense of awe and wonderment.

The San Diego Comic-Con is probably the best example of this. The nation’s longest running convention is held annually at the San Diego Convention Center. (And it will be held there until 2021, but that’s a whole ‘nother column.)

The entire city seems to get behind this show. Most of the shops, bars, and restaurants in San Diego offer specials and decorations to welcome convention attendees. It seems like every waiter and waitress is wearing a comic book or Walking Dead themed shirt, in fact. And the show itself is so sprawling, it now schedules events in nearby hotels, local libraries, and even the town baseball’s stadium.

I have a great friend who lives in San Diego. Walshy, as we’ve called him since grade school, doesn’t know anything about comics or pop culture. Check that – he loved MAD magazine. That counts. But by and large, he just doesn’t have a passion for graphic novels, or science fiction, or horror movies, or Doctor Who, or any of the cool stuff at the San Diego Comic-Con.
But each year he attends Comic-Con and has a blast. There is one particularly wild story about how he partied with Michael Rooker (“I’m Mary Poppins, y’all!”) and Miss Venezuela on a hotel rooftop… but we’ll save that one for another day as well.

Walshy throws himself into San Diego Comic-Con because, as a resident, he can’t escape it. It’s so big and so boisterous that it’s all encompassing, even for locals.

And the great news is that Geek Culture is very welcoming. It pitches a big tent and invites everyone to come on in and have some fun.

The same thing is happening at other conventions. New York Comic-Con now hosts “Super Week” before their show, for example. Not surprisingly, it’s also happening at the up-and-coming shows in smaller markets.

Over the past year, I lent a hand to help grow Syracuse’s Salt City Comic-Con. It was a rousing success: it doubled in attendance and exhibitors reported very strong sales. It was officially held at the local convention center in the middle of Syracuse’s downtown area. But in reality, the event stretched to make the two days of the comic-con much longer.

  • The Mayor: Even Syracuse’s mayor got involved. Neal Adams was the guest of honor, and Mayor Stephanie Miner proclaimed the Saturday of the show to be “Neal Adams Day” in Syracuse.
  • Comics on Campus: It turns out Syracuse University has an incredible collection of original comic strip art. And for the past 80 years, only researchers have been able to view these treasures. We worked with SU’s Special Collections Director for an exhibition of original pages for fans. I never thought fans would be able to hold the very first Prince Valiant page, by Hal Foster, in their hands, but they did! One of our favorite artists, Joe Jusko, stopped by the exhibit and was in awe. His posts of viewing his favorite artists (Foster, Frank Robbins, Stan Drake etc.) went viral. And yes, we’re planning something bigger for next year.
  • Barley Quinn Craft Beer: The local brewpub, Empire, created a specialty beer called Barley Quinn and debuted it the week before the show. They gave away free Comic-con tickets and comics publisher Aftershock offered up a box full of Captain Kid graphic novels. Tom Peyer, the co-author of the series, is based in Syracuse and the publisher wanted to support him.
  • Cosplay: The convention partnered with the nearby Schweinfurth Art Center, a museum with a specialty in fabric arts, to host a cosplay “pre-game” event. I always feel bad when cosplayers put so much time and energy into their costumes, and can only wear them for a day, or two, at a convention. I suppose it’s the same way for brides. It was fun to be able to offer one additional “wearable opportunity” for cosplayers.

So even in a market like Syracuse, Geek Culture has creeped and crawled to ooze out beyond the confines of both the calendar and the convention center to become something bigger. Unlike the teenagers and townsfolk in The Blob, I’m not terrified. I’m elated! And you should be too.

Ed Catto’s Convention Treasures!

I’m still reeling – in a good way – from Syracuse’s Salt City Comic-Con. It was a fantastic comic convention where I had way too much fun. And I’ve got some observations to share with you about it, but they’ll have to wait until next week.

This week I like to share some of the treasures I found at the show.

Let’s start with the “full disclosure” routine. I’m at the point where my comic collection is way too large, and I’ve been taking the steps to prune it back over the last few years. I’ve found this process difficult to adjust to, but my wife and I are in that downsizing mode. Surprisingly, I’m finding that maybe I am not that much of a hoarder after all. I actually feel better when I get rid of stuff.

But… I can’t help but wander a convention and stumble across a few treasures. And I was delighted with what I found at Syracuse’s Salt City Comic-Con.

In a 50-cent long box, I found this fantastic copy of Fantagraphics’ reprint title from 1987, Untamed Love, showcasing Frank Frazetta stories. Even though this reprint collection was published thirty years ago, the comic felt pretty new. The coloring is vibrant and the high-quality paper really holds up. The stories are a bit silly, but that Frazetta artwork is gorgeous!

Neal Adams was our guest of honor and, as he often does, told us few stories. Iwas especially intrigued when he revealed he’s working on a new Deadman series. I pressed him for details, and instead of offering just a few coy or cryptic teases, he outlined the whole first issue. And then he showed me the page he was working on. I was really impressed and think it will be his best work in years.
So… in anticipation that new series, I picked up a reading copy of Strange Adventures #209. It was a thrilling story with innovative storytelling and clever page layouts. The big climactic fight atop a Ferris wheel kicked my vertigo into high gear. I have trouble with heights these days, and that frenetic battle above the midway isn’t going to help matters.

Of note: there was a circulation statement in this issue. It turns out Strange Adventures was reported to be selling 146,600 issues each month. I find that so astounding, especially compared to today’s print runs.

I just loved the cover to Girls’ Romances #160 and couldn’t resist snagging it. The brilliant Jay Scott Pike is the artist. While the composition is solid and strong, the non-traditional sketchy, scratchy line work was what grabbed me.

It turns out this was the last issue of this long-running series. By this time, they must have decided it wasn’t worth it to create new stories. Inside are reprints of old John Romita stories – but the women’s hairstyles were retouched to give it a “modern” 1971 feel! These bizarre edits create a double layer of retro.

Most fans fondly remember those Antonio Banderas Zorro movies from a few of years ago. My dad was just watching it on cable, in fact. And comic fans all agree that Alex Toth’s Zorro comics were a pinnacle for that character. So I was pleasantly surprised to find myself buying Zorro – The Complete Dell Pre-Code Comics from the Hermes Press booth at the con. It’s a totally different version of Zorro.

Hermes Press was an energetic and committed exhibitor. I may be a bit biased, as I do like so many of their books. They created two convention exclusives and they were selling everything at a discount, so all attendees found a lot to like about their stuff.

In the forward of the Zorro collection, ace author Max Allan Collins provides a brief history lesson about the main artist of these stories – Everett Raymond Kinstler. I wasn’t familiar with this artist, but he is work is evocative and often confused with, Joe Kubert’s style from the 50s. “You had me at Kubert,” I thought when reading the forward.

It’s a tremendous book and after I read it, I think it deserves a spot on my coffee table. Then after a while, I’ll lend it to my dad. Another treasure from another comic-con.

Mike Gold: What? A Long Strange Trip?

I believe the first comics convention I attended was in 1967. That means I’ve been chasing these puppies for 50 years. Indeed, it often feels my entire life has been one long, never-ending comicon. Talk about getting a life – or, at least, another act.

I continue to do ‘em because I enjoy seeing my friends a hell of a lot more than I enjoy eating vulcanized chicken fingers. Better still, I enjoy meeting the fans, talking about what they like and don’t like (this is not a good time to defend the event comic), discovering new trends and talent, and blathering on and on at panels. For the past, oh, maybe two dozen years that means I’ve vastly preferred the smaller comicons; it’s hard to have meaningful conversations at the overcrowded, underoxygenated megashows such as San Diego and New York. To tell you the truth, I avoid those clusterfucks like the plague because I’m certain someday soon some clown is going to pivot and knock me over with his backpack, and I’m going to have to shoot somebody once again.

So when fellow ComicMixer Ed Catto invited me to the Syracuse show, held last week, I gleefully agreed. It’s only a four-hour drive according to GPS, or five-and-one-half hours according to the weekend reality of Northeast Quadrant motoring. Yes, driving back I encountered no less than three serious accidents and one abandoned SUV that blocked two lanes on the infamous Tappen Zee Bridge. Rule of thumb: during a long drive, when the number of accidents exceeds the number of dead deer, just pull over and cry.

The show was great fun. I was reunited with Graham Nolan, an old friend that I haven’t seen in a million years. We worked on Hawkworld back in the day; his current Bane miniseries is a serious contribution of DC’s present circulation dominance over Marvel Comics. Joe Rubenstein, who has no home and merely travels to different comicons each and every week, had a cold and was hell-bent on turning it into a plague.

I have long enjoyed Chris Giarrusso’s work (G-Man, Mini Marvels, Tales from the Con) and was happy to see he had the table to my immediate right. To my left was Frank Cammuso, writer/artist of such books as Knights of the Lunch Table, Salem Hyde, and one of my all-time favorites, Max Hamm Fairy Tale Detective. Frank had collaborated with my old pal Jay Lynch on several books; as I’ve noted Jayze and I went back to the hallowed days of the Chicago Mirror, which evolved into Bijou Comix. It’s great to make new friends.

Of course, the show was full of innovative cosplayers – to no one’s surprise, virtually every female toddler was adorably swathed in Wonder Woman gear, making Syracuse the cutest place on Earth last weekend. The show was at the city’s convention center, specifically in their hockey arena, home to the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch, the first hockey team to be named after a candy bar.

08As is often the case at these “smaller” shows, the fans were wonderful, eager to converse and remarkably polite… “remarkable,” at least, to this New Yorker. Graham and I did a panel about how comics evolved in the 1980s and 90s that was hosted by Ed, and the questions were the sort I enjoy the most: those that initiate conversation among the fans and the panel members.

I’m always curious to see which books are presented to me for autographing (unlike fellow convention attendee Neal Adams, I do not charge for my autographs because, well, the Sharpie I borrowed from Chris would have dried out). This year, it seems almost half were issues of The Question, which I found to be both surprising and really cool. Them folks in Syracuse have taste.

I deeply appreciate Ed’s inviting me and that, at long last, I got the chance to meet and hang out with Kathe Catto, a person as intelligent and as charming as her name is alliterative. I also want to thank convention honcho Thomas Yeldon and the wonderful, helpful and professional staff for a show that was so much fun I forgot that I’ve been doing this since Lyndon Johnson was president.

(With apologies to Jerome J. Garcia, Robert Hall Weir, Philip Lesh, and Robert C. Hunter for the title, and to my ol’ co-conspirator Ed Sanders who purportedly coined the word “clusterfuck.” Remember that when you take your American History class final next year.)

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 .

 

Martha Thomases: Save The Day!

Superman was not my first.

Yes, I know, I have been adamant in my assertions that I loved superhero comics from the time I was five years old. And that is true. But before I started to read Superman in the comics, before I even saw him on my black-and-white television set, I fell for another. Hard.

And now, Mighty Mouse is coming back to comics.

It is difficult to put into words how much Mighty Mouse meant to me. It didn’t matter that the character was male, and a rodent. I totally identified. Perhaps it helped that I was three years old, and I thought that jumping on my bed and singing the theme song was essentially the same as fighting the bad guys.

There have been Mighty Mouse revivals in the past, most notably by Ralph Bakshi in the Reagan years. It was fun at times, and my husband was a big fan of Bakshi. To me, including references to sex, drugs and rock’n’roll missed what I considered to be the point. Yes, Mighty Mouse was simple and two-dimensional and (you should pardon the expression) squeaky clean.

I thought that was a feature, not a bug.

There is a tendency among some modern creators to think that children’s entertainment must include winks to their parents, some references that will go over the kids’ heads to amuse the adults. This is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. The Muppets, especially, are terrific at it.

(Note: I am not including examples like the classic Warner Bros. and Disney cartoons because they were not created specifically for children, but rather to be part of a movie program. Le pedant, c’est moi.)

In my opinion, there are many more examples that are less successful. In general, I don’t find the Dreamworks animated features satisfying, because the scripts make me think the writers want me to know that they are absolutely not children but smart, hip adults. Smart and hip, maybe, but give me Pixar’s heart any day.

So I’m not sure how I feel about Mighty Mouse being retooled, even though it seems that I am one of the target geeks. I mean, I love Alex Ross, but his romantic realism seems contrary to the dynamic crudeness of the original Terrytoons aesthetic.

On the other hand, Solly Fisch wrote one of my favorite Superman stories during the New52, starring Krypto.

I’ll probably check it out. You should, too. Let’s hope that we lovingly pass it on to the toddlers in our lives, of all ages.

Ed Catto: Don’t Listen?

We live in a time when each day we are both blessed and cursed by instant feedback and judgment on everything we do. We’re hammered by harsh evaluations of our work and even our future-plans. Professional sports are dissected during postgame broadcasts and call-in shows. Feedback based on casting details or plot rumors now begins long before any creative project is released. In the comic industry, fans render judgments based on teased details long before anyone reads a single page.

Businesses are encouraged to hear and respond to every complaint and critique from customers. Hey, even I have led a seminar at ComicsPRO where the central theme was that retailers should “Grow Big Ears.”

But there are times when you have to ignore the voices. Sometimes you just know what has to be done and have to do it.

Exhibit #A is Joey Gates. Joey is a local Finger Lakes NY area guy who loves comics and has been to numerous comics conventions, as both as a fan and a dealer.

Joey had a dream of starting a new comic convention. Oh, there were about a zillion reasons why he shouldn’t have launched the Finger Lakes Comic-Con in Auburn last month. Seasoned pros would tell him why the timing was off and why it would never work.

But he did it. And now he will have always done it. And yes, there’s plenty of learning for Joey. I’m excited that he’s already incorporating this learning into his 2018 plans. The point is: if he had listened to the naysayers his dream of launching a comic convention would have never happened and he would never have had gotten to the point where he could learn – ostensibly ‘the hard way’ – and improved the next year. A tip of the Captain’s hat to Joey.

Exhibit #B comes right out of Joey’s Finger Lakes Comic-Con. One of the guests was comics artist Bob McLeod. He’s the type of guy who’s created and illustrated so many things I love – the Dark Knight Over Metropolis story and subsequent Superman adventures, the franchise expanding X-Men spinoff, New Mutants, with the wonderful Louise Simonson and Rough Stuff magazine – a fantastic comics magazine for artists and for everyone who loves comic art.

I conspired with my lovely wife Kathe and longtime Action-team member John Cresco to kidnap Bob after the first night of the show. We took him to Auburn’s award-winning craft brewery, Prison City Pub. (C’mon and visit, I’ll take you there too!).

The whole night was a lot of fun, but upon reflection, the best part was when Bob told us his own Secret Origin story.

Bob was one of those kids who always loved art and got really good really quickly. As a MAD Magazine fan, his plan was to follow in the footsteps of Mort Drucker and Jack Davis, but thought that working in traditional comics would be just fine too.

So after art school, Bob sold his car, went to NYC and started to make the rounds at the various comics publishers.

At DC Comics he met Joe Orlando. Now, among the giants in the industry, Joe Orlando was a giant among giants. Not only was a Joe a phenomenal artist, but also he had a strong understanding of the business side and knew how it all worked. If Joe told you something about the industry, you would know it to be true.

He told Bob, “You put a lot of work into these samples, but you need to go back to school and learn how to draw.” Most comic fans would have been devastated with feedback like that

Instead of sinking into a depression, Bob took the time to learn. He was broke and could only afford to buy a couple of comics. He looked to compare what he was doing and what they were doing. He copied and dissected the panels. He took the time to understand Joe’s POV and how he could fulfill the need so he’d be ready the next time he got up to bat.

Neal Adams is a guy I’ll be talking about more soon, but he figures into this story as well. The comics world knows about Neal’s great art skill and about Neal’s efforts on behalf of creator’s rights. Sometimes, however, the small things reveal our character too.

While this was all going on, Bob had met with Neal Adams. The legendary comics artist called John Verpoorten, Marvel’s head of production, and asked if they needed another staffer. Voila – a career was born.

Had Bob McLeod listened to Joe Orlando that day, he wouldn’t have persevered and become a rock-solid comic artist.

There was an inspirational Internet meme floating around that said something to the effect of, “Sometimes a dream is something that only you can hear.” I respect those dreams. I get inspired by people who chase those dreams, and –sometimes – don’t listen.