Tagged: The Spirit

Ed Catto: Baby Got Back

You can’t judge a book by its cover, but in comics we do. That’s what sells it. Oftentimes, comics retailers need to make pre-ordering decisions based largely on just a comic’s cover.

Comics, like people, should be enjoyed for what’s on the inside. Corny but true. But like the B-side of a vinyl record, sometimes there’s glory on the flipside, like with comic book back covers.

Emil Novak, Sr. runs a great store in Buffalo called Queen City Bookstore. It’s overflowing with comics and lost treasures, most reflecting Emil’s ravenous appetite for great comics. During my last visit there, I stumbled across The Spirit: The First 93 Dailies reprint comic from 1977. The front cover sported a heroic Eisner Spirit image, but the back cover, showing an exhausted Spirit collapsed in the snow was the cool part. And the courageous use of negative space really stood out. I really liked that back cover, and that sparked today’s topic.

We need not only reach back into the past for examples. There are so many clever back covers on comics today. Two, in particular, come to mind:

  • Cliff Chiang’s creating some gorgeous wrap-around covers for his Image Paper Girls series, written by Brian Wood. Essentially the back cover is part of the front cover, but with Cliff’s strong sense of design and deliberate use of color, the back covers have a life of their own,
  • Greg Rucka and Michael Lark swing the pendulum far in the opposite direction for their brilliant Lazarus This is a series set in the near future that provides a stark look at the impact of wealth concentrated amongst the few. The creators provide faux back cover advertisements each issue. The back cover adds to the story as if one of the storyline’s companies or ‘governments’ has created an ad. World-building via the back cover, if you will.

Back Cover Advertising

Advertisements can also create memorable back covers. I have fond memories of Silver Age back covers selling Aurora superhero model kits. The best ones leverage Curt Swan or Murphy Anderson art for on-the-nose authenticity.

And while Land of the Giants, Rat Patrol or The Invaders weren’t TV shows I was watching back then, I sure was fascinated by their back-cover model kit ads. The Aurora monster model kits back cover ads probably deserve an entire column devoted to the creepy thrill and chills they inspired a generation of readers.

Toys ads could be hit or miss. I never warmed up to – or even understood – Skittle Bowl, despite ads illustrated by Murphy Anderson or featuring Don (Get Smart) Adams, I really loved the back-cover ads for Mattel’s Hot Birds and rrRUmblers. They must have worked. All the kids on my block collected these toys for about half a minute.

Professional Backstory

Over the years, my fascination with back covers has spilled over to my professional career. I’ve helped develop a few back covers of which I’m proud. A few examples:

  • Pagemaster was the movie that had everything going for it – a great message, hot movie stars, and a top pop music performer. It was a “can’t miss.” I was excited to lead Nabisco’s promotional program with the picture. But then, the hot movie star got weird (Macaulay Culkin) and the pop music performer (Michael Jackson) got weirder. The picture fizzled, but not before we created a great comic ad for the program. We used one of the young actors from the TV ad and we ran on the back covers of Marvel Comics for a couple of months in 1994.
  • At Bonfire Agency, our geek-focused marketing firm, and GeekRiot Media, we ran quite a few ads on the back covers of comics from lots of different publishers: IDW, Boom! Studios, Archie, Dynamite, Aspen and more. It was invigorating, and personally fulfilling, to get big brands partnering with publishers beyond the “big two”.

Coming Next Issue

I think there’s something special about advertising the “next issue” on the back cover. I could go on and on about how we live in an anticipatory culture, always looking ahead to what’s next. Have we lost the ability to live in the moment? I don’t know. That’s a whole ‘nuther topic.

No matter: I still like using the back covers for next issues, or other comics by the same publisher. Recently, publishers like Titan and Black Mask started embracing this tactic.

Some of the best “coming next issue” back issues were on the flip side of Pacific Comic’s Somerset Holmes. It was a gorgeous comic with a gorgeous female lead, based on a gorgeous real-life female creator. (There’s an epic tale behind it all that I’d like to get into one day.) Somerset Holmes’ back covers were creative and memorable – some of my favorites.

Advertising experts used to say that the back cover of any magazine is valuable real estate, as there’s a 50% change that a magazine will be put on a table with the back side up, I’m not sure if anyone ever truly believed that, but there’s no denying the charm of the oft-neglected comic book back cover.

•     •     •     •     •

Oh, and in the spirit of “coming next time”: my next column builds off my recent Back Issue article on the 80s comic Thriller! I’ve finally caught up with author Robert Loren Fleming and we’ve got some long-lost secrets to reveal!

 

Ed Catto: Inspiring Creativity – 100 years later

This is a little story of a little town that shifted from stoking fear to promoting creativity.

A few days before Christmas 1949, one of the Catholic elementary schools in Auburn, a small town nestled in Central New York state, encouraged children to bring their comic books from home and burn them in a school bonfire. The fear was that reading comics promoting juvenile delinquency. In fact, the school’s principal would even write a positive letter about the burning that was published in the local paper, The Auburn Citizen. This was before those misguided efforts really gained steam, culminating in the 1954 Senate Subcommittee Hearings on Juvenile Delinquency, focusing on comic books.

But a lot has happened since then. The region gave birth to one of the first-generation comic shops. Several more would follow, and recently the town just enjoyed its first comic convention.

And to celebrate the annual Will Eisner Week, Auburn hosted two events. Will Eisner week is a worldwide annual event that celebrates the birth of Will Eisner, called by many the father of Graphic Novels. And to make it special, 2017 marked the centennial celebration.

“Comic books are truly international. Will Eisner Week is celebrated in Angouleme, France to Sofia, Bulgaria, in Amherst, Massachusetts to Winter Park, Florida, in libraries, museums, bookstores, comic book shops, and online. Will Eisner was born in Brooklyn, New York 100 years ago during the Great Depression of first-generation immigrant parents, but even at an early age, he knew that comic books could be literature and would eventually hang on museum walls,” said Carl and Nancy Gropper of the Will & Ann Family Eisner Foundation. “We therefore celebrate sequential art, graphic novels, free speech, and his enduring legacy.”

On Eisner’s actual birthday, I presented an overview of the Will’s career and showed part of the 2008 movie, The Spirit, at The Seymour Memorial Library. This small town library embraces creativity and has a fantastic graphic novel collection. This library was actually designed by the same team who created the iconic New York Public Library, so there’s an impressive majesty to it all. The Library’s Director, Lisa Carr, is an enthusiastic proponent of graphic novels and has worked with Seymour’s Community Services Coordinator Jaclyn Kolb to create this unique event.

The following night, the Auburn Public Theater screened the documentary Will Eisner: Portrait of a Sequential Artist, followed by a Q & A session. Angela Daddabbo, one of Auburn’s most passionate and creative voices, works hard to ensure that this venue provides a variety of enriching events to the local population.

Geek Culture at large got behind these events too. Paul Levitz donated an autographed copy of his recent book: Will Eisner: Champion of the Graphic Novel. Dynamite Entertainment donated comics of Will Eisner’s The Spirit (by Matt Wagner, Dan Schkade and Brennan Wagner) and Will Eisner’s The Spirit: The Corpsemakers #1 (by Francesco Francavilla) as well a hardcover of the recent Will Eisner’s The Spirit collection. Syracuse’s Salt City Comic-Con awarded three pairs of tickets to lucky attendees for their upcoming June comic convention.

“We’re thrilled by all the events for Will Eisner Week, especially in this Centennial year., in which we have over 100 events worldwide! I’m especially encouraged when new cities, like Auburn, New York, join the celebration,” said author/editor Danny Fingeroth, Chair of Will Eisner Week.

It was an invigorating experience for all involved. And Auburn’s pretty much stopped burning comics.

 

Dennis O’Neil, Will Eisner and The Spirit

So here we are on the verge of spring again and it is time for Will Eisner Week, our annual recognition of comic book excellence, one I’m always happy to participate in. Anyone unfamiliar with Will’s stuff should remedy that post haste, either at your local comics shop or – I’m afraid this is virtually unavoidable – by aiming your computer at the, yes, folks at Amazon.

My personal, and much valued, acquaintance with Will began when friends stopped by my SoHo pig sty of a bachelor pad – the styness was my fault, not the apartment’s – on the way to hear him lecture in nearby TriBeCa. I knew who he was, of course: it would have been hard to be in the comic book biz back then, in, I’m guessing, the 80s, and not be aware of Will’s signature creation, The Spirit.

I first met The Spirit – and isn’t that a splendid first name? – when I was much, much younger, living with my parents in St. Louis, and, during summer afternoons with other future bibliophiles, trading comics. I probably remember The Spirit mostly because I didn’t quite get him, not the way I got Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and the legion of costumed good guys in the comics before educators and editorialists and just possibly the odd psychiatrist or two convinced large portions of the citizenry that these colorful vilenesses were shoveling our innocent youth into hell.

That unhappy time was still in the future. My problems with The Spirit were of a different nature. They had to do with Denny Colt himself. He bopped around a city fighting crime, but he wasn’t a policeman and he wasn’t exactly anything else. He didn’t have a costume (which was somehow, in comics, a license to engage evil) like Batman and others; he had a mask, sure, and gloves, but the rest of his clothing? A suit, a hat and – this galls me – a tie. His garb was a lot like that of – this galls me more – our current president. And he had no special powers like Superman (though I wouldn’t have wanted to be on the receiving end of a Denny Colt punch.)  So what was with him? Didn’t know. Back to Batman – him I got, at least kind of.

Flash forward to 1966, and join me in a gungy tenement on Manhattan’s Lower East Side reading the Sunday Herald Tribune. What I’m looking at is something special – a new Spirit story, the first in 14 years, written and illustrated for the Trib by Will Eisner. I am being knocked out and when I drop the paper I am a Spirit fan, thereafter on the lookout for any Spirit reprints I’m lucky enough to find. (There began to be a lot of them about then.

Jump ahead another few years and I’m doing a cabe tv show with Eisner, who I now know… a little. While I’m blathering, Marifran is standing off-camera with Will, whom she is meeting for the first time. When I join them, my gracious wife tells me that Mr. Eisner is coming to dinner. He does and Will and I spend an evening talking and Mari’s cooking convinces our guest that vegetarian food can be pretty tasty, When, at evening’s end Will gets into a cab and we have a new friend.

I am very proud of that.

 

Ed Catto: Second Act and Good Deeds

perlin2This month’s Fortune Magazine has a career-focused article that I passed along to my daughter Tessa, a recent college graduate who just joined the workforce. One part of this article that stood out for me was when you enter into the workforce, it is the first time, for many, that the adults closest to you don’t always have your best interests at heart. For many fortunate individuals, they go through life with supportive parents, teachers, coaches and community leaders all who are trying to help them achieve success. But in the “real world” your boss might not a supporter. In fact, a boss’s self-interest might even be contradictory to your own success. It’s a sobering reminder about but it’s a tough world out there.

TCbNLixJ_0101151758371(Luckily Tessa’s boss seems to be a pretty good boss.)

But one of the nice things about a creative industry, like the wild, weird of Geek Culture, is that there’s often room for good things. Specifically kindness and second acts. Paradoxically, I’ll talk about second acts first.

Don Perlin is a long-time comics artist. He’s had a long and a varied career, but when I met him in the 90s, he was best known for his Marvel work on characters like Moon Knight, Werewolf by Night and The Defenders. Interestingly, before all that, he worked for a number of publishers including Hillman, Harvey and Ziff-Davis. And he even spent a short time working on The Spirit and PS Magazine, the magazine that Will Eisner was contracting for the government.

bs13In the 90s, I was working for Nabisco and needed to fill ad pages in Disney’s Adventure Magazine. We didn’t have any creative on hand, so I came up with the idea of doing a comic strip to promote the brand. The team at Valiant supplied the creative work for this strip called “The Dunkins”. It was sweet and charming and the type of thing that you don’t see too much anymore.

Don was an artist at Valiant at that point, and every time I’d visit Valiant I’d be to sure spend a little time with him. This was about the time when Valiant was red hot – every book they created was loved by readers and hoarded by collectors. And Don was the artist on one of the new big launches, Bloodshot. The debut was astronomical by the standards of the day, and the standards of today, and Don was treated like royalty at comic conventions.
Moon-Knight-First-Costume-580x356I remember him telling me that how touched he was when one young fan at convention said “You’re my favorite artist”. Don clearly enjoyed this newfound second act and was very grateful. He was that kind of guy.

Don has since moved to Florida and was continued his art career for several years. Recently, he was overwhelmed by medical bills following an illness.

And that’s where the kindness part of this article kicks in. Longtime comics guy and occasional ComicMix contributor Cliff Meth organized a campaign to ask fans to contribute to help Don wrestle with these medical bills. The proceeds went directly to Don. And it’s still going on if you’d like contribute.

4254654029_13f3c707d0This isn’t the first time that Cliff’s created something like this. He has a big heart and can do attitude and is excellent at mobilizing fans to help their artistic heroes. In this case, Geek Culture rose to the occasion with an impressive display of participation and kindness.

A lot rotten stuff happens everywhere. But I’m encouraged that so many positive things bubble up in Geek Culture. I’m impressed with Don’s perseverance and humility, Cliff’s “just do it” attitude and fans that step up to the plate. So here’s the question – what positive things are you going to do in 2016?

 

The Law Is A Ass

Bob Ingersoll: The Law Is A Ass #376

THE SPIRIT AND LAWYERING OOPS

“Look at my diploma. Does it say Placebo State University?”

That’s what I wanted to say to my clients then they complained that they didn’t want a public defender, they wanted a real lawyer. Now I always thought I had made up good ol’ Placebo State. Then I read Will Eisner’s The Spirit #5 and the dialog of one Chadwick Swineheart attorney at law. Then I realized there really must have been a P.S.U., because Chadwick obviously attended that august institution. And based on the knowledge of law he demonstrated in this story, Swineheart attended it in July.

In said story, the Spirit, masked crime fighter of Central City, was trying to find out the current whereabouts and master plan of The Octopus, master criminal and the Spirit’s archenemy. Spirit broke into the office of the Octopus’s lawyer, the aforementioned Mr. Swineheart, rifled Swineheart’s files, and started reading like a teenager devouring the Twilight trilogy. When Swineheart caught Spirit in flagrante lectio, Spirit asked Swineheart, “So tell me … Where’s The Octopus? What’s his latest game?”

Swineheart steeled himself and said, “Private, stolen documents are against the law. Inadmissible as evidence.” To which Spirit answered, “One of the many reasons I’m not a cop.” After this compelling legal argument, Swineheart coughed up everything he knew about the Octopus. And, considering the way he was portrayed, Swineheart probably dislodged a hairball, too.

So how many different legal mistakes did Mr. Swineheart make in said scene? Surprisingly, not violating the code of professional responsibility by revealing privileged information about his client. That’s one of the few things Swineheart didn’t get wrong.

Swineheart told Spirit that the Octopus “is running some big scam to sell inferior plate steel to a government contractor.” I added the emphasis, because it showed the Octopus was running an on-going criminal activity and was going to commit future criminal acts. The Code of Professional Responsibility permits an attorney to reveal privileged information when a client is going to commit a future crime in order to prevent said crime from happening. So Swineheart was correct on this one.

However, one out of several is only a good record if you’re playing Football in Cleveland. For lawyers it’s lousy. Even Hamilton Burger won all the ones he tried after Perry Mason told him where to look.

So what did Swineheart get wrong? Let’s start with the concept that “Private, stolen documents are against the law. Inadmissible as evidence.” Sure they are. If someone stole a bunch of private documents from a business to sell to its competitor, wouldn’t those stolen documents be admissible in the industrial espionage trial as proof that the theft occurred? Of course they would. So private, stolen documents are admissible as evidence.

Now before you accuse me of being fast and loose with the law, because Swineheart obviously meant that you can’t steal private documents from him and use them as evidence against him or his client, let me respond to your accusation. You’re right.

But don’t go gloating that you caught me in an error; not yet. Sure Swineheart probably did mean you can’t steal private documents from him and use them as evidence against him or his client. It doesn’t matter. Either way you interpret Swineheart’s statement, he was incorrect.

Private citizens can break into lawyer offices – or other places – and steal private incriminating documents – or other incriminating evidence – and turn that information over the police. The police and prosecutors office may then, in turn, use that information as evidence in prosecutions against the persons who had evidence stolen from them.

I’ve written about this before, so everybody let’s say it together, It’s the Silver Platter Doctrine. Hey, Swineheart, I didn’t hear you back there. I said, “everybody!”

The Fourth Amendment forbids the police from making illegal searches and seizures. When they do, the evidence seized during said illegal search and seizure is excluded by the Exclusionary Rule. As the United States Supreme Court explained in Mapp v. Ohio, the rational of the Exclusionary Rule is that the police should not be able to benefit from it’s illegal behavior and excluding the illegally-seized evidence will deter the police from committing similar violations in the future.

The police don’t like the Exclusionary Rule. Prosecutor Offices don’t like the Exclusionary Rule. And, truth be told, neither do courts. In fact, the only people who seem to like the Exclusionary Rule are the criminals.

No one likes letting criminals go because key evidence that would have convicted said criminal has to be excluded. As a result, courts have carved some exceptions into the Exclusionary Rule. And by “some,” I mean courts have carved so many exceptions into the Rule it looks like a turkey one hour after Thanksgiving dinner.

One of the chief exceptions to the Exclusion Rule looks at the rule’s justification that it deters future police misconduct The courts routinely hold that if excluding the evidence would not deter future police misconduct, then there is no underlying justification to excluding the evidence and it should not be excluded.

So if private citizens make an illegal search and find evidence which they turn over to the police, the underlying future misconduct justification doesn’t apply. Excluding the evidence would not deter future police misconduct, as there was no police misconduct in the first place. The misconduct was all on the part of the private citizen.

Sure the private citizen might have broken the law by trespassing and stealing evidence, but the police did nothing wrong. So the evidence should not be suppressed. See, Burdeau v. McDowell, a decision of the United States Supreme Court which holds precisely what I just wrote.

Naturally it did. If Burdeau didn’t support the argument I was making, would I have cited to it as support? Maybe if I were Chadwick Swineheart. But I’m not, so the Burdeau case says precisely what I argued.

The Burdeau case came out in 1921. It’s not exactly new law. Even if this current Spirit series takes place sometime in the past, it still has to take place after 1921. After all, The Spirit didn’t even start until 1940. So there’s no reason for Swineheart not to have know Burdeau’s rule and that evidence stolen by the Spirit would be admissible in court.

Okay, there’s one reason: Swineheart is to legal scholarship what the Quadruple Bypass Burger is to Jenny Craig.

But here’s what really hurts in the whole Swineheart matter. I’ve written about the Silver Platter doctrine before. I don’t think several times before would be an exaggeration. You’d think that a lawyer who’s an actual comic-book character would read the column of the foremost comic-book legal analyst. But >>sob<< he doesn’t.

Maybe that’s why he’s such a lousy lawyer.

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.

 

Ed Catto: The Spirit of 76… minus 1

The Spirit Overstreet

Back in 1976 I loved comics (big surprise) but I didn’t really know who Will Eisner was. I didn’t know who The Spirit was either. But I still kind of got the gag on the cover of The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide that year. As you may know, this annual publication has a long tradition of showcasing different artists and characters each year. The Bicentennial was a big deal and everybody was getting in on it. That year, the guest cover artist for The Price Guide was Will Eisner. In order to get into the Bicentennial theme, his Spirit cover portrayed The Spirit’s supporting cast in patriotic regalia and the subtitle became The Spirit of ’76.

I know. That’s a long run for a short slide.

Over the years I’ve learned what a brilliant visionary and hard-working guy Will Eisner was, and I’ve read and re-read so many of his fantastic stories. And here we are now, nearly 40 years later, celebrating the 75th anniversary of Will Eisner’s signature character, The Spirit. It makes me wonder – how can one manage a brand like this with 75 years of history? America’s favorite cookie, Oreo, was an even older brand I managed for a few years in the 90s and sometimes I found it daunting. When I spoke with Carl and Nancy Gropper, who run the Will Eisner Foundation, I learned about the challenges of managing the legacy of an iconic brand.

As I was doing my research, my pal J.C. Vaughn, Vice-President of Publishing at Gemstone Publishing, alerted me to an intriguing opportunity: to explore the “secret origin” of that Overstreet Spirit of ’76 cover. So next week we’ll focus on the insights from the Eisner Foundation, and this week I have a real treat to share: insights from Robert Overstreet. As you might know, over the years Bob has never really been one for interviews. He’s always preferred personal, one-on-one conversations. That hasn’t changed much, even for the Guide’s 45th anniversary. But Bob Overstreet loves The Spirit, and in particular, that Bicentennial cover.

Bob explains how it all started. “In the fall of 1975 DC Comics recommended that I contact Crown Publishers in New York about bookstore distribution for the Guide. I called them and they pre-ordered 10,000 copies of my next book, which was The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide #6. I contacted Will Eisner to do a 1776 theme since it was our country’s 200th anniversary in 1976. He finished the art right away and upon receiving it, I sent Crown a copy of my new cover.”

“Crown called me on Christmas Eve 1975 and told me that Eisner could not have his name on the cover because his illustrated cook book series had sold awfully. I had to call Eisner on Christmas Eve to ask him if it would be okay to drop his name off the cover art,” he said.

Call Will Eisner on Christmas Eve and say his name couldn’t be on the cover? Piece of cake, right?

“This was very hard for me and something I did not want to do. I got him on the phone and surprisingly he agreed for me to delete his name from the cover art. However, I just couldn’t do it. I left his name on the cover, much to Crown’s chagrin,” Overstreet said.

“Incidentally, it ended up selling very well. This was so important because this was my very first book for bookstore distribution worldwide,” he said.

J.C. Vaughn’s experience with the cover started in the same place as my own. “The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide #6 was the first copy of the Guide I ever saw, so Eisner’s “Spirit of ‘76” cover has been lodged in my mind ever since that day at Eide’s in Pittsburgh (in their old location, where PNC Park now stands). I didn’t know anything about The Spirit at that point, but I loved the cover,” said Vaughn. “Pretty soon I saw the previous edition, which featured Joe Kubert’s powerful Tarzan, which also remains one of my all-time favorites, but there’s always been something about Eisner’s work, hasn’t there?”

And he also explained a little bit about his office, and I immediately got a bad case of ‘office envy’. “The Eisner piece was one of the few original Guide covers that Bob didn’t own,” J.C. explained. Will Eisner gave him a one-of-one litho. When I joined the staff, that litho ended up hanging in my office for a decade, so no surprise that I have such strong, fond memories of it.”

And to bring it all full circle, The Spirit will adorn the cover of the souvenir book from Comic-Con International, (which everyone really calls the San Diego Comic-Con). I’m in awe of a brand, and the creator behind a brand, that can last 75 years.

Of course, I’m wondering if some kid, like me 39 years ago, won’t know who The Spirit is when they see him on the cover of the souvenir book. But we’ll get into that more next week.

Note: Special thanks this week to J.C. Vaughn and all his help with and insights for this week’s column. He’s a real connect-the-dots kind of guy!  

 

Dennis O’Neil: Superhero Haute Couture

O'Neil Art 131212We’re not always aces when it comes to accurate prophecy, we comic book pundits, though we shouldn’t hang our collective head too far down because prophecy doesn’t seem to be anybodys strong point.

Anyway, almost eight years ago, in a precursor of this weekly blather, when I was younger and less evolved – I still had fur on top – I wondered if the meme of the costumed superhero was passé. Quoth I: “…what were asking now is, are costumed heroes an idea whose time has gone? Has the genre become too sophisticated for this part of its yesterday? Apparently, those who labor in television think so. None of videos superfolk wear stuff that couldnt be gotten at an upscale mall…”

That was then and this is now and the fortune telling implicit in what’s quoted above was as accurate as your newspaper’s daily horoscope. That is, not very. But it might be accurate in a year or seven; technology has hugely accelerated pop culture and the times are always a’changin. But that may be then and this is now and now superhero costumes are in no danger of extinction.

Look no further than the nearest movie screen. Superman, Iron Man, Batman, Thor, Green Lantern, The X Men. Spider-Man, Catwoman and, waiting in the wings, truth-inducing lariat at the ready, Wonder Woman. None of these people buy their business wardrobe at Marshall’s. Can’t get to the movies? (Yeah, well, ten bucks a ticket is kind of stiff, especially if you’re a fast food worker or a Walmart employee.) Go to the television set. There are currently two comic book-derived prime time shows on the tube, not counting cartoons, and one of them, Arrow, puts characters in costumes – maybe not costumes as blatant as the comics incarnations of those characters sport, but not what you’d wear to Sunday services, either. And more costume-wearers are in Arrow’s future, among them The Bronze Tiger and The Question. (I’ll plead that The Question’s mask is a costume as Will Eisner apparently thought The Spirit’s mask and gloves qualified as a costume.)

The Flash, who currently appears in Arrow in his alternate identity, will have his own show soon and, boy, The Flash – now theres a costume-wearer! (Minor trivia note: The Flash was the hero of an earlier television program that ran in 1990-1991 and was largely written by comics’ own stalwart Howard Chaykin.)

The other comic book show is Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and there is no spectacular apparel on view in it, but maybe there ought to be. We find the program, well…okay. If we want an action show with a twist of heroic fantasy, S.H.I.E.L.D. does the job. But if we yearn for a superhero fix, the show doesn’t deliver. Mentally bracket it with Covert Affairs, globe-trotting adventure stuff that has a slightly different vibe than the fantasy-melodrama that’s the realm of the super folk.

Next week, a different topic, but I can’t foresee what it will be.

THURSDAY AFTERNOON: The Tweaks!

FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases

 

Mike Gold: What Goes Around…

Mike Gold: What Goes Around…

Gold Art 130911Having spent the past four days in Baltimore attending my favorite comics convention – the one that’s actually about comics – I had the opportunity to spend some serious conversation time with a lot of my friends. However, because the show is a four-hour-plus drive from La Casa Del Oro, the best conversation is with my daughter and ComicMix cohort Adriane Nash. Whereas much of her work is behind the scenes, Adriane is the one who kills here each year on April Fool’s Day and at least one of her hoaxes has graduated to the level of Urban Myth.

As her dad, this makes me very proud. But (sing along, folks), I digress.

After returning from Baltimore Monday night, while cuing TiVo for Ricky Gervais’ appearance on David Letterman, we had one of those “let’s tie-up everything we’ve been talking about” conversations. This one was about how, given time, them younger generations eventually discover the really great stuff that was done before they were born. Adriane started with Jack Kirby, which, of course, made me feel even older than my present dotage. Younger readers have to discover Kirby, the most influential creator in the history of American comics. And they do… with a little help from their friends.

There’s nothing wrong with that. When I was about half Adriane’s age, I interviewed disc jockey Bob Hale (WLS, NBC, and the guy who emceed the Iowa concert the day the music died). Bob said he didn’t despair for those kids who like crappy rock’n’roll because they eventually grow up and discover the Good Stuff. That was an important lesson (thanks, Bob!), one I’ve remembered for the past, ummm, well, 45 years. And so it is with comic books.

As it stands today, no less than three major comics publishers are reprinting various aspects of the canonical EC Comics. Will Eisner’s The Spirit stays out there on the racks, as well it should. Carl Barks – same thing. Because Jack Kirby’s output was so astonishingly massive, it seems there’s a new reprint of his stuff about every six weeks.

This is true with the classic newspaper strips (I define The Spirit as a comic book that was published in newspapers), these days largely through the efforts of the gifted and knowledgeable Dean Mullaney and our friends at IDW. Milton Caniff, Alex Raymond, Chester Gould, Al Capp… you can bust your back dragging out all those massive hardcover tomes of Terry and the Pirates, Flash Gordon, Dick Tracy, and Li’l Abner, and that’s a small price to pay for the thrill of such discovery. And then you go over to Fantagraphics for Walt Kelly’s Pogo, Roy Crane’s Captain Easy, Charles Shultz’s Peanuts and Elzie Segar’s Popeye.

So… as you age you’ve got a responsibility to pass along the good stuff, to educate the young’uns to the great stuff that provided not only the foundation for our great medium, but the first half-dozen floors as well. I guarantee you that just about every talented artist and writer impressing the hell out of you today has devoured these folks and many others possessing equal gift: Alex Toth, Joe Kubert, Mort Meskin… the Internet doesn’t have enough bandwidth for me to list them all.

It is our responsibility, our duty to pass along the good self.

That’s how art works.

THURSDAY MORNING: Dennis O’Neil

THURSDAY EVENING: Martin Pasko

 

Captain Midnight #0 Free Preview

Dark Horse Comics shared a free preview of the new CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT #0 comic book.

Piloting a World War II dive-bomber, Captain Midnight—fighter pilot extraordinaire and expert inventor—hurtles out of a freak storm in the Bermuda Triangle and into the twenty-first century, where he’s in for more than one surprise as he enters the modern era! Collects the three stories from Dark Horse Presents #18–#20.

Joshua Williamson (Masks and Mobsters, Voodoo,Uncharted), Victor Ibáñez (Rat Catcher, The Spirit) and Pere Pérez (Aquaman, Detective Comics)!

Cover by Raymond Swanland!

Grab your decoder rings!

Read the free preview here.

Dark Horse reimagines radio, television, and comics’ legendary hero in an all-new ongoing series!

“Dark Horse and writer Joshua Williamson are reaching a bit further back, pulling the titular Golden Age hero from his roots in World War II and post-war America into contemporary culture.”—Comic Book Resources