Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
It's only one of many delightful Christmas comics stories. Among my favorites are: Kelly's "How Santa Got His Red Suit," "A Mouse in the House," "The Three Blind Mice and a Christmas Deed," and "Hickory and Dickory Help Santa Claus"; Carl Barks' "Christmas on Bear Mountain," "The Golden Christmas Tree," and "Letter to Santa"; and Oskar Lebeck and Morris Gollub's "Santa and the Angel" and "A Letter to Santa."
Mind you, none of these is in print at the moment. Sometimes, people ask me, "Why do you collect comics?" And this is a reason: The only people who can read these stories are the people who (a) bought them and (b) kept them.
Monday, December 6, 2010
A friend recently asked me what I'd recommend as the one comic-book that people should be advised to read. (OK, he didn't put it exactly that way, but let's move along.) I opted to consider something that would simultaneously reflect standard comic-book-character storytelling with an outstanding script and, if possible, something that would also let a new-to-the-field reader see a variety of art approaches. After more mulling, I decided that a good introduction for an adult who grasps the storytelling challenges of fantasy (which is, after all, what a huge percentage of today's comics consists of) would be The Sandman: Dream Country by Neil Gaiman and illustrators Kelley Jones, Charles Vess, Colleen Doran, and Malcolm Jones III. It reprints issues #17-20 of the comic-book series, so it's a sample of what can be found in an ongoing series. It's an anthology, so it's a sample of a variety of artistic approaches. It features an assortment of "what if" approaches for a fantasy character. At least one story ("Facade") ties into DC Comics continuity, analyzing what might seem to be a wonderful super-power, revealing the tragedy of what its reality would be. Another story is a World Fantasy Award-winning tale ("A Midsummer Night's Dream"). None of the tales is predictable; all are excellent. And there's the bonus of a behind-the-scenes look at how Gaiman approached a story, including the script he provided to the artist.
That was my choice and my reasoning. What would you have recommended? What has worked for you when you've tried to introduce comics to people who are interested - but new to comic books?
Sunday, December 5, 2010
That's a header that will bewilder anyone who has no familiarity with the strange vagueness of a series of ads in 1950s magazines with sizeable female readerships. And, yes, I'm revisiting the general snickering that accompanied Apple's announcement of the name for its all-purpose lug-around computer thingy. (I'm a little surprised there didn't seem to be an immediate flood of fake iPad ads featuring gorgeous women in over-the-top formalwear with iPads discreetly Photoshopped into the images.)
The thing is, "iPad .... because" pretty much sums up the reason for my addiction to the thing (though I don't pretend to know why those '50s ads seemed to insist on four dots instead of the usual three in ellipses - trademark, maybe?). Today, again, I'd hauled my iPad with me to an event, and, when I began to use it (in this case, to note some upcoming dates in its Calendar app), folks stopped to ask what it was and how it worked and why I found it useful.
So. When I first heard about it, I thought, "Well, I'll get it in 2011, when they release the second version, because what do I need it for right now?" Then, I thought, "Well, maybe I'll treat myself with one for Christmas, because I hear good things about it." Then, I thought, "How about my birthday? I could get it for that." Then, I visited daughter Valerie, whose son has one, and I borrowed it for an evening, at the conclusion of which I asked, "Could we go to the Apple store tomorrow so I can buy one right away?" Because it's not just what so many have called it when I've showed it to them. It's not just "Maggie's toy."
I travel quite a bit. Not on the level of Neil Gaiman, who jets around the globe because so many people rightly want to see and hear him in person. Not on the level of businessfolks whose jobs take them hither and (especially) yon. But I'm often in locations I don't know well, away from entertainments of home, and I've found my carry-ons growing more and more heavy with an assortment of electronic thises and thats - and, even so, missing things I enjoy. So currently on my iPad (top of the line, with AT&T's 3G service, so I can connect lots of places without WiFi), I have (free, once I bought the thing) Calendar, Notes, Maps, iTunes, and iBooks apps. (Maps is of particular importance in my travels, showing me clearly how to get here or there by car, bus, or walking - and even showing me where I am at the moment: a help in some cities, let me tell you.) I've loaded a number of free apps (iMDb app for quick movie info, many books [especially Saki and Wodehouse at the moment], Marvel and DC apps, and a National Public Radio app. I also connect with the Internet via Safari and (and this was when I decided I had to have it) that lets me connect to Wisconsin Public Radio's two networks (Ideas and the News and Classical Music service) and its 24-hour classical music service so that I can listen to my favorite NPR programs, no matter where I am. I have not begun to explore the iPad's possibilities, though my daughter showed me one app I paid for: "Star Walk," which lets me identify the current constellations wherever I turn. (That's one that evokes an "Ooooooooo!" when I show it off - and, yes, that is a toy aspect, but hey ...)
Got an iPad? What's your favorite application?
Saturday, December 4, 2010
At an American Association of University Women brunch this morning, I found myself once again discussing the wrap-up of J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series with someone. And once again I found it intriguing that those who have read the novels divide into two camps: those who grasp the full meaning of what happens on page 658, the end of Chapter 32 - and those who don't. I missed it on first reading, I have no idea of how on earth filmmakers will be able to convey it (assuming they even make the attempt), and it's my favorite moment in the entire series. Oh - and I can't even discuss it at any length (or why my favorite character in the series is my favorite character in the series) because it's part of one of the Big Reveals of the entirety of the epic. But it really does divide the People Who Get It from the People Who Don't Get It about what happens to a major character.
All of which comes to mind because, having seen Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 twice now, I've been revisiting the entirety of that final book, listening (for the third time? the fourth?) to the marvelous unabridged (Grammy Award-winning) audiobook performed by Jim Dale. He holds the Guinness World Records record for most voices in an audiobook, and his career has included a number of pop-culture achievements, of all of which that I have seen or heard, I am an admirer. His performance in the Rowling series is the reason I tried to "read" each of the novels first via his audiobook readings: That's how good they are. [And I note to my dismay that, at least from Amazon, the audiobook of Deathly Hallows is out of "print" as a stand-alone release. Dang!]
In any case, my point is that I know many people who have been following the Potter tale only through the movies - and, as the wrap-up of that format nears, I'd just like to encourage anyone who has enjoyed the epic in that form to check out the books before the final installment hits theaters. Most fun, as I say, are the audiobooks. But, whatever the format, you're missing wonderful, rich storytelling if you've skipped the books.
Friday, December 3, 2010
The signature seems to read "R Guerrieri" - and we can't find anything about him, though the drawing is excellent. And that's pretty much all we could tell.
Could he be U.S. Attorney George R. Peck from Chicago? We haven't been able to find a photo of him. And, when I say, "we," I include here "Mrs. D," who is the person who brought the art to us in the first place. It's large, it's framed, and among the details of the framing are a number of actual dollar bills, fanned in to cover the corner mountings. She is refurbishing a Victorian house, furnishing it appropriately, and she encountered the art in the course of her project. You'll find another shot of the art in her blog entry for Oct. 15, 2010 - with more background on its origin (though our car experts, as I've already noted, place the probable date as closer to 1915 than 1925).
Are there any detectives out there? Who's the artist? Who's the subject? What was the reason for the drawing? Any ideas?
Thursday, December 2, 2010
I've always loved Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. I have no idea of when I first read it; by now, I've memorized portions of the play to such an extent that I can say the lines just before the characters do in my favorite version of it. And my favorite version is the 1952 film by Anthony Asquith, starring such performers as Michael Redgrave and Dame Edith Evans ("A handbag?"), not to mention Dorothy Tutin in her screen debut and the husky-voiced Joan Greenwood. I saw that film on TV long before we had a color set; in fact, I find I tend to think of it in retrospect as being in black and white - which it isn't. And, recently, I wondered whether it had made its way to DVD. That resulted in one of those "oh, boy!" moments followed by one of those "oh, heck!" moments. Because it was (oh, boy!) available on DVD but it was (oh, heck!) only available as part of "The Criterion Collection" (aka "a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films," aka "it'll cost $10 or so more than if it came from some other source").
Now, among the reasons for higher prices for Criterion releases is the excellence of its supposedly meticulous transfers. On the insert sheet, there's a credit for audio restoration. "This digital transfer," moreover, "was created from a new 35mm composite print. The soundtrack was mastered from the 35mm optical soundtrack. Audio restoration tools were used to reduce pops, clicks, hiss, and crackle." And, yes, it sounds fine. But. But. But. A mere 3 minutes 53 seconds into the feature, I'm startled to see, twitching into top-of-screen center, a hair. A hair? In a flippin' Criterion edition? And it wasn't for a few frames; the hair twitched and wiggled impertinently from 3:53 to 5:44, nearly two minutes during which I lost track of the polished performances of Redgrave and Michael Denison in my increasingly disbelieving fascination with something I'd never expected to see from Criterion.
Oh, well, maybe Criterion will reissue the film someday in which it'll boast it's repaired the picture (which, yes, does still have other, more easily overlooked, imperfections) as well as the audio. And I am glad to have even a hairy copy of a delicious play. In fact, my purchase of this version reminded me that I'd also enjoyed the BBC version (starring, among others, Gemma Jones, Paul McGann, and Joan Plowright), so I grabbed that, too, via the BBC's The Oscar Wilde Collection. Hot dog! Four Wilde plays for a lot less than Criterion. But, then, I already commented on the price point, didn't I?
(Oh, and in case anyone wondered: Both the 1952 motion picture and the 1988 BBC TV release outdo the sadly pedestrian 2002 film with Colin Firth. Leonard Maltin commented, "This time, unfortunately, the tone is all wrong: the actors are terribly, terribly coy, the comedy much too self-aware." Yep. And it's just plain tiresome. So, even if you saw that version, do try one of the earlier releases; I'm sure your library will be able to get you a copy.)
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
I've just come from one of my favorite shops: Half Price Books - in this case, the outlet in Appleton, Wis. After a quick ramble through the store, I'd found nothing and was preparing to leave, when I decided to glance through the "books of comics" section. (That is to say, there's an accumulation of everything from Spirit pop-ups to random fifth volumes of reprint collections.) And I came across Rick Random Space Detective, a thick softcover subtitled 10 Classic Interplanetary Comic Book Adventures. It's from Prion in England, but it's "published under license from DC Comics." The book is edited by Steve Holland, and a quick online check (thank you, iPad) while waiting for friends in a nearby restaurant provides more details about a 2008 book I hadn't known about before.
Its contents consist of reprints of stories from British digest comics from Super Detective Library, and I guess I know what I shall read until my friends show up. (I will update this post tomorrow, you can bet.) I love used bookstores.
Update #1: At least two of the stories are by Harry Harrison. Details here. I've also linked to that online check my iPad provided in which details (dates, some creators) that would have (should have, I think) been provided in the volume itself are available. (In fact, I think I'll copy and print the information and tuck it into the book. But my goodness.) I also note the online community provides a bit of information as to why DC Comics holds the license. The more you learn about comics, the more there is to learn.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Don and I first came across the work of Judith Viorst when we bought her It's Hard to Be Hip over Thirty and Other Tragedies of Married Life. Clearly, that was a long time ago, considering that (in the midst of Black Friday sales) I just stumbled over Unexpectedly Eighty and Other Adaptations. Mind you, in the intervening years, we probably treasured her work more for such children's classics as Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and The Tenth Good Thing about Barney (even though I could never manage to read Barney aloud). The point is: Judith Viorst always seems to have something to say that's either simply funny or simply enlightening. Translation: Her books are always worth buying - and some passages are worth memorizing.
So I didn't wait for a sale - or even to buy the book on Amazon (though, obviously, I've got the link right here). I grabbed it up, paid $17 at Barnes & Noble, and then doled out the material to myself, a two-page spread at a time. This time around, my favorite is probably "Exceedingly Eighty," written as a comment on the current saying, "Eighty is the new sixty." Each verse ends: "Eighty is not the new sixty./ Eighty is eighty." She's always seen things clearly - and helped the rest of us see them clearly, too. In the meantime, though, her most motivating poem for me was published a decade ago in I'm Too Young to be Seventy and Other Delusions. A portion thereof:
You want to slow down time?
Try root canal.
Try an MRI.
Try waiting for the report on the biopsy.
Or try being a child on a rainy morning
With nothing to do,
Wishing away the hours, the days, the years,
As if there will
I hope that sobering sample does not exceed fair use. If it does, I'll take it down. What I'm saying is that, if you've somehow managed to get this far through life without reading what she has to say, you owe it to yourself to check out some of her books, at least at the library.
In the meantime, I'll begin rereading Unexpectedly Eighty.
Monday, November 29, 2010
The discussion was revealing. The three "normals" are intelligent folks, deeply into popular culture and eager to find things to like in these issues. (In fact, there were gripes amid the ensuing posted comments from listeners that the participants had been too polite and eager to find things to like.) But the remarks included comments that it'd be handy for pros, as well as fans, to consider. The "normals" found, for example, that Batgirl was "easier to follow" than the "Done in One" one-shot. Stephen remarked that it would have been helpful to have had, say, a "60-second introduction" to what was going on. Among the barriers to entry was confusion over who was talking. (Weldon commented that thought balloons were a thing of the past - which, for some reason, I'd not internalized.) "These comics need to do more work," was another remark. Commenting on the difference from Silver Age comics, it was noted that these were "not as welcoming." "You need things to be clear."
Linda noted the distraction of ads for the newcomer, pointing out how confusing it would be, if - when reading a novel - a page of text advertising were occasionally inserted between story pages.
There's more - and it'd be great, if people (including pros) who are trying to increase the audience for mainstream comics would listen to what these adult "normals" have to say. "These comics need to do more work."
Saturday, October 23, 2010
By the way, if you haven't been picking up the wonderful strip compilations of Starr's On Stage and Dondi, you should start now. With Volume One of each. (And thanks to Jim for helping to bring those projects to existence.)
The afternoon was topped off for me by the fact that, as Leonard and Barbara Starr prepared to leave the hotel following the panel, Irwin Hasen reluctantly decided he wasn't up to his original plan to stay until 10 or 11 p.m. So there was an early need to contact the driver who was to take him home - but the driver was at that point at JFK, so it would take a couple of hours for the driver to get to Newark. So (oh, I'm so thoughtful!) I said Irwin and I could sit in the hotel bar until the car could get to the hotel. What a delightful couple of hours! As anyone who's been lucky enough to attend any of his convention appearances knows, his conversation is packed with wit and information. It was grand. Oh, and do let me recommend another of his projects that I only had a chance to glance through before an eager fan bought it: Loverboy - recently out from J. David Spurlock's Vanguard Productions. Note, though: It's not the suitable-for-kids project that was Dondi. I don't think you'll have seen anything quite like it.
And now I've got to get ready to head to the morning rehearsals for the Blondie performance. I'm to play Cora Dithers. Guess who's going to play Dagwood. (Yes, Will Hutchins, who played the part on the TV series broadcast in 1968-1969. Hee!)
Thursday, October 21, 2010
|Show organizer Jay Hickerson, performer Chuck McCann|
|Satellite Media's Fred Berney|
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
So. Don't miss it if you (a) buy books and (b) are near the Northland Mall in Appleton. (Enter in the Mall entrance near Shopko. Walk down the hall and up a short flight of stairs. The sale is on the left. You'll see. The schedule is as follows:
Thursday 3-8 p.m. (hardcover fiction will be $2 @, most other books will be $1 @)
Friday 9 a.m.-8 p.m. (almost everything will be $1 @)
Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (half-price day)
Sunday 11 a.m.-3 p.m. ($5 per "armload")
A few items will be priced higher, but there will be bargains galore. Just saying.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
I've just received a phonecall that says that the photo that appears at the beginning of one of my Harlan Ellison posts is appearing on the Good Old Internet as some sort of "Harlan Ellison doing pushups before MadCon" shot. Harlan was not doing pushups, the photo is mine, and if you give three hoots in Hell about accurate reporting, you'll do me a favor if you spread the word. It is precisely and exactly as I reported it on this website. He fell to the floor as a joke to amuse Peter and Kathleen David's daughter Caroline - and, believe me, there was panic amid the several folks who were standing there but not paying attention until he fell. Just as I reported. People who are using the photo (without, by the way, asking me) and saying anything else are, well, not to be commended for their truthiness. I'd appreciate your telling them so.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
|Harlan Ellison, Susan Ellison, Josh Wimmer|
So. Here's a photo I'd planned to post yesterday. As he sat to sign books (with a huge line stretching down the hall), Harlan was handed print-outs of an e-mail exchange between Josh Wimmer and Buck Howdy. Who, you may ask, is Buck Howdy? Well, for the 52nd Grammy Awards, there were six nominees for Best Children's Spoken Word Album. Put on the ballot in alphabetical order, Howdy's performance came first, thanks to alphabetical order: Aaaaah! Spooky, Scary Stories & Songs. The other nominees were by Dean Pitchford; the group of Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Hillen Mirren, Forest Whitaker and others; David Hyde Pierce; Ed Asner; and Harlan. (Harlan, by the way, was reading Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There - and it's a wonderful performance, unlike any other I've heard. I would link to its spot on Amazon for you, but the one thing Amazon apparently wants to discourage people from buying is audiobooks. It has separate link departments for "Grocery" and "VHS" but not for "Audiobook." It has 1,759 options for "Through the Looking-Glass," though fewer than 300 for the full title - but I still don't have time to find it, given that such items as Alice mousepads were apparently a better match for the title than Harlan's wonderful performance. I digress.)
Buck Howdy won the Emmy is the point here. And he'd e-mailed Wimmer a note that came across as something of a "say hi to loser Harlan" message. And here's Harlan with his first look at the printout. And, in his banquet speech, Harlan waxed eloquent on the matter. And I didn't have time to post it last night. And I've got to get back to the con. So ...
Saturday, September 25, 2010
|Sophie Aldred and Peter David|
And we finally figured out a solution, as Harlan would clearly not be up to autographs. We handed out numbers, so that the folks in the line didn't lose their place. And all of us (including Harlan, who had to be virtually dragged offstage) staggered off to bed. And what am I doing posting this from my hotel room the following morning? Hey, good question. Signing off for the moment; banquet tonight. Cheers!
Friday, September 24, 2010
Well, see, Harlan (Who has lost an incredible amount of weight since I saw him last: Hello, bright side of illness! I'm looking on you!) was not alone at this moment. He was, in fact, surrounded by admirers, one of whom was a child whom Harlan clearly felt needed to be amused. Suddenly, he fell to the floor. People who hadn't been watching as closely as I had been (as I viewed the world through my camera) and had not been noticing the fact that he had been striving to entertain Caroline David rallied round following what they feared was a catastrophe. (Let's start the convention by watching EMTs toting Harlan to a waiting ambulance.)
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Wups! I forgot I'd promised to tell you about the door to Harlan's study. It's actually not much of a story, but for the record ... I come back to the results of Harlan's caring so much about ... just ... everything. His incendiary remarks sometimes set others ablaze - and one of the results is a huge target that he has, in effect, painted on himself. And one of the longest-standing, easiest ammunition sources seems to be: Hey, didja know? Harlan Ellison is not tall! Admittedly, it's not one of the most intellectual comebacks to his arguments. But, surely, the point must add weight to any other response his critics may have ...
Clearly, the snark has wounded him to the quick. Except ...
He's made a joke of it. The door to his study is a work of art, a sculpture in itself. And one of its aspects is that the lintel is something like four feet above the floor. Which means that everyone including Harlan has to stoop to enter his work area. Hee!
There: an anecdote not likely to come up at this week's MadCon 2010. It doesn't look as if Harlan will be well enough to attend in person, but I bet other anedotes will be flying. I hope I'll see you there!
Monday, September 20, 2010
Well, no. Ah, that was easy. Oh. What? Why would anyone suggest such a thing in the first place? Well, consider: Harlan does not write his thousands and thousands and thousands of words on a computer, though he has written oodles of science fiction, speculative fiction, whatever it's called this week. (Do me a favor, though: Don't identify him simply as "a science-fiction writer," because he writes lots and lots and lots of words that are not science fiction. Just saying.) Anyway, his writing tool of choice is a portable typewriter (an Olivetti, as I recall). He can use it anywhere. He can use it even if the power goes off. He is, in fact, a major advocate of the wonders of the portable typewriter.
Consider: Harlan griped to me at one point that a hotel in which he was staying not only didn't have blotting paper in the desk in his room, but (when he called the main desk) the staff didn't even know what he was asking for. He verged on outrage at the very fact.
Consider: Harlan has expressed himself as being of the opinion that television is A Bad Thing. (I challenged him on this a few years ago, and we ended the discussion when he became virtually incandescent in rage over the failings of the medium.) I think that opinion may have something to do with his closely analyzing TV via writing so many columns about TV that he has filled two books with his illuminating commentaries. [Sample: Regarding CBS censorship of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1969, he wrote in part, "No, what that banned segment shows us, shows all of the country, was that not only are the network potentates a gaggle of cringing, petrified, spineless twerps, they are ripe patsys for extortion and blackmail. ... Look, CBS, I'm talking to you like a Dutch Uncle. You see, what's happening is that we're building a psychopathic society. Everybody lies, everybody sells out, everybody stinks of hate. We're all being driven mad as mudflys, CBS. The hatreds are running deep, core-deep. How much longer do you think we can tolerate our guardians of the public trust, dudes like you, who corrupt and bastardize that trust?"] Anyway, by the time John and Bjo Trimble took us to visit Harlan and Susan in 1976, I think most of his readers were convinced that Harlan had long since destroyed his television machine.
But, at the end of that delightful evening at Ellison Wonderland, Harlan stood politely to say that, while we were all welcome to stay to share it with him, he was not going to miss the evening's broadcast of Hill Street Blues. And we understood perfectly (though we had not yet been captivated by the show) and took our departure, cheered by the information that he had not truly abandoned the medium. (And, it should be noted, I've enjoyed other televisual entertainment with the Ellisons since.) So. No Luddite there.
But he uses a typewriter. And blotting paper. And loves at least some old radio shows - to the point at which he even helped put together a performance of a Robert A. Arthur radio script at a SPERDVAC convention because any recording of the original broadcast has long since been lost.
The thing is: Harlan doesn't forget to treasure what's best of the past while we travel in that 60-seconds-per-minute time machine that we all inhabit. So do consider joining a flock of us this coming weekend to treasure Harlan. And share anecdotes. Just saying ...
Sunday, September 19, 2010
My point? Wups, sorry. I was wallowing in memories of the days when WorldCons were small enough that folks like me (age 16 or 17, depending on which con it was) could just pull up a chair and enjoy listening to the casual wit of such folks as these three. And it was the first photo I ever took of Harlan.
Mind you, I'd met Harlan at the 1955 WorldCon in Cleveland, when I was 12. Mom (Betsy Curtis) was a science-fiction writer and had contributed to Harlan's Dimensions fanzine, and, at that convention, I hung around and eavesdropped on all the conversations - at least one of which was between Harlan and her. The last time I visited Harlan and Susan, we simultaneously realized that that meant that our friendship had been one of the longest either Harlan or I had had.
And now MadCon 2010 is gearing up for an Ellison celebration September 24-26 - and, again, people will be able to hang out and savor the wit and share anecdotes and such. Now, mind you, convention organizers are warning as follows on the home page, "due to ill health it is very likely that he will not be able to travel to Madison for MadCon. However, Harlan is determined that ... he will still be appearing at MadCon telephonically for his talks on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday." There's more on the site; do check it out. But that won't keep the rest of us from sharing enough anecdotes to keep him blushing, even at long distance.
So I hope you'll join me (and such other folks as Sophie Aldred (from Doctor Who), writers Gene Wolfe, Peter David, Pat Rothfuss ... Heck with it. Check the website. (See? I didn't even mention John Krewson of The Onion.) Where was I?
Oh, yes. Celebrating Harlan. Well, the thing about Harlan that many people just don't quite get is that Harlan cares. Sounds like a book title or a charity drive - Sorry about that. But the point is that you and I may (for example) like Keebler's oyster crackers as they used to be served as accompaniment to some airline meals. But Harlan loved Keebler's oyster crackers as they used (etc.) - and he followed it up by trying the variety in stores and didn't love them as much - and he followed that up by contacting Keebler's elves. Long story short: He obtained a case of individual airline packets of Keebler's oyster crackers and slowly doled them out over the ensuing months - to his friends, as well as himself. Because he cared.
Which is more adrenaline than some folks can handle. (Pause to thank Heaven that he found another unique human being in Susan, because she's the only person on Earth who could handle living with a person who just cares so much about everything.)
But Harlan not only cares about everything, he acts on those cares. He spreads the word,just as he distributed those oyster crackers. In 1962, for example, he sent Don and Maggie Thompson an essay for their fledgling fanzine just because he cared. Sample: "But today the gross desire to capture everyone by broadening the [comics-reading customer] base so shamefully that no one gets full measure for his money has allowed such patently ludicrous creatures as Batwoman, Lois Lane, Lana Lang, Lori Lemaris, Aqualad, Mon-el, Bizarro, Streaky, Supergirl, Krypto (which is phonetically the Russian word for a 'fellow traveler' and thus, by the let's-not-offend-anybody policy of plotting today, highly suspect), Super-monkey and (so help me God) Super-horse." See? He even cares about comic books.
Monday, September 6, 2010
|Peter S. Beagle|
"The baloney weighed the raven down, and the shopkeeper almost caught him as he whisked out the delicatessen door. Frantically he beat his wings to gain altitude, looking like a small black electric fan. An updraft caught him and threw him into the sky. He circled twice, to get his bearings, and began to fly north.
"Below, the shopkeeper stood with his hands on his hips, looking up at the diminishing cinder in the sky. Presently he shrugged and went back into his delicatessen. He was not without philosophy, this shopkeeper, and he knew that if a raven comes into your delicatessen and steals a whole baloney it is either an act of God or it isn't, and in either case there isn't very much you can do about it."
The raven is bringing the baloney to feed a man who has spent years hiding in the Bronx's Yorkchester Cemetery - and talking with the spirits of the recently dead. And it's a delight to reread this gem 50 years later. And, of course, meeting Beagle meant that I sort of blithered about how much I'd enjoyed it in the past and was looking forward to savoring it again - end of conversation. (I often pontificate about how to best speak with people whose work one admires. Surely, I say, you have a question if you're a fan of that work. Ask the question, I say. Except when I meet such a person in unexpected circumstances, at which point I gabble about being a fan and loving the work - to which the only response is usually, "Thank you," end of dialogue. So it has gone with Joss Whedon, Jim Dale, and so many others. And now Peter S. Beagle. Sigh.)
On the other hand, also at the table was Freff, and it was all "Let the chit-chat commence!" First, for those who have come along later, let me say that Freff may be best known in comics circles for his work with Phil Foglio on the delicious but sadly short-lived D'Arc Tangent in 1982. Given that several years have gone by, what's with Freff now? And, for that matter, what's with the name "Freff"? What sort of weird acronym is that? Well, it's not an acronym; it's actually his middle name. He's Connor Freff Cochran, and one of the things he's doing is helping people today get more of the work of Peter S. Beagle. While A Fine and Private Place is the first novel of Beagle's that I'd read, the author is probably best known for The Last Unicorn (1968) - so do note the image on Freff's T-shirt.
Among other projects (and I bought, not only the 2007 edition of A Fine and Private Place to savor it anew, but also The Unicorn Sonata , The Rhinoceros Who Quoted Nietzsche , The Line Between , and We Never Talk about My Brother , not to mention the Beagle-edited The Secret History of Fantasy ), Freff told me about "the 52-50 project." And I'll tell you more about that another day, if the creek don't rise and the bunny rabbits don't eat all the celery.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
I was listening, as I do every week, to the delightful National Public Radio Pop Culture Happy Hour. I think everyone who enjoys popular culture would enjoy this experience - but I confess there's extra fun for me because one of the participants is my very own son. And it's sort of like attending a party at his house without my having to travel many hours to get there. In any case, this time, he was waxing philosophical (as much as he does) over the fact that (without referring to notes) he had commented in passing on Slap Maxwell and Hooperman - and had had a discussion with friends over the most obscure details of Insane Clown Posse - but he (he said) hadn't read a book. (This could be substantiated, by the way, in an earlier NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour [that I won't link to] in which a mention of Death of a Salesman was followed by Stephen's quickly commenting, "I don't read books.")
(Let me say that he has occasionally read books in the past - just in case you wondered. But he has certainly not made a habit of it recently.) In any case, the lad now declares himself motivated to participate in "a project in which I read a book." [Show host Linda Holmes quickly suggested How to Win Friends and Influence People and added a possible vote for something by Miss Manners.] The point is that Stephen has actually taken the step of reserving for himself an e-mail address for the project: firstname.lastname@example.org. And he has, moreover, expressed hopes that the book suggested might have some relevance to popular culture so that he could discuss it on the podcast.
I should point out that his 9-year-old son has read many books, recently completing the "Percy Jackson & the Olympians" series by Rick Riordan. In fact, that might be a place to start, Stephen: with a book that Jonah is reading. Wouldn't a father-son read-off be nifty? And, if Jonah still hasn't begun the "Harry Potter" series ... Well, what'd be more pop culture than that? With the forthcoming film about to whip Daniel Radcliffe fans into a frenzy? Think of Happy Hours filled with references to Muggles and Snape and Quidditch and He Who Must Be Obeyed ... Wups! Nope! Sorry! I blended my pop cultures there. But think about it, Stephen. Just saying ...
Saturday, August 21, 2010
I'm getting grumpy about this website's inability to give me the power of providing lotsa photos in one big mass titled "Here Are Lots of Photos." Because I'm loving my new camera (Canon Rebel T2i) which, even with its customary 18-55mm lens, is letting me take almost all photos with available light. I'm guessing its "Image Stabilizer" software hasn't hurt my photos, either. (Translation: If there's blurring, it's not because I'm not holding the camera steady - which is not to say that I'm actually holding the camera steady.) Anyway, here are three more photos.
The Dick Giordano Humanitarian of the Year Award will make its debut at the Harvey Awards Banquet at the Baltimore Comicon Aug. 28-29. Giordano worked in the industry for decades not only as a famed editor and artist but also in support of his fellow professionals. He served on the board of directors of The Hero Initiative until his death earlier this year. "In honor of Dick," the organization has announced, "The Dick Giordano Humanitarian of the Year Award will recognize one person in comics each year who has demonstrated the generosity and integrity Dick brought to the charity, and comic-book community at large." The award has been crafted by Tommy Allison of Mad Robot Studios. Giordano's longtime friend, co-worker, and executor of his estate Pat Bastienne said, "So many people have referred to Dick as 'The Great Gentleman of Comics,' and I'm sure he'd love to see his name and legacy carried on, especially in such a wonderful way that honors others who have shown kindness and generosity. If Dick were here, he'd raise a Rob Roy and toast the idea."
|Mike and the buyer|
Friday, August 20, 2010
In full "whatever happens, happens" mode, there were other observations ...
Ron Massengill told me he'd just found a variant of a Superman giveaway - after he thought he'd pretty much located all there were. I'm hoping to photograph it before show's end.
A dealer told me his booth price had gone up over last year's show and dealers are hoping the buyers turn out. (Yes, yes, that's a "my goodness, what a surprise" statement. Sorry. But they are expressing concerns.) One price I was quoted: a no-corner 10x20 booth was $2,150, up about $300 from 2009, as far as the dealer could recall.
Yes, Jim Johnson (who asked on Facebook), the "Press" credential is a wristband again this year.
One booth at the show was a Michael Fox-connected fund drive to fight Parkinson's Disease.
The exhibit hall opened at 5 p.m. Thursday, and I ambled into the hall in the mode of "whatever happens, happens" - which is an excellent way to attend shows. It's true that you'll ordinarily want to check in advance for program items you care about and people you want to see - but you can sometimes choose the alternative: Wander the floor and see what happens.
That delight came at yet another booth - to which Michelle Nolan had steered me last year. This is my favorite type of convention purchase - but I swear this dealer had lowered his prices from last year. For $2 @, I bought the following Dell Four-Color issues: #216 (Andy Panda "Police Pup"), #218 (3 Little Pigs "and the wonderful MAGIC LAMP"), #264 (Woody Woodpecker "The Magic Lantern"), #284 (Porky Pig "The Kingdom of Nowhere"), #451 (Rusty Riley - ooo, Frank Godwin art!), #507 (Oswald), #621 (Francis), #972 (Tom Thumb - "The great BIG story about a daring LITTLE MAN!" what the heck? Jesse Marsh art with someone else occasionally pitching in on faces?), #1074 (Chilly Willy), and #1144 (The Story of Ruth - "She defied the pagan idol that demanded human sacrifice!"). The #216-#284 are issues I'm sure I bought off the newsstand Back in the Day. I'm in for some nostalgic reading sessions.
Nor could I let things go that easily. For more $2@: The Night of the Grizzly, Dark Shadows #11, Around the World under the Sea, Ensign Pulver, Big Red, Run, Buddy, Run!, The Castilian, T.H.E. Cat #1, and The Lion. Those were movie and TV Dell and Gold Key issues. And then there was the much misc. category (which, admittedly, had movie components): Looney Tunes #82, Mr. Magoo #6, Wacky Races #2, Love Experiences #6, Marmaduke Mouse #26, True 3-D #1 (no glasses), Tex Granger #20, Warfront #8, and New Funnies #164. And of things I actually look for actively? Well, Tubby #29 and #36, Thirteen #26 and #29, and Pink Panther #18 and The Inspector #18 (and I must remember to ask John Jackson Miller what it is I'm looking for in those last two, because I'll bet these aren't the issues he recommended).
But then, hey! There were two boxes under the table of really beat-up $1@, 6 for $5 comics. Now, how could I ignore those? Talk about much misc.! Dunc and Loo #8, Joe Palooka #56 (title off), Dennis the Menace #132, Atomic Mouse #22, Fun with Basky and Robin, Walt Disney Showcase #39 and #47, Tubby #38, New Funnies #180, Tom and Jerry #87, Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #456, and Pink Panther #1.
Wonder what I'll be reading tonight ... In any case, the point is I dropped more than $250 - and I hadn't planned to spend anything. This is a great show for attendees is what I'm saying.
Yikes. After vowing to post something - anything - on this site every day, I ended up with a 12-day hiatus and almost all of my Comic-Con International: San Diego coverage yet to go. (Not that I won't post it; there are piles of Stuff To Be Discussed on the couch at home.) But Wizard World Chicago (or, as it has begun to refer to itself, Chicago Comic-Con) is set up so as to permit me to (a) take photos, (b) take notes, and (c) have enough down time to allow for computer time in the room.
|Gareb Shamus before the show|