Welcome! This is my personal blog, where I chat about whatever takes my fancy, reminisce about comics, Old Time Radio, and science-fiction fandoms, review what I feel like reviewing, and so on. It also archives scans of some of the fanzines with which I've been involved.
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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Wizard World Chicago 2010: Day Three Comics Folks

Michael Golden
Geof Darrow

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.
Bill Sienkiewicz


Wizard World Chicago: Day Three Dick Giordano Humanitarian Award

Jim McLauchlin
Talking with Jim McLauchlin at The Hero Initiative booth (apologies for the picture; memo to self: take a better photo of Jim), I learned that the organization devoted to helping comics professionals in difficulty has instituted an award in the name of Dick Giordano.
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."


Wizard World Chicago: Day Three Oh, My Gosh, the Crowds

The morning started with a chat with Wizard's Gareb Shamus, as we both surveyed the line of Saturday-only attendees waiting to get in to buy their ticket to join the fun. The line (which had already begun to filter in through the convention center doors) was moving fast but still stretched further than I think I'd ever seen it at a Chicago comic-con. (The view above doesn't begin to capture it; this is a chunk of the portion that hadn't yet reached the covered entry area, which probably had a hundred or more closer to the door and a couple hundred more stretched along the building behind these folks - and there were still people approaching the building who hadn't yet joined the line.) Gareb mentioned the outreach into the community and commented that I'd be surprised how many in the crowd were first-time attendees.

So I approached a chunk of the line at random and asked each of about 50 people in turn, "Is this your first Chicago Comic-Con?" Slightly more than half said it was. There were many families coming as groups, often with toddlers in strollers, looking forward to the adventure. When I entered the hall, I was stunned to find the first booths in the hall jammed with people - and, as noted, most of the Saturday crowd hadn't yet entered the lobby to purchase their tickets. Here's a shot taken much later in the day from a vantage point overseeing a portion of the hall floor. Whuf!


Wizard World Chicago 2010: Day Two You Can Get Sketches

Mont Blanc
Mike and the buyer
And "sketches" may not be the right word. Mike Grell, for example, was working on an elaborate "sketch" at the Hero Initiative booth - and even someone (like me) who wasn't paying for the art could watch a pro at work. This was a lovely pencil drawing, and we got into such discussions as pencil-art technique (including using graphite shavings to tone the art and kneaded erasers to highlight it) - and he even showed off his fanciest pencil: a Mont Blanc $300 automatic he'd bought at O'Hare. The primary pencil he was using was a Eberhard Faber "shaker": "I don't have to moderate my grip." When I told him I'd quote him on that, he responded quickly, "OK, Eberhard Faber: Send me a case!" Just saying.


Wizard World Chicago 2010: Day Two: OK, More Photos

Sandra Taylor
Walter Koenig
Wrapping up the display of media celebrities, I should note that these were all just taken in passing as I walked through the aisles. I didn't wait in line, talk to the performers, or otherwise interact. You can do that. Just bring a camera and wait for opportunities. (And when, Maggie, will you get around to the comic book coverage? Well, not soon. I just realized I should be heading for the convention floor - in the conflict so intrinsic to convention coverage. I can be there taking photos and getting information to post - or I could be posting to this site. Gee.)


Wizard World Chicago 2010: Day Two Argh Only Three Photos Per Post?

Richard Roundtree
Richard Anderson
Michael Hogan
Well, I knew this website doesn't like me to use a lot of photos, but I didn't know that more than three small photos would overwhelm the post to the point at which it'd overrun text, insert symbols, etc. Man. (I guess I can't blame it for misspelling "Celebrities" in the first posting. Dang.) Let's see if I can post three this time. Oh, and you'll notice that some of the nice folks will even let you have your photograph taken with them. Just saying. Doesn't your Facebook page mean you should head for the nearest performer you've always admired?


Wizard World Chicago 2010: Day Two Where Are Media Celebrities?

Brent Spiner
Lindsay Wagner
Well, they're here. And you can see them and talk to them and get their autographs and - wow, isn't this great? A problem with this website is my general inability to post the number of photos the way I want to organize them, but let's see what happens if I just put a bunch of photos here. Note: If all you want to do is breathe the same air or be in the same room with such folks, there's no problem. And, if you've always enjoyed their work, you can say thanks by helping fund their visit: Pay for an autographed photo. Oh, and my ongoing tip for meeting a celebrity whose work you like: If you're a fan, you probably have a question you've always wondered about that work. This is your chance to ask that question. Worst-case scenario: The celebrity won't answer. Best-case scenario: You'll get information.
Malachi Throne


Friday, August 20, 2010

Wizard World Chicago 2010: Day One More on the Floor

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.

One publisher who is exhibiting is Avatar Press, and Brian Pulido handed me a promotional comic, Lady Death Premiere, that will be available widely in November. It marks the December launch of an ongoing Lady Death series from Avatar division Boundless Comics.


Wizard World Chicago 2010: On the Floor

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.

Larry Snodie
Victor Layne
So I bumped into Larry Snodie and Victor Layne (with whom I'd actually chatted before entering the exhibit hall), and we laughed again about my "Press" credentials. Seems they, too, had been coming to the show for some time (18 years, if my memory serves) and had also been covering it. I'm not quite sure what you'll find when you explore their website, but they do cable shows and films, and we exchanged cards. (Just to give you an idea: There was another participant in the conversation, and I didn't catch his name. And so it goes when you're in "whatever happens, happens" mode. Should I begin to abbreviate it as WHH? I'm kinda liking it: You can even exclaim it at appropriate moments: "Whh?" Yes. Acronyms Are Us.)

People at the show were speculating at the size, and I must say that occasional unoccupied views of the hall floor were a bit aback-taking. There seemed to be fewer publisher booths - but there were fewer retailer booths, too. On the other hand, I must figure that, for the comics-collecting devotee, this is going to be a wonderful, wonderful show. Cases in point: I'd figured I wouldn't need much cash at the show - and ended up having to go back to the hotel room to replenish funds pretty quickly. (And I'll be buying more during Day Two, let me tell you.) I found (Thanks, Steve Thompson, no relation, for providing the completion to my collection.) the Jonas/Winter Pogo hardcover Deck Us All with Boston Charlie, the hardest-to-find of a 10-book set. I filled (Thanks, George Hagenauer.) some holes in my E.C. collection with the probably never-to-be-reprinted Dandy Comics #4, Animated Comics # - well, who knows? but it's a non-E.C. E.C., Animal Fables #1, and Crime Patrol #8. Now, these were all far cheaper than price guides would have them, but they weren't my usual outlay - which is to say: what I'd spend for a new comic book today.

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.



Wizard World Chicago 2010: Day One Sign In

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.

My first hint that the event might be smaller this year came when I was able to reserve a room at the wonderful Embassy Suites a week before the show. My guess (judging from experiences in years past) is that this is one of the first hotels near the event to fill to capacity. It's right across the street from the Rosemont Convention Center. It offers a free breakfast. The room has its own microwave and refrigerator, not to mention a "living room" appended to the bedroom. It's no more expensive than the other nearby hotels; in fact, I think it may be a little cheaper than some. And, in my case, it's my first choice for the Chicago show hotel. And there was a room available.

Gareb Shamus before the show
I don't drive in Chicago. Period. So my ability to get to the show is limited to my opportunity to find someone to ride with. This year, Comics Buyer's Guide columnist George Hagenauer was kind enough to let me tag along - and that meant we got to Rosemont in time for him to set up as an exhibitor and for me to be leisurely about registering as "Press." I waited in line for the Wizard World Press Booth person to be available; he was instructing official WW publicity photographers as to what he needed them to provide - which was, largely, photos of the show's celebrities in action. That taken care of, it was my turn. "Have you covered this show before?" "Every year since 1983." "I don't have a record of you." (Come to think of it, I covered it in 1982, as well: It was in downtown Chicago then, dubbed "Sweatcon," joined by a Doctor Who convention, and Marvel told organizers that, if it were to be held at that hotel again, Marvel would not support it. Previous convention owners, of course.) Anyway, the guy was nice enough, and I'd brought a copy of CBG and my business card [belt and suspenders, belt and suspenders], and there was no problem. And now they have a record of me. (Sidebar: As I was leaving the area, Wizard's Gareb Shamus waved at me and called out, "Hi, Maggie!")



Sunday, August 8, 2010

Grim Natwick, Betty Boop, and Wisconsin Rapids

Following the delights of the Nina Paley panel in Wisconsin Rapids August 6, Lesleigh Luttrell asked me whether I'd like to take a look at the Grim Natwick Hollywood Archives Exhibit at the South Wood County Historical Museum, 540 Third Street South. Well, heck, yes!

The exhibits on Natwick (1890-1990) were fascinating, displaying Natwick's art on song sheets and on a paper manufacturer's magazine as well as a terrific exhibit of his animation art. Natwick's animation years included work for Ub Iwerks, Walt Disney, Walter Lantz, UPA, and Richard Williams. He was a lead animator on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and drew the prince and princess for Fleischer's Gulliver's Travels.

A highlight of the event was the dedication of a Wisconsin Historical Marker honoring Natwick: an event attended by Natwick relatives still living in Wisconsin Rapids. The photo above includes John Natwick (second from left, nephew of the animator) and Jim Natwick (right, a great-nephew).


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Nina Paley, Sita Sings the Blues, and the Free Culture Movement

Imagine my surprise when long-time buddy Lesleigh Luttrell told me that Nina Paley was scheduled to appear in nearby Wisconsin Rapids and Lesleigh wondered whether I was planning to attend one of the days of that community's "Betty Boop Festival." Imagine my renewed surprise when, having forgotten all about it, I received another e-mail from Lesleigh reminding me, saying that Friday would be the only day she could attend, and asking whether we could get together to see Paley.

I've admired Paley's work for years and years but hadn't seen it for ages. What a terrific opportunity! And the Central Wisconsin Cultural Center (240 Johnson Street) is a surprising facility in the midst of relatively rural Wisconsin. Lesleigh and I wandered through the facility, admiring the art from Paley's cartoons and stills from her Sita Sings the Blues (which Lesleigh had seen and I hadn't - but the stills were gorgeous). Then, the panel was about to begin, and I grabbed front-row seats. The panel members were David Farbrough (above, a freelance writer and photographer, who has been a lawyer and also written (taught?) on the history of film; Paley; University of Wisconsin Baraboo Literature and Film Professor Frances Auld; and Festival Director Cathy Meils.

Much of the focus was on Sita Sings the Blues, and, asked how she'd done it (all the animation on the feature film), Paley responded, "I was a hermit for three years." She said it was possible for one person to animate a film today because of the technology: She said of her Mac, "You direct the computer to do in-betweens," and, "I played tricks to hide how many corners I cut." Thanks to a Guggenheim Fellowship, she didn't have to move in with her parents to afford to complete the film in the roughly 8,000-10,000 hours it took to put the project together. She waved her right hand to show the ring she wore on the middle finger: "I married the film."

The film is a version of the story of Sita as told in the Hindu Ramayana - as told in part through animation of songs performed by Annette Hanshaw, each song appropriate to a plot development in Sita's story, sung by Sita. While the performances are public domain today, the songs themselves are not, and Paley entered into the challenge of structuring her work so as to enable it to incorporate the performances that are ordinarily restricted. (More on that in a bit.) Given that the Jewish Paley was adapting a work of religious significance, not all the response has been positive. She laughed that, while her name could be taken as Indian, someone had responded, "No, Nina Paley is a white Christian woman who hates Hindus."

Why an animated film? "I made an animated film, because that's my skill. I'm a control freak, so animation is good for me." And, "A lot of the film is the result of happy accidents."

The discussion moved on to Paley's espousal of the "free culture movement." The home page of Sita Sings the Blues (linked above) goes into more detail. In short, anyone is welcome to use the film, copy it, send it to their friends, and otherwise spread it - as long as the new usage doesn't restrict it in some way. Details are on the website - which is where I saw the feature for the first time (today, in fact). "A work is lucky if it has fans," she said. "All elements are Flash files and available for use. They can be changed - though, if that happens, the source should be attributed to me and the changes to them." She referred to Question Copyright (where, I note today, she's the winner of the 2010 "IP3 Award" from Public Knowledge) and said she'd "made way more money by releasing [her film] for free." Replacing the costs for advertising, for example, are word of mouth and the ability of those who like it to share the work.

So how to make money for devoting three years of her life to the film?
(1) Voluntary payments from arts organizations and the like, which invite her to attend events and to lecture
(2) Direct donations "My main income comes from that. I'm happy to be a charity."
(3) Merchandise "The visuals are open-sourced, and you may not sue someone else for producing it, but no one else has done it." (I bought a cool cloisonne pin she had made: the "peacock phonograph.")
(4) Conventional distributors, which can still be used, but only 5-10% of her income comes from such use.

Will that bring success? "There is no recipe for success."


Gaiman v. McFarlane 2010: 2002 for the Record

[This is a footnote to my running report on the 2010 hearing on the Neil Gaiman v. Todd McFarlane  case. To see coverage from the beginning, click here.]

Some questions have been raised as to the 2002 jury decision regarding ownership and copyright of Spawn #9 and Angela #1-3. I covered the trial and reported the outcome in Comics Buyer's Guide #1511 (November 1, 2002). (I took this photo October 3, following the trial. It was the first time since the promotional events for Spawn #9 that writer and artist had appeared together to sign a copy. Andy Carter, age 12, asked the co-creators to sign a copy of the issue, which they did.) During the trial, Judge Shabaz had given the seven-woman jury a list of 18 questions to decide. Since some were to be skipped, if certain others were answered in a specific way, the total questions decided October 3 came to 15. (The verdict on each question had to be unanimous.) Results were as follows:

1. Does plaintiff Neil Gaiman have a copyright interest in the following?
Medieval Spawn: Yes
Cogliostro: Yes
Spawn #26: Yes

2. Would a reasonable person in plaintiff Gaiman's position have discovered prior to January 24, 1999, that the McFarlane defendants were claiming to be sole owners of copyright interests in the following?
Medieval Spawn: No
Cogliostro: No
Angela: No
Angela #1, #2, and #3: No

3. Did the plaintiff and the McFarlane defendants enter into a contract in 1992?

4. Did the McFarlane defendants breach the 1992 contract?

5. Did the plaintiff and the McFarlane defendants enter into a contract in 1997?

6. Did the McFarlane defendants breach the 1997 contract?

12. Was defendants' failure to identify plaintiff Gaiman as a co-author of Spawn #26, Spawn Volume 6, or Pathway to Judgement a false description or representation of the origin of the work?

13. Does plaintiff Gaiman believe that defendants' failure to identify him as a co-author of Spawn #26, Spawn Volume 6, or Pathway to Judgement is likely to damage him?

14. Did plaintiff Gaiman consent in writing to the use of his name and biographical information on Angela's Hunt?

15. Did plaintiff Gaiman make misrepresentations or omissioins of material fact to defendant concerning his DC Comics contract during the negotiations of the 1997 contract?


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