Happy Holidays - from 55 Years Ago

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


(The Fountain House, originally an inn, is not only our house, but gives its name to an area about a mile square; that’s why it is really a part of our mailing address.)

Fountain House, R.D. 2, Saegertown, Pennsylvania


Yesterday, I posted Mom and Dad's Christmas Letter from 1951. But I also located their annual letter from five years later. So here it is, with happy wishes to all - and a realization that one problem solved doesn't mean all complications are solved forever. (Ah, memories of having to evacuate when the coal furnace mentioned in the 1951 letter went berserk and filled the house with coal smoke and attendant fumes. Hence, the gas furnace noted in the 1956 letter.) May your coming year have more triumphs and fewer challenges ...

Dear Friends, Relations, Stockholders, and Hockholders,

1956-plus has been a year chiefly composed of beginnings. While such things as the April to October rainy season, classes, the 87 quarts of peaches and 4 bushels of tomatoes we put up, and Katy's getting bigger and more fun seemed to have neither beginning nor end, the year was packed with such New Year's Days as those few we have space to record below. Most of these days initiated such interesting chains of happiness that we shall have to let you extrapolate much of the fun we've had for yourselves. We have run this report on into 1957 because the procession of New Year's Days showed no slackening by the first of the calendar year (and occupied so much of our attention that we had no break in which to report the beginnings already behind us).

Apr. 3, Molly's New Years making her nine years old, tall, blonde, busy, Brownie Scout.

Sometime this month we got a new-to-us radio to bring more and better music.

May 26, Katy's Christening, with Kathryn Hamilton and Gay and Peter McGee as sponsors.

A family New Year's, we hadn’t seen Pete since 1943, nor previously met Gay or cousins Woody and Jamie who stayed for a wonderful two-day visit.

June 7, Katy's Second New Year's, making her one year old, fat and sassy and fun.

July 9, the family's first RBBB Circus (sitting on straw and loving every moment).

20th, began the girls' annual Week in Oberlin with Grandmother McGee.

30th, the Saegertown Marching Band began daily rehearsals for the coming year.

Aug. 11, Mother Curtis' annual visit, which wound up with our getting a trip to Ithaca to take her home and to see Pat and Frank, Bettie and Ote, and all six cousins.

27th, Public School began, as usual at least a week too early to suit us.

7th or 21st? Bill and Alice and Ann Davidson dropped in for a too brief visit.

Sept. 6, First Annual Appearance of the Saegertown Band. (Mother McGee came to see it.)

17th, Betsy's New Years makes her the same age as Jack Benny? (or so he says.)

Oct. 22, Betsy's Intellectual New Years, with mimeographing of her ponderous paper on liberal education and the proposed non-resident quarter system for Oberlin.

24th (I think), an overnight visit from Mary Helen and Pete Whaley and young.

Nov. 20, Pearl, the Pure White Stove, replaced old Una the Universal who conked out.

22nd, Thanksgiving-New Year's for the McGee family, the first time all Mother McGee's grandchildren had all been together and the first time in fifteen years that she and her children had been all together (in her Oberlin apartment). Now that Chuck and family are near Chicago, we'll hope to make this a yearly do.

28th, New Year's Day for Betsy’s teeth.

29th, Margaret's New Year's. (Judy is known as Margaret or Maggie for the purpose of deconfusing school teachers.) Fourteen years old, tenth grader, tall as her mother but purtier and thinner.

Dec. 11, Ed's New Years made him the same age as Betsy. New Year's Day also for a brown suit (to take the strain off the one he was married in 15 ¼ years ago.)

22nd, New Year's Day for The Fountain House, when title passed from Florence and Bill Reid to Ed and Bets. (The New Mortgage included the costs of Phoebus, Cyrene, Georch, white aluminum lap siding, and some needed electrical repairs.)

Jan. 23-25, New Year's Days for Phoebus the Phurnace (gas) and his pipes which heat even the second floor, and for Cyrene the Cyclic (automatic water heater, also known as Phoebus' Phancy) now faithfully responsible for the Cleaner Curtises.

Feb. 13, New Year's Day for Doorbells, Wallplugs, and the Heavy Equipment Circuit.

15th, New Year's Day for the White White Fountain House and Georch the Porch.

Mar. 5, Woodwork, walls, ceiling of the livingroom freshly painted with Mother M's help.

So … Happy New Year's and all intervening holidays from KATE, MOLLY, JUDY, BETS & ED.


Happy Holidays - from 60 Years Ago

Monday, December 5, 2011

Every year, Mom and Dad sent a mimeographed Christmas Letter to their friends, and I've just located one of those vintage messages. The heading above was drawn by Dad, and the messages themselves serve to remind me of the way times have changed (though I'm still, obviously, into comics) and the way our parents managed to maintain our world as kids while going through challenging events.

Dear Friends,

This is to notify you of the change in location of headquarters of our firm and the reason for it. As you will remember from our last annual report, we were enthusiastically planning to rebuild the house at Lark Meadows. However, because of the country-wide expected shrinkage in enrollments in colleges for the fall of 1951, St. Lawrence, like many other schools, was forced to reduce the number of its faculty and the head of our firm was so reduced (actually he didn’t lose a pound, which he could ill have spared). Inquiries of a number of colleges brought to light several good possibilities, the most attractive of which was at Allegheny College in Meadville, Penna., and here the Head of the firm accepted an appointment in May. The secretary wrote the treasurer of Allegheny College hoping for assistance in finding just the quarters which the firm required … a bathtub on the premises, three or four bedrooms, doorknobs on the doors, a study for the head of the firm, a kitchen large enough to contain the breakfast table and washer as well as the usual stove and sink. The treasurer was none too hopeful, especially when the request included wishes that the house should be in the country, have a garage and lawn, and be on a paved road. At least there was nothing yet available when the firm sent its effects into storage and moved for the summer to Mother Curtis' house in Ithaca on the first of July. About the middle of August, all members of the firm drove to Oberlin, Ohio, where Mother McGee supervised the activities of the junior members and the senior members went to Meadville to find housing. There they fell in love with a house which, unfortunately, was so tied up financially that the bank decided to try for a quick sale and not rent it. There seemed to be nothing else; so the members returned to Ithaca. A house in Meadville suddenly became available, and Pres. Ed dashed to Meadville to rent it; but someone else had beat him to it. He discussed courses with Bob Bugbee (head of the biology department) and returned to Ithaca. On Sept. 14, he returned to Meadville for the opening of school … to find that the bank had reversed its decision not to rent the house … and on the 21st of September the new headquarters were formally opened.

FOUNTAIN HOUSE is supposed to be part of the original tremendous inn of that name at which Lafayette is reputed to have slept. The name comes not from the waterfall which yesterday poured into the cellar when it rained, but from a huge watering trough which stood in what is now our front yard. The spring which fed the trough supplies the water for the house. It (the house) is rectangular, white, tree-surrounded. A central stair leads to the four upstairs bedrooms; downstairs are living room, play room, study, kitchen, and bath. Not only is there a bathtub, garage, guest room, ample kitchen, and isolatable study; but there are doorknobs on the doors, a tremendous attic, and four acres of apple trees, grapes, raspberries, and tangle. It is four miles from the college but in the center of a small faculty settlement: the other new man in the biology department lives across one road and the college treasurer across the other.

The secretary-treasurer of the firm at once dashed to town and bought a second-hand stove and refrigerator and bed for the maaaster bedroom (the Canton bed having been sold there in retribution for its infernal uncomfortability). The house with its miles of white woodwork begs for fluffy white curtains and lush carpeting and other goodies … which makes living in it fun because every month it may have a little of the fluff it asks for, and it's so grateful. The pres has already constructed a beautiful floor lamp from copper piping and wire cloth, and another is in the process of construction. The general manager has reupholstered a chair; a rug is in the process of being sewed together and tinted for the living room; the guest room is slowly being repainted, a piece of linoleum has been cut and placed under the laundry rack to provide a dripping-place for snowsuits; and Christmas will be good to the house too, though we haven’t decided just how.

Major achievements and work in progress of the member of the firm for the last ten months are listed below.

WILLIAM EDGAR CURTIS, president and chief investor: has completed the dissertation for the Ph.D. degree, "Quantitative studies of echolocation in bats (Myotis l. lucifugus); Studies of vision of bats (Myotis l. lucifugus and Eptesicus f. fuscus); and Quantitative studies of vision of owls (Tyto alba pratincola)." He expects to take the final exam for the degree sometime this month or next. He has prepared a new course in comparative anatomy and is preparing one in general physiology. He has drive at least 2600 miles. He has trained a bat to come to a certain place for food and to fly around between feedings. He has constructed a copper floor lamp and a new bat cage for his new bat, Tssitt. And he has mastered the art of firing the soft coal furnace.

ELIZABETH M. CURTIS, secretary, treasurer, general manager, and janitress: She has been cleaning house (she feels) steadily since May 1. She has nursed the junior members through a case of measles and flu each. She has packed the firm’s effects for a major and a minor move and has unpacked and settled twice. She has upholstered a chair and painted boards for a bookcase. Her chief work in progress is a play (sci-fic of course) which is coming along smoothly if slowly. She costumed her children with such ingenuity that they both won first prizes at the Saegertown Hallowe'en parade.

MARGARET JUDSON CURTIS, vice president in charge of literary and dramatic research, evaluation of propaganda and educational procedures, and cowhand extraordinary: Has recovered promptly from all measles and other such annoyances, has started school in two different places, has examined a tremendous quantity of comic books and western movies and reported on their quality. Her school at Saegertown (to which she rides on the bus which stops at the door) runs a double shift and she goes to the morning session, leaving her afternoon free for learning to cook, doing homework, playing with the three boys her age who live near, and for the researches listed above. She is finding fifth grade well attuned to her present abilities.

MARY NASH CURTIS, vice president in charge of dolls and stuffed animals, janitress' assistant, and general overseer and underseer: completed the second term of nursery school, learned to swim effectively with a tube and somewhat without it, succeeded in dressing herself completely (except for some hard snaps and tying her shoes). She is not going to nursery school this fall because of transportation difficulties and is spending the time thus freed in assisting with watching the washing machine and in working up complicated "let’s tend I'm the mother and you're the baby" dramas with Marilyn Rogers from across the street. She has also become adept at climbing apple trees in preparation for next year's crop.

Our new headquarters is now prepared for your inspection and patronage; and we hope that we may count on your continued interest, approval, and willingness to inform us of your doings and happenings. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Jubilant Easter!

Molly, Judy, Bets + Ed

[And this appended note appeared upside down:]

Dear Would-be Reader of that outstanding fanzine, THE CRICKET,

This letter is in partial explanation of the year-long delay in production of a new edition of the CRICKET and the similar delay in reprinting old issues. And it may be months yet before we get around to doing anything about it. I am still trying valiantly to work the writing of science-fiction into a housekeeping schedule more exacting than any I have previously known. Your name is on a mailing list for the next issue, which will carry a statement of how to continue to be on the mailing list. I hope you will forgive our not having acknowledged your letters and cards during the last six months. We were busy.

Betsy Curtis


FOTR Organizer Jay Hickerson Is Injured

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Jay Hickerson with one of the many
tributes he received at the October FOTR show
Word spread throughout the world of Friends of Old Time Radio Nov. 7 of the hospitalization of Jay Hickerson, the man who annually brought together in Newark an international mix of Old Time Radio buffs - and who kept those fans informed throughout the year with his Hello Again newsletter. The news of Jay's injury came from his wife, Karen, who wrote to Martin Grams: "Jay suffered an accident yesterday. We were at a performance at our local college, and, when he was coming back to his seat after the intermission, took a flying (literally) leap into the air and fell down the stairs landing on his head/face. Ambulance took him to the hospital. At first he was lucid. They took a CT scan and saw bleeding on his brain. A short while later, he began acting 'funny,' so they took another and saw more bleeding. He had a seizure when the doctors told me it would be best to stablize him by sedating him and putting him on a ventilator, which he is now still on. Jay is in the ICU unit. This morning, he did respond to some commands, so we know there is still some brain/body connection. More CT scans will be done in intervals to check the progress of the bleeding.  People have been known to fully recover from such type head injuries, and I only pray that Jay is one of them. In the meantime, I have no way of letting his newsletter subscribers know that I have no way of knowing when one will go out, or if one will go out. It will have to be a wait and see. Please let me know how I can circulate Jay's condition to anyone who would care to know."

My thoughts go back to the many wonderful years of pleasure Jay and Karen have given to so many of us - and to the sing-along with which he ended the convention this year. Thanks for the memories, Jay! I'll be seeing you in all the old familiar places. We'll meet again ...

Update Nov. 8 from Charlie Summers of The Old-Time Radio Digest, part of The OldRadio.Network: "The latest news on Jay's condition is good; his ventilator has been disconnected, although he is still in the ICU. Karen requests, "Keep those prayers coming for a full and complete recovery." You bet!


Goodbye, Friends of Old Time Radio - But Hello, Friends I've Made

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Jay Hickerson, Valerie Thompson, Arthur Anderson
Sigh. As I Tweeted earlier this evening, the Friends of Old Time Radio event has come to an end. Well, there's a sort of post-convention panel Sunday morning - but the official end comes Saturday night, and that's when this is. Everyone is trying to be upbeat, savoring the fun and treasuring the friends we've seen only once a year - but there were many of us who were too teary to join in when Organizer Jay Hickerson began the finale by playing and singing his own version of "Thanks for the Memories" and then invited us all to join him in "I'll Be Seeing You in All the Old Familiar Places" and "We'll Meet Again." The evening was filled, not only with food at the dinner and two re-creations, but also tribute after tribute to Jay and Karen Hickerson, who have brought us all so much pleasure. Among the tributes was a scrapbook of FOTR memories presented by radio personality Arthur Anderson (the voice of the Lucky Charms Leprechaun, among countless roles) and daughter Valerie Thompson. There was a cake. There were tears. There was laughter. When shall we meet again?


Serendipitous FOTR Dinner

Thursday, October 20, 2011

"The Widow" cast prepares for the "broadcast"
Elaine Hyman
Corinne Orr
Corinne Orr
You just don't know when you're at a convention what's going to happen when. And tonight's Friends of Old Time Radio convention dinner - followed by "Old Time Radio" performances - provided special enjoyment. Sitting at our table was actress Corinne Orr, who not only appeared on such shows as Theater Five and CBS Radio Mystery Theater, but also was a voice artist on Speed Racer and voiced Snuggle the Bear. She was incredibly delightful to chat with - and she was so fantastically nice that she put up with my floundering about by my inability to locate a pen so she could give me an autograph. (I know, I know - my manners should have improved by now, but I have come to terms with the knowledge that I will occasionally disrupt the lives of people I admire. Sigh.) In any case, the wonderful evening was capped by a reperformance of a Theater Five story, "The Widow," with Orr and Elaine Hyman recreating their roles from that long-ago show.


Friends of Old Time Radio Day One

Charlie Summers' musical shirt
Jay Hickerson
Here I am in the Garden City: Newark, New Jersey! Why would I be hanging out here on a delightful October day? It's the Friends of Old Time Radio annual convention, bringing together experts, hobbyists, on-air celebrities, behind-the-scenes production people, and generations of folks who simply know and love and appreciate Old Time Radio. And the kicker is that this is the last installment of this decades-long tradition. Jay Hickerson has been coordinating what would otherwise have been chaos for 36 years, and there have been countless hugs between long-time friends in a huge celebration of the triumphant conclusion to this event. There will be many re-creations of delights of the past and laughs and unforgettable moments. (For example: Wish you had your own theme song to accompany you wherever you go? Old-Time Radio Digest moderator Charlie Summers has such a theme song - and a shirt that plays it.) Wish you were here!


Time to Get Back To Work!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

P'Gell said it 61 years ago - and she's still an inspiration.


Doctor Who and Networking: Who's There!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Designer Tara Reich as Idris from "The Doctor's Wife"
I, of course, had had nothing to do with Brian's accomplishment. In one of my triumphs of networking, I had hit Westfield Comics' branch on the west side of Madison (check out Manager Bob Moreau's blog) on Free Comic Book Day in May - which turned out to be where Brian had set up his TARDIS. (Many were the fans who took photos that day, often posing next to or coming out of the Doctor's time machine.) Conversation ensued, I took my own photos, and we stayed in touch. Which is what networking is all about, come to think of it. Brian kindly invited me to join in the fun of the premiere event, and it was a delightful mix of longtime fans and, yes, people who were seeing the show for the first time. (I can't quite imagine what the latter group must have made of it; from time to time throughout the party that followed, I'd find myself encountering one or another fan trying to summarize briefly the history of a series that began in 1963. Best advice I could come up with: Start with the first season of the show's restart in 2005. Thank you, BBC America and DVDs!) And the networking went on, including meeting a designer whose eye-catching re-creation of a costume in one of the season's best episodes is only one of her accomplishments. (She showed me photos of some of her other Doctor Who-based outfits, many inspired by the show but not copied from it: wonderful!)


Where's the TARDIS Brings WHO Premiere to Madison

Happy Doctor Who premiere atteendees
Who'd have thought it? Thanks to BBC America - and the incredible efforts of a Doctor Who enthusiast - Madison, Wisconsin, was the site of yesterday's world premiere of the restart of the BBC series with the eighth episode of the sixth season: "Let's Kill Hitler" by Steven Moffat. (Our showing was simultaneous with the showing in the United Kingdom itself; ordinarily, U.S. showings are delayed a few hours in order to put them in prime time.)

Months and months and months ago, Brian Bull decided he'd join the BBC's "Where's the TARDIS" competition, in which fans produced their own versions of the vehicle in which the time-and-space-traveling Doctor voyages. Brian's edition was an ice-fishing shanty, and his entry included images of the construction of the wintry project. Long story short: Brian's entry won - and part of the prize was the premiere, shown in the Madison Sundance Cinemas 608 theater at the Hilldale Mall.


It's Bargain-Hunting Time at Wizard World Chicago

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Eric Bradley, Patrick Bradley
I had a great time yesterday, especially gathering gossip and chit-chatting with folks throughout the day - culminating in a marvelous dinner with CGC-associated collectors and dealers. (I think tablemate Roy was a bit taken aback when I said I thought the most I'd spent for a back-issue comic book was around $75 - for a damaged Showcase #1 a few years ago. I, on the other hand, was a bit taken aback - though not surprised - by conversations about how many thousands of dollars were involved in an assortment of sales over the years.) Anyway, posting about all of this sort of thing will have to wait - because today is check-out day at the hotel and bargain day at the show. Wizard World Chicago is an event to which I arrive in a car, and that means that I can take back stuff without so many concerns about getting it from the convention to my home. And it's the day on which some of the dealers will lower their prices. And there were pretty good prices earlier, let me tell you. Here, for example, you'll see fellow Krause Publications Editor Eric Bradley and his son Patrick exulting in the joy of comics pursuit yesterday. What's the best convention moment for you so far this year?


OK, It's Time to Hit the Convention Floor

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Jim Engel
Gary Friedrich
So I'll haul this laptop from the hotel lobby's free Wi-Fi back to the room (where, for no reason I can fathom, there's a charge for the service) and head back to Wizard World Chicago. Hoping to see Michael Uslan and Jill Thompson, both of whom were scheduled to appear today, and who knows who else? (I just realized that I seem to have left my cell phone in the room: not good planning.) And so it goes. I've run out of time to comment on the fun of seeing again such folks as writer Gary Friedrich and cartoonist Jim Engel. Sigh ... Now where did I put that doggoned phone?


Wizard World Chicago Provides Unexpected Moments

Dean Weber, Billy Tucci
I was wandering through Artist's Alley, grabbing photos here and there (wishing again today that this website were more friendly to photo displays), and I stopped by Billy Tucci's table. In one of those great convention moments we all cherish when they happen, it was then that Dean Weber came up to Billy to hand him two special canes, inspired by his work. If you check out Weber's Rebel Canes site, you'll see that much of what he produces is upbeat: designed to convey a message while providing the support so needed by many of us. Very neat.


Celebrities Appear at Wizard World Chicago

Mike Grell
Lou Ferrigno
Well, of course they do! Depending on when you hit that portion of the exhibit hall, you'll be able to catch at least a glimpse - and perhaps even have a conversation with - a number of pop-culture icons. As I entered the room yesterday, for example, I noted the wonderful Felicia Day (of The Guild and, naturally, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog) in the midst of a line-up of fans. And such comics celebrities as Mike Grell were there along with such other icons as Lou Ferrigno in the "celebrity" set-up. (The organization makes a lot of sense: Special guests are set up so as to provide instant, easy access upon entry. Other guests appear either at their own booths or Artist's Alley or [Here's a tip!] just walking the floor.)
See Felicia Day peeking out through the throng?


Chatting with Glass House Graphics Guys at Wizard World Chicago

Will Conrad, David Campiti, Mike Deodato
It was fun to be able to grab some time to talk with David Campiti at the Glass House Graphics booth. I've known David Campiti for - what, now? - decades, I guess, and I've watched from a distance as the former head of Innovation (who, in ages past, assigned me a four-part Dark Shadows story arc) has grown his own production group. At Comics Buyer's Guide, we've worked with David as one of the go-to folks who have provided covers for our issues - but, of course, he's done much, much more. At the booth, he told me he's produced a full animated feature film: Niko: The Journey to Magika, distributed by Red Giant Media. In the midst of such other activity as moving to Orlando, he's also contributing writer to Dynamite's Stan Lee's How to Draw Comics, which he has available at the Glass House booth.


And, of Course, There's News at Wizard World Chicago

Friday, August 12, 2011

Steve Horton
Gary Colabuono
Hungry for news at Wizard World Chicago? Just saunter through the nicely set-up Artist's Alley and chat with the many, many folks with projects released and in the works. For example, I came across Steve Horton, who had worked years ago as an intern at Comics Buyer's Guide and who is becoming increasingly active as a freelance writer. He said he's scripting the first installment now of "Amala's Blade" for use in Dark Horse Presents by Editor Chris Warner. It's planned as what Horton called "steampunk with swords," with an initial outing in February.

And some news is scheduled for release later in the show. Retailer (and longtime collector) Gary Colabuono says he has a terrific story to share about some unique (and I use the term correctly) comics collectibles. (Well, he didn't actually specify what the story involves - but I've heard rumors. And isn't that what convention conversations are all about?)

But enough posting. Time to head for the exhibit floor again.


Smell the Goodness AND Support Hero Initiative

Jim McLauchlin shows off comics-oriented Grendel scent
Jim McLaughlin was at the Hero Iniative booth at Wizard World Chicago, and among the items on display at that booth were bottles produced by Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab: comics- and fantasy-associated scents whose sales benefit the charity. It seems Black Phoenix works with creators to come up with a combination that everyone feels somehow "works" to convey elements of the pop-culture material in question. And sales pay off for charities. Over a three-year period, for example, the Grendel and Witchblade sales have grossed $10,000 to help the comics community. Check it out!


Who Knows WHAT You'll Find at Wizard World Chicago?

$100 of fun from a cool booth at Wizard World Chicago
Only one of the delights of Wizard World Chicago is its ongoing tradition as a great place to pick up an incredible variety of pop-culture items at bargain prices. Following preview night, I pause to evaluate a stack of miscellany at can't-pass-em-up rates and a small pile of cool paperbacks. And the point is that I didn't attend the show in order to buy these specific books and comics; I came with the attitude of "hey, let's see what I find." And, as a result, found Stuff! For example, that Essential Hulk was in a 3 for $10 box - and will be passed on to someone deserving (perhaps to a child of my acquaintance; it could end up as an incredibly cool coloring book). I think the three pulps were at that same price. I probably don't need those specific pulps, but at that price, what the heck? And I'll hit that booth several times more before the end of the show - because I'm sure I missed things. (At these prices, for example, I may invoke my role as a grandmother to provide reading choices for young 'uns.)

$40 in neat paperbacks
As to the cool paperbacks, I'd had no idea that Roy Huggins was a novelist - and the one I bought is turning out to be fun. (Huggins, of course, went on to a career in Hollywood, writing and producing some of my favorite entertainment, from Maverick to Rockford Files.) And another is a book by another pop-culture creator, Marion Hargrove; a check of my files [once I got back to the hotel room] revealed that I do have a hardcover of the paperback I bought last night - but with no dj, and the pb cover is charming. Hey, a Mark Gatiss Doctor Who novel I don't have! And the pb of a minor Thorne Smith novel looked to be in great shape, yadda, yadda. I can hardly wait to get back to the show this morning.


You'd Know Who Won Eisner Awards if You'd Followed ThompsonMaggie on Twitter

Saturday, July 23, 2011

23rd Annual Will Eisner Comics Industry Awards winners
A long day of fun at Comic-Con International: San Diego wrapped up with the Eisner Awards ceremony - and, hey! I won an Eisner Award! Well, not exactly, but sort of. We'll get to that in a minute. In the meantime, here's the list of winners (in more detail than I Tweeted): Best Publication for Kids: Tiny Titans by Art Baltazar and Franco (DC). Best Publication for Teens: Smile by Raina Telgemeier (Scholastic Graphix). Best Humor Publication: I Thought You Would Be Funnier by Shannon Wheeler (Boom!). Best Lettering: Todd Klein Fables, The Unwritten, Joe the Barbarian, iZombie (Vertigo/DC); Tom Strong and the Robots of Doom (WildStorm/DC); SHIELD (Marvel); Driver for the Dead (Radical). Best Coloring: Dave Stewart Hellboy, BPRD, Baltimore, Let Me In (Dark Horse); Detective Comics (DC); Neil Young's Greendale, Daytripper, Joe the Barbarian (Vertigo/DC). Best Digital Comic: Abominable Charles Christopher by Karl Kerschl. Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team: Skottie Young, The Marvelous Land of Oz (Marvel). Best Painter/Multimedia Artist (interior art): Juanjo Guarnido Blacksad (Dark Horse). Best Cover Artist: Mike Mignola Hellboy, Baltimore: The Plague Ships (Dark Horse). Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism: ComicBookResources produced by Jonah Weiland. Best Comics-Related Book: 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking by Paul Levitz (Taschen). Best Publication Design: Dave Stevens' The Rocketeer Artist's Edition designed by Randall Dahlk (IDW). Best Anthology: Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard edited by Paul Morrissey and David Petersen (Archaia). Best Archival Collection/Project - Strips: Archie: The Complete Daily Newspaper Strips, 1946-1948 by Bob Montana edited by Greg Goldstein (IDW). Best Archival Collection/Project - Comic Books: Dave Stevens' The Rocketeer Artist's Edition edited by Scott Dunbier (IDW). Best U.S. Edition of International Material: It Was the War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi (Fantagraphics). Best U.S. Edition of International Material - Asia: Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys by Naoki Urasawa (Viz Media). Hall of Fame Judges' Choices: Ernie Bushmiller, Jack Jackson, Martin Nodell, Lynd Ward. Hall of Fame Vote Winners: Mort Drucker, Harvey Pekar, Roy Thomas, Marv Wolfman. Spirit of Retailing Award: Comics & Vegetables, Tel Aviv, Israel. Best Writer: Joe Hill Lock & Key (IDW). Best Writer/Artist: Darwyn Cooke Richard Stark's Parker: The Outfit (IDW). Best Short Story: "Post Mortem" by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark in I Am an Avenger #2 (Marvel). Best Single Issue (or One-Shot): Hellboy: Double Feature of Evil by Mike Mignola and Richard Corben (Dark Horse). Best Reality-Based Work: It Was the War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi (Fantagraphics). Best New Series: American Vampire by Scott Snyder, Stephen King, and Rafael Albuquerque (Vertigo/DC). Best Limited Series or Story Arc: Daytripper by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba (Vertigo/DC). Best Continuing Series: Chew by John Layman and Rob Guillory (Image). Best Adaptation from Another Work: The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum, adapted by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young (Marvel). Best Graphic Album - Reprint: Wednesday Comics edited by Mark Chiarello (DC). Best Graphic Album - New: TIE of Return of the Dapper Men by Jim McCann and Janet Lee (Archaia) and Wilson by Daniel Clowes (Drawn & Quarterly).

And Maggie Thompson winning an Eisner? Well, if you check information for the Archie book, you'll discover she wrote the introduction. Woo (as we say) hoo!


More SDCC Thursday

Friday, July 22, 2011

Steve Borock
OK, time to hit the road, with so many memories still not set down online. Which, of course, means they'll merge into a mass of amorphous thoughts, some of which will remain buried until they emerge days later - but forever unposted. And, of course, there are plans for Things To Do later in the show. For example, tomorrow breakfast will be with Heritage's Steve Borock, whose vast files of facts regarding tips on buying and selling collectibles Valerie and I plan to explore. Steve is one of the experts on the field whose knowledge I depend on - and whose honesty has contined to make him a trusted source. And he loves, loves, loves the field above and beyond any monetary aspects. Oh, and did I mention he's just fun to have breakfast with? (One of the traumas of the show this year: The Marriott no longer serves its banana blueberry oatmeal creme brulee during the days of the convention. Another tradition gone - though it will live on in fond memory.)


More SDCC Thursday

Jeff Mariotte
Michael Uslan
Every year, it's the same situation: Sit in the room and post or speed to the con and take more photos and chat with more folks. I'm sure the Internet is packed with reports with crowd-sourcing aplenty, so my views ... Well, I just have more pictures, right? Jeff Mariotte, for example, was on hand to talk with folks who are eager to read his latest. And Michael Uslan was carrying with him a copy of his project due for release this autumn. And, in fact, that's what so much of Comic-Con is about: what's coming - or out there - that I'm going to want to enjoy between now and next Comic-Con.


Looking Back at Comic-Con's Thursday

Valerie at the blood drive
Prying open my eyes following the first full day of Comic-Con, I realize that Valerie and I basically lolled about, taking things as they came, checking out Angry Birds items for Valerie's son, desperately pursuing a giveaway Tintin bag (unsuccessfully; on the agenda for this afternoon again), and hugging old friends as we came across them. If my goals had been to get as many photos as possible and troll for the latest news, well ... Didn't happen. But Comic-Con is what you make it - and we made it fun. We started the day with a Blood Drive appointment, and Valerie overcame her concerns about whether her iron level would let her be accepted. Woo hoo! We actually ended up facing each other in a donation race. (She won.) True Blood T-shirts in hand, we returned to the con.

Sergio Aragones and Stan Sakai
(with Gordon Kent hidden but laughing)
And it was really a "whatever happens, happens" day, complete with attending our own "Spotlight" panel (with a surprising attendance, considering just how many events were counter-programmed). As Valerie and I chatted about being raised as second- and third-generation fans, the room slowly began to fill even more - and we asked what the next panel was scheduled to be. Why would the room be so packed? Oh, of course! It was to be Mark Evanier with a Groo team. So, of course, we stayed for the fun. In the course of much hilarity were hidden a number of to-be-noted factual treats, such as that Tom Yeates will draw Conan and Tarzan for upcoming Dark Horse crossovers for Groo. Yes, Conan will have to deal with Groo - as will Tarzan - with, of course, the basic Groo material provided by Evanier and Aragones. Also noted: Sergio Aragones Funnies (available at the show). And a Bongo Maggie (no relation) comic book done by Sergio. Stan Sakai said that Dark Horse's Usagi Yojimbo #141 will actually be his series #200, and there will be treats.


And They're Off! Comic-Con 2011 Preview Night

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Jeff Smith
It was a long day packed with chance meetings and, of course, countless delights. I'm a bit dismayed to discover that I took only a few photos during Preview Night - but there are days and days to come. (Note to self: Take more photos!) The goodie bag attendees received had a Comic-Con image on one side and a variety of Warner Bros. images on the other. Attendees took what they were given, but many followed up the action by trading for the most desired images. Daughter Valerie and I began with a bag featuring "Geoff Johns * Jim Lee Justice League Fall 2011" and a bag featuring a Warner Bros. vampire series. Another fan asked to trade the vampire bag for another "Justice League" bag, and I agreed. Eventually, still another fan asked if I'd be willing to trade one for a "Big Bang Theory" bag - and so it went for many collectors devoted to one pop-culture treat over another.

The Cartoon Books booth quickly developed a lengthy line as Jeff Smith chatted with fans whose purchases (anniversary hefty Bone collections, Bone T-shirts, other Bone items, and the three trade paperbacks of Rasl) he was signing. And, of course, that was only one of an overwhelming assembly of displays. There were toys, comics, movies, TV shows, and other collectibles (Valerie bought a delicious Little King figure, for example - and there was more, more, more.) We checked out the Lego booth for possible treats for her son, Devon, and that booth was a delight to younger attendees.

Valerie Thompson, William Stout, Maggie Thompson
It's something of a blur, but the exhibit-room evening wrapped up with a delightful conversation with William Stout and Samantha Holmes (of Leapin' Lizard Entertainment) - and she was nice enough to provide photography services for a shot. (Thanks, Samantha!) It should be noted that she had just produced a film in which Stout had served as a serial killer (and she had played one of his victims). Looking forward to seeing it someday, I must confess. And, for that matter, to tomorrow - when I hope to post much, much more.


"It is a proud and lonely thing" To Help the Internet

Monday, July 18, 2011

In the course of editing a bunch of stuff, a question arose regarding the origin of a saying that has typified the lives of some devoted to a variety of obsessions: "It is a proud and lonely thing to be a fan." The writer had hunted here and there on the Internet and found only what amounted to shoulder-shrugging, with attempts at the origin even winding up with a guess at a reference to A.E. van Vogt's novel Slan. "But, hey," I said, "I know the references involved. They were common knowledge in the world of science-fiction fandom in the 1950s!" Weird thing: Apparently, common knowledge to a generation of people devoted to the wonders of the future has not been universally transferred from survivors of that generation to the future that is our present. Or, at least, not transferred so that it pops up handily in a Google search. So here's the thing:

First was a story by Walter Macfarlane, "To Watch the Watchers." It appeared in the June 1949 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, the most influential of the science-fiction magazines of that time. The story is told with a breezy confidence that leads me to suspect that Macfarlane may have been a penname; it only appeared in one other issue of Astounding and no other SF magazine of the day. But maybe I'm being unfair to a writer whose story I so enjoyed. At any rate, its presentation was a bit dodgy: Its punchline is published on the second page of the eight-page story of spaceman Tully Kloote, in the illustration by Orban. Or, as it appears at the end of the tale, "On the base, in exquisite, mathematically exact letters are these words: Tully Kloote It is a proud and lonely thing to be a man."

If you were a science-fiction reader in those days, you were almost certain to read Astounding, and the story was effective and affecting. So most readers would get the closing gag in a Robert Bloch short story in the October 1956 Fantastic Universe, even seven years later. While Bloch's most famous work today is probably the novel Psycho, he wrote terrific stories over many years - and is noted for such remarks as "I have the heart of a small boy. I keep it on my desk." So it was no surprise that his 16-page "A Way of Life" involved a post-Apocalyptic future in which all of society evolved out of the world of science-fiction fandom - and the 1956 reader was expected to moan over such concepts as "religious Kyrie Ellison" music and "peering up at the planets from the Mount Richard Wilson observatory, creating new developments like the Bradbury Ray." And the story's capper was its last line: "It is a proud and lonely thing to be a fan."


So Can You Tell ...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Ed Curtis and friends in the early 1950s
... what Dad is holding in this photo? And what's hanging from his pocket? Just read the previous post. I bet you can figure it out.


Ed Curtis, aka Dad

William Edgar Curtis in office, Roberts Hall, Spring 1941
His doctorate involved a study of food location by bats and owls; a Google check turns up citation after citation for "Curtis, 1952." That'd be him. He also wrote a book I was startled to find recently in Amazon listings: The Learning Game. It was published in October 1974 - but by "published" I mean mimeographed by Mom. Print run was 100. But there it was on Amazon (though not actually available). Here's his preface to that volume, designed as a guide to college students:

Most books have prefaces. I do not know why.

Few persons read them. When they do, they rarely get better set for the reading of the book that is being prefaced. Sometimes I read a preface pretending that I am a scholar and should proceed through the book in an orderly manner. When I do this, I usually lose interest in the book before I get started with the main reading.

Ed Curtis in the 1930s
The usual preface (at least my impression of them) seems to assume that the reader has already read the book! "In chapter four, I take the concept of depriphasiality seriously to task." But I do not know what that is because I have not read chapter four yet.

There is no preface in this book.

In the process of going through a number of family photos recently, I came across a lovely batch of photos of dad - photos I don't think I'd seen before. He was born December 11, 1917, and died June 15, 1975. He was a pioneering researcher in echolocation in bats, a hobby painter, and an associate professor of biology at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania. And I miss him. Love you, Dad!


Captain Marvel Was in Rare Good Humor

Sunday, June 12, 2011

I try to keep an eye out for Turner Classic Movies' broadcasts of The Good Humor Man so I can remind comic-book fans that this is a farce that, oddly, involves comic books. Though many of the brief summaries you'll find online and in reference books fail to note it, the existence of Fawcett's Captain Marvel comic books is a sort of subplot. For example, Leonard Maltin gives the 1950 film (79 minutes) two and a half stars, but he only has room enough to note it's a "Broad slapstick comedy about ice-cream vendor Carson, who stumbles into a crime ring. Written by Frank Tashlin." And he's correct, of course. But. Whereas Jack Carson's Biff is the amiable and well-meaning (if not quite bright) Good Humor Man of the title, he's also the adult overseeing the neighborhood's "Captain Marvel Club." And it's the kids of the club who unite to lend a hand at the stunt-packed climax.

There are many points of interest for the trivia-minded. First, of course, is that Fawcett actually produced a comic book that consists of a tale by Otto Binder in which Captain Marvel flies to Columbia Pictures so as to act as technical advisor for the Captain Marvel Club sequences. Second, though the word "Shazam!" is unspoken in the film itself, the club's code words are "niatpac levram," and the kids use them as a call to arms. Third, though the serial The Adventures of Captain Marvel was a Republic film in 1941, it is Columbia Pictures that produced this film - but stuntman Dave Sharpe was on hand for both, stunting as Captain Marvel in 1941 and as one of the bad guys in this film. Fourth, though Tashlin wrote the script for Columbia, the original story appeared in The Saturday Evening Post - and it was by Roy Huggins. Perhaps, indeed, Columbia made this film because it had already brought Huggins to Hollywood to adapt his The Double Take  to movies as I Love Trouble. (Of course, he later went on to create and oversee such comedy-tinged successes as Maverick, The Rockford Files, and Alias Smith and Jones.)

While The Good Humor Man is neither subtle nor a comedic masterpiece, then, you might want to catch it the next time TCM offers it. Which will be, come to think of it, tonight at 3:30 a.m. Eastern Time. (Oh, and why do I say Captain Marvel is in rare Good Humor? Because the movie is not available on DVD - which means your best way to catch it is when TCM offers it.)


Steven Moffat sets an example for pop-culture heroes, no spoilers

At least, I hope I won't give away anything, in case readers haven't yet had a chance to see Doctor Who 6:7, "A Good Man Goes to War." And, note, I have yet to go back to rewatch the Moffat DW oeuvre: 1:9-10 ("The Empty Child," "The Doctor Dances"), 2:4 ("The Girl in the Fireplace"), 3:10 ("Blink"), 4:8-9 ("Silence in the Library," "Forest of the Dead"), all 5, and all 6. Topping it all off, of course, is that none of us has seen what Moffat will do in the second half of the sixth season.

But here is The Thing: A tedious trend in serialized pop culture is that somehow people who are married can't be heroic. Or interesting enough to care about. A character, once introduced as single, must stay single - or, if married, be returned to a single state, as is "normal" for that character. I'll accept that Reed and Sue Richards may be an exception - but even there, I think it's because Sue began as invisible and has pretty much remained that way. A married couple as equal partners, equally heroic, equally interesting, equally loving ... The "mainstream" serial pop-culture world not only does not have this as its norm, it rarely has it at all. Heck, the primary super-heroic family success story that springs to mind is The Incredibles, but that was conceived as a post-heroic-turns-heroic adventure - and, additionally, it was also pretty much a one-off.

But Moffat? He seems to specialize in giving viewers a world in which mothers and fathers - even some of the bad guys - act heroically and lovingly on behalf of their children. And a world in which the children are important, and abandonment is catastrophic. And in which marriage is not a boring end to adventure and heroics and edge-of-the-seat cliffhangers. Admittedly, Moffat must have had at least some of the story arc of Amy and Rory planned long in advance - but what a change it has been for the series, which has not had such Companions in any other arc since its inception in 1963!

And why haven't more creators realized that the story possibilities are increased, not lessened, when there is a family at its center? Why must they kill the baby, break up the couple, drive one of the couple insane, make one of the characters a cipher or villain, or otherwise confine their stories to a "normal" state of focus on One Single Hero, bravely facing adventures alone? Swiss Family Robinson showed readers in 1812 that a story could have a strong family as a major element and still be popular. (But, then, Johann Wyss was not setting up a series designed to spin off stories for decades.) There are a few comic-book writers who have avoided the routine of couple destruction; we should treasure them. But their stories aren't the norm.

Kudos to Steven Moffat - and to Doctor Who. I can hardly wait until "late summer," when BBC America promises Season Six will continue. (Keeping hope alive that, as at the start of Season Six, America will get to see episodes on the same day they air in England.)


54 Years Ago ...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Don Thompson
I pretty much summed up the day a while ago but I recently uncovered this photo and thought it'd be appropriate to post it today. I took it just before Don left to continue his hitchhiking toward the oxymoronically named Grand Valley, where he was spending the summer after his sophomore year at Penn State. I've always liked the fact that I was such a poor photographer that I (in the form of my shadow) shared the picture with him.


Grabbing Friends for Adventure Time (with Finn & Jake)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

There are so many animated TV series these days that it's easy to miss some outstanding oddballs. It's also easy (for me, at least) to prejudge series - because, well, 24 hours in a day, culling, deadlines, appointments ... All that sort of thing. So I had never seen Cartoon Network's Adventure Time and my instincts (when brother Paul Curtis first broached the subject) were not in its favor. I tend to dislike cartoons in which it seems the artist has no grasp of anatomy - and characters as a result have elbows any old whichway, bodies that vary from action to action, etc. Moreover, with those 24 hours in a day, a series that benefits from my watching multiple episodes is less likely to attract me.

However, whenever I'd get together with Paul (which is less frequently than I'd like, given that I live in Wisconsin and he in New York), we'd end up watching an episode or two, and I've found the series fascinating. For one thing, I am unable to predict where any story will go after the first scene. Think about that: How often can you, given the opening scene, pretty well work out what happens next? And, even if you can do that, how often can you predict the story's flow after the next scene has played out? I have to tell you, an 11-minute Adventure Time tale is - for me, at least - a wonder of twists and turns and concepts for which I Am Not Ready.

For another thing, I'm charmed by the ongoing theme of Finn's always seeking to do what is morally right - and Jake's usual willingness to abet him in reaching his goals. The theme (as best I can decipher it) urges the viewer, "Come on, grab your friends! We'll go to very distant lands. With Jake the Dog and Finn the Human, the fun'll never end!" But the adventures are ... Well ... In what epguides gives as its apparent first episode, "Business Time," for example, Finn and Jake thaw what turn out to be zombie businessmen - who turn out to be masters of efficiency and problem-solving. But then ... Now, I wouldn't have even imagined a situation in which an iceberg would contain zombie businessmen, much less been able to construct a complex episode involving the ensuing complications.

Speaking of complexity, the Wikipedia entry provides many plot details you may find informative - but let me suggest you seek out the show's own link above to get something of a feel. At the moment, there's a snippet, for example, of an episode that begins when, visiting Marceline the Vampire Queen, Finn and Jake decide her couch is too uncomfortable. She points out that, since she floats, the couch doesn't bother her - so Finn and Jake ask to be made vampires, too. Of course.

But today's post is inspired by my darling brother, whose birthday is any minute now. I had called his attention to an incredibly expensive gadget to which my attention had been called by Tweets from Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward (@buenothebear on Twitter). I pointed it out to him and apologized that I wasn't going to buy it for him because it was too expensive - albeit incredibly cool. That very week, I received a package from him - containing said incredibly expensive gadget (obviously, shown above). When I blithered to him about what a crummy sister I am and how wonderful he is, he said that, whereas he would wear it to work so that a limited number would see it, I was likely to wear it in a wide variety of venues and would, moreover, blab about it to anyone who would hold still. And one of his (and my) goals is to make Adventure Time popular enough that Cartoon Network would release DVDs of the show. Perhaps, Paul guessed, if the gadget sells out, it'll demonstrate to Cartoon Network that there are people out there who would buy such DVDs. So please do check it out. (And, hey, consider buying the gadget - which I love. It's a limited edition and may not remain available for long.)

Here's what's been aired so far (according to epguides):
1:1 Business Time 2010 Mar 11
1:2 Evicted! 2010 Mar 18
1:3 Slumber Party Panic 2010 Apr 5
1:4 Trouble in Lumpy Space 2010 Apr 5
1:5 Prisoners of Love 2010 Apr 12
1:6 Tree Trunks 2010 Apr 12
1:7 Enchiridion 2010 Apr 19
1:8 The Jiggler 2010 Apr 19
1:9 Ricardio the Heart Guy 2010 Apr 26
1:10 My Two Favorite People 2010 May 3
1:11 Memories of Boom Boom Mountain 2010 May 3
1:12 Finn the Wizard 2010 May 10
1:13 City of Thieves 2010 May 24
1:14 The Witch's Garden 2010 Jun 7
1:15 What Is Life? 2010 Jun 14
1:16 Ocean of Fear 2010 Jun 21
1:17 Wedding Bells Thaw 2010 Jun 28
1:18 Dungeon 2010 Jul 12
1:19 The Duke 2010 Jul 19
1:20 Freaky City 2010 Jul 26
1:21 Donny 2010 Aug 9
1:22 Henchman 2010 Aug 23
1:23 Rainy Day Daydream 2010 Sep 6
1:24 What Have You Done? 2010 Sep 13
1:25 Finn Meets His Hero 2010 Sep 20
1:26 The Gut Grinder 2010 Sep 27

2:1 It Came from the Nightosphere 2010 Oct 11
2:2 The Eyes 2010 Oct 18
2:3 Loyalty to the King 2010 Oct 25
2:4 Blood under the Skin 2010 Nov 1
2:5 Story Tellin' 2010 Nov 8
2:6 Slow Love 2010 Nov 15
2:7 Power Animal 2010 Nov 22
2:8 Crystals Have Power 2010 Nov 29
2:9 Other Tarts 2011 Jan 3
2:10 To Cut a Woman's Hair 2011 Jan 10
2:11 The Chamber of Frozen Blades 2011 Jan 17
2:12 Her Parents 2011 Jan 24
2:13 The Pods 2011 Jan 31
2:14 The Silent King 2011 Feb 7
2:15 The Real You 2011 Feb 14
2:16 Guardians of Sunshine 2011 Feb 21
2:17 Death in Bloom 2011 Feb 28
2:18 Susan Strong 2011 Mar 7
2:19 Mystery Train 2011 Mar 14
2:20 Go with Me 2011 Mar 28
2:21 Belly of the Beast 2011 Apr 4
2:22 The Limit 2011 Apr 11
2:23 Video Makers 2011 Apr 18
2:24 This Mortal Folly 2011 May 2
2:25 Mortal Recoil 2011 May 2
2:26 Heat Signature 2011 May 9

And just this morning, Ward Tweeted, "Watched the animation for the first episode of season 3.. it's so good y'all.. it might be my favorite episode.. so much cute stuff in it."
I can hardly wait.


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