Category Archives: Comics that Matter

Squirrel Girl

I really shouldn’t do this, as in theory I’m supposed to object to “scans daily” on principle (as it infringes copyrights like crazy) but I’m too amused by the nearly forty forum comments about my recent Squirrel Girl page with Dan Slott, not to provide a link.

So if you follow this link, DO NOT LOOK at the illegally scanned page, just read the comments.  You have to BUY the comic and enjoy it, and then read these comments.

And remember, if you cross S-Girl, she will f*** your s*** up.

Ty the Guy OUT!

Harvey Pekar. Part 1.

Harvey was more than occasional collaborator, he was a genuine hero of mine, and I am royally pissed with the rules of the Universe, wherein he gets sick and dies.  So in between my regular duties this week (finishing a Simpsons script, editing two new indie projects and teaching at my school), I’m spending two posts going on about late great Harvey Pekar.    Today is part one:

DISCOVERING PEKAR:

I first came across him as a teenager with issue #5 of his  American Splendor (seen above) from 1980.  That’s a scan of my copy, complete with Scotch tape over the place where I tore it some years ago.

Torn comics are loved  comics.

I bought it because of my then-current drug of choice, Robert Crumb, with a cover and fifteen more pages inside by the underground master.  With Mr. Fritz the Cat on board, how could whatever this was, not be worth it?

And it was, from the moment I picked it up.

It starts by dryly advertising sickness, old age, unfunny jokes, and a decrepit Jewish guy under a banner promising the splendor of Cleveland.  That’s crack-flavored Kool-Aid to my sense of humor.

But check out this bitchin’ back cover.

That’s the first Harvey Pekar story I ever read:  Advice on how to avoid the sniffles while riding in an elevator – with a ending that strongly hints it WILL be continued next issue.    At this point I’m berserk with joy, because I’m rocking a belief that this whole magazine is going to be some sort of wry put-on about boy’s own adventure stories…giving us “TALES OF THE STUNNINGLY MUNDANE”.

But it wasn’t quite that, even if it seemed to many that it was.  There was far more tickingin the brain of Pekar than that one-off joke.  Inside were comics on the history of Cleveland neighborhoods, memories of a holocaust survivor, tales of  manners and lending money, and the existential terror of hypochondria, all sprinkled together with these tiny comic snapshots that stick to one’s memory as the days trip by.

The art by Crumb was all you could ask for, and the other two thirds of the book had it’s own treasures…from the slick, photo referenced (but baroque) Gerry Shamray:

To the very charming team of Budgett and Dumm.  These three very different styles of art added to the perfect little package that this particular issue seemed to be.

This stuff was like nothing I had every read in a comic book, or seen as entertainment anywhere, and I was junkie-hooked for life.

I mean, we did have “realism” in the comics at the time….

American Splendor #5 shared a newsstand with this Marvel Classic. It's getting real around here, man.

Not just with superheroes, but also with the gritty, true-life “undergrounds”.

This is too real man. Too f***ing real.

Nothing existed like American Splendor.  It was part comedy, part Haiku, part journalism, and part self loathing confessional, all from the unlikely  point of view of a V.A. Hospital file clerk in Ohio.

And over the years, we got Harvey’s view on the history of Jazz, obsessive compulsive disorder, race relations, more existentialist fear, cancer survival, marriage and parenthood, growing fame and fortune, brutal honesty, and the occasional knee slapping joke.

Harvey was a greater influence on my work that most people would guess, and if you read this webcomic (from just a few weeks ago), you’ll see what I’m talking about.

For my answer, and the full story, click here.

That particular webcomic got a very positive response, and I kept telling folks I hadn’t done much to deserve their praise…I simply transcribed a true story as honestly and as straightforwardly as possible, hoping to tug at your basic humanity a little.

In other words, I just stole Harvey’s act.

COMING UP IN PART TWO:

As I was writing this column, it occurred to me that the truly best way to tell the story of meeting and eventually working with Harvey Pekar, is in comic form…  So I’m drawing it as we speak, and it will be ready for Saturday Morning with Bun Toons.   Hope to see you there.

In the meantime, here’s some pages from a couple of the stories we did together for the last run of American Splendor at Vertigo.   There was vague talk of doing a graphic novel together recently, or maybe something else, but it never got worked out, I figured I’d have time when my schedule cleared up, and I’d talk to Harvey about it in another month or so…

I should not have waited to call him back.

Words cannot describe the fun it is to get to work with one of your lifelong heroes.  Literally a dream come true.

HARVEY PEKAR  FUN EXTRAS:

Back in the 80s, Harvey had a fan on the Letterman staff who booked our hero to appear a dozen times or so on Dave’s old NBC show. Harvey generally behaved in a very entertaining manner for a while, but as the bookings continued, he started to become quixotically obsessive about “outing” NBC as a front for the Pentagon war machine.  Promise me you’ll head over to youtube, and watch this delightful battle of egos from the early days of colour TV and sound transmission.   It’s a big part of why Harvey Pekar was the subject of a magnificent Hollywood movie about his life a half dozen years back.  The Letterman appearances introduced him to a larger audience, and it made for phenomenally entertaining comics and TV.

"You have crappy donuts in the green room, man"

See you Friday for a new and shocking HOVERBOY FRIDAY, and on Saturday for HARVEY PEKAR:  CRABBY MAN-CHILD OF DESTINY!  The Unauthorized Webcomic.

Ty the Guy OUT!

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Harvey Pekar

Harvey Pekar passed away very early this morning, I just heard about it now.

As anyone looking at the top of this blog will notice, Harvey Pekar’s  face is staring out at my blog readers from a story Harvey and I did together a year or so ago.  We did a few things together, and we were,  at some point in the future, supposed to do some more.

I’m afraid I’m not going to blog much about this today, because I need to take a day or so to digest his passing.  One of my heroes, one of the most interesting people I ever met, and aren’t we all lucky that we got to know him, either  through his movie,  his writing or his simply being here, and loudly refusing to shut up.

Damn, damn, damn.

I’ll give you a proper send off in a day or so, Harve.

Ty the Guy

Al Williamson R.I.P.

Darn it all.  I hear Al Williamson has passed away.

I met Al Williamson a couple of times, at conventions and at those dinners afterwards, all about twenty years ago.  He left quite an impression on me.

So did this splash page from Incredible Science-Fiction #32. Pencils by AL Williamson, inks by Roy Krenkel. Click to enlarge, trust me, you want to.

First impression:  He was a delightful guy, full of stories, a good joke, or a quick sketch that he could pop out onto a napkin.  I remember him as an authentic, likable human being, and his family was equally so.

And, that quick beautiful sketch I mentioned — it wasn’t simply good – it was phenomenal, and he did it in a minute, with a ballpoint pen, or a pentel marker (no rough work, the jerk!), and it came out of him just perfect, probably looking something like this:

This drawing was done while parachuting out of a crashing airplane, with his left hand. Al was that good.

That’s inspiring to see when you’re just starting out in the biz.  And so, at the age of twenty –six, I decided that I wanted to be Al Williamson when I grew up.

I’m still working on it.

You need to know this about Al:

Al drew like this when he was a teenager:

When other boys were thinking about girls, Al was thinking about drawing 'em.

And if you think that’s not fair, and you hope to God Al got these skills by having no social life, just sitting in his basement day after day, drawing all the time, an ugly, nerdy kid who never got kissed ….you need to know this:

Al Williamson looked like this when he was in his twenties.

Look away if you feel you're about to swoon.

And if you think THAT’s not fair, and you hope to God Al was addicted to heroin or Malaysian asphyxiation films or the dog track (he wasn’t) or he was one of those Golden Age artists of the fifties who never got a break, and had his creations taken away from him…you need to know this:

Al spent the lion’s share of his career as a very well compensated comic strip artist continuing the creations of his personal hero, Alex Raymond, drawing Flash Gordon,  Secret Agent Corrigan, and Rip Kirby.

Okay.  But didn’t George Lucas once say that some of the look of Star Wars was based on the old EC Comics work of Al Williamson?  Didn’t Al get ripped off by Star Wars?

Check out the very Han Solo-like outfit on the fellow on the left

Well, it’s not like Lucas stole it all from Al.  (He stole a bit from Buster Crabbe, and other bits from The Hidden Fortress, and some Moebius comics as well) And it’s not like Al didn’t get to see any Star Wars money.  Al drew the Star Wars comic strip for years in the Eighties, and it was my favorite thing in the newspaper.

If the force is strong in ANYONE, it's strong in Al Williamson. Kick Ass Karma all around!

Along the way, Al won pretty well every industry award possible, gave us some of the best comics ever created, and oh, just in case you’re not already sick with envy that YOU weren’t Al Williamson, his lifetime circle of close buddies and pals included  Wally Wood, Reed Crandall, Roy Krenkel, Angelo Torres, George Woodbridge, Archie Goodwin, and Frank Frazetta, most of the biggest names in the Who’s Who of comics.

Sometimes we get one of these guys that turns out perfect in every conceivable way.

Al Williamson pencil samples. Early work to get the job at E.C. Not bad for a rookie, huh?

Today I shall rifle-laser blast a dragon and make out with a woman/alien hybrid, clad only in shimmering gossamer in your honour, Al.

TY THE GUY

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My latest issue of the Simpsons is out

Oooh, that's a quality comic book right there.

And of course, I expect you to rush to your local comic store and buy it.  If you can’t find a local comic store, simply find a local citizen with a copy, and steal it.   Yes, you heard me, steal it.  As long as you’re stealing it from a civilian, and not from a store, I’m fine with the process of how you acquired it.

The BONGO people have, again, given up the idea of having the creator’s names on the cover, so you’re forgiven if you didn’t know this issue was mine ( I wrote and drew it).  But now that I’ve alerted you, your excuses are over.

Fan out.  Get one.  Read it.  Live life to the fullest.

Ty the Guy

CHAS ADDAMS: COMICS THAT MATTER, to me anyway…

Don't be fooled. This is the wrong kind of evil.

It’s a big night in the world of cartooning…or sort of.

The new ADDAMS FAMILY MUSICAL is opening on Broadway this evening at the LUNT-FONTANNE THEATRE -205 West 46th Street (between Broadway and 8th Ave).  It follows in the footsteps of Annie, Superman, Charlie Brown,

I don't blame these people. They're doing honest work.

Li’l Abner and many others, translating the world of the cartoon to the world of the stage.

And it must be stopped.

It is unclean.

An abomination.

The ruination of Western Civilization.
Après ça, c’est la deluge.

See, I love, adore, admire, and devour the work of Charles Addams, one of the great satirists and subversive cartoonists of the 20th Century…and I saw a cast performance of a bit of this show on Letterman this week… and it’s so far off the mark, we should consider armed insurrection.

Addams is my favorite New Yorker cartoonist of their golden age, and that’s number #1 of a large and impressive list.  It if weren’t for his deliciously

Addams and wife Barbara, 1955. Be honest, this is EXACTLY how you pictured them.

macabre drawings throughout the forties and fifties (and well into the eighties, though he did slow down as time wore on…) we wouldn’t have Gahan Wilson, B Kliban, Edward Gorey, Harvey Kurtzman, Will Elder, Gary Larson, and probably most of the Playboy cartoonists of THEIR golden age, and those were the guys that made me want to do this cartoony stuff for a living.  So this guy CHAS ADDAMS was hero to my heroes….

Addams’ subject was always the same thing:  beneath the veneer of civilization is horror and chaos.  Death, despair, sex, murder, and shock are never further than around the corner, under the bed, or behind your back.  His imagination is a land of manners and politeness, filled with nicely dressed

Death ray? Fiddlesticks! Why it doesn't even slow them up!

businessmen, and boy scouts (lots of boy scouts), housewives and secretaries, cops and teachers, all ready to kill you or commit suicide, or betray society’s values in spectacular fashion in about two seconds.    What a HOOT.

And into this cynical cartoon world, Addams introduced his beloved family.  Slowly at first, in the late 1930s, we see a nameless emaciated woman in a gripping black dress who starts to show up with some regularity in his New Yorker cartoons.  She and her giant manservant are all we see for a while, but by the end of WW2, this still unidentified woman has a husband and two children around her, and this family, with extended in-laws and guests, became staples of Addams’ work for decades to come.

The family gets a new window

They were never the focus of what he did…he never gave up on his suicidal boy scouts, evil businessmen and rapacious secretaries …and in fact, he never named the family that appeared in so many gag panels until they became television stars of the Sixties.  But these upper class, Old World monsters of a decaying past showed up a lot, and were clearly his trademark.

There was that stock ticker in the living room of their huge home, constantly printing out information about their constantly expanding holdings.  How vulgar and monstrous THAT was in a world of nouveau poverty.  And manservants when so many were unemployed? They were always living in a distant and discredited past. The mansion was conspicuously 19th century.  Their clothing was twenty years out of fashion (Fester dresses as though it’s the middle ages) and there was dust and cracks everywhere in their environment.  They represented the old ways during a time of jet aircraft and the promising future of astounding technology.
And, oh yes, they were murderers, ghouls and cannibals.
The point of the satire is hardly subtle.  The Addams Family is the broad stroke portrait of the worst of the American Myth:  That the upper classes are better than you.  They are not.  They are sociopaths and vampires.  But rather than making them simply repellent, which would have been dull work, Addams makes them a family which loves their kids, are generous and kind to neighbours and are exemplary people in all the ways “official” society asks them to be….except that they love death, decay and sadism.
Addams was speaking truth to power.   That’s what satirists do.
But this STAGE SHOW, opening tonight, is the exact opposite of everything Addams was doing.
I saw a performance of the cast on Letterman earlier in the week, and it was as wrongheaded a production as I’ve seen.   This is a nostalgia show, WALLOWING in the past, rather than making fun of it.   They want the audience who paid $150 dollars to see a recreation of a thirty-five year old movie (SPAMALOT) and a forty year old movie (THE PRODUCERS) to pay for a recreation of a forty-five year old TV series.  The jokes are ancient, and the dance number I watched relied on moves that are a distant memory to people who still have their own teeth.  A youthful culture making fun of the decaying relics of the past, this AIN’T.

It doesn't take much to collect a crowd in New York.

Secondly, this isn’t the Addams Family.  It’s a watered down version of the watered down version that was the TV series.  They don’t so much boil the neighbours and eat them, as make veiled references to it.  All cleaned up for the kids.    Don’t expect black comedy here–think vanilla comedy with lightly blackened sprinkles.  The two ADDAMS FAMILY movies with Raul Julia got much of the black comedy right, but that happy memory of those DECADES old films is exactly the nostalgia they’re hoping you will be feeling when you buy your tickets to this weakly brewed imitation. And this is being presented on Broadway, where the average tickets cost a

Remember how funny this was? Now give us a hundred and fifty bucks.

hundred dollars or more, in the middle of an economic disaster.  That means that the ones in the audience—the folks who can afford to blow a multiple hundreds of dollars for a few hours entertainment ARE the upper-middle and upper classes of New York who are the very people that the Addams Family is a portrait of.
There is no shock.  No satire.  No knowing understanding of the social lie that’s being punctured here.  It’s all just so much crap trotted out for the rubes.

Now, I know this is all about entertainment, and in the world we live in I shouldn’t get so worked up about this.  Who is being hurt?  Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth need to eat, and I’m sure no one involved is a bad person.
But they’re pissing on my turf.  They’re devaluing the original by turning filet mignon into McDonalds.   And as a purveyor and producer of comics, I hate it when they’re considered the disposable and forgotten version, especially in cases like this.

Envy me for my treasure. Bwah hah hah

Years ago, I was lucky enough to find a first printing copy of DRAWN AND QUARTERED, the first collection of Addams’ cartooning work.  It cost me less than ten dollars (although that was probably an oversight on the part of the bookstore), but I consider it one of my priceless treasures. And tonight and for the next few months,  you can throw away fifteen times that amount of money to watch a bunch of people prove how completely they misunderstand everything about the work contained in that book.

8

8

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SOME FULL DISCLOSURE:  One of the producers of this show is an old friend of my wife’s.  He’s actually a terrific guy, and got me some great seats to a show or two when my wife and I were in New York.   And I’ve always had an unrestrained crush on Bebe Neuwirth, so I’m probably not as angry about this as I should be….
SO, no violent protests, please.  Instead of burning down the theater why not spend your money on this recent SIMPSONS book?

Am I still plugging this? Didn't I do this last week?!?

Considering it contains the work of Ty Templeton, a fresh young talent with a lot of promise, it might be worth reading!

Tomorrow:  The return of Hoverboy Fridays…the latest news about that Glenn Reid country music CD I designed the cover for, and performed on…and don’t forget:  ALL NEW WEBCOMICS on the weekend.

Okay...THIS is what you hoped Charles Addams looked like.

Ty the Guy

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(sigh…yes, it’s true. An old buddy of mine is part of the production department. Actually, just “friended” me on facebook earlier this week. Don’t know his actual title for this show, and I’ve forgot what it was when he helped produce SPAMALOT a couple years  back. ..the show he got me tickets for when it came to Toronto, and I got to go to the Opening Night party and see Eric Idle. Thanks, Guy, for slagging that show, too.

Said friend did just announce on facebook today that he was off to an official opening for this new show.  So, thanks, honey–this will be the last time I get free tickets for anything!

Here’s hoping he doesn’t do any googling later…I’m off to see if he’s unfriended me, yet!

Keiren)

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Yes, that’s right! I don’t sell out for anything! Or for my blog!

Ty the Guy

Wizard World Toronto, a little convention art, and the GREATEST CON SKETCH OF ALL TIME!

Uncle Ty's Convention Sketches. Ready in just FIVE MINUTES

I just got back from Wizard World Toronto, and boy, are my arms not tired.

Not because I live in Toronto (and the flight back wouldn’t affect my shoulders, get it?)  but because I spent the weekend, not sketching particularly much.  No more than thirty  sketches over a three day weekend, and at a big convention, I usually do fifty on the Saturday alone!   At first I

One of my less embarrassing con sketches of Kara Zor-el.

thought it was me…did I have a piece of meatloaf hanging off my face?  Did I wear my misanthropy on my sleeve too obviously, or was it the whiff of urine on my street clothes?

No, it was happening to almost everyone at Toronto Wizard Con, (other than Dale Keown and Richard Pace, who seemed to have a crowd around for a while on Saturday, and Adi Granov, who had a minor crowd on Friday).  The attendance was thin, and mostly wrestling fans there to see the Iron Sheik and his pals.  It’s always a bad sign when you start doing sketches for the other con guests or dealers because neither they, nor you, have anything else to do for the next ten minutes.

Too bad… The Wizard folks were nice to us.  LOVELY volunteers, good people…they set up my bootcamp lesson/con panel and promoted it (surprisingly well attended, thank you), and were handing out the water and smiles.   It was Wizard’s first big convention in Toronto, and I was rooting for them.  Let’s hope there’s a few tweaks

Fans love Batgirl. And a lot of fans like her bum. I do what I'm requested...

and fixes before next year rolls around, and the thing rivals San Diego in the future.

The low point came on Saturday when some douche-twerp couldn’t resist the demon on the shoulder telling him to pull a fire alarm.  It emptied out the convention center in the middle of Saturday afternoon—taking nearly an hour to sort out whether we were burning up in a fire, or doing the world’s biggest HOKEY POKEY.   Not everyone came back when it was over.   Hats off the perished souls of Wizard Con Toronto, 2010—you will be remembered.

Highlights include:   being seated next to Gail Simone and Her Mysterious Husband, with Dave Ross to my left, and Kent (Planet of the Apes) Burles to my right.  With things a tad slow, I got to hang with the legendary Gail Simone and Her Mysterious Husband, and  got to see Dave Ross’s new pencils for an amazing Star Wars comic he’s working on, and  laugh with the always

A very non-Adventures style Joker. Dig that crazy haircut.

charmingly French Canadian, Yanick Paquette, and drool over piles of just gorgeous AGENTS of ATLAS original art by my buddy Leonard Kirk.   Len is one of those illustrators I’m openly jealous of, partly because he does THE best convention sketches on the planet

The rule with me at a con is, you get the sketch for free, but it’s done in five minutes.  That way, everyone who wants one gets one, and I give back a little for the fans.  You guys deserve it.  But we artists rarely get to see our con sketches after we let you have ‘em.   About one out of ten, I pull one off that I wish I could hold onto…it captured just the right gleam in Joker’s eye, or the right gesture as Robin jumps off a building.  I sometimes ask if the fan could scan it for me and send me a copy when they get home, but after twenty years of doing this, I have less

Must...eat....brains...unless....there's....donuts....

than a dozen scans of con sketches to show you, and hardly the best of the best.

Zombie Homer is the only one from this year,  as I used to think my BONGO contract forbids sketching the Simpsons, but Ken Wheaton (fellow toiler in Springfield) informs me, I can doodle inside published Simpsons books, just not regular sketch books and on blank pieces of paper…  Ken had a PILE of copies of TREEHOUSE OF HORROR: DEAD MAN’S CHEST for people to buy, so I did more Simpsons doodles this weekend than anything else.

As promised, here’s my favorite con sketch of all time, and the recipient was lovely enough to send me one.

A once-in-a-lifetime-art team.

It was in Paris, and I was seated in between Bernie Wrightson, Neal Adams, and Scott Hampton.  A group of BATMAN artists were touring through Belgium, France and Switzerland and enjoying all the lovely sauces we got with every meal, when some Euro-fan asked if Mr. Wrightson minded inking

Another Paris sketch from '92, featuring Tintin and the original appearance of ELSEWORLDS T-SHIRT BATMAN, seen last month!

the Batman portrait/sketch I had just done for him.  Watching my meager sketch be inked by Bernie was mind blowing enough, but then watching Scott Hampton add those moody water colours, I came this close from stealing the image back for myself…I have the scan though, and I share it here with you guys…the word’s only Templeton/Wrightson/Hampton collaboration.

Neal Adams did not participate in the sketch, but I have something better from Neal…something I’ll show you guys in a future post.  I have to keep the suspense going SOMEHOW.

Ty the Guy

Oh, and PS:  This week, I’m promoting this new Simpsons collection, NOW ON SALE.  I’ve got a fun pin-up inside, and the rest of the book is okay too, I suppose, if you like hysterical comic books.

In hardcover. Kirby says: "Don't Ask! Just Buy It!"

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Sad to hear about Dick Giordano passing away.

Ah, damn it.  Who didn’t love Dick Giordano?   We lost him over the weekend.  Not unexpected, but still…

silly sexy fun

Both of this blog’s regular readers might have noticed

The "New" Joker

how often his name or his work has come up around here, which is notable, considering how rarely I mention any other cartoonists in this solipsistic e-rag.  He was part of those delightful Lois Lane covers from last week, he inked the issue of Batman (#251) which I consider one of the two most important comic books of my life, mentioned a months or so ago on Art Land.

But let’s talk about this.

This issue is a very close second for my favorite Batman story of all time, and once again, Denny O’Neil and Dick Giordano are on the creative team responsible for it.  The cover is gorgeous, and the art and story inside are great…a Twilight Zone style tale of Batman traveling to another dimension where he again witnesses the murder of his parents, and changes THAT Bruce’s destiny.  It’s been reprinted many times, most notably in THE GREATEST BATMAN STORIES EVER TOLD, so I’m not the only one who loves this issue.

The idea of the story stuck in my head my entire life, and when I was asked to write a “try-out” issue of Batman Adventures all those years ago, the first

Not the same story, but the same idea.

thing that occurred to me was “What if I could make Batman re-live the murder of his parents, and change the destiny of another child…?”  The story I wrote is not at all the same to Denny and Dick’s masterpiece, but I certainly drew water out of the same inspirational spring as the above issue, and my script was well enough received that I’ve been writing comics for a living ever since.

But, what really blew my head into brain chunks about Detective #457 was that it showed me how much Dick Giordano was responsible for the greatness of those Neal Adams comics that I thought Dick had been “just inking”.  This was a comic drawn with beautiful realism, perfect line work, dramatic lighting, phenomenally beautiful women, and all the things that made those Neal comics wonderful, only Neal wasn’t around for this issue.  It turned out DICK WAS THE GUY who had been doing much of that all along.  And there was a subtle difference in the storytelling.  It was somehow more accessible, more “readable”, more directly told, than I was used to from this familiar style, and in many ways I LIKED IT BETTER!

THE most beautiful versions of the women of DC in the 70s

As a kid, I copied the images from ‘Tec #457 over and over.  I traced a copy of the cover so I could see it without the logo covering up the ears (hated that!).  There’s a panel inside of Batman swinging over the city, that I hand-copied as a three foot high poster that hung on the back of my bedroom door for years.  From this issue on, as far as I was concerned, Dick Giordano was one of the greats, the gods, the Beatles of DC comics.  I know, I know… he’d been great all along, but this is when I discovered it.

In the delightful Neal Adams cover above (for the magnificent Adams/Giordano Superman vs. Muhammad Ali giant comic) the crowd is filled with “real” people.  Jimmy Carter, Sinatra, Wolfman Jack, Raquel Welch, and so many others.  There’s a map on the inside cover to tell you who everyone is, but when I got it, I tried to see how many I could figure out on my own.  Up in the crowd, about eight or nine rows back, was a couple of people I assume to be Warren Beatty and Clark Cable, and some kids nearby.

amongst the Jackson Five, George Carlin and Lt. Columbo, this is NOT Clark Gable and Warren Beatty

It turned out to be Neal Adams and Dick Giordano and family.  I thought Neal had drawn he and his partner a lot more handsome than they probably were…and it was pretty cool to discover that they really did look like that when I met them a year or so later at conventions.

I got to know Dick just a little, over the years I worked at DC, and the  two things I remember most about him, was that he always looked great, (he could wear a suit and a mustache like a pro)…and that he loved talking the craft and comics with anyone who wanted to start up the conversation.  In those days, when Dick was our fearless leader, it was inspiring to see him in the DC  hallway, and to know he was still producing top flight penciling and inking work at home, after a full day at the office.

When you're great, you never stop being great.

And talk about inspiring,  he was still producing it, right up until the end.  The March issue of Jonah Hex, 2010, was the work of the one and only Mr. Giordano, head into your local comic store and pick one up, and enjoy the last work of a creator who inspired more than one generation.

Ty the Guy

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Comics that Matter (to me, anyway)

One of the nicer things that my vast fame and fortune has brought me is that I get interviewed from time to time about the comics that were most influential on me and my career…the comics that matter.  And I’ve been asked enough that the answer is down to a science now.

The first one is BATMAN #251, THE JOKER’S FIVE WAY REVENGE.  This is the first DC comic I ever purchased with my own money, and WOW, what a doozy to start with.   There’s a great saying that goes–“The Golden Age of everything is 12 years old”.  That’s when your opinions form, that’s when you find the best version of TV, movies, comics, fiction, girls…the stuff that you measure all the others against for the rest of your life, and this is one of the comics that falls into that category for me.  I often wonder if I’d be doing this for a living if my first comic had been something by lights lesser than the great DENNY O’NEIL and NEAL ADAMS!  And it’s not just a comic by these titans, it’s the comic that re-introduces the Joker to the world, with a brand-spanking-new homicidal bent to him like never before.

In previous years, the Joker had been a tepid character…robbing banks with rubber chickens, and kidnapping clowns, and the like (gems like “JOKER’S MILLIONS” were still undiscovered by me at the time, so I didn’t know Joker much beyond his TV show version…) But this story involves Joker murdering his entire gang, just to make sure he got the one member who was an informant.  He kills these guys with bombs, electrocution, and ends with tossing an old guy into a shark tank, wheelchair and all.  Illustrated by Neal Adams in his “new” exciting style, this was like no other comic I’d ever seen, and I instantly wanted more, more, more.  Sadly, Neal only drew one further  Batman comic (for a while anyway) before handing the series over to the wonderfully skilled Irv Novick…but it didn’t matter.  I was addicted to both Batman and Neal Adams for the rest of my life, and still am.   As an adult, I go back to this comic and re-read it, and I use it as a teaching tool in my TORONTO CARTOONISTS WORKSHOP classes to show off story and character construction.  Fortunately, it’s not just my own nostalgia that makes this comic a classic, and everyone I show it to, is as blown away by it as I am.

Next up:  These two issues of the Avengers were the first two Marvel comics I owned.  Purchased by an older brother when I was about seven years old, and left (in very lovely condition) at my Grandmother’s apartment until years later when I got to read them, probably at the age of twelve.  Again…for a first introduction to these characters of Cap, Thor, Iron Man, Hawkeye, Blank Panther, Yellowjacket, Wasp and of course…the Vision…this was a magnificent place to start.  EVEN AN ANDROID CAN CRY is often cited as one of the best written superhero comics of the sixties, and I’d be in no position to argue.

Roy Thomas‘ script is touching, exciting, and intelligent, something this child of STAR TREK and TWILIGHT ZONE (my favorite shows as a kid) recognized as different from the other stuff that comics were about.  And the artwork by John Buscema and George Klein is stunningly good.  It remains, to this day, my mind’s eye version of the what the PERFECT Marvel comic artist should strive to achieve….with layouts that jump around the page, but still lead the eye correctly from panel to panel.  Human bodies, drawn with exquisite anatomy and detail, are leaping and jumping from the first page to the last, and the second issue in the two parter is essentially a long conversation about what to do with the android in the building that tried to kill us.  A conversation?!?  And it was that exciting and lively?  If I ever get half this good as either a writer or a penciler, I get to retire with a smile.

These three comics (along with a few issues of Mad Magazine, Tintin and Asterix that were also left to me by older siblings) are the bedrock foundation of my love of this biz.  If, instead, I’d purchased as my first comics, BROTHER POWER THE GEEK, PATSY WALKER, or RED WOLF, we can rest assured I’d be a baker or a plumber at this point in life.

Besides getting me into the lifestyle…I’ve been influenced more directly by these comics by mining them for scripts and images more than once.  Seen above, my cover for BATMAN ADVENTURES #31 is clearly an homage or an all out steal of the #251 cover.  At the time I drew it, I was not conscious of the similarity, but that’s what an influence is…it’s there inside your brain telling you “If you want to make it more dramatic, make the Joker one hundred stories tall!” without realizing why you’re doing it.  It’s not theft, it’s INFLUENCE…

The Vision story I stole far more directly.  When I was assigned the writing chores with AVENGERS UNITED, one of the first scripts I turned in was a re-working of Thomas/Buscema’s original VISION story, only with the twist that my issue was called “Androids Can’t Cry”, and I switch out the ending.  This one I WAS conscious of ripping off, and I had so much fun playing in the sandbox that had been there since I was a child, it’s hard to explain the joy.  When I met Roy Thomas, years later, the first words out of my mouth were babbling nonsense about apologizing for stealing his story, but I couldn’t help myself, etc.  I’m certain he walked away from the meeting believing I was a madman and has mercifully forgotten me.

Since I brought ’em up, next time out in “COMICS THAT MATTER” I’ll discuss the early Tintin and Asterix and Mad stuff that sits inside my brain, below even this superhero stuff.

Ty the Guy

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