Category Archives: Tributes

Joe Simon (1913-2011) and Ed Barreto (1954-2011).

Jerry Robinson last week, and now two more.  Wow, that smarts.

Joe Simon wearing his personal version of the American flag.

Kirby was King of comics.  Stan was the Man, and Joe Simon was comics’ beloved Uncle.

Of course, he was Marvel Comics’ first editor back in the Golden Age, back when Stan Lee was literally sweeping up and going out for bagels.  And yes, along with his partner Jack Kirby, Joe gave the world some very popular characters:  Captain America, The Boy Commandos, the Sandman…

and, you know...comics for GIRLS.

But it’s Joe’s later career that made me love him.   First off, there was this:

The Sixties and Seventies had a lot of great satire magazines on the stands.  Mad, Cracked, Trump, Humbug, Car-toons, Crazy, Not Brand Ecch!, National Lampoon…and Joe Simon’s SICK.

Sick was hard to find, but a treasure when I could snag one.  It was a typical black and white satire mag of the time, the format was identical amongst all of the different titles…but what I loved most about SICK magazine, was that it knew darn well it was an imitator of Mad Magazine, and had joyous fun with the shamelessness of it all.  Their slogan was “We’re Number Two because we don’t try so hard” and they had a mascot that was Alfred E. Neuman’s twin brother in shabbier clothes.   Damn, I loved the balls of that.

Not Alfred E. Neuman up there, and we all didn't give a damn and that's why it was funny.

And SICK gets extra points for occasionally running articles by Lenny Bruce.  How often did Mad Magazine do THAT?

But let’s talk about Simon’s masterpiece (and, no I’m not kidding).

With a cabinet made up of Hippies and “Injuns” and Black Chicks and Teen-Agers and whatever other liberal nightmare Joe Simon could dream up, PREZ was Simon’s Seventies satire genius.  It was his Little Annie Fannie, only without tits, and that meant I could read it when I was twelve years old, and that’s the age I was when it came out.

Amputee-vampires in the White House? Don't you DARE question it!

There are people who don’t get this comic book, who don’t see the raw-staring-into-the-sun glory of this utterly unfettered series, and I pity them.  Joe Simon and artist Jerry Grandenetti created in Prez, a comic where ANYTHING could happen, where suspension of disbelief was an Olympic sport.  That’s my bread and butter when I want to be entertained.  The phrase “well worn cliche” did not apply to the work of Joe Simon and bless him for that.

Jesus Christ, is there a MONKEY in there? And is the monkey going to play CHESS?!?

Add to this, The GREEN TEAM, BROTHER POWER the GEEK, The OUTSIDERS, the FIGHTING AMERICAN, The STUNTMAN, The NEWSBOY LEGION, MANHUNTER, The FLY, the Boy’s Ranch, Foxhole, Justice, and a pretty strange version of CAPTAIN MARVEL, and it adds up to a body of work to drop your jaw.

I never got to meet Joe Simon, but his daughter once emailed me that Joe had read and enjoyed an article I’d written about him.  It made me beam for a week to know he’d read it.

You literally did it all, Joe.  Built the world of comics and shaped a corner of my sky.

Thank you.

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Eduardo Barreto:  The artist’s artist.

Ignore that it says "Gordon Purcell" above his head, that's Eduardo.

Eduardo Barreto was one of those guys that made other comic artists make noises when we saw his work.  It was like eating chocolate, or getting a foot rub seeing his art.  Barreto’s work was so pretty, I actually made noises.  To fandom at large, he was probably best known for his DC work on Wonder Woman, Justice League, the Teen Titans and Superman.

All of it great stuff...

But I’ll always remember Eduardo for his astoundingly beautiful 30s period work on such projects as UNION STATION and THE SHADOW STRIKES.  These stories, all taking place in a depression era alleyway populated by thugs, rats and bullets, were brought to life by Barretto’s hand with what seemed like effortless grace.

A big part of my life-long fandom of the Shadow is because of Barreto’s mind-boggling work on this book.   The attention to detail, the sense of costume, décor, body language, character, lighting, mood, brushwork.  It was magnificent to look at AND great comics to read.

The Shadow done PERFECTLY. Month after month for a few years. It was glorious.

And if you haven’t read this overlooked Ed Barreto gem:  track it down.  I promise you’ll love it.

Fifty-seven years old is way too young to lose him.  He was still creating beautiful work up until Meningitis got to him last year.

My thoughts go out to the families of BOTH of these marvelous men who gave me so much pleasure over the years.  Your contributions to the world will be long celebrated.

You did good.

Ty the Guy OUT!

For your BONUS Joe Simon Moment:  GO HERE.

Jerry Robinson 1922 – 2011

Jerry Robinson passed away yesterday, just a few weeks shy of his 90th birthday.  He was the last surviving member of the group of four men who created the mythology of Batman :  Bob Kane, Bill Finger, Dick Sprang and Jerry Robinson.   Jerry was Bob Kane’s first ghost artist, and probably the most important of the Batman artists of the Golden Age.

Along with writing partner Bill Finger, Jerry Robinson created the Joker, Alfred the Butler, Robin, the Batcave and a host of other important parts of Gotham City while Bob Kane watched from across the room and pretended to be the one doing it.  Though Kane spent his life lying about the huge contributions that his partners made, comics historians did eventually see through the nonsense, and Robinson lived long enough to get his due as one of the seminal creators of our industry.   There was at least THAT justice.

Batman and Robin, keeping the cartoonists' drawing table safe, thanks to Jerry Robinson!

I had the rare chance to meet him a couple of times over the years, at awards ceremonies and conventions, etc, and Jerry was delightful and awe-inspiring company whenever I was fortunate enough to be around him.  I’ll never forget the first thing he said to me, though:  When I told him I was a Batman creator, writing and drawing the characters he helped create, he reached out to shake my hand and said (with a twinkle in his eye) “Where’s my cheque?”

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jerry Robinson…my world would not be the same without having shared the planet with you for the last forty-eight years.  You gave me a childhood filled with unbridled joy and fun and I cannot conceive of who I would have turned out to be if you’d never been there before me.

Ty the Guy OUT!

Here now, your Bonus Jerry Robinson moment:

I have a bunch of images of Jerry Robinson on my computer because I recently had to draw his portrait for a project about Bill Finger (see the top of this column for the drawing) but I went searching for a photo of the man to adorn this blog post and was astounded to discover the first two or three images of Jerry that pop up on google search are photos of Jerry posing in front of one of my drawings of the Joker.  Why Jerry would pose in front of MY drawing of his character, rather than one of his own drawings, is baffling to me, and I assume the photographer didn’t know he’d matched up the wrong artist.  But I am humbled and honoured to have Mr. Robinson and I share a few photos like that.

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NOTE:  For those in the Toronto area:  The Toronto Cartoonist Workshop Faculty Art Show for its instructors is tomorrow night, Friday December 9!  I’ll have at least one framed image of the Joker up on the wall, but I’ll make a point of bringing the original art for my portrait of Jerry with me to show off as well as sharing the wall with fellow instructors LEONARD KIRK, DAVE ROSS and ERIC KIM.

Come on down and see how comic book artists live and work, but don’t feed us, we have a very specific diet and might become ill with real food.

587A College Street (at Clinton), Toronto, 7-10pm

Mystery Detective Bun Toons! YAY!

You're probably wondering why I've gathered you all here in the drawing room...

My teenager has been playing a lot of L.A. Noire lately, and I’m going to chalk it up to that.  Should I be pitching this at a network?  It’s both a cop show AND a medical drama.  Add a sassy girl with sharp wits and a smoking bod, and this is a no-brainer for HBO or AMC.

Ty the Guy OUT!

Here now, your bonus Bun Toons Detective Tale:

JOHNNY DESCARTES: EXISTENTIAL PRIVATE EYE!

My wife didn’t find this one funny this morning, so it never got out of the sketch phase.  But she laughs at coma patients, so I was safe with the Bun Toon I went with.

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For last week's Batman and Flash Bun Toon (written by my once-seven year old son) click the Dark Knight.

For Every Bun Toon ever, click the adorable rabbit illustration.

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One last note that’s unrelated to Bun Toons:  Family Circus creator Bil Keane passed away this week, and I wanted to say something about it.

It’s been a common right of passage for any young aspiring humorist to look at Keane’s work as a sort of anti-standard of comedy.  When I was in my early twenties, I resented the strip’s success and felt it was almost intentionally trying to irritate me, specifically because of its cloying middle-brow sentiment and lack of any real cleverness.  To my youthful brain, it certainly wasn’t funny.    For the last few months, my fifteen year old son, Taylor had become obsessed with clipping the Family Circus out of the paper and putting the panels on our kitchen fridge every single day – an ironic ritual of showing off what he thought was the ultimately least funny thing on our spinning blue ball in space.   I recognized the impulse, I’d done similar things when I was his age.

But you know what…?  The Family Circus was never meant for cynical, ironic and smart-alec young men to enjoy.   It was for people with families, for young kids and their parents, for sentimental older folks with grown children, and for whomever liked it.  It promised and delivered a gentle portrait of home life for over fifty years, and was read by MILLIONS of people, all of whom count.  That is an astounding achievement of endurance, perseverance and popularity in the mind-numblingly competitive field of cartooning.

You were a legitimate and touching artist, Bil Keane, and a heroic cartoonist.  Well done.

Ty the Guy.

Steve Ditko is 84

A recent photo of Mr. Ditko in his studio.

I could spend the day talking about Steve Ditko.  Half of you know him as the co-creator of Spider-Man (along with Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, depending on who’s telling the story), and half of you know him as the crazy as a shit-house rat genius of comics that are too weird to be readable.  Delightfully, he’s both, and if you’ve never seen In Search of Steve Ditko, you’re about to spend some time doing just that:

That’s just part one, but you’ll be continuing on to the other parts after it’s over, trust me.

Twenty some-odd years ago, I got to speak to Ditko on the phone once or twice, about a Ditko story we published in Vortex Magazine back when I was editor of the book.  It’s a story I’ll keep private, as neither Steve nor I come off especially well in the story, and you don’t need to hear about two jackasses while both of us are still alive.

Instead, watch the documentary began above, and recall his magnificent contribution to our biz.

Happy Birthday Mr. D.  You are one of the originals.

Ty the Guy OUT!

Here now, a fairly obscure piece of Bonus Ditko:  A page from THE DESTRUCTOR, a short lived Ditko series for the spectacularly failed ATLAS comics of the mid-70s.  Ditko inked by Wally Wood!  A little bit of heaven for those in the know…

Steve Jobs and Charles Napier and Mr. Spock, all in one week!

I’m hardly the place to go for news on the net, but I wanted to comment on the loss of these three from the world this week.

Steve Jobs was one of the architects of the future, mostly by taking advantage of Xerox’s disinterest in marketing the personal computer that Xerox itself invented back in the 70s.  He may not have invented the mouse driven graphic interface, but he knew how to put it into stores and into your house, and helped bring about the world in which you’re reading this on the internet.  Only fifty-six years old when we lost him, so it REALLY SUCKS that he doesn’t get to see what the world he created will look like in the actual future.

Speaking of the Actual Future, us Trekkies just lost a couple of highly important folks as well.

Both of them! Damn it!

The delightful space hippie on the left was played by Charles Napier, who also passed away today.  He’s finally stepping out to Eden, Yea Brother.   Depending on the day of the week, this is my favorite episode of Star Trek.  (Some days it’s City on the Edge of Forever when I’m in a serious place).

The fact that Napier, the squarest-jawed actor in the history of Hollywood,  played this guy with such conviction is a HUGE part of what made this episode special to me, and the song he sang was so wonderful, you’d have to be a Herbert not to enjoy it.

Charles Napier, world's toughest space hippie.

And to round out the set of endings happening recently, Leonard Nimoy announced on the weekend that he was permanently retiring Mr.  Spock.  Leonard Nimoy has had some health troubles and after 80 years on the planet, doesn’t get around as well as he used to.   No more audio books, no more appearances at Star Trek Conventions, he will not be in the new movie, the character is over, unless you count the new guy.

Which we do not.

Obviously, nothing lasts forever, but I need to go hug kittens from all the crappy news today.

Ty the Guy OUT!

Here now your bonus Hugging a Star Trek Kitteh moment.

RED SHIRT?!?! Damn. The fuzzy thing is gonna die.

Comics of Yesterday and Comics of Tomorrow. Literally.

Here’s one that has to be told today, right now, cause it won’t be yesterday and tomorrow lined up like this any other day.

I picked this Kirby Book up in Montreal THREE DAYS ago.  Love Kirby Collector.  Loved the price.

TWO DAYS AGO:

After getting into my Kirby Zone, I’m strolling along the convention floor and spot this little gem, leaning forward in a dealer’s box, for two bucks.

You're kidding.

It’s the only issue of any 80s Jack Kirby I don’t own.  Wanted to read it for fifteen or twenty years.  Conventions are fun.

YESTERDAY:  I read the book.  It’s GREAT.  I’m reminded how much I love Steve Gerber, the creator of these mad Mallards Of Comics, which included the magnificent Howard the Duck, Stewart the Rat (almost a duck), Destroyer Duck, and others ducks who teamed up with the Savage Dragon that I won’t mention.

Fig 1: why childhood was funny.

Well TODAY is Steve Gerber’s Birthday.

Steve Gerber at a convention. It's all lining up, like the stars.

I find this out because my friend Phil Winslade put up a magnificent drawing of Howard and the gang on his facebook page today in celebration.

http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000779359593

Sorry, I don’t know how to link to facebook pages better than that clunky code-paste up there.  I hope it works.

So Happy Birthday Steve Gerber, the great creator of GREAT comics of Yesterday.

Look! I've summed up a human being's life and career with a wacky photo.

Here’s the thing.  When I first went online TODAY  it was supposed to be so I could  promote a comic book that’s coming out

TOMORROW

  I got to draw my old pals the Great Lakes Avengers for a chapter of the FEAR ITSELF epic.

So Today is the birthday of an industry giant, who wrote something I read Yesterday, and I’m shamelessly using that celebration to tell a story that promotes a comic I worked on coming out Tomorrow?

What a genuine right bastard I am.  My god.

Go buy the FEAR ITSELF: THE HOMEFRONT comic.  It’s fun, it won’t make you fat, and it can’t harm your family, pets, and furniture.

Ty the Guy OUT!

And now, for your Bonus Comic Book Gerber Templeton Shameless Association Moment:

HAPPY 45th BIRTHDAY STAR TREK! YAY!

Anti Gravity device at work.

Even though I had the wonderful privilege of working on Star Trek in a very peripheral capacity a few years ago, writing a Trek Graphic Novel for IDW, I still consider myself, first and foremost, a fan…hell, I’m a sickening Trekkie.  I have been since I was a kid, and watched these marvelous stories in their first run, back in the 60s.

And I have a blog, so I’m obligated to mention this birthday of sorts, and make a few personal observations about the show and its characters and what they’ve meant to me as the five year mission stretches out into its 45th year.

On the Sapphire Anniversary of NBC airing “THE MAN TRAP”, I give you my personal choices for —

THE TOP FIFTEEN star trek CHARACTERS of all time!

15- GARY MITCHELL

I'm rosebud, okay? And I'm not a sled this time.

Ah, Gary Mitchell.  For a character that made only one appearance on the show, he’s held a place in my heart ever since.  I think it was because he was Kirk’s best friend since his Academy days, and Gary represented the loss of youth that adulthood inevitably brings.  I don’t want to let him go anymore than I want to let go of my toys and comic books.  Gary was a little less disciplined than Kirk, a little more boyish, and it’s why he wasn’t promoted as fast.  But when Jim loses his best friend in the first episode, it hardened Kirk into a man, and made him a little more relaxed about staying youthful, all at the same time.  When I had a chance to write that Star Trek graphic novel for IDW a couple of years ago, my first chapter strongly featured Gary Mitchell.  I still don’t want to let him go.

14 – SPOT, PORTHOS and the TRIBBLES.

Who's a pretty endothermic quadruped? Yes you are...

 I’m an animal lover.  I live with three cats at the moment, and have shared my life and dwelling space with dogs, fish, birds and various other life forms since I was a kid.  A house ain’t a home until it has a pet in it, I always say, and Star Trek was no exception.   The fact that Data the android owned a cat, and treated it with calculated amounts of affection rung my bells.  And if you’ve never heard or read Data’s ODE TO SPOT, you’re in for a treat:

Felis catus is your taxonomic nomenclature,
An endothermic quadruped, carnivorous by nature.
Your visual, olfactory, and auditory senses
Contribute to your hunting skills and natural defenses.
I find myself intrigued by your subvocal oscillations,
A singular development of cat communications
That obviates your basic hedonistic predilection
For a rhythmic stroking of your fur to demonstrate affection.
A tail is quite essential for your acrobatic talents.
You would not be so agile if you lacked its counterbalance.
And when not being utilized to aid in locomotion,
It often serves to illustrate the state of your emotion.
Oh Spot, the complex levels of behavior you display
Connote a fairly well-developed cognitive array,
And though you are not sentient, Spot, and do not comprehend,
I nonetheless consider you a true and valued friend.

Damn straight.  Shakespeare can suck it.

And Porthos was probably my favorite character on ENTERPRISE, other than the sexy Vulcan lady, but that was for different reasons.  They sort of wrote the dog out of the series as the seasons went on, I suspect because he was asking for more money than Scott Bakula, but they should have given in to his demands.  The space race of the 20th Century was begun by animals:  Laika the dog, Ham the Chimp, and John Glenn the senator.  I love that Star Trek recognized their contribution to exploring the galaxy and included them.

Even these damn things.

13 – KOR

Evil, but cheerful. Respect.

The first Klingon, (and for a few conventions we attended together, a fun drinking buddy).  There’s a group of Star Trek fans who seem to only be interested in the culture of the Star Trek Badasses.  These fans wear the gear, speak the language, play with the weapons, and occasionally put on Hamlet in the original Klingon.   Of course, Worf, Gowron, Kang and a few others are all part of the glorious tapestry that is Klingon culture, but if it weren’t for John Colicos, and his brilliant portrayal of Kor, all these poor souls would be pretending to be Wookies, I promise you.

12  – Lt. Uhura

Rocking the Gold!

Besides being one of the most important figures in the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, Lt. Uhura was a childhood crush that I’m never getting over.

Back away Templeton. Don't make me cut you.

She was told by no less that Martin Luther King Jr. that she wasn’t allowed to quit the show when she became frustrated by the parts she was getting in the later seasons.  King knew how important it was to see a high ranking African American aboard the bridge, and on away missions, and NO ONE MENTIONED she was black or female except the ghost of President Lincoln.  She was simply part of the crew.  It’s hard for modern audiences to get how big a deal that was in 1966.  I grew up watching Star Trek, and her example (and to a similar extent, Sulu’s) is a big part of why racism makes no sense to me.  If you can do the job, you’re part of the team.

And oh, she was sexy as it gets. I know I shouldn’t have noticed that, but I did.

11 – Commander Will Riker

Like a version of Captain Kirk, but with his own hair, Riker was clearly supposed to be Next Generation’s sexy hero, but he never quite turned out that way.  Instead, he was the middle manager in your office that sort-of behaved like your big brother and wasn’t as cool as he thought he was going to end up in life.  For god’s sake, a trombone?!?  Still, he was the character that got to own Star Trek’s single greatest moment…that cliffhanger at the end of Best of Both Worlds Part One….when Picard/Locutus of Borg tells Riker that resistance is futile and Riker says “FIRE”.  And we all had to wait SIX GODDAMN MONTHS to see what happened.  Riker won me over in those four letters.

10 – QUARK

The hunnies dig big ears.

Star Trek’s great comedy relief character was the main reason that DS9 worked for me.  I was never that fond of Captain Sisko (at least until he shaved his head) and really didn’t like Major Kira – they were both humourless stumps.  But the Ferengi with a lust for profit and a secret heart of gold was Trek’s guarantee of a smile each week.  The one where the Ferengi go to Roswell is tied with Trouble with Tribbles as the funniest episode of Trek ever made.

9 – THE GUY IN THE RED SHIRT

One of them is DOOMED!

He’s Dead Jim.  The poor bastard is up-the-ass screwed.  You know it, Kirk knows it and so does the guy on the transporter who you never heard of before today. That’s what duty is all about, my friend –  staying calm and carrying on.  But don’t despair, he has his own entry in wikipedia, his own society, his own movie!  He’s only on screen for eight minutes, but he goes out a star!

Great career move, kid!

When Picard and Riker wore red shirts in the pilot for TNG, I was sure they were going to die before the first commercial break.   They broke the curse for a few years, but you’ll notice in the new Star Trek movie, the guy in the red re-entry suit that goes after the Romulan bad guys on the big space drill goes SPLAT when the other two don’t.

8 – THE ENTERPRISE

In a universe that included sentient androids, sympathetic hortas and a pointy eared devil as one of the heroes, we’re allowed to call the ship a character.  And she was played by Majel Roddenbery for decades so she even had to sleep with  the producer to get the part.

Look at her warp drives. She was practically begging for it.

The Enterprise was a huge part of the success of the franchise.  It was large enough that entire stories could be set aboard her when the budget ran low for alien rock formations.  It was fast enough that it could get you across the galaxy by five thirty tomorrow morning.  And when the engines canna take it, there’s excitement a’brewing.  When she died in SEARCH FOR SPOCK, I choked up as much as I did when Spock died in the previous movie.  And though she came back, she didn’t have to Pon Farr anybody, so it wasn’t as much fun.

7 –  DOCTOR McCOY

"I’m a DOCTOR, not a plot device!".

Actually McCoy was one of the best plot devices in modern fiction.  Playing hot to Spock’s cold, or emotion to Spock’s logic, McCoy served as the other half of the two-headed Greek Chorus that Kirk and the viewers relied on to get them through the story each week.   What started out as a support character, McCoy became an essential part of every tale, getting his own title card in the second season, and embedded into the Id/Ego/Superego triangle that made the core of Star Trek work.

McCoy at work, showing "emotion".

6 – CAPTAIN PICARD

I have to admit, he wears that uniform as well as Uhura did.

Kirk was a super-hero, but Picard was the father figure that solved everybody’s problems, and managed to make bald men sexy again after Yul Brenner died.  He “made it so” with calm, reasonable decisions, and never lost his shit unless he was gunning down Borg, which was understandable (and damn cool, actually).  Where the original crew was very much a group held together by military rank, and shared duty, Picard’s presence made the Next Generation cast into a family.  Brilliant.

5 – ORION SLAVE GIRLS

 Uh-huh.  That’s right.  You know what I’m talking about.  Almost as much as Vulcans, the Orion Slave Girls became a symbol for Star Trek, even for people that never watched the show.  She featured strongly in the pilot, tempting Captain Pike like an apple in paradise.  She showed up in the final credits of almost every episode.  She and her sisters showed up in a few memorable episodes of ENTERPRISE, the new movie, and every nerd’s dreams for a few decades now.

She even looked a hell of a lot like Batgirl that one time.

Orion Slave Girls are what Leia’s Slave Bikini WISHES it was,  if it wasn’t the  nerd-wienie-shrinking girl-next-door virgin pretense that it actually is.    Orion Slave Girls put out, my friend.  And they know how to do the ice cube tricks and everything.

4 –   WORF

No denying it. Worf is the bad ass pimp of the Trek Universe.

He’s the ultimate outsider – the enemy of the federation, sitting on the bridge of the Enterprise, and he can kill you with his left ball if he feels like it.  He was the living embodiment of controlled rage, bottled up in Star Trek’s longest running character (eleven seasons of TV and five of the movies!) and he was just the balance that Captain Picard’s calm demeanor needed to make the Next Generation the mega-hit that it was.

And he owned Gene Simmons' hair with more style than Gene did.

3 –  DATA.

I got no strings, and I have fun. I'm not tied down to anyone.

 The wooden puppet that wants to be a real boy has never been done better.  Pinocchio was the inspiration, but Roddenbery, Spiner and company did SO much with the idea – exploring what constituted identity, sentience and humanity, from feelings of love, duty and creativity, to being “fully functional, programmed in multiple techniques”.

Demonstrate your programming, big boy.

And because they were constantly creative with him, the character actually grows and develops over the course of the series and films.  He learns he has “family”, he learns to dream, and he eventually gets his emotion chip, and learns to deal with genuine fear, sadness, sexuality, and the rest of human experience.   Just like we all did when we got our emotion chips at puberty.

2- MISTER SPOCK

Second only to the Beatles as THE 60s pop icon.

 When I was a teenager, I used to get painful, debilitating migraine headaches.  I mean kick-you-in-the-skull, blinding, enraging pain that would last for days.  There was no medicine that would help and it got so bad some times I thought I’d die from the sheer agony of it all.   With nothing but desperation driving me, I tried Spock’s mantra from many episodes of the show.  “There is no pain.  Pain is an illusion”.  I’d say it to myself, trying to Vulcan the hell out of that problem.

And, by the great bird of the galaxy, it worked. It was a life changing lesson –  that the mind can control the body.  That you can decide to survive the unsurvivable.  You can beat back the worst crap storm if you absolutely need to, by power of will.

Spock means that much to me.  He transcended a mere fictional character and became a part of my basic DNA when I was young.  I got to meet Leonard Nimoy once, and I couldn’t help it, inside my head I was telling myself I was in the room with Mr. Spock.  He matters so much to me that, even though it would have been funny, I resisted posting a photograph of Spock with his shirt off being held at gun point by Nazis .

No I didn't.

But I almost resisted and that’s what matters.   I’ve also tried the nerve pinch thing on the neck a few times, but that part turns out to be fictional.

1- CAPTAIN JAMES T. KIRK

Yes, that's a laser in my pocket, and yes, you're glad to see me.

He’s tied with Batman as the best Super-Hero ever created, and according to Eddie Murphy,  Captain Kirk is the coolest white man ever born.  I’m hard pressed to put it any better than that.

There’s a moment in the first Star Trek motion picture, where Kirk takes command of the ship before they all head out into space to take on V-Ger, and quite probably die.  Right after he leaves the bridge, Uhura smiles and tells Sulu  that now that Kirk is back in charge, they just might come home alive.  That she was brave enough to go into space, fully expecting to die, tells you much about Uhura’s courage.  But suddenly expecting to survive simply because Kirk is in command…that tells you everything you need to know about Kirk.

Plus, he got to make out with the hot alien ladies, and he got to do this:

KHAAAAAAN!

That’s Star Trek’s other great moment (along with Riker saying “fire.”) and they’re both four letter words.

I don’t know about you, but I wanted to grow up to be Captain Kirk, and like the memory of Gary Mitchell, I’m not quite ready to let go of that idea either.  Star Trek has been my comfort food, my fan favorite, my joie de vie and my guilty pleasure, almost constantly since I was little.  I’m a little older than the franchise itself, but as long as we’re both here, I’ll be celebrating each anniversary with them, with just as much joy as I did the first time the Man Trap came on my TV and scared the poop out of this four year old boy.

See you Trekkies in five years when we pass out the silver.

PS:  I had two runners-up, but a list of 17 sucks…so here are the honorable mentions:

I have a schoolboy crush on Ezri Dax, and I can't help it.

He's somewhat of a retread of DATA's machine-that-wants-to-be-a-man bit, but Robert Picardo made "The Doctor" a unique character all to himself.

UPDATE:   When you type things up quickly at six in the morning, the brain goes fuzzy.  I cannot believe I didn’t include Q in the list, and that’s a mistake.  He likely would have come in somewhere in the top ten, maybe around eight or nine.  Forgive me for overlooking that great character.  Amazingly enough, I’ve gotten emails lobbying for Garek more than anyone, and no mentioned Q at all….so somehow, we ALL forget him!

I think it's possible he memory-wiped me.

 

Ty the Guy OUT!

Here now, your BONUS Star Trek Moment:

Presented without comment.

Top Ten Reasons to Love Neal Adams. YAY!

Yeah, the new Justice League just came out and the whole re-tooling of DC 52 has begun and the blogoverse is all a-twitter and a-tumblr with opinions.  And I’ll be getting to that, I promise, but not today.

Today, I talk about something a lot more personal.

See, I’m going to a convention in Montreal in a few weeks, and my favorite living comic book creator, Neal Adams, is going to be there.  I mentioned this to someone at a convention last weekend, and I swear to god, this fan said “You mean the guy who does Batman Odyssey?”  Unfortunately, I had no pistol to whip this guy for thinking that was the whole of Adams’ career, but I do have a blog, and I fire back with the best ammunition I have available:  Fifty caliber truth bombs.

For those who might mistakenly believe it’s all about the Odyssey, you’re overlooking a decades-spanning career in which Neal wrote and drew some of the most memorable comics of all time…

Read this. It's a bowl full of chocolately goodness in ways you just don't see coming.

But forget about that…and forget about Neal creating or defining some of the most popular characters in the comics industry…

including these guys.

…and forget about how freaking BEAUTIFULLY Neal draws….

This is a page from Neal's FIRST PUBLISHED COMIC BOOK STORY in an issue of Creepy for Warren Magazines!!

Forget all that.  Here are…

THE TOP TEN REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD LOVE NEAL ADAMS.

10)  He’s fought for creators’ rights his whole career. 

Publishers didn’t give back art to their creators until the eighties – often destroying pages after they’d been printed or giving them away to fans as souvenirs.  The scumbags in the corner offices always believed they owned the physical objects, when no legal or moral argument ever suggested they did. Neal was essential in the public fight with Marvel to get back artwork held illegally from Kirby which helped establish that original artwork is now returned to us all.

Thanks Neal, I owe you that one.

9)  He put his foot up Warner Brothers’ ass for Jerry and Joe.

Back in the 70s, when Jerry Siegel tried one last time to sue for the rights to Superman and lost again, Neal Adams took it upon himself to champion their cause.  He wrote articles for major publications, refused to work with certain companies, and created enough of a fuss that Warner Brothers was publicly shamed into tossing their forgotten creators a bone just before the Christopher Reeve movie came out.  Siegel and Shuster both received credits on all Superman product from that time forward, and they were given a pension and full medical benefits from the giant corporation, primarily because it was suddenly too rat-bag awful for them not to.  Neal was a big part of that public embarrassing of Warner Brothers, and his wagging finger of tut-tut helped make one of the WORST mistreatments of creators a little bit right.

Neal (in the back, sporting groovy 70s hair) with Siegel and Shuster (and Batman ghost artist Jerry Robinson). Heroes all.

8 – He was the first artist to move between Marvel and DC without using a pseudonym.

Guys like Gil Kane had to pretend to be “Scott Edward” when freelancing for more than one company before Neal defied the unwritten rule in the late 60s, working on X-Men and Deadman at the same time, and giving creators the dignity of their own name from that moment forward.  Mike Esposito was “Mickey Demeo” when he freelanced at Marvel in the 60s, fearing he’d be fired by DC.

But Neal Adams was Neal Adams.

That’s hardcore.

Pictured: "Scott Edward" before Neal let him borrow some balls.

7)  Neal Adams has theories about the nature of the Earth and basic physics that are unusual.

The Earth is constantly expanding, blowing up like a balloon, according to Neal, and it’s doing so by spontaneously creating matter at the core.  Also, if you drain the Mediterranean, you’ll find the ruins of ancient civilizations.  Sure, this is fringe stuff discredited by many in the scientific community, but Neal insists upon examining it, often at length if he corners you and you don’t have a weapon.  He even has youtube videos explaining it.  Watch.

Some people think this theory is kookoo for coco-puffs, but having talked to him about it once or twice, I think those conversations make Neal interesting.  What’s wrong with looking for alternatives to the accepted way of thinking?  Whether it’s right or not is almost irrelevant.  What matters is that  Mr. Adams is not just sitting around eating spray-on cheese and watching Dancing with the Stars.  He gets big points for having a curious mind.  And who knows…he might be right?

Stand back, this is going to blow.

6)  He Sometimes Refers to himself in the Third Person.

And he’s capable of doing it everyday conversation.  There’s something wonderfully perfect about it. He’ll sometimes drop a sentence on you like, “Would you like to hear what Neal Adams thinks about that?”.  It’s stunning the first time you hear him do it, but it grows on you.  I did a Batman illustrators tour with Mr. Adams  years back in France and Belgium, and learned that if you paid attention, he’d include this rhetorical flourish up to a dozen times a day when talking to the fans.  Who does that?  I think it’s magnificent.

You want to know who does that? Neal Adams does that, that's who.

5)  He Came up with the idea for Image Comics decades before Image Comics did.

Neal started up Continuity Associates before Jim Lee and Todd Macfarlane were gleams in a fanboy’s eye.  It was a studio where comic book creators could work for commercial and movie storyboard jobs –  high paying projects between DC and Marvel gigs – that eventually launched its own comic book imprint – “Continuity Comics”. They published creator-owned series outside the pre-existing system and it was run by, and for, creators.  The biggest success was Bucky O’Hare, which I heard made a gob-bucket full of cash for Michael Golden and Larry Hama when it was turned into a TV series in the 80s.   Golden wouldn’t have made that money at Marvel or DC back then, but he had Adams at his back.  The only real differences between Image and Continuity was that Continuity came first, and the quality of the artwork at Neal’s company was better.

Me eldest son adored this comic and TV show when he was but a lad.

 4)  In his glory days, he was movie-star handsome. 

Gaze upon him, ye mighty, and tremble.

(And as he matures, he’s mature movie-star handsome, let’s not kid)

That might not be a reason for ME to love him, but can I get a shout out from the ladies?  In an industry where most of us look more like Comic Book Guy that we’d like to admit, it was part of Neal’s mystique that he was a good looking dude the first time I ever saw him in person.  He’s probably hung like a horse too, the bastard.

3)  He wasn’t afraid to take any assignment when he was starting out.

That doesn’t seem like an important thing, but it is.  It really is.  Most artists nowadays have a high opinion of what they will or will not do.  They’re sure they’re on a path to stardom and don’t want to stray from it.  But Adams started off his career at Archie Comics because it was honest work.

Yup. That's Neal Adams drawing Archie in the 60s. Take that you whiny prima donnas.

It was experience, and it was a foot in the door.  After Archie, Neal sharpened his skills doing the Ben Casey comic strip for a while, and when he became so good a draftsman that DC couldn’t turn him down, he finally got the assignments from DC editors he’d been waiting for.

Yup, That's Neal again, doing his first cover for DC.

I’ve known artists who turn down their first pro gig because they feel they know better than the editor about where their talents lie.  Of course these Bob Hope covers and Jerry Lewis stories weren’t what Adams should have been doing at the time, but he patiently put in the effort, paid his dues, met his deadlines and showed off he was reliable.  That’s what a man does when he goes to work.  There’s as much inspiration from that as there is from his skills as an illustrator, and you whippersnappers can take that to the bank.

2  He made comics grow up.

In collaboration with Denny O’Neil, the pair took the moribund, Adam West inspired franchise that Batman had become, and revitalized it into the oh-so-cool Dark Knight character that he is today, with stories like Secret of the Waiting Graves, The Joker’s Five Way Revenge  and all those marvelous Ra’s Al Ghul stories.

The Five Way Revenge: Perhaps the greatest single issue of a comic book in the 20th Century. Tim Burton and Chris Nolan would be making Pee-Wee’s Playhouse VI if it wasn’t for this.

And when Wein and Cockrum hit gold with the stunningly popular All-New All-Different X-Men in the late 70s, it was the award winning and sophisticated Roy Thomas/Neal Adams run they were inspired by, not the more juvenile Lee/Kirby issues (as fun as those might be).

I got yer X-Men ground zero, right here.

And O’Neil and Adams cemented their reputation as makers of comics for adults in these three panels from Green Lantern #76.  Suddenly Goldface and The Lamplighter weren’t enough to keep the college kids reading.

Frank Miller and Neil Gaiman are late-to-the-game pussies compared to Denny and Neal.

1)  He essentially invented the modern age of comics.

By using a swinging sixties commercial art style and the emerging sensibilities of TV storyboards instead of the illustration and cartooning forms that had been prevalent throughout the previous forty years, Neal single-handedly picked up the industry on his shoulders and put it back down someplace else…someplace that folks over 18 could relate to. It’s not like we didn’t have realistic illustrators before Neal (Alex Raymond and Hal Foster pre-date him by decades), but Neal played with the depth of field, the body language, the “camera” angles, and the basic layout of the page with figures breaking out of their panels, and imaginative design ideas like no one since Will Eisner.

This page was drawn more than forty years ago, and the layout looks as modern as something published this month.

Neal took up Eisner’s innovative page designs and ran off with them like an Olympic athlete.  Along the way he inspired nearly everybody who followed him, and even a few who came before him, who started to adopt his exciting new style after they got a look at Neal.  Look at Alex Ross, or Jim Lee, or Steve Epting, or anyone drawing comics who’s worth a damn, and you’ll find at least a hint of Adams’ layout rhythms, if not the illustration style itself.  As much as we might all adore and respect all the giants of cartooning history, the comics of 2011 resemble Adams’ vision more  than Kirby’s, Kurtzman’s or Eisner’s, and that’s a fact.

It all changed after these pages.

There you have it.  If I haven’t convinced comics fans around the world that you owe Neal Adams a giant kiss and a humble thank you for his talent, his mind, his influence, and his generosity, then you may all leave the room and smack yourself with a horsehair brush.   And if you come to the convention in Montreal head over to his table and thank him personally.  You’ll tell your grandkids someday that you met the John Lennon of Comics, or the Mozart of Comics, or the Einstein of Comics…whatever metaphor you want.

Personally I like to think of him as the Neal Adams of comics.

Ty the Guy OUT!

Here now, your BONUS ADAMS COMICS MOMENT:

I’m lucky enough to own a few pieces of original Neal Adams artwork – a generous gift from Neal he kind of gave me when we did that European tour together ten years ago.    However, on that tour, I picked up a special treasure from another member of the Adams clan:  His son Josh was ten years old, at the time, (about the same age as my eldest son), and that delightful kid drew me a picture of Robin on the back of a beer coaster one evening, based on the animated style I was known for.  It’s been up on a shelf next to my drawing table ever since.  Nowadays Josh is working in the biz, drawing Doctor Who and Batman a bit.  But I still have this early work, done when he was ten years old.

Ten years old. How cool is THAT?!?

Happy Birthday R Crumb! YAY!

It’s too darn late for anyone to read this before the end of the day , but I only found out a minute ago.

Robert Crumb is one of the corners of the universe as far as I’m concerned.  One of those few cartoonists who is considered a proper “artist” in every sense of the word, even by sensible adult people.  His brilliant illustrations, and mind boggling writing style were an indelible influence on me when I was a teenager, and he still swims in my DNA somewhere under all the super-hero work I’ve done over the years.

I’m fairly sure this poster is the first R. Crumb work I ever saw, and to be honest I hated it at the time.  I was probably twelve or thirteen, and it was hanging on the wall of a friend’s brother’s room.  The brother probably smoked weed, and I thought very little of people who did that in the 70s, strong pubescent moral crusader that I was…

His magnificent album cover for Janis Joplin’s CHEAP THRILLS was the first time I saw his work and knew his name.  I probably didn’t know it was the same guy who did the stoned poster, frankly.  But Janis Joplin meant quite a bit to me at the same age.  It was just dawning on me that I wanted to be a musician when I grew up, and here was a singer who could belt it like no one alive.  And since I was always into comics, I dug the way-out groovy cover art….SIGNED by someone named R. Crumb.

By the time I’d discovered Fritz the Cat I was done for.  I’m not sure if this was my first copy of Fritz (I think it was a backup story in an issue of something else), but I began to absorb Crumb like oxygen for the rest of the 70s.  Mr. Natural, Shuman the Human, Meatball, Zap…I needed it all, yesterday.   There was something utterly unique in what Crumb did, even amongst the Undergrounds, he was alone in his field.  The art was unparalleled in complexity and skill, the stories were unrelentingly raw, filthy, clever, subtle, absurd.  Some of his comics were gentle and touching tales of humanity, others were brutal pieces about incest, rape, bestiality, betrayal, decay and rot.  Most of them were hysterically funny, all of them were interesting.

I hated that “Keep on Trucking”  and the inexcusably bad film adaptation of Fritz the Cat were what the public thought of him back then.  But those of us who kept up with him through the years knew better.

Lordy, what this series must have put their daughter through…but she started to contribute to it as she got older, so she must be a chip off the parental blocks.

So HAPPY BIRTHDAY R. Crumb.  Probably one of the ten most important cartoonists of the last hundred years, and certainly one of my favorite creators walking the earth.  Keep it up, and I’ll keep on trucking along with you.

Ty the Guy OUT!

Here now, your BONUS TEMPLETON/CRUMB MOMENT:

This is the first comic book I ever contributed to:  Vortex #5…

And here is the title page from that first published story.  You may note that I steal only from the best…

The title came from the name of a curio shop that the two characters enter on page one.   Page one, panel one of my first professional story began with a shout-out to Crumb.

Happy Birthday to my favorite comics professional! YAY!

This post is unforgiveably late in the day, but better late than never.

Script: Mike Marano. Art: Alex Greychuck. Letters: K.T. Smith. You think it was easy fitting all those word balloons on that page and not cover up a single figure?!?

Today is the birthday of my favorite comics pro: a letter and a colorist named K. T. Smith, who has done more for Canadian comics and cartoonists in the last few years than most of the trees in Quebec. (That’s not even counting her Marvel and DC credits!)

Script: James Cooper. Art: Daniel Wong. Letters: K.T. Smith

It’s one of the unknown truths that bad lettering can make a good comic look amateurish, and great lettering can make a second rate comic look professional.  And sometimes the letterer has one of the most crucial jobs on the page.  This is entertainment that has to be read, and if you can’t read it, you can’t be entertained by it.  Smith has pulled off some of the most impressive rescues I’ve seen, finding every single space possible for word balloons, and making crowded pages looks smooth and easy.  And it’s something NOT easy to do.

Script: George Olenick. Art: Sam Agro. Colours and Letters: K.T. Smith

Here’s a gig for a comic series called “BLUE REMOTE” where the editor asked her to make every page predominantly blue in the colour scheme (to remind you of the title, I suppose) and it comes across as natural, without calling attention to itself.  That’s not easy to do.

Art: Gibson Quarter. Colours: K.T. Smith

And when she’s allowed to pick the palette herself, I LOVE the colours she chooses.   Dig that polluted sky in Mega-City 1.

Script: Ty Templeton. Art: David J. Cutler. Colours and Letters: K.T. Smith

There’s a reason I’ve hired her for a couple of jobs myself.  Her bold choices remind me a little of the bright styles of old-school comics, while still making those subtle effects common in modern comic shine.

Script: Ty Templeton. Art: David J. Cutler. Colours and Letters: K.T. Smith

There’s more going on in these pages that the reader knows.  Any fool can put colours on the page with photoshop, but it takes skill to move the eye in the right direction, to keep from overwhelming the pencils with meaningless spots of contrast.  She’s good at the subtle stuff.

Art: Leonard Kirk. Colours: K. T. Smith

All right.  That’s enough gushing.  I just wanted to show off why I’m so fond of Smith’s work, and wish her a happy birthday.   I’d tell her myself, but she’s upstairs colouring and lettering a pile of pages for “HEROES OF THE NORTH” (the multi-media Canadian super-hero project I was blogging about on Tuesday) that are amongst the best pages she’s ever done.   I’d post them here, but it’s not my project, and I can’t exactly give out sneak peeks without the editor’s permission.  But I’ll let you know when it’s done, ’cause you guys will love it.

Happy Birthday, Keiren.  I’d have married you even if you WEREN’T a skilled professional, but it sure helps when I have deadlines.

Ty the Guy OUT!

Here now, your BONUS Keiren Templeton-Smith moment:

Yeah, she’s THAT gorgeous, too.