Friday, February 27, 2009

Dick Dillin Rediscovered

It took me awhile to figure it out, but Dick Dillin is my favorite comic book artist. I don't mind admitting that fact, either.

Dick Dillin was already a comics veteran when he drew the assignment of Justice League of America in 1968. Not only did Dillin take on the job, but he was the main artist on that title for 12 years, and handled impossible crowds of heroes, villains, and assorted others with an unusual aplomb. He thrilled my kiddie mind in that book, and others he pencilled like World's Finest Comics and DC Comics Presents. I had no idea who he was for the majority of those years, but his peculiar brand of staging made a deep impression on me. It's perhaps not always the best or most fluid presentation, and that never mattered. It was always gripping to me as a comic buying kid and compelled me to ask for the 25¢-50¢ for a new comic .

Dick Dillin passed away in 1980, just as it was starting to dawn on me who he was. As the years have slipped away, I find I miss his presence more and more, and I seek out any old comic or trade paperback I can find with Dillin artwork. DC's Showcase Presents series has made it possible for me to catch up on his work on books like Blackhawk and Hawkman from before my time. Plus, he drew the original JLA from #64 to #183. While I have read a lot of those stories, I'm still nowhere close to owning all of them.

Here's to you, Dick Dillin. I wish you could have gotten more recognition in your lifetime, but I'll do my part to see you aren't forgotten.

Want to read more?

Dick Dillin @
Blog entry on Dick Dillin by Dave Karlen

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Noboru Sugimura

One of the difficult parts of being a fan of Japanese sci-fi is that news sometimes travels slow, if at all. How could I have known that Akihiko Hirata had already passed away when I was figuring out who he was? Even today, because of the language barrier, things often go unnoticed.

Case in point is Noboru Sugimura. Never heard of him? Not surprised, really. However, if you've ever seen the early seasons of POWER RANGERS, you've seen fragments of his work. He was a scripter for many, many Toei SPFX programs, including various "Metal Hero" and "Super Sentai" programs. He was the main writer for shows like ZYURANGER and DAIRANGER. He also scripted the film KAMEN RIDER ZO and a number of episodes of KAMEN RIDER BLACK. Among his works on the latter are the introduction of Shadowmoon and the climax of the series.

Noboru Sugimura passed away in 2005. Although I consider myself a fan of his work, I had no idea until this past December. It's sad that the men and women who bring those movies and shows to life get so little recognition, so I thought I'd do my part by mentioning it here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mardi Gras : The Naked Truth

In honor of Mardi Gras, I am proud to revive this essay, which was the second (and final) installment of a short-lived attempt at writing an online column without the benefit of a blogging platform.

Originally posted on February 19, 2002 ; revised March 4, 2003

Well, it was a week ago that one of the best examples of mass hysteria in the world reached critical mass for another year. I'm talking about Mardi Gras, which affects natives and visitors alike when they are in this boot-shaped state (Louisiana, duh!) at the proper time. If you've never been in Louisiana during Mardi Gras, you just have no idea. Pull up a seat and let me tell you a few things.

Most of you probably think that Mardi Gras is just one day - "Fat Tuesday" if you're really in the know (I'm sure there is a reason for that name, but I'm the wrong one to ask). You are so wrong. Mardi Gras season kicks off in December. That's right, December. The weeks leading up to the big day are loaded with parties, balls, and parades. You're probably wondering why they go to all this trouble prior to Mardi Gras itself. You're not the only one. Practice? Sure strikes me as overkill. Then again, this is Louisiana and even the thinnest excuse (like removing a splinter from your finger or buying a new pair of shoes) is reason enough to have a party.

Now, what do you think of when you think of Mardi Gras? Chances are, your image consists of gaudily costumed revelers on floats in parades traveling down the streets of New Orleans, tossing trinkets to spectators and coaxing attractive females to display portions of their anatomy. And you are essentially correct. Yes, Mardi Gras is about those things, even flashing for worthless junk. However, that scenario is only one aspect of the celebration.

Mardi Gras is a Catholic holiday, a celebration prior to Lent (a fasting period where you give up something until Easter). Need I mention that not all of the Mardi Gras participants are Catholic? Most of them won't be giving up jack when it's over either. That's right, any excuse to party, even if it involves something not from your religion.

Mardi Gras is not a New Orleans exclusive. It's all over this state. Some of the rural observances strike me as...odd. For example, there are the guys who ride around on horses, extorting ingredients for their Mardi Gras feast from local residents. Then you have the "chicken run", where hapless chickens are set free and then chased all around by various folks intent on eating chicken. It's just as bizarre as it sounds, especially since the chicken chasers often dress up in costumes that look like something from a B-horror movie.

While I'm not big on the Mardi Gras shenanigans, they don't really bug me that much. It's mainly just an excuse to act stupid, drunk, and debauched. Since that sort of thing isn't really my style, I wind up being an amused observer instead. The best part is Ash Wednesday - the day after. Imagine an entire state with a hangover.

I've noticed there have been rumblings in the last few years about spreading Mardi Gras around the country. Well, that's fine and dandy, but my advice is to tread carefully. It's not all goofy outfits and exposed breasts. You may never be able to look at a chicken the same way again.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Today We Make History

This is the greatest comic book panel ever.



From The Brave and The Bold #154 (Sep. 1979). Writer : Bob Haney (YES!). Artist : Jim Aparo (YES!). Batman & panel © DC Comics, Inc.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Missed Opportunity Of Fandom

It doesn't seem like it to me, but I made my published writing debut almost 15 years ago. It was 1994, the year I more or less joined the Japanese sci-fi fandom. Time has sort of rendered the chronology of certain events meaningless to me, but I do know that Antarctic Press' Sentai #1 was the launching pad for everything else. Interestingly, it was also the (probable) beginning of a separate but related fandom - namely, Power Rangers fandom.

In retrospect, I almost helped found Power Rangers fandom.

I wasn't the first person to say that the Power Rangers shows deserved to be considered as something worth discussing, and not just dismissed outright. I didn't even write the first published feature on Power Rangers that was more than just hype or a trashing. But I wrote a lot of letters defending the series, and some actually saw print. I corresponded with David Crowe, who I think was the first writer to apply a semi-serious eye to the show. And yes, my earliest published articles (in Kaiju Review) were on Power Rangers and its rip-offs.

There's more. Oh God, I can't verify it, but I think I may be the first person to write Power Rangers fanfiction to be read by a wide audience (in the pages of G-Fan). My first serious flirtation with publishing a fanzine was in 1993-94, when I hit upon the idea of doing a Power Rangers 'zine. It was to be called Ranger Report (yes, really) and I had even worked up the covers for what would have been the first two issues. Though I had always intended to "branch out" beyond PR, my knowledge was too limited so the project ended up being abandoned. The logo I created survives (and the name was recycled for a column in Xenorama), but the covers disappeared and the material I had written is tucked away in a box somewhere.

So, what happened? Well, a common thing in fandoms of all types - I lost interest. Power Rangers was and is a kid's show first and foremost, and the limitations and strains of that finally made me decide that I would be better off pursuing other things. That was probably about 1996 or so, and I haven't looked back.

While I don't have any regrets, it's odd to realize that I was part of a fandom that didn't really exist at the time. I don't know when everything "came together" for PR fandom, but it certainly came after my time. As a result, I don't think the things I did had any influence, and likely aren't even remembered as footnotes. It's like being the Pete Best of a fandom, only moreso.

So, do you have any stories of "almosts" in your fannish life?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Toei Tokusatsu Hero Box - Disc 1

(Refer back to this entry if you need your memory refreshed.)

The problem with watching shows like SPYCATCHER J3 is that they certainly SEEM interesting, but it's impossible to know what's going on with all of the plot twists and intrigue because of the language barrier. So while I found the "movie" (edited from a two-parter from the series) interesting, I couldn't really follow it that well. It wasn't hopeless, but I was lost more than a little.

Color me surprised to see Tetsuro Tanba in the role of "J1", our hero's superior in TULIP (The Undercover Line of International Police). He doesn't get to do much, but I'm sure he was much in demand by that time anyway. Yusuke Kawazu, who has never impressed me in anything else, actually cuts an interesting figure as J3, and I really enjoyed his performance.

CAPTAN ULTRA is also edited together from two episodes of its series, though they aren't consecutive ones in this case. This space adventure show is no relation to Tsuburaya's hero shows, except for the fact that it occupied the same time slot on TBS during the interim between ULTRAMAN and ULTRASEVEN. Our spacefaring hero has no "Color Timer", but he does have a nifty rocket. He also fights some incredibly non-threatening looking aliens.

The last sentence brings me to the fact that Toei shows are rarely, if ever, what you'd term "big budget". This is most glaring in some of their 1960s shows, which seem to wallow in wonderful cheapness. CAPTAIN ULTRA is perhaps the most obvious culprit, since it takes place entirely in (set-bound) space. His alien enemies are simply the sort of thing that need to be seen to be believed.

KAPPA NO SANPEI is a more mystically-oriented show, dealing with the uniquely Japanese side of such things. It's fun and surprisingly easy to follow. I especially got a kick out of the "Shinigami" ("Grim Reaper") who looked like a refugee from the Gargoyle Gang.

JUDO ICCHOKUSEN ("A Straight Line of Judo") is a series created by the same manga creator who brought us "Hoshi no Kyojin" (STAR OF THE GIANTS) and "Ashita no Jo" (TOMORROW'S JO). Surprise! It's another sports-themed concept! I found this very watchable, though its connection to "tokusatsu" is tenuous at best. This particular episode centers around our aspiring judo-ka dealing with a hot tempered wrestler.

Aaaaand this concludes our tour of Disc 1 of this set. Join us in our next installment (whenever that is) when we dive headlong into the henshin hero boom!

Friday, February 13, 2009


Justice League of America #137 - December 1976
So throw your hands in the air!
And wave 'em like you just don't care!
Now somebody! Anybody! Everybody! Scream!
The roof! The roof! The roof in on fire!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Showcase Showdown

I just received a box from the lovely Sara Denny, and among its contents are quite a few DC "Showcase" books that I purchased from the Mesa, AZ branch of Atomic Comics. I was pretty happy to score so many there, especially since I am apparently an authority on the darn things.

Oh, perhaps you hadn't heard? The reason I'll probably never delete the comics blog is because of this. That entry is quite possibly the most linked thing I've ever done on the Internet. Ultimately, the reason is because I had the foresight to quote Bob Greenberger from a thread on the Collected Editions Discussion Forums. It was where he explained the reasons for excluding certain material from the Showcase Presents line at its inception.

DC pays a royalty based on a percentage of the cover price to writers, pencillers,and inkers to all material published prior to 1976 and after 1997. For the period in between, the vouchers that were in use called for a set reprint fee to be paid. In some cases, the amount of contractually obligated reprint fees makes the budget for a proposed collection unprofitable. In those cases, DC will either scrap the project or ask the talent involved to waive the reprint fee in lieu of the standard royalty arrangement. If the parties agree, then everyone benefits.

So how do things stand now? Well, DC has reprinted comics from after the stated "1955-1975" window in that format, but this has either involved a) re-negotiating reprint fees with the talent or b) material from deceased creators. There seems to have been a bit of a snafu involving those reprint fees after Bob's forced departure from DC editorial, which led to several books being solicited and then cancelled prior to publication. As of this writing, none of those affected books has seen the light of day.

I tend to run hot and cold on Showcase Presents. I sometimes miss the color, and it can be intimidating to try to wade through the sheer volume of an average one. But I'm glad to know those books are out there, because the majority of them have been devoted to some of my favorite comics of all time.

I just wish I had given that blog entry a better title.

Monday, February 9, 2009


It has always puzzled me that OGON BATTO ("The Golden Bat") never merited even a token release in the United States. It's a fun sci-fi/superhero romp, and seems like a natural for American TV at the very least. I can only guess that it being in B&W in the year 1967 killed its chances for that avenue. Color was becoming more and more important by then, and perhaps the feeling was that a new film lacking it just wouldn't fly. Of course, that's pure speculation on my part.

OGON BATTO did get released theatrically in Italy, and if Toei practiced the standard procedure of the day, that means the Italian version was dubbed from an English language version. I don't think that dub has ever been available to the public, and it seems unlikely that it ever will be. Still, it doesn't hurt to dream.

And hey, check out "the incredible Sonny Chiba" back in the days before that was a big deal!

@ CDJapan
@ Amazon Japan

Saturday, February 7, 2009

State Of The Blog Address

Well, it's been a month today since I started this blog. What do you think?

Me, I rather like it. I've been using it as a place to refine some of my better material, and I've also been reclaiming stuff from dormant blogs that I think deserves a wider audience. I've already pulled stuff from my retired comics blog and even from Yahoo 360 (dead since 2005). This blog has also served its original purpose, as I was able to post an update here that was originally intended for my journal. That sort of thing will probably always be crossposted, but I had expected the reposting would be occurring here.

In the future, I am planning on showcasing some of my art, too. Warning - I am not a great artist. I'm not even a good one, honestly. My art is exceedingly simple, sometimes childlike. I've chosen to embrace its weaknesses and use them to my advantage. So you don't have to tell me that my art sucks. I know. That's part of the point.

The other part of my point in posting my art is that it will give me the opportunity to include the material I have written for my original characters. I like my colorful cast of crazies, though I really don't have any grand plans for their adventures. I just like setting up things, and then letting my imagination run wild.

I had always wanted to take OWARI and apply what made it work as a fanzine on the internet. This blog may finally give me the chance to do that right.

Friday, February 6, 2009

He's Not Much Of A Moose By The Light Of Day

Sorry, you can't unsee this now.

From The Phony Pages #2 (Renegade Press, June 1986)

You can visit Terry Beatty, the genius responsible for this travesty, online at!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Bob Haney Mystique

I was a Bob Haney fan when it wasn't cool.

There's been something of a Haney renaissance over the last few years, as many fan writers have rediscovered his plot-driven but often completely delirious comics. In fact, my friend Lewis Smith once opined that all of the Haney praise might be something of a "geek chic" - that is, people jumping on a bandwagon because they perceive it to be trendy or something. Maybe. If it is, it would be a wonderful irony.

You see, Bob Haney suffered from a shockingly poor reputation among hardcore comic fans in his time. They didn't appreciate his no-holds-barred, "anything goes" stories that sometimes flew in the face of The Sacred Continuity. There was also the perception that he was a dinosaur - a writer hopelessly out of touch with the times. Instead of getting guidance, he seems to have been left to his own devices before getting squeezed out entirely in the early 1980s.

Now, I had no idea who Bob Haney was for the longest time. I was but a wee lad in the mid-1970s when The Brave and The Bold #125 was one of the earliest superhero comics to end up in my hands. It sure doesn't seem like the kind of book that would appeal to a 3 year old, but that book (with Batman, Flash, an Asian dictator, and an Amelia Earhart stand-in!) is one of the foundations of my comic book fan psyche.

More issues of B & B followed, until the fateful day when Bob was relieved of his duties as writer of the title. It didn't mean anything to me at the time - not really - but the plain truth is the book usually wasn't as interesting after his departure. There was just something about his stories that were more enjoyable than many of the tales by more "fanboy friendly" writers.

What is it about Bob Haney's work that I find so appealing? I think it's the fact that Haney is always trying to tell a STORY. Oh, he can deal out fight scenes and characterization with the best of them. Yet, there was never any doubt that the story was the thing in a Bob Haney comic. You knew when you plunked down your change that you were going to get your money's worth as far as content, if not necessarily quality.

Oh yes, Bob wrote some bad comics in his day. I'll be the first to admit it. But when a Bob Haney comic failed, it failed spectacularly. There was a mad genius to even a bad Haney comic that made it enjoyable. Bob's numerous writing idiosyncracies are one of his hallmarks, and sometimes they worked and sometimes they...didn't.

Sadly, Bob Haney passed away in 2004. However, he did get to see at least some of the newfound respect that has begun to develop for his work. With every passing year, Bob Haney's reputation gets a little more rehabilitation. Most of his B & B run has been reprinted by now, and his work on such books as Teen Titans, World's Finest Comics, and Metamorpho has also been a staple of collected editions. It's a great time to be a fan of Bob Haney's unique comics.

How much do I love Bob Haney's work? I love it so much that I once traded a copy of this comic for a copy of The Brave and the Bold #115. I still think I got the better end of that deal.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Return of Jetman Update Alert

Hilariously, after I spent most of my daily computer time piecing together an update to my site, I discover that LJ is down for the count, and thus unable to post an entry alerting folks to this update. Therefore, there will instead be an entry on my Blogspot, which will be reposted to my journal when (if?) it returns.


Return of Jetman is my very own internet pet project, for anyone coming in late. Rather than explain it, I'll just urge you to click the link if the name piques your interest. For Feb. 3, 2009, I posted a large albeit minor update. This mostly involved a few cosmetic changes that are likely only of importance to me. However, I did make more significant alterations to my DX and Links sections.

The DX update covers both pages of the section. On Page 1, each artist's name is now a link to their online gallery (where available). This is something I've been considering for awhile, so we'll see how the experiment with it goes. On Page 2, I've added a new gallery spotlighting more vintage (1995! 1998!) artwork from my good friend and collaborator Lewis Smith. I do this even though he probably wants to break my kneecaps because he has to look at such old stuff again.

The Links page has been pared down to the bone. I'm rather tired of checking out a mound of links all the time, especially when it usually involves sites that I never visit otherwise. With my Blogspot taking up some random linking slack, I've elected to only retain those links which I feel pertain to the site and are owned by my friends.

There are other links scattered all over the site, besides those on the Links page. As mentioned earlier, some are on DX Page 1. I've also incorporated more into the FAQ, and there are even links lurking on seemingly random pages. Hopefully, all of the links are placed where they make the most sense, and will drive the most traffic to those sites.

As I concluded my Update Log message - Next time : New artwork! New story! Lots more exclamation points!