Saturday, November 28, 2009

Have you ever seen the (b)rain?

Are you familiar with Parade magazine? You're forgiven if it has eluded your attention, since it is "old media" at its oldest. It is a magazine that is inserted free in the Sunday edition of many newspapers. Since I still like my papers, I usually give it a glance in the morning.

One of the enduring features of Parade is the "Personality Parade" column, which showcases reader questions about celebrities. My late father particularly loved this one, as it sometimes features some head-scratchers. His favorite was the incensed reader who asked how a comedian could get away with referring to Ronald Reagan as a "known heterosexual", since that was such a scandalous falsehood.

I find myself wondering sometimes if the readers who write to this column are even real. I mean, they can't be, right? Take this sample question from last Sunday's edition :

"I love Creedence Clearwater Revival co-founder John Fogerty. How come there's no musical a la Mamma Mia! of his work?"

The best part about that question? The "answer" is a total non-sequiter that has nothing to do with the original question.

I can't wait to see what wonders tomorrow's edition holds.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Secrets From Old Letter Columns

I found this in a copy of Super Friends #5 (June 1977).

A letter from Colleen Doran

Don't know who Colleen Doran is? Well, check this out, yo.

This letter was previously discussed in a blog entry at Gorilla Daze, but that was something I didn't know when I scanned it. The interesting thing is that, according to Doran herself, she was born July 24, 1968 (though some sources erroneously list it as 1963). This particular comic went on sale March 21, 1977, which means her letter was likely written sometime in 1976. When she was 8.

Go back and read it again. Not bad for an 8 year old, huh?

Monday, November 23, 2009


(Those of you on Facebook can see the video link here. Totally worth it.)

BATTLEHAWK is one of those rare 1970s live-action shows from Go Nagai, Ken Ishikawa, and the rest of the fine folks at Dynamic Planning. I can see some of the Nagai trademarks in this opening & closing, but it just as much resembles a bunch of other shows from that same era. The sentai thing is obvious because GORANGER is the most famous of the lot, and that yellow guy sure reminds me of Kiranger. Yet I can see traces of shows like AKUMAIZER 3 in there, too. Heck, they even appear to have filmed part of the closing on the exact same stretch of highway used in the opening on NINJA CAPTOR!

With sentai having become so pervasive in Japanese superherodom (and don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan), it's easy to forget that neither those shows, nor Toei itself, had a lock on the "team" concept. Shows like TRIPLE FIGHTER, MEGALOMAN, BANKID, and yes, BATTLEHAWK might not be as well-remembered today, but they paved the way for the flashier series that were yet to come, and did it in a very entertaining way.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Girls of the World

One of my favorite artists and people is the young lady who goes by the nom de Internet Kabuki Katze. I've been privileged to watch her grow both as a person and an artist for over 5 years. It's been quite the amazing sight to see.

Now, Kabuki has entered another new phase in her budding art career. She has self-published her very first art book! It's called "Girls of the World", and it's a children's alphabet book with a difference. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the craftsmanship the delightful Ms. Katze brings to the table.

You can order "Girls of the World" by clicking this link. A PDF preview can be had here.

I love this book. And I can prove it!

Congratulations, Kabuki! Onward and upward with the arts!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Most Wanted Reprints : The Immortal Doctor Fate

The solo stories starring the mystic Justice Society member Dr. Fate are among the best-kept secrets of 1970s & early 1980s comics. That is genuinely too bad, as it is a fantastic little mini-run. They were reprinted in a 3 issue mini-series in the mid-80s, but since then, only The Art of Walt Simonson trade has collected any of them. And with that book being 20 years old (egads!), I don't think we can refer to it as "recent".

As you might gather, Simonson did the art on one of these stories. It originally ran in First Issue Special #9, and it reads suspiciously like a backdoor attempt at creating an "Earth-One" Dr. Fate. Since that never happened, the innovations in the character were incorporated into the Earth-Two version. This is no small thing, as many of the distinguishing characteristics of the post-Golden Age incarnation of Dr. Fate were born in that story, written by Marty Pasko. I first read it in a DC digest a couple of years after its first publication and it blew me away.

Several years later, Dr. Fate earned an 8 page back-up slot in The Flash. Pasko returned, along with Steve Gerber for some installments, but there was a new artist named Keith Giffen. Giffen had previously drawn Fate in a few issues of All-Star Comics, but his work on this strip is much different. I love the JSA stories, but these are downright cosmic. Giffen was in his lush, Kirby-ish phase that briefly made him a fan-favorite during this run, and it makes for some exceptionally memorable imagery.

The deluxe mini-series also included a short origin story for Dr. Fate by Paul Levitz and Joe Staton that was done for one of the DC Special Series one-shots. It is, as far as I know, the only 1970s-era JSA-related story by that team not currently in print.

I'd really love to see a new trade paperback of these stories. There's a Golden Age Dr. Fate story in the mini-series that would likely be omitted, as it was recently reprinted in an Archive along with the rest of Fate's 1940s stories. That leaves the Bronze Age stuff, and it doesn't add up to a whole lot of pages. There was a time when I might have thought this a hindrance, but I think it actually increases the odds of this book happening now.

Besides the stories, I'd like to see the relevant covers reprinted in color. That's the ones for the mini-series and a couple from the original comics. There's also a great house ad for the backup, and the Walt Simonson book has a couple of interesting bits and pieces that would be a welcome addition. It even has a written piece by Simonson that I'd love to see in a collection of the stories.

This would be a book of less than 200 pages, and it involves creators who are well-known and still active in the field. If necessary, it could be branded with the "JSA Presents" label that has been used for things like Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. and stories of the original Green Lantern. So how about it, DC? Can we find a market for this book, and bring these great stories back into print?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thinking Too Much About THE H-MAN

I'm pretty sure I've seen the Japanese monster movie THE H-MAN at least a dozen times, especially if you count both the English-dubbed and Japanese language versions. It's one of my favorites of the non-giant variety. In some ways, I think that's a little unusual. After all, the film is a lot bleaker than is my regular taste for Asian SF. Credit my love of this tale of gangsters and rampaging goo men to my having seen it at a key time in the development of my obsession with Japanese fantasy.

THE H-MAN was recently released with MOTHRA and BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE by Sony in a 3 DVD collection labeled "Icons of Sci-Fi : The Toho Collection". All three films are presented in both their original Japanese and English-dubbed versions. They all look gorgeous, and it's quite instructive to compare the two divergent interpretations of the same story. One aspect of THE H-MAN in particular stood out to me.

The heroine of THE H-MAN is Chitako Arai (Yumi Shirakawa), a nightclub singer. One subtle difference is her relationship to her mostly absent fella Misaki (Hisaya Ito). In the Japanese version, she is characterized as his "girlfriend", while the U.S. dialogue describes her as his "wife". One imagines this was to avoid scandalizing certain segments of 1950s America, given that they lived together. Gotta love it.

Now, there is something that is the SAME in both cuts, but this only leads me to more questions. You see, after hearing Chitako's two songs in THE H-MAN for years and years, I naturally had assumed they were done specifically for the English dub. They were completely in English, and that only made sense.

Except it's wrong. The songs are identical in both versions. Shirakawa is clearly lip-syncing, but I really didn't imagine she sang them in the first place. This does raise a question or two in my mind. Is Chitako also lip-syncing in the context of the film's story, or does she somehow have the ability to sing two different numbers in pitch perfect English in 1950s-era Japan? I'm not insinuating that such a thing is impossible, but it makes you wonder.

Part of the reason I wonder is the apparent fact that Chitako makes at least as much dough, if not more, than Misaki, despite his being involved in shady dealings. She also says that how much she makes "depends". If she is that good a singer, well, I can see why she is so well-paid. But if she's just lip-syncing? How in the world does she make so much money?

Let's see : Exceptionally pretty girl. Lives with a criminal boyfriend. Works at a nightclub. Makes large sums of money, but it "depends". May not have singing talent, despite working as a singer. Following that line of reasoning, it's not hard to determine how Chitako might make so much money. Or why the police are so suspicious of her at every turn.

I don't have any insight into the script or the thought process of the filmmakers, so this is all purely conjecture on my part. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I'll confess it never even occurred to me until a couple of weeks ago. So it's not as if I have a completely filthy mind.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Lonely Ant

When I am bored or trying to sleep, sometimes I like to imagine ants.

Not real ants, I should hasten to add. I get enough of those in real life from country living. No, these imaginary ants are anthropomorphic ants. They live in anthills that approximate cities. Their lives have a lot more in common with humans than ants. But, they're still ants.

More specifically, my ant scenario usually focuses on one ant in particular. He doesn't have a name; he's an Everyant (I hope I just coined that term). Sometimes, he is stationed all alone at an outpost on the far perimeter of my ant civilization. More often, he runs a small little shop/bar in a largely-abandoned anthill city. The common denominator in both is that my ant surrogate is almost totally isolated from his fellow ants.

If you've ever seen an anthill, you realize how strange an idea this is. Those places are teeming with ants. And yet, I've somehow developed this plot thread of a lonely ant. It allows me to relax my overactive imagination, and either get some sleep or move on from a topic that has been preoccupying me.

I can't remember when this all started. I have a dim memory of once owning a religious comic book that featured anthropomorphic blue ants and orange ants fighting a war. I think that may have been the beginning. However, I don't even know if I own that book anymore. If I do, it is buried in a forgotten box.

Yeah, this is pretty weird, I know. I don't know why it holds some fascination to my half-awake mind, but it does.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Favicon Is Go!

Over here, I've added a favicon at long last. It was created with the help of this webtool, so all credit to it.

I've also made the unsettling discovery that certain (what I thought were) basic functions of the site...uh, they don't display properly in Firefox. At least not right now. Hmmm.

Anyway, that's more my problem than yours. Enjoy the site!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Touch Of The Younger Kind

The other day, I was musing on my new Twitter account that Doug Fieger managed to get a hit song out of something that might have sent him to the slammer.

Oh, didn't you know that the "Sharona" of which he sang in that famous song by the Knack was only 16 when the song was written? True. She's on the cover of the 45, if you need a visual aid.

Also, to add to the fun, there's this -


Friday, November 6, 2009

DC Comics Classics Library: The Justice League of America by George Perez Vol. 1

DC Comics Classics Library: The Justice League of America by George Perez Vol. 1 is quite a mouthful as far as book names go. I had my doubts about picking it up because of its perceived steep price tag for a 176 page count. While I still have plenty of reservations about it, I've mellowed considerably now that I've got the book in my hands and done a little research on some things.

To backtrack a bit, fan-favorite artist George Perez got the assignment to draw Justice League of America in 1980 under less-than-ideal circumstances. Longtime JLA artist Dick Dillin passed away unexpectedly, and Perez suddenly found himself pencilling his dream book. His tenure didn't end up being especially lengthy or continuous, but it is fondly remembered to this day.

There has been talk of collecting Perez's JLA work for something like a decade, but there turned out to be a snag. The film for many issues of the title from that period (and other DC books from that timeframe as well) was discovered to be missing. That was how it stood for years, until the recent release of this hardcover. It's the first of two volumes, and the second volume will finish Perez's run sometime in 2010.

This first volume covers six issues of JLA, and they're pretty good ones. We start in-progress with a JLA/JSA/New Gods team-up (more on this further down), and follow with a return of the Shaggy Man. And really, who doesn't love the Shaggy Man? (Don't answer that.) Perez was off the book for 5 issues, then came roaring back to draw a two-parter exploring the character of Red Tornado. We wrap up the story portion of the festivities with a tale about Tarot cards coming to life. Reproductions of Perez's JLA postcards are included as a bonus. But the page on DC's site is wrong - no Secret Society of Super-Villains. That's in the next volume!

In certain circles where I travel, there has a lot of bellyaching about this book. I'll fess up now that I did some of it. That was mostly about the price point, which is the slightly ridiculous $39.95. A lot of voices argued that DC could have just put the contents of both volumes together and charged a more reasonable price. This is logically sound thinking. However, I did some scrounging and discovered that this "logically sound thinking" might be totally wrong.

As I mentioned, the film for these issues was lost. That meant that they had to be reconstructed from the old comics. And we're talking about a very detailed artist here in George Perez, so I would imagine it would be painstaking and time-consuming work. That's the likely reason it has taken freaking forever for these books to get reprinted.

Thing is, that sort of thing costs more money than just pulling out film and reprinting from that. I'd guess it's budgetary concerns that have kept these collections from happening for so long. And when that becomes an issue, you have to look at the big picture.

First, let's crunch some numbers. (Sorry!) What follows are the issues of Justice League of America with contributions by George Perez. I've included page counts for the stories, and you can count each cover as another page in a retrospective collection. Mercifully for all of us, I'm omitting links to each issue. You can look them up on your own if you're feeling ambitious.

#184 - 25 pp + cover
#185 - 25 pp
#186 - 25 pp + cover
#192 - 25 pp + cover
#193 - 25 pp + cover
#194 - 25 pp + cover

#195 - 25 pp + cover + 2 page pinup
#196 - 27 pp + cover
#197 - 27 pp + cover
#199 - cover
#200 - 72pp + wraparound cover (2 pp)
#201 - cover
#202 - cover
#203 - cover
#204 - cover
#205 - cover
#207 - cover
#208 - cover
#209 - cover
#212 - cover
#213 - cover
#214 - cover
#215 - cover
#217 - cover
#219 - cover
#220 - cover

A couple of notes before we continue. As you might notice, those page counts are pretty high for a standard superhero comic. This was during that brief period of time in the early 1980s when DC cut their ad pages way down. As you've probably guessed, it didn't last. #200 was a special anniversary issue, and includes contributions by many artists besides Perez. Some have suggested that the story might be broken up, with only Perez's pages being included in the collection despite it leaving the story with much less impact. Given that the page count for Volume 2 is slated to be 192 pages, I think we can safely say those suggestions are silly.

OK, math time. If we add up those totals, we get (bring out the calculators!) 329 pages of content. That's BEFORE you factor in things like title pages, introduction, contents page, bios, etc. - to say nothing of those postcards reproduced in Volume 1. Now, we'll tax our brains. What was the price point for 300+ page Archives when the base price was $49.95?

Oh yeah, this.

Given that the Archives are now at the higher price point of $59.95, it's not unreasonable to assume that such a book published today (especially if it required reconstruction, as this material did) might have a SRP of $85. What does Volume 1 of this series cost? $39.95. What is Volume 2's probable price tag? $39.95.

Total for both books, at SRP? $79.90

I'm no happier with the price than I was before, but it's not out of line with the previous pricing scale. They just split it into two books because people are naturally resistant to higher price tags. If the film was readily available, it might have been a different story, and the prices would have been lower. But then, we would have had these books almost a decade ago, too.

Speaking of the reconstruction, there was also some griping about that. Well, I initially had some quibbles about the Tarot story, but after consulting my copies of the issues reprinted (I have most of them), I think the restoration is about as well-done as possible. Part of this is due to the difference in inking styles between Frank McLaughlin and John Beatty. McLaughlin's inks restore better because they are heavier. As near as I can tell, the fuzziness is in the original comics, and when you are having to work from THEM (rather than original artwork or film), you're kind of a slave to what got printed on the page originally. That 1980-81 era wasn't exactly a golden age for printing. Dale Crain was involved in this book's restoration, and he is a notable name in the classic reprint field.

One another bone contention that cropped up still puzzles me. A number of people were very upset that #183, the first part of the JLA/JSA/New Gods crossover, was not included. That issue was, obviously, Dick Dillin's last. I guess I can understand people wanting a complete story, but Perez's name is in the title of the book and all. I am as big a Dillin fan as they come, and I really didn't think it belonged in this collection. I still don't. Besides, #184 recaps the important points from it on the splash page.

The part that puzzled me is that I cannot recall a single person complaining that Marvel's collections of Frank Miller's Daredevil work only go back as far as Daredevil #158, the first issue that he drew. It was the last chapter of a multi-part story. Where is the outrage over that? I've since been told that there were complaints over the omission of Daredevil #162, a fill-in issue by Steve Ditko, and I just shake my head.

Anyway, all this talk made me yearn for Crisis On Multiple Earths Vol. 5 to come out that much quicker, so everyone can finally read that blasted JLA #183 if they so desire. It's a good issue and all, but the Perez book is not missing anything vital without it.

I personally think this book is wonderful. I'm looking forward to Voume 2 when it comes out next year.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sarapuu's Firegirl Birthday Surprise

Sarapuu's Firegirl Birthday Surprise

On my birthday, my talented friend Sara surprised me with a brand-new pic of my character Firegirl. Since Sara has adopted Firegirl to the point that I consider her the character's godmother, I felt it only appropriate to pay her back.

I tried to do some different things here. For one, Firegirl is drawn in my usual style, but the Sara figure is my attempt to emulate her cartoon version of herself. I didn't even come close to succeeding, but I still kind of like what I did. Hopefully, I can incorporate it into my regular work.

If the coloring looks different, that's because it was done by hand in crayon. I was inspired by Sara's pic to take this approach to see how it looked. The scan sort of takes the shine out of it, but I think it is rather neat with my style. I may try it again in the future.

Happy birthday, Sara!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Thanks to the marvels of digital television, I now have access to the ThisTV network. It is a wondrous thing, worthy of its own entry. But today, we're going to discuss the film they showed in prime time on November 1, 2009. Because it was OCTAMAN.

OCTAMAN is a slightly obscure 1971 movie that features, yes, a rampaging octopus man. If it's notable, that's because 1) it was written & directed by one of the scribes of THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, 2) Rick Baker helped create the Octaman suit, 3) star Pier Angeli died of a drug overdose during filming and 4) it is really terrible.

Trust me, I've seen terrible movies. OCTAMAN is one of them. From the comical "Look at that!" pointing at stock footage (cliched even then!) to the languid pacing to the slapdash look to the editing and/or directing, OCTAMAN doesn't ever pose as a good movie. But I've got to say, I wasn't expecting it to be one. It doesn't disappoint if you're looking for schlock.

Pier Angeli's untimely demise during the shooting may have contributed to some of the choppiness that plagues it. I'm not going to play armchair psychologist about her state of mind, but I can't remember seeing a leading lady looking more haggard and unenthusiastic than she does in this movie. I can't say I blame her in that regard, but I'm stunned to read that she was only 39 at the time. She looked older. Maybe that is a bit telling in and of itself.

I admire OCTAMAN for delivering on its premise in spades. Most movies hide the monster for a good portion of the running time. Not OCTAMAN. You came to see an octopus man, and you certainly are going to see him. He's all over the screen! Pity he's not particularly terrifying.

OCTAMAN - fun, undemanding way to kill some time. Just please, don't expect it to be any good.