Thursday, February 28, 2013

Bok Choy Boy

Meet my newest vending machine friend.

This isn't my first mini-ninja in this style, but this was the first to include a strip of paper that told me I could "Play Our Game On Your Smartphone Now!" I don't have a smartphone (personal choice), but curiosity finally got the best of me. I decided to check out the URL on that piece of paper.

Well, I'm glad I did, because now I know what exactly Bok Choy Boy is supposed to be. Sorta. Kinda. At least I know my ninja toys have some meaning, and aren't just random after all.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Jack Kirby and Wings

I wrote about the Paul McCartney and Wings song "Magneto and Titanium Man" waaaay back in this entry. In fact, it was so long ago that my embed wouldn't fit properly in this blog's format at the time. That's changed now, so let's try it again.

I don't have much to add personally beyond what I wrote in 2010. However, I recently came across a little infographic that clarified something I knew back then, but not in much detail. That's the origins of the images of the two title characters (and the Crimson Dynamo) that accompanied Wings concert performances.

This image originates from the Kirby Museum, and traces the source of each figure that I glimpsed only briefly when I watched WINGSPAN many years ago. NONE are by Kirby, incidentally, though he did do some art that was presented to the McCartneys. I also did not know until I saw this piece that those same three figures also graced a 45 sleeve. There's something for Marvel madmen!

I learned a lot from that one image, so kudos to whichever person put it together for the Kirby Museum!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

All-Star Comics: The Mystery of Eileen O'Neil

I have often stated that my favorite comic book series of all time is the Bronze Age All-Star Comics. It ran from October 1975 (Jan.-Feb. 1976 coverdate) to June 1978 (Sept.-Oct. 1978 coverdate), with an additional year for the Justice Society in the pages of Adventure Comics. Those books, and other associated JSA comics from that era, really shaped my interests in the comics genre as a whole. If I'm being honest, I still feel their influence to this day.

Considering how strongly I feel about this series, I have toyed with the idea of covering each issue in a sort of index. However, given the likelihood of me following through on this project, I've never seen fit to start it. I mean, it took me two years to review my own fanzine, and I'm still procrastinating on finishing the notes for a story completed in 2010. So there's that.

Still, there is one aspect of the 1970s All-Star that I feel I simply must cover. It is something that I don't think anyone else has ever discussed. I don't know if I am onto something, or if my imagination is just being especially vivid in reading between the lines, but when I stumbled upon this idea a couple of years ago, I couldn't let it go. Maybe someone else noticed it before me, but if they did, I missed it.

There is an incredibly minor character in All-Star Comics named Eileen O'Neil. No, not April O'Neil, that's someone different. Eileen O'Neil is introduced in All-Star Comics #60 as Alan (Green Lantern) Scott's secretary at Gotham Broadcasting. She also hints at an interest in him beyond strictly professional (and remember, this was back in the days when Alan Scott was straight).

As you may have noticed, she's also a little bit of a sassypants. Not too bad for a character who doesn't even rate being listed as one of the characters in the story by the GCD. I rather enjoyed the interplay between Eileen and Alan.

So what became of Eileen? Well, nothing, as it turns out.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Masked Menace by Sean Moore

Hey guys! We went awhile without any Owariverse art, and now you get three straight days of it! Isn't life fun?

What we have here is a sketch commission by the fantastic Sean Moore of the Masked Menace. Though the Menace's role in my continuity turned out to be somewhat fluid (my own fault), he currently holds a place of honor as the arch-foe of Thunder Man on his parallel Earth. And since Thunder Man got the sketch treatment last year, it seemed only fair to give the Masked Menace his day in the spotlight.

Thanks Sean! He is delightfully evil and yet totally stylin', too!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sultura Steals Christmas!

Or "Christmas In February!" Or "Bulgarian Postal Service, You Are A Delight!"

I don't think I'm revealing state secrets by mentioning that Kabuki Katze currently resides in Bulgaria. In fact, this isn't the first time. It's because of that fact that I was aware that the Bulgarian mail system can be a trifle...unreliable at times.

Good thing I knew that. It's why I didn't sweat it when her Christmas card never materialized either before or immediately after the holiday. Her card to me (mailed prior to Christmas) finally made it here on February 5th. I'm not complaining, since at least they DELIVERED hers. Better late than never!

(Excuse my bitterness here, but the USPS returned my card to her as undeliverable, despite it being sent to an active American address. It's not as if she would have been able to receive it in time, but it's the principle of the matter. This reminds me, I need to drop it in the mail again soon.)

As you probably have sussed from the image at the top, KK's card was a custom one decorated with my OC Sultura stealing Christmas. Sultura is a naughty one, she is. But KK herself is definitely nice, and I thank her again for her sweet and majestic card.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Girago by goghcase

I have mentioned Casie aka "goghcase" here in the past, but I am not sure if her art had ever come up. Well, for the record, I think Casie is an amazing artist. If you'd like a sample, you should visit her gallery. And that is JUST a sample of the kind of cool things she does on a regular basis.

Since I have been following Casie on Twitter, I have eyed her wonderfully quirky artwork and thought that it would be just perfect for my group of characters. So recently, I invited her to draw anybody from the Owariverse cast. I didn't ask her to tell me, so I was just as surprised and delighted as you were to see Girago when she finished. He absolutely embodies the Kirbyish "Marvel Monster" quality I had envisioned for Girago. As she explained it, "I'm always drawn to green guys!"

My scan of this piece of artwork doesn't fully do justice to it. Suffice to say, I am pleased to be the first(?!) person to commission Casie as an artist. She did a stellar job on Girago, and beautifully captured exactly the sort of feel I strive for in my universe. Thanks Casie! You're tops!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

R.I.P Kojiro Hongo

More sad news from this past week. It was Igadevil who alerted me to this on Twitter, but Kojiro Hongo has died. Kojiro Hongo (本郷 功次郎; Hongo Kojiro) is best remembered in the West for his starring roles in the Gamera films WAR OF THE MONSTERS/GAMERA VS. BARUGON, RETURN OF THE GIANT MONSTERS/GAMERA VS. GAOS, AND DESTROY ALL PLANETS/GAMERA VS. VIRAS. He later returned for a cameo in GAMERA, THE GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE. He had a long and varied career that also included a Majin movie.

Kojiro Hongo died of heart failure on February 14, 2013. He was 74, one day shy of his birthday.

Wikipedia Japan Entry
Yahoo Japan Story
Yomiuri Online Story
Satellite News Story (English)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Appearing Today At Plaid Stallions!

Just a quick heads-up that a photo you might have seen in these parts is currently appearing at the Plaid Stallions blog! We talked about Plaid Stallions earlier this week when I reviewed the "Rack Toys" book. It is a fun blog, and I have said that even before a vintage Polaroid of that handsome devil Chris Elam showed up there. So check it out!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Rack Toys: Cheap, Crazed Playthings

I have mentioned a time or two how much I enjoy Plaid Stallions, the website and blog devoted to 1970s toys and fashion disasters. As a child of that decade, it always brings a smile to my face. So when I learned that Brian Heiler (the man behind Brick Mantooth) was going to be putting together a book, well, he had my attention.

That book is Rack Toys: Cheap, Crazed Playthings, and it is a beauty. You know about rack toys, right? They are the flimsy toys you see in drug stores and supermarkets. Often, they are the last bastion of licensing for some properties. I mean, where else will I find a Heckle and Jeckle toy, except a grocery store toy aisle? Granted, it might just be a water gun or yo-yo, but that's not the point.

The pages of this book lovingly catalog a slew of rack toys from over the decades, both licensed and knock-offs. The photographs are beautiful and the book is helpfully divided into sections for your particular interest. And for those of you interested in them like me, I am happy to report that the Galaxy Laser Team is represented!

If you ever had a Spider-Man parachuting figure or a tiny plastic Batmobile, this is a book you will enjoy. It manages to be both a gateway to discovery (MANIMAL toys?) and a window back on happy memories (not only did I have a Spider-Man Webmaker, but I am pretty sure I still have the tube of webbing somewhere). It is published by Plaid Stallions itself, so mosey on over there and look into securing your own copy. Or you can find it on Amazon. But here's a hint: you might get some EXTRA GOODIES if you order direct.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Taiyo Kamen

Taiyo Kamen? I’m well-acquainted with Gekko Kamen, but when this popped up on Tumblr last year, it was literally the first time I’d seen that Kohan Kawauchi also had a Taiyo Kamen.

As I mentioned the last time this came up, Gekko Kamen (月光仮面 - MOONLIGHT MASK) was Japan’s first TV hero. Taiyo Kamen (太陽仮面) is unfamiliar to me, but his name means “Sunlight Mask” in an obvious parallel. And as Joe Brogan pointed out, Taiyo Kamen looks suspiciously like a "missing link" between Gekko Kamen and Kawauchi's Rainbowman.

I have yet to find anything concrete about Taiyo Kamen. Any ideas?

Monday, February 11, 2013

R.I.P. Bill Fugate

I was kind of hoping I wouldn't need to write this entry for awhile.

I learned last week that Bill Fugate, the talented cartoonist who contributed so much to Big Bang Comics, was ill. Gravely ill. While you always hope for the best, I understood that my hearing about it probably meant that his time was short. And indeed, Bill Fugate left us today.

I didn't know Bill Fugate personally, but I guess I felt like I did at times. Big Bang was very much my anchor to keeping the fun in comics during a time in my life when I desperately needed bright spots. And how could you not love Bill's work? There was a gentle whimsy to the style he used for Big Bang.

I did get to exchange Facebook messages with Bill briefly last year. I'm glad I got to tell him how much I adored his work while he was still able to appreciate the sentiment. Sometimes, we never get that chance.

The image at the top is the cover to Big Bang Comics (Vol. 2) #1, featuring Erik Larsen's Mighty Man, Knight Watchman & Kid Galahad and Dr. Weird. At the end are the covers to Big Bang Comics (Vol. 2) #16 (featuring Thunder Girl, the BB character most identified with Bill) and Big Bang Presents #2 (featuring Bill's original creation Super Frankenstein). The first two are from the files of my defunct Big Bang Comics fansite, while the latter was lifted from the official Big Bang website. I don't think they'll mind.

Farewell, Bill Fugate. You left us way too soon, but still bestowed on us a wonderful legacy to remember.


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Deconstructing The Lichtenstein Entry

It is a testament to how much this blog's mission has changed since its inception that I only got around to re-publishing my Roy Lichtenstein piece on Thursday. When I decided in January 2009 that I wanted to use OWARI to showcase the best entries from my old LJ, that post in particular was one that I had earmarked for early inclusion. Things came up, I began to focus on more original content, and I just never found the right opportunity to include that little essay. It has been sitting in a folder all these years, waiting for its return to the spotlight.

Of course, the entry might have never even made it onto the blog at all were it not for the fact that it was appropriated by the "DECONSTRUCTING ROY LICHTENSTEIN" site. I kept the old Homestead link in the original, but I am pretty sure that Flickr is the contemporary home of that project. If it was going to be out there, reaching a much-wider audience than I'll ever manage, I felt it imperative that I offer my own take here. Well, an updated take anyway.

There are bits and pieces I'd like to fine tune on that entry, but since it was republished in its original form, I left it largely intact. I updated a couple of links and fixed some spelling and formatting issues. Other than that, it's the same piece. And you know what? I feel exactly the same way seven and a half years later.

An interesting footnote that came up on OWARI 2.0 last year is Steve Epting's revelation that Lichtenstein copied his work in the 1990s. I guess the guy couldn't help himself. But seriously, Mr. Lichtenstein, Steve Epting and Tom Palmer's names WERE RIGHT IN THE DAMN COMIC BOOK. It's not as if the ignorance plea held much water in the first place, but come on!

Oh, and Kabuki Katze's Red Sonja piece that started this whole business back in 2005? Why, it's been offline for years.

Whoops, I guess it's back now.

Oh, and those 5,000 hits? That was for Kabu's dA page. And would you look at that? Now she's closing in on 100,000!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Thursday, February 7, 2013


NOTE: This essay was originally posted, in slightly different form, on my LiveJournal at this link on July 20, 2005. It was copied (initially without my knowledge) to the Deconstructing Roy Lichtenstein Flickr account. That's somehow appropriate, given the subject matter.

It all started innocently enough, as odd as that may seem. You see, Kabuki Katze had recently finished a fab pop art picture of Red Sonja and we were discussing it and the influence of Roy Lichtenstein on that style.

CE: Y'know, somewhere there is a link comparing Lichtenstein's paintings to the comic book panels that inspired them.
CE: They actually took them and set them side by side...I wonder if I can find it again.
CE: Prolly not tonight, that's for sure.
Kabuki: Really? That's interesting.
CE: Oh my God, it was easier than I thought.
CE: It's got a lot of images, needless to say.
Kabuki: Whoa. He copied them flat out.
CE: Oh yeah.
CE: I know at least one of the artists in question was very unhappy about that aspect of it.
Kabuki: How did he escape being reamed for copying these images?
CE: Because it was comic books and they got no respect, especially when he became well-known.
CE: Comic books were disposable and disreputable, and he was doing fine art.
CE: No one checked on it.
Kabuki: He developed at just the right time, heh.
CE: I have mixed feelings about his artwork because of that. I really love what he did with color and emulating Zip-A-Tone and things like that.
CE: By the same token, I wish he hadn't swiped every single pose.
Kabuki: I was under the impression that the images were his, it was just the style he swiped. This makes me lose a good deal of respect for him.

And who can blame her? It's not every day you find out someone whose work you admire is essentially a plagiarist.

Oooh, that's a harsh word. All I can say is look at the comparison of comic book panels and his paintings and tell me what you would call it. Plus, these are only the things we can document at this late date. He also drew "inspiration" from advertising and any records on that are probably scattered to the four winds. The only reason we know about the comic books is because his decision to lift wholesale from them neatly coincided with the rise of comic book fandom and the drive by many to save their comics.

Understand that "swiping" is, and probably always will be, prevalent in mass-produced comic books. Beyond using references, many comic artists keep handy files of their work and the work of others so that they can "borrow" a pose or a layout. I mean, one of the most iconic cover images in the history of comics can be demonstrated to be a swipe of a FLASH GORDON panel. I'm not condoning the practice - not at all - but it's an understandable thing when you have to crank out x amount of pages on a deadline for chump change and no recognition (at least in the old days).

But what Lichtenstein did was different, to my mind. This wasn't something done to expedite a job - it was a conscious decision to copy the work of others and take the credit for it. You can say he took the originals and filtered them through his vision. This is true, but it doesn't change the fact that he copied some of the pictures line for line. He even went so far as to lift dialogue directly from the comics, effectively ripping off writers like Gardner Fox and Robert Kanigher as well as the artists. And while it can be said that Lichtenstein did not know the identity of the artists, he did know the books he used as reference. He could have made this information public. He did not. So the general public was left with the impression that the iconic images in Roy Lichtenstein's paintings were the product of his own imagination rather than reinterpretations of the work of others.

Some writers have attempted to excuse what Lichtenstein did by calling the comics "lowbrow" and saying that he gave comic art a higher profile. I will grant them the fact that Lichtenstein's work probably did worlds to elevate the public consciousness to the power of comic art. But to say the work he copied was basically unworthy? Tell you what, art critic snob, let's try this - suppose a famous novelist took one of your reviews, changed it around a little but left it largely intact, then dropped it into his next book and left you with no credit. When confronted, he protested that he was elevating your work by exposing it to a larger audience. Would that argument hold water for you?

In the end, the real "victims" are the artists who toiled in obscurity to create the images that made Roy Lichtenstein famous. Men like Irv Novick, Russ Heath, John Romita, and Mike Sekowsky (to name but a few) at least have a degree of fame today that they didn't have in their heyday. But I doubt any of them ever received a single penny from Roy Lichtenstein or anyone connected to him. Certainly, not one of them ever reaped a financial windfall like having a painting sell for millions of dollars.

The irony of the "Lichtenstein Deconstructed" page is that its creator is a Lichtenstein fan. In fact, he can emulate his idol quite well. The page was originally created as part of his devotion to Lichtenstein. I really wonder if he realized how many people would find that it cast Lichtenstein in a negative light.

There is a lot to admire in Roy Lichtenstein's work and his legacy. He did raise the public's awareness of comic book art and probably did set the wheels in motion for comic art to gain some degree of respectability. As an artist, his use of color and his ability to mimic the "dot pattern" coloring of old comics in his paintings is remarkable. I think Roy Lichtenstein is quite an artist, to be honest.

At the same time, I can never forget that Roy Lichtenstein swiped the imagery for his most famous works from men and women who would never see the kind of profits he gained from his art. He could have created paintings with the same kind of power from his own imagination - after all, the comic book artists had to work from scratch. But he chose to take the easy way out and copy things that he (probably) thought no one would ever notice. It leaves me with decidedly mixed feelings about him and his body of work.

Love Roy Lichtenstein or hate him, it doesn't matter to me. But never, ever forget the artists who created his imagery. They are the ones who deserve a little praise.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Hello, I'm Johnny Cash

(Full disclosure: This image was nicked from the GCD page because I am too lazy to scan my copy. For the record, I own the 49¢ version.)

I had seen some Spire Christian comics back in the day, but the lack of flashy art and superheroes pummeling one another tempered my interest as a youngster. Obviously, I never encountered this comic recently purchased by pal Casie, but that's beside the point. With the exception of some Barney Bear titles, I didn't really have a lot of experience with Spire.

As an older fella, the one Spire comic I felt like I needed to read was Hello, I'm Johnny Cash. I mean, I love comics, I love Johnny Cash's music - it seemed like a natural. However, what stopped me was my inability to turn up a copy at something less than an insane price. And to be totally honest, I rarely found copies for sale even at insane prices.

Enter Mike Sterling. Besides his duties as America's Favorite Funny Book Blogger, Mike is also Manager and Chief Head Cracker at Ralph's Comic Corner. When he mentioned getting a bunch of Spire comics, I asked about Mr. Cash, and wonder of wonders, the book was in the lot. Not too long at all later, I had my very own copy of Hello, I'm Johnny Cash in my hands. Thanks Mike, you are a credit to mankind!

I realize this is the part of the review where I am supposed to make light of this comic, but in all honesty, I don't have it in me. It's pretty straightforward for the most part. There's Johnny leering suggestively at some anachronistically-drawn dames, and more than a few panels of him popping pills. Is some of it exaggerated? Oh, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say, "Yes." But of course, I don't know for sure. It's ENTIRELY POSSIBLE that a drunk and shirtless Moose Mason (with a perm) attacked Johnny in a jail cell and was lulled to sleep by song.

One of the more puzzling aspects of this comic for me was the name of Billy Zeoli on the cover. It's well-established that Al Hartley did these things himself, so who was Zeoli? GCD seems to think he's the scripter, but I was leaning toward the idea that he did retouching on Johnny Cash to make him look more Johnny Cash-like. Turns out, we were likely both wrong. Billy Zeoli was the head of Gospel Films, which suddenly makes this being Cash's crowning achievement in the narrative a lot more explainable. Zeoli was also credited with working on the Spire Tom Landry comic, and this Sports Illustrated article from 1976 clarifies that connection, too.

In other Zeoli news, he was at one point President Gerald Ford's pastor. I suppose this means we just missed out on a Gerald Ford comic book. Darn it! Anyway, my point is, I don't think Zeoli had any involvement in these comics other than brokering the deal that caused them to exist and maybe having script approval. I doubt we'll ever know for sure.

I'm glad I finally got the chance to read Hello, I'm Johnny Cash. It is a surprisingly decent comic that isn't too preachy in its message and only occasionally detours into outright silliness. Props to Mike Sterling for hooking me up with it. Go read his blog and give him all your money (not necessarily in that order).

Monday, February 4, 2013

It's Magic!

I'm sorry to all of you trying out there, but the greatest superhero song possible already exists.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Pason Is A Real Life Firestar

Do you remember Firestar? If not, let me refresh your memory with the opening of SPIDER-MAN AND HIS AMAZING FRIENDS.

Firestar is a super heroine running around in the Marvel Universe. She has ties to Spider-Man (see above), the X-Men (she's a mutant), and the Avengers (former member). She's not the most high-profile Marvel character, but a pretty cool one all the same. Errr, no pun intended.

Well, I was talking with some folks, and we hit on a great idea. You know who would be a great choice to play Firestar in a movie? Pason, that's who. You remember Pason, right? She definitely has the "hot redhead" part of the equation down pat. But there's more to it than just that. With her background in dance and aerial work, she is certainly capable of doing things that could simulate flight. With the magic of CGI to erase wires and harnesses, Pason could fly through the air with the greatest of ease.

Tell me you wouldn't buy a ticket to see a beautiful ginger flying across the screen zapping bad guys with her flame powers. Because you totally would. Plus, Pason has the presence and charisma to make you believe in it!

Think about it, Hollywood. Pason is perfect for the part if you ever use Firestar in one of the Marvel movies. You know I'm right.

Friday, February 1, 2013

My Favorite Moment From KIKAIDA

Please be advised that this entry contains SPOILERS for the final story arc of the series JINZO NINGEN KIKAIDA. If you haven't seen it and have plans to watch it, tread carefully if you want to be surprised!

The screenshot from KIKAIDA episode 40 that leads off this post up top is rather inauspicious-looking. Yet, it is from what I call my favorite moment of the whole series. Why? Well, we'll get into that.

By the time Episode 40 rolls around, KIKAIDA (the show) is well into its justly-famous climactic storyline with Hakaida. And let's just say things look pretty bad for our hero Jiro by this point. It's all too involved for me to go into detail, but he not only has to contend with Hakaida and the rest of the forces of DARK, but also the police as well. They think he murdered his creator Dr. Komyoji, and they aren't the only ones. Masaru, Komyoji's young son, is convinced by the overwhelming evidence that Jiro has malfunctioned and gone rogue.

It's a frame-up, of course. But Saburo (Hakaida's alter ego) takes full advantage of Masaru's disillusionment with his hero. He enlists Masaru in his effort to destroy Jiro/Kikaida in Episode 39 by giving the kid the "Death Whistle." The Death Whistle has two functions - 1) it can immobilize any machine (including Kikaida) and 2) it's a whistle (dur) that will summon Saburo. With Masaru believing in Jiro's guilt and wielding such a device, the future looks pretty bleak for our hero.

But then, Masaru unwittingly loses the whistle. Jiro ends up with it and he GIVES IT BACK TO MASARU. It subsequently changes hands during the course of the action, but by the time this screenshot occurs, Jiro is returning it to Masaru.

As Jiro backs away, the words he spoke the first time he handed it to Masaru are heard again.
"Masaru...I don't want to go on living without your trust."
Masaru looks at Jiro and he considers using the Death Whistle. Finally, he realizes the truth - that Jiro is innocent - and throws down the device. He runs to Jiro and embraces him with tears in his eyes.

It's not as if things get easier for Kikaida immediately after this episode, but this one moment always gets to me. For while I love the action, the color, the imagination, and the outrageousness of Japanese superheroes, the part that makes them truly special is their heart. Not every series manages it, but many of them rise above their humble kid's show origins and become both surprisingly sophisticated and touchingly human.

Jiro isn't human - he's an android, and we are never allowed to forget that for very long. But in many ways, that very lack of humanity makes him an even more poignant figure. And his simple assertion to Masaru is a profound sentiment indeed. Would you find that in a Western kid's superhero show? Maybe today, but certainly not in the early 1970s.

KIKAIDA is one of the best superhero shows ever made. I hope, in some small way, I've given you just one example why. You can learn more about it (and even buy it!) from the fine folks at Generation Kikaida.