Crowdfunding Norm Breyfogle’s Stroke Recovery

yhmsqnamqmfdjmeuokabNorm Breyfogle, credited as one of the artists who changed Batman forever, was hospitalized due to a stroke on December 17. Norm suffered paralysis on his left side – all the more problematic because he draws left-handed.

Norm now needs months of extended care with daily therapy that will hopefully enable him to once again continue his skillful art and regain his mobility to be able to walk and draw again.

His friends have launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding appeal, “Help Artist Norm Breyfogle Recover From A Stroke”, seeking $10,000 to cover some of the expenses. At this writing $1,055 has been donated with three weeks to go.

Here is a video of Norm made in January, a few weeks after his stroke.

A volume of Norm’s comics and work donated by friends is offered as an incentive.

Norm’s first regular series assignment was on a book called Whisper, written and created by Steven Grant (Punisher, 2Guns) and published by First Comics in 1986. The series has never been reprinted before, so many of Norm’s fans have never seen his early work. Steven has given us permission to reprint Norm’s issues of Whisper to raise funds for his recuperation.

But that’s not all! We’re also including stories and art from all sorts of people that we’re adding to the project as stretch goals and additional incentives, including:

  • Norm’s never before printed Munden’s Bar story, written by Valerie D’Orazio (Punisher) and Martha Thomases (Dakota North).
  • An all-new story by Alan Grant (Norm’s collaborator on Detective Comics) and Cary Polkovitz (Ukiyo). Unlocked at $11,000!
  • An all new story by Martha Thomases and Richard Case (Doom Patrol). Unlocked at $12,000!
  • An all-new story by Robert Greenberger (Star Trek) and Tom Lyle (Starman).  Unlocked at $13,000!
  • An all new story by Mike Friedrich (Star*Reach) and Lee Marrs (Pudge Girl Blimp). Unlocked at $14,000!
  • An all-new GrimJack story by John Ostrander (Suicide Squad), Timothy Truman (Conan), John Workman, and Lovern Kindzierski. Unlocked at $15000!
  • An all new story by Mike Baron (Nexus) and Neil Handson. Unlocked at $17,500!
  • An all new story by Danny Fingeroth (Darkhawk) and Bob Hall (The Avengers). Unlocked at $20,000!

All in all, we’re talking about at least a 280-page book. How big will it be? Well, that depends on you… and how much money we raise for Norm.

[Thanks to Glenn Hauman for the story.]

CLANKY!

il_570xN_746079840_5m3vBy James H. Burns: You can keep your Robby, and Gort, and even your C-3PO…

Because the first robot of my childhood appeared as a chocolate syrup container:

CLANKY.

Beginning sometime around 1963, Clanky was a product from Family Foods Incorporated. But I was surprised to find out some years ago – when watching Clanky’s original TV commercial on the internet — that it may have been meant to be a SPACEMAN.

Either way, by 1965, a thoroughly washed out container soon became one of my favorite bathroom toys (along with rubber band-propelled ships, diving submarines powered by baking soda, and Crazy Foam)!

In fact, it’s entirely possible I imagined Clanky as another almost forgotten fantasy character from the early ’60s, Diver Dan.

Diver Dan was a syndicated live-action, roughly six-to-seven minute daily program, telling a serialized story over a week or two; designed to be shown along with cartoons and the like, on the era’s popular local kids TV shows. Dan was portrayed by an actor (Frank Freda) in an old-fashioned diving suit (hence, his resemblance to Clanky), who interacted with puppet fish, including the villainous Baron Barracuda (who spoke like Bela Lugosi, and whose sidekick, Trigger, somehow managed to keep a lit cigarette in his mouth)!

Almost all of the puppets were voiced by Allen Swift, a veteran of the classic 1950s NBC kids show, Howdy Doody, who was fresh from hosting his own children’s program for several years, on WPIX, in New York, and who was just on the verge of launching a long-time, successful career as a voice over artist (with occasional Broadway, and Off-Broadway stage work. (Born Ira Stadlen, he was also the father of Broadway veteran Lewis J. Stadlen!)

Ingenuously, Diver Dan was filmed with an aquarium between the camera and the set, making everything truly appear “under water.”

The adventures of Dan and his friends — Goldie the Goldfish, Sea Biscuit the Sea Horse, Skipper Kipper and Doc Sturgeon — were actually quite charming. They often featured whom I’m pretty sure was one of my very first crushes, Miss Minerva the Mermaid, played in full beauteous form by actress Suzanne Turner. (I’m also pretty sure I soon got her confused with the Chicken of the Sea mermaid, then featured in the brand’s television ads…)

My parents would pick up a Clanky for me at Valley Poultry, in Franklin Square, Long Island — a cold cuts specialist, and small grocery (what some folks used to call an “appetizing store.”)  (Known for the last several decades as “Valley Caterers,” the market actually should have been famous, for many of those years, for having corned beef and pastrami to rival that of the best delicatessens in Manhattan!)

I don’t know if Clanky was otherwise difficult to find in my neighborhood. (We had an A&P, Shoprite and Hills in our immediate Valley Stream/Elmont environs); but food product distribution, then as now, except for the biggest brands, could be quixotic.  Family Foods was based in Chicago, and internet references say that the “chocolate flavored syrup” made its way as far as California.

Valley Poultry (known to some, back then, as Franklin Poultry) was also notable for having a small farm-like area with chickens, turkeys and other barnyard creatures. I can still remember that my favorite of the animals was a unique rooster whom my parents and I nicknamed “Bumpy Head.” (We’d sometimes wonder where he went, when it was raining….)

And today, the juxtaposition, in memory, of Clanky, an icon of the future, with such a bucolic scene, strikes me as uniquely American…!

Unbeknownst to us, in the mid 1960s, was that the grazing ground was soon to become part of a paved over parking lot.

Yet, intriguingly, it was also at Valley Poultry that I encountered one of the rarest of 1960s fantasy totems. At the front of the shop were gumball machines which would sometimes vend trinkets or toys or other unusual paraphernalia —

Including Marvel Comics items (Captain America, Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, Hulk…)

6800767By 1966, merchandising of the Marvel Comics line was at its initial apex, fueled by the syndication of the Marvel Super Heroes cartoon show, broadcast daily across the United States.  One of the most unique items were stickers featuring a dynamic image from the artwork of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Don Heck and company (co-inspired by the imagination of Stan Lee!)

These mementos of the fantastic — single frame vignettes of action and adventure — were incredibly evocative of the era, and now are so rare that there are almost NO images of them on the internet.  I had, in fact, forgotten about them, until 1988, when I picked up one of Lancer Books’ 1966 Marvel Comics paperback reprints, and there were Thor stickers glued to the inside cover!

(Magic, when we’re children, can be much easier to come by — and astonishing to think that it once could be had for a nickel!)

Clanky, it should be remembered, debuted at the height of the first major inception of interest in the manned space program. It was also the season of the Ideal Toy Company’s Mr. Machine (a windup, rolling, top-hatted, see-through “mechanical man”) and Marx’ Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots (which Clanky preceded). On television, one could watch Fireball XL5’s Robert the Robot, Rosie on The Jetsons, and eventually, the automaton on Lost In Space (never called anything but by the sobriquet, “Robot.”).

When I began shopping on eBay in the late 1990s, a Clanky (near mint, albeit empty!), became one of my very first purchases.

(A Clanky can still be found, easily, for roughly ten bucks.)

He is, of course, a happy remnant of another playtime’s future.

But as I look at the little fella across my office, I find it intriguing that such a memento of yesterday (and one of the few souvenirs of that particular generation to remain so readily accessible):

Can still be filled with so many tomorrows.

Horrifying Bradbury References in Archie Comics

ALWArchie_8var heres Juddy COMPArchie comic spinoff Afterlife with Archie, clicking along since 2013, has been pursuing a story arc in which Jughead’s dog Hot Dog is transformed into a zombie, bites a few people, and Riverdale rapidly begins to fill with the living dead.

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa writes Afterlife and a companion series, the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (the teenaged witch). He noted in a a recent interview that the latest issues of each contain literary allusions from Edgar Allan Poe, Henry James, Ray Bradbury and Truman Capote.

Bradbury Hotel reference in Archie.

Bradbury Hotel reference in Archie.

The Bradbury references immediately put the comics on John King Tarpinian’s buy list. He clued me into the story and sent a photo of the relevant frame in Sabrina to go with the available online art from Archie.

Bradbury burning reference in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

Bradbury burning reference in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. “Her other favorite writer, Mr. Bradbury, was correct. It was a pleasure to burn.”

Tarpinian is delighted with Archie’s alternate cover where a dead Jughead is peeking thru a broken door and the caption reads “Here’s Juggy!!!”

Comics That Should Have Happened

Solo UNCLE Super Team FamilyRoss Pearsall has designed over a thousand faux comic book covers in his Super-Team Family series of “Team-ups that never happened…But should have!”

Some are played straighter than others. There’s RoboCop versus Judge Dredd, Superman and Iron Man, and Captain Marvel and The Mighty Thor.

But what about Harley Quinn and Howard the Duck? Legion of Super Pets and Lockjaw? The Hulk and Elfquest?

You’re one click away from cover #1,000, a retrospective celebration which includes a large number of examples in one post, and features Pearsall’s memoir about developing the concept as a kid.

The Vartanoff Legend Continues

Temporary SuperheroineIreneVartanoff-210x300Irene Vartanoff’s first published novel  — Temporary Superheroine — is the latest evidence of her lifetime love of comics.

As a teenager she had over 100 fan letters printed in comics, causing such a sensation at DC that Vartanoff was written into several stories for Metal Men and The Flash, all the while a letter column controversy raged about whether she really existed at all.

Irene Vartanoff

Irene Vartanoff

Later Vartanoff held staff positions at Marvel Comics, where Stan Lee dubbed her “Impish Irene,” and at DC Comics, before moving into editorial work at romance publishers Silhouette, Berkley, Bantam, and Harlequin.

Appropriately, Temporary Superheroine requires a team from the world of comics fans and creators to save the day.

Chloe Cole, struggling webcomics artist, is tormented by crazy dreams, mysterious e-mails, and ominous sightings of a supervillain on the loose. In her dreams, she’s a superheroine. Could those dreams have been responsible for unleashing ultimate chaos? When Chloe goes to New York looking for answers, dreams crash with reality and comic book fiction turns to fact. Driven to undertake a desperate quest, Chloe must unravel the mystery of her parentage while navigating a bizarre mirror universe. Can she and her ragtag team—her comics fanboy ex-boyfriend, an enigmatic and powerful comic book company executive, an elderly comics icon, and an eccentric artist with a grudge against society—possibly be enough to vanquish a fearsome foe?

The book is currently available only in a Kindle edition — with a cover by Marvel Comics artist Bob McLeod.

Patten’s History of Furry Publishing

Genre historian Fred Patten has posted two fine articles about furry fandom and today’s top furry art and fiction publishers at Dogpatch Press.

rowrbrazzle090x

“The History of Furry Publishing, Part One: Beginnings” dates the creation of furry fandom to the mid-1970s:

This is to some extent a “define your terms” question. Furry fandom got started, depending upon whom you ask, with the amateur press associations (APAs) Vootie and Rowrbrazzle. Vootie, “The Fanzine of the Funny Animal Liberation Front”, run by Reed Waller & Ken Fletcher of Minneapolis s-f fandom, lasted from April 1976 to February 1983; 39 bi-monthly issues. Vootie self-destructed when its Official Editors, Waller & Fletcher, grew too disinterested to continue it any longer. A member, Marc Schirmeister of Los Angeles, tried to keep it going, failed, and started its replacement, the quarterly Rowrbrazzle, beginning in February 1984. Rowrbrazzle was designed so that, when the Official Editor steps down or is unable to continue, another member is selected to replace him. Rowrbrazzle is still going after thirty years; the current O.E. is William Earl Haskell of Houston, Texas. So it’s technically a current furry publication.

I’ve been fortunate to publish art by Schirmeister, Waller and Fletcher in my own fanzines over the years.

“The History of Furry Publishing, Part Two: Current Publishers” lists eight publishers producing work of interest to furry fans, such as Sofawolf Press.

Sofawolf Press, founded by Tim Susman and Jeff Eddy and currently run by Jeff Eddy, originally from his homes in East Falmouth, Massachusetts and later St. Paul, Minnesota, and now from a warehouse in the latter, was the first really successful furry publishing company in the U.S. Sofawolf became official in October 1999 as a sole proprietorship, with its first publication, the furry general fiction magazine Anthrolations #1, in January 2000…

Both articles are richly illustrated with zine and book covers.

Marvel Comics to Implode — End of a Fifty-Plus Year Era

Art by John Buscema and Joe Sinnot.

Art by John Buscema and Joe Sinnot.

By James H. Burns: One of the greatest fantasy universes ever created, the complex and enchanting worlds found within Marvel Comics, are coming to an end. The vast storylines initiated by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Joe Simon, Carl Burgos, Bill Everett, Don Heck, John Romita and Roy Thomas, and myriad other talented writers and artists, is to be imploded

During a live “Secret Wars Kick-Off” press event at New York City’s Midtown Comics, Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso and Senior Vice President of Publishing and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort confirmed that the upcoming eight-issue limited series Secret Wars will represent the end of both the Marvel Universe and the Ultimate Universe.

Saying that the mainstream Marvel Universe and Ultimate Universe would “smash together” during the upcoming Secret Wars crossover event, Alonso and Brevoort went on to elaborate that, by the time Secret Wars #1 hits the stands in May, every world in Marvel’s multiverse will be destroyed, with pieces of each forming Battleworld, the staging ground for the Secret Wars storyline

“Once we hit Secret Wars #1, there is no Marvel Universe, Ultimate Universe, or any other. It’s all Battleworld,” Brevoort said.

IDW’s Bradbury Tribute

In November three Ray Bradbury themed “Shadow Show” comics were released by IDW Publishing.

Shadow Show #1 offered “By The Silver Water of Lake Champlain,” written by Joe Hill (Locke & Key) and adapted by Jason Ciaramella (The Cape) with art by Charles Paul Wilson III (Wraith) and cover by Locke & Key co-creator Gabriel Rodriquez.

The second issue featured “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury,” written by Neil Gaiman with art by Maria Fröhlich, “which peers into the mind of a man who sifts through his own memories in an attempt to recover the name of a famous sci-fi author.” In the other story, Audrey Niffenegger and Eddie Campbell combined talents on “Backward in Seville.”

The third Shadow Show contained “Weariness” by the inestimable Harlan Ellison, which gives us a look at the end of the universe as we know it, and “Live Forever!” by Bradbury biographer Sam Weller and Mark Sexton, where Ray Bradbury himself enters the story.

Shadow Show #3 cover.

Shadow Show #3 cover.

MUTTS To Play the Kennedy Center!

MUTTS 052101_tribBy James H. Burns: For years now, MUTTS has been my all time fave comic strip.

Greeting the morning with a reading of that day’s Patrick McDonnell strip is a grand way to start the day.

The epoch follows Mooch the cat, Earl the dog, their humans, some birds, some squirrels… (Actually, the environs seem a lot like what my life used to be!)

McDonnell is something of a glorious genius, someone whose compassion seems as strong as his talent and imagination.

…And some years back, he wrote this wonderful small book, The Gift of Nothing, petite in only its length; certainly not its grace, or warmth.

And now my pals Mooch and Earl will be dancing across a stage, and I’m certain into quite a few more hearts.

(Through the years, MUTTS has also presented some lovely surrealistic sequences, as well as a delightfully depicted series of tributes to and evocations of the history of super heroes, and other comic art!)

The show runs November 22 to December 28 at Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center. Ticket info here.

Costume designs for "A Gift of Nothing."

Costume designs for “A Gift of Nothing.”

Lovecraft Comic Hits Kickstarter Goal

Lovecraft 48 pg COMPThere is no army so powerful as an idea whose time has come, and apparently the idea of making H.P. Lovecraft the protagonist of his own comic is that idea. A week ago, while I was writing about the late Larry Latham’s Lovecraft Is Missing, the creators of Lovecraft: The Blasphemously Large First Issue were already reaching their initial Kickstarter funding goal.

Writer Craig Engler, inker Daniel Govar, colorist Mat Lopes and cover artist Lewis LaRosa are going to publish a 48-page limited edition comic that recasts H.P. Lovecraft as “a modern-day, kick-ass action hero & alchemist.”

Lovecraft is a dirty, gritty story about magick, monsters and the occult. It takes place in a modern-day world where H.P. Lovecraft the writer never existed but where all the horrors he wrote about are real. In this story, the man named Lovecraft is the world’s foremost magician and alchemist who maintains a secret library of forbidden knowledge which includes books like the Necronomicon.

Lovecraft is a classic Byronic antihero: “Mad, bad, and dangerous to know.” He functions as the semi-reluctant guardian of mankind, one of the few who can traffic with occult forces without becoming (totally) corrupted by them. In his world, magicians are a secret culture within the culture who vie for power and knowledge, leading to feuds and wars that can unleash unspeakable terrors. When they do, Lovecraft is the guy who cleans things up.

Supporters found this idea so appealing they pledged 130% of the target amount in the first 36 hours. Now Engler and company have added a list of stretch goals, enhancements that will be added to the issue as money allows. The fund drive lasts until November 25.

Engler’s Lovecraft has a supporting cast that includes the resurrected John Dee, two of Aleister Crowley’s great-grandchildren, and Nyarlathotep the Crawling Chaos — who sows disorder and confusion wherever it goes but is neither good or evil, and is as likely to seemingly help these characters as harm them.