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.

Larry Latham Passes Away

vault-of-doom1-400x293Larry Latham, the Lovecraft Is Missing webcomic artist, died November 2 of cancer. His wife Kelly Reynolds announced his passing on the site’s blog. She promised the tale would be completed:

This webcomic was his crowning achievement and brought him more joy than any other creative endeavor he has ever participated in. He was so appreciative of his readers and did not want to leave the story unfinished. I ask for your patience as I attempt to carry out his wishes and resume posting new issues in the near future with the help of many talented friends.

Latham began writing, drawing and publishing Lovecraft is Missing in 2008. The project had been originally conceived in 1994 as a CD-ROM game (never produced), then went into development as an animated series, with the rights finally reverting to the artist.

From the 1970s through the 1990s Latham enjoyed a successful career in animation, working at various times with Disney, Hanna Barbara and Marvel. His credits as a story director included The World’s Greatest SuperFriends, Godzilla, The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang, The Smurfs, and Challenge of the GoBots, and as a storyboard director or artist on the earlier My Little Pony and Friends series, several videos, and assorted episodes of about a dozen other shows.

He gained his greatest recognition as a producer and director for Disney’s animated series TaleSpin, the pilot episode of which earned him a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program.

As a youth, Latham was one of the founding members of the Oklahoma Alliance of Fandom, which had its 40th anniversary convention in 2007.

After Latham was diagnosed with cancer he blogged about the progress of his treatments and his hopes for recovery. Not only did this feel right to him, it paralleled what Lovecraft himself had done

Lovecraft kept an actual journal of his dying days, even through all the tremendous pain. An odd one to the end, he.

IMDB has a complete list of his credits.

Larry Latham at the grave of H.P. Lovecraft.

Larry Latham at the grave of H.P. Lovecraft.

[Thanks to Steve Johnson for the story.]

The Great World War II Comic Book Myth

Joe Simon's very first sketch for his co-creation, with Jack Kirby, of Captain  America!

Joe Simon’s very first sketch for his co-creation, with Jack Kirby, of Captain
America!

By James H. Burns: In the last few major documentaries about comic books, including tonight’s fun outing on ABC, the myth has been perpetrated that comics were widely read by the soldiers in World War II.

I bow to few in my admiration for Jim Steranko–and a short piece I’ve noodled involving when I worked with him as a contributing editor to his Prevue magazine should go live in just a bit — but he was a toddler during the war, and he’s just wrong when he talks about this…  I grew up around a plethora of both European theatre and Pacific vets, and have had the honor of knowing hundreds more…

They were all children of the great era of radio, comic STRIPS, and the movies. (In another piece laying around here in a next to final draft, I talk about the influence the adventure pulps may have had on “the Greatest Generation.”) But to a man, Superman and Batman were basically just names they kind of knew, and my favorite, Captain America, was always NEW to them. And rightly or wrongly, the average “tough guy” teen or twenty-year old, would have looked down on any one reading “funny animal” stuff.  The guys read their Yank magazine, Stars and Stripes, and when they could get them, those neat military Horizontal novel paperbacks…

The history of comic books is fascinating enough, without this, ahem, inkless embellishment.

Free Comics 10/25

Halloween Comic Fest 2014A month from today – on Saturday, October 25 – many local comic shops will be celebrating the Halloween Comic Fest by giving customers a free Halloween ComicFest comic.

Click the link for information and to search for your nearest participating shop.

STK649686 COMPLA County shops on the list include the fannish folk at Blastoff Comics, 5118 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood.

A list of all the free comics is here, and many have free preview pages available.

I saw one titled Afterlife With Archie. Remembering how, earlier this year, Archie died taking a bullet for his gay friend I was dubious. Then I scanned the preview and was relieved to discover Afterlife With Archie tells a completely unrelated story. Whew.