Charley’s War To End All Wars

James Bacon’s verdict is that the finest war story about The Great War is a comic. It’s Charley’s War, originally published over three decades ago, and now reprinted by Titan Books as a 10-volume set, with commentary, essays, photos and reference material.

James’ review of Charley’s War, posted at Forbidden Planet, benefits from the perspectives of his recent conversation with writer Pat Mills.

His review is also partly autobiographical — James’ father bought the comic as it came out in the late Seventies and early Eighties and he was deeply influenced.

Even as a boy, a child, one could see the good and the bad. Mills was able to craft a depth to his characters, so one could feel the broader conflict, and see the horrors in individuals, and it was clear they were part of an overall system, driven by class and a pox on the ordinary soldier. The writing captures a broader perspective for the reader, bringing elements that are unknown in my case, or less known to bear, and the treatment of soldiers so horrible, and yet as a boy I could understand that sometimes the enemy is not the coal-scuttle helmeted stormtrooper, who occasionally would be portrayed as just as hapless as some of Charley’s buddies, but the officer class, the system, the cowardice within and how empathy for humanity is something that friends understand but the class system wants to destroy.

[Thanks to James Bacon for the link.]

Agents of the Night

By James H. Burns: In 1983, I was stunned when I called Rich Buckler, who had just taken over as editor of Archie Comcs’ new super hero line, and he told me that there was no need for a reintroduction.

Rich was the noted comics artist and creator who had had a lengthy run on Marvel’s Fantastic 4, as well as contributing to several other super hero and science fiction  titles. (His origins, in fact, went back to Detroit fandom, in the late 1960s.)

In 1979, Rich said, I had made a big difference in his life, at a rather crucial time, when we had a long conversation at Ojohn’s Restaurant on Cornelia Street in Greenwich Village. Buckler and I were both part of a loosely knit group of writers, artists and genre enthusiasts who gathered at Dave Miley's once-upon-a-time comics and bookstore on Carmine Street (just off Bleeker, around the corner from 6th Avenue.)

Dave himself should be famous as the manager of what had to be one of the very first comics oriented shops in America, in 1968, on St. Mark's Place in the East Village. Just a short while later, Miley would begin a long association with Bill Morse when the latter opened the Village Comics Art Shop (whose most famous location was on 6th Avenue (the Avenue of the Americas) near West 4th Street, just a few doors down from the Waverly movie theatre.

(Morse could be counted as one of the original comic book dealers, is a long time bibliophile,  and is well known in Edgar Rice Burroughs fandom. Both Morse and Miley have also been involved in publishing ventures.)

Dave's store on Carmine was his first solo effort, and wound up being, for a while, a kind of ad hoc salon for lovers of fantasy and science fiction. (Legendary fantasy artist Roy Krenkel, for example, was an occasional habitue of the store, pontificating pleasantly on a variety of topics, including his wish for a planet he named Plumpus 9, inhabited solely by the hefty women he favored...)

There were more than a few late night conversations that ended with a bunch of folks crashing in Miley's apartment in the back.

Rich Buckler in 2008. Photo by Luigi Novi.

Rich Buckler in 2008. Photo by Luigi Novi.

When I ran into Rich Buckler again a few years ago at a New York comic con, I was even more astonished when -- after his lovely and unexpected proclamation of decades earlier -- he had no idea who I was!

("I must not have been wearing my glasses!" Rich said later.)

But far more importantly, I hope some people remember Buckler's name tonight, when his Deathlok character appears on Marvel's and ABC -TV's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

The cyborg was created by Buckler, and co-developed by writer Doug Moench, for editor Roy Thomas, debuting in Astonishing Tales #25, in 1974.

It seems the television incarnation of Deathlok may be based on later versions of Deathlok evolved by others, but Buckler’s inspiration is also significant, for there are genre historians who belive it was an influence on both the Terminator and Robocop.

Rich, ultimately, has contributed to virtually every major super hero mythos for both top American comic book companies, and is now exploring fine and other arts (particularly with what he calls his "New Surrealism"), as can be seen at his website,

In the early 1970s, Deathlok was a concept in his sketchbooks that had been long-a-borning.

As Buckler discusses in his 2010 multi-part memoir, courtesy of Daniel Best’s “20th Century Danny Boy” website:

"The concept would have elements of Mind control, military black ops, terrorism, science gone mad, and a dark apocalyptic future scenario with a main character who was a computer-programmed assassin gone Rogue... It seemed to be a time for the creation of a new archetype -- one that would reflect the technological age we all were headed into (or, rather, the future that our world leaders seem to be making sure we are heading into...)”


Kickstarter Funds Comic-Con Book

Alan Moore and Jack Kirby in 1985.

Alan Moore and Jack Kirby in 1985.

Jackie Estrada needed $18,000 of pledges to publish Comic Book People, a hardcover photo tribute to 40 years of Comic-Con. Her Kickstarter appeal was a complete success – by yesterday she’d received $28,360 in pledges from 438 backers.

Estrada has been taking photos at comic book conventions for decades. Comic Book People will publish 600 shots of comic creators and other notables from the 1970s and 1980s. Most will be in black-and-white, but there will be a 16 page color section.

Here are just a few of the people she plans to include:

Golden and Silver Age greats like Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Will Eisner, Carl Barks, Bob Kane, Harvey Kurtzman, C. C. Beck, Murphy Anderson, Jules Feiffer, Gardner Fox, L. B. Cole, Alex Schomburg, Mike Sekowsky, Curt Swan, Jack Katz, Joe Kubert, John Romita, Alex Toth, Al Williamson, Bill Woggon, [and] Wally Wood…

SF & fantasy authors, such as the great Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, Harlan Ellison, Leigh Brackett, George R. R. Martin, Theodore Sturgeon, Clive Barker, Douglas Adams, Larry Niven, Walter Gibson, Jerry Pournelle, and many more…

Her goal is to have the 160-page book ready for Comic-Con this July.

To the Seventh Power

By James H. Burns: A few months ago, when Lou Scheimer, co-founder of Filmation Associates, died, I mentioned the tale, in passing, of when I first met Lou and his partner, Norm Prescott, at their Los Angeles office. Norm was trying to get Harlan Ellison interested in one of their series, and it was around that time, roughly, that it was announced that he was writing a feature length script for the studio… Seven Worlds, Seven Warriors was to have been a science fiction take on The Magnificent Seven

HARLIN-Chaos-CoverA quality live action movie either on prime time or in the theatres could seriously have changed the fate of the plucky studio. What I didn’t know, sillily, was that just last summer DC Comics released Seven Against Chaos, a graphic novel from Ellison and the estimable Paul Chadwick.

Nowhere on the net, though, can I find mention of the seeming Filmation connection, and origins.

One blurb does mention that the plot contains some of Ellison’s pitch for the very first Star Trek movie: a scenario in which "contemporary" 23rd century life shows signs of falling apart (literally) as an AMPHIBIOUS race challenges the evolution that gave Earth to the mammalians. (Perhaps Jon Pertwee would have made a cameo?)  I don't know if the Trek-pitch elements were always a part of the Filmation project -- which might have made it even more interesting to have seen in the late 1970s/early '80s -- or if the DC volume has a different provenance entirely.... But certainly, a curiosity!  

PBS Superheroes Free Online

SuperHeroes-titlewithshield-600px_png__600x142_q85_crop_upscaleFor a limited time the PBS documentary Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle can be viewed free online.

Hosted and narrated by Liev Schreiber, SUPERHEROES features more than fifty new interviews, from pioneers such as Stan Lee, Joe Simon, and Jerry Robinson to contemporary creators including Mark Ward and Grant Morrison, from commentators such as Michael Chabon and Jules Feiffer to iconic actors like Adam West and Lynda Carter. Dazzling graphics and remarkable stories illuminate an up-to-the-minute history of the superhero, from the comic strip adventurers of the Great Depression up to the blockbuster CGI movie superstars of the 21st century.

The three episodes are:

  • Truth, Justice, and the American Way – 1930′s-1950′s; creation of Superman, industry suffers in 50′s
  • With Great Power comes Great Responsibility – 1960′s-1970′s; Marvel Age and the formation of the Comics Code
  • A Hero can be Anyone – 1980′s-today; from 1980 Superman movie up until now with rise of popularity of comic book media.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Simpsons Intro By del Toro

Simpsons stillGuillermo del Toro has created the Couch Gag for this year’s “Treehouse of Horror” episode of The Simpsons.

At 1:42 watch for Lovecraft, Poe, and Bradbury – daubing tattoos on the Illustrated Man while Richard Matheson (to the right) looks on.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Update 10/04/2013: Added Matheson identification. Screencap by Phil Nichols. 

Cool Jerk at Comic-Con

armpitpuppy91Paul Horn in his 9-page comic “The tale of a local cartoonist trying to make it big at Comic-con” says something you’ll never hear any other convention huckster say – that it’s okay he doesn’t make a lot of money at the con.

He’s really there to grow the audience for his comic Cool Jerk.

Not that he isn’t happy to sell fans all the Cool Jerk merchandise they can carry –

T-shirts, trucker hats, air fresheners, coffee mugs, mousepads, Jones Soda and underwear. Yes, underwear.

Lots of inside stuff about what Comic-Con means to small press publishers.

Comic-Con is a job – one where you work for five days and have 51 weeks off inbetween.

Where It’s At

DRCover1Sometimes classroom learning is deadly dull. But what if you could make it deadly exciting?

Zombie-Based Learning by David Hunter is doing that with the subject of geography. He started a year ago. With money raised on Kickstarter, Hunter produced 10 projects and over 70 daily lessons that taught to the 2012 National Geography Standards. He also produced the first issue of a comic book, Dead Reckon. The comic’s zombie narrative answers the question “Why do I need to know this stuff?” by dramatizing situations where the knowledge makes a life-and-death difference.

Now Hunter would like to publish four more issues of the comic. He’s opened another Kickstarter campaign to corral $13,000 by July 2.

Here’s a free preview of Dead Reckon #1 (PDF file).

To date the Zombie-Based Learning Geography curriculum has been shipped to around a dozen countries including Australia, Tanzania, and the UK. An estimated 50-100 classrooms are using it.

Fight! Fight!

Stan Lee’s World of Heroes, a YouTube channel, launched last year. Fan Wars was one of its first series of videos, where Stan Lee sets the table for various faux comics controversies to be debated in a People’s Court format.

For example – if Harrison Ford had to fight himself in a match between Indiana Jones and Han Solo, who would win? And why?

I sampled several of these and thought “Super Villain Face Off,” which asks who would win a fight between Magneto and Darth Vader not only had the best technical discussion of the issue, it was better edited, therefore easier to watch.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the links.]