The Degenderettes Exhibit at Mission Comics and Art in San Francisco

Mission Comics and Art

Mission Comics and Art

By James Bacon: I love checking out comic shops, seeing what they are like, finding things I never knew existed or perhaps something I never expected to find. This is how I was as I walked into Mission Comics and Art in San Francisco. The shop was welcoming and large, a dogleg in the space meant it stretched back further than I expected, the shelves full of good comics, a couple of sofas ready to encourage spontaneous readers to browse and buy, posters, ephemera and years of comics culture adorned the shop.

As I continued into the shop, it became apparent that there was a gallery right at the back, an open functional space perpendicular to the shop, and then I found what must be one of the most interesting exhibits of my year.

The Degenderettes, a Feminist-Genderqueer Bicycle Club, had an exhibit that not only filled the space, but was a fun and vibrant commentary on gender and society.

There is a denim biker jacket in pride of place on the wall, it looks well soiled,  and it is only as I read that I see it is covered in menstrual blood. This is unusual but also potent stuff. There is no fear here by the artists of their own humanity. A whole wall is covered in brutal looking weapons, made of pieces of bicycle. I look at the razor blades on the end of wires coming from a handle bar, and a chain flail with knotted chain at the end, and a try the knuckle duster that is made from a bicycle cog, it tempts me to steal it, and I wonder should I.

The group have their own perspective and explained it as part of their opening:

After subjective collaborative renegotiation of the contemporary dialogue encapsulating the global cultural narratives of gender politics, we have decided to exhibit a Degenderettes jacket stained with menstrual blood, an array of bicyclist weapons and a birth certificate shredder, in addition to projections, paintings and sculptures by individual members. For the opening we will be smashing an R Mutt urinal with a pink sledgehammer, so bring your protective eyewear if you value those sorts of things.

There are seven weapons on one wall, and then a gun rack holds a dozen or so pink painted Nerf guns. A case holds two Maverick rotary Nerf guns, painted white and pink, along with dozens of mini tampons that fit perfectly into the space for Nerf darts. A mannequin has a pink sash covered in intricately made merit badges, sticking two fingers up at what people may consider gender norms, but which in reflection of this rebelliousness which I interpret as a stand against gender conformity. Also modelled is a bandolier holding tampons.

The Biker Jacket hangs in pride of place, while there is a shredding machine to destroy birth certificates, a selection of tampons for men, art on canvas, a ladies’ toilet door into nowhere,  and the smashed Urinal in many pieces on a dais.

It was fabulous use of the space, but also quite challenging in its concept. Here is art that is speaking loudly and prepared to be genuinely uncomfortable for the viewer. This is rare I feel, there was just something honest about what has been done, and at the same time inspirationally thoughtful and brilliant about the wider perception on our society.

There was also two walls are covered in exceptionally beautiful comic art, simply attached to the wall with small bulldog clips, and although one of the images featured a group of Degenderette biker jacketed characters, I was soon to learn that this is Falling Sky, the work of Degenderette  Dax Tran-Caffee.

Failing Sky is a web comic that contains four interrelated stories: the memoir of a failed sailor, the quest of a travelling ghost, the adventure of a genderqueer nancy drew, and giant robots. According to Dax Tran-Caffee:

 I wanted to see in the world – which means not just making art that addressed 21st century feminism, transgender issues, economically viable art careers, etc., but instead I would make something that would intrinsically represent these themes within the real world. In other words, I could have made a series of esoteric oil paintings about how awful rape-culture is, but perhaps it would be better to write a story in a popular medium about human relationships superseding rape-culture.

The artwork is beautifully done, hand drawn with watercolours enhancing the clean style and fine inks, and the structure is fascinating, again best explained by the creator,

Failing Sky is 4 storylines in 30 chapters, with chapters arranged hierarchically by theme instead of sequentially by plotline (not quite like Cortazar’s Hopscotch, but maybe more like if Wikipedia’s articles were narrative). What I’d like is for you to be able to read chapters out of order, selecting which to read solely driven by your own interests, no longer having to suffer through the boring chapters, and where you can stop reading when you feel your own sense of completion, not just because I’ve declared that you’ve reached the final page. I recommend that readers start at “The Sinking Ship,” but wherever you go from there is up to you.

I made my way into Mission Comics a second time.  Leef Smith the owner was exceptionally nice and it was indicative of this comic shop that Joe Keatinge writer on Image’s Shutter was relaxing in a sofa, signing stock as he had passed by. I again was drawn to the back room, and found the artwork utterly fascinating, and inwardly bemoaned that it would not see a wider audience, here in a comic shop, a venue that I love, I was transfixed by the interactiveness and freedom of artistic expression that was telling a story of people, real art and real meaning.

This article appeared in other online outlets.

Dax Tran-Caffee kindly supplied us with the names of those who created the artwork and:

  • hormone potions – Tara Sullivan
  • merit badges – Sara Sherman
  • tampon bandolier – Kian Smith
  • tampon guns – Sara Sherman
  • bike weapons – Tara Sullivan, Dax Tran-Caffee, Adam Flynn, Claire Woods, Robin Gruver, Alexander Cotton
  • birth certificate shredder – Ion O’Clast
  • tampons for boys – Sara Sherman & Kian Smith
  • Degenderettes blood jacket – the Degenderettes
  • paintings – Alexis Babayan
  • women’s restroom door – Dax Tran-Caffee
  • photographs – Khloe West
  • Failing Sky “Pauvre” original pages – Dax Tran-Caffee

The show was made possible by the support of Alanna Simone and of course Leef Smith at Mission Comics and I have to admit, it felt fantastic. There was an energy and connectivity about this show and a sense of reality that made it really connect, and I am sorry it was ending.

bike weapons - Tara Sullivan, Dax Tran-Caffee, Adam Flynn, Claire Woods, Robin Gruver.

bike weapons – Tara Sullivan, Dax Tran-Caffee, Adam Flynn, Claire Woods, Robin Gruver.

merit badges - Sara Sherman

merit badges – Sara Sherman

paintings - Alexis Babayan

paintings – Alexis Babayan

Degenderettes blood jacket - the Degenderettes

Degenderettes blood jacket – the Degenderettes

tampon guns - Sara Sherman

tampon guns – Sara Sherman

Fiddle - Dax Tran-Caffee

Fiddle – Dax Tran-Caffee

Three Speed Chain - Robin G

Three Speed Chain – Robin G

Falling Sky art by Dax Tran-Caffee

Falling Sky art by Dax Tran-Caffee

Falling Sky art by Dax Tran-Caffee two pages

Falling Sky art by Dax Tran-Caffee two pages

The Night I Became The Batman

Bat signalBy James H. Burns: Driving through Rockville Center, a pretty big suburban town in Long Island, New York, about twenty years ago, I realized that people really just don’t look any more. Because when I was at a stop light in the business district of town, on a busy Saturday night, just across from a movie theatre, its sidewalks packed, NO ONE happened to glance over, and see that there was a gentleman in a Ford—

Dressed as Batman.

No, not with the mask.

(One of the perils of super hero-dom, I discovered, must be the loss of peripheral vision.)

But there I was in tunic, cape, boots…

I was on my way to Oceanside to surprise the daughters of an ex-girlfriend who I had become very close to. I knew their grandmother was babysitting that night, and on the weekend after Halloween–which had always been a lovely holiday for us–we decided it might be a nice celebration…

I’m still surprised no one called the police.

Because when I parked on the suburban street, middle class houses up and down the lane, I pulled the Batman mask out of the trunk, and donned the gauntlets and gloves.

(No. I do not generally have super hero costumes in my closet. I was still involved with a business that sold at some of the pop culture conventions around the country, and we had developed a nice sideline in fantasy movie masks and the like!)

I had parked down the block, so the girls wouldn’t accidentally see my car out the window.

Moments later, I was knocking on the door.

My friends found Batman on their doorstep, in all his blue and grey glory.

Now, they were already eleven and eight at the time. But there’s an element in many a child–and many of us, for that matter–that wants to believe in the impossible.

Of course, the girls knew it was me, but they also wanted the fun of the Caped Crusader making a post-Halloween visit to their house.

I entered the living room, and their grandma and I joined them in the play room, where I gave them their Halloween goodie bags.

I shared stories of crime fighting in Gotham City….

And then  I heard the eldest daughter, someone who was REMARKABLY bright, quietly ask her “Gammy”:

“That’s not actually Batman, is it?”

(Every once in a while, it should be remembered, I can be a halfway decent actor. And to my surprise–and to that of my friends for that matter–when wearing a replica of the 1966 television BATMAN cowl, there was a stunning resemblance to the Adam West rendition…  On the other hand, I’ve never seen a Batman who’s under six feet tall….)

Within a few minutes, naturally, I removed the headpiece, and we all continued to have a good time.

I’ve been suddenly compelled to write all this, thinking more on the passing of television’s Batgirl, Yvonne Craig.

Because at one point, the eleven year old put on the mask.

Through the years I had shown her that amidst a whole world of great fiction, comic books could be wonderful fun, and that many of the lessons its best super heroes could teach us, held value  We had had many good times,reading comics , and my showing her the fun that could be had, not only in issues of Archie (or the New Kids on the Block comics!), but in Captain America, Superman, Flash Gordon, Batman

As  she donned the cowl, it was one of those lovely moments where fantasy and reality combine, because one of my best little friends in the world, with her long auburn hair, was now the spitting image of Batgirl.

Both gals have turned out rather well in life.  Every once in a while, I wonder if all those lessons in do-gooding and imagination, helped play a hand in they’re becoming such solid citizens!

James H. Burns today.

James H. Burns today.

Someone Who Deserves Recognition

Ron and Jim.

Ron and Jim.

By James H. Burns: There can be longtime contributors to the world of fantasy and science fiction who somehow never get not only the notice they may well deserve, but no attention, whatsoever, in the genre press.

Ron Forman ran Comics Unlimited from 1977 to 1994, along with business partner Walter Wang. Comics Unlimited was one of the major comics and science fiction distributors in the New York area.

(And I know — and hope Ron won’t be embarrassed for me to tell here, that in the tough days for some comic shops in the late 1980s, before the merchandising explosion of 1989’s Batman movie, it was their compassion that helped keep at least  a few stores afloat.)

Ron had been a comic book fan just about forever, and was a dealer at one of the early, classic Phil Seuling International Comic Art Conventions, in 1970.

Ron and Walter later went on to work with Seuling, at his Seagate Distributors, before launching their own venture.

(Seuling helped invent, and was the foremost pioneer, of “direct distribution” of comics and other material to comics and specialty stores; a development that helped bolster, and possibly even save the comic book industry.)

Like most comic shop distributors, then and now, Comics Unlimited carried a wide range of science fiction related products….

When Comics Unlimited shut up shop, they sold their business to Steve Geppi’s Diamond Distributors.

But Ron never lost his love for the medium.

Or other things.

He’s a professor of mathematics at Kingsborough Community College, a City University of New York, in Brooklyn. He’s also been hosting and producing Sweet Sounds since 1999, a Sunday radio series devoted to classic Sinatra and Billie Holiday and Broadway type music, on WKRB radio. Along with his wife of forty-six years, Ann, he’s a frequent presence on New York’s cabaret and theatre scene, writing reviews for Cabaret Scenes Magazine.

Ron and i have known each other since we met at the Marvel Comics Convention, that I helped run (I produced the event’s programming), in April of 1976.

As I’ve had the pleasure of watching Ann and Ron’s kids grow, along with our friendship, it has pleased me to realize that I know far few better guys. Behind-the-scenes, Forman was a key factor in many fantasy forums, for decades. (Comics Unlimited was a frequent presence at many of the North East comics and other conventions of the era.)

And I’m fairly certain no one ever would have predicted, back in those days, that there was a budding musicologist, behind the dealers table!

Twelve years ago, in fact, the Formans and I were just as likely to see each other at a Broadway show, as at Shea Stadium (we’re all long time New York Mets devotees), back when I was monkeying around with the idea of producing a play…

I ran into Ann and Ron at last night’s Mets game.  Baseball, to me, has always seemed the most fantasy-potentialed of sports, or at least the one with the most capacity for whimsy.

And what could be better, than running into old friends, above a diamond?

Like so many of the comic books and classic movies we’ve enjoyed, and the game itself, some friendships cannot tarnish, and best seek to endure.

Let’s Reboot Fantastic Four – 770 Style

fan 4 COMPBy James H. Burns: A Fantastic 4 movie is relatively so simple, with no need to invent a whole new gobbledygook of an origin story… Last night, thinking about the generally poor reception to the new Fantastic 4 film, I wondered, how hard could it be to tell their origin story, which to me, remains pretty steadfast. I noodled this, in minutes….  (And without the comic in front of me, I could only not recall one crucial element, why Reed Richards lets a teenager join them on the trip to space…  But you’ll see!)

Why have all the producers through the years thought it necessary to muddle a rather elegantly simple story setup? Steadfast scientist, in his late thirties or early forties, who’s ALSO a brave decorated war veteran, his jet-fighting pilot best friend, the woman he’s in love with (who’s ALSO brilliant), and a smart young adventurer…  By the way, I don’t know that having Dr. Doom in the very first story is always the best idea, but here we go!

***      ***

Reed Richards is a brilliant scientist, with MEANS, due to a series of successful inventions and developments. Ben Grimm is his best friend; they both served fighting terrorist forces in the mid-East,

Grimm is a top notch pilot.

Reed has been in love with Sue Storm, for years, even though she is about twelve to sixteen years his junior. She is also brilliant, and with degrees of her own, has become a valued associate, as well as Reed’s girlfriend.  Her brother, Johnny, a teenager, or in his early twenties, often hangs out at the lab, although his interests tend far more towards gals, and cars. He is an EXPERT driver. And despite his glibness, a SOLID CITIZEN.

Reed is well aware of the pioneering private space programs, but he also believes that they are not big enough, or soon enough. He wants to explore space NOW.

And at a secret base in Long Island, on a private estate, he’s been building a rocket, to take him and Ben and Sue INTO the space between the planets. He’s found a way to do it economically, which will have great implications for ALL of the Marvel universe, enabling The Avengers, and others to easily travel to the planets…

Reed doesn’t want Sue to risk her life, but she insists…  Johnny, an adventurer at heart, also wants to go.

In  a decision he may always regret, Reed decides to let his friends of years, go along.

After all, if he is trying to prove that space travel is safe, what better way than taking his “family.”

At the Long Island Estate, someone has tipped off the government.  The fencing around the camouflaged rocket base is surrounded by police, federal agents….

The government should know that Reed only has good intentions. He is a valued AMERICAN PATRIOT. But the authorities may not realize that the base is Richards’.

Richards sees all this on a special vieiwscreen in his home in the Baxter Building, where he has  his incredible base of operations — research labs,  living quarters, etc. — on floors of a skyscraper  in Manhattan.

Remember, now, Reed is in his early forties — think Gregory Peck in his prime, or Charlton Heston with a bit more humanity — and can afford to do ANYTHING. He CHOOSES a life of science, and trying to broaden its frontiers, and help humanity.

Ben Grimm wonders if with all that Reed already has, a life of EVERYTHING he wants at his command, if all this is really necessary?  Reed explains why it is, and Ben is ecstatic, because HE’S always wanted to go to space, as well!  And he’s going to “fly” the spacecraft,

There can be only one solution.

On the roof of the Baxter building, the Fantasticar is revealed, a hovercraft helicopter that can go almost anywhere. NO ONE knows that Reed and Ben have built this.

Johnny wonders if this thing will fly…

And Ben Grimm tells him, as long as HE’S flying it!

At the Estate, agents are still milling around, when the Fantasticar appears from the sky…

FantasticarThey start shooting at it. But it’s bullet proof

And suddenly, the Fantasticar veers off, because Reed and Ben are taking it to the TRUE location of their rocket base–

The 1950s/1960s style rocket on the launch pad, was only a diversion. The Fantasticar lands WELL away from the police and army. The Four make their way, to a clearing of trees in the compound. Reed presses a control he’s taken from his pocket, and super solid metal doors open in the ground, revealing a staircase…  They quickly descend, and the impregnable walls close behind them.  Through the lit, orangey corridor, the Four descend, as chaos continues above.

At the heart of the base, is a glorious SPACECRAFT, sleek, like Jack Kirby drew it in its prime, shining beautifully in the full lighting. The Four make their way to the ship’s entrance, and cockpit.

“We don’t want anyone to get hurt.”

On a loudspeaker system, Reed’s voice is heard outside, warning the crowd tp pull back to the road, that there is going to be a massive contained explosion, but no one will get hurt. But they most move beyond the perimeter. Suddenly, we see a SAFETY fence rising along the grounds. A secuirty officer in charge starts getting everyone behind the perimeter….

Someone among the authorities — perhaps more than one official — realizes that it’s Reed Richards, and feels far safer…

And, soon, the amazing craft lifts up to a gantry, and ABOVE THE GROUND glimmering just like in the moonlight of the original comics, the Fantastic Four’s rocket launches….

On their ascent, Reed asks Sue Storm to send the government their full trajectory, and plans (a process that due to high tech, happens immediately, of course).

Ben says it may be too late, nuclear warheads are already being aimed in their direction (from outerspace platforms?)

Reed says not to worry, their ship will soon be GONE!

In a military command base, a General, realizing it’s Reed Richards, decides to bet on Richards’ patriotism and all that he’s done for the world….  The weapons are called back.

Richards and Grimm and the Storms, are now beyond the Earth’s orbit!

And it’s beautiful

But —

There, somewhere,  a mysterious cloud, or nebula, or SOMETHING is encountered –

Cosmic rays, or something else?

And when the friends return to earth, they have gained their powers…

Meanwhile, on a viewscreen, in his castle in Latveria, a country somewhere in Europe, Victor Von Doom, hidden behind an iron mask, and cloak, watches the rocket climbing through the stratosphere, on his own, VERY futuristic, but also somehow medieval-looking, monitor.

He notes that Reed Richards, his old college roommate, has again succeeded….

AND WE’RE OFF.

Next, to the story’s McGuffin…

(Which could be particularly interesting, because maybe, in Reed’s debriefing with the government, he’s told that Von Doom is about to address the United Nations

Stay tuned.

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.

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“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.