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.

Auction Comics Number One

Action Comics No. 1

Action Comics No. 1

Action Comics No. 1, where Superman first appeared in 1938, set a new record today when a pristine copy sold for $3,207,852 in an eBay auction.

This copy surpasses in value the one formerly owned by Nicolas Cage that sold for $2.16 million in 2011.

Both are graded as 9.0 (out of 10) by the Certified Guaranty Company, but the one sold today is described as having “perfect white pages.”

Around 100 copies of the issue are thought to be in existence, and only 7 unrestored copies are graded over 6.0.

Man Does Not Bite Dog

Kill an iconic comic book character.

Or take a male superhero who’s been around for half a century and change his character into a woman.

What will they think of next?

Apparently they won’t think of anything next. They’re just going to keep doing these two things.

thor-001_cover COMPToday’s news reports that Marvel’s new Thor is a woman

In October, a new, female Thor will rise to replace the Odinson that Marvel readers have known since “Journey Into Mystery” No. 83 in 1962, the company announced Tuesday morning on ABC’s “The View” talk show.

It’s a major shake-up of a Marvel bedrock character, and the company is hammering home that the change is no gimmick.

Sure, this is serious stuff! In that any comics publisher’s definition of serious means — making money. Indeed, the multiplying trend encourages everyone to believe the now-female Captain Marvel and She-Hulk comics must be printing money.

The goal is presumably the same in having Archie Andrews die taking a bullet for his gay best friend – Monday’s headline story.

The famous freckle-faced comic book icon is meeting his demise in Wednesday’s installment of “Life with Archie” when he intervenes in an assassination attempt on Kevin Keller, Archie Comics’ first openly gay character. Andrews’ death, which was first announced in April, will mark the conclusion of the series that focuses on grown-up renditions of Andrews and his Riverdale pals.

“The way in which Archie dies is everything that you would expect of Archie,” said Jon Goldwater, Archie Comics publisher and co-CEO. “He dies heroically. He dies selflessly. He dies in the manner that epitomizes not only the best of Riverdale but the best of all of us. It’s what Archie has come to represent over the past almost 75 years.”

archiecover

“He’s dead, Jug.”

When they think Archie can make more money being alive again he’ll be back, of course. I’m skeptical that the demand will be as strong as it was for Superman, but he’ll be back.

Meanwhile, I predict unlimited potential for Betty and Veronica. Yes, they can be relaunched as guys. Or their characters can follow Archie into the Elysian Fields.

Because there are only two alternatives in the comics industry.

Comics Unmasked at British Library

The British Library’s exhibition Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK runs through August 19. (Parental guidance required for visitors under 16 years.)

Comics Unmasked is the UK’s largest ever exhibition of mainstream and underground comics, showcasing works that uncompromisingly address politics, gender, violence, sexuality and altered states. It explores the full anarchic range of the medium with works that challenge categorisation, preconceptions and the status quo, alongside original scripts, preparatory sketches and final artwork that demystify the creative process.

Neil Gaiman (Sandman), Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta), Grant Morrison (Batman: Arkham Asylum) and Posy Simmonds (Tamara Drewe) are some of the stars of an exhibit that stretches back in time to encompass 19th-century illustrated reports of Jack the Ripper, and medieval manuscripts.

Cheryl Morgan and James Bacon have toured the exhibit and written up their impressions.

comics-unmaked-british-library-01-628x840 COMPRESSMorgan looked for the message in the physical display as well as the literary themes in “The British Library Does #ComicsUnmasked” —

Finally, as we have got onto gender issues, I note in passing that the exhibition space is littered with mannequins dressed as political protesters and wearing V for Vendetta masks. What Alan Moore thinks of that, I shudder to think. On close examination it is obvious that many of the mannequins are female. However, they are small-breasted (especially in comparison with comic-book women) and are all wearing androgynous outfits comprising jeans, t-shirts and hoodies, plus the undeniably male Guy Fawkes masks, and that makes it look like all of the figures are male. I found that rather off-putting.

Morgan also notes there is “a remarkable suffragette poster that I suspect will horrify most modern social justice campaigners.”

Forbidden Planet hosts James Bacon’s text and many photos — “James Reports From the British Library’s Superb Comics Unmasked” includes a photo of that dread poster, by the way. And offers these insights into what the curators are trying to achieve:

Along with Paul Gravett are co-curator John Harris Dunning, Adrian Edwards and Roger Walshe of the British Library. Walshe repeatedly says that he is not apologising for what is on display; this is a strong exhibition that some might find alarming, controversial, but the message here is that comics are not just for kids, and the exhibition is about the message of the media of comics, not any particular genre. Yes, comics are fun, they are a pastime, they are beautiful, they are fantasy, they are powerful, they are a true form of literature, imparting dangerous thoughts and ideas, asking questions of the reader, forcing reflection and consideration, or making laughter.

Credit Sought for Batman Co-Creator

List me among the last to learn that Bob Kane, credited as sole creator of Batman, was not the originator of many key elements of the comic. A fellow named Bill Finger named major characters, came up with notable villains, and wrote lots of the stories. Fans are clamoring more loudly than ever for DC to give him proper credit. Batman News reports —

During a recent WonderCon Anaheim panel for Batman’s 75th anniversary, an audience member asked panelists for opinions about the fact that writer Bill Finger does not get a creator credit alongside Bob Kane, who is credited as the legendary character’s sole creator even though Finger came up with defining qualities for this character before Kane ever signed his first contract to produce the Dark Knight’s adventures. Finger wrote the first Batman story, his tragic origin, and hundreds upon hundreds of comic book stories for more than a quarter of a century. He named both Bruce Wayne and Gotham City, he created Commissioner Gordon, he developed many other supporting characters, he created or co-created one fantastic villain after another, and yet he died broke and relatively unknown more than 40 years ago….

This fall, the Warner Bros. television series GOTHAM will feature many Bill Finger creations, including the city itself. Will the series that carries the name he gave to Batman’s city credit him in any way?

A commenter filled in newcomers on the comic’s ancient history.

Not a huge evil conspiracy, just a little personal evil one. Bob Kane took credit for Finger’s work. When DC found out about Finger, they hired him directly rather than letting Kane continue to skim off a large chunk of Finger’s earnings.

Kane was 21 when he “created” Batman. He signed a contract with National that was very similar to the one Siegel & Shuster signed for Superman. When the character because a success, Kane went back to the publishers and told them he was only 17 when he signed the contract, making it legally invalid and forcing them to sign a new agreement that was far more lucrative for him, including the provision that he would always be credited as the sole creator of a character to which he contributed almost nothing (virtually every panel of the first Batman story was traced from elsewhere). His claim to having been a minor was false, but he knew they couldn’t prove it, since his birth certificate had “disappeared” from the city’s hall of records sometime prior; one of his relatives did that to make sure he wouldn’t get drafted (it happened a lot after WWI).

One of Bob Kane’s angriest critics also charges him with widespread plagiarism and displays copious examples on this webpage.