2015 Bill Finger Award To McGregor, Stanley

Don McGregor and the late John Stanley have been selected to receive the 2015 Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing, which is given under the auspices of San Diego Comic-Con International. Each year the selection committee, chaired by Mark Evanier, selects two recipients, one living and one deceased.

Don McGregor began his career writing comic books with work for Warren (Creepy, Eerie) in 1971, and in 1972 he joined the editorial staff at Marvel Comics. Before long, he was writing for Marvel where his work became known for its unique voice. His runs with the character Black Panther in Jungle Action and on Killraven in Amazing Adventures drew strong fan response, as did his later efforts for other publishers: Detectives, Inc; Sabre, Nathaniel Dusk, and the acclaimed Ragamuffins. He also wrote Zorro both for comic books and comic strips.

McGregor will receive his award in a ceremony at Comic-Con on July 10.

John Stanley is best known for writing and occasionally drawing Little Lulu for Dell Comics from 1945 to 1959, turning Marge’s single-panel gag cartoon into a popular and hilarious series of stories and creating most of the supporting cast for Lulu’s world. His rich characterizations and humor made for a memorable series, and he applied those skills to other Dell and Gold Key comics, including Nancy and Sluggo, Melvin Monster, O.G. Whiz, and Thirteen (Going On Eighteen). As with his contemporary Carl Barks, Stanley’s work was almost completely anonymous, but avid fans unearthed the secret of who was doing that superb work. Stanley left comics for other work in the early seventies and passed away in 1993.

His Finger Award will be accepted by his son, James.

In addition to Evanier, the selection committee consists of Charles Kochman (executive editor at Harry N. Abrams, book publisher), comic book writer Kurt Busiek, artist/historian Jim Amash, cartoonist Scott Shaw!, and writer/editor Marv Wolfman.

The Bill Finger Award honors the memory of William Finger (1914–1974), the first writer of Batman. Many have called him the “unsung hero” of the character. The award was created in 2005 at the instigation of Jerry Robinson.

Stan Freberg (1926-2015)

Stan Freberg, in the days when he voiced puppet characters on "Time for Beany."

Stan Freberg, in the days when he voiced puppet characters on “Time for Beany.”

Revered satirist and actor Stan Freberg died April 7 at the age of 88. His body of work included more than 400 voiceovers for Warner Bros. animation, comedy albums, TV shows like Time for Beany and The Chun King Comedy Hour, and funny commercials for which he won 21 Clio Awards. Time magazine said his 1961 album Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America may have been the “finest comedy album ever recorded.”

He extolled the power of radio advertising in this unforgettable bit —

PAUL FREES: Radio? Why should I advertise on radio? There’s nothing to look at, no pictures…

STAN FREBERG: Look, you can do things on radio you couldn’t possibly do on tv.

FREES: That’ll be the day.

FREBERG: All right, watch this…ahem, okay people, now when I give you the cue, I want the 700 foot mountain of whipped cream to roll into Lake Michigan, which has been drained and filled with hot chocolate. Then the Royal Canadian Air Force will fly overhead towing a 10-tom maraschino cherry, which will be dropped into the whipped cream to the cheering of 25,000 extras. All right – cue the mountain!

Freberg was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 1995.

He also believed in humorous TV commercials and is remembered for taglines like “Today the pits; tomorrow the wrinkles. Sunsweet marches on!,” and Contadina’s “Who put eight great tomatoes in that little bitty can?”

Freberg was close friends with Ray Bradbury. Ray served as best man when Stan married his first wife, Donna — Ray having introduced the newlyweds.

In the Sixties, Freberg put Ray in one of his Sunsweet Prunes commercials. Freberg ‘s narrator praises Ray’s power to predict the future as Ray repeatedly interrupts, “But I never mentioned prunes in any of my stories!”

The two friends had a reunion in the aisles at the 2009 Comic Con when Freberg was 82 and Bradbury was 88 — both made the rounds in wheelchairs. Just a few years later Freberg was among the speakers at Comic Con’s Bradbury memorial (2012).

Ray Bradbury and Stan Freberg at Comic Con 2009

Jerry Beck recalls, “He thanked me, often, for giving him credit in print for all the Warner Bros. cartoons he had a part in. He had been miffed that he was unable to get screen credit (Mel Blanc had an exclusive credit by contract) – save for one classic Friz Freleng short, Three Little Bops (1957).”

Mark Evanier’s tribute mentions —

Stan was the guy who’d been at it the longest. He recorded his first cartoon voice roles in 1945 for release in 1946. As far as I know, his last job was in an episode of The Garfield Show I voice-directed last year. It’s currently scheduled to run on Cartoon Network this October, giving Stan a career span of 69 years.

Once when Frank Sinatra toured Australia, he took along Freberg as his opening act.

Freberg’s first wife, the former Donna Andresen, died in 2000. In addition to his son, Donavan, he is survived by his wife, Hunter; his daughter, Donna Jean; and one granddaughter.

Update 04/11/2015: Corrected info about Bradbury introducing Freberg to his wife — it was Donna that Ray introduced to Stan.

Net Spreads News of Bradbury House Teardown

John King Tarpinian’s photos and story about the demolition of Ray Bradbury’s house have reached  a wide audience and touched a lot of hearts in the past 24 hours.

Bloggers also are weighing in —

Brett at Screen Door Revolution has these trenchant comments in Dear Smart People: YOU ARE LOSING THE CULTURE WAR:

There’s little doubt in my mind that, say, James Franco’s house will someday be preserved as a culturally-significant landmark for future generations to behold, gilded and immortalized for all-time, and hailed as a triumph of freedom.

I apologize if perhaps this notion seems, at first, overly cynical, but it’s not hard to look around and read the tea leaves. The Gatsby house is allowed to crumble and Ray Bradbury’s house knocked down for the sum of $1.7 million, thus depriving future generations the ability to physically visit those places where the stuff of dreams was quite literally created. And what exactly of significance and value are we leaving in place of that loss? Another Walgreens? Another CVS or horrifying McDonald’s? And nowhere interesting to visit besides Disneyland?

Brian Sibley in The Magician’s House calls upon cherished memories and has more great photos of the house and various Bradbury artifacts.

Painted the yellow of Dandelion Wine, the house was an extension of the man: it was the place where he crafted novels, short stories, plays, essays and poetry and it was crammed full of Bradburyness: his own books, of course, but those, too, of the writers and artists he loved, and then, all those paintings and pictures: animation and comic-book art and the work of two of his favourite artists: the mysterious Gothic or futuristic visions of Joe Mugnaini (who illustrated so many of his books) and stunning landscapes by Eyvind Earle, also known as the man responsible for styling Disney’s most stylish animated feature, Sleeping Beauty. Not to mention all the toys, trinkets, trivia, nick-knacks ad geegaws…

Also noteworthy is Mark Evanier’s News From Me post A Sound of Thunder published last weekend immediately after the story broke:

I just read some online messages that when they quit the demolition work on Friday, the house was without a roof. And now it’s raining in Los Angeles…

Those of you who are familiar with Ray’s story “There Will Come Soft Rains” will appreciate the imagery.

Eyewitnesses to Ellison’s Recovery

Many friends of Harlan Ellison visited him in the hospital on October 13 and say he’s faring well after his recent stroke.

Harlan Ellison and Josh Olson at Cinefamily in 2011.

Harlan Ellison and Josh Olson at Cinefamily in 2011.

Josh Olson told The Harlan Ellison Facebook Fanclub:

I just got back from the hospital. Harlan was in fine form, and being visited by Mark Evanier, Alan Brennert, David Gerrold and Kim and Kanye. A damn fine group of folks.

I mentioned that all over the interwebs, people were wishing him well, and offering to send him prayers and good wishes, and he suggested that instead of that, they all go to http://www.harlanellisonbooks.com and buy some of his fucking books.

Patton Oswalt’s ears were still echoing Ellison’s farewell:

“I gotta go do some physical therapy on my stupid fucking arm.” — actual quote from when I spoke to Harlan Ellison earlier. He’ll be fine.

Harlan Ellison and Patton Oswalt in 2013. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

Harlan Ellison and Patton Oswalt in 2013. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

Mark Evanier tweeted:

Visited Harlan Ellison at the hospital after his minor stroke. More energy and wit than most folks who haven’t had a stroke.

And Evanier blogged Alan Brennert’s Facebook account of their visit:

So today my pal Mark Evanier and I went to see my old friend and colleague Harlan Ellison, who is recovering from a stroke he suffered last week. This was without a doubt the cheeriest, often laugh-out-loud funniest, hospital visit I’ve ever paid. Harlan’s right arm and leg may be paralyzed, but his mind and wit definitely are not. He kept answering the phone, “Hello, Just This Side of Death, how can I help you?” and continued in his futile attempts to explain who Vera Hruba Ralston was to the very efficient, very nice, very young doctors and nurses caring for him.

Mark and I showed up as Harlan was finishing his physical therapy, and we were soon joined by David Gerrold and Josh Olson and his wife Nancy Himmel. There was much more comedy, but we’ll be releasing the entire session on CD and iTunes as Harlan: Live From the Stroke Ward on the Edgeworks label. No, I made that up, but we could have. It was great to see Harlan in such fine form after what could have been such a debilitating injury.

Dennis C. saw Ellison the previous day, October 12, and left these encouraging observations at Ellison’s forum:

His mind is as sharp as ever, his speech is fine, his energy is volcanic as always. He’s going to have physical therapy for those limbs not currently in total control. But Harlan has a will of titanium so I do not doubt that he will win this battle.

I just want everyone to know that he’s our Harlan. No change. Mind moving at FTL speed. He out-talked us for an hour and entertained us with stories, even though we were the ones supposed to be entertaining him. It was a good visit.

The mainstream media also has started to cover this story – at least its more sf savvy members, like Douglas Perry of The Oregonian who ran Dennis C.’s quote and followed up with a personal insight.

This is exactly what anyone who knows Ellison would expect from him. He’s one of the last of a unique American breed: the larger-than-life writer — from Ernest Hemingway to Norman Mailer — who believed it was part of his job to live a big, civically engaged, adventure-filled life. How else could he write big, civically engaged, adventure-filled stories?

Bradbury Farewell Roundup

Makeshift memorial for Ray Bradbury at Mystery & Imagination Bookshop in Glendale, CA. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

Tributes to the late Ray Bradbury are being posted everywhere today.

Mark Evanier
News From Me
Ray Bradbury, R.I.P.

Before we left, he quietly took me aside and invited me to come back without my friends. They were nice kids and all but they didn’t have my commitment to writing so he had “a couple of things” he wanted to say to me and me alone.

Me and me alone went back a week later and he must have spent three hours slathering me with advice. Absolutely none of it was about story content. He didn’t talk about plot or character motivation or plot structure. He talked about being a writer…about living like one, working like one, thinking like one. A lot of it was very pragmatic, about how to not fantasize the profession into something it was not. It was not, for example, a profession where visions pop into your genius brain and you just type them up, send them in and get hailed as brilliant. He had worked damn hard to become Ray Bradbury and every day, he worked damn harder to stay Ray Bradbury.

He did not make me want to become a writer. I was already there. What he did, I suppose, was make me think as follows: Ray Bradbury gave me all that time and encouragement. I can’t waste that.

R.I.P. Ray Bradbury, Author of Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles:

His grandson, Danny Karapetian, shared these words with io9 about his grandfather’s passing: “If I had to make any statement, it would be how much I love and miss him, and I look forward to hearing everyone’s memories about him. He influenced so many artists, writers, teachers, scientists, and it’s always really touching and comforting to hear their stories. Your stories. His legacy lives on in his monumental body of books, film, television and theater, but more importantly, in the minds and hearts of anyone who read him, because to read him was to know him. He was the biggest kid I know.”

Lynell George
Los Angeles Times
Sci-fi pioneer Ray Bradbury dies at 91

Bradbury’s poetically drawn and atmospheric fictions—horror, fantasy, shadowy American gothics—explored life’s secret corners: what was hidden in the margins of the official family narrative, or the white noise whirring uncomfortably just below the placid surface. He offered a set of metaphors and life puzzles to ponder for the rocket age and beyond, and has influenced a wide swath of popular culture–from children’s writer R.L. Stine and singer Elton John (who penned his hit “Rocket Man” as an homage), to architect Jon Jerde who enlisted Bradbury to consider and offer suggestions about reimagining public spaces.

She also extensively quoted Gregory Benford’s thoughts about Bradbury’s appeal:

“Nostalgia is eternal. And Americans are often displaced from their origins and carry an anxious memory of it, of losing their origins. Bradbury reminds us of what we were and of what we could be,” Benford said.

“Like most creative people, he was still a child, His stories tell us: Hold on to your childhood. You don’t get another one. I don’t think he ever put that away.”

Gerald Jonas
New York Times
‘Idea Writer’ and Lyrical Master of Science Fiction

An unathletic child who suffered from bad dreams, he relished the tales of the Brothers Grimm and the Oz stories of L. Frank Baum, which his mother read to him. An aunt, Neva Bradbury, took him to his first stage plays, dressed him in monster costumes for Halloween and introduced him to Poe’s stories. He discovered the science-fiction pulps and began collecting the comic-strip adventures of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. A conversation with a carnival magician named Mr. Electrico that touched on immortality gave the 12-year-old Bradbury the impetus to become a writer.

In 1934 the family moved to Los Angeles, where Mr. Bradbury became a movie buff, sneaking into theaters as often as nine times a week. Encouraged by a high school English teacher and the professional writers he met at the Los Angeles chapter of the Science Fiction League, he began a lifelong routine of turning out at least a thousand words a day on his typewriter.

Locus Online
Ray Bradbury (1920-2012)

Ray Douglas Bradbury was born August 22, 1920 in Waukegan, Illinois.  He moved with his family to Los Angeles in 1934, at age 13, and in 1937 discovered the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society. Through that organization he met Forrest J Ackerman, Hannes Bok, Edmond Hamilton, Ray Harryhausen, Robert A. Heinlein, Henry Kuttner, and many other friends who would go on to become SF luminaries.

Gene Seymour
Bradbury was a writer of perils, possibilities and wonder

Bradbury’s more intelligent and incisive readers found greater resonance in his writing than his deceptively simple approach evoked on the surface.

One such fan was the Argentine fabulist and poet Jorge Luis-Borges, who in his introduction to his Spanish-language translation of “The Martian Chronicles, asked: “What has this man from Illinois done, I ask myself when I close the pages of his book, that episodes from the conquest of another planet fill me with horror and loneliness?”

Alan Duke
Sci-fi legend Ray Bradbury dies

“For many Americans, the news of Ray Bradbury’s death immediately brought to mind images from his work, imprinted in our minds, often from a young age,” President Obama said. “His gift for storytelling reshaped our culture and expanded our world. But Ray also understood that our imaginations could be used as a tool for better understanding, a vehicle for change, and an expression of our most cherished values. There is no doubt that Ray will continue to inspire many more generations with his writing, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”

“He was my muse for the better part of my sci-fi career,” director Steven Spielberg said. “He lives on through his legion of fans. In the world of science fiction and fantasy and imagination he is immortal.”

“Ray Bradbury wrote three great novels and 300 great stories,” author Stephen King said. “One of the latter was called ‘A Sound of Thunder.’ The sound I hear today is the thunder of a giant’s footsteps fading away. But the novels and stories remain, in all their resonance and strange beauty.”

Jerry Pournelle
Chaos Manor
R.I.P. Ray Bradbury

Ray affected writing more than he intended to: he made short stories look much easier than they are. A lot of new writers fell for that. In the early days Ray was a fantasy writer in a science fiction world – it’s hard to remember that science fiction used to sell much better than fantasy – but he could do science fiction as well, witness Fahrenheit 451. At one time the whole genre was dominated by “ABC”, Asimov, Bradbury, and Clarke, although usually someone would quickly add Robert Heinlein. Now the Big Four are gone. They will all be missed.

It’s A Most Wonderful Time of the Year

You know the holidays are here because decorations are going up, traditional music is playing, fans are sending each other carefully nonsectarian greeting cards with pictures of snowflakes or animals that live in the Arctic circle – and friends online are reminding each other to read their favorite humorous and heartwarming blog posts.   

The entire internet tilted to one side yesterday morning as people rushed over to Whatever and read the repost of John Scalzi’s ever-popular “The 10 Least Successful Christmas Holiday Specials of All Time”. It was the first time I’d seen it and is it ever funny.

If you remember what the Mercury Theater did for Halloween you may be surprised to hear what Orson Welles did before the next big holiday:

Listeners of radio’s Columbia Broadcasting System who tuned in to hear a Christmas Eve rendition of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol were shocked when they heard what appeared to be a newscast from the north pole, reporting that Santa’s Workshop had been overrun in a blitzkrieg by Finnish proxies of the Nazi German government.

Today, Facebook users are being prompted to read Mark Evanier’s great anecote about Mel Torme, whose memory is evergreen because he co-wrote and recorded the classic carol which begins “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” There’s a whole encounter which ends:

Then the gent I’d briefed said, “You know, you’re not a bad singer.”  He actually said that to Mel Tormé.

Mel chuckled.  He realized that these four young folks hadn’t the velvet-foggiest notion who he was…

Help Rebuild Len Wein’s Comic Collection

Rebuild Len Wein's Comic Collection

When Len Wein and Christine Valada’s home burned on April 6, as Craig Miller explained, “The master bedroom and bath were burned out. The walls still stand but everything inside, including the ceiling, is gone. Nearby rooms had extreme heat and smoke damage and smoke damage runs throughout. DVDs, artwork, awards, etc. are gone forever.”

Wein’s friend Mark Evanier realized that even though insurance should provide the money to restore the house, many things, including Wein’s comics, were not covered.  Evanier thought it was a particular shame that Wein had lost the collection of comics he himself had worked on – and Evanier knew that, at least, could be fixed:

Some of us thought it would be grand if his friends and fans pitched in to help him recreate those shelves of the comic books he’s worked on.

So the crusade as been launched. At the “Let’s Rebuild Len Wein’s Comic Book Collection Project” site there is a frequently-updated PDF list of what they want, with lineouts of what’s been received. It looks as if half of the needed titles have already been secured, but dozens more are still being sought.

[Thanks to David Klaus for the link.]