Cnwl1's Blog

Just another WordPress.com site

Archive for the ‘Library of American Comics’ Category

Quick Blips on the Mental Radar

leave a comment »

Shorter items, noted as the leaves keep a’falling outside my window …

Finished October with a few days of intensive research at Ohio State University’s Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. Always a pleasant experience, and this time was no exception. You can read more about the junket by clicking the Blog feature at www.libraryofamericancomics.com.

One of life’s sad twists and turns struck me the other day. My oldest and dearest friends, friends of some thirty-five years, are the friends I found through our shared interest in comics. Eight of us grew from teenagers to middle-agers together, regularly staying in touch even as we geographically scattered across four different northeastern states, getting together as time and tide permitted. The sad twist that occurred to me? Four of our number have had comics work of one sort or another published within the past year, yet none of us show any signs of reading or commenting upon the others’ work. Had we had this type of success in younger days, we’d have been cheering one another on and dissecting each release, but the passage of the years has saturated our comics sensibilities, so we’re pleased for one another (I like to think), but we’re too busy dealing with Life and racing the next deadline to offer the sort of pats on the back we deserve. So let me publicly do what I can to correct this shortfall by noting that Lee Weeks is a justly-praised artist whose work is taking on a new vigor as he does his first work in more than a decade for DC Comics on a certain Man of Steel —  Dave Naybor’s multi-volume graphic novel Walking Christendom continues to amuse and enlighten and can be found here (http://www.amazon.com/Walking-Christendom-One-End/dp/055741167X/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1415460439&sr=1-3&keywords=Dave+Naybor) –“Freder’s” comics and many other projects can be viewed at www.ducksoup.me and are at last beginning to earn him praise and an audience that is long overdue. I recommend their work and commend them all, saying: W*E*L*L D*O*N*E, I’m proud to be your friend and delighted by your accomplishments!

Preparing to host Thanksgiving for the New England contingent of my family. Much to do, much to do …

This has been a fine year for meeting other comics professionals. It was a genuine pleasure to shake hands for the first time with Jeff Smith, Andy Runton, Joe Staton (and his writing partner,. Mike Curtis), Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Tom Palmer, and Fred Hembeck. Also great to renew acquaintances with folks such as John Romita Sr. and Denis Kitchen.

It’s also been an unusually active year in terms of long-distance travel. You’ll pardon me, perhaps, if I hope for a 2015 that includes less time in airports and more time at home!

Depite the woes of the local Boston Red Sox, this baseball season had much to recommend it, including an exciting postseason that reminded us why sports are the true “reality viewing,” as Big Team after Big Team was knocked out of competition by the two wildcard underdogs, the Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants. All the statistics and pre-game analysis doesn’t matter, because anything can happen before twenty-seven outs (or, in other sports, before forty-eight or sixty minutes) are recorded …

Finally, given the infrequency of my visits to this space, should this be my final posting for 2014, here’s wishing any and all who read this a Happy Thanksgiving, a Happy Christmas or other similar holiday, and an especially happy 2015!

Advertisements

Written by cnwl1

November 8, 2014 at 4:17 pm

A Sad State of Affairs

leave a comment »

Here comes what passes, for me, as a rant …

Several weeks ago I did what I thought was a good deed — I packaged up extra copies of several of our Library of American Comics volumes and brought them to the two Public Libraries in my immediate vicinity. In each case I walked in, politely introduced myself, gave a twenty or thirty second elevator speech about LOAC and what we do, and told them I wanted to donate some of our recent releases. In each case, the reaction was — shall we be kind and say? — underwhelming.

At the first Public Library the person at the desk looked at the books, up at me, then back at the books, and had she been sucking on a sour persimmon she might have looked slightly less pleased than she did at that moment. She grudgingly pulled them a bit closer to her side of the desk, mumbled something might have been a “Thank you,” then turned away from me without another word. At the second Public Library the reception was, if anything, even chillier. “We may not want these books,” the scarecrow behind the desk said to me. “we’ll have to review them, and if it turns out we don’t want them, is it all right if we put them into our next Library Book Sale?”

So, let’s recap: I’m coming to these establishments not as a raging egomaniac, and I’m not shoving old, well-thumbed, dog-eared books their way — I’m being polite. I’m coming to them with a smile on my face, and I’m presenting each of them with over two hundred fifty dollars worth of brand-spanking-new, shiny, hot-off-the-press volumes. At a point in history when we’re supposedly clamoring for all-ages material, here comes a batch of titles that fill that bill, produced in part by a local professional, and all it generates is sneers.

This experience makes me now publicly ask a question that’s been building for awhile now: When did the persons who make their living working with books start hating books? Yes, I’m talking to you, librarians, and to you, bookstore employees. What the haitch-ee-double-toothpicks? How can we expect kids to foster a love for books if you’re showing them this snot-nosed attitude whenever they visit your establishments? How can we keep adults reading if you interact with them in ways that indicate you’d rather be sucking down bon-bons on the couch while CSI reruns flicker across your TV screen, or sneaking off to the break room to play some brain-dead game on your so-called smartphone? I’m not asking you to act like Pollyanna to every belligerent customer who accosts you. I am suggesting you could act professionally, especially when dealing with another professional who is part of the overall profession that allows you to cash your paycheck on a regular basis.

It would be wrong for me to tar every librarian and bookseller with the same brush — I’m sure there are many knowledgeable, upbeat, helpful, enthusiastic librarians and booksellers in communities all over the country. If you are one of them, pat yourself on the back, because you are doing Good Work and you are seemingly part of an ever-shrinking tribe. I applaud you, and I wish you lived and worked in my community. Since you do not, you can bet your sweet bippy I’ve donated my last book to either of my local Public Libraries. I’ll contact the local hospitals, schools, and even retirement homes, working toward a simple goal: to find one or more places that will accept my occasional donated books with a smile and a “Thanks” that sounds sincere.

Is that really too much to ask …?

Written by cnwl1

May 16, 2014 at 2:31 am

Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot …

leave a comment »

As readers in this space can tell, I’m not much of an avid blogger. Shame on me, I suppose, in this world if “iPads,” “iPhones,” “iPods,” and (as the last episode of The Prisoner puts it) “I — I — I — I!”, that I prefer to spend my precious writing time telling stories about others rather than nattering on about myself. Some may have noticed that I don’t Facebook, I don’t Twitter … I don’t think that my every little move is all that interesting, nor do I feel an overpowering urge to chronicle my life for all to see. I’m rather a private person, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing to be. Your mileage may vary, and that’s certainly OK — as long as you accept that it’s also OK when my mileage varies from yours.

That preamble out of the way, a few musings and notes you may find of interest as we prepare to say goodbye to Old Man 2012 and say hello to Baby 2013 …

ITEM! If my blog space is too often unoccupied, it’s because I’ve been mighty busy this year helping to line up a batch of good 2013 reading through The Library of American Comics. At

    http://www.libraryofamericancomics.com/upcoming/

    you can see the year begins with Li’l Abner Volume 5, in which I have a fun essay about Al Capp, the goings-on in War-years Dogpatch, and the true arrival of the one-and-only Fearless Fosdick! February/March brings us two projects near-&-dear to my heart: the conclusion of my biographies of both Alex Toth (in Genius, Illustrated) and Jack Kent (in King Aroo Volume 2). Then it’s adventure with Milton Caniff and Steve Canyon in April — and more still to come, including a delightful excursion into Cliff Sterrett’s life in Ogunquit, Maine that will accompany our first collection of Polly and Her Pals daily comic strips, a lively third volume in our Flash Gordon/Jungle Jim series, and readers will enjoy the art, photos, and facts I’ve unearthed while examining the George McManus Papers at UCLA in my article for our next Bringing Up Father release.

    Sheesh — with a workload like that, who has time to write blog entries?

    ITEM! Another reason I don’t blog more often probably has to do with the constantly-shifting state of the cyber-world. When I came to this site today to create a new blog entry, I sighed a discouraged sigh when I discovered the interface has radically changed since my last visit, and having to get used to the “feel” of the site all over again sucked time and effort out of my life I really didn’t want to spend. Add in a message that said I needed to download a new version of “Silverlight” (whatever that is) but the attempt to do the download failed, and well, just *sigh*. I think I got here to pen these words more through sheer stubborness than an ease-of-use the new-look interface bestowed upon me.

    T he latest, really radical redesign of iTunes software was similarly discouraging to me — I just want to be able to buy music and quickly drop it/manage it on my iPod, I don’t want to have to re-learn an interface and get “iCloud” shoved down my throat and waste time re-learning something I had already learned. I grow dismayed with what seems to be increasingly-large amounts of time folks spend simply fiddling with technology; I know I’m convinced there are much better ways to spend my valuable free time!

    ITEM! How one thought begets another …

    I visited the Locus “Upcoming Books” site (http://locusmag.com/Resources/ForthcomingBooks.html), an invaluable resource for tracking what your favorite SF/fantasy authors have in the pipeline. That made me think of the days when I could visit my local Borders and scan the latest issue of Locus, and how the “Forthcoming Books” issues would make me sit down in the cafe with scratch paper and pen, jotting down future books I’d make a point of purchasing.

    That made me think of the fact Borders has been out of business for three or four years now, which has left many Northeastern cities like mine with Barnes & Noble the only bookseller in the game. And when I go into B&N these days, I see too much floor space devoted to kids’ toys and board games and tchotchkas, space that was once given over to, you know — books.

    And that made me think of something I wrote for the website Cortland Review more than a decade ago. Click, if you will,  http://www.cortlandreview.com/features/99/03/canwell.htm and read the four short paragraphs labeled “The Superstore Booksellers.” I think my observations from waaaay back then remain pretty close to the bulls-eye …

    ITEM! Here in New England we are just a couple hours away, as I type, from receiving more snow, making this a good day to hunker down and Get Stuff Done (like writing this blog entry, I suppose). We also have slightly more than sixty hours of 2012 remaining. Like most years it’s had its good parts, and they have been good indeed, yet for too many of my friends and loved ones it’s been a year or struggle, one they won’t be sorry to see shuffle into the mists of history. For them — for you — and for all of us, here are my sincere wishes for a Happy New Year and a brighter, better 2013!

    Written by cnwl1

    December 29, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    Summertime Check-In

    leave a comment »

    Some quick general observations and notes —

    [1] Working hard on Genius, Illustrated, the second volume of the Alex Toth Project. Easily the most ambitious Library of American Comics project in our first five years of existence.

    [2] Books recently bought:  The Dragon Griaule, by Lucius Shepard. Currently reading a collection of Russell Baker “Observer” pieces from The New York Times.  Oh, and the latest volume of Spider-Man Masterworks.

    [3] My niece starts college on the last week in August. How these kids keep growing up when my family, friends, and I don’t grow any older is quite a magic trick … (ho-ho!)

    [4] Season of discontent for Red Sox fans, and one assumes for the players themselves. Seems clear to me there was a change in the talent evaluation process (and perhaps capabilities) when Bill LaJoie parted ways with the team. I also wonder how a team that once bragged it had the model program for keeping pitchers’ arms healthy can have such a spate of severe pitching injuries in the past two years (Lackey, Matsuzaka, Rich Hill all undergoing Tommy John surgery, Scott Atkinson narrowly avoiding it).

    [5] Hoping to gather with several of my old friends in either late summer or early autumn.

    [6] There is no Number Six. (A Monty Python-style joke — Prisoner fans would take exception!).

    [7] Saw Dark Knight Rises last night. Ehhh-h-h — didn’t love it, didn’t detest it. Was intrigued to see the creative types take so many Batman stories frm the comics, prune them and graft them together in different places, and create something that was their own, and even moderately coherent. Though that very first scene (and therefore, the rest of the movie) hinges on a CIA agent acting stupider than a 5th grade kid … and the last scene has become the worst type of Hollywood scripting cliche. I saw it coming probably 95 minutes away. Perhaps that’s what disappoints me so consistently in modern Hollywood product — the utter predictability of so much of it.

    [8] You can also find me writing on-line stuff at http://www.libraryofamericancomics.com/ and http://forum.idwpublishing.com/viewtopic.php?t=533.

    That’s thirty. Bye-bye and Buy Bonds —

    Written by cnwl1

    August 11, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    The Nomination IS the Award …

    leave a comment »

    Nominations for the 2012 Will Eisner Awards, the comics industry’s version of the Oscars, were announced on Wednesday, April 4th. The Library of American Comics was fortunate to receive five nominations — the most nominations we have ever received in one year. I provided editing support to each of our recognized titles, producing the new written content in three of them.

    Genius, Isolated: The Life & Art of Alex Toth was nominated twice, for “Best Comics-Related Book” as well as “Best Publication Design.” Isolated features over twenty of Alex’s comics stories and includes over 30,000 words of biography written by yrs trly. Also nominated in the “Best Comics-Related Book” category — Caniff: A Visual Biography, for which I provided much shorter biographical essays highlighting each stage of this artist’s remarkable life.

    In the category of “Best Archival Collection – Comic Strips,” we also received a pair of nominations. I helped edit Miss Fury, but provided extensive historical/biographical text to our other nominee, Flash Gordon/Jungle Jim, Volume 1, including the first-ever detailed look at the life of the writer of those two comic strips, Donald Moore.

    There are five nominees in each category, worthy selections all, and the level of competition will be  high, I’m sure. The Eisners are awarded each year in July, at the San Diego Comic-Con. Sites such as www.comicsbeat.com typically blog live from the awards banquet floor, so it is possible to get practically-instantaneous results … but win or lose, it is gratifying and humbling to have so many LOAC books called out for recognition. Everyone involved with the production of these works thanks the Eisner nominating committee and everyone who buys and enjoys the line of Library of American Comics releases.

    Written by cnwl1

    April 6, 2012 at 6:14 am

    The Toth Triple Treat

    leave a comment »

    Alex Toth is revered as one of the greatest of all comics artists. Many laud his pioneering work in animation, including his groundbreaking designs for Space Ghost and The Herculoids. His work influenced countless professionals in both fields. His biography and talents proved too big to be contained in a single volume. Therefore, The Library of American Comics is releasing the much-anticipated Genius, Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth in March 2011 as the first in a three-book set that will be the definitive statement on the restless genius and timeless legacy of this creative giant.

    Together with editor/designer Dean Mullaney, I’m working hard to create a fitting thematic companion  to our ground-breaking 1998 Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles. Genius, Isolated is a lavishly illustrated book that includes the first comprehensive biography of Alex Toth, compiled with complete access to the family archives and with the full cooperation of Toth’s children.

    Alex Toth

    (A playful Alex posing with eldest daughter Dana and eldest son Eric)

    In addition to art and photographs from the family, Toth fans and friends throughout the world have loaned original artwork reproduced in the entire series. Included are many examples of Alex’s art, from complete stories to rare pages, as well as —incredibly—a previously unknown, unfinished, and unpublished penciled story from the early 1950s! The book spans his earliest stories at DC in the 1940s, his defining work at Standard and his incomparable Zorro comics in the 1950s, and a special section collects—for the first time—the complete Jon Fury pages that Toth produced while in the army, a section that alone is worth the price of admission.

    Alex Toth was more than a unique and influential artist. He was a keenly insightful philosopher about comics, cartooning, and animation—with opinions on how they are created as opposed to how he felt they should be created. He wasn’t shy about expressing those thoughts, whether in sometimes-scathing personal letters, essays for publication, or letters to the editor. To flesh out the complete story of his life and art, Dean and I have spent close to two years conducting wide-ranging interviews with dozens of Toth’s peers, friends, and family members. With a special introduction by Mark Chiarello, Genius, Isolated is the beginning of a comics biography everyone will be talking about for years to come.

    Genius, Isolated details Toth’s life story and work through the early 1960s, when he began his sensational move into animated cartoons. The second book in the series, Genius, Illustrated, picks up the story as Toth becomes one of the leading character designers in television animation—continues through his renewed career in comics with Warren, DC, and his creator-owned properties of the 1970s and beyond—and includes an examination of the artist’s poignant final years.

    The third book, Genius, Animated, is a wide-ranging art book reproducing hundreds of Toth’s model sheets and storyboards for such successful cartoons as Space Ghost and Dino Boy, Jonny Quest, Space Angel, Super Friends, The Fantastic Four, Hot Wheels, Thundarr, and Shazzan…and also includes many full-color presentation pieces designed to sell new series to the networks.

    New information and insights combine with rarely- or never-before-seen artwork to make GENIUS, ISOLATED essential 2011 reading for every comics fan.

    Written by cnwl1

    December 8, 2010 at 1:18 am

    “… And All the Ships at Sea”

    leave a comment »

    My first job was as copywriter at 100,000-watt WIGY-FM — and last week I made my return to the “airwaves” as a guest during a two-hour interview for US Townhall’s RealStories series.

    I say “airwaves” because US Townhall is an Internet production — more proof, I suppose, that you really can never fully go home again. But the interview streamed live, just as we broadcast so many wild and wacky bits during my WIGY days, and less than ten minutes after we wrapped, the interview was archived and available for listening by anyone, any time. Certainly, the “archival” feature was something traditional radio lacked, so in this respect we’ve actually made a step forward.

    Judge for yourself — if you have the time to spend and a sufficiently stalwart constitution to listen to 120 minutes of me nattering away, feel free to check out: http://www.ustownhall.com/usth/index.php/misc-entertainment/158-library0of-american-comics-canwell. (While you’re there, you might also enjoy listening to the RealStories interview with Max Allan Collins, who writes text features for the Library of American Comics’s Dick Tracy releases!)

    Written by cnwl1

    November 6, 2010 at 2:44 pm