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A TOUCH OF THIS AND A DASH OF THAT —

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While the New Year still qualifies as a new year, I figured it was time to return to this space with a roundup of random thoughts. Let’s get to it, shall we?

—–

Only a week ago as I type this, I learned of the passing of David Bowie at age sixty-nine. I came to his music rather late (as I do most things, I suppose) — in the 1980s, as Rykodisc was re-releasing his catalogue. Once I caught up with him I was wholeheartedly a fan. He struck me as having a restless creative spirit and the talent to make even unsuccessful experiments interesting. My good friend Howard Downs, who passed away in February of 2014, was a huge Bowie fan; while I don’t believe in such things, if I’m wrong, then I hope Howard was among those who were waiting to greet Bowie when he arrived at his next destination, wherever that might be.

—–

Another good friend of Howard’s and mine, artist Lee Weeks, is drawing a new regular series for DC Comics titled SUPERMAN: LOIS & CLARK. It looks spectacular, as most Weeks works do — it’s also mighty tough for me to wrap my head around its premise. You see, DC recently “rebooted” its comics line in a move labeled as “DC You,” and the current comics on the stands feature new “DC You” versions of all the familiar DC characters — Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and of course Superman himself. It’s a way to wipe clean the slate and give characters who are decades old a fresh start …

 

… Except the idea behind LOIS & CLARK is that the Superman and Lois of the previous DC Universe are still alive in the DC Youniverse. Not just alive, but married, with a nine-year-old son. So this universe is inhabited by two Supermen: the DC Youniverse Superman — who inhabits all the familiar DC titles like SUPERMAN, ACTION COMICS, JUSTICE LEAGUE, and so on — and the “old universe” Superman, who sports a beard, wears a black uniform with no cape, and performs super-feats on the QT, operating clandestinely so his presence on this DC You-Earth is undetected.

 

At first, the idea made my eyebrows rise as I thought, “Wow — the Batman and Superman of this new universe must be a lot dumber than the characters I knew! If someone was digging miles-long trenches in the ocean floor of their world, they’d have realized a superpowered force was operating clandestinely and have not stopped investigating until they got to the bottom of it.”

 

But the more I thought about it, the more I came to realize my disquiet ran deeper than that. The fact that LOIS & CLARK‘s Superman is a survivor of a world — an entire universe! — that was destroyed says to me that ultimately, he and his super-friends were failures. All those years — all those adventures — all those battles — all those stories in which they saved whole populations from either falling beneath the hands of cruel despots or from wholesale destruction — all of that derring-do was wasted effort. Battles won, but the war lost, because in the final accounting everything they fought for was washed away.

 

Maybe it’s just me, but I think this idea of “So, it was all for nothing” may be experienced by any number of long-time readers, at least subconsciously. The publishers are telling those of us of a certain age-/experience-group that the characters in whom we were so heavily invested have spent their penny, and all the good works we saw them perform in the comics that we read and re-read and re-read again were ultimately for naught. What makes it worse is that similar storylines have been published in years past: heroes finding themselves “trapped” in a new reality that is somehow “wrong,” then struggling hard to reinstate the “real world” — a goal they successfully accomplished.

 

Except this time they came up short. Their reality — the one we had embraced — is gone, and no matter how bright and shiny the new DC Youniverse may be, we long-time readers are left feeling more than a little bit … empty.

 

Could this be at least part of the reason sales reportedly have been lackluster for the “DC You” line? (And for Marvel Comics, as well, given their recent “All-New, All-Different” relaunch, which similarly wiped out the classic “Marvel Universe” and replaced it with a new paradigm in which, for example, the Fantastic Four has disbanded and the Thing is now palling around with the Guardians of the Galaxy.) There are probably any number of market forces at play, yet I’m inclined to believe this is at least one thread in the tapestry of declining sales.

 

Now, I have no dog in this fight — I wish both DC and Marvel all the success they can muster, and I hope my friend Lee is in for a long and distinguished run on SUPERMAN: LOIS & CLARK. But if you’re a comics reader of several years standing, and you’re feeling a sense of vague unease as you read the current output from The Big Two, it could be a little voice in the back of your brain is whispering, “So, it was all for nothing …?”

———-

Not that it took the sensation described above to cause my dissatisfaction with many superhero series to take root over a handful of years. The increasing level of bombast and the “event-driven” interlocking storylines have caused me, a subscriber to SF editor Lester del Rey’s wise adage (“In a story where anything can happen, who in the hell cares what does?”), to increasingly yawn. That works in concert with the element that has really pushed me away from many mainstream Big Two comics: the lack of the human element. The title heroes are so busy averting this Massive Menace and Saving All of Reality As We Know It to have a civilian life anymore — and to me, it was the civilian life that made the superhero’s existence interesting. Peter Parker and his friends were as interesting as Spider-Man and his battles with villains, and the ways the latter could complicate the former made for page-turning reading — Superman’s super-feats were given dimension because they were in such stark contrast to the life of Clark Kent. Those heroes with fully-rounded existences then provided further contrast to the heroes who are in action even when out of costume (I believe Steve Englehart would agree that Batman is always Batman, even when he’s playing the role of billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne; Steve Rogers’s many attempts as a civilian life always fall short because it’s his destiny to be Captain America; is The Punisher ever going to put his feet up and watch an episode of “Mike and Molly”? I don’t think so …).

 

Having those contrasts used to be important — now everything at both Major Companies seems to have devolved until it’s one big Superhero Club, where masks only hang out with other masks, every hero knows every other hero’s secret identities and they all call one another by first names. Once it all becomes too familiar within the context of the meta-storyline, it becomes far, far less interesting to me. At one point I read an “Avengers” book where Jessica Jones, Luke Cage’s wife, learns Spider-Man is really Peter Parker. She wastes no time telling her assembled friends that she not only went to the same high school as skinny, thick-glasses-wearing, science-nerd Peter Parker, she secretly had a crush on him. This is where an editor should be stepping in and saying, “Cute idea — but a wrong idea. Nope, not going there.” Because ideas like that make it all too interlocked, all too convenient, all too inbred — and far, far less interesting from the reader’s perspective. Or at least, that’s the case from this reader’s perspective.

—————

Since I mentioned science fiction in passing above, and since he is a Grand Master of the form, I should also mention and highly recommend the latest story collection from author/gadfly Harlan Ellison, titled Can & Can’tankerous. Several of H.E.’s more recent short fictions are gathered between these two covers, with an Introduction/Afterword for each story, just the way we used to greedily devour them in those classic Ellisonian collections of the 1970s and ’80s.

 

But the collection includes single-page pauses between each story, as Mr. Ellison provides insight into the events leading up to and including his much-publicized 2014 stroke and health scare. This adds an extra layer of poignancy to the fiction, and helps make this an Important Ellison Collection.

 

I had the good fortune to meet Mr. Ellison in the late ’90s, when he appeared at a speaking engagement in Boston. It was not all that long after the death of my father — it may have even been the first “social event” I attended following that sad event. As I expected, he put on a terrific show: funny, opinionated, thought-provoking. I got to spend a very small amount of time chatting with him one-on-one afterwards and he was engaging and charming. I walked away with a little spring in my step for the first time since saying goodbye to my Dad.

 

I had the greater good fortune to interview Mr. Ellison by phone a handful of months ago. We discussed Science Fiction Grand Master Jack Williamson in support of our Library of American Comics reprinting of the Williamson/Lee Elias Sunday comics feature, Beyond Mars. Post-stroke, at age eighty-one, he still provided a lively interview, one that was highly useful in putting together the introductory text feature for that book.

 

Whether or not you have ever met the man, if you’re like me you’ll cherish his work once you’ve had a chance to read it. So I hope you’ll take my advice and seek out stories such as “Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes,” the sublime “‘Repent, Harlequin,” Said the Ticktockman,” “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream,” “The Deathbird,” “Mefisto in Onyx” … and the stories contained in Can & Can’tankerous.

———-

A memo to Boston’s John Henry, jotted down on the day media coverage touted the arrival of “Tessie,” a female mascot for the Boston Red Sox, one announced as being the sister of longtime mascot Wally, the Green Monster:

 

“I know you’re a highly successful commodities trader, and your ownership group has brought three world championships home to Fenway Park (many thanks for that, by the way), and you’ve committed to the community by purchasing and restoring local ownership to no less an institution than The Boston Globe. And yes, it’s a case of, here I am, a lowly scribe who writes about the history of comics publications and makes an occasional blog post in this space. But still– still —

 

“Your team has finished last in its division three of the past four seasons, your newspaper can’t be delivered into the hands of customers who have paid their hard-earned money in good faith to find a Globe on their doorstep every day, and you’re asking the public to get excited about ‘Tessie’?

 

“What’s wrong with this equation …?”

———-

It’s not that I’m anti-technology, really it isn’t. I just have zero desire to rush, lemming-like, to embrace the latest piece of gimcrackery that The Big Tech Companies are trying to foist off on us. As a result I own no cell phone, I have no presence on Facebook or Twitter, I have no interest in Pinterest, and I conduct my financial business in person or by mail (I get a bill, a write a cheque — simple!).

 

My quality of life has eroded, yes — but not for the reasons you might think. What’s made my life more difficult is the way so many have lapped up the “convenience” with which companies try to hornswoggle us.

 

For example — my wife and I recently did some business with a new bank. Very nice persons, thoroughly professional institution, they made things simple and easy and pleasant.

 

Until …

 

Did we want to get a document the bank would be issuing monthly sent to us electronically? No, I replied — we want it to come by mail.

 

I may have detected a slight frown at that response. The tone might have been just a bit icier when it was then suggested it’s more environmentally friendly if we deal electronically. After all, I was told, if my wife and I want a paper copy, we can always print it ourselves. My reply was pretty close to these words:

 

“OK, stop right there, because I ain’t buying. I work in publishing — the books I edit or write for alone are probably responsible for using several million pieces of high-end paper each year. As a result, I know enough about paper to know the forestry industry isn’t in a hurry to put itself out of business anytime soon.

 

“Furthermore, all of this increased electronic traffic requires electricity for it to operate, and increased demand means we’re burning more natural resources — like coal, for instance — that are less renewable and more damaging to the environment than paper ever was on its worst day.

 

“Finally, I have to be honest with you. What these requests always strike me as being is an effort to getting organizations like yours to push work off onto poor shlubs like me. Your bank has been in the business of issuing paper statements for generations — you’re fully set up to do so. I expect you to do so. Why do I want to waste one sheet of my own paper, one drop of my own printer-ink, and most importantly, one second of my precious time doing your work for you?”

 

Because they are very nice, very professional persons, they dropped the discussion right there — and we get our paper copy of the documents every month, reliable as clockwork. And I’m not doing one bit of the bank’s work, because I have my hands full just doing my own work, thank you.

 

The ways the tech revolution has eroded my quality of life goes beyond fighting with Big Institutions that want to wheedle and cajole me into saving them money.

 

My cable-TV remote promises to do all sorts of wonderful things for me — except work when I press a button a single time. I’m regularly pressing two or three times just to activate a certain feature, and I’m often waiting while that requesting signal goes out to the cable company’s home office in Philadelphia, then the activating signal comes back to me … or I’m seeing text flash onto my TV screen to tell me, “The function you have requested is currently not available. Please try again later” — blithely ignoring the fact that, if I wanted the function later, I’d be asking for it later. But I’m not. I’m asking for it now …

 

Thanks to cell phones, we now have a communication system where for the first time during my lifetime it’s become more difficult, not easier, to talk to others over long distances. Between cell phone microphones that are either so inferior or so poorly placed that the person I’m speaking with sounds like they’re talking into a soup can, and the instances when one end of the line sounds perfect while the other is crackling with static (necessitating the, “Can you hang up and I’ll call you right back?” ploy — which, even when it’s sincere and the gambit successfully clears the static, is a needless annoyance compared to, you know, phones that actually WORK THE WAY THEY ALWAYS USED TO WORK) and phone calls that abruptly end in mid-sentence because someone’s phone battery dies, or because there’s no tower in the vicinity through which someone is driving, or because someone walked into a different room and unthinkingly walked through the “dead spot” in their home. In a word — arrrghh!

 

I could continue to count the ways that creeping techno-embedding is like itching powder being rubbed into my skin (we haven’t even begun to discuss the tsunami of rude behavior that is now par for the course among a populace addicted to staring at its little phone screens as they beep and boop at them, like annoying Star Wars droids that fit in the palm of one’s hand) but by now you probably get the picture.

 

Certainly I know I’m part of an ever-shrinking minority, certainly I know the tech-genie isn’t headed back into his bottle anytime soon. But you can’t blame me for wishing otherwise.

———-

Thanks for stopping by and reading! If you’re a friend or a family member, feel free to give me a call to catch up on things …

 

… Provided your cell phone can hold its signal for the duration of a call, that is.

Written by cnwl1

January 22, 2016 at 2:40 am

Posted in Uncategorized

A Note to My Five-Year-Old Nephew

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Hi, H-Man —

It’ll be decades before what follows will be of any use to you, and if you’re like me, before it’s of use you’ll understand it, but you won’t be able to appreciate it. Still, it doesn’t hurt to have it rattling around in the ol’ back-brain until you can benefit from it, so I thought it a good idea to jot this down now, in hopes you’ll someday read it and benefit in some small way from it.

#

Growing old, as your grandmother says, is not for sissies. While I’m not prepared to say I’m old, exactly, I’ve now reached the stage of “growing older” where I have absorbed these lessons …

[1] Stay Active. Don’t be the quintessential “couch potato,” don’t let your studies or your job consume you sixty to seventy hours a week, don’t succumb to the lure of the latest zip-zapping, bright-shiny gizmo at the expense of playing one-on-one basketball, or running and lifting weights, or any other physical activity that will build up a sweat and keep your muscles toned, your torso and limbs trim. You know the grandmother I mentioned above? One of the reasons she’s still going strong (as I write this) at age seventy-five is because she still mows her own lawn, trims her own hedges, walks and bikes every day, line dances, bowls, and probably one or two other things I’m forgetting to list. She stays active — and she reaps the benefits. Stay active and you’ll receive those same benefits, too.

[2] Don’t Do Foolish Things That Will Eventually Compromise Your Health. My Dad chewed his fingernails; I’ve chewed them all my life. I eventually started cracking my knuckles; I’ve been a knuckle-cracker since my early teens. “What’s the harm?” You ask at the time. “It’s not doing a thing to me!” Ehhh-h-h-h — don’t kid yourself. As the years and the decades stack up, such behavior starts to take a toll. Today I’m feeling the early stages of arthritis, my right hand’s little finger has a knuckle that’s grown so swollen I can no longer full close that fist. All the way through your thirties you’re likely to feel invincible — avoid stupid little bad habits like fingernail chewing and knuckle cracking and maybe you’ll continue to feel that way into your forties, fifties, sixties, and seventies, too.

[3] Support the Deserving Little Guys. The hard-working, quality-delivering Independent is always more satisfying to do business with than the giant, monolithic, impersonal Multinational. You can’t avoid the big guys, but you can seek out and support those little guys who are worthy of that support. You’ll shop at a chain supermarket, but if you have a butcher shop selling quality meats cut-to-order, or an area farm stand where you can buy farm-fresh fruits and vegetables, give those folks your business, even if you pay a little bit more. Who’s the best-selling author of the day? He or she doesn’t need your money — find the talented-but-lesser-known lights and read their works. They need the sales! Remember, the fact that you support the deserving little guys makes you a Big Guy in their eyes.

[4a] Treasure What Has Gone Before. The multinational pop culture industry and the media that supports it will try to tell you the only thing that’s important is buying What’s New Right Now, and looking ahead to What’s Coming Up. Don’t you believe it for an instant. The past century is stuffed to the rafters with amazing works, produced by unprecedented talents. Whether they know it or not, whoever Today’s Big Sellers are, they stand on the shoulders of Giants from the Past who originally plowed the territory they are now tilling. In music, go listen to Warren Zevon and Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison — in fiction, read The USA Trilogy by Dos Passos and the award-winning fiction of Harlan Ellison (that alone will keep you busy!), the science fiction of Asimov and Ray Bradbury, the detective fiction of Hammett and Raymond Chandler — in comics, read the first hundred issues of Fantastic Four and Amazing Spider-Man, everything you can find by Will Eisner and Steranko, and, well, your Aunt Krista should have a pretty full bookshelf or two of beautiful comics by Milton Caniff and Jack Kent and Alex Raymond and Chet Gould and so many more. I helped create those books, and they’re a legacy I’m pleased and proud to share with you, if you’re of a mind to read them.

[4b] Stories You Love Will Go Sour on You Over Time. It might be because the gigantic multinational that owns the property decides to overexpose it, wring it dry of immediate profits, and leave the desiccated carcass along the roadside for the most devoted fans to pick at, like vultures stripping a carcass of its last edible scraps. It might be because it was an immensely powerful story in its time, but its time passes and the qualities that made it resonate no longer seem relevant. (Note that “no longer exist” and “no longer seem relevant” are two different things — stories set in World War II are still relevant when they illustrate the unthinking lust for power and man’s capability for inhumanity to his fellow man, even though World War II is now far, far in our past.) It might be that the work itself stands the test of time, but you yourself have changed so much that the story that held you spellbound in your teens or twenties will no longer “reach” you in your forties or fifties. It happens. It’s not the story’s fault, and it’s not your fault. That’s just the way it goes, sometimes.

[5] There Is No Number Five. Just funnin’ with ya — and if you know from where I cribbed that idea, it’ll a sign these words have reached you in the way I might hope they would.

[6] Longer Life Equals Increased Loss. It’s impossible to hang on to every good person you’ll meet along the way. Your favorite restaurants will close. Your favorite musical group will have a bitter break-up and the solo music that follows will never be as sweet as the music the band members made when they were together. Your favorite actor will stop getting work. Folks you like on the periphery of your life will begin to pass away — you’ll acknowledge those losses, and you’ll think, “If this is what death is like, it isn’t so bad.”

Then the dying will start to hit closer to home. It may be a parent (my Dad’s been gone eighteen years as I type this; not a week goes by when I don’t think of him, if only to use one or another of his favorite sayings, of which he had many) — it may be a close friend (it’s been almost two years now since my long-time pal Howard died. Our mutual friends and I still keenly feel the hole his absence has left in all our lives) — it’s even possible you’ll outlive a lover. Life changes forever after those types of losses. Nothing as you go forward is ever the same as it used to be — that doesn’t mean it’s all bad, and gloom and doom, and deep-dark depression. It just means we carry on and find the pleasures and the joys where we can, and if the light of days seems a little less sharply-defined, if the fire inside burns a little more slowly and deeply, that’s all right.

But once a loved one is gone, there are no do-overs, so say what you have to say to those you care about, and don’t pass up those opportunities to visit close friends and family members when those chances present themselves, because the day will come when there are no more opportunities, no more chances. It’s a shame to have business that can never be finished.

Of course, the path of life isn’t all filled with cautionary road signs like these. There is a world to discover that is full of wonder — there is good food to savor, more delightful entertainment than you can every experience in a single lifetime, incredible man-made wonders to experience, and natural wonders that dwarf even those. Most of all, there are persons to love who will love you back with all their hearts: hold them tightly and recognize them for what they are: the most precious gift of all.

And I hope you remember that in your case, H-Man, I’m on that list of those who love you, even if I am the only one kooky enough to send you a note down across a whole batch of years-still-to-come.

By the time you read this, I hope you’re in the midst of a splendid life. You deserve nothing less.

Lotsa luv

Your uncle, – B –

Written by cnwl1

September 26, 2015 at 6:45 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

A Genuine Honor

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On the morning of Saturday, July 11th, I came in from walking the dog and checked on-line to see the winners of the 2015 Eisner Awards, the comics industry’s version of the Oscars. This year’s Eisners were given out Friday night, at a banquet associated with Comic-Con in San Diego, California.

I was pleasantly surprised and genuinely humbled to see that Dean Mullaney and I won in the category of “Best Comics-Related Book” for Genius, Animated: The Cartoon Art of Alex Toth. The win for this third book in our Genius trilogy, a tribute to the monumental talents of Mr. Toth, follows last year’s win for Genius, Illustrated, the second book of the series. Going back-to-back in the same category is something of an uncommon feat, so I had no expectations of capturing the Eisner this year. As a result, I was stunned by the news!

To all those who contributed to the Genius series — those we interviewed who knew Alex, those collectors who admire his work and loaned us rare art pieces to use in our publications, and those who labored behind the scenes — heartfelt thanks. We can’t chip up the trophy to send you all a piece, but a portion of this win belongs to you. To the judging panel and all those involved in the Eisners, your support is sincerely appreciated. Most importantly, to the four Toth children — Dana, Carrie, Eric, and Damon — and their families: many thanks for your help. This Eisner Award is still more proof — though proof was hardly needed — of the enduring power of your father’s work.

My entries in this space are admittedly sporadic, at best, and I apologize if this reads like an Oscars/Emmys/Tonys acceptance speech. But those involved in this series, more than a half-decade in the making, deserve a bit of public recognition and appreciation — and I guess I’m still stunned by taking home the prize …

Best wishes to anyone who reads this —

Written by cnwl1

July 11, 2015 at 1:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Worthy Projects

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I don’t often shill other projects or products beyond our own efforts at The Library of American Comics. These days we’re all inundated by “the sell” and often it seems everyone is hustling something. Those survey folks hate me, because I invariably answer those, “How likely are you to recommend <insert name here> to your friends?” questions with, “Extremely Unlikely.” My friends are all big boys and girls; they know how to make up their own minds, they don’t need me chirping in their ears.

But just to prove there are exceptions to every rule …

Old pal Jason Sacks of the Comics Bulletin (www.comicsbulletin.com) has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a brand-new Sabre graphic novel by Don McGregor (writer) and Trevor Von Eeden (artist), and while what I know about Kickstarter wouldn’t fill a thimble, this is well worth your attention. As a boy, McGregor’s work at Marvel helped shape my view of what comics could be; his original Sabre graphic novel helped restore my flagging interest in comics when I was a very young man, and thus played a key role in putting me where I am today. Down through the years Don has become a cherished acquaintance whose irrepressible nature always buoys my spirits. Though I’ve never met or communicated with Trevor Von Eeden, he’s a fellow Batman alum whose senses of design and composition have impressed me in his work on the Dark Knight and the cult favorite, Thriller. So, bottom line: this strikes me as something well worth supporting, and if you’d like to know more, please visit the project’s homepage/pledge-page, at: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jsacks/sabre-graphic-novel-by-don-mcgregor-and-trevor-von.

And if that’s not enough hardsell for one entry, I’ll refer you to the homepage for one of my oldest, dearest friends, Doug Thornsjo, who is selling his self-published novel, story collection, and comics in a vertically-integrated enterprise located at: http://www.ducksoup.me/. Doug’s novel of Depression-era American traveling theatre is a smartly-designed package that showcases the confident and affecting story. But you don’t have to take my word for it: read this review, at:

http://guiltlessreading.blogspot.ca/2013/07/persephones-torch-novel-in-three-acts.html

What do Don and Doug both have in common? They’re writers who genuinely believe in the worth of the scrawl, and genuinely care about giving their audiences quality entertainment. If those are the sorts of creators you wish to support, well, you have the links …

 

 

Written by cnwl1

August 11, 2013 at 8:35 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot …

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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

    LOAC

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    LOAC

    Do readers want to read writing about writing? I dunno … but we discussed doing “how we do what we do” entries on The Library of American Comics webpage, so I wrote this little manifesto, dated June 5th:

    http://www.libraryofamericancomics.com/blog/2012-06/

    If you don’t want to read writing about writing, don’t click the link! At least, not until the posting of my next entries — one about a recent research trip and the second about a pleasure trip 1,500 miles to the south that had an unpected business connection.

    How’s that for dangling a narrative hook …?

     

     

    Written by cnwl1

    June 6, 2012 at 12:35 am

    FLASH! Ah-hah —

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    While many of us of a proper age cringe whenever we hear that Queen-penned theme song to the 1980s FLASH GORDON motion picture, it’s with considerable (and, I hope, pardonable) pride that I note the first of four Library of American Comics volumes collecting the original FLASH GORDON comic strip is now on sale. Printed in our overside “Champagne Edition” format, this giant book features 152 pages of meticulously-restored Alex Raymond artwork, featuring not just FLASH GORDON, but also its “topper” strip, JUNGLE JIM. This allows readers to experience both strips just as they originally appeared in the newspapers from January, 1934 to May, 1936.

    I open the festivities with an article looking at the origins of both strips and providing the first-ever detailed biography of FLASH/JIM scripter, Don Moore. It’s an honor to be part of this important project, and to add at least a bit to our overall understanding of the history of this science fiction/fantasy icon (and his jungle-adventuring companion on the comic page).

    For more info on the book, please check here: http://www.libraryofamericancomics.com/catalog/series/1961/  and here: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_16?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=definitive+flash+gordon+and+jungle+jim+volume+1&sprefix=definitive+flash.

    Written by cnwl1

    December 11, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    Posted in Uncategorized