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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 …

 

 

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Written by cnwl1

August 11, 2013 at 8:35 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Fast Takes

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Emptying out the mental clutter and catching up on a number of fronts …

I was recently asked to do a piece for the on-line site “Glocul Mag” on the subject of Print vs. Digital publishing. Digital has become the darling of the media, of course, but I offer some gentle reminders of why good ol’ Print is still on top of the game as far as I’m concerned. Wanna read it? Click here: www.thegloculgroup.com/mag/why-the-printed-word-still-matters/

It also occurrred to me a month or so ago that our hyper-sensitive, everyone-needs-a-pony, Politically Correct society is missing the boat in any number of ways, including where THE HONEYMOONERS are concerned. Jackie Gleason’s groundbreaking situation comedy remains a tour de force to anyone with [A] half a brain who [B] hasn’t been co-opted by the Thought Police. Younger folks see Gleason’s Ralph Kramden threatening his wife, Alice, with “Pow — zoom! To the moon!” and they get all huffy about physical violence and abuse. Hel-LO, people! If you’d actually watch what’s going on between the characters, you’d realize there is no way Ralph would ever lay a finger on Alice. Every crazy scheme, every desperate ploy Ralph hatches is because he wants to give Alice the best of everything, and because in his heart he doesn’t feel worthy of her love. The humor, y’see, comes from all his bluster running exactly counter to the feelings in his heart, feelings that should be obvious to all but the most moronic — or brainwashed — of viewers. I’ll unabashedly continue to watch and defend THE HONEYMOONERS against all ignorant comers. It ain’t Shakespeare, but Ralph and Alice Kramden represent one of the great pop-culture love stories of the 20th Century. How sad so many persons have lost the ability to comprehend something so simple, so incontrovertible.

Speaking of romances, I got married on July 20th. First marriage for both myself and the new missus. Everything seemed to go pretty smoothly, all of our roughly 120 guests seemed to have a pretty good time (they didn’t complain to us, anyway!), and it was humbling to have so many family members and friends attend the nuptials, and give of their own time and effort to help us make the day a success all around. “Thanks” is a thoroughly inadequate word to express our gratitude for what they did on our behalf.

On The Library of American Comics (LOAC) front, our first collection of SUPERMAN newspaper strips is now available, with our third inexpensively-priced ESSENTIALS volume, featuring the entire 1933 daily run of Cliff Sterrett’s brilliant Polly & Her Pals , coming very soon. I’m a huge Polly fan, and aside from the fun of reading these strips, it was a delight to uncover previously-unknown or -little-known facts about Sterrett and the Ogunquit, Maine artists’ colony of which he was an integral part for many years. I did research in Ogunquit and nearby Wells for the book, which was also a great deal of fun.

We also have plenty of neat stuff in the works, LOAC-wise. LI’L ABNER fans will want to be watching upcoming releases — after all The Shmoos are on their way, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

Summer is zipping by much too swiftly! Wherever you may reside, may your summer be a fine one —

Written by cnwl1

July 27, 2013 at 6:42 pm

Posted in Miscellaneous

Sounding Grumpy …?

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What better time to do so, since our second volume examining the life and art of famed artist/contrarian Alex Toth just went on sale as of Wednesday, 02/13/13?

I’m sure to either raise hackles or generate defensiveness from iPad/iPod/smartphone-ers, Facebookers, YouTubers, and their brethern, because I’m going to publicly vent my spleen over how technology seems to have consumed us and created what I call The Culture of The Rude.

Now, I’m not a total Luddite — I’ve been using computers since the 1980s (remember DOS, WordPerfect, and Lotus1123? I used ’em all), my writing is composed in M-S Word, I research and share files using the internet, and of course I’m posting this entry using technology undreamed-of when I was growing up in the 1970s. But — and here’s the crucial “but,” I believe — I use the tech that suits me, and I don’t jump on every bandwagon that comes along. I don’t own any sort of cel-phone; I don’t have an iPad or tablet. I don’t have accounts with Facebook or Twitter. And I don’t see a need for any of them.

Whenever someone jumps on the Facebook bandwagon and asks other Facebookites to “friend” them — Facebook’s devaluation of the word “friend” is, in itself, odious — I reply that I’m not on Facebook, and what’s the advantage of Facebook over e-mail, anyway? I never get a substantive reply to that question — instead I get a lot of toe-scuffing-in-the-dirt and fum-fuhing and maybe a, “Well, you can post poctures on your Facebook wall …” response. To which I reply, “I can attach pictures to e-mail.” After which the respondent goes silent.

Facebook, it seems to me, is about self-aggrandizement. E-mails are about the author reaching out to an audience he selects; Facebook is about putting something up for public view and trying to attract some slice of the public to come to you to view it. I’m not going to tell you I can’t see validity to that — and I’d be blind not to notice that Facebook has become an effective marketing tool for many businesses/entities — but I’m telling you [A] I had any self-aggrandizement beaten out of me years ago and [B] I don’t need yet another website to visit multiple times over to check the doings of Friend A, Friend B, Friend C, and so on. If those Friends want me to know what’s up with them, they know how to get in touch with me, and vice versa.

I shake my head in dismay whenever I see or hear someone fiddling with their smartphone or iPad in order to get it to perform some esoteric function, or babbling about how long it takes to sync the frammistatz to the whoosiwhatzit … I can’t help thinking, “Man, no wonder no one reads a book anymore! They’re all too busy tinkering with their gizmos.” I want my technology to serve me and display about the order of complexity demonstrated by my toaster — I want to take the thing out of the box, plug it in, fire it up, and have it work. My “free time” is much too much of a precious commodity to be wasting it trying to make Device X work with Equipment Y and share Application Z. I would turn away weeping if I had to waste a lot of my time in such a manner.

And while I recognize the potential benefits for some in owning a cel-phone, I have landlines in every major space I occupy except my car — isn’t that enough contact ability? If not, how did we survive all those years before phones became portable? More than any other piece of equipment, the cel-phone has generated The Culture of The Rude, a Culture that has become so inculcated within society that most of its practitioners no longer have the slightest clue they are, indeed, being rude.

I noticed it in the mid-’90s, when a trip to the supermarket began to become synonymous with listening to one side of someone else’s conversation: “What should I get? Butter Brickle or Rocky Road?” was the sort of inanity that would assault me as someone blasted away at the top of his lungs while we were both making a trip down the freezer aisle. By the 21st Century, aided by Bluetooth technology, things degenerated to the point where standing in line at the cash register now often means waiting behind someone who is jabbering away to some unseen party throughout the checkout process, too rude to even acknowledge the cashier on the other end of the transaction. When my turn at the head of the line comes, I make a point of speaking with the cashier and telling him how thoughtless I find the cel-phone-a-holic — and I’ve yet to have a cashier respond to me in other than a grateful manner, simply for acknowledging them and telling them I know someone else has treated them like dirt, and I don’t like it anymore than they do.

Nowadays I can be walking down a corridor and someone coming in the opposite direction — head bowed, shoudlers hunched, paced slowed in what I think of as “the smartphone shuffle” — is so intent on the screen in front of him and the controls he’s fiddling that he starts drifting over into my “lane,” oblivious of the impending collisiobn he’s about to cause. My annoyance running high, I snap my fingers like a hypnotist awakening someone from a trance — and like one entranced the person visibly starts, head and eyes darting about as he takes in the situation, and makes a sheepish course correction.

Final example: September 2006, Fenway Park in Boston, Red Sox vs. Twins on the night David Ortiz was likely to set the team single-season home run record, eclipsing the great Double-X, Jimmy Foxx. A friend and I had excellent Pavilion seats almost directly above home plate. On Ortiz’s first at-bat, Santana, the then-Minnesota pitcher, wound up and delivered his pitch, with Ortiz poised and ready at the plate. My friend whipped out his cel-phone and took a picture (a very nice picture; an 8″x10″ of it still hangs on my wall). *Cuh-RAKK!* Ortiz went yard, the Park went crazy … and my friend, in his excitement, e-mailed that photo to some number of friends and business associates … who spent the next four or five innings relentlessly calling him on his cel-phone, so he could repeatedly say, “Yes, I’m at the game — yes, that was the pitch — yeah, it was nuts!” And so on and on and on … While I might as well have been sitting by myself while my friend engaged with the outside world and essentially ignored me. And guess what? I don’t begrudge my friend his actions — technology and what have become its accepted uses never made him think twice about what he was doing. That sort of behavior has become as routine as making right turns on red … whether that behavior should have been allowed to become routine is another question. I bet you can tell how I would have voted in that matter, and the fact that society has moved in the opposite direction is a great failing on society’s part, in my mind. These incidents and many, many more make me adamant about not having a cel-phone in my possession, about not wanting to voluntarily sign up to join The Culture of The Rude.

This post may make you want to spring to extoll all the wonderful facets and benefits of everything technological. It may make your defenses go up and try to convince me that I’m wrong-wrong-wrong, or that you’ve seen folks rudely using tech, but you would never do such a thing. It may even make a few stray souls say, “I agree with you 100%!” I accept all those reactions as being valid; I fully believe in the premise of, “You rmileage may vary.” But getting this off my chest has made me feel better — and if it spurs thought and contributes to even a handful of persons using their technology with more consideration for those around them, it will have served a useful purpose.

Thanks for reading; have a fine day —

 

Written by cnwl1

February 16, 2013 at 1:22 am

Posted in Miscellaneous

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

    Summertime Check-In

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    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

    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

    The Nomination IS the Award …

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    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