Thursday, April 30, 2009

Hey, Hugh! It's Me, HULK # 181! Ever Seen Me Before?

I don't want to get all political or anything, but what's with this Hugh Jackman/Twitter $100K charity B.S.? And what about Wolverine writer/co-creator (with artist Herb Trimpe) Len Wein?

Len Wein, who also co-created another comic book character turned movie property, Swamp Thing, is only the creator of Hugh Jackman's only successful, guaranteed money-in-his-bank account character. If you took away the X-MEN franchise, Jackman would have 0 hit movies (THE PRESTIGE and SCOOP were not bread-makers).

Wein lost his house to a fire on April 6, conveniently less than a month before Fox's WOLVERINE movie comes out. Wouldn't it be one hell of a movie promotion (because nobody moves a muscle in Hollywood if it doesn't bring in publicity, which equals bucks...) to help Wein rebuild his life post-fire?

Currently, "Twitter addict' Hugh Jackman, out of the goodness of his heart, is offering $100K to a nonprofit if you can convince him in a Tweet (!) that he should give his money to said nonprofit. First of all, how convenient this contest comes weeks before WOLVERINE's release. Second, are we supposed to truly believe for a minute that Hugh actually Twitters his own tweets to his twats, and that the money is coming out of his pocket (I'm guessing an audit of the WOLVERINE marketing expenses will yield $100 K filed under "MISCL. [TWITTER]." And C) if you're a studio, instead of throwing $100K on a dumb, trendy Twitter marketing campaign, wouldn't it be wiser to apply said $100K to helping out Wein and (since its Hollywood and they can't be altruistic without getting publicity for it) wringing some publicity out of assisting Wolverine's co-creator post-fire?

I don't know Wein personally and I will not be presumptuous enough to say that Wein would even welcome or accept such help, but I'm disheartened that an attempt from the studio/producers, in gratitude for the character that's made hundreds of millions for them, has not been forthcoming. Of course it's too much to ask Fox and Marvel to cut Wein in on profits from the WOLVERINE movies. But what about a little something-something now that he's going through this game-changing event?

Unfortunately, this seems to be a new wrinkle on an old story---the dysfunctional history of comics in which talent creates multi-million dollar characters for companies, gets none of the profits and little credit due to work-for-hire relationship, and then gets extra shafted when the hard times come and said companies do not display any appreciation or assistance to the people who built them. It's Siegel and Shuster all over again. Not only sad, but a shanda!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I’ve known cartoonist Stan Yan for years…but don’t hold that against me.
I met Stan in the 1990s via San Diego Comic-Con’s Small Press area, where we always had our respective tables. In fact, I only know him through the context of Comic-Con. Therefore, I can not picture him in a city that doesn’t have a 7-11 every other block in the background.
What I like about Stan, outside of his alternately self-deprecating humor and chardonnay-dry sarcasm, is...not much. Oh, wait, also that he’s a great purveyor of the humor comics tradition (ie. “The Wang”) and a co-founder of Squid Works, a loosely knit cooperative of talented cartoonists based in his native Denver.
In a few weeks, I’ll be profiling here another great Squid, Mr. Lonnie Allen, a very different cartoonist than Stan whose slice-of-life fiction I really dig. Stan and I have had myriad adventures in San Diego. One of those adventures was the first time we hit the annual Southern California Cartoonist Society party, where we both wound up pictured in the San Diego Reader with BIZARRO cartoonist DAN PIRARO because the Reader’s Partycrasher columnist crashed the SCCS party. Another adventure occurred just two years ago, on the Thursday of 2007’s Comic-Con, when, walking back to our Little Italy hotel, me, Stan, and some of his Denver crew ran into no less than Stan Lee, standing on a dark block shortly before midnight, waiting for a cab (see photo below). Oh, yeah, and there was that time we encountered elfin forest nymphs riding topless on unicorns, but I can’t get into that right now.
Behold the art and humor of cartoonist Stan “The Man” Yan...

****You're a founding father of the comic-book creator network Squid Works. What are the best and worst aspects of being part of a cartoonist collective?

The idea behind our collective is that it gives us an opportunity to put ourselves in front of retailers and fans with new material each quarter without having to each produce something new each quarter. So, even if some of our creators don't have something new, they'll hopefully benefit from the additional web traffic to our online catalog ( Plus, we all can split many of the costs: domain name registration, web hosting, a p.o. box, printing, and postage. And, hopefully, if one of us makes it big, the rest of us can ride the coattails of that person's success to an extent. On the flip side, we can also be tarnished by the unprofessionalism of any of our members. I hope this doesn't sound like I'm talking about myself here. I'm not. I swear. Okay, mostly.

[Here I am standing next to two Stans from the comics industry with Asian surnames flanking Chris Salas from the Squid Works entourage. I call this photo “The Stanwich” (the event described in this caption is not as dirty as it sounds…)]

****What are some characteristics of the Denver scene that may be distinctive from the comic book scenes in other cities?

Well, for years, we've been on a geographic island where we've been isolated from most of the rest of the country's major metropolitan comics fans and creators, so trying to launch a major comic-related convention or event was difficult. Most of our events have been very regional in nature. So our audience has been very limited. Most definitely, the creators here have really been continuing with their craft not for money, but passion, unlike you Hollywood coast-types.
However, recently Starland, a company that runs some sizable science fiction conventions and haunted houses in Denver, bought out a small comics swap meet called the Majesticon, and this is the first year that they've run this comics convention they're calling ComicFest. Under new management, this convention promises to satisfy some of the thirst for a major comics-oriented convention here in Denver. It runs concurrently with Starfest, their science fiction and horror convention the weekend of April 17th - 19th at the Hilton Garden Inn in the Denver Tech Center ( Happily, I'm also one of the featured guests, which is making me big headed (whee!). So, in spite of our past isolation, we hope to be able to showcase the wealth of home-grown talent to a larger audience beginning this year.

****Which comic book that you've worked on do you consider your definitive statement to date and why does it best represent your talents?

Well, my signature title is definitely my THE WANG graphic novels and comic strips. It's definitely the strip that I most closely connect myself with, and which contains material that is closest to my heart and interests. My main character, Eugene Wang, has been following the early parts of my career through the brokerage industry, which I worked in on-and-off for 13 years (mostly on), and many of the characters and story situations are based (often loosely) on those of friends and their families, so the stories, while often far-fetched, are almost always least that's what folks have told me. Although, I honestly feel like even though I'm not the primary writer on SUBCULTURE, this title has made me come to grips with the nerdier side of myself. As our slogan says, "Admit it. Your one of us."

****Who will play Stan Yan in the biopic once Hollywood gives it the greenlight?

I'm hoping Jackie Chan isn't too old by then, although he has a much heavier Chinese accent than me, and his martial arts are a whole lot better than mine. Okay, I'll probably settle for Pauly Shore.

Yan can be found at and his email is

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


We interrupt this random tribute to FRANK ROBBINS to remind folks that today is the birthday of artist DICK AYERS. He’s a favorite of mine, if solely for his great work on the early 1970s SGT. FURY knock-off COMBAT KELLY AND HIS DEADLY DOZEN, over at Marvel Comics (he also worked on FURY and various Silver Age superhero books).

Yeah, COMBAT KELLY was short-lived and nobody read it in its day, but what a series. The stories, by GARY FRIEDRICH, were tits. What a finale (# 9)! I thought issue # 8 was intense, then you get to the final issue, which is one of the ballsiest comics ever to bear the Comics Code (I’m not going to ruin it for you here, go out and find it, it’s worth the hunt). Granted, much of the brutality was implied, but how the hell did this get past the Comics Code committee’s radar?
I don’t consider Ayers a “great” artist in the same league as, say, Neal Adams or Wally Wood or Alex Toth. He was a great journeyman artist. This guy had soul, a great house style, and a solid sense of storytelling…kind of like another favorite of mine, Don Perlin. There’s room for all kinds of artists in comics, and the Ayers and Perlins are just as important to me as the flashier artists.
By the way, you won’t want to miss BACK ISSUE! Magazine # 37, the war-themed issue, in which I interviewed Dick Ayers for my articles on COMBAT KELLY and the great DC WWII saga, THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER. Be sure to check that issue out when it arrives around November (for more info on BACK ISSUE!, visit

Dick Ayers also created the original Ghost Rider, the Western hero Carter Slade, renamed Night Rider when the ‘70s motorcycle-mounted demon Ghost Rider roared onto the scene (co-created, incidentally, by Gary Friedrich).

One of the great things about belonging to my local cartoonist society, CAPS (founded by Sergio Aragonés and two pals and based in Burbank, CA) is that they have an annual fundraising auction, and we usually receive incredible art at rock-bottom prices from a who’s who of masters of the field: Charles Schulz, Jack Davis, Sergio, Mort Walker, Bil Keane, Joe Kubert, Drew Struzan, on and on. About five years ago, I bid on and won this pencil sketch by Dick Ayers of his creation. I love this sketch, it’s a hoot!
Thanks, Mr. Ayers! And happy birthday!

Monday, April 27, 2009


If I were to write a coffee table-book biography on the enigmatic artist FRANK ROBBINS, I'd call it "Love It or Hate It: The Art of Frank Robbins."

That's because Frank Robbins has always been a polarizing figure in the annals of Marvel. People flat out either loved his style or despised it, and the proof is all over the letters pages of THE INVADERS, THE HUMAN FLY, GHOST RIDER, LUKE CAGE, CAPTAIN AMERICA and other titles he ran stints on. Given the two camps, I belonged to the former. I loved his anatomically incorrect, funky-posed superheroes and his Flash-paced action, the best combo being the two Franks: Robbins inked by Springer. Robbins was no prim and perfect Neal Adams, photo-realistically rendered and almost static at times...his work was high-octane, breakneck-speed fun and trashy, in the best, B-comic sense. You didn't stick a Robbins comic in a mylar and mount it on your wall, you rolled it up in your back pocket and took it with you wherever you went. Yes, Frank Robbins had soul.

If you read his INVADERS, his Captain America had the bluest eyes, and his Union Jack was so distinguished and majestic. He also brought his A-game to B-level books like HUMAN FLY and turned those issues into secret treasures. (For the behind-the-scenes on the making of THE HUMAN FLY series, read my article in BACK ISSUE! # 20, available through Thankfully, he also did that one issue of LEGION OF MONSTERS (MARVEL PREMIERE), in which we got to see him do Ghost Rider again...and Werewolf By Night!

For no other reason than just because, behold the Bronze Age art of Frank Robbins!


HUMAN FLY # 8 and # 9 seem like good evidence to me that Robbins should've drawn a White Tiger solo series in the Seventies. Man, that woulda been tits!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Legend of GHOST RIDER # 35

Kind of a running gag (but not really a gag because I love the comic) between artist STEVE LEIALOHA and me is GHOST RIDER # 35.

As a kid, I bought this issue of GHOST RIDER, a filler issue written and drawn by JIM STARLIN, and inked by Steve, and it's haunted me ever since. A gripping, taut issue that basically revolves around a death race between Ghost Rider and the Grim Reaper on motorcycles. See, when the Grim Reaper touches an innocent victim, that person instantly turns to dust. Well, Ghost Rider keeps losing, and the stakes are raised when the final target in this little conest of the Reaper's is an innocent little girl.

For years this issue has stuck with me, and I've often said that if more issues of GHOST RIDER were this good, it would've been one of the best series of the '70s. Issue # 35 kind of placed GHOST RIDER, for one red hot minute, in the league with EC horror titles. For one issue at least, the book's full potential was realized.

Anyway, back to Steve Leialoha. I've met him only over the phone, interviewing him for articles on such books he worked on as THE HUMAN FLY, but in recent years, I'll run into him at SD Comic-Con, or at APE or some convention, and every time, as a shorthand to remind him who I am (as he meets soooo many people at these things), I evoke the magical, now mythical GHOST RIDER # 35. Steve is one of the mellowest, most laid back and friendly guys in the comics industry so he takes all of this in with some mild bemusement.

At Wonder Con 2009, the madness came to a head when my longtime pal RHODE MONTIJO (he of the children's book CLOUD BOY and the excellent comic book series PABLO'S INFERNO -- see finally bit the bullet and bought GHOST RIDER # 35. He had a friend, STEVE MOCK, ferret it out and buy it for him at the convention (for only $2.50...a steal!) while Rhode and his pal JAMIE BAKER manned their booth. And Rhode read the issue during a slow moment and agreed it was quite the head trip.

Now I was just up the aisle from Rhode's booth, a guest of WILDCARD INK, which is publishing my GUMBY'S GANG STARRING POKEY book. So when Steve Leialoha ambled down our aisle, I had to make some magic happen. So faster than Ghost Rider racing Grim Reaper, I raced around between all the parties--Rhode, Steve, the comic book, Jamie (who had the digital camera)and hooked up this photo of my buddy Rhode, myself, and Steve. As you can see, it was taken at the WildCard Ink booth (note the humorously schizo Gumby/zombie book dichotomy in the background).

Rhode, Steve Leialoha, GHOST RIDER # 35....mission: accomplished!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


I’m happy to call CRYING MACHO MAN cartoonist Jose Cabrera one of my best friends. But even if I had never met the guy, he’d be my favorite contemporary humor cartoonist working today.
We have a lot in common: he’s my age, he’s originally from New York, he has telegenic good looks, he’s obsessed with humor comics, and he’s cruel to small children and animals (just kidding! …….He’s not THAT obsessed…).
Every epic romance has that initial encounter, and I met Jose in 2007, up at the Alternative Press Expo (APE) convention in San Francisco, when he was promoting his first collection of brilliant CRYING MACHO MAN Web strips, “Prime Cuts.” As it turned out, Jose was also based in Los Angeles. So we’ve been hanging out ever since like we’ve known each other since childhood.
Since then, Jose has put out another CMM collection, called “You So Loco,” and he and his acerbic wife Naomi are currently taking a break from L.A. life to spend a year living in Mexico. Another little known fact about Jose: he knows his way around a kitchen. His chefmaking skills have been the highlight of many a dinner party!
Of Dominican-American heritage, Jose is a flat-out hilarious cartoonist, often weaving street-smart, urban humor into his edgy postmodern MAD satire. See for yourself at, where you can get on Jose’s weekly humor-comic email list.

****You’re a humor cartoonist. So what is your holy trinity of humor comics?

Holy trinity of humor comics…hmmm. I have to go with CALVIN AND HOBBES, MAD magazine (specially Jack Davis' stuff), and R. Crumb's ZAP COMIX.

****Which lame-ass 1970s Marvel Comics series was your guilty pleasure while growing up and why?

My guilty pleasure wasn't necessarily a Marvel comic but Archie Comics. I would sandwich them between Byrne's X-MEN and Romita's SPIDER-MAN as I left the small smoke/newspaper shop on 181st Broadway. I would slip into McDonalds next door and order me some Large fries, dousing them with catsup, and read ARCHIE from front to cover, timing it to the very last fry. ARCHIE was like comfort food, taking me out of the rough ghetto life of upper Washington Heights and transporting me to the homogenous town of Riverdale.

****What's the best thing about visiting and exploring Mexico, as you are currently doing?

Smashing piñatas. I'm really getting into these small western comics called "revistas vaquera" and the police mysteries "policiacas." They are as cheesy as all get out but they help me with my Spanish and I get to see the Mexican hero really give it to the gringo.

****What part of the creative process of creating CRYING MACHO MAN strips do you enjoy the most?

I love drafting and inking the strips. It brings me a sense of purpose and I'm creating a strip a day. It's addictive and I get to share it with my fans.

Oh, yeah, and for further reading, I wrote about him at length last July for the Palisadian-Post, the weekly newspaper of record of Pacific Palisades, California:

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


DITKOMANIA # 72 is out. It’s sporting a nifty cover by artist MORT TODD, who has actually inked STEVE DITKO’s work in the 1980s. Behold the cover he did for # 72 with all of its beautiful intrigue.

I’ve got a column in DITKOMANIA that I call “Ditkotomy.” In this edition, I address the whole supposed Ditko vs. Alan Moore smackdown. Below is the great image DITKOMANIA artist Winston Blakely cooked up for the column. He has a lot of fun with the illustration assignments and captured that frontal Ditko action pose, as you can see....

For more information on DITKOMANIA, order here from editor ROB IMES:

And here's a bonus Mort Todd image for you: Todd, once again, inking Ditko. As you can see, the combination is "incredible." Todd is a master of the Hulk arts. He graduated from Hulk Arts Academy Gamma Cum Laude. Thanks to the artist for providing the image below, which totally evokes warm memories of those gloriously lousy '70s Marvel "animated" cartoons ("Ever-lovin' Hulk! Hulk! Hulk!")

Be sure to visit his cyber homes:, and

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Coming Soon to HUMP DAY Q & A........

Straight outta Canarsie......GRRRRRRRRRRR!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


David Chelsea is still in love...with cartooning!
That’s good news for us readers in love with alternative/independent/art comics (whatever the hell you wanna call ‘em these days…) who have kept an eye on David as he detoured into illustration and meandered away from the beautifully drawn, cleverly written miniseries and graphic novels he had built his legend on, namely with DAVID CHELSEA IN LOVE. David also gave us his PERSPECTIVE! FOR COMIC BOOK ARTISTS guide, and the blink-and-you-missed-it bohemian hellion opus WELCOME TO THE ZONE.
But weep no more, art comics-lovers, it took 24 hours to reinvigorate David’s waning comics-making libido…24-hour comics, that is. Now a renaissance man cartoonist/illustrator, David has returned to the form with various 24-hour comics, such as the ones published by Top Shelf in 2008’s Twenty-Four Times Two. A sequel to PERSPECTIVE! is in the works.
On a personal note, DAVID CHELSEA IN LOVE was a big influence on the most recent of my EL GATO luchador comics, THE NINE LOVES OF EL GATO, CRIME MANGLER. I remember picking up the individual issues of DAVID CHELSEA IN LOVE in the early 1990s (before they were collected in tpb form) off the shelf at L.A.’s Golden Apple Comics, and tripping out over the whole concept of how David was the lothario hero of his own series. The illustrations were elegant and wonderfully anachronistic, with hot-and-heavy sex montages rendered in a pointilist style. Despite the glut of (snarky and smarmy) autobio comics at the time, there was nothing like DAVID CHELSEA IN LOVE. It was quite a twist on what became a genre, and a class act at that.
A more extensive interview I’ve conducted with David on the topic of DAVID CHELSEA IN LOVE will appear next year in BACK ISSUE! Magazine (
In the meantime, here’s David’s two cents across four questions.

How did the S. Clay Wilson 24-Hour Comics benefit event at Cosmic Monkey comic book shop in Portland, Oregon, go over the weekend and what were the results in terms of attendance, work produced and money raised?

I'm still toting up my own pledges, but I think it's somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,000. For those who are interested in pledging, it's not too late: here's my latest blog post about it:
I produced 24 pages on the nose, so pledges can be some multiple of that, like, say, $240, $480, $2400...Not tax deductible, but you do get a signed mini-comic of the story I drew.
Money raised by other people, I don't know about. There were about 20 people there, nearly all of them lasted the night, and I'd say about half produced the requisite 24 pages. Not all of them were working for Wilson; most seemed to be doing it to have new material to sell at the Stumptown Convention in Portland.
By the way, I’d like to thank Copic, which provided materials free for the event. Except for blue pencils, my story was drawn entirely on their paper using their drawing materials.

What is your connection to S. Clay Wilson which galvanized you to organize this effort after he suffered his brain-damaging accident?

We've never met, I'm just a fan, someone who read his stuff growing up, and I think he drew the best women of any of the ZAP! guys. I do know something about medical expenses. I broke my leg and needed surgery late last year, and even though I have decent coverage, the impact was financially uncomfortable; I can only imagine what it would have been if I had suffered a truly devastating injury like Wilson's.

Can you tell us about the 24-hour comic which you created at this weekend's event and when it will be published or posted?

It's called "The Girl with Keyhole Eyes", and it's a series of reminiscences about various women I've known (mostly NOT old girlfriends). It mixes real stories with outright fabrications in the manner of a game l have played called "Two Truths And A Lie". It ends with a real groaner of a pun. I've posted the first three pages on Comics Lifestyle:

After all of the 24-hour comics you've created, is there a snowball's chance in hell that you will ever beat your record and produce a 23-hour comic?

LOL. I already have. This one qualifies; I finished my last page about an hour ahead of the goal and spent the remaining time schmoozing and reading other people's stories. I've done even better in the past; there was one story I wrapped up in something like 19 hours, which meant I was actually able to get a couple of hours sleep before breakfast. Indigo Kelleigh came to a 24-hour session at my house once and finished in 17 hours, which I found kind of amazing, but that's nothing compared to what a real pro can accomplish once he gets going. Last year, Jim Valentino came in to do the 24-hour event at Cosmic Monkey. He was finished and outta there in 10 hours.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Back in 2007, I interviewed Rich Buckler Q&A-style for BACK ISSUE! Magazine # 25 (see The topic of our discussion: ASTONISHING TALES: DEATHLOK THE DEMOLISHER.
Buckler created the DEATHLOK concept and collaborated on the sci-fi feature with house Marvel writer Doug Moench on it. The 35-year-old futureshock DEATHLOK series was ahead of its time. It was an unusual feature; darker and more experimental and forward-thinking than anything Marvel was putting out at the time. Set in the near-future of 1990, DEATHLOK was loaded with symbolism, a questioning of authority, multicultural complexities, and references to The Doors. After Moench left the book, Bill Mantlo took over as writer. Klaus Janson did his usual excellent inking on some of those issues, in which Buckler played with cinematic storytelling and compositions which predated Frank Miller/Janson’s DAREDEVIL run. Buckler’s DEATHLOK covers were among the best of that era. Unfortunately, due to poor sales and internal tensions, DEATHLOK only ran for 11 issues.
Today primarily a painter, Buckler has largely moved on from comics. You can see his recent art at his Web site, And yet, for our BACK ISSUE! article, Buckler had submitted a jpeg of this beautiful recent painting he had done of his signature character, which hung at a Jersey gallery. Since BACK ISSUE! had already commissioned a Bob Layton Iron Man cover long before I conducted my interview, there was no venue to exhibit this painted artwork in full color. Until now…

Monday, April 13, 2009

SHOUT-OUT! Happy 50th Birthday, Herr Seele!

Just the other day, I was posting about one of my all-time favorite humor comics, COWBOY HENK (alternately called COWBOY JEAN in France, where I read some of the best strips in French), a gag strip by Belgian cartoonists/entertainers Kamagurka and Herr Seele which, at times, can be uproariously funny.

Well, today I learned from The Comics Reporter that the artist of the pair, Herr Seele, turns 50 today. I’ve never met the duo, but I’ve loved their work from afar. Even though it was supposedly influenced by another avant-garde comic, our (America’s) ZIPPY THE PINHEAD, I love the COWBOY HENK strip much, much more, and it was a big influence on me to create an absurdist feature of my own called Greenblatt the Great!, about a slapshot bellhop, which appears in my CARTOON FLOPHOUSE comic magazines.

I found the photo of Herr Seele online and I love how this guy even looks like a flesh-and-blood cartoon character! You know this guy's a catoonist even if you never met him!

Anyway, wherever you are, Herr Seele (Europe?), happy birthday! And please send us more English-language printings of COWBOY HENK if you can!



Here are some recent-ish movies I’ve seen and my quick take on ‘em….


I enjoyed this film, which I’d put up there with FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL. I think I enjoyed it better than FORGETTING. Paul Rudd was fun but I enjoyed the Jason Segel character the most. It’s not like either of these films was outright hilarious, but they had great moments and they’re overall likable, unlike the overrated SUPERBAD or PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, which does not get hilarious until a half-hour in (when the two dudes go to Red’s place and that fracas breaks out).
By the way, how dead was PINEAPPLE until that scene? And how did they miss making a joke at the end about getting an ultimate contact high after that pot factory blows up? Whoever is making these Jason Segel vehicles is effectively out-Apatowing Apatow!


I saw the first half of it over the weekend. Admittedly, I was sleepy. It was not as bad as I thought it would be. That said, I’m not sure I will weep if I don’t get to see the second hour. It’s kind of like a very good version of a CW soap with a supernatural twist. The flight of fancy scene between Edward the vampire and Bella superficially reminded me of a new generational twist on the Superman and Lois flight through Metropolis. It’s pretty good for what it is. Aw, what the hell, I’ll try to see the second part ASAP!


Oddly enough, both of these Academy Award nominees are about a televised tate-a-tete between a crafty, manipulative old pro and the young brash but insecure protagonist who goes up against the ol’ Great White shark.

Contrary to most opinions I’ve read and heard, I thought SLUMDOG was okay but not Oscar-worthy. It was nicely directed and edited, and, yes, the soundtrack was catchy. But this was not a musical, it was a supposed drama, and to have the big Bollywood dance number come hot on the heels of the resolution (not even post-credits) was a bad move. In fact, it was a bad move to include this as part of the movie at all (maybe as a DVD bonus feature) as it was irrelevant and probably culturally condescending on Irishman director Danny Boyle’s part. I think many people succumbed to the exotic factor of the movie. I wonder if people in India would find this film as interesting. This could have also taken place in other poor countries with kidnapping problems, such as Mexico (or parts of the U.S.!!). In other words, if you blowtorch off the exotic factor, I’m not sure how great this movie is (which hinges on the dated “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” game show as its central conceit).

I much preferred FROST/NIXON, which is the first Ron Howard film I’ve enjoyed since SPLASH (although I’ve skipped many of Howard’s films because I don’t like the sentimental, Oscar-bait qualities of his films). This one almost avoided Howard’s annoying filmmaking tics (a superfluous scene following the Frost/Nixon debates dots the I’s and crosses the T’s, as if we had not understood the story that had preceded it). Other than that, a fine film. And as much as I enjoyed Frank Langella’s interpretation of President Nixon, I thought Michael Sheen’s performance as David Frost was the film’s high point, as Sheen took a shallow man and gave him many layers of depths. We really got a sense of Frost’s insecurities and self-doubt as even his own team does not believe he can pull off the interview with Nixon. Howard should get a cookie for effectively opening up Peter Morgan’s play into a movie and not making the whole thing feel stage-y. This and stuff like the excellent SHATTERED GLASS by Billy Ray from 2003 (perhaps the best journalism movie I’ve ever seen, and I lump ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN in that category) are the closest (it appears) we’re going to get these days to Hollywood’s early/mid-1970s golden era of interesting filmmaking, back when filmmakers such as Sam Peckinpah, Hal Ashby, Alan J. Pakula and others were at the height of their powers.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

New Feature Every Wednesday: HUMP DAY Q&A

Beginning Wednesday, I'll be posting a new feature, HUMP DAY Q & A, a quick-and-dirty interview with a cartoonist or comics-industry professional. You can be sure that this will be a mix of alternative cartoonists, Marvel and DC veterans, and up-and-coming indy cartoonists. Speaking of which....

.....Here's a tasty morsel. It's the original art for the cover of the first issue of THE HUMAN FLY, an underrated second stringer series from Marvel's Bronze Age which lasted 19 issues and featured the freewheeling, love-it-or-hate-it style of the inimitable FRANK ROBBINS, fellow penciler LEE ELIAS and inker FRANK SPRINGER, who passed away last week (essentially, THE INVADERS crew). DON PERLIN, MIKE ESPOSITO and STEVE LEIALOHA also contributed to HUMAN FLY, which was the subject of my very first article in BACK ISSUE! magazine (issue # 20; see for the 4-1-1). This art comes courtesy of its artist, AL MILGROM. Thanks, Al, it's a "dazzler" (get it, Springer fans?)!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

QUICK TRIB: Frank Springer

A week ago today, the great artist Frank Springer died on April 2.

My introduction to Springer was at a youth in the pages of '70s Marvel Comics via the two Franks, Robbins and Springer, who tackled with gusto THE INVADERS and THE HUMAN FLY (which I wrote about at length in my first BACK ISSUE magazine article back in BACK ISSUE # 20).

The combination of Robbins and Springer is definitely a love it or hate it proposition, thanks to the crazy stylings of Robbins: I vote for love it. I loved these comics, and in more recent years, my mania for the Robbins/Springer combo only heightened thanks to the encouragement of my cartoonist buddy Rafael Navarro, cartoonist behind the great SONAMBULO and our GUMBY'S GANG STARRING POKEY book from WildCard. Raf egged me on big time with his love for the art of INVADERS and CAPTAIN AMERICA. Years later, we still geek out over all that Robbins stuff, a lot of it inked by Frank Springer. (By the way, next time you're at a convention, ask Mr. N to show you his sketch book or his special Captain America sketchbook, if you don't believe this guy is a Robbins/Springer freak!) LUKE CAGE, GHOST RIDER, LEGION OF MONSTERS: tasty stuff, brudda! Robbins and Springer: one explosive combo.

Later, Springer had a crazy run on DAZZLER, which I believe had the longest run of a female superhero book just short of SPIDER-WOMAN (or at least was up there with SHE-HULK). To be honest, I gave up with DAZZLER after # 1 but still...

I've included some imagery, including, in the spirit of the Passover, a quick glimpse of the Jacob Goldstein Golem from INVADERS # 13 (and by the way, I will have an article on Golem characters in BACK ISSUE # 36, out in September). Go, Golem, go! Gone, Frank Springer, gone.....but his art will stay with us, to be dug by future generations (I hope!). Ditto Robbins, Thanks, Franks!