Monday, August 31, 2009

The Mouse of Ideas

Guess that's what you can call Marvel Comics Group now.....

Everyone's A Critic: TV, Movies, Marvel Merger Move

PATRICE ONEAL HBO special – He, the star of various VH-1 talking heads shows, COLIN QUINN SHOW, TOUGH CROWD, WEB JUNK, and erstwhile OFFICE bit player, is one of my favorite comedians. Half the time it's not even the jokes, it's just his delivery and reaction to eveything. Too funny. So glad I caught him on this one, working blue. He and Dave Chappelle, man....We need these guys more than ever!

BEING HUMAN (BBC America) – A vampire, a werewolf and a ghost share an apartment in Bristol, England. Wow. What a concept for a series. I hope an American remake doesn’t come along and ruin it.


I loved the first one but I could not get past 40 minutes of this one. It’s back to the old Michael Bay of THE ROCK and CONAIR, where everything’s a whirling blur of camera movement and editing with no quiet or stillness in-between. Here, it’s a dark whirling blur…I can’t even tell my Autobots from my Decepticons. And unlike in the first one, the touches of humor here are hokey (Optimus Primal, after blowing something up: "I'm good!" Ba-dum-chh!)


I very much enjoyed this critically acclaimed character study. Ryan Gosling and the lead actress who plays his student are terrific. It might ramble a bit past where it should have ended, but it’s still a good film with interesting commentary on how various American cultures undermine their gifted youth.

WALL-E (2008)
Just saw this Pixar favorite and liked it overall, although I think I enjoyed the first part of it more than the last part, where everything boils to the usual Pixar climax clatter. Also enjoyed its message (warning!) to the people of Earth and I enjoyed its mockery of current American culture, which, by the way, is not so far off from the technologically mesmerized, dumbed-down fatso future depicted in this movie. Finally, I don’t think this film was Oscar-worthy. Maybe a clear winner for a Best Animated Film Oscar, but definitely not for the Best Picture category (although it was surely better than BENJAMIN BUTTON, which should not have been in that category either). If Michael Bay gets his mitts on WALL-E 2 (WE2??), there will be no distinguishing him from the Autobots or Decepticons.

I also saw TYLER PERRY’S THE FAMILY THAT PREYS (2008) recently. I’m digging these entertaining dramas. Have yet to see the Madea movies (although Madea makes a cameo in MEET THE BROWNS).


Hmm. This feels like the final nail in the Marvel Comics coffin.
My first reaction was what a perfect union in the sense as you’ve got two companies––the House of Mouse and the House of Ideas, respectively––who have been surviving for the last few decades by royally rehashing product from the past now that their chief innovators (Uncle Walt and Stan the Man, respectively) are no longer running things (in Disney’s case, Pixar notwithstanding, for what would Disney be today without Pixar, which it did not create but acquired?). While both companies might still be making tons of profit, they seem overall creatively dead for many years now.
Notice how recent Disney executives have ushered in the death of traditional animation. Notice how recent Marvel executives have ushered in the near-death of the “pamphlet.” Once, both were standards of their respective industries. Not anymore! Hmmm…..
No good has ever come out of Disney buying out a company with characters of a different aesthetic sensibility (I’m thinking about The Muppets property right now, the “George of the Jungle” and “Underdog” movies). Disney has a way of sanitizing/cutesifying/casting artificial whatever it touches.
Well, I’ve never been quite sold on Marvel Comics post-Image gang. The ‘90s were surely Marvel’s low point, and the 2000s, while in some ways better, is in some ways worse, in terms of regurgitating old concepts.
I’m glad alternative, art comics and graphic novels are proliferating more than ever today. I’ll probably have less reason to buy a Marvel Comic than ever. But that doesn’t really matter to Marvel/Disney anyway, because this is really about Marvel’s current Golden Age in Hollywood. The comics are almost irrelevant (Marvel supposedly didn’t even bring any comics to sell at Comic-Con this summer).
I wonder how this merger will affect stuff like Disney’s participation in Diamond publishing, San Diego Comic-Con (as it’s creating its own conventions), etc. This will surely have weird repercussions industry-wide. This is only the beginning….

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Here's the heavyweight boxing bout of the millennium!

Friday, August 28, 2009

JACK KIRBY (1917-1994)

Kirby, left, with San Diego Comic-Con creator Shel Dorf. Supercool!

Jack Kirby's WINGin' it!

Jack Kirby, King of Comics, actually met Paul McCartney, King of Beatles, backstage at a Wings concert three decades ago. In honor of what would have been Kirby's 92th birthday, here are a couple of those shots (they'll run again on McCartney's birthday, I guess...)

Happy Birthday to the King! Comic Book Innovator JACK KIRBY!

Jack "King" Kirby, who I had the privilege of meeting at my first SD Comic-Con in '92, would've been 92 years old today.

My weekly posting of Cartoon Flophouse humor comics will resume next Friday, as today we pay tribute to the undisputed innovator of the American comic book form.

The very first comic book I ever purchased, at the tender age of 6, was a 1975 reprint called MARVEL DOUBLE FEATURE # 10.

My grandparents bought this issue for me at Irving's Pizza in Canarsie, Brooklyn. The first half featured a Stan Lee/Kirby CAPTAIN AMERICA story, the back-up feature was a Lee/Gene Colan IRON MAN. Needless to say, I was instantly hooked on comics. But Kirby's Cap was truly unforgettable, I still remember sequences from that issue since childhood.

What some of us may take for granted, because it dribbled out of him like water, is that Kirby was a master of character design. Some artists are lucky if they design one or two memorable, iconic character. Needless to say, Kirby designed such characters by the dozen, maybe hundreds!

Mr. Jacob Kurtzberg and his restless imagination is surely missed in this day and age of rehashed concepts, but not forgotten.....especially when there are some worms out there "paying tribute" to Kirby by working in his style. Get over it! Time to find your own voice, pally, it's been done! Behold! A smattering of the evidence!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Top Marvel Panels of All Time!

A list like this one is a totally subjective and ultimately silly excuse to post up a lot of eye-conic eye-candy. But it's nice to see how this list is totally dominated by Kirby, Ditko and Romita imagery (Byrne figures in heavy, too).

Monday, August 24, 2009

Back from vacay and in your face!

Came back from vacation and found a nice little email in my inbox from my longtime artist friend Pinguino Kolb, a photographer who does a lot of work for the Comic Book Resources site.

Above is a shot of cartoonist Javier Hernandez and myself that she took down at my booth at San Diego Comic-Con over the summer. Jav is flaunting a copy of my most recent comic book, SILLY GOOSE, while I'm flaunting my best Wild West outlaw expression, trying to audition for a remake of THE WILD BUNCH.

Overall, Comic-Con 2009 was a fun time, if short on surprises: catching up with friends, a nice dinner or two, and a couple of good parties off campus, so to speak. Then I returned home and immediately got a haircut.

Thanks, Pinguino.....see you at APE in October! And bring your telephoto lens next time! The best for mugs like ours!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"I'm Not the Biggest Rob Liefeld Fan, But....."

(Make Mine Marvel! is the new "say cheese!")

....I had a great time last night at the Marvel's 70th anniversary party going down at The Comic Bug in Manhattan Beach.

Jun (far left) and the mighty Mike Wellman (far right) always throw a great show when holding events at their store. Last night was no different. The usual gaggle of Bugflies were there.

We gathered around the '60s Spider-Man cartoons playing in the back of the room like moths to the porchlight. Wellman said it's like the Bat-Signal...if he needs to find me, he puts it on and I'll appear. It's true, I was equally mesmerized by those classic cartoons two years running at the Comic Bug's Free Comics Day. My BACK ISSUE! magazine compadre Jerry Boyd showed up and wore us down to the point of sleep deprivation with long-winded stories of contributing articles to the latest KIRBY COLLECTOR (the Lee and Kirby issue, out now). Mike's partner-in-crime Cesar Haro nodded a lot and feigned interest. Actually, it wasn't like that at all. We had a lot of fun gabbing over slices of pizza and a Steranko-style Captain America cake (although my patriotism was called into question when I ate the slice with Cap's head).

Some other regulars were super-cool, like the guy named Ram (pronounced like ROM as in Spaceknight. Do names get any cooler?) Muse played in the background....(I guess Mike wore out the grooves on his copies of "Diver Down" and "The Real Thing").

Then Jerry brought out his copy of the 40th anniversary Comic-Con book and thumbing through it was like a time-travel through the decades. All of our favorite creators in funky hair and clothes!

By the way, the Bug is the ONLY place in early May for Free Comics Day. The energy there is the best! My only lament is that I live too far to the Bug to frequent it as my go-to shop (perhaps it's time for me to move to Manhattan Beach!).

The half/price on all Marvels deal was irresistible. Like Topol in "Fiddler on the Roof," I danced a jig when I saw the prices. And so I scored a pair of vintage SHOGUN WARRIOR comics with the funky Herb Trimpe art. Hey, it was cheaper than AMAZING FANTASY # 15, okay? Simmer down, haters!

Thanks again for the fun, Mike and Jun!

As Mike likes to say, "I'm not the biggest Rob Liefeld fan, but..." now I'm gonna plug the shit out of Jun and Mike's Comic BUg store. So when in the L.A. area, be sure to visit The Comic Bug, the friendliest, most fun place to buy your comics. It's all about the good times. Check it out at

The Comic Bug
1807 1/2 Manhattan Beach Blvd.
Manhattan Beach, CA, 90266

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Just caught up with a couple of films from a couple years back....

I really enjoyed Kasi Lemmons' Petey Greene biopic TALK TO ME starring Don Cheadle as the influential DC-area radio jockey during the Civil Rights movement, and an actor I was unfamiliar with who was excellent, too: Chiwetel Ejiofor. These guys lit a fuse on this movie, let me tell ya. TALK TO ME has a lot of elements that I enjoy in a biopic: solid performances, lush period art direction, good soundtrack and, best of all, unfamiliar territory. In other words, I didn't know much about Petey Greene so it was unpredictable, as opposed to the more familiar celebrities where you know going in how it ends (9 times out of 10: bad).

There have been many biopics on self-destructive artist/genius-types, and truth be told, there's nothing too unusual or different from that unfortunate formula in this movie. But the acting, directing and art direction is top notch, and the real narrative here is not really Greene's career or the Civil Rights Movement, which is more of a backdrop. It's the brotherly bond between Cheadle and Ejiofor's characters (a bro-mance?), propelling TALK TO ME to the top of the biographical film genre. Nice work, Lemmons!

On a sidenote, I'm the wiseguy who wrote the tagline for one of Lemmons' previous flicks, EVE'S BAYOU (back in my movie advertising days): "Love can lead you to a dangerous place...." and "Two secrets that hold us together can also tear us apart."

Another movie I enjoyed (although brace yourself, it's a slow burn) is DIGGERS, a drama starring Paul Rudd and Ken Marino (both excellent, Marino is a stand out as a frustrated father of five and counting...).

This movie ambles at the same rate as it takes to fish for clams. But if you stick with it, it rewards. It builds to an explosive climax and ends on a symbolic note. I don't want to give too much away, but this is a great character sketch/slice of life kind of movie, with good acting all around. Rudd is better known now for his comedies, but here he's a likable guy who wears a funny hat. The title reminds me of Digger the Dog, a plastic toy pet with a catchy commercial jingle back when I was a kid. Other than that, it's a pretty serious movie with humorous moments and it takes you into the world of Long Island fishermen. For the patient cinephile. Not for ADD-addled Michael Bay fans! If you're not in the mood for yapping clam-fishers, go see GI JOE!

Icecreamandcake, dotheicecreamandcake! Icecreamandcake, dotheicecreamandcake!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Spotlight on.......¡THE CLASH!

They've been called "the only band that matters." Maybe, maybe not. But for me, they were the Beatles, the Stones and the Sex Pistols all wrapped up in one band.

My journey with the Clash began at the age of 13, when "Should I Stay or Should I Go Now" and "Rock the Casbah" were burning up the Billboard charts. Those two singles sprang from the Clash's penultimate studio album (and last true album with the entire lineup), COMBAT ROCK.

To this day, I've never listened to CUT THE CRAP, the official final album, because not only has it received the worst reviews, but half the band--including the seminal Mick Jones---had been fired. Most Clash fans do not consider CUT THE CRAP a true Clash album.

The Clash began as a punk outfit and quickly transcended it. They weren't as pure punk as, say, the one-album-trick pony the Sex Pistols. The evolution which took place across a handful of single, double and triple Clash albums (the multiple albums to fulfill album obligations all in one clip) between the years of 1977 through 1982 was truly mind-boggling. The Clash proved themselves one of the most sophisticated bands in music history to experiment masterfully with so many genres and to expertly bend them and improve on them. Original rock, reggae, rap, psychedelia, cabaret. You name it, the Clash created it.

I'll never forget how COMBAT ROCK literally became my gateway into music. It was the first album I ever bought. Sure, the Clash have albums that are technically better. THE CLASH and LONDON CALLING are solid, track-for-track classics. SANDINISTA is an underrated flawed masterpiece in which the band created their own PAUL'S BOUTIQUE-style mish mash (before PAUL'S, of course).

If there was one act I wish I could have seen live, it would be The Clash. The live album FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, a culmination of concert recordings spanning their entire career, seems to support their legend as an electric live act. I technically had one chance to see the Clash play---at the US Festival in San Bernardino. But it turned out I was too young at the time and, guess what? The Clash practically broke up on stage that night. It was a notoriously lousy, tension-filled concert *with some fill-in drummer to boot.

August is quite a month in history. Clash front man Joe Strummer's birthday is August 21. Comic book king artist Jack Kirby's birthday is one week later on August 28. I know I'm forcing a comparison here, but I feel lucky both of these geniuses graced us with their work. I love both of their contributions to pop culture and I will remember both artists this month.

"Bomb the Combat Rock!" by Michael Aushenker, 2006

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The great writer Budd Schulberg.....

Here's another great Schulberg book....

It's inspired by the time Schulberg spent as a young screenwriter in the charge of an old, alcoholic F. Scott Fitzgerald when Schulberg was paired with the great author to work on a screenplay together. Unfortunately, this book is out of print, and I'm not even sure how I chanced upon my vintage copy, but if you can find this book, devour it. It's a beautiful, flawed goes on a bit too long and there seemed to be a better place to end it when I read it, but it went on for another mile. That said, a compelling read.

By the way, I've never seen all these salacious, pulpy paperback covers for "What Makes Sammy Run?" and "Disenchanted." They did the similar dime store paperback treatment with "Ask the Dust," totally misrepresenting the content with the trashy idealized cover. These covers kind of cheapen these great books but the painted covers are pretty neat. So be it!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

In Walked Budd....

Thanks, Budd.

Remembering BUDD SCHULBERG, one of the best writers I've ever read....

One of my all-time favorite writers has passed away. "What Makes Sammy Run?," "The Disenchanted" (loosely based on his time working with Fitzgerald) and "The Harder They Fall" are three of the best books I've ever read.

Schulberg's writing was funny, colorful, astute, wise beyond his years. He knew how to describe a character. He was a keen observer of Hollywood, of human nature. He knew how to communicate. His prose moved effortlessly. I enjoyed his writing more than I did most of his peers.

"What Makes Sammy Run?" was so smart, so prescient and modern, it could have been written yesterday. Thankfully, Hollywood never found a way to adapt it to the big screen, where they could ruin it. Who could forget slick executive Sammy Glick and the luckless writer Al Manheim? It's eerie how much the book predicted in its sardonic view of the shallow side of Hollywood. I remember reading "Sammy" months away from late 1998, when "Titanic" was released. Dumping all that money into a sinking ship-of-a-movie called "Titanic" ---- as it turned out, it was real life which proved unbelievable (not Schulberg's book) when Cameron's "Titanic" actually made back its $200 million and became the biggest movie of all time. But in the book, it was totally within reason that such a film should sink to the bottom like the ship itself.

He won the Oscar for ON THE WATERFRONT, one of the best American movies. Unfortunately, one of its stars, Karl Malden, also passed away a few weeks ago.

Below is Budd Schulberg's obit per Variety:

Budd Schulberg dies at 95
Screenwriter known for 'Waterfront,' novel 'Sammy'

Iconoclastic writer Budd Schulberg, who penned the controversial Hollywood novels "What Makes Sammy Run?" and "The Disenchanted" and who won an Oscar for his original screenplay "On the Waterfront," died of natural causes Wednesday at his home in Westhampton Beach, on Long Island, according to his wife Betsy. He was 95.
Schulberg's influence over Hollywood was strong. The Sammy Glick character from "What Makes Sammy Run" is the paradigm of power-driven, amoral studio executives.

Although "What Makes Sammy Run" was never made into a film -- it reached Broadway as a musical in the 1960s, and Schulberg himself directed a 1959 TV adaptation -- works as varied as "The Player" and "Sweet Smell of Success" owe a debt to Schulberg's tale. His novel "The Disenchanted," another bitter tale of Hollywood, also cast a long shadow over the public's perception of the fate of such literary figures as F. Scott Fitzgerald and William Faulkner and the time they spent in Los Angeles as screenwriters.

Neither work endeared him to the film industry, into which he was born and raised (and which he later abandoned). His father B.P. Schulberg had been head of production at Paramount Pictures in the 1930s, and his mother Adeline was an agent. He crossed swords with the industry again when he named names to the House Un-American Activities Committee in Congress (as did "Waterfront" director Elia Kazan). "Waterfront" was seen as an apologia for "ratting." The film's protagonist Terry Malloy (played by Marlon Brando) exposes corruption among longshoremen.

Born in New York City, Schulberg was educated at Dartmouth. But even before that he was a publicist at Paramount, starting at age 17, and was a screenwriter at age 19.

He was uncredited but contributed dialogue to the 1937 version of "A Star is Born." He was credited on 1938's "Little Orphan Annie." A year later he was co-credited by RKO on "Winter Carnival"(with Lester Cole) based on the event at his alma mater. He had been assigned to collaborate with Fitzgerald, and the two traveled to Dartmouth together, but it was not a happy experience. Fitzgerald was at the end of his short life, destroyed by alcohol.

Soon after "Winter Carnival," Schulberg moved east and, in 1941, "What Makes Sammy Run," his first novel, became a cause celebre and major Hollywood embarrassment. Schulberg says his father asked him to shelve the book and his fellow travelers in the Communist Party requested he water down his criticisms of their progressive ideas. He listened to neither.

That same year, he received a story credit on "Weekend for Three" (written by Dorothy Parker and Alan Campbell).

During WWII, Schulberg worked closely with John Ford's documentary film unit.

Shortly after the publication of "The Disenchanted," Schulberg testified before HUAC. But "On the Waterfront," which was thought to be a response to Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" (which condemned "witch hunts") won him an Oscar. The film took eight Academy Awards, including best picture.

In 1956 his novel "The Harder They Fall" was adapted into a film starring Humphrey Bogart.

His second most memorable screen contribution (though it was not a hit) was 1957's "A Face in the Crowd," also directed by Kazan. It was the story of Lonesome Rhodes, a down and out folk singer who becomes a cultural hero via television. Schulberg again scored with a prescient look at the far-reaching influence of TV on public thinking.

After "Wind Across the Everglades" in 1958, Schulberg's only bigscreen credit was the 1985 documentary "Joe Louis: For All Times," which he also produced.

A major boxing fan, Schulberg often wrote journalistic accounts of his experiences at ringside and was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 2002.

Schulberg won an Emmy for "The Angry Voice of Watts, a 1966 special, and also did "A Question of Honor." He had started the Watts Writers Workshop following the 1965 riots, an endeavor that attracted the attention of Robert Kennedy when he ran for president in 1968. Schulberg recalled in later interviews his experience being among those in the pantry of the Ambassador Hotel when Kennedy was shot following the California primary, and how he briefly grabbed hold of Sirhan Sirhan with the gun in his grasp.

In the early 1990s Schulberg worked on a sequel to "Waterfront" entitled "Back to the Waterfront," which for a time was housed at Columbia Pictures. He also reworked "A Face in the Crowd" for Whoopi Goldberg.

Schulberg continued to write in his later years, in pieces for Vanity Fair and Variety's V Life, and was at work on a number of book projects at the time of his death, including a followup to his memoirs, a novel version of "On the Waterfront," Betsy Schulberg said.

In addition to his wife, Schulberg is survived by five children. Burial will be private, plans are being made for a public memorial in New York.

(Ted Johnson contributed to this report.)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Menthor, Richard Dragon Do the Latest Dance....

.....It's called "The Spotlight" and everyone's doing it!

Get on board, America!!!!! Boom Boom Pow is so 2000 and late! Do "The Spotlight!"

Spotted at Comic-Con: Dubious, unnecessary....genius!

To whomever came up with this plastic version of this Fat Little Nothings.....what were you thinking? Do you actually think you can make a gang of money selling these Popneckers?

That said, I really, really want one!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Drama follows Montijo and Baker to Comic-Con.....

This year, drama came to Comic-Con....and the Abismo/Nerve Bomb booth brought it!

This sci-fi image, captured guerilla-style (using the same digital camera technology employed in the new movie DISTRICT 9) at San Diego Comic-Con International, clearly shows cartoonists RHODE MONTIJO and JAMIE BAKER minutes before they conquered Comic-Con wholesale with their Gort-like back-up. It was awful. Laser beams came out of Rhode and Jamie's visors, the giant robot walked through a table of back issue bins and knocked over a couple of spinner racks. Nothing was left in their wake (not even the cast of IRON MAN 2).

Rhode's an old pal of mine, the fantastic creator of the comic book series PABLO'S INFERNO (, co-creator of the HAPPY TREE FRIENDS cartoons, and the children's book CLOUD BOY. He came to San Diego to debut his latest comic book/children's book hybrid, SKELETOWN ( Baker, who we call "The Tim Tam Man," is a cartoonist who works in animation, most recently on Pixar's UP ( Every year, this duo with Bay Area roots tries to top their last Comic-Con guise. Past years have included powder blue jump suits and an ambitious used car dealership motif. This year, they went cosmic and blew the roof off the dump. Let's just say that it's a good thing TRANSFORMERS 2 plugged their crap last year, the Rhode Rho-bot would've kicked Bumblebee's electronic ass!

I dread imagining what they might do to top this next year. At this point, body-painting themselves blue and dressing like Smurs, or undergoing sex change operations just for a week will only elicit yawns from a jaded public. They've really raised the bar pretty damn high this time.

It's always great to hang out with Rhode and Baker. They're all about the wall-to-wall nonsense, which is the best you can ask for from cartoonist friends......although this year's Comic-Con was a comedy of errors just trying to hook up with everyone for dinners and parties.

Moments before Rhode and Jamie conquered Comic-Con, I ceded an El Santo-buckled belt to Rhode in a luchador ceremony that had lesser men running for the hills. It was devastating.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


Thanks to the magic of DVD TV collections, I recently had a chance to watch THE RIFLEMAN, a series starring Chuck Connors and Johnny Crawford as father-and-son homesteaders in the Old West. The show somehow escaped me. I believe it was created by one of my favorite directors, SAM PECKINPAH (who writes several episodes and, beginning with episode 4, directs some of them, too).

This action-packed show is a good time, not to mention it features the father/son template found years later in stuff such as LONE WOLF AND CUB and THE ROAD TO PERDITION.

Best of all, it's a veritable parade of before-they-were-famous guest stars. The first episode features a young Dennis Hopper, the following one Michael Landon, circa his I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF days, and the fourth, in a harbinger of things to come (THE WILD BUNCH, BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA), teamed Peckinpah with the quirky and charismatic Warren Oates. Landon and Oates return on DVD vol. 2. In both of his episodes, Oates plays a wild oafish outlaw.

The show's opening, featuring Chuck Connors unleashing his rifle in machine-gun rapid fire fashion while staring down the camera, is terrific (although nothing comes close to the long, false ending-stuffed opening of THE PRISONER for me). Not a totally essential viewing but interesting and entertaining nevertheless (better to watch Warren Oates than to read War and Peace, I always say...)