June 4th, 2003

smokin'

Heavy, Heavy Monster Post

Greetings from the House of Fun. I decided to take some time off today and trpe up a long, old school multi-subject post, choosing to do so for several reasons. One reason being this damned weeks-long east coast rainy weather has finally worn me down to the point where work seems like a prison sentence, another being that I think I overdid my workout today in the gym (I read whilst pedaling on the recumbant (sp) bike and went a bit too long for my sad cartoonist body, and another being that Sarah's computer is free while she recovers from a fever. I think the stress of the past few weeks has finally given her a virus, or bug, or something Paul Peter Porges would delineate as a living creature in the pages of Mad. I think I got the artist's name right. I'm no Sam henderson when it comes to these things. Anyway, I'm beat, tired and this is the first time I've had a good shot at the computer since my own modem went b'bye. Having piled up some notes over the past week or so, I figured I'd mass-post them all now.

First up -- today, after yet even more delays, the first issue of The Thing: Night Falls on Yancy Street finally shipped to comic shops. Now you can decide whether this project was an unjustified mess or a pretty decent little read. I think it achieves what Dean and I set out to do, spread some crime fiction attitude over 60's Lee/Kirby and toss in some of the feel of our respective indy work. Again, it's up to the readers if we pulled it off reasonably well. Don't forget -- apes. Likewise, Agent X #11 also hit shelves, and also has a simian appearance (because I'm a silly bastard). This is the second half of the Fight-Man "crossover", wrapping up the Delta City storyline with pretty much one continuous, messy, chaotic fight sequence featuring a bevy of dopey villains, violent skirmishes and a weapon that fires poultry. If nothing else, within these pages you will meet the greatest stupid idiot villain with the worst name and powers ever put in a comic book. At least, intentionally. And in the past month or so.

Second order of business is a little HOF update. The fourth issue of the Thing is slowly but steadily getting there, I should be done sometime next week and Dean is almost done with half of the book's pencils. As for the Dork trade, I decided to do the book introduction and an afterwords of sorts as comics, which are almost complete. Sarah's been finishing up the pre-press assembly, with some supplemental material left to go over and a few other odds and ends that need to be worked out. If all goes well we'll be done over the weekend, and then it's a matter of several weeks before the collection gets released. Fingers crossed. In several weeks the Fairly Odd Parents sepcial from Nickelodeon Magazine ships, featuring some puzzle pages we illustrated and a 5-page strip I wrote. Cripes, I just realized it, that sucker has monkeys in it, too. What the hell is wrong with me? And we found a monkey in a brief shot in the "Tribute to Women" montage in our Space Ghost episode, "Girlie Show", when we did the commentary for it. Monkeys...what is the deal? I mean, I saty away from overused "funny" subjects like Elvis and drag humor, but I'm just plain awful with the ape crap.

Onto other stuff. No more monkeys. If you haven't heard, Fantagraphics has been undergoing a financial crisis and has put the word out that they need a cash infusion to settle some loans by the end of the month or so. How can you help. Well, if there's a Fantagraphics book you've been meaning to pick up, order it directly from them. You help them out and get yourself a little gift, Agent Cooper-style. Might I suggest looking at the Fantagrpahics webiste and browsing a bit? Every order helps. The Fanta-site is http://www.fantagraphics.com/ Their dirty porno comics site is http://www.eroscomix.com/ You can read more about it at the Journal site, http://www.tcj.com/ Some suggestions - pick up some old comic strip collections before they're all gone, like Pogo or the remaining Popeye material. Or start or fill-in that Love and Rockets collection already, chum. Or get the massive Gene Deitch art book they just released. There's the Bernie Krigstein book, too. Don't like Fantagrapohics stuff for some reason? They also carry books by other publishers and creators, foreign material, strip collections, art books, etc. Take a look, buy a book. Fantagraphics publsihes great stuff, and I think the industry would be a lesser one if they had to go down the Kitchen Sink.

Random stuff: History buffs, musicologists, audiophiles. A new show has started on WFMU spotlighting the Thomas Edison archives. An hour os Edison recordings, including comedy, music and monologues. It runs on Tuesdays at 7 pm, alternating with another old music show spotlighting wax cylinder recordings. Neat stuff. Check out wfmu.org as usual, and wfmu.org/playlists/te for the Edison show. There is also a site for the Edison Archives with MP3's of old recordings, I assume a link can be found on the FMU site. Also, if you check the playlists, keep an eye out for Professor Dum Dum appearances if they are there to be found anywhere. The Professor has done some recent fill-in shows, playing a variety of metal, death metal and the like. I'm not much of a metal fan, but the Professor is the funniest damned deejay I've possibly ever heard, he announces everything with a thick, phony german accent and screams. A lot. And is genuinely funny, as he yells about metal bands and takes phone calls and berates listeners who attempt to be funnier than he is. The Prof is obviously the same guy as Bill Z Bub who I believe still has a regular metal music slot (I really ought to look at sites before I plug, but I am lazy and busy, so there), so maybe you can find more on both "entities" via his playlists. All I know is, I don't really like metal, but I really enjoy these shows. Especially when he/they play Cookie Monster songs from Sesame Street and pass them off as death metal.

Speaking of music, my fave band of the minute is the Electric Six, makers of such fine "disco-metal" tunes as "Gay Bar" and "Danger! High Voltage". See, now, in music, I applaud the use of the exclamation point, as opposed to it's use in website posting and book introductions. (Which reminds me, the second T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Archives came out, and the same two rich Hollywood goofinannies wrote another long-winded !!!-filled "gee whiz but these are some of the best comics ever made!!!" love note to what are actually some of the silliest, stiffest comics never made by DC in the '60's. Cripes, they're fun, and yeah, I didn't read them as a kid, but loving something as a child doesn't mean it holds up. These comics have some nifty ideas, and have some nifty art, but that's about it. The stories are unimaginative and often illogical, the plotting is perfunctory, characterization is nil, and the occasional attempts at humor hamfisted. Basically, you get to see a bunch of dopey stiffs lose their superhero equipment a lot. If Wally Wood sdidn't draw the Iron Maiden into these books, I doubt any of these middle-aged fanboys would care so much about these books. Again, enjoyable, but d-u-m dumb. And I'll say it again -- I loved Nova and Rom as a young teen -- that doesn't make them great comics. Nostalgia lends old dopey stuff an emotional boost, not artistic merit. And leave the damned exclamation points out of comic book intros.) Ahem. Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah. Electric Six. Massive hooks, simple stupid rock lyrics ("Fire in the Disco! Fire in the Taco Bell!), sex, sex, sex. Sarah dowloaded the video to "Danger" High Voltage and it rocks. I don't have a link. Why would I? I don't use them. Maybe Sarah will post a link when she feels better. There's also a video for "Gay bar" by that Brit chap who did the Viking kitties "Immigrant Song" vidoe, and now has done promos for VH1 where the kitties sing Culture Club and some old metal and other stuff. I can't recall his site. Aaaargh, I suck at blogging!

This is for Tom Spurgeon -- Tom, I got the copy of ther latest Comics Journal, thanks. Unfortunately, my e-mail to you bounced back to me. Which is why I am thanking you here, like an idiot. Anyway, sorry old man, I disagree, the Romita interview was swell.

A week or two ago I posted about some recent celebrity biographies I was interested in. You mean you didn't see this post? Of course not, because it didn't go through and AOL booted me and I went on a murderous rampage. Don't you read the papers? Anyway, in a nutshell, the books are W.C. Fields: A Biography (from some book company), An Anecdotal Life, by Carl Reiner (from some other book company), and the autobiography of the late and lamented Classy Freddie Blassie, which I think is from WWE books or some other book company. Blassie, the infamous wrestler and manager who recorded the equally infamous "Pencil Neck Geek" that Dr Demento used to play all the damned time, passed away Monday, right before Raw went on the air. He was on the show just two or three weeks ago to plug the book, and then fell ill. He seemed really happy about his life and had no regrets about his career, even thoguh he was stabbed and assualted by angry fans. Anyway, R.I.P Freddie, ten bells, I loved watching him as a kid and I look forward to picking up his book and reading about his life in the squared circle. FYI, Glen Jones has a short interview with Blassie scheduled for his show on WFMU next Monday evening at 7pm. Check WFMU.org for the archives or the internet hook-up if you're interested.

Some other old news -- after Sarah and I recorded our SGCTC commentary last week, we went to the New York Historical Society with our friend and producer Keith Crofford to check out several exhibits. Foremost being two displays related to the recent Jules Feiffer program, one being a selection of poltiical cartoons by Nast, Keppler and others, the other being a selection of comic strip originals. I was really knocked out, being able to see originals by Segar, Sterret, Herriman, Raymond, Messmer, and others. Boy, did I want to steal a Popeye strip something fierce. We also saw the Enterprising Women exhibit on women in business, the incredible Thomas Cole Course of Empire paintings exhibition, the Henry Luce American Culture wing of artifacts (sculpture, furniture, paintings, police and fire equipment, political buttons and other objects) and a strange exhibit featuring a small part of the massive collection of Bella C. Landauer, the so-called first lady of ephemera. Basically, she collected things. all sorts of things. Signs, papers, menus, toys, advertising objects, comics (some Barks Walt Disney books were on display, along with the records book listing the issues she had), lottery tickets, labels, handbills, cards, and pretty much anything else you could imagine. I especially liked the store display of Hunt drawing and lettering pens and nibs, which I would love to ahve on my wall. Bless the Hunt 22B and the Hunt 102, someday I'll learn to use them. Anyway, we were able to turn a work day into a sort of day off for the first time in months, and enjoy a little piece of this city that Mayor Bloomberg is pricing us out of. Life isn't all deadlines, just most of the time.

Fans of silent comedies rejoice, or do whatever the hell you want when you hear good pop cult news. A "lost" Fatty Arbuckle/Buster Keaton film called "The Cook" has been released or is being released on DVD by Milestone Video. Also coming soon is a major DVD release of Chaplin films, along with a new documentary on the man and his work.

Recent comics we've picked up here at the HOF: Tezuka's Astro Boy volume 14 (Dark Horse), Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis (Pantheon), the first translated Kindaichi Files volume (The Opera House Murders, from Tokyopop), Michel Rabagliatti's Paul Has a Summer Job (D&Q) and the Chaland Anthology #1, Freddy Lombard (Humanoids Publishing). I've only read the Chaland volume. I've been a fan of his artwork for years now, having bought or traded artwork for a number of his books, all of which were indecipherable to me as I can't read French. But I adore his drawing, his line, and his design sense, he's one of the post-Herge clear line folks, who unfortunately died while still young. His work had been translated in Heavy Metal, but I never read that rag, and have only seen a few strips from it that Bob Fingerman had torn out and given me. Anyway, having pored over several of his European albums, I've always had the sneaking suspicion his writing wasn't quite up to par with his artwork, and if the adventure/mystery stories in Freddy Lombard is representative of all his work, I'm afraid that suspicion has been borne out. The stories are serviceable, nothing more, nothing less, really. Characters aren't really defined, plots are simple but have no real hooks or turns. They get better as they proceed, but even in the best stories the actual storytelling is more compelling than the plot being told. At least, in my opinion. Chaland seems preoccupied with drawing and design, which is fine, but if these beautiful panels were in the service of something a bit more complete or fun or exciting, cripes, these would be genius works of genre. That being said, this is still more than worth having for the tremendous artwork alone, and as I said, the actual storytelling itself is simply top-notch. Color work is lovely, especially in the later material represented in this volume. And $25 for material that, imported, cost twice that much, is a bargain. The book itself is oversized in the Euro-tradition, printed nicely, and while I'm slightly disappointed in the writing, I am really excited to finally have been able to read some Chaland comics. I will continue to buy anything Chaland, I'm a total mark.

Sarah enjoyed Persepolis, which I hope to dig into as soon as I can find some time, ditto the Rabagliatti book. I adored Paul in the Country and am really looking forward to this latest work. There have been some nice comics coming out lately and I look forward to walking around MOCCA later this month to see what premieres. And castigating myself for not having the Dork trade ready on time for the show. My one friggin' SLG project and my own comic convention this year and I blow it. Feh.

Anyway, I better post this and get back to work. Much to do, much to screw up and re-do.