Saturday, May 5, 2007


Well, it has really become an annual tradition!!!
Here in the US,and elsewhere, the first weekend of May is FREE COMIC BOOK DAY, in which participating comic book specialty shops all around the world can get free comic books to pass out to their customers.
I love this, and it is a wonderful way to attract new customers and develop new audiences for comic books, when so much of unused potential for getting new readers is wasted.

I will be dropping by the shop my buddy Steve owns, in Waltham, MA:


In a brand new location, at 437 Moody Street, Waltham, MA!!!

Here is a link to visit, maybe you will visit the shop near you!!!

Here also is a partial list of participating retailers, from Diamond Comics Distributors FCBD website:

Alakazam! Comics
Atomic Comics (Arizona)
Cape (Dallas, TX.)
Captain Blue Hen (Newark, DE)
Chatuaqua Comics (New York)
Chucks Comics (Essex, MD)
Comic Book Ink (Tacoma, WA)
Comic Cubicle (Virginia)
Comic Fusion (New Jersey)
Comic Quest (Evansville IN)
Comics Cave (GREECE)
Comics Kingdom (Baltimore, MD)
Comics, Legends and Heroes (Arizona)
Earthworld Comics (Albany, NY)
Happy Harbor (Edmonton, AB)
Hobby Centre (Ottawa, ON, CANADA)
House of Heroes (Torrance, CA)
Krypton Comics (Omaha Nebraska)
Neptune Comics (Waukesha WI)
Rays Mini Video & Comics & VideoRays-ComicEmporium1
Readers Den Comic Shop (South Africa)
Richard's Comics and Collectibles (Greenville, SC)
Rookies Sportcards Plus (Phoenix, AZ)
Samurai Comics (Phoenix, AZ)
SpazDog Comics (Arizona)
Strange Adventures (Halifax, NS)
The Silver Snail (Toronto, ON )

Saturday, April 21, 2007


Currently, as I noted in Part One of this series, we are enjoying yet another chance to revisit THE SPIRIT, and Mr. Eisner's work is available more widely now than ever before.
DC COMICS has issued a terrific action figure of THE SPIRIT, as well as a beautiful cold-cast resin statue, and a smaller statue, a bust, and is keeping their beautiful series of THE SPIRIT ARCHIVES, chronological reprints of the original stories, in color hardcovers in print.
DC also issued a very nice book, THE WILL EISNER COMPANION, a very nice guide for both veteran Eisnerites and novice fans of the cartoonist.
Other publishers such as NBM, DARK HORSE COMICS, and WW NORTON have also gotten involved, producing good editions of such works as MOBY DICK, THE PRINCESS & THE FROG, and DON QUIXOTE (NBM), LAST DAY IN VIET NAM (DARK HORSE), and THE CONTRACT WITH GOD TRILOGY (WW NORTON).
Mr. Eisner's own company, POORHOUSE PRESS, has been keeping his various books, such as SEQUENTIAL ART, in print as well.
After Mr. Eisner's death, COMIC BOOK ARTIST magazine, with it's editor, Jon B. Cooke, issued a gorgeous tribute to Will, featuring touching reminiscences and new artwork, provided by friends, peers, and fans of the comics giant. Cooke has also made a film about Eisner, which has just premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, but more on that later.
ALTER EGO magazine, edited by long-time comic book writer, and early comics fandom co-founder, Roy Thomas, also put out a nice Eisner tribute, which is naturally a must for all serious comics enthusiasts.
Also as noted before, WILL EISNER'S THE SPIRIT, from DC COMICS, is a new comic book that is written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke, with J. Bone, and it is beautiful, and noted cartoonist Kyle Baker has also gotten involved with the title, for a forthcoming issue that I expect to be as good as Cooke's.
THE SPIRIT has even teamed up with THE BATMAN, in a recent DC COMICS "one-shot".
Do you think we are at the end of this series?
Well, we aren't, so, please join us soon for Part IV, in which we will look at other elements of Mr. Eisner's career...


Following the gorgeous run of WILL EISNER'S THE SPIRIT, in magazine format, from Kitchen Sink Press, there were other nice packagings of Eisner's THE SPIRIT from Kitchen.
A regular comic book format ran for a good long time, there was a run of quality reprints on stiff, coated paper, also in comic book size, but with a larger page count, as well as lovely coffee table books, such as THE ART OF WILL EISNER, and THE SPIRIT COLOR TREASURY, among others.
Those years also saw trade paperback albums of THE SPIRIT from Kitchen, including a lovely collection of Eisner's Holiday-themed stories, quite naturally called THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT.
Kitchen also produced a wonderful picture disc musical record of "Ev'ry Little Bug", a song from THE SPIRIT in the 1940's. The disc came in a clear plastic sleeve so the beautiful artwork is easily seen, plus an illustrated lyric sheet.
California publisher Collector's Press published an exquisite color portfolio, in an astounding hard-covered, linen-draped edition. This item, from Richard Pryor, no, not the famous comedian, is pretty rare these days, but one can find it up for auction from time to time.
Kitchen Sink also issued some portfolios of Eisner's material, generally dealing with non-SPIRIT thems, but Kitchen also put out a SPIRIT mask, which is quite a collector's item.
Another quality manufacturer of comic book related items, GRAPHITTI DESIGNS, produced a full color, tin-litho lunch box of THE SPIRIT, which is also very wonderful in it's own nostalgic way.
GRAPHITTI also issued a number of beautiful t-shirts with THE SPIRIT on them, in a durable, rubberized design, but, please turn the art to the inside before you launder yours.
You can also find various pinback buttons of THE SPIRIT and company, but you have to look hard, and, be careful, not all such products are authorized.
There was even a pilot movie for a television series of THE SPIRIT during the late 1980's, on ABC TV, which, despite some beautiful Eisner drawings in the opening sequences, and a "game" cast consisting of Sam J. Jones, who had once played FLASH GORDON, and lovely Melody Anderson and character actor Gary Walberg just did not find a spot on the Fall television schedule.
Rumors continue to persist of various other SPIRIT film projects, though, and there is a quick homage to THE SPIRIT in the great animated cartoon feature THE IRON GIANT, a movie I cannot recommend heartily enough.
Kitchen also printed the "SPIRIT JAM", featuring a number of other cartoonists drawing THE SPIRIT in one long story, in book format, providing a longer life for a story that had originally run in the Kitchen WILL EISNER'S THE SPIRIT magazine.
Kitchen also gave fans a new run of stories in WILL EISNER'S THE SPIRIT: THE NEW ADVENTURES, which, written and drawn by other talented individuals, did not last long.
Sadly, Denis Kitchen's operation apparently fell victim to indifferent attitudes of a supposed cash-flow curing deal with a new partner that Kitchen later entered into.
Despite his issuing novelty items like chocolate bars in nostalgic style wrappers and boxes featuring drawings of work of other characters, Denis Kitchen, as publisher of THE SPIRIT gave up the, er, ghost...
But all was not lost...
to be continued...

Friday, April 20, 2007



All pictures posted here have been published under the "fair use" act, and are (c) copyright by their respective copyright holders.

TEEN REX from BIG BANG COMICS Wrecks My Theory!!!

In part one of my article about ARCHIE COMICS I mention the passing of most of the teen titles from the comic book racks.
In reply, a very talented cartoonist, and a friend of mine via internet for some years, Joe Zierman, sent me copies of BIG BANG PRESENTS #5, which contains not one, but two artistic tributes to Jack Kirby, one of the great comic book cartoonists of history.
Mr. Kirby passed away in 1994.
TEEN REX and THE BADGE, the featurette that rounds out the issue, are loving re-creations of two phases of work by Kirby, approximating, in close detail, Kirby's work on KAMANDI, THE LAST BOY ON EARTH (DC COMICS) and also evoking similar memories, of Kirby's DEVIL DINOSAUR (MARVEL COMICS), from the 1970's (first phase of recreation here), and Kirby's work with his then partner, Joe Simon, on the "Superman/DC" published work "The Sandman" and "Manhunter", from the 1940's.
I put the last two series titles in quotation marks as they were not eponymous features, and listed the publisher for them as "Superman/DC", as that company was generally known as "DC/National" at that time, unlike today, when we call them DC COMICS, and then, when SUPERMAN was "probably" their best-known character.
In any case, I wholeheartedly recommend BIG BANG PRESENTS #5, featuring TEEN REX, to comic book enthusiasts of all ages.
It is a real window to comic book history, allowing newer comic book readers to see what us old-timers love about Jack kirby drawn comic books, and allowing us old-timers to take a stroll down memory lane.
No mistakes that I know of to report right here, Joe and his collaborator, writer Gary Carlson, did not make any!!!

Saturday, April 14, 2007


The late Will Eisner, a true genius, passed away in 2005, but his books are enjoying a renaissance, and Eisner will "live forever", because, THE SPIRIT WAS WILLING!!!
This article should serve as but a small monument to the memory of Will Eisner, a cartoonist, writer, educator, and painter, who stands in a very small class of brilliant individuals who took a large journey in the world of comic books.
This article, in multiple parts, will discuss Eisner's most fanous works, and their current availability, in what I believe is a long period that will ensure that Will and his creations never be forgotten.
Here We Go!!!
After a long period of research, with Will Eisner, and Eisner's wife, Ann, historian Bob Andelman wrote a biography, "Will Eisner: A Spirited Life" that is currently available, and there are many volumes currently available, from DC COMICS, of THE SPIRIT ARCHIVES, featuring Will Eisner's most famous creation, THE SPIRIT, a masked crimefighter who has been around since June, 1940. Created by Eisner for a "comic book section", produced for insertion in Sunday newspapers, THE SPIRIT was an immediate hit, and appeared with two other features, LADY LUCK and MR. MYSTIC, by Klaus Nordling, and Bob Powell, repectively. The section, which was developed to compete with the comic books that were effectively "flying off of the newstands" showed up in the papers from coast-to-coast, and caame to be called THE SPIRIT SECTION by many.
These books are gorgeous and 22 have been published, that is, Volume 22 will appear soon. and I believe that there will be 25 for the initial grouping of original SPIRIT story reprints, but there may also be additional volumes that will reprint other SPIRIT material to round out the original material, which would include special stories done after 1952, when the first life of the character ended. While many other cartoonists assisted Eisner on the feature, drew it while Eisner served in World war II, or, like the great Wallace Wood,gave it a unique, individual, distinctly non-Eisner look in the early 1950's. Eisner's other surrogates and assistants included the brilliant Lou Fine, a gifted comic book and comic strip illustrator, and Alex Kotzky, the cartoonist behind APARTMENT 3-G, fanous comic book journeyman cartoonist Bob Powell, and many others.
Today,various "graphic novels", including a number of them that have recently been reprinted, of non-SPIRIT work by Eisner are also available from the bookstores now, including THE CONTRACT WITH GOD TRILOGY, FAGIN THE JEW, and others. Three different publishers, including DC COMICS, WW NORTON, and DARK HORSE COMICS are currently keeping Eisner work, both SPIRIT and non-SPIRIT items, in print.
DC COMICS is also publishing new stories of THE SPIRIT, most of which are written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke, a gifted animator and cartoonist, who produces these new works as a loving tribute to Eisner's original series.
Getting back to the past, after the end of the original life of THE SPIRIT, Eisner began work developing comics as an educational tool, mainly for the US Armed Forces, writing, drawing, and packaging for the US Army's preventive maintenance magazine, PS, for which Eisner drew some racy and fun comics that also contained discussions of how to keep the equipment in first-class working order.
The early 1960's saw THE SPIRIT make a comeback of sorts, courtesy of the so-called "IW REPRINTS", which were comic book stories from the past, re-published, and with new covers, some by the great Joe Simon, and published by Israel Waldman, hence the "IW" name for these comic books.
Later on in the 1960's, Harvey Comics issued two lovely collections of THE SPIRIT, combining some old stories with new covers by Eisner, and some great, new, humorous SPIRIT fillers, also by Eisner.
These two issues, published in 1966 and 1967, respectively, unless I am mistaken, are what began my long fascination with Eisner and his work.
I was fortunate enough to travel by airplane to Florida, unaccompanied by any adults (!!!) to visit my grandparents in 1967, at the tender age of nine, when I discovered the Harvey Comics THE SPIRIT, issue #2, at the newsstand at Logan International Airport, in Boston, MA.
It took me a long time to obtain a copy of #1, but I finally did, and I really treasure these two comic books.
A few years later, my mother bought me a copy of the wonderful book, THE GREAT COMIC BOOK HEROES, by Jules Feiffer, himself a former Eisner-assistant-writer-collaborator, that featured a fabulous essay by Feiffer on the book's title subject, and, lo and behold, THE SPIRIT, in a story that was not contained in the Harvey Comics issues!!!
Cartoonist Jim Steranko, who had a very short, but illustrious, career at MARVEL COMICS, issued THE STERANKO HISTORY OF COMICS around 1970, which contained some wonderful information and artwork related to Eisner and THE SPIRIT, including historical background on Eisner in that section, as wel as work by Lou Fine, Eisner's replacement for some SPIRIT strips during the 1940's.
The 1970's brought about the appearance of more new SPIRIT material, including reprints of the old SPIRIT SECTIONS, in black & white and in limited release, which are now very difficult to find. Later, some new, now rare, "underground" issues of THE SPIRIT, that contain old SPIRIT classics, plus some new, more adult work, that includes a bit of nudity and some sexual innuendo. These "undergrounds" were published by Denis Kitchen, and marked what was about to be a true revival of the character.
James Warren, publisher of some magazines that contained some elegant and atmospheric horror and mystery stories (CREEPY and EERIE), plus a sexy female vampire series (VAMPIRELLA) then arranged with Eisner that THE SPIRIT be published in a new, magazine size series of reprints that would include new Eisner covers. These ran only for 17 issues, I hope that's correct, it may be 16, including some issues with color, and an all-color THE SPIRIT SPECIAL.
Around this time Eisner taught cartooning in Oakville, Ontario, Canada, this led to the publication of a brand-new SPIRIT story, called, "The Invader", in a large, elegant color format, with the drawing only on one side of each page, that some of the students of the course published.
THE SPIRIT COLORING BOOK, which featured large "splash" pages from the openings of SPIRIT stories also came out, as well as Eisner's cartoon books, "The Gleeful Guides", which were devoted to such diverse topics as "occult cookery" and "how to avoid taxes and live forever", plus Eisner's 1001 OUTER SPACE JOKES.
Just at the end of the Warren Magazines run of THE SPIRIT, Denis Kitchen, who had published the "underground" SPIRIT comic books, took over as publisher of THE SPIRIT, in a similar, but nicer format, than what Warren had put out. These ran on a quarterly basis and contained interviews by Eisner, of other cartonists, including greats like Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, which have since beem reprinted, in a bok called SHOP TALK.
These issues, as published by KITCHEN SINK PRESS, had beautiful new covers by Eisner, and were printed on beautiful, white paper stock.
Sad to say, they did not last...

to be continued

Friday, April 13, 2007


The genre of "Romance" in comic books once comprised a huge portion of the total number of comic books printed and sold in the United States.
Joe Simon & Jack Kirby, co-creators of CAPTAIN AMERICA, BOY'S RANCH, BULLSEYE, MANHUNTER, and one incarnation of THE SANDMAN, were largely respomsible for the development and success of comic books with romance themes.
Their titles, published through Prize Comics, including YOUNG ROMANCE and YOUNG LOVE, broke new ground in comic books, with very sophisticated writing, sometimes ina "campy" vein, and featured powerful drawing by Simon & Kirby themselves, plus other cartoonists like John Prentice, Leonard Starr, and Bill Draut. Prentice succeeded Alex Raymond, the original illustrator of FLASH GORDON on the syndicated newspaper detective strip RIP KIRBY; Leonard Starr was later famous for his beautiful and realistic drawing in the newspaper strip ON STAGE and his more "cartoony" drawing in ANNIE.
In any case, the stories "produced by Simon & Kirby", and their various shop cartoonists and writers and letterers, were some of the most stylish, best written, and most imitated around, but few romance comic books were as good as those from the "S&K shop".
The great cartoonist Alex Toth drew some exquisite romance comic books for Standard Comics, and even Vince Colletta, later a much maligned inker of work drawn by Jack Kirby, produced some beautiful romance stories, as did Matt Baker and Jay Scott Pike, but romance comic books virtually ceased to exist during the early 1970's, losing a huge number of female, as well as a smaller number of male readers.
What was the reason for this sharp change in publishing, after thousands of romance comic book pages were drawn and published during the 1940's, 1950's and 1960's?
Some say it was the rise of "soap operas" on television, that medium also being likely responsible for the decline of comic book sales in general.
There has been a bit of attention paid to romance comic books with mew titles centering on the theme just recently, a collection of the Simon & Kirby romance comics in the 1980's, and also new printings of old romance comic books with new, parodying captions and dialogue, but it seems that much of the romance has gone out of comic books.


From the Jack Kirby internet discussion list, KIRBY-L, posted by Harry Mendryk:

JOE SIMON - LIFE LESSONS, is scheduled to be on CNN Monday, April 16 at 10 am and 2 pm. The interview was conductedby CNN's chief medical correspondent, so I assume it will becovering more then just the recent death of Captain America. At 93 Joe is still active and in good health. I know that they filmed Joe working on a Captain America piece so youmight get a chance to see him at work. He still has very steady hands.

I am sure that there is a pretty big group of people here who might like to see this, if not capture it by VHS or DVR, etc.
--steve cohen

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Dell, Gold Key, and Dell Comics ( PART III ) THE TOTH OF THE TOWN

Another brilliant cartoonist whose work graced the pages of the DELL COMICS line was Alex Toth, a very spirited and independent individual who, despite his enormous talent, never became well-known to the average person, though his later work, mostly in animated television cartoons, was seen by millions (more later).
Mr. Toth, recently deceased, also drew a good deal of pages for DC COMICS, in it's various incarnations, such as ECLIPSO, and THE BRAVE & THE BOLD, as well as for MARVEL COMICS, EC COMICS, and has owned his own creations, such as BRAVO FOR ADVENTURE and THE VANGUARD.
Mr. Toth also drew materials for The U.S. Armed Forces.
Toth's best-known comic book work, though, is probably his superb and vigorously rendered art for DELL's issues featuring Walt Disney's ZORRO.
Toth drew only a small number of ZORRO books for DELL, but the exquisite drawing by Toth for these books is so appreciated by comic book enthusiasts that the stories he drew have been collected in book form by two different publishers, ECLIPSE COMICS and IMAGE COMICS.
Toth also drew such television based titles as 77 SUNSET STRIP, and a whole slew of movie adaptations.
Much of the late part of Toth's career was occupied with drawing "storyboards" for animated cartoons, for such series as SPACE GHOST and BIRDMAN & THE GALAXY TRIO, for Hanna-Barbera Productions, SKY HAWKS and HOT WHEELS, for Ken Snyder Productions (HOT WHEELS was also a DC comic that Toth also drew five issues of), and also the cult classic show SPACE ANGEL.
More on Alex, THE TOTH OF THE TOWN later on!!!

Dell, Gold Key, and Dell Comics ( PART II )

Just to name another of the great cartoonists who drew comic books for DELL, and later, GOLD KEY, I am going to bring up Dan Spiegle, a very prolific illustrator for both companies.
Spiegle drew projects adapted from television series, such as MAVERICK and THE UNTOUCHABLES.
Here is an excerpt from an interview with Spiegle, from GRAPHIC STORY WORLD, Richard Kyle, Editor, from 1972.
Interview conducted by Dan Gheno.
Dan Spiegle: Well, I rarely look back into my past. The story I'm drawing at the time is my main concern. Nonetheless, I would say my favorite was Maverick, which ran about three years----fairly successful, considering the run of other western strips published then.
I was assigned this strip even before they had stills available for the show, so I was sent down to Warner Bros. to see it in production----where I met James Garner, which is perhaps the reason I enjoyed it so much. Having met the star, I was extra careful to make the drawings I did look as parallel to the real person as possible. I put my all into that strip, having fun all the way.
Q: How did you come to draw "Space Family Robinson"?
Dan Spiegle: At that time, Del Connell, a Western editor, was writing the origin issue for the new magazine, and they asked me to draw up a cast of characters. Western liked them so much that they assigned me the strip. It was a success right from the beginning, running about four years, for a while one of their most popular.
In fact, it was so popular that CBS stole our idea and refused to pay us any royalties! We were going to sue, but our lawyers cautioned against it, since we were doing so many comic books on their characters, and in the long run we would lose from the loss of business from them. So we adopted their title and added it to ours in hope of deriving some publicity off the tv show.
the above excerpt is (c) by the respective copyright holder (s) and is presented here under "fair use"
Spiegle is gifted at capturing the likenesses of actual people, and was thus an ideal choice for Western Publishing, who produced the Dell and Gold Key comic books, to keep busy drawing adaptations like those mentioned above, but Dan's canny ability at portraying characters of his own design, in uncanny situations, for such series as the above mentioned SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON and it's companion featurette, "Captain Venture" made him an equally ideal choice for drawing those as well.
Spiegle also drew adaptations of such hit Walt Disney films as THE SHAGGY DOG and THE ABSENT MINDED PROFESSOR.
I would guess that Spiegle probably churned out thousands of pages, from his premiere work, drawing the syndicated HOPALONG CASSIDY strip, to the tv/movie adaptations and SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON noted here, to his later work, drawing some series for DC COMICS, and drawing the dramatic portions of a MARVEL COMICS adaptation of Disney's WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT.
Mr. Spiegle was born in 1920, his daughter, Carrie Spiegle, is a well-known comic book letterer of the 1980's and 1990's, also known as Carrie McCarthy.

In suburban Boston, in the mid-to-late 1960's, I watched MARVEL SUPER HEROES on the local station, WNAC-TV, which ran each character in his own half hour program one weekday afternoon per week.
CAPTAIN AMERICA on Monday, THOR on Tuesday, IRON MAN on Wednesday, HULK on Thursday, and SUB-MARINER on Friday, I believe, though I may have reversed the order on THOR and HULK, I am not positive.
The station had a live-action buffoon dressed as CAP, only from head to waist, so they never had to pay to make the whole uniform up, hosting the shows, popping up at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of the half hour.
In one group of shows they had an off-camera voice of SUB-MARINER, taunting Cap about his long-lost love, "Yvette", when they ran "The Girl From Cap's Past", who, as we know here, later turned out to be called Sharon Carter, in the comic books.
The programs had ROGER RAMJET cartoons as filler, by the way, and Gary Owens also participated as the voice of RAMJET and talked with the guy in the Cap suit.
WNAC packaged the cartoons with their own show intro, dropping this one on You Tube altogether, I got to see those on WPRO-TV, from Providence, RI, which ran all the characters in a two and a half hour block on Saturday morning, complete with this opening shown on YOU Tube.
Thank Good ness that I could get the RI station clearly, on the set in Mum's bedroom, in those pre-cable TV days.
That station is now called WPRI, for those still paying attention.
They had no buffoon hosting the shows, which I love to this day, by the way.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

THE WORLD OF ARCHIE: Many Teen Comics Have Come And Gone, But Archie Is Forever!!!

Just over sixty-five years after his birth, ARCHIE, and his related friends and other characters, continue to be published in the ARCHIE COMICS PUBLICATIONS comic books.
PEP COMICS #22 arrived on newsstands in December 1941, heralding the first appearance of the red-headed teenager, and making the character competitive historically with such comics favorites as SUPERMAN, BATMAN, WONDER WOMAN, CAPTAIN AMERICA, and many others.
It became apparent very quickly that ARCHIE was a hit, so ARCHIE COMICS, later just called "ARCHIE" was published very shortly after PEP #22.
PEP COMICS originally featured "mystery men" oriented stories, a la SUPERMAN and BATMAN, but these characters were later supplanted by Archie and his cohorts. The original publisher of the titles was known as MLJ, and, named initially after it's three partners' initials, soon changed it's name to ARCHIE.
A long-running debate about who created the characters in the world of Archie has been going on for some time.
The late Bob Montana is a cartoonist who was long associated with the haracter, but the original publishing partners, Maurice Coyne, Louis Silberkleit, and John Goldwater are often discussed as having a major role in the creation of the characters, including rumors that ARCHIE was developed based on the box-office success of the ANDY HARDY theatrical movie series.
Many of the series that emanated from the ARCHIE publisher have become embroiled in litigation over the years, I am currently working on artucles devoted to that theme.
Archie Andrews, with his alliterative first and surname combination, and his friends populate the suburban town of Riverdale. Such characters as Archie's best pal, JUGHEAD, his "galpals" BETTY & VERONICA, who form a love triangle with Archie, Reggie Mantle (Archie's rival), the innocent giant "Big Moose", and his girlfriend, Midge, help populate Riverdale, along with the kids' various parents, and the Riverdale High School Principal, Mr. Weatherbee, and the long-suffering spinster schoolteaher, Miss Grundy.
The character SABRINA, THE TEENAGE WITCH also hails from Riverdale, she appeared originally during the 1960's in the comic books, then some made-for-television cartoons, but, more recently, had not only new tv cartoons, but a made-for-cable tv movie, and a long-running ABC Network American tv series, in live-action, and is still on the air in many areas.
Other characters that came from the "Archie" group include JOSIE & THE PUSSYCATS, who also appeared in animated cartoons, and a live-action theatrical film in recent years. More will be discussed about these characters in future blogs.
Going back to the original group of ARCHIE characters, they also appeared in animated cartoons, in a radio series, a number of unsuccessful live-action tv programs, a made for television movie that featured them as adults, TO RIVERDALE AND BACK AGAIN, in the 1980's, and are often referred to as being "in development" for their own big-screen film adaptation.
Perhaps most famously, THE ARCHIES was a singing group that. following the format of the group THE MONKEES, issued such hit records as "Sugar, Sugar" and "Bang-Shang-A-Lang" during the 1960's.
The music was produced by Don Kirshner, known for his many late night television appearances with such lights as David Letterman.
The 1950's featured an alternate "Archieverse", featuring younger versions of the gang, in an effort to compete with rival titles like DENNIS THE MENACE and LITTLE LULU. I will cover these works in succeeding blogs.
Another incarnation of the ARCHIE series of characters appeared in the pages of Spire Christian Comics, which contained didactic 'message" stories depicting Archie and his friends embracing fundamentalist Christian points of view. These stories were written and drawn by cartoonist Al Hartley, himself a devout Christian and gifted writer-cartoonist, and I will have future blog entries later. These comic books from Spire also featured other titles, including one about Pat Boone's film THE CROSS AND THE SWITCHBLADE, one about TOM LANDRY & THE DALLAS COWBOYS, and one truly fascinating comic book that espouses a strong Anti-Nazi point of view, HANSI, THE GIRL WHO LOVED THE SWASTIKA.
As a Jewish person I used to refuse to look at these titles for years, but became familiar with them at the urgings of some comic book fiends, er, friends, during the 1970's and 1980's.
Over the years a lot of Archie merchandising has been done, including everything from hats like the one worn by Jughead to Welch's Jelly containers featuring the gang, you could wash the containers out and use them as glasses afterwards (this was also done for THE FLINTSTONES, and, recently the famous cartoon cat & mouse, TOM & JERRY).
Today, ARCHIE is still syndicated to the newspapers as a comic strip and is alive and well as a comic book house, making new inroads into stylizing the comic book drawings to fit today's tastes, featuring Japanese-animation influenced "Manga" styles, as well as a more modern look for some BETTY & VERONICA comic book stories.
More of my articles will soon follow this one, further discussing THE WORLD OF ARCHIE.
Many teen comics have come and gone, but Archie is forever...

Dell, Gold Key, and Dell Comics (PART I)

I am just starting to develop this blog entry on the fly, it concerns the comic book publisher (s) that may best be remembered by many "baby boomers", and one that may not.
The company, originally known as "Dell Comics", was related to the famous book publisher, Dell, and it's various imprints and subsidiaries.
The company was responsible for publishing some of the best-selling _ever_ comic book titles, including WALT DISNEY'S COMICS & STORIES and realted titles, such as MICKEY MOUSE, DONALD DUCK, and so on, all with the Disney name carefully atached to the opening, or "splash" pages of the stories, even though Walt Disney himself did not draw any of the stories.
The most famous cartoonist to work on the "Disney Dells" was known for years as "the good duck artist", and his name was Carl Barks. Mr. Barks passed away not very long ago (August 2000) at the age of nearly 100 years old, after a long career in both the animation and comic book business, and also a long additional career of painting fine works, in oil, of the Disney characters, after making a special arrangement with The Walt Disney Company.
Besides the Disney titles, Dell published comic books based on the LOONEY TUNES/MERRIE MELODIES stable of characters like BUGS BUNNY, PORKY PIG, and others. Dell also produced hundreds of pages of comic books devoted to the adaptation of movies and television programs and for many years was a much respected publisher of comic books, one that eschewed becoming a member of "The Comics Magazine Association Of America", an organization run by several comic book publishers as a self-policing effort when Senator Estes Kefauver and others mounted a Senate investigation into the world of comic books during the 1950's. Dell, instead, chose to use the motto "Dell Comics Are Good Comics", and print the "Dell Pledge To Parents", assuring Mom and Dad that their books maintained a high standard of wholesomeness and good reading, at least, in their own opinion.
to be continued...

Monday, April 9, 2007

CHARLTON COMICS: The Little Company That Almost Could

Charlton Comics, a much maligned, but also much missed, comic book publisher, has been out of business for about 15-20 years.
When I was a boy, Charlton published a well-constructed "Action Hero" line of comic books, including BLUE BEETLE, CAPTAIN ATOM, JUDOMASTER, THE PEACEMAKER, and PETER CANNON:THUNDERBOLT.
In addition to these characters with eponymous titles, Charlton also ran stories featuring "The Question", a crimefighter whose adventures ran as a featurette in BLUE BEETLE, and "Sarge Steel", who had a similar spot in JUDOMASTER, if memory serves. "Nightshade, The Darling Of Darkness", was a female adventurer who held the second spot in CAPTAIN ATOM.
Just so you know, Steve Ditko, who co-created THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN for Marvel Comics, one of the greatest living cartoonists, developed the plots, or helped develop the plots, for BLUE BEETLE, CAPTAIN ATOM and "The Question".
Dick Giordano, a brilliant cartoonist and comic book inker, was the Editor of these comic books, as well as the illustrator of "Sarge Steel".
Giordano left Charlton to work as an editor at National Periodical Publications, which is now DC COMICS, the publisher of SUPERMAN. BATMAN, and WONDER WOMAN, left Charlton when it was decided that the "Action Hero Line" of comic books was to be discontinued, and the offer came in for him to work at "DC". Charlton, a company that printed enormous quantities of crossword puzzle and pulp-ish romance magazines, used presses that it had right in it's Derby, CT warehouse (a rarity in the comic book publishing world) to print it's comic books. Reportedly, these presses were designed to print cardboard breakfast cereal boxes, and the cost of shutting them down and maintaining them during times when they would otherwise not be used was so great, the Charlton decision-makers developed their comic book line to keep the presses busy.
The late Joe Gill, who just passed away mere weeks ago, was one of the company's few writers, and was responsible for writing not only most of the comic book stories the company printed, but much non-comic book writing as well.
Gill wrote everything in the company's comic book line from the adventure character THE PHANTOM, licensed from King Features Syndicate by Charlton, to THE BIONIC WOMAN, licensed by Charlton from Universal Studios, to DOOMSDAY +1, a post-nuclear-Holocaust comic book drawn by now popular, but then, mostly unknown, cartoonist John Byrne.
Byrne, a Canadian fellow who has drawn everything in comic books from THE X-MEN, to THE FANTASTIC FOUR, to WONDER WOMAN, SUPERMAN, BATMAN, to his own creations, such as NEXT MEN, got one of his big, early breaks, drawing comic books for Charlton, with their publication of SPEED BUGGY, based on a Saturday morning television cartoon made by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Over the years Charlton had some hugely talented people pass through it's doors, but, sadly, plagued by bad printing, poor distribution, reported Mafia ties, and other problems, Charlton never lived up to the great potential it had, except in brief and spasmodic bursts.
The company served for some time as a training ground for professionals who would later work for DC COMICS or MARVEL COMICS.
Some of their comic books were really enjoyable, others, not so enjoyable.
Charlton Comics really _was_ "the little company that almost could".

BC Creator Johnny Hart Passes

Well, the very controversial, but nonetheless talented, creator of the comic strip BC, and co-creator of the strip THE WIZARD OF ID has died.
In 2001 I began to dislike the man, though I had been a fan of his strips for many years.
In 2001, what I, and many others, viewed as examples of Anti-Semitism on Hart's part, began to appear in BC.
I was really annoyed at the way I believed Hart was "clubbing me over the head" with anti-Jewish views, and even considered getting rid of the BC books in my comics collection.
In the same year I married a Christian woman, and, well, I have somehwt relaxed my anger towards the late Mr. Hart.
I still believe that the material he wrote and drew was at times anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish, I am certainly not condoning it, but, we are all stuck here and I can put my own feelings on hold some times, in the interest of living in a peaceful world.

SUPERMAN Cartoonists and Other Reversals Of Fortune

It is well-known to many that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the original writer and cartoonst of SUPERMAN, signed away their rights to their creation as young men.
Thanks to the then-imminent release of SUPERMAN THE MOVIE (1978), the accomplished and erudite cartoonist-entrepreneur-publisher Neal Adams, along with BATMAN ghost Jerry Robinson, and others, spearheaded a campaign to get the by then impoverished SUPERMAN creators some royalties for what was about to become a box-office blockbuster.
Adams and his associates were able to persuade the owners of SUPERMAN and associated characters to put a "created by" notice on SUPERMAN stories and other items, much like that of Bob Kane on BATMAN materials.
Appearances on the television program "Tomorrow", with Tom Snyder, and many news stories, gave the appeal so much publicity that it was a virtual necessity for the SUPERMAN publishers to acknowledge the character's creative fathers.
The Siegel and Shuster heirs now receive monies from Time-Warner, the parent company of DC COMICS, the company that publishes the SUPERMAN comic books. Well, I believe that is an accurate statement, I hope I will be corrected if I have worded that improperly.
In any case, it happens now that further litigation involving use of creations by Siegel and Shuster, and others, continues to ensue, reportedly resulting in a stoppage of using the name "Superboy" in comic books, and on television, and in movies, and animated cartoons.
In case you wondered why SMALLVILLE is called that, not SUPERBOY, this just may be the reason.
There has also been some court activity involving the character THE SPECTRE, a character co-created by Siegel and cartoonist Bernard Baily.
Further, Martin Nodell, the recently deceased creator of the original GREEN LANTERN, Joe Simon, the surviving partner of the Simon & Kirby team who created CAPTAIN AMERICA, and Stan Lee, who with cartoonist Jack Kirby, the same Kirby just mentioned, co-created the Marvel Comics "universe" have all been involved in such actions as well.
Nodell, by the way, headed the team that developed the famous "Poppin' Fresh, The Pilsbury Doughboy".
Nowadays the comic book industry is structured differently, so that many creators eother own their characters or get good monetary and health benefits from their work
It has taken nearly 70 years, but it makes it easier to believe in "Truth, Justice, and The American Way!".

Sunday, April 8, 2007


Of all of the various cartoonists who worked under the "Bob Kane" signature, the two perhaps most famous are Jerry Robinson, who created The Joker, and Dick Sprang, whose stylized drawings and huge props, as well as his rendition of Batman's razor sharp chin, make his work pretty easy to spot.Sheldon Moldoff, Gil "no relation" Kane, Chic Stone, Curt Swan, Jim Mooney, George Roussos, Charles Paris, the list goes on.In the early to mid-1960's, when famed editor Julius Schwartz took on the task of running the "bat-books" we were treated to some gorgeous, beautifully designed illustration on many BATMAN stories by Carmine Infantino, who was the first caroonist to render the so-called "New Look" BATMAN, most easily recognized by the placement of the yellow oval around Batman's chest emblem, making it resemble the famous, or infamous, Bat-Signal, from the 20th Century Fox television series BATMAN, that starred Adam West as Batman, and Burt Ward as Robin.We knew that these various cartoonists were definitely not Bob Kane, but those pesky attorneys had the staff at National Periodical Publications, the name of those days for DC COMICS, jumping through hoops.Dick Sprang passed away some time ago, but Sheldon Moldoff continues to draw commissioned works for his fans, I will get contact information into this blog soon.

Constant Mistakes Should Be Easy To Correct

Credits in fancy hardcover reprints of classic comic books often contain many errors for various reasons, most significant of these being that fact and fiction are not so easily separated. Many comic book fans know that Bob Kane, the "official" creator of BATMAN, who developed that character with writer Bill Funger in the late 1930's (BATMAN premierd in DETECTIVE COMICS #27 in 1939) had a great contract with National Comics (now DC COMICS), the company that published DETECTIVE COMUCS and BATMAN. The deal dictated that Kane's name appear on all BATMAN products, be they comic book stories or films, or, in effect, what-have-you. Consequently, to this day, Kane's name appears on BATMAN items. Kane, however, seldom drew his character very much some time after 1945--he did, as I understand it, provide layouts to some of the cartoonists who actually drew the comic books, as I understand it, but I need to research this more. In any case, Kane employed a number of assistants, usually called "ghosts" in the comic book industry, who would draw the stories that the freelance writers turned in and sign Kane's name.
In 1989, when the Tim Burton directed BATMAN movie came out, I saw Bob Kane interviewed by Larry King who revealed lack of awareness of his interview subject when he questioned Kane "oh, so you don't draw Batman anymore", or, at least, words to that effect.
In any case, there are some great researchers and experts out there, like Craig Delich and Bob Hugehs, who are really good at spotting ghosts on comic boo work.
I can recognize the work of many cartoonists myself, but I tip my hat to these gentlemen.
Future blogs here will discuss "The Ghosts Of Batman".
Here is a link for the Yahoo group ComicsHistoryMistakeHunters:

Hello To Fellow Comics Historians

I am attempting to link some of my own thoughts here with my Yahoo group Comics History Mistake Hunters, which is sadly dormant much of the time. I am hoping that between this blog and the Yahoo group that there may be a possibility of creating the kind of material I discuss in the opening page of the Yahoo group, which is essentially a recorded tracking down of errors in history books about comic books and comic strips. Animation discussion i welcome also, and hopefully, our group and this blog will help historians wipe out long-standing errors in people's comics knowledge and keep future errors from happening.