Friday, August 29, 2008

For the Love of a Batman

Being cursed with the name Robin, has somehow naturally drawn me towards the fine world of comix. From an early age on, I was always an avid obsession with Batman especially. One year for my birthday, my dad bought me a guitar, which I had absolutely no interest in. He could never seem to figure out exactly what to get me. To make up for the gift that would suit a youngster far hipper than myself, he bought me Batman # 101. It was a prime example of 1950's Batman It was cheesy, made no particular sense and I loved it. I figured that this issue had to be something special because of the Batman being so exposed within and on the cover. I sold it during a low point in my late teens, when I foolishly thought girls were more important that comics, what the hell was I thinking.

Batman # 195 was another landmark issue for me in my collecting history. I found a ratty copy at flea market that even had the date stamp on the cover that so many corner stores loved to deface comics with. I was stuck spending a day wandering around with the family on a horrid road trip in the back waters of Vancouver Island. It still wasn't the gritty Batman that I was used to, but at least he had more balls than the Batman of # 101. I really loved the horror aspect of the cover and the reduction of cheese in comparisons with past examples.

Neal Adams, to me, was the ultimate Batman cartoonist. He was able to inject a new kind of life into the masked man. Getting the chance to interview him on the Inkstuds, was a dream come true, even if he was insane and only wanted to talk about dinosaur bones. His take on the whole Batman mystique turned him into a different type of character. I could read Neal Adams Batman comics all day long(the awesome writing by Denny O'Neil doesn't hurt either - if anyone has his email address, please pass it along, I really want to interview him). I have gotten so into exploring the old Batman's, that I am working on getting them all bound. So far I have about 200 issues of both Batman and Detective already in the hardcover tomes I love so much and am slowly working my way back. Let me know if you have a good hook up for crap shape silver age.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Captain America #8

I was digging up comics related music for a never broadcast radio show on Resonance FM a couple of years back and came across this reminiscence from an ageing Tiny Tim. It's a short mp3. Right click on the picture to download.

Paul O'Connell

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes Treasury Edition C-49 October 1976

Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes Treasury Edition C-49

My father was a construction estimator and we moved around a lot when I was a kid. By the time I was ten, I had lived in six different houses. House number eight was in Valdez, Alaska, at the end of the Alaska Oil Pipeline, a modular company house in a dusty treeless lot full of modular company houses, with nothing but mountains and forest one way and the ocean the other. I remember being confused walking home from school; unable to distinguish my house from any of the other houses. It was all at once plain and boring and majestic and beautiful; like a trailer park in Wonderland.
There was only one grocery store in Valdez, and one magazine rack, and the one store never got regular comics; only treasury editions, and when they did, it was like a mini-Christmas for me. I would buy each one as they trickled in, read and then reread each one over and over, and then patiently wait for the next one. At that point it didn’t matter who was featured in the comic, it was the only comic I would be getting. This is how I first read Captain Marvel (the Shazam version), Dr. Strange and Master of Kung Fu. When one of my beloved team books showed up in treasury form, it was a special treat.
I was familiar with the Legion through the comics I had previously read, but that Legion was the 70s disco-ish Legion as designed by Dave Cockrum and then drawn by Mike Grell. On the cover of the treasury was a beautiful two-page Mike Grell spread of those characters flying off into the sky in their cut-away spandex and karate gis; all very future-y at the time. I was psyched. I looked at the cover.
“A Full-Length Super-Hero Novel!” I was just starting to read ‘real books’ at the time and that this comic was actually a novel was intriguing to me.
The story was confusing at first, as it was two issues from the Jim Shooter/ Curt Swan run and not the Legion I knew at all. Where was the sweet Grell art? This looked like an old Superman comic. Why are they all dressed like old-timey superheroes? The Legion was supposed to be from the future, not the 60s.
None of the scifi edge of the 70s Legion was here. They’re fighting a big purple wizard for Pete’s sake!
What saved it for me were the extras. A full blueprint of the Legion Headquarters, including a cell bank so that they can grow clones of the Legion, the Time Cube which allows them to travel through time, and the Legion Post Office which ”receives mail teleported from a postal satellite”. Also, a two-page spread of the wedding of Duo Damsel and Bouncing Boy, drawn by Dave Cockrum, with every Legion member and friend of the Legion in it, and a key to who was who on the inside back page. To this day, I can still name almost every Legion member on sight. Sad, huh? I could’ve memorized something useful with that brain space, but instead I can tell Matter Eater Lad from Chemical King, and can explain who Rond Vidar is. When you have nothing else to read for a month, you squeeze every last bit of comicky goodness you can ot of a book.

Iron Man #243 (courtesy of IFanboy)

Josh Flanagan over at the popular show, Ifanboy, had a touch of nostalgia that fits the motif of the blog.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Justice League of America 114

Justice League of America 114 November 1974

The issue begins with an attack on Snapper Carr (most useless character ever?) by the villain , a guy with a freaky ray gun and a Trojan helmet called Anakronus. He flaps his jaws on and on about how many times he’s kicked the Justice League’s asses, how his dastardly plots are the most utterly ruthless ever masterminded, and how he is generally the baddest of the bad guys ever to plan a criminal act. Obviously this Anakronus is a genius because he begins his subjugation of the free world by pistol-whipping JLA mscot Snapper Carr. Sheer genius. Eventually Snapper gets through to the charity telethon the League are pitching in on and it’s the Atom, Red Tornado and the Elongated Man to the rescue. Turns out Anakronus was just a whackjob with a .45 with stuff glued to it.

I remember as a kid being confused by this story. First off the cover says “Here Come TV’s Super Friends!!!” but this story had some kid named Snapper Carr in most of it. Who the hell is that supposed to be? I thought. The biggest star in the lead story is the Green Arrow, not exactly a DC A-lister, and possibly the lamest villain ever, Anakronus; a bully with a Trojan helmet. I worked hard earning that comic book helping my grandmother carry groceries, and I get a story about Snapper Carr? Even as an eight-year-old I felt cheated.

You see, my grandmother Junita would pay me exactly one comic book for loading and unloading her groceries each time she would go to the store. Naturally, being a value-minded lad even then, I would always choose a team book. Why buy a comic featuring only one superhero when you could get one that featured a dozen? And a 100 page SuperSpectacular? My fee was one comic, the page count was immaterial, bonus for me. Kid logic rules.

After the first and only original story is a JLA Crossword puzzle. One of the clues is” 2 Down:Johnny Thunder’s pink companion”. You can write your own joke here. This was weirdly instrumental in forming my limitless well of comic trivia as I wondered who these people were and what the hell is an Earth-2 and a JSA?

The next story in the comic is a Howard Purcell Dead End Kids riff; a slice of street life that is kind of reminiscent of Will Eisner. Had nothing to do with superheroes so I never read it as a kid but now I see it as a reprint from one of DCs old crime comics.

Before the “novel-length” reprint that makes up a majority of the book are a super-hero boots quiz, a JLA Trivia quiz featuring Metamorpho and The Creeper and a page called JLA Heroes of the Past which shows clip art of Zatanna and the Martian Manhunter among others with a little expository balloon explaining who each character is. The wheels started to turn in my eight year old mind: these characters all lived in the same world.

The big story is “Crisis on Earth-Three!”, in which the JLA from Earth 1 and the JSA of Earth-2 go up against evil analogs of Superman (Ultraman), Batman(Owl Man), Wonder Woman (Superwoman), The Flash (Johnny Quick) and Power Ring (Green Lantern) from, of course, Earth 3, in the most gimmicky Silver Age way possible. The Earth-3 Injustice Gang comes to Earth-1 to do battle with the JLA,pretty much just for the hell of it. The JLA kick their collective butts but they utter a magic word”Volthoom!”
And the JLA are somehow transported to Earth-3 where they have their butts handed to them. Then the Injustice Gang goes to Earth-2, where they get their butt kicked by the JSA, but by losing to them somehow win and the JSA is transported to Earth-3 as well. Its all very hokey up until the point where the JLA and JSA both someow get free and kick everybody’s ass, and then imprison the Earth-3 Gang in a bubble out in space. With a note on it. Like I said, all very Silver Agey, but the part that makes it seminal for me is the whole alternate earths thing. This was my first exposure to all of the Golden Age characters of DC and I was wondering as a kid what their deal was. It made me want to seek out more stories with them , why are there two Flashes? Why can’t the other Atom shrink? Why is Robin a grown-up? This was also my first exposure to the concept of alternate realities, a device I’ve seen used in countless science fiction books, movies and television since. When I sat with my father and watched that original Star Trek and they went to the future Roman world, I sat there and said, “oooh, like Earth-2…”

Thursday, August 14, 2008

An Author in Search of Six Characters

What kind of a person buys second hand porn?

Am I the kind of a person who buys second hand porn?

I woke up this morning, slow and thick-headed, had a cup of coffee and a cigarette and left the house to go and see if the boxed set of Milo Manara books that I’d seen in a charity shop yesterday was still there. It was.

“It’s very porny” The woman behind the counter said, disdainfully handing me the set of books to look at. She was in her late forties. Long black, straggly hair. Dark makeup. Dull eyes. I told her I made comics and he was one of my favourite artists. She just looked at me. I flicked through the books and remarked aloud that, as I suspected they might be, they were untranslated. I wish I’d kept my mouth shut. She was clearly unimpressed with my interest in the ‘porny’ books anyway and at this said “So what are you going to do? Look at the pictures?” . She said it with a kind of sad mocking disgust.

I didn’t say anything back because my best response would have been “Yes, but not in the way you mean”. Which I knew by this point, would have been completely ineffectual. So I maintained trying to be as polite and friendly as possible, pretending her comments had gone over my head, paid for the books (a fiver/$10) and left. I was polite because that’s the kind of human being I want to be. I’m glad I’m not a human being like her. But sometimes it does take an effort not to be. Sometimes not being rude to people takes such an effort it can make you feel like a martyr. Anyway. If the Alzheimers Society isn’t too proud to peddle second hand ‘porn’ to help society's less fortunate ageing members, I’m not too proud to buy it.

Amongst the 16 books in the set were the collected episodes of a story called ‘Las Adventuras Africanas De Giuseppe Bergman’ but which I first read back in the eighties as ‘An Author in Search of Six Characters’ as serialised in Heavy Metal magazine.

Heavy Metal magazine was, in the eighties, an amazingly unique window into the world of European comic strip art and storytelling. Unfortunately, though still pubished, it's no longer what it once was and thus this world that is very much alive and quite apart from Western conceptions of what comics are and can do and how, is still a world that those of us in the UK and the US don't get to see all that much of. Most comic books (or 'graphic albums' as they are often called) from France, Spain, Italy etc never get translated into English or even released in their original languages in our countries. It's another example of the comic industry's tyranny and dictatorship of comic reading in the English speaking west.

'An Author in Search of Six Characters' is one of Milo Minara’s less erotic and more esoteric stories and very dreamlike. I remember it making little sense to me when I first read it when I was 15, but marvelling at the way every single person in every single frame has a sense of character. You get a sense of personality from every single rendered human being no matter how ‘background’ or irrelevant to the story they are.

And it’s for this reason that I love looking at the pictures. Honestly!

Paul O'Connell

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe Vol.II's_Who_02.jpg/300px-Who's_Who_02.jpg

Ed contacted me to be a part of the blog a couple of weeks ago, and I've had a hell of a time deciding what my first post would be. What is the definitive comics memory for me? What was the moment that I fell in love with the medium?

A few really early memories jumped to mind: Reading Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 sick with the flu soon after my 10th birthday, an old DC Digest Justice Society of America I got at the grocery store with my mom as a really young kid.

Or maybe some of the books I started reading around 10-12 (which in hindsight I was probably too young to be buying, but thank god no one stopped me) that really blew my mind and started to open me up to the possibilities of comics: American Flagg, Timothy Truman's Scout, Swamp Thing?

All of these are key memories, and books, for me, but when it comes right down to it DC's Who's Whos were really the books that turned me into a super fan...and particularly a fan of comic art.

Vol.II was the first one I got. i got it at a little gas station/corner store when I was nine. I'm sure my Mom was with me, probably driving me back from an early Saturday morning hockey game. Why I picked this was had SO MANY SUPERHEROES on the cover (the stunning George Perez cover was also my first exposure to him, and he would quickly become my childhood art hero).

I got the book home and poured over all these bizarre characters I'd never seen before...where did they all come from? I had no idea there were so many heroes and villians out there beyond Supes, and Batman and the Joker....Azreal? Balloon Buster? Bat Lash? Black Bison!? I was in awe.

And then there was that cutaway drawing of The Batcave...I studied this thing like a long lost map to buried treasure! Who knew the Batcave opened into an underground stream giving the Bat Boat easy access to Gotham Harbor? Well, now I did.

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I soon after found Vol.III, and then it became a monthly ritual. My Mom would drive me around Essex County, where I grew up, looking for the next issue. This was the first time I actually became a regular collector of a monthly book. And, it was the first time I sought out an actual comic book shop looking for the elusive Vol.1, (with a great Perez Aquaman on front) which I had missed out on.

In addition to opening my mind to the vastness and wonder of the DC Universe, and to comic collecting in general, Who's Who was truly on of the cornerstone events in my life because it led to the realization that different artists actaully drew comic books. Actual people, with different styles were behind these things I loved. Because, Who's Who is not just a showcase of all the characters, it was a showcase of all of the leading cartoonists of the silver and bronze age of comics. There in those pages were dozens of original pieces by Jack Kirby, Joe Kubert, Dave Gibbons, George Perez, Murphy Anderson, Curt Swan, Carmine Infantino. Hell, the Hernendez Brothers even contributed!

I studied the different artists and ther styles, quickly developed favorites, and least favorites. I copied different entries in the styles of the artist.

I remember my Mom and Dad would sit and go through the books with me. They would cover the artist credit at the bottom of the page with there finger and I would tell them which artist drew each page. I got them all right and they couldn't believe it, because to their untrained eye, all those drawings just looked the same, but I knew the lines on a Joe Kubert bicep, or the feathery brush strokes of Jerry Ordway, like I knew my own short I fell in love with drawing comics, a love affair that grows stronger each day, even now.

By Jeff Lemire
Author of Tales From The Farm, Ghost Stories and The Country Nurse from Top Shelf and the upcoming Graphic Novel The Nobody from DC/Vertigo.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The 'Nam #6

I grabbed this one from the Korean guy's used book shop on 8th Avenue. I remember his place being completely cluttered with no room to walk. Piles of trashy romance novels stacked to the sky and a little nook that had 2-3 boxes of random comics. I always imagined it could be a place where you can purchase mogwai if you knew the guy good enough. Or maybe even opium. The dude seemed like a pretty shady, lurid individual. I bet he had secrets. Anyhow...

I was already into G.I. Joe comics at the time (age 8-9) and when I saw this issue of The 'Nam I felt that it would probably make a good companion to my meager GI Joe comics collection. As I looked through it, the art immediately struck a cord with me. I had no love for any particular cartoonists then, but this Michael Golden guy really impressed me. In fact, he certainly picked up all the slack because the story wasn't much to write home about. He made it enjoyable to read and re-read a million times as you can see by it's beat up condition.

I liked all of the individual faces that I saw, I liked their expressions, The coloring was perfect, and even the lettering impressed me with it's slightly italicized feel. I couldn't stop looking at this comic because of how stylish it was to me.

Check out the way he drew Charlie:

The art on this issue really inspired me a lot and as I absorbed this book and even memorized the dialogue I decided to draw my own War comic as a kid, using all of my own characters that starred in my comics at the time. A lot of The 'Nam found its way in my silly strip called, War #1 (I distinctly remember choosing WAR as the title because it had 3 letters like 'Nam).

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Sam & Max Freelance Police Special #1

Growing up, I didn't read a lot of comic books. If it wasn't funny, I didn't have much interest in it, and the world of mainstream comics with it's elaborate continuity, grim superheroes and snotty comic shop employees seemed totally impenetrable to me, so I preferred to get my comics from places I was comfortable: the daily newspaper, MAD Magazine, and the "humor" section of the local chain bookstore. I still checked out the comics rack at Waldenbooks once in a while to see what was out there, when this cover caught my eye.

The first thing I noticed, even before the title, was the top of Max's ears sticking out from whatever comic was in front of it. Thinking it might be a "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" tie-in (this was 1988 and I was crazy for that movie), I picked it up and my world was changed.

It was better than Roger Rabbit! The comic was full of MAD-like humor, with lots of little sight gags hidden throughout the backgrounds, but it actually told a complete, self-contained story! Over the course of 40 pages, the characters were introduced, went on a crazy adventure (with pirates, ghosts, a trip to Stuckey's and lots of fun cartoony violence) and there were even extra sidebar pages, like a board game, and arts-and-crafts page, and a "Ripley's Believe It or Not" parody.

I love character-based humor, and I'd never seen anything like this before--the closest I ever came to a long-form humor comic was when Calvin and Hobbes had a week's worth of adventures with the transmogrifier or something like that. This was much longer and much more satisfying. I hate to compare a comic book to a movie, but that's the feeling I got reading this. You didn't need any special knowledge or familiarity with the series coming into it, and it was as funny as any comedy you might see at the multiplex with the added benefit that you could go back and hunt for the background gags any time you wanted.

I memorized every page. My best friend and I quoted lines from the comic endlessly. We made up tunes to the "Sweet Manatee" and "Road Trip Blues" songs. On family vacations I begged my parents to stop at Stuckey's and always kept an eye out for souvenir laquered frog bands. I was pretty much obsessed.

I was starved for more Sam and Max, and when no new issues turned up at Waldenbooks I set out to track down the previous issue (from a different publisher, mentioned in cartoonist Steve Purcell's introduction), but it proved impossible. There was no internet to guide me and venturing into comic-book shops only turned up dead-ends. Try being a thirteen-year-old kid asking unhelpful clerks for an obscure back issue, and you'll understand why I once again felt the world of comic books wasn't for me.

Still, there's a happy ending: I had hope that at least someone was making the kind of comics I really wanted to read, I knew the perfect comic book was possible, and if I couldn't find them out there, then at least I could try making them myself. Eventually another issue of Sam & Max was released, then years later it became a Saturday morning cartoon and now Steve Purcell is a successful genius who works for Pixar. And I draw comics.

--Pat Lewis
My website | My LiveJournal


I was probably around fourteen or fifteen years old when I picked up my first issue of Cerebus . I remember reading about it in an issue of Comics Collector, the short-lived magazine spin-off from the Comics Buyers Guide. I'd been reading superhero comics for a few years by this point and had probably just caught on to the fact that, whatever the editors' claims, things were never really going to change--the Fantastic Four would never break up, Aunt May would never die, Batman would never give up his cowl. I wanted something More, and had been sampling more "alternative" comics hoping to find something different.
Well, I certainly found it.
One thing I sort of liked, in a perverse way, is that there was no "previously in..." or other guide for new readers. It was like picking up a book and starting to read it midway through (or in this case, 20% through, since the series would run for three hundred issues), and considering the storyline involved (an anthropomorphic aardvark in a world full of humans living in what-looks-like-the-Middle-Ages becomes the pope) it was a pretty ballsy choice.
Looking back, it was great place to start. Cerebus had just become pope after several issues of rather dry political exposition, and this issue marked the return of much of the humor of the book. This issues also marked the debut of Gerhard doing the backgrounds, which would inspire Dave Sim to not only be more funny, but to broaden the scope of the book tremendously. On a more personal level, I was primed for this book: I was a pretty miserable teenager, with that terrific combination of being both and angry outsider and thinking I was a genius. The appeal of Cerebus, a shrewd angry aardvark who wanted nothing less than to rule the earth, being put in the position of getting to tell all those other jerks what to do...well, this comic was made for me.
Considering it was the first issue I picked up, and what a tremendous impact the book was to have on my life, it's strange to consider that the title is "Anything Done for the First Time Unleashes a Demon." For the next twenty years, Cerebus would a strangely persistant presence in my life, as it would be the only comic I would consistantly buy throughout the rest of high school, through college and beyond. I actually gave up reading the series very close to the end, stopping just a dozen issues short of Sim's three-hundred issue goal line. Aside from the book becoming very dull at the end, I found it too sad to read. Sim's personality had always been a big factor in reading the series (less so reading the trade paperback collections, without their essays, letters pages and whatnot) and by the end his personality had become so bizzarre that it made the book unbearable to read.
But I will always have fond memories of this issue. Looking back I can still recall how wonderfully confusing and exciting it was. Since I had so little clue as to who the characters were I was free to imagine my own backstories which would turn out to be (predictably) wrong. My parents had gotten divorced in 1980 or so, and my younger brother and I would spend every other weekend with my dad, now living about thirty miles away. One of the happy rituals we developed was going to Funny Business, a comic shop on the upper west side of Manhattan, where my dad let us (mostly me) indulge my passion and let me blow the entire $20 he gave us on comics. Superhero comics were giving way for more and more alternative comics--stuff like Groo, E-Man, Elementals and of course Cerebus.
Alex Robinson

Monday, August 4, 2008

Smithsonian Book of Comic-Book Comics

I'm pretty sure that just about every cartoonist working in comics today owes a debt to Michael Barrier and Martin Williams for editing this book back in 1981. But I owe a lifetime of gratitude to my grandmother, Dottie, for giving me a copy for x-mas that year. I was only six, and had barely seen any comic books before.

Until that time, there were only two comic books in my house: an issue of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids and a Little Monsters comic book. I don't know where they came from, but they were always there. I remember being more interested in the ads in the back. I dreamt of one day having a hover-craft that I could ride around my neighborhood (I still wish I'd signed up to sell those greeting cards), or commanding my own 200 piece Roman Soldier army set (but I couldn't figure out how to order them without cutting the ad out of the book- which would have ruined the comics on the other side of the page). I looked at these comics all the time, but I can't remember ever reading them. They just didn't have anything that really grabbed me.

But then this book came along and started my life-long obsession with comic books.

I was aware of Batman and Superman from t.v. and movies. I liked them, but never really associated them with comic books. When I saw these, I remember thinking that the Batman and Superman comics looked weird. I thought the artists must not have figured out how to draw people correctly back then. Dottie had also given me some anatomy books to study, and I just thought those super-heros weren't drawn very well. They seemed very stiff and crude and as a result, I didn't really have much interest in super hero comics until later in life.

Having grown up with the Superfriends on t.v. and the awesome Superman movies, this version of Superman seemed really mean and I didn't really like that.

Plastic Man kinda disturbed me. I was also familiar with this hero from the t.v. cartoon that was very different from this comic. I remember being scared of this panel where he woke up with his new powers and stretched his face out. I tried stretching my face like that in the mirror, but it hurt.

My interest leaned towards the cartoony stuff. I loved the Little Lulus and the Powerhouse Pepper- they seemed like really good cartoons but in book form. Captain Marvel had a certain appeal as it blended the super-hero stuff with a more cartoonish sensibility- plus what kid wouldn't love a story about a young boy who can turn into a super hero!?!

The Red Tornado seemed like a more "realistic" super hero to me (being a kid who frequently made suits of armor out of pots and pans). And Jingle Jangle Tales appealed to the young surrealist in me.

I loved the Disney Duck comics, too (my grandmother also gave me a subscription to the Gladstone Disney comics including Floyd Gottfredson's Mickey Mouse and Carl Barks Duck comics- but I'll save that for a future post).

My absolute favorite were the Pogo comics. I laughed so hard when the racoon said Albert's tail "sounds like" a bologna! What does bologna sound like anyway? The Pogo stories in that book always had me laughing out loud. I must've read them 100 times. Walt Kelly is still one of my favorite cartoonists.

This book started my career. I had always had an interest in drawing from a very early age and my family encouraged that in whatever way they could. I'm not sure why my grandmother chose to give me this book. She had lots of art books in her house that I loved to look through, but I don't remember her ever reading any comic books. Whatever her reasons, she couldn't have known that by giving me those books she set me on the path to become a cartoonist.

Somehow, even at that early age, a big hardback book about comic books seemed to be important. I didn't know why, but I wanted to study this book. A part of me saw this book as an example of something I could do with my life. I read and re-read this book over the years. At some point it sunk in that the book was about the talented artists who created these comics. The little biographical intros made me realize that I could also become a cartoonist. It helped me realize what I wanted to do with my life (previous aspirations included a career as a truck driver- possibly influenced by my love of the Smokey and the Bandit movies). I had always loved drawing as long as i could hold a crayon, but now I knew what I wanted to draw- COMIC BOOKS!

For 27 years, this book has always been by my side and over the years I've grown to appreciate every artist in it. Thank you Dottie, I wish you were still around to see that I grew up to become a cartoonist.

-Tom Neely
check out my comics and art at


As a boy growing up in the Deep South in the mid-1950's, I first became aware of comic books
at the local sold fountain, "The Soda Shoppe" around the corner from
my house. In fact, they had a whole wall and racks of comics and magazines
near the black formica tables with the hundreds of pieces of bubblegum stuck to their undersides, and I thought that what you were expected to do was to buy a glass of coke (with
ice and a splash of cherry syrup) for a nickel and then go set it down on one of those bubblegum festooned tables and then go over to the rack and pick out a comic book and then go back, sit
down and read it. That's what every other kid seemed to do. I did notice that the comics had a price of 10 cents on the cover, a huge sum-- or so it seemed to me at the time. It never
occurred to me to buy one. And neither of the two men that ran the the store, Melvin
or Laird ever said anything to me about reading them for free. I put them back when I was finished. Besides, they were too busy tending to other matters. I liked the Classic Comics because the covers were like magnificent illustrations and seemed to be more appealing to me somehow. You could spend ten minutes just looking at the cover. It wasn't until I was visiting my cousin in Florida and saw a copy of Mad Comic Book around 1953 or 1954 that I got really hooked. There was something about this character of a humpbacked, stupid-faced guy in a green plaid suit and
a too-small derby hat that really made an impact on me. I saw that the artwork was signed
in the lower right-hand corner "ELDER", and I realized that this person
was responsible for the drawing.

The only other person I knew who was an elder was
someone who was important in the hierarchy of the church, so it made sense that
this person that drew the thing must be connected to God somehow. That explains
why it was so good, I reasoned. I was impressed. But the moment when I heard "the
calling" to become an artist, myself, was when I picked up a trading card from
the ground outside the Soda Shoppe. Someone must have bought it for the gum and
discarded it, no pun intended. It had this picture of a sexy blonde woman on it.
Her back was to the viewer and the caption read: "With a face like yours, you
ought to be in movies..." When you turned the card over, you saw this ridiculously-ugly
woman's face along with a caption which read: "Yeah, HORROR movies..."
It was signed by Jack Davis. When I heard he was from my own state of Georgia, I
knew that it was written in the stars for me to try to follow in his footsteps. Something
inside of me connected to that and from that moment on I wanted to grow up to be
an artist. I did get to meet Jack Davis once and told him how his work had influenced me. He received the information in good humor. There's more to the story, obviously, but I've gotta stop so that I will have time to do some drawing...

Rick Parker

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Warrior - Issue 16 (December 1983)

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…

I was 13 years old, Christmas was coming, my six year love affair with 2000AD was over and I guess I bought this copy of Warrior because I was still trying to fill the hole left by my weekly fix of 2000AD zarjaz.

I have no recollection of the rest of the content of the comic, I certainly couldn’t give a monkeys about the bloke on the cover, all I remember, all that matters was that it contained an extremely strange and disturbing comic strip that was like nothing I had ever seen in comics before – or since. It was called V for Vendetta:

In the strip a character (was he masked or was that his face?) was delivering a televised speech to the people of Britain. With black and penetrating metaphoric humour (that seemed to be mirrored in the artwork) he chastises the people of Great Britain for their ‘poor performance’ on the ‘shop floor’ and their propensity to blame everything on ‘the people in charge’:

A lot of people interested in comics have read V for Vendetta, but (no) thanks to the cinematic version, a lot of people saw the film and didn’t bother. But the speech in the film is completely different to the original of the comic.

In the comic V's speech is comics as literature. Prose as rich and powerful as that of Joseph Hellers ‘Catch 22’, Kurt Vonneguts ‘Slaughterhouse 5’ or Ken Keseys ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest’, the kinds of books I was discovering at the time. But unlike those American novels, there was something particularly British about this comic strip. Not even 'English' which suggest a formality, the ruling classes, but British. Working class. Politically working class. It's the difference between, say, Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd. In the same way that all comics have a cultural nuance, V for Vendetta had not only a British slant, it had a seriously British slant. It was the first ‘serious’ comic I ever saw. The first comic I ever read that was clearly trying to say something, something very important. It showed me another side of what comics can do. It showed me that politics was not just the domain of the News. I would take me a great many years to work out what to do with that knowledge but looking back now, there was the seed.

And then, at the end of the strip, armed soldiers burst in to the television studio the character has locked himself in, and shoot him, it, dead. He dies! He what!?

I bought the next couple of issues of Warrior looking to find out what the hell was going on but they didn’t seem to explain anything. It was only years later when someone lent me the whole graphic novel that any of it made any sense whatsoever.

Except for that speech.

It’s message wasn’t lost on me then and it stayed with me like all the best writing does and re-reading it, it seems as pertinent now as ever. These are worrying times. Feelings of political apathy and powerless prevail. V reminds us that the model that created such conditions, is of our own choosing.

Paul O' Connell, Cartoonist

Green Lantern (co-starring Green Arrow) #110

You know the mantra that's been floating around within the comics community for some time: "Comics aren't just for kids anymore."

Well this comic is for kids, and when I found it at the local used bookstore for 60 cents, my fifth grade butt couldn't have been happier to find this issue. I remember when I first looked through the book and I realized it was from 1978, at the time, this was the oldest comic that I owned and I felt like it was 100 years old in 1992. I treasured it like it was Action Comics #1 even though I read it and re-read it a bunch (as you can tell by the wear and tear). Now to explain a few of the elements that really appealed to me as a youngster...

GL and GA were having female troubles so they decided to handle things in the best way they could think to: they flew into outer space to pout and whine. There was a panel where they fly by GL's mack truck parked just out of the atmosphere, GA comments that it was a good idea to park the car in space to avoid any parking fee's. GA had a few silly quips throughout the issue, it made him very likable to kids.

Anyhow, while the boys in green are cruising the stars a weird phenomenon occurs:
After the weird figure materialized and de-materialized it somehow knocked a "satellite with a nuclear power plant" out of orbit, heading for Columbus Ohio. Green Lantern handles the situation with finesse by bouncing it out of harms way using a green energy tennis racket. How could a 10 year old not be a comics fan with set-ups like this?
So they go to explore the tear in the space-time continuum. They make their way to a dimension that is very similar to the wild west. As you can guess the green guys met with some resistance. I was very confused by the following panel. Where did all those arms come from all of the sudden?
GL eases into his role as the towns do-gooder and ends up looking the part. I thought this part was so cool. Green Lantern was a badass cowboy! This issue can't be very expensive so I will let you see the final showdown on your own. I bet you can guess the ending without seeing it though.

There was also a pretty striking looking Golden Age Green Lantern story in the back as a bonus feature. To this day I still have not read it, but I lifted a few panels from it for my own use on a home-made comic I put together at age 10 or 11. I really liked the colors on the golden age GL better than the classic silver age character.
Ed Piskor, Cartoonist