Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Kinder, Gentler Harlan Ellison

"Good afternoon. You are the four-hundred and ninety-third caller today."

"Listen. We're choosing up sides for a tug of war and I wanted to see if you can come out and play."

"Cliffy, I am eager to go home."

As reported earlier, Harlan Ellison hardly comes across as a man who recently suffered a stroke. In just 10 days since his episode, he's recovered a fair amount of mobility in both his right arm, right hand and right leg. His medical team--some of which knew him only from his appearance on "The Simpsons"--is calling his progress miraculous. His friends are calling it Harlan Ellison.

The Oracle of Los Angeles continues to hold court every day in his hospital room, entertaining the baffled staff and myriad guests who have come to visit the eighth wonder of the world, to seek his blessing and ask the tzadik to heal their lame cat. When we speak, I detect a restlessness that tells me my pal really will be home even before Secretary of State Kerry solves all of the problems in the Middle East. Now I'd call that an excuse to celebrate.

Free Lunch at Tavern on the Green

That's right: If this isn't the best Kickstarter video you've ever seen, my friend artist Michael Pascale will treat you to oysters and clam dip at Tavern on the Green.

Click on this already. What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Stan Lee: Indefatigable Excelsior

Gil Champion, Stan Lee, Clifford Meth and Gene Colan
I've spoken with Stan Lee twice in the past two days about matters than I can't share at this time (so why mention it, Meth?). Both times I'm left with a growing admiration for my 92-year-old friend who is so much bigger than merely the creator of Spider-Man and everything else he added to the pantheon of temporary culture.

Not much of a blog entry, I know, but I didn't want this moment to go personally unmarked.

Aardwolf Publishing saved Stan's "live" appearance for our forthcoming Kickstarter. But his alter ego Stanley Lieber makes a brief cameo in our current one.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Encountering Ellison


It was my first day in Los Angeles, which was bad enough, and I had a dull headache from the seven-hour flight out of LaGuardia, but  my luggage had made it in one piece so that was something, and the sun was shining and that was something, too. I got my rental car, tossed my bag in the trunk, and pulled out onto open road.

It was a time when only the rich and famous had GPS systems and I was neither. And my mobile phone, like everyone’s mobile phone, was only good for making phone calls. But I had Harlan’s map on my knee and I figured he was better than average at everything else so why should giving directions be any different?

I figured wrong. Of course Harlan would say I just don’t know how to follow directions and maybe that’s true, too, but either way I ended up lost in Sherman Oaks.

If you’ve never been to Sherman Oaks, imagine long, narrow, treacherous ski slopes covered in blacktop that slant at 90-degree angles and turn on a dime at breakneck speeds if you’re doing better than 7 m.p.h.  Stop your near-vertical vehicle on one of those perilous inclines to ask the occasional jogging passerby for directions and you’re just as likely to hear, “No problemo—turn right at Richard Dryfuss’s house” as “Sorry, buddy, I’m just visiting.” So I was frustrated, but it was still sunny out and I did have that good-for-phoning cellular, which was indicating a whole two bars of range. So I dialed the Oracle.

“I’ll guide you in,” said Harlan after I explained my dilemma. And he did just that, turn by turn, over hill and dale, until I found myself riding my breaks down what seemed like an endless drop and fearful that I’d hit a bump and go flying and fall off the face of the earth.

By now I was hungry  and thirsty and the headache had gone from a throb to a thump. I needed a drink and I needed to pee and my ears were beginning to itch. Ahead of me, in the middle of the road, was a site that assured me my eyes, too, were off kilter.

“Are you still there?” I asked the phone.

“Yeah, where are you?”

“I think I might be on your street but it looks like there’s there’s an old lunatic in his underwear standing in the middle of the road, talking on a phone.”

I pulled up to the man and rolled down my window.

“Fuck you,” said Harlan.

Come On. It's Not Such A Bad Title.

Click on my new Kickstarter to watch the video. It's free. As in it won't cost you a nickel.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Harlan Ellison Will Emerge Stronger Than Ever

Now that it's spreading around the net, yes: I'm aware that my dear friend Harlan Ellison suffered a stroke late last week. I spoke with Harlan earlier today and his mind and wit and spirit are stronger than most ten people a third his age.

Anyone acquainted with me knows what Harlan means to me, and on more levels than I can enumerate, so news of his illness hit me very hard. But I believe my brother will fully recover, and that his finest work is still ahead of him.

If you have lived in a bubble and not knowingly encountered Harlan's work yet, do yourself an enormous favor and dig in. But your taste for the mundane will be spoiled forever, and your dislike for any traces of hypocrisy in yourself will grow exponentially.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Joe Sinnott Inking Challenge and The Inkwell Awards

I'd meant to mention this earlier but life got in the way.

Bob Almond, director of the Inkwell Awards, recently unveiled this lovely art book, Joe Sinnott Inking Challenge and Results, which shows what really happens when an inker gets involved in the comic art process. A superb draftsman like grandmaster Joe Sinnott can lay down the most basic--or most extraordinary--pencils and then it's up to the finisher to determine the mood. That's what you'll see here as inker after inker lays down their blacks over Joe's graphite.

Purchasing a copy will help the important Inkwell Awards, which does all sorts of free important work on behalf of artists who need the advocacy. But it's also a worthy book in its own right.

You can order your copy here.

Michael Netzer at 59

I've enjoyed his friendship for more than a decade, and his art since I was a boy. A very happy birthday  (Oct.  9) to my friend and creative partner Michael Netzer, who is extraordinary in every way.






Saturday, September 13, 2014

Avoid Banfield Pet Hospital


I have had terrible experiences with Banfield Pet Hospital. And clearly, I am not the only one.

Google the name Banfield Pet Hospital and read a page or two of the many complaints before you give them a credit card or are foolish enough to sign up for one of their wellness programs.

Here's a good place to start:

Complaints about Banfield Pet Hospital at the Better Business Bureau

A word to the wise: Avoid Banfield Pet Hospital.






Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Robin Riggs to Ink Dave Cockrum’s Futurians Return

HULK cover inked by Robin Riggs
Aardwolf Publishing has announced that Robin Riggs will be the finisher on Dave Cockrum’s FUTURIANS RETURN, a project that Aardwolf successfully funded viaKickstarter in August. Riggs will be replacing Bob Wiacek due to scheduling conflicts.

“Bob Wiacek’s sensational pin-ups are still a vital part of this book but he had to bow out and we were delighted to find someone as talented and meticulous as Robin to help bring this important book to completion,” said Clifford Meth, the project’s editor. “I am a huge fan of Robin’s work and Dave's widow Paty Cockrum has been delighted with what he’s producing. I’m only sorry that Dave Cockrum isn’t with us to enjoy this book finally coming to life. He would have loved Robin's work.”

Paty Cockrum, the original Futurians’ colorist, is coloring the book, which will be lettered by Tom Orzechowski. FUTURIANS RETURN also features a painted cover by Ray Lago and additional pin-ups by Bill Sienkiewicz.

“I’m happy to be part of this book,” said Riggs. “Dave Cockrum was one of the immortals and working over his pencils is an honor.”

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Does Anybody Remember Laughter?



I didn’t know Robin Williams any better than you did. A man is his work but he is more than his work.

By every account I’ve read and heard personally, Robin was a generous and kind man. Despite his meteoric rise, he remained approachable and those who had the good fortune of making contact felt richer for the experience. It was more than entertainment.

Yes, I didn’t know Robin. When I was with IDT Entertainment, he was the guest of honor at the Christopher Reeve Foundation’s annual dinner, which we co-sponsored. I had a reserved seat at a table in the front of the room, but I didn’t attend because I’m apt to find any and every excuse to not attend parties, so I missed him and had to settle for stories and selfies-with-Robin from my colleagues the next day.

I knew of Robin’s close friendship with my pal Harlan Ellison, so I considered Robin a fraternal cousin. Harlan is one of the few individuals I imagine whose mind and wit are as quick as Robin’s was. They were like Castor and Pollux, just separated by a generation. Harlan was certainly enchanted by Robin, and a phone call from him comes to me now in evidence of this.

“Hello?”

“Okay. So Robin just got off a plane in Switzerland and he immediately phoned to tell me this joke he wrote on the tarmac. Ready?”

Harlan proceeded to share a joke about Jesus and Judas at the Last Supper and nuanced the ending precisely as I imagined Robin might have. It was a very good joke.

So I didn’t know Robin, but I felt like I did. We all felt that way. That’s what happens when someone that public is so warm and witty and seemingly fearless: we fool ourselves into thinking we know them, or very much want to.

At The Times of Israel, the headline reads “Honorary Jew Robin Williams, 63, Found Dead.” I’m sure the Catholics and Buddhists and everyone else are claiming Robin for their own, too. Everybody loved him, except for the Scientologists, who he compared with Enron employees. “The [Enron] employees being led on at the very end while the executives were selling stock like crazy was like people on the deck of the Titanic saying, ‘We are fine, and we are booking passage for the way back.’ Enron Hubbard, the church of profitology—aliens came to this planet with the idea of selling energy. It's almost like, ‘From the people who brought you the S&L. bailout.’ It's a similar school of investment. How do you make money from a loss? You hide it!” (New York Times Sunday magazine, Feb. 17, 2002).

Yes, Robin Williams had the perfect recipe, that rare blend of ingredients we find impossibly attractive in a fellow human being—humor, wit, warmth, generosity of spirit, endurance... Sadly, his endurance only went down so deep. Those who burn so beautiful and bright have a tendency to snuff out the flame before the rest of us think they ought to have, or had a right to. And that’s selfish on our part, not theirs.

Our job—our only one—is to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is. No need to judge the pain threshold of our fellows.

So goodbye Robin. You were excellent.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Death of the Book Chronicles (and Why I Dig Adam-Troy Castro)

The author Adam-Troy Castro is always worth reading… Even his Facebook posts:
"This is your book? How do you get a book? Did you paint this front cover?"
"No, I wrote the words."
"Why?"
"So people would read them."
"Who painted the front cover?"
"Some artist."
(Flipping through pages) "Wow. These are a lot of words."
"It's an average length book."
"People pay money for this?"
"Yes."
"Why?"
"Because they want to read it."
"They read all these words?"
"Yes."
"Is it a story?"
"Yes."
"Like in a movie?"
"Yes."
(Long pause) "Did you make it up?"
"Yes, I'm not allowed to put my name on a book unless I made it up."
(Excitedly, flailing about for some relevance) "Will it be a movie?"
"There's none planned at the moment, no."
(Lost) "Okay."

Friday, July 4, 2014

ISAAC ASIMOV on THE FOUR STANZAS OF THE NATIONAL ANTHEM

In March of 1991, the writer Isaac Asimov shared the following:

I have a weakness--I am crazy, absolutely nuts, about our national anthem.

The words are difficult and the tune is almost impossible, but frequently when I'm taking a shower I sing it with as much power and emotion as I can. It shakes me up every time. I was once asked to speak at a luncheon. Taking my life in my hands, I announced I was going to sing our national anthem--all four stanzas. This was greeted with loud groans. One man closed the door to the kitchen, where the noise of dishes and cutlery was loud and distracting.

"Thanks, Herb," I said.

"That's all right," he said. "It was at the request of the kitchen staff."

I explained the background of the anthem and then sang all four stanzas. Let me tell you, those people had never heard it before--or had never really listened. I got a standing ovation. But it was not me; it was the anthem.

More recently, while conducting a seminar, I told my students the story of the anthem and sang all four stanzas. Again there was a wild ovation and prolonged applause. And again, it was the anthem and not me. So now let me tell you how it came to be written.

In 1812, the United States went to war with Great Britain, primarily over freedom of the seas. We were in the right. For two years, we held off the British, even though we were still a rather weak country. Great Britain was in a life and death struggle with Napoleon. In fact, just as the United States declared war, Napoleon marched off to invade Russia. If he won, as everyone expected, he would control Europe, and Great Britain would be isolated. It was no time for her to be involved in an American war. 

At first, our seamen proved better than the British. After we won a battle on Lake Erie in 1813, the American commander, Oliver Hazard Perry, sent the message "We have met the enemy and they are ours." However, the weight of the British navy beat down our ships eventually. New England, hard-hit by a tightening blockade, threatened secession. Meanwhile, Napoleon was beaten in Russia and in 1814 was forced to abdicate. Great Britain now turned its attention to the United States, launching a three-pronged attack. The northern prong was to come down Lake Champlain toward New York and seize parts of New England. The southern prong was to go up the Mississippi, take New Orleans and paralyze the west. The central prong was to head for the mid-Atlantic states and then attack Baltimore, the greatest port south of New York. If Baltimore was taken, the nation, which still hugged the Atlantic coast, could be split in two. The fate of the United States, then, rested to a large extent on the success or failure of the central prong.

The British reached the American coast, and on August 24, 1814, took Washington, D. C. Then they moved up the Chesapeake Bay toward Baltimore. On September 12, they arrived and found 1000 men in Fort McHenry, whose guns controlled the harbor. If the British wished to take Baltimore, they would have to take the fort. On one of the British ships was an aged physician, William Beanes, who had been arrested in Maryland and brought along as a prisoner. Francis Scott Key, a lawyer and friend of the physician, had come to the ship to negotiate his release. The British captain was willing, but the two Americans would have to wait.

It was now the night of September 13, and the bombardment of Fort McHenry was about to start. As twilight deepened, Key and Beanes saw the American flag flying over Fort McHenry. Through the night, they heard bombs bursting and saw the red glare of rockets. They knew the fort was resisting and the American flag was still flying. But toward morning the bombardment ceased, and a dread silence fell. Either Fort McHenry had surrendered and the British flag flew above it, or the bombardment had failed and the American flag still flew.

As dawn began to brighten the eastern sky, Key and Beanes stared out at the fort, trying to see which flag flew over it. He and the physician must have asked each other over and over, "Can you see the flag?" After it was all finished, Key wrote a four stanza poem telling the events of the night. Called "The Defence of Fort M'Henry," it was published in newspapers and swept the nation. Someone noted that the words fit an old English tune called "To Anacreon in Heaven"--a difficult melody with an uncomfortably large vocal range. For obvious reasons, Key's work became known as "The Star Spangled Banner," and in 1931 Congress declared it the official anthem of the United States.

Now that you know the story, here are the words. Presumably, the old doctor is speaking. This is what he asks Key:

Oh! say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there.
Oh! say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

"Ramparts," in case you don't know, are the protective walls or other elevations that surround a fort. The first stanza asks a question. The second gives an answer:

On the shore, dimly seen
thro' the mist of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host
in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze,
o'er the towering steep.
As it fitfully blows,
half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam
of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected,
now shines on the stream
'Tis the star-spangled banner.
Oh! long may it wave
O'er the land of the free
and the home of the brave!

"The towering steep" is again, the ramparts. The bombardment has failed, and the British can do nothing more but sail away, their mission a failure.

In the third stanza, I feel Key allows himself to gloat over the American triumph. In the aftermath of the bombardment, Key probably was in no mood to act otherwise. During World War II, when the British were our staunchest allies, this third stanza was not sung. However, I know it, so here it is:

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footstep's pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

The fourth stanza, a pious hope for the future, should be sung more slowly than the other three and with even deeper feeling:

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation,
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n - rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, for our cause is just,
And this be our motto--"In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

I hope you will look at the national anthem with new eyes. Listen to it, the next time you have a chance, with new ears. And don't let them ever take it away.

Isaac Asimov, March 1991

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Inkwell Awards 2014 Winners and Hall Of Fame

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Inkwell Awards Announces Their 2014 Winners And Hall Of Fame Recipients

(New Bedford, MA/USA—June 21, 2013): The Inkwell Awards ("The Inkwells"), a non-profit advocacy for comic-book inking and inkers, has announced the results of its seventh annual awards for excellence in the art form in 2013.

After nominees were chosen by a separate and independent Nomination Committee, voting via live ballot at their website ran from April 15-30 with almost 2,000 ballots being turned in. One winner was chosen in each of five categories targeting the exceptional work of ink artists from American-based interior comic book work cover-dated 2013. Separately, the Inkwells internally selected the two recipients of the annual Joe Sinnott Hall of Fame Award. All recipients were contacted May 1st and some invited artists attended the fourth live awards ceremony at Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC on Saturday, June 21st. The winners and categories are:

FAVORITE INKER AWARD: Norm Rapmund (Action Comics, Ravagers, Teen Titans, Justice League of America, Nightwing, Superman). 

Rapmund took the winner's slot with 46% of the vote to runner-up Wade von Grawbadger (All-New X-men, Green Lantern, Legion Lost), who finished with 14%. Norm was a 2010 Most-Adaptable Award runner-up nominee and in 2008 he was a runner-up nominee in both the FAVORITE INKER (MODERN) and FAVORITE EMBELLISHER/FINISHER (MODERN) categories.

MOST-ADAPTABLE AWARD: Walden Wong (Wolverine & the X-Men, Batwoman, Catwoman, Scarlet Spider, Wolverine Max, X-Treme X-Men).

Wong had never even been a nominee on previous Inkwell Awards ballots, but this year he took 53% of the vote, besting the 13% for three-time recipient Scott Hanna (Avengers Assemble, Green Lantern Corp, Iron Man, Team 7, Supergirl, Teen Titans, X-men, Legion Lost)

PROPS AWARD (inker deserving of more attention): Walden Wong pulled far ahead of the competition with 49%, beating Richard Friend (Forever Evil, Justice League of America, Green Lantern, Legion Lost) who finished second with 18%.

The S.P.A.M.I. AWARD (Small Press And Mainstream Independent): Andrew Pepoy (Simpsons Comics, Simpsons Illustrated, Simpsons One-Shot Wonders, Danger Girl: Trinity). 

Pepoy emerged from an initial three-way tie with 21%, edging out Stefano Gaudiano (Walking Dead, Bloodshot, Lazarus) with 20% and Cliff Rathburn (Invincible, Super Dinosaur, Walking Dead) with 17%. Andrew was also a 2009 PROPS AWARD nominee.

ALL-IN-ONE AWARD (artist who pencils and inks their own work): Stan Sakai (47 Ronin, DHP, Mouse Guard). 

Sakai was in the lead by a wide margin throughout the race, ending with 27% of the votes. Runners-up were Chris Samnee (Adventures of Superman, Batman Black & White, Daredevil) with 20% and Fiona Staples (Batman Beyond, Saga), who fell only five votes shy of second place to finish third. 


THE JOE SINNOTT HALL OF FAME AWARD:  Joe Simon and Tom Palmer (with Frank Giacoia as runner-up). 

Following last year's change in protocol, this award was again handled internally by the Hall of Fame Nomination Committee, made up of core committee members, former committee members, contributors, ambassadors and other HoF award recipients. The other nominees chosen were Dan Adkins, Violet Barclay (aka Valerie Smith), John Beatty, Tony Dezuniga, Frank Giacoia, Bob McLeod, Mike Royer, Josef Rubenstein, and Bernie Wrightson. The late Joe Simon (Captain America Comics, Adventure Comics, Boy Commandos, Black Magic, Young Romance, Boys' Ranch, Fighting American, Adventures Of The Fly, Prez, Sick magazine) was a Hall of Fame nominee for the last three years and Tom Palmer (Doctor Strange, Daredevil, Tomb Of Dracula, The Avengers, X-Men, Kick Ass, Marvel Zombies) both a runner-up nominee for the last three years and a nominee in 2009.

Joe Sinnott, the award’s namesake and first recipient, made the following statement: “I couldn't have been more pleased when I learned that we had elected Joe Simon and Tom Palmer as our selections to the 2014 Inkwell Awards Hall Of Fame.

"Joe of course was a favorite of mine way back in the early 1940s when I was just about 14 and an early fan of what was something new, comic books. Joe really enhanced Kirby's pencils whether it was on the Boy Commandos, Captain America or even the great romance books that they did. I only regret that Joe, who passed away in 2011 won't be with us to accept his well-deserved award.

"As for Tom Palmer, I can't say enough about him. We all know what a great artist he is in his own right and someone I would want to ink my pencils if I was still penciling. Like all great inkers, he not only pleases the penciller but he makes their great work even better than it really is. 

"Again, what a combo to be entering our Hall of Fame together - Joe and Tom, truly two of the greats.”

Tom Palmer said in a statement, “I want to express my gratitude to the Inkwell membership and staff along with the many fans who voted for me this year. I sincerely appreciate their recognition...It is indeed an honor receiving such a prestigious award, having the name of one of my heroes attached to it only makes it much more rewarding.”

Writer/editor Steve Saffel spoke for the Joe Simon Estate and accepted Simon's posthumous award on their behalf. Writer Ron Garney spoke for Tom Palmer who could not attend and accepted his trophy for him.

Eisner-award-winning artist Bill Sienkiewicz was the awards ceremony's Guest of Honor. Inkwell Awards founder and director Bob Almond served as ceremony host, aided by spokesmodel Ms. Inkwell, portrayed this year by both Anna White and Laura Beihl, who served as co-hostesses. 2012 S.P.A.M.I. award recipient Dexter Vines acted as Presenter and Saffel and Garney were the guest speakers. Retired committee members Jim Tournas and Sarah L. Covert were each presented with a Silver Inkwell Award for their time served. Mike Hoskin received the same for five years of service on the Nomination Committee. 
More details such as other nominees and the winners’ acceptance speeches can be found at the Inkwell Awards website.
The Inkwell Awards is an official 501(c)3 non-profit organization whose mission is to educate the public and promote the art form of comic-book inking, as well as annually recognize and award the best ink artists and their work. Now in its seventh year, the organization is overseen by a committee of industry professionals and assisted by various professional ambassadors and numerous contributors. They sponsor the Dave Simons Inkwell Memorial Scholarship Fund for the Kubert School and host the Joe Sinnott Hall of Fame Award.



Thursday, June 12, 2014

Steve Ditko is Alive and Well and...

It's funny how people react when you tell them you know Steve Ditko. Their eyes sort of pop out, or they go slack jawed. It isn't necessarily pretty.

I've had those reactions for years and years, when all I ever did was have a correspondence with the venerable and clearly legendary artist. And then I saw that same reaction today when discussing Ditko with artist Bob Wiacek, who clearly knows Steve better than I do. Only this time, it was my jaw that unhinged.

So, anyway, I called Steve this afternoon to say hello, and it was a brief conversation but rewarding. His mind is sharp and he's fascinating and we didn't even talk about Ayn Rand.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Chuck Dixon Bemoans the Liberal Blacklist. And Tony Isabella.

Chuck Dixon
The writer Chuck Dixon, well known for his gritty comic book work, and someone I happen to like quite a lot, recently teamed up with writer Paul Rivoche for a Wall Street Journal piece entitled “How Liberalism Became Kryptonite for Superman: A graphic tale of modern comic books’ descent into moral relativism.” Among other things, their piece decries the treatment of conservative comics creators—a breed at least as endangered these days as Sumatran Tigers.

Is their outcry an attempt to get right-wing readers to purchase their recent adaptation of Amity Shlaes’ The Forgotten Man? Sure. Why not? And if that’s the case, is their argument any less valid?

Tony Isabella thinks so.

“Chuck Dixon is being willfully dishonest in his attempt to plug his new book,” writes Isabella in a post entitled “Dishonest Dixon” over at Harlan Ellison’s website.

As people have pointed out elsewhere, there are a lot of reasons why comics’ writers (and artists) find themselves without work or as much work as they'd like or the kind of work they'd like.

If there were an overwhelming anti-conservative bias in comics, Bill Willingham and Ethan Van Scriver would not be two of the most sought-after creators in comics...and Dixon's liberal counterparts like myself and Mike W. Barr would have more work than they could handle.

A significant portion of Dixon's work on DC and Marvel heroes violates the very morality whose lack he decries in his whiny little essay. I don't put much stock in his claims. But, then, facts do have a well-known liberal bias.

For those of you unfamiliar with their accomplishments, Chuck Dixon was among the better Batman writers of the last quarter century (see his work on Detective Comics). Chuck and artist Graham Nolan co-created the villain Bane, too, while his Marvel work included long, impressive runs on The Punisher and Savage Sword of Conan.

Tony Isabella
Tony Isabella was an editor and writer at Marvel whose work in the 1970s included Ghost Rider, Captain America and Daredevil. He left Marvel to join DC in 1977 where he created and scripted Black Lightning and has generously contributed on more than one occasion to projects I’ve been involved in. And his frothing hatred of Republicans—at least as far as anyone perusing his daily Facebook posts would surmise—appears as limitless as Galactus’s hunger.

“Was Tony ever told he should not send in pitches because of his political beliefs?” Chuck responded in an email to me. “Were editors ever threatened with termination for putting his name on a proposal? Was he ever denied work because he refused to apologize to an editor over a political disagreement?

“My experience is my experience,” Chuck continues. “I cannot explain why Bill [Willingham] and Ethan [Van Scriver] continue to get work. I only know why I was denied work.”

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Aardwolf Publishing to release Dave Cockrum's Final FUTURIANS

Contributed art from Ray Lago
Dave Cockrum’s final, never-before-seen FUTURIANS story has everything you loved about Dave’s X-Men work—and more. But Aardwolf Publishing wasn’t satisfied just assembling a sensational graphic novel scripted and penciled by Cockrum, and inked by his X-Men collaborator Bob Wiacek—we also recruited the industry’s royalty to create pin-ups, write-ups, and signed and remarqued bookplates: Neal Adams, Neil Gaiman, Jim Lee, Ray Lago, Ricardo Vilagran, Adam Kubert, Andy Kubert, Bill Sienkiewicz, Walt Simonson, Mark Wheatley, Mark McKenna, and Mike “Bru-Hed” Pascale are just some of the sensational team adding many delicious extras to this project, which also sees the professional return of Paty Cockrum (Amazing Spider-Man, Claws of the Cat) on colors.

Pre-order the hard copy graphic novel now and receive the expanded digital version FREE. You will also have exclusive opportunities to purchase inexpensive original art and signed bookplates from our all-star team--as well as Dave's personal items (his pen, his sword, his personal file copy of X-Men #94).

U.S. Price for THE FUTURIANS RETURN is $25.00 (customers outside of the U.S. will be billed for additional shipping). You can even ask Aardwolf to reserve the book for just $10.00. Are we good guys or what?

To participate in this special pre-Kickstarter offer, PayPal your reserve money to sales@aardwolfpublishing.com and note “Futurians Reserve.”


Monday, May 26, 2014

Harlan Ellison At 80 Is...

…still the guy I turn to in a pinch, still the finest writer many of you have never read because of the evanescent nature of popular culture (so hop to it!), and still the finest writer *I* have ever read after a half century of plodding about on this planet reading everything.

…the man who said, "The chief commodity a writer has to sell is his courage. And if he has none, he is more than a coward. He is a sell-out and a fink and a heretic, because writing is a holy chore."

...a singular force of nature, the consummate bar raiser, Kryptonite to the forces of Bullshit, and my friend.

All love and respect on your 80th birthday, sensei.

Cliff

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Dillashaw Beats Barao Like a Rented Mule

T.J. Dillashaw plants Renan Barao
T.J. Dillashaw delivered the single most impressive win I've ever seen last nighty as he overcame ridiculous Vegas odds against him and knocked out Renan Barao to win the title.

But this was no ordinary win.

All fight fans understand that when you're up four rounds to nothing in a five-round outing, you really don't have to do much more than survive the 5th. But Dillashaw's the real deal. He continued to take chances. This was a fight to the finish, and that's what we saw.

Barao (who was 32-1 in his MMA career, and 7-0 in his UFC career) has been called the current, best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. So what does that make T.J., who beat him like a rented mule?
Standing or on the ground, Dillashaw dominated Barao

Ready for a change of pace? See my recent post on the amazing Oneta Bobbett who is helping abuse victims.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Oneta Bobbett: Rebuilding the Abused

Oneta Bobbett: Committed to helping others.

I’m delighted to know Oneta Bobbett, a courageous and dedicated advocate for survivors of domestic violence. Ten years ago, Onetta helped found Jaden’s Ladder to assist victims with life-enhancing programs and the kind of support that builds confidence in former victims while fostering self-reliance.

A former beauty pageant winner, Oneta says was thrilled to represent the State of New Hampshire, where she was raised, in the Mrs. United States pageant. But today, it's all about her family and helping others.

“I named Jaden’s Ladder after my son Jaden,” Oneta told me. “The name Jaden means ‘God has heard.’ He hears when we cry out and we have to hear those crying out. It’s important to maintain a commitment to mankind—especially those in trouble—and to help people in the times of their greatest needs.”

Oneta’s commitment to others comes from personal experiences. On her website, she explains that she had once found herself in an abusive relationship. The experience left her with filled with doubt and confusion, asking herself what she had done wrong to land her in such a situation.

Eventually her boyfriend and long-time friend became her worst enemy. Her abuser, the man she thought she loved, beat and choked her. It was then that she believed she'd lose her life to his hands. Luckily, on that day, Oneta's sister was anxiously trying to contact her and sent police to her house when she felt "something was wrong". From that day on, Oneta vowed to get stronger and make better choices in life.

Oneta Bobbett’s commitment 10 years ago has made a difference in people’s lives ever since. And that’s what it’s all about.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Seth's Son Wants Daddy to Live Forever. Let's Help.

Please take the 10 minutes to register as a bone marrow donor. I did. It was painless, effortless and one day I might get the call allowing me to save someone's parent... or child.

I know Seth. He's a good guy. We have to save him. And by registering you're increasing the chances for all Lukemia victims.


Share this message please. People from the same background as Seth will have the greatest likelihood of being a match.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

What’s Stan Lee Really Worth? Neal Adams?

I contacted Stan Lee this morning.

I was reaching out because the artist Dick Ayers passed away on Sunday and another very fine artist and friend Neal Adams called me this morning out of concern. I hope he won't mind my mentioning this.

“Do you know Dick’s widow’s situation?” Neal asked. I told him I didn’t. And when we hung up I thought about how genuine and special Neal is. He has a busy studio to run and deadlines to meet and his own family concerns, and he avoids funerals like one would the Third Pandemic. But he’s always the first to inquire regarding the welfare of the widow and the family—and the first to organize help if needed.

I didn’t know Dick Ayers. I was a fan, of course, and I purchased several drawings from him over the years, which I treasure. He was a nice man, a happy man, and a fine artist. Dick and I would sit and chat at conventions, but we weren’t pals. But Neal’s example has been kicking me into action for most of my adult life. So I made some inquiries.

Stan Lee was the first to reply. I received a return email within moments of my query to him (at 7:30 California time).

What’s the big deal? Lots of folks are up early and return email and phone messages. Nearly 23% do it within a reasonable amount of time, according to a study never conducted at the University of Michigan.

Stan will be 92 in December. And he has more going on than most three people you know. And he’s wealthier than the 20 richest people you've ever known all together. But he always responds immediately, and he's always been available to help with matters big and small when I've asked. And I've asked plenty.

Call it solid time management. Call it three-quarters of a century of professionalism. Or maybe Stan's parents just raised him right.

Neal Adams and Stan Lee.
Websites and magazine writers often to speculate regarding celebrity bank accounts. There are people who like to count other people’s money. Go figure.

As for Dick Ayer’s widow, Stan didn't know her situation either. But if she’s in trouble, there’s people who will help.

So what’s Stan Lee worth? Neal Adams? It has nothing to do with money.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Voting Opens for The Inkwell Awards

The following press release is courtesy of artist Bob Almond, director of the Inkwell Awards. Want to participate? Visit http://www.inkwellawards.com Bob can be reached at dmralmond@gmail.com

(New Bedford, MA/USA—April 14, 2013) The Inkwell Awards, a non-profit organization devoted to educating and promoting the art of inking, invites the public to vote for the industry's best of the past year. The official public ballot will be available on the Inkwell Awards' homepage from April 15 through April 30. Voting is open to everyone, whether fans or professional peers. The winners will be announced at the live awards ceremony at Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC June 20-22 on Saturday the 21st at 12:30 pm. 
As with last year, the ballot will still list the nominees for the Joe Sinnott Hall of Fame lifetime achievement award, which were chosen by the internal and separate Hall of Fame Nomination Committee (made up of the core committee, former committee members, ambassadors, contributors and existing Hall of Fame award recipients). To avoid a “popularity contest” where recent names have more influence than past masters, the two winners have been chosen by the HoF Nomination Committee rather than the public and will be announced at the ceremony. Current nominees are listed as a courtesy. Past Hall of Fame award recipients include Joe Sinnott, Terry Austin & Dick Giordano, Klaus Janson & Al Williamson, Wallace Wood & Kevin Nowlan, Mark McKenna & Scott Williams, and last year, Dick Ayers & Murphy Anderson. 
“We’re so excited for this event, where everyone’s hard work will pay off and the best of the best ink artists and their work will be recognized,” said Bob Almond, founder and director of The Inkwell Awards (AKA "The Inkwells"). "Inkers have their own fans and followers, and often go unsung or glossed over in traditional awards events. Ours caters specifically to ink artists and allows several to be recognized and appreciated in various categories.” 
Ballots and instructions can be viewed at The Inkwells' web site beginning on tax day, April 15. A direct link will additionally be posted on their Facebook group page, where people may also ask any questions. 
The Inkwell Awards is an official 501(c)3 non-profit organization whose mission is to educate and promote the art form of comic-book inking, as well as annually recognize and award the best ink artists and their work. Now in its seventh year, the organization is overseen by a committee of industry professionals and assisted by various professional ambassadors and numerous contributors. They sponsor the Dave Simons Inkwell Memorial Scholarship Fund for the Kubert School and host the Joe Sinnott Hall of Fame Award.