Friday, March 28, 2008

Son of Meth

Benjy Meth (middle) takes first place in a Gracie Jui-Jitsu invitational tournament in Haifa, Israel. How proud is papa?

On the Origins of the Wolverine

With a Wolverine movie in the works, this question from my son was inevitable: “Who made up Wolverine?”

“Let's ask,” I said.

I started with a call to my friend Roy Thomas who was Marvel’s EiC when Wolverine first came on the scene in 1974. Roy had once noted that Dave Cockrum had a Wolverine character in his now legendary sketchbook.

“I have no doubt that Dave [Cockrum] and Mike Friedrich were telling the truth about his having a Wolverine character,” said Roy, “though I have no conscious knowledge of seeing it. It can't have had too much of an influence on me, because when I decided we should have a Canadian character and even that it would be named after a fierce Northern animal, I know I was conflicted between ‘Wolverine’ and ‘Badger’--finally decided Badger had the connotation of mere heckling or nagging, while Wolverine virtually had the word wolf in it.

“So I met with Len Wein at lunch and told him to create for the Hulk a hero-villain who would be Canadian, short (because a wolverine is a small animal), and very fierce... and Len remembers my telling him I wanted to see how he'd handle a Canadian accent or some such thing, because I'd admired his Jamaican patois for Brother Voodoo.

“After that, I left it to Len and artist Herb Trimpe--and [John] Romita, who worked with Len on the character design. John doesn't recall being told to make the guy small but did so anyway... but if he hadn't been small, as editor I would have had it changed, and John may simply have forgotten either Len or myself telling him that. I had no particular input on the costume or look that I can recall... nor was it my idea that he have adamantium claws, though I had created adamantium.”

Of course, it was Dave Cockrum who unmasked Logan, and Chris Claremont who developed his winning personality, bub.

I'll let you folks know if Len or Herb have anything interesting to add.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Apocalypse Now (and we don’t want to wait)


I arrived in Morristown 20 minutes late--my sense of self-preservation or sanity or something else entirely telling me to stay home, but in the end my pal Morganstern won out. In the spirit of Purim, the small voice from my past convinced me to break with my nature and "party with the people." I considered this as I pulled into the driveway of Herson's Rabbinical College of America where I encountered several of the town’s repudiated drunks. We shared a few bottles of beer then piled into someone’s ATV and were off to Manhattan for a well-publicized Lubavitch Purim bash.

Forty minutes later, we arrived at the Windsor Building. We took the elevator upstairs. As the doors opened, I was assaulted by the loud, omnipresent thumping of techno muzak. I had arrived at a dance club. A hot spot. A meat market. There were a few yarmulkes tossed in here and there amidst the short, backless dresses. One guy was handing out pictures of the Lubavitcher Rebbe with the logo MOSHIACH. A 40-foot replica of 770 Eastern Parkway hosted videos of the spiritual loadstar. But everywhere else the frenzy was similar to the vampire club scene in "Blade II" right before the overhead strobe starts spraying blood. From wall to wall, hundreds of guys and girls were dancing together and making out, many on Ecstasy, others just drunk. If they had come to fulfill the mitzvah of making Purim freylich, they had succeeded. They could no longer tell the difference between Krinsky and Khmelnytsky. Between YomTov and a drunken orgy.

Don’t get me wrong: I have nothing against drunken orgies. I’m just a little unsettled by it bearing the Rebbe’s stamp.

The Hersons and Cunins and their ilk have kidnapped Chabad’s buildings, hustled unsuspecting contributors, and built profitable, family businesses in the guise of religion.

And the Meshochistim have countered with a Fellini movie.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Company You Keep


Robert Silverberg has turned in the introduction to my novella "Billboards," whose publication as a standalone illustrated book is forthcoming.

I head into Purim with a renewed spirit.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

And now…The Dave & Paty Cockrum Scholarship


I was privy to a few moments of sunshine last week when I introduced Paty Cockrum to Joe Kubert.

“Thrilled to meet you, sir,” said Paty in a voice I didn’t recognize as hers. Sir? Hell, this is the toughest old gal I’ve ever known, famous for dragging men out of burning buildings and pointing shotguns at strangers. The occasion was the initiation of The Dave & Paty Cockrum Scholarship Fund, which I’ve been planning for a number of months.

“You were one of the first comic artists that I was truly a fan of,” Paty said to the blushing legend. “You and Bill Everett were the only two who signed your work back then, but you were the only one who knew how draw horses. Everyone else bent their legs the wrong way.”

Joe, who always has an easy smile, had a good laugh. “I had great respect for your husband’s work,” he said. “I watched it very carefully.”

“Well, your Hawkman was formative in his design concepts,” said Paty. “He revered you as an inspiration.”

I’m proud to sit on the committee that will give the newly established scholarship each year to a student at the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon Graphic Art, Inc. The school currently has about 120 students and has graduated more than 3,000 since its founding in 1976, including some of today’s leading artists and many of my pals.

The scholarship will be funded by the sale of Dave Cockrum’s personal comics collection, which you can see here.

Application deadline is April 30. The winner will be announced at HeroesCon in South Carolina in June. For more information, contact Mike Chen at mchen@kubertsworld.com.

Saw off her other leg

They gave her forty-eight million. Granted, to a Brit it only feels like $20 mil with the dollar shrinking up like a dead dick out of Norway, but that kind of money buys serious payback.

Monday, March 17, 2008

If I Should Fall From Grace with G-d


It was worth an occassional elbow and being continually crushed forward by 5,000 drunken Irishmen to stand front and center for the Pogues triumphant return to New York City tonight at the Roseland Ballroom. Shane McGowan, one of the greatest writers of my generation, only fell down once during the entire two-hour performance, and never off the stage. You've gotta love a guy who dropped so much acid one night that he broke all his teeth trying to eat a Beachboys album.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Bully Incident: Part II

Three months to the day after my son was forced to knock the bejeezus out of a bully at the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy, I received a phone call from Rabbi Daniel Price.

"Hello, Mr. Meth. I hope everything is well. I’m calling to check up on how Jesse is doing with his psychologist."

"With his what?"

"Psychologist."

"I thought you said that. My son doesn’t see a psychologist."

"I believe that was our agreement."

"And which left field did this just come out of?"

"Excuse me?" said the rabbi.

"Are you telling me," I asked, "that there’s been another incident?"

"No," said Price. "Everything is fine."

"Then why are you calling me?"

"Because our agreement was—"

"Our agreement," I interrupted, "was that my son would see a psychologist once so you could ascertain that he was no danger to your other students; that you weren’t on the verge of a Colunbine incident. And we complied. He went. Once. Your school shrink received a letter from her colleague declaring that my boy was fine, and he was re-admitted. In other words, you covered your ass. Now why are you really calling?"

Rabbi Price explained that, according to his notes, there was an agreement was that my child would attend regular sessions with a psychologist—sessions designed to help the boy deal with anger management and any potential rage issues.

Now watch two adults deal with theirs.

"Is there something wrong with your memory, rabbi?" I asked.

"I don’t believe so, Mr. Meth."

"Then you must have completely tuned out three months ago. My son didn’t have a rage issue; he knocked shit out of the school bully following your personal failure to curtail that misanthrope’s behavior. What my son did was GOOD and RIGHT and PROPER and by every stretch of the imagination NORMAL." I took a breath.

"What your son did," said Price, his voice rising, "was cold and calculated. He beat the boy senseless and without mercy."

"Exactly," I said. "After months of being tormented, and your office doing nothing about it, my son put the little fucker out of everyone’s misery. And he did it precisely because his father told him to do it."

"He should have refused," said Price. "He should have told you that it was foolish—"

"Perhaps that’s how you spoke to your father, rabbi, but in my home, children don’t talk that way to parents."

This was going nowhere. We were about to start insulting each other’s mothers. I could smell the threat of suspension for my son until I complied with this mandatory psychologist edict, so I refreshed Price’s memory once more. Apparently he hadn’t paid attention in October, 2007, when I warned him that if he didn’t solve the bullying problem in his school, then I would. Apparently he hadn’t heard my warning that I was ready to level a negligence suit against his school, and him personally, for ignoring repeated warnings that my son was being tormented by another boy with a thick file of complaints from yet other parents. Apparently our young rabbi doesn’t read this blog!

So I painstakingly refreshed his memory, yet again, concluding with the lawsuit.

"It’s not something I want to do," I said, meaning sue a yeshiva, "but if you leave me no choice..."

"Are you serious?" Price screamed. "You’re going to sue us? Your son beats up another child and you have the audacity to threaten a suit against us? If anything, the other parent should be suing you!"

"They can certainly try," I replied, "but that’s not what we’re talking about. I have a solid case against you for the months of neglect, despite repeated warnings, which forced this situation to a head. And my attorney is only too happy to take this case on a contingency. He smells a payday. And don’t think this won’t hit the papers and internet, rabbi. That’s what Tiggers do best."

I can’t remember who hung up on who first. I suspect it was mutual. No one actually said fuck you but it was in our voices. Two things were clear: Daniel Price was going to chase this up a tree. He was going to borrow trouble just to prove that in his role as “educator” he didn’t have to take shit off nobody.

And I was going to sue his ass.

This morning, I entered the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy at 8:20. I signed in at the security desk, then proceeded to the school office and requested that the yeshiva send my son’s transcripts to the local public school. On the advice of my attorney, pending our lawsuit, I was withdrawing my boy from the yeshiva before they had an opportunity to harass him further.

Two hours later, my ex-wife phoned. I was sitting outside the office of the Kalever Rebbe, shilta, waiting for my appointment with the Ohave Yisroel when I got the call.

“They don’t want any trouble,” said my ex.

“They who?”

“Kushner. The school. Mrs. Deitsch just called me. They’re backing down.”

“And they called you?”

“Apparently they’re afraid of you. Please don’t sue them.”

Uncle Harlan loved this story. And I loved bringing him good news for a change. He said it was a monument to personal responsibility. Had his missus call me 20 minutes later just so I could repeat it.

I was going to end it with, and then I went in and got a brocha from the Kalever Rebbe. He told me to be more b’simcha.

But I’m going to end like this:

If this school ever forces my hand, I'll sue them—win, lose or draw. And I’ll report on it. And I’ll expect all of you—my friends with blogs and newspaper columns and other media at your disposal—to report on it, too. And to name names.

I’ll owe you one. Or perhaps you’ll be repaying one you owe me.

And I’ll enjoy every moment of it. B’simcha.

Personal responsibility. With fanfare.

That’s what Tiggers do best.

Monday, March 10, 2008

SNAKED heads for the BIG SCREEN


from today's Variety...


Saperstein takes on 'Snaked'

Producer options film rights to Meth series

Producer Richard Saperstein has optioned the film rights to Clifford Meth's comicbook series "Snaked" from IDW Publishing, the company behind "30 Days of Night."

Based on an original story by Meth, "Snaked" is a horror-noir that follows the personal and political exploits of a government employee with supernatural, snakelike abilities.

"The political arena forms the perfect backdrop for Clifford Meth's heady mix of horror, sex and mayhem," said Saperstein, former prexy of production at Dimension Films, who has overseen pics including "1408," "Rob Zombie's Halloween" and "The Mist."

IDW released the first installment of "Snaked," whose publishers call it the most "controversial book" it's ever published, in December. The third book in the series was released on Feb. 13.
Meth will pen the screenplay, and he will exec produce with IDW Publishing prexy and founder Ted Adams. Shara Kay will co-produce.

The God of Hate

The Palestinian official daily newspaper has honored the terrorist who, last week, gunned down eight high school students (that's students--not soldiers) with the status of shahid ("holy" Islamic martyr). The March 8 edition of Al-Hayat Al-Jadida prominently placed a picture of the scumbag on the front page, with the caption, "The Shahid Alaa Abu Dheim." In a page one article on the massacre at the yeshiva, his crime was again defined as an act of martyrdom.

Selling My Key Marvels







Fear not, true believers: Mister Meth has not abandoned the faith--he's just selling his doubles. There are some very nice books here.

Matzoh & Metal


This interview with Leslie West of Mountain is about to appear at a pal's website.

Tough Questions for Tough Jews:

Clifford Meth: Tell us about the new album.

Leslie West: We’ve started working on Mountain does Dylan. We’re not quite finished with it but I’m hoping by the end of the summer. I did some arrangements of Bob Dylan’s songs that are quite different. I actually did one on my very first album This Wheel’s On Fire, then I got motivated over in Europe last year listening to some of his lyrics and I came up with some ideas.

Meth: You’ve never played with Dylan.

West: No, I haven’t had that pleasure. I wasn’t a fan of his voice but I sure am of his lyrics and songs.

Meth: So who were you a fan of when you were growing up?

West: Well, what growing up are you talking about? Ten?

Meth: When you were growing up musically.

West: When I really started to play, it was Blues Breakers and Cream. Then Hendrix and The Stones. Listening to Cream, though--that’s who I am. That’s the reason I play like I play. That probably changed and influenced me more than anything.

Meth: Who do you listen to now?

West: Believe it or not, I listen to a lot of Black Sabbath. They did their first tour with us in ’69 and I just recently did “Mississippi Queen” with Ozzy and we put it out as a single.

Meth: How did that come about?

West: I just went over to Ozzy's house and did it. I had this show called “Metal Mania Weekend” once in awhile on VH1 Classic and I dug up some really old Black Sabbath stuff. Ozzy’s always had good guitar players with him.

Meth: Gene Marchello almost went on tour as Ozzy's guitarist.

West: Gene Marchello. Yeah. He should of somehow caught a break somewhere. He's good. I like the way he plays.

Meth: Let’s get back to working with Ozzy. Was this the first time you played together?

West: I did 150 dates with Black Sabbath and we got together in England and here. We hung out together. I was with him the other day in NY City doing some press and it’s amazing how he remembers everything about all those tours and all those dates; getting snowed in in Detroit for four days when we couldn’t leave the hotel. And another time when we were going to Cleveland and they were on the bill with Johnny Winter and we couldn’t get there because our plane had to make an emergency landing and they had to do a three-hour set. He remembers everything. It’s amazing how sharp he is.

Meth: I haven’t spoken with Ozzy in years but he was fun to chat with. He’s very funny.

West: Plus he’s a really great singer. Especially when he sings Beatle songs. People don’t give him credit for really singing but he can REALLY sing. His voice reminds me of a melodic guitar, actually.

Meth: How long did this new “Mississippi Queen” session take?

West: Two hours. They had the track sort of down and I put my rhythm and lead on it and then Mark Hudson produced it. We did it at Ozzy’s studio in his house. It really sounds great.

Meth: It must be fun to hear that on the radio again.

West: Mountain does it just like that now on stage. It’s a little different--a little slower. We put a new riff in it. I love it.

Meth: What did you make of the Cream reunion?

West: We do a Cream tribute during the show. We show a film of West, Bruce and Lang and Felix and Mountain and Cream all tied together. It runs around seven minutes and then we do four Cream songs. But this tour especially is great--it ties the whole thing together.

Meth: Which musicians do you hang out with?

West: I don’t really hang out with musicians… I’m trying to think of someone I hang out with... I tell you someone who I love--it’s Eddie Van Halen.

Meth: You once told me Eddie was just about the best guitarist you’d ever heard.

West: Yeah... A couple of years ago I had this contest at The House of Blues where I had these guitar players come down in the afternoon to audition, like in American Idol. I was going to pick one to play with us that night. I got up on stage to announce the winner and I said, “The winner is, uh...Ed...Van Halen!” And Ed came out and played. I played with him at Jones Beach—he brought me out to play one night. When I heard him it just made me want to play the guitar again. He’s just incredible.

Meth: I recently bought a guitar at a shop that you frequent in Teaneck.

West: Sure--Lark Street. That’s a famous store from Albany, New York. They have good stuff there.

Meth: You were born Leslie Weinstein. Where did you grow up?

West: Forest Hills.

Meth: You had a strong Jewish identity growing up?

West: Yeah. Did you see the special for VH1 Classic with Scott Ian from Anthrax, myself and Dee Snyder called "Matzoh and Metal"? We did a real Sedar. And we around and talked about the stories and we did all the prayers and everything--had the meal there.

Meth: Whose idea was that?

West: The president of VH1 Classic, Eric Sherman came up with it. He said he got the idea from me because we were in Hawaii and I was talking to him about how many Jewish rock musicians I’d found out there are. I didn’t realize there were that many--seems like more now than ever. And he was looking for ideas and he came up with that. So we shot it the other day in New York and it was a lot of fun.

Meth: Was your family traditional?

West: No... Well, I shouldn’t say that. My father was going to be a cantor and I grew up in Boro Park but I never... I don’t know. But my mom changed our name--I didn’t change my name. When I was in sixth grade my parents divorced and she just wanted to change her name so she gave me a choice of West or Winston. And I said West. Why not? Like Jackie Mason says, you can find a homeless person in New York sleeping on a piece of cardboard and he can get a perfectly good night sleep, but a Jew with a $5 million condo in Florida, "Oi! I had such a rough night! The light in the refrigerator kept waking me up."

Meth: You didn’t run into a lot of anti-Semitism in Forest Hills and Boro Park.

West: No. Not there. I mean I have run into it a couple of times, but not there.

Meth: In the music industry?

West: No. But when I was a kid, my grandparents had this big estate in Woodstock. There had 150 acres and a big lake and everybody else had a quarter acre and they wanted to buy land from my grandfather and he didn’t want to sell it--he didn’t want to break up our place. And my grandmother kept telling me she wasn’t Jewish. And I said, "What, are you ashamed of that?" And she said, "No! I’m not Jewish!" And my grandfather said, "She’s Jewish. She just doesn’t want people to take it out on you." She was afraid that people would find out and be mad about the land. That was when I first had the notion that there was some kind of resentment about those things.

Meth: Did that bother you?West: It did that she didn’t want to admit she was Jewish! You know, with a name like Glickman, how do you pass? (laughs) But I understood she was doing it to protect me and my brother. People up there were jealous.

Meth: Tell me more about the VH1 sedar.

West: Me, Scott Ian from Anthrax, JJ French and Dee Snyder. Dee’s half Jewish. I wanted to have a shmoyal [sic] there and have him to a bris, but Dee said he was circumcised already. It was fun. We said the prayers, talked about how that might have influenced our music--just four guys sitting at the table doing the wine, the prayers, the plagues, the bitter herbs. It can’t get more bitter than having Anthrax at the table. It was really fun. I thought it was going to be stupid, but it wasn’t. It was great. Maneshevitz sponsored it.

Meth: Speaking of Dee, there was a Long Island rock fraternity going on for a while.

West: Sure. Blue Oyster Cult, The Vagrants, The Ramones. Eric Bloom from BOC is Jewish. He’s also Howard Stern’s Cousin. The Vagrants are all Jewish, except for the lead singer. Joey Ramone.

Meth: Were The Dictators part of your crowd?

West: No, they were a little younger. But it is a fraternity. I was talking about that the other day, that when you’re in a rock group it’s like a very exclusive club. You know, it’s like a family.

Meth: That’s certainly your first circle, but the circle around that is the other bands, no? They’re the only ones who can identify with what you’re going through.

West: Yeah. It’s certainly a unique situation. When you think about it, we’re pretty lucky to have made it. Even if you have talent, everything has to fall into place. I produced this group called Clutch a couple of years ago and, well, if I were starting out now I don’t know if I would start out now. It’s a different world and a different business. You could go into a record store a few years ago and find pretty much anything. Now you have to search the web for it. It’s not the same as looking through albums. Probably record stores will be nonexistent in a few years.

Meth: The business changes, but the music survives.

West: I used to think that a lot of groups sounded alike when we were coming up, but they didn’t. You know, you had Procol Harem and Jethro Tull and Ten Years After... Cream, Hendix, The Stones, The Beatles, they all had their own sounds. But if you listen to MTV now--listen to rap, I mean I like some of it, but it’s pretty much the same. There’s a kid named Gavin DeGraw who plays the piano and sings, a young kid that’s really good--I’m impressed with him. So some of it is pretty good, but most of it seems like a formula that comes out of the kitchen.

Meth: What do you read?

West: I’m reading Bob Dylan’s book now. I mean he never wanted to be this. I saw him on "60 Minutes" a while ago and Ed Bradley asked him, "Could you write these kinds of songs again?" and he laughed and said, "No." He did it. You know, how are you gonna write some of that stuff again? We did "Subteranean Homesick Blues," "Blowin’ In the Wind," and "Serve Somebody," but it doesn’t sound like the Dylan versions, believe me. It sounds like Mountain doing''em. But some of the lyrics are incredible.

Meth: Even the new albums are two steps beyond everyone else. But I think he also surprised everybody with how well written Chronicles is.

West: I think there’s going to be a couple more. I put myself in the Village because the Vagrants used to hang around the CafĂ© Wha and all these places. All Dylan wanted to do was play and sing.
Meth: Dylan is very conscious of the nexus--who and where he came from. I was trying to approach that with you earlier when you said Cream--

West: I was never really into the Blues, although I did a Blues album last year called "Blues to Die For" that went to #6 on the BBC in England. And I have another one coming out in two months called "Got Blues?" that I did with Ansley Dunbar that’s real Black Blues songs that I never got a chance to do before. Playing with Ansley was great because he played with the Blues Breakers.

Meth: I read an interesting interview that Bono did with Dylan 10 or 12 years ago. Maybe 15 years. He says to Dylan, "You know, I’m jealous of you because you have roots--you have some place you came from."

West: I guess American Blues is... when The English started doing it, they were copying Blacks, and then when it came out over here we were copying the English who were copying us. It sort of reminds me of the old Amos and Andy Show on the radio, where there were these white guys doing Black guys--then on the TV show, they’d have Blacks imitating the white guys doing the Black guys. There’s not too much original stuff. There’s only eight notes.

Meth: So we're back to the beginning. Do you think you’ll get the chance to work with Dylan?West: We let his management know that we’re doing this album and he wanted Bob to hear it because he said he might like to write some new verses. What I really wanted to do was get him on one of the songs. I know Michael Shanker is going to play on it and Ozzy told me the other day he’d love to sing on it.

© 2008 Clifford Meth

Friday, March 7, 2008

Dancing in the streets

Eight students in Jerusalem (not soldiers) between the ages of 15 and 19 shot in the back last night while they studied. The reaction in Gaza?

From the Associated Press...

About 7,000 Gazans marched in the streets of Jebaliya, firing in the air in celebration... In the southern town of Rafah, residents distributed sweets to moving cars, and militants fired mortars in celebration.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Obama Nation

I hate to be a party pooper, but we found the new Security Checkpoint toy from Playmobile somewhat disappointing. My six-year-old nephew pointed out that the passenger's shoes can’t be removed, and when we placed some potentially dangerous peanut butter beneath the passenger's jacket, neither the passageway detector nor the security wand picked it up. “That's the worst security ever!” said my nephew. But it turned out okay because when the passenger got on the Playmobil 757 and tried to hijack it, several heroic passengers kicked the crap out of her.

My son wants the Playmobil Neighborhood Surveillance System set for Chanukah. I've heard the cameras on that thing have shitty motion detection, so I'm getting him the Playmobil Abu-Gharib Interrogation Set instead.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Cockrum Estate Update


We can't seem to keep any of Dave's file copies in stock; they sell as fast as I post them... Sooner or later, a dealer will make Paty Cockrum an offer I can't refuse and you'll have to find these books in their auction or store, so buy them while they're here and less expensive.

Another small batch of Dave's books will go up today. Click here to see the comics being offered.

Syd Shores - Correction

I mistakenly reported that Syd Shores--my long, lost cousin--lived in Mt. Freedom. Mike Sturm, our mutual cousin and family historian, updates me.

I think I misled you: The Shores lived on Long Island. Syd's wife, Selma (nee Hirschhorn) Shores came from Mt. Freedom. Selma's father, Bernard Hirschhorn was the "Patriarch" of the Hirschhorn family, who sponsored his parents and siblings including my grandmother, when they came over from Galicia. He made his fortune in the garment center and settled in Mt Freedom. Ben was one of the founders of the Mt. Freedom Jewish Center, which is why Syd, Selma and many of the Hirschhorn descendents are buried there.