Monday, August 13, 2012

DC Entertainment: You Should Be Ashamed

I've had multiple conversations today regarding the crass and thoroughly mercenary way an employee at DC was allowed to treat the passing of our friend Joe Kubert. As numerous individuals pointed out in posts to DC and elsewhere, the initial announcement of the death of an associate is hardly occasion to hype the company's products. At best, this hastily hacked out copy was the work of an immature, amateur, inexperienced copywriter who didn't know Joe Kubert from Joe the Plumber. At best.

I think it's fair to say that the legion of those who care--Joe Kubert's family, friends, fans, and indeed, the entire international body of gentlefolk who assemble as comics fandom who were sorely insulted by DC's insensitive treatment of this solemn moment--are owed an apology by whomever it is that now sits at the helm of DC Entertainment. The crass, classless, opportunistic "announcement" of Joe Kubert's death only added insult to those injured by Joe's passing. I dare say it's something that wouldn't have happened on Paul Levitz's watch.

Contrast the way DC announced Joe's death with the way the matter was handled by any of the industry's news sites. Scores of comics reporters and bloggers took time to offer tasteful words of tribute to Joe Kubert accompanied by carefully considered references to his historical significance. Tom Spurgeon--always a go-to source for accurate information, respect and style--offered a New York Times-worthy presentation of facts and analysis, dignifying Joe's more-than-impressive life and industry significance. Should DC have offered less?

Seriously: Someone at DC Entertainment owes us a huge apology.

Joe Kubert 1926-2012 RIP old friend

Update 3:10 pm: Adam and Andy Kubert have announced that Joe's funeral services will be tomorrow at Tuttle Funeral Home 272 Rt-10, Randolph, NJ 07869. This is where Muriel's service was held in 2008. The gathering is from 10 AM - 12 PM, and actual services will commence at noon. Internment will follow afterwards. It's believed that the procession of cars will pass by the Kubert School and then Joe's home before going to the cemetery. Donations can be made to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation in Joe's name, 383 Main Avenue, 5th floor, Norwalk CT 06851 - Sympathy cards can be sent to the Kubert family c/o the Kubert School, 37 Myrtle Avenue, Dover, NJ 07801.

May the family have no more sorrow. - CM

When someone advanced in years passes, people often toss the cliche, "They had a full life." With Joe Kubert, it was true.

Neal Adams once remarked to me that Joe had the three major pillars in place: He took care of his family, his business and his health.

I'll leave it for others to expound on Joe's pioneering art, his importance and longevity as comics royalty, his role as a the definitive comics-art instructor. Let me instead say this:

I knew Joe since I was a boy. We were neighbors and I didn't realize he was a legend until I got older. He didn't act like a legend -- not then, not ever. I'd run into him at my local supermarket. One time, shortly after ComicCon, Joe was on line with his shopping cart full of fruit and vegetables, waiting to pay for his groceries, so I snuck up behind him. "Isn't it strange," I said, "not having people waiting on line to see you?" Joe turned around and laughed.

By all accounts Joe was a regular guy, except he was better than everyone at most things and never let on. Joe was an exceptional family man, an exceptional artist and teacher, a keen businessman. His school in Dover, NJ, changed lives, provided careers for young artists for three decades and will continue to do so under the guidance of his sons, who he adored... Joe was still playing paddle-ball or handball into his mid-eighties, still creating exquisite art every day in his studio, grabbing your hand with that vice-like handshake of his when you entered, always a warm smile and a twinkle in his eye. I was so pleased to know him, to stop by the school whenever I was in the neighborhood, to be able to participate in the scholarship awards there each year, and to have Joe grace the charity projects I was running. He was just aces, this terrific guy who never seemed to age -- this big, wonderful, strong and excellent man. I was sure Joe Kubert would be around forever.

Joe was 85. Rest in peace old friend. You were sensational.

update (9:40 a.m. 8/13):

As always, Tom Spurgeon offers insightful, detailed coverage of those friends we have lost. Tom's article on Joe can be read here.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Some Thoughts on DON HECK

John Coates, who is writing a book on Don Heck's life for TwoMorrow's Publishing, recently interviewed me regarding my brief relationship with Don. From that interview:

What was your overall relationship with Don? More than an agent? Friend? Confidant?

I was very close with Gray Morrow, Dave Cockrum, and Gene Colan but I was never close with Don. We were friends, but not what I'd call close. Towards the end of his life—after he called me and told me he was dying—I guess you could say we were closer. He asked me to help find someone who could take care of his dog. He was terribly concerned that he’d die and there would be no one there for the dog.

Did Don share any recollections about his time at Marvel? Not getting art returned?

Don had nothing negative to say about anything or anyone. He’d been trashed by Gary Groth and that miserable rag he publishes. Groth had manipulated Harlan Ellison into saying something disparaging about Don's abilities during an interview, but Don didn’t indicate that he held it against Harlan. He knew Harlan and I were friends—at least I presume that he knew that—but these types of things seemed beneath him. It wasn’t as if he was taking the high road; I think it was all just petty to him... He certainly had great affection for John Buscema, as John did for him. John told me he wanted to punch Groth in the mouth for what he did to Don.

Were you in communications with Don prior to his death?

One day Don phoned me. “I’m calling to say goodbye,” he said. “Goodbye?” I asked. “I have cancer,” said Don. “I’m not gonna make it.” I can still hear him saying it. And how do you respond to that? With some bullshit that everything’s going to be okay? I was stunned. He was only 66.

Were you involved in the estate post-death?

Not at all. I was just sad. I liked Don very much. He was humble and easy to get along with. He did what he said he was going to do and his commission work at the end of his life was as good as anything he’d done during his career. He was very much the craftsman. I didn’t see a lot of emotion in Don's artwork, like you’d see in, say, Gene Colan’s, but I s'pose comparing artists is as foolish as comparing schools of thought. As Stan Lee once told me, Don was reliable; you’d give him a job and know he’d get it done right and on time. There’s plenty to be said for reliability.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Peppi Marchello Sits Shiva

Peppi Marchello looking sheepish. At sheep.
“I need a Jew,” Peppi said to me. “I had a weird dream.”

“So now I’m Joseph?” I asked.

“Listen,” said Pep. “I dreamed I was engaged to an infant and—”

“An infant?” I repeated. My lower back’s been hurting, there’s a touch of arthritis in my knees, occasional indigestion, flatulence after Chinese food. What do I know? Maybe the hearing’s going, too.

“Yes,” said Peppi. “An infant.

“Continue,” said Meth looking around for witnesses.

“So I’m talking to her, to the infant, my fiancĂ©, and she says to me, ‘My parents want us to live here.' You know, here in her parents’ house. So I said okay, sure, that's fine with me. And then her mother walks into the room and I’m looking at her and I see she’s a famous actress. But I can’t recall anything she was in.”

“Probably nothing worth seeing,” I deduced.

Peppi coughed lightly, one of his two gestures. “She looks at me, the mother, and she says, ‘My husband and I insist—we want you both to live here with us. Right away.’ Right away? But we’re not married yet, I tell her.”

“Geez, you’re old fashioned,” I said.

“In my dreams I’m old fashioned. In real life I’m a prude.” Peppi wiped his nose, his other gesture. “So where was I?”

“About to commit a felony with an infant,” I said. Gilgamesh dreamed of axes falling from the sky. Peppi Marchello dreams of carnal knowledge with a weanling. So this is what it’s like to be a rock star. Or maybe just a rock star from Long Island. I mean, even Caligula had boundaries. I’m wondering what laws I’m breaking just by listening to this.

“Anyway, all of the sudden she’s not an infant anymore,” says the maestro. “She’s a beautiful young woman. You know how dreams are.”

“Ain’t it just like the night to play tricks when you’re trying to be so quiet,” I wax.

“So I turn to Gene, my son,” says Peppi, as if I didn’t know who Gene was, “and I say to him, ‘Hey Gene—am I nuts or is this a beautiful woman?’ And he says, ‘You’re not nuts, Pop.’”

“Charles Manson walks into a room and says, ‘Is hot in here or am I crazy?’”

“Do you want to hear this or not?” Peppi asks, interrupting my interruption.

“Continue,” I said.

“So the next thing I know her old man walks in and he says, ‘Look—I want to show you something. And he leads me down a flight of stairs to this new bathroom with six toilets lined up next to each other. No stalls or dividers—just six toilets. I look at him and said, ‘What is this?’ and he says, ‘We’re expecting a lot of people.’ And I said, ‘Wait a minute—I can’t live like this.’ And he said, ‘We’re Jewish. This is our tradition.’ And I said, ‘Hold on buddy—you’re not the only Jewish guy I know. I’ve never seen this before.' But he insisted. So I was in the middle of this dilemma. That’s when I woke up.”

“And for this you need a Jew,” I lamented.

“I can’t figure out what it means,” said Peppi. “I mean first the infant, and then the six toilets.”

“Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,” I suggested.

“Who said that?”

“Didn’t you just hear me say it?”

“Okay, so why six toilets?”

“Perhaps you should prepare for six years of irritable bowel syndrome,” I suggested. “Did the toilets eat six skinnier toilets?”

“I’m really bothered by the toilets,” said Peppi.

“But you’re okay with the infant?”

“Maybe it has something to do with sitting shiva?”

Shiva means seven,” I explained. “You’re missing a toilet.”

“That’s weird,” said Peppi.

“Go back to sleep,” I suggested. “Maybe you miscounted.”


The newest Good Rats / Peppi Marchello song "Boom Boom" is available now through iTunes.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Gene Colan, Dave & Paty Cockrum Continue to Enrich

Joe Kubert (center, top) and his students with Adam Kubert (bottom right)

This afternoon, I was honored to participate again in the Scholarship Ceremony at the Joe Kubert School. Joe and his son, artist Adam Kubert, were both on hand to present students with cash awards for outstanding work--monies that we hope will help them in their training before they head off to work in the very competitive field of comic art.

From Joe Kubert:
"THE GENE COLAN SCHOLARSHIP was established by writer Clifford Meth in memory of his friend Gene Colan, who passed away last June. Gene is regarded as one of the most influential and beloved artists of Marvel's Silver Age. He worked for Marvel for 64 years--longer than anyone else to date--touching nearly every major Marvel character and defining many including Daredevil, Iron Man, Tomb of Dracula and Howard the Duck. In the last decade of his career, Marvel and Dark Horse stopped assigning inkers to Gene's work--his pencils were regarded as too perfect to cover up. This is the first time the GENE COLAN SCHOLARSHIP has been awarded and the award is presented for outstanding craftsmanship with a pencil."
"THE DAVE and PATY COCKRUM SCHOLARSHIP was established by Dave's widow Paty and their friend and collaborator Clifford Meth. Paty was a production artist at Marvel during the last years of the famed Marvel Bullpen, where she also did occasional pencils on Marvel's British magazines and such U.S. books as Amazing Spider-Man and Claws of the Cat. Her husband Dave Cockrum, who passed away in 2006, was considered by many the the greatest character designer Marvel had after Jack Kirby and John Romita. Cockrum's designs and creations for Marvel included Nightcrawler, Storm, Colossus, Mystique, Thunderbird, Ms. Marvel, the Black Cat, Starjammers and the Futurians among others. Having trained under Murphy Anderson at DC, Dave spent most of his career at Marvel. The annual DAVE and PATY COCKRUM SCHOLARSHIP is awarded for creativity and outstanding story-telling ability."

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Still Underappreciated After All These Years: The Return of the Good Rats

It's 1978 and I'm in the front row at The Show Place in Dover, NJ, watching Peppi Marchello on stage as he removes the lid from the garbage can he's been slamming all night with the Louisville slugger he plays air guitar on. This is the moment we Rat fans have waited for all night. The bride's gonna toss the bouquet.

"Who wants a rat? Who wants a rat? Who wants a rat with a squeaky asshole?" Peppi chants while brother Mickey Marchello and John Gatto trade leads. Hands in the air, the audience climbs over itself in frenzied anticipation. 
Who by fire? Who by water? Who by a rat in their yellow teeth?

These were only the most important rock moments of my misspent youth, following, as I did, one of the least appreciated but most beloved bands of the '70s; a quintette of rare talent who were ignored by the little men careering in the industry but adored
by legions of fans. So if you'd told me then, at age 17, that Peppi would one day pen a forward to one of my books--or that he'd ask me to write liner notes for a Good Rats LP--you could've knocked me over with a feather.

Of course I was drunk as a skunk back then so you could've knocked me over without telling me bupkes.
Meth, Marchello and Manitoba protesting the removal of the letter M from the phone book.

Message from the Good Rats' Newsletter below:
Thank you, thank you, thank you fans for your continuous support.  Some of you discovered us after the first Good Rats album in 1969, some after the Tasty album in 1974, some after the Ratcity album in 1976, some after the Rats To Riches album in 1978, some after the Great American album in 1981 etc. The point being that many of you have expressed to me how much enjoyment you've received from my music over the last 43 years. It's now my intention to get out both old songs of mine that were recorded but never released, and new songs I've written over the last few months. We are selling the Blue Collar Rats CD right now, a collection of archives with 20 songs on it, including my new song "Boom Boom." The players include the original Good Rats, as well as my son Gene Marchello, Bruce Kulick, Schuyler Deale, and other great musicians I've been fortunate enough to work with from 1974 to 1984. The CD has a terrific fold-out color poster, which I will be happy to personally autograph for you. It is also dedicated to the memory of my dear friend Jimmy Rainey

There are thousands of you on our e-mail list and Facebook. I sincerely hope you will continue to support me in the future as you have in the past. I hope you will find some of my new songs worthy of your support and help spread the word to others who you think will enjoy becoming new Good Rats fans. I call this a "chain CD strategy."

The Blue Collar Rats Archives CD with 20 songs is available now. You can place your order for the CD now thru my Uncle Rat Music, PO Box 585, St. James, NY 11780. Make payments to Uncle Rat Music, $15 for the 20 song CD plus $5 shipping and handling (total $20). Don't forget, if you want me to autograph the color foldout and have a specific message you want me to write, then include that with your order.

By the way, the first 100 orders will receive a free copy of CRIB DEATH and OTHER BEDTIME STORIES by my pal, author Clifford Meth. CRIB DEATH was Cliff's first collection before he began selling movies to Hollywood that were never made. Fifteen years ago I wrote the introduction to Cliff's book CONFLICTS OF DISINTEREST. Seriously twisted stuff. But you've all got to be a little twisted...

I've performed thru six decades. God willing, I hope to continue to play into my seventies. I cannot accomplish this without your support. Finally, a current study in the Harvard Medical Journal has absolutely proven that owning all new material written by Peppi Marchello will improve your sex life by 200%.
Let's all keep rockin' together!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"For Palestine"

Eye-witness accounts of Monday's shooting attack on the Ozar Hatorah School:

A man riding on a scooter open fired on the school at around 7:46 am as the students were arriving for the school day. Jonathan Sandler was the first one to be shot at short range. He was holding his 3-year-old son Gabriel in his arms. Gabriel was hit and fell to the ground and then Arieh, age 6, followed.

The gun then jammed, so the killer swiftly changed weapons and headed into the school. He grabbed Miriam Monsongo (age 7) and as she tried to escape, grasped her hair and shot her. Then, as she bled to death on the floor, he lifted up her head and fired two additional bullets.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Ian Anderson: Still Thick After All These Years

My pal Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull is returning to the road to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the release of "Thick As A Brick"--but more exciting, methinks, is the announcement of THICK AS A BRICK 2 (a.k.a., "Whatever happened to Gerald Bostock?"). To Ian's fans worldwide, this will spell Tull-mania.

In 1972, Tull's now-classic "Thick As A Brick" had lyrics credited to fictitious child genius Gerald Bostock, whose parents supposedly lied about his age. The record was an instant number one Billboard charting LP and enjoyed worldwide success. Forty years later, what would Gerald Bostock (aged 50) be doing today? The anniversary “part two” album will examine the possible paths that precocious young Gerald might have taken, through alter-ego characters with song-section identities illustrating the hugely varied potential twists and turns of fate and opportunity. Says Ian, "As we baby-boomers look back on our own lives, we must often feel an occasional what-if' moment. Might we, like Gerald, have become instead preacher, soldier, down-and-out, shopkeeper or finance tycoon? And those of more tender years - the social media and internet generation - may choose to ponder well the myriad of chance possibilities ahead of them at every turn.”

For the first time since 1972, Anderson and fellow musicians John O'Hara (keyboards), David Goodier (bass), Florian Opahle (guitar) and Scott Hammond (drums)--along with guest performers--will take BRICK on the road to perform the album in its entirety. And part II of the show will see the new Tull also perform the sequel.

"Since 1972, the album has never been performed in its entirety although a few minutes of the material have been a regular repertoire staple in both Tull and Ian Anderson solo shows over the years," says Ian. "Now, scheduled for performance again in 2012, I will take the original album and this follow-up recording to a theatre near you.

"If someone had suggested that I might release a Prog concept album in the year 2012, I would have thought him seriously, dangerously even, off his trolley. But that is precisely what happened. A few years ago, Mike Andrews and Royston Eldridge, two ex-Chrysalis Records gents,pressed me to consider a follow-up to Thick As A Brick. I gave it some dutiful deliberation--for a couple of minutes--and politely declined. Nice idea, nice chaps but, after reflection, no-oooooo...

"Then, in 2010, a re-aquaintance with seventies Prog Rock vocalist-turned-record exec Derek Shulman--yes, he of Gentle Giant fame--restarted the old refrain. Yes, but... no, but, and finally--OK, I'll give it some more dutiful deliberation (four and a half minutes, this time) eventually produced, in February of 2011, the synopsis of the idea. Derek's enthusiasm and gauntlet-challenge plus two weeks of dedicated, fast and furious music and lyric writing combined to produce a flurry of material. And--blow me down with a Dodo's tail-feather--the whole thing was completed ready for scoring and arranging by the beginning of March.

"There were a couple of pieces prepared earlier which were bent into new shape and fitted into the scheme of things, so they too were popped into the bubbling saucepan. It was a little daunting to consider the impact--or perhaps lack of--which this release might have on old and new fans alike but I eventually decided that I would embark on this for my own benefit and enjoyment rather than trying to please anyone else at all.

"To find the balance of interesting musicality and more accessible content too was not the main issue. The conceptual and heavily lyrical nature of the beast, however, might be out of place in the attention span-deficit world which we seem to occupy these days. But, having toured in 2010 and 2011 in Italy, Latin America, Australia and other countries where passions run high, I decided that maybe the world--or our little corners of it--was, in fact, ready for a bit of more substantial and weightier fare. The era of professional media Prog-bashing seems to have given way to a more appreciative appraisal of the genre and newer bands such as Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree and Spock's Beard have possibly prompted a new and younger audience to re-examine the seventies originators' seminal albums too. So, it's not such a cold and lonely place after all.

"The elements of Folk, Classical and Jazz Music are still to be found in today's more Rock-oriented Progressive Rock. You will certainly find them subtly present in TAAB2 but along with a rather more acoustic feel than many of our peers, past and present. Not the only flute in town but... Actually, I played much more acoustic guitar than usual on this record having written most of the music on that instrument. But there are still sections conceived on the flute and sometimes--quite often, in fact--the lyric writing preceded all the melodies and harmonic structures. Starting with lyrics and then thinking of the music is not normally the way I work but it was here. A title, a few words or a verse or two and then the acoustic guitar was immediately to hand to conjure up a full song section out of the growing lyrics.

"Having a plan was important. Stories to tell made it all easier. The imagination-filled process of thinking how things might have turned out for the young and older Gerald kept me fascinated. Maybe you will be too. And maybe not. Ah, well --you can always go and watch The X Factor and the Eurovision Song Contest."