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.

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. 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, fearful that I’d hit a bump and go flying, then 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 underpants 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.