Sunday, February 25, 2007

Allow Me to Introduce... Charlie Meyerson

I attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Maybe this is where you think I will swerve off-topic from comics and go into a rant about the University's Chief Illiniwek flap. Well, no, I won't. (Although you shouldn't think I didn't toy with the idea! I was going to title the article "A Word about Two Chiefs" and it was going to begin with talk of that native American mascot and then get back onto the comic path with me lamenting the fact that the visually very cool Super-Chief was revived in DC Comics 52 Week 22 only to meet with an untimely demise in the very same issue. Luckily, cooler heads prevailed, and I won't be writing in any detail about any chiefs this fine day.)

The first week of my first semester at college, I somehow learned of the existence of a Comic Book Club for students at the University. Maybe a flier was posted in the Campus Store at the corner of Sixth and Green in Campustown, I don't recall. (I think I do recall, though, that two comics I purchased that week in the Campus Store were DC Super-Stars #17 with The Huntress on the cover and Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 by Jim Starlin.) The Comic Club met once a week on Wednesday evenings (or was it Thursdays?) in a meeting room on the second floor of the Illini Union, and I looked forward to attending my first meeting.

When I arrived, I was overwhelmed by the cast of characters that were in attendance (between fve and ten people, at any given minute). Some stayed and chatted about comics for an hour or two; some arrived and left at a faster pace. But they were all so funny! I would wager that I'll introduce you to each of those characters at a later date, but right now I want to talk about two individuals who at the time of my arrival were former members (having graduated from the University and moved on) and their names were mentioned in hushed whispers like revered figures from mythology.

One of these was Chuck Huber, who I'm pretty sure I never did meet even though I did attend pretty much every Comic Club meeting for the next four years (you see, former members were known to reappear on occasion). The other was Charlie Meyerson, who was off making a grand name for himself as the morning news man on WXRT radio in Chicago. Charlie however, I did get to meet, and I'll tell you how.

Two years later, Folo and Julie Watkins, the all-but-titular heads of the Comic Club kindly hosted a party at their Urbana home and all the Club members were invited. The party was in full swing when I arrived and Folo ushered me in saying, "Come on in and meet Charlie!" to which I sheepishly replied, "Charlie... Hume?" Now that one I had better explain... My sometimes-convoluted thought processes were merging the names of the mythological and unmet Chuck Huber with Charlie Hume, Lou Grant's newspaper boss on the then-new and still-great Lou Grant TV show (and I'm still waiting for that show to come out on DVD). Folo shook his head and I got to meet Charlie Meyerson himself and a great time was had by all.

Five years later (smooth transition, huh?) I heard Charlie's interview with John Byrne on WXRT in Chicago; this was around the time Byrne was getting rave reviews for his writing and drawing of the Fantastic Four comic book, some of the ravers opining that the FF hadn't been that good since the days of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (who had left the title over a decade earlier). By this time I was drawing my full-page commentoonies for Alan Light's (Comics) Buyer's Guide, and I wrote to Charlie to see if he'd mind me illustrating a transcription of his interview. Charlie said okay, and if you click here you can see for yourself what was published in The Buyer's Guide #461 back in 1982.

Charlie liked it! He invited me and a buddy of mine for a personal tour of the WXRT studio, after which we adjourned down the road for hot dogs at Jeff's Red Hots. Again a great time was had by all!

Charlie spent a total of ten years as the morning news anchor and city hall reporter for WXRT, and then he spent nine years as news and public affairs director for WNUA-FM also in Chicago. For the most recent nine years, Charlie has been columnist, editor, and senior producer for the online edition of the Chicago Tribune; he would love for you to take a look at his handiwork by visiting And what do you know, as I look at that website today I see a picture of ye olde Chief Illiniwek.

To read an interview with Charlie that was posted just last week, please visit Rick Kaempfer's Chicago Radio Spotlight by clicking here. And I don't mind revealing to you that Charlie has on one or two occasions offered me his welcome technical advice on how to make The Hayfamzone Blog the best that it can be.

It has been my pleasure today to introduce you to Charlie Meyerson!

Monday, February 19, 2007

I Like Ibis

Did you think as highly of The Helmet of Fate: Ibis the Invincible #1 as I did? What? you never heard of it? Never saw it? Every once in a while I think I'll write to alert you when I stumble upon a great new comic book that should not be missed but I'm worried that you otherwise might.

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, editor Mort Weisinger packed three complete stories into each issue of his Superman family comic books. These days it's far more common for "epics" to stretch out over six or more issues as they arc their way toward a trade paperback. What a refreshing treat it is when a modern comic features a well-written story complete in one issue, and Ibis #1 does exactly that.

Historically, Ibis the Invincible was a Sargon-the-Sorcerer type published by Fawcett Comics as a co-feature for Captain Marvel in Whiz Comics throughout the 1940s and into the 1950s. The Big Red Cheese was a bit of a ham and Ibis managed to make it onto the cover of only five of the 155 issues of Whiz Comics; you can take a look at those covers if you click
here and here and here and here and here (the later of which feature some beautiful artwork by Kurt Schaffenberger). Ibis was even granted his own comic book in 1943 but it lasted for only six issues, and you can see those covers (including the Mac Raboy cover of the first issue which, in my opinion, is one of the most classic and memorable covers of the Golden Age) if you click here. Sixty-four years since he starred in a comic of his own, Ibis was ready for a reboot!

The new Ibis one-shot is by the team of Tad Williams and Phil Winslade. Mr. Williams' previous DC series The Next left an unpleasant enough taste in my mouth that I seriously wondered if the man would ever be writing a comic book that I would like, but he has definitely risen to the occasion here; the story closely parallels a Billy Batson/Captain Marvel-type origin and it is generously sprinkled with humor and cleverness. The artwork is up to the high standard Mr. Winslade set for himself on The Monolith, and will somebody please give this gentleman another regular series to draw?!

As I closed the cover on Ibis #1 after reading it, I realized that I was more impressed with the quality of that stand-alone single issue than I have been with the first issues of quite a number of ongoing series that I've hobbled through in recent years. Take a look
here at the cover of this great comic, and then go get a copy for yourself from your Comic Guy .

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Look at Ben Oda!

I've told you before that Ben Oda is my favorite comic book letterer of all time, and I never tire of repeating it! I get to bring it up again this time because something of interest has been posted in one of the blogs I check regularly, and I want to share it with you.

I have written in the recent past about the excellent Simon and Kirby Blog that is maintained by historian and archivist Harry Mendryk. In his blog entry of 2/4/2007, Harry displayed two vintage photos of Ben Oda! One has Mr. Oda waving from the driver's seat of his fine automobile and one shows Mr. Oda eating a meal with his family (!).

These are wonderful photographs that allow us latter-day fans to get a glimpse of a man we usually get to know only by his work. When I first saw the photos on the blog last weekend, I was startled and amazed by them and they were new and fresh to me. As the week has progressed and my new and old memories have comingled and coalesced, however, I'm now thinking that I have seen one or both of those photos before at a time in the dim past. Thank you to Harry Mendryk for digging up those beautiful pictures, and you can click here to go to the Simon and Kirby Blog to see the photos yourself.

As an added BONUS for you when you click over to see the photos, Harry's even more recent post dated 2/10/2007 (today!) is all about Foxhole #1. In the post, Harry displays the splash pages of all three stories featured in that 1954 comic book (with beautiful Photoshop restoration done by Harry himself; he describes his processing technique in an earlier entry). So what's the BONUS, you ask? Well, the title lettering on all three spash pages is fairly obviously the handiwork of Ben Oda himself! (I would guess that not just the titles but all of the beautiful lettering on those pages is by Mr. Oda, but I can't state it with certainty.)

Let me take this opportunity to invite and encourage you to download Odaballoon, which is a free computer font based on the lettering style of Ben Oda. Have you ever known anyone who walks around proclaiming they have a favorite font? Well you do now! Odaballoon is superb and I use it on a daily basis. Click here for more information about Odabaloon and for directions on how to retrieve it for your own use. And please mention to Mr. William Oda that The Hayfamzone Blog sent you!

And about this Hayfamzone Blog, do you ever wonder why I'm always sending you someplace else to look at images instead of embedding the images right here? Do you think it's because I'm lazy? Do you think it's because I couldn't figure out how to embed images? NO! IT'S NEITHER OF THOSE THINGS! It's that I prefer The Hayfamzone Blog to be a reader's blog (and yes, dear reader, you thoroughly deserve the boldface I just annointed you with!).

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Steranko

The practice of collecting original comic book artwork is fraught with peril! In the back of the collector's head should always be the worry about whether artwork he is considering purchasing is legitimately owned by the seller or whether it was shadily purloined from the artist. The water gets particularly murky if the artwork was long ago purloined but in the interim there has been a years-long or even decades-long chain of ownership.

Savage Dragon creator Erik Larsen wrote eloquently on this topic a couple of weeks ago in his blog entitled One Fan's Opinion that I only recently stumbled across. He tells of his own earliest purchases of original artwork and explains that pretty much any page of Steve Ditko artwork on the market was originally unlawfully procured since Ditko never himself sold any artwork and instead just stacked page upon page upon page in a pile in his studio. This information hit me hard, as I in the past owned three pages of Ditko artwork (click here if you'd like to see the Hawk and Dove page I used to own) and I never had any inkling that there was any skullduggery in those pages' pasts. Click here if you'd like to see Erik's blog posting on this subject, and my kids and I recommend that you go out of your way to see Mr. Larsen at any comic convention panel on which he appears as we have found him to be one the most entertaining of all the comics panelists we've ever seen. (We even enjoyed watching him eat his lunch at the McDonald's down the road from the Rosement Convention Center one year when he and we attended WizardWorld Chicago.)

What brought up all the recent talk about original art provenance was a high-profile story about a beautiful piece of artwork that Jim Steranko pencilled and inked and colored back in 1973 when he was helming F.O.O.M. magazine for Marvel Comics (and nobody needs me to remind them that F.O.O.M. stood for Friends of Ol' Marvel). I myself was a charter member of F.O.O.M. back in those days and I very much enjoyed receiving F.O.O.M. magazine and the Steranko-drawn materials in the good ol' U.S. mail. It's been years since I've seen the beautiful Steranko poster that all the hubbub was about, but I remember it well.

The artwork showed up for auction last month on ebay, and Steranko put out press releases that the original had been stolen from the charity to which he had contributed it, and that the seller of the page was not its owner and that that individual should not be selling it and that nobody should be buying it. Click here to see what Steranko wrote and Newsarama published. Whoa! Heavy stuff and lots of details!

After I read that Steranko article I clicked over to eBay and there was the piece, up for bid! I put the item on my eBay Watch List so I could observe what would unfold. Well, the bids went up by thousands of dollars just about every day. While the auction was still running, the seller added an update to the listing in which he refuted Steranko's claims and described Steranko's efforts as a smear campaign. Wow! Click here to view the now-completed auction listing and also to get a view of what the poster itself looked like. (I might even mention that the lucky winning bidder won one or two pages of artwork from me last year when I was selling my art collection!)

The whole Steranko scenario sent chills racing down my spine because I had had a similar experience last year when I was selling my stunning Action Comics cover featuring Superman drawn by the team of Neal Adams and Murphy Anderson (and please click here for a reminder of just how beautiful that piece of artwork was and is). After my auction for that page opened, I received an eBay message from the son of Neal Adams saying that they believed that the page had been stolen and that I should call Neal to discuss the matter with him. I added an update to the listing to assure all bidders of my legitimacy of ownership, much like the seller of the Steranko piece did. One evening while the auction was running, Mr. Adams was the live guest on the radio program Coast to Coast with George Noory and I was sincerely worried that he was going to talk on live national radio about me selling his artwork, but instead (whew!) he talked about the earth's crust and theories about the former shapes of our planet's continents (!).