Sunday, November 27, 2011

Neal Adams Narrates

I have mentioned in earlier articles about artist Neal Adams' interest in earth's tectonic plates. Well, I did a little digging.

Here is a list of Mr. Adams' appearances on the Coast to Coast radio program, where he sometimes would talk about comics and other times would talk about science.

And here is a video narrated by and, I believe, animated by Mr. Adams. Pay close attention because Mr. A will quiz you when he sees you.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Justice in Granite City

Recently I told you how a man's Superman collection was stolen by someone he had trusted.

I am pleased to be able to report that the villain responsible for the deed has been apprehended.

Here are the details of this gratifying new development.

Case closed!

Friday, November 25, 2011

One More Number

I wrote last week about DC's New 52 movement and I named a couple of my favorite titles in the group. It slipped my mind to mention the one that I think is the best of them all.

Once every few years as I'm reading a great comic, I think to myself that it's one of the best series being published, that it's almost too wonderful and almost too beautiful. I thought that when I read Watchmen 26 years ago and I think that now when I read Batwoman.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

'den not 'don

The beautiful and assured lettering on view in the above Curt Swan Jimmy Olsen page is by Pat Gorden. That's right, I wrote "Pat Gorden" and not "Pat Gordon."

I reported previously how the identity of this mystery letter had vexed me and others for years. In his note to me on the matter, Mike Tiefenbacher spelled Laura Sprang's pseudonym with an unusual "en" suffix, but just about every other reference was spelling the name in the more common manner as "Gordon." I wrote back to Mike and told him of my conundrum, that I had gone with the majority and spelled the name as "Gordon" in my article but that I would change it to "Gorden" if he was certain.

Mike wrote back that he was pretty sure that that was the information given to him by letterer Milt Snappin back in 1984, but the matter could be resolved in a definite way by looking at the introduction by Joe Desris in the books that reprinted the Batman newspaper strips (Mike didn't have his copies within reach at that moment).

Well, wouldn't you know, the Hayfamzone Library had a tome of Superman newspaper reprints, but no Batman. I went ahead and ordered a Batman book on ebay and waited for it to arrive. And waited. I wrote the seller asking about the delay and he said, whoops, he'll put it in the mail now. When the book did finally arrive, I found the Joe Desris introduction to contain no mention of Pat Gorden/Gordon; the book I got was the one of Batman Sunday strips and what I was looking for must have been in the book of Batman daily strips.

Enough of this comedy of errors. Mike T. was pretty sure about the spelling and I did find one online resource that agrees, so from this point forward that great letterer will be referred to in The Hayfamzone Blog as Pat Gorden.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Numbers Game

As you know, a couple of months ago DC Comics canceled all of its DC Universe series and re-started each with a new number one. (Well, not all of them. Some were swept away in the tide.) There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth but, in the time since, it is worth noting that the sky has not fallen.

I admit that I regretted losing the advanced numbering of Action Comics and Detective Comics (each of which had been published and numbered continuously since the late 1930s)  as well as entirely losing the only-recently-reborn Adventure Comics. But I tried to take a wait-and-see attitude.

This radical move was certainly an act of desperation on the part of DC. They had been producing many quality comics all along but had long struggled ineffectively to loosen Marvel's stranglehold on the list of Top Ten Sellers each month. To DC's credit, they did discard some chaff that had been being published merely out of habit.

Sales have been robust on the new series and it has allowed DC to march right on into that Top Ten in a decisive way. Titles that had been limping along (like Superman, for heaven's sake) have been re-energized, while some characters that had been dormant for a few years (like Swamp Thing) have been successfully brought back onto the playing field. Some titles that absolutely nobody had been clamoring for (like Hawk and Dove and Resurrection Man) found themselves to be luckily riding the wave in, and it's curious that not a single brand new character has been introduced yet, but still most of the "New 52" have been impressing me in a very positive way. 

I applaud DC for the fan-sensitive way they implemented the changes in their continuity. The Flashpoint Conceit of a cosmic reset button being hit (but not all the crystals growing in exactly the same way they previously had) is kind of fun. Marvel Comics, on the other hand, preferred to have their cake and eat it too when they continued publishing their long-running series but additionally presented new "Ultimate" versions of the old characters; out of protest against Marvel's blatant and crass commercialism I have refused to buy any of those Ultimate comics in the many years they have been running (the sole exception being whatever that miniseries was that Art Adams drew because it was just too beautifully drawn to resist).

I have two particular favorites among DC's New 52. With little success DC has tried reviving the Swamp Thing series a few times since Rick Veitch was on the book in the 1980s, but I'm here to tell you that the new storyline is the best one the character has had in these past twenty-five years (or maybe even longer). And the new Firestorm series is the best one that that character has ever had; there are now two Firestorm characters that under certain circumstances merge to become the monstrous Fury of Firestorm (somewhat reminiscent of how Jack Kirby's Forever People could collectively decide to bow out and be replaced by The Infinity Man).

I'm all in favor of good comic that are fun to read. Despite a few missteps in the New 52, DC is now providing me with even more good comics today than they were a few months ago before the changeover. I'm keeping my finger on the pulse but, even at this early juncture, I feel ready to proclaim that DC's New 52 is a creative success.

Friday, November 11, 2011

My Letter from Curt Swan

Curt Swan is my favorite Superman artist of all time. He always has been and always will be.

Mr. Swan started his comics career drawing The Boy Commandos in the 1940s, but he would soon begin his association with Superman that continued well into the 1980s. I would say he was the main cover artist of the Superman family of books from the middle 1950s through the late 1960s, on titles like Action Comics and Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane and World's Finest and others. But then Neal Adams and, later, Nick Cardy took over those cover duties.

From 1971 through 1976 I would peg Mr. Swan's cover output at roughly zero pieces, as he concentrated on the Superman story interior pages. A real shame, because I always liked the Swan covers. Then came DC Super Stars #12 in late 1976 with, you guessed it, a Curt Swan cover! I am showing you that cover up above and isn't it beautiful! (By the way, whenever Mr. Swan needed to draw a ferocious monster or a life-threatening gorilla, the creature always seemed to come off his pencil resembling a cuddly teddy bear; Mr. Swan was such a nice man he was unable to draw any mean-looking creatures!)

I liked the DC Super Stars cover so much that I wrote Mr. Swan a letter in care of DC Comics telling him just that. And he very graciously wrote me a note in return! For a number of years it's been in my head that I wrote my letter right when that DCSS was released but, since Mr. Swan's reply is dated 1985, I guess something must have delayed me for six or seven years. Hm.

Well anyway, you can see the note that Mr. Swan sent me by looking right here. That fine gentleman even went so far as to enclose with the note a personalized lithograph of one of his pencil drawings, and you can view that over here.

I said it before and I'll say it again. Curt Swan is my favorite Superman artist of all time.And a really nice guy.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Comic Book Deliciousness

Many things amaze me. Every day when I see an airplane in the sky it strikes me as wonderful that the huge thing doesn't drop to the ground like a rock. And I'm especially amazed that practically any piece of information can be tracked down on The Internet (which I capitalize and embolden out of reverence).

As a case in point, here is a website that presents TWO HUNDRED TWO Hostess Twinkie and Cupcake comic strip advertisements that were published in comics a couple of decades back. (The sample I'm showing above is drawn by Curt Swan and Vince Colletta and lettered by Ben Oda.) The compiler of the page went the extra mile and wrote a fairly funny quip to accompany each link ("Batman battles a man in a dog suit.  Very sad day in Batman's career.").