It was nice to see Trish again, if only briefly.

§ July 22nd, 2024 § Filed under fantagraphics, indies, this week's comics § 5 Comments

I read Peepshow #15 and it made me sad.

This is the final issue of Joe Matt’s autobiographical comic, released last week from Fantagraphics…final, due to Matt’s passing last year at a too-young age (though I’m sure he’d argue about the “young” part).

If you’re looking for a neat wrap-up to Matt’s comic book life as portrayed in Peepshow over the decades (having started publication in 1992), you’re not going to get one. In fact, one of the stories within is titled “Maggie – Part One” and there is no part two extant, though there are mentions of her in further stories and you can probably get a sense of what a Part Two might have been.

Another throughline in this issue is Matt’s move to Los Angeles, pending a potential television adaptation of his comics for HBO. While there’s a lot of grist for Matt’s unique mill here, there was obviously more to be told that we’ll not get (especially since the story dealing specifically on the topic also gets a “Part One” heading, no “Part Two” present). The ultimate conclusion is known — these stories take place years ago, and there is no Peepshow TV show now — but I’m sure Matt would’ve had more to say about the experience.

The only segment of the book that sorta feels like a final wrap-up is his brief summaries of all his sexual relationships to date. And this, as well as everything else in the book, is told with his trademark near-cringeworthy and hilarious bluntness and honesty. He never flinches from making sure his thought processes fully transparent, his mistakes completely exposed.

And I want to make sure that’s clear…it’s still funny. It’s still Joe Matt being the most Joe Matt, with all the cheapness and obsessiveness and selfishness completely on display. Even as he worries about his aging (40 in these stories, set 20 years ago) and his pursuit of some sort of financial and emotional stability, it remains told in a way that amuses in the Mighty Joe Matt Manner.

But it’s still sad, reading these strips and knowing this is the last chapter to his own story. I keep harping on “conclusions” and “wrapping up” in this little overview, even though obviously I know in my head that Matt couldn’t have realized this was going to be his last comic book. But my heart can’t help but want more.

And readers of comic books have an ingrained expectation that a final issue is going to tie everything up in a little bow, or that it ends on pithy note, gathering up your narrative experience in some clever way.

Peepshow #15 doesn’t do that. It gives you one more entertaining piece in the ongoing saga of Joe Matt, just like every previous issue did. It’s just sad that we’re not getting a #16, no matter how long we’re willing to wait.

“All life is a blur of Republicans and meat!” — Zippy.

§ July 19th, 2024 § Filed under obituary, original art, undergrounds § 3 Comments

Whelp, I suppose I’m an original art collector now, having followed up my Nancy strip purchases with this, an original pen-and-ink drawing of Zippy the Pinhead by his creator, Bill Griffith.

This is via the official Zippy the Pinhead webpage, though the actual arranging of the purchase had to be done via email (since the site’s payment processing is not working at the moment). This particular item allows you to pick either from a list of pre-selected “Zippy-isms” (like the ol’ standby “Yow! Are we having fun yet?”) to fill in the word balloon, or you can enter your own, if it’s not too long.

In my case I picked a Zippy quote from a published newspaper strip that probably baffled the squares but the real heads know:

And now here it is, an original Zippy pic in my very own home, bringing me inspiration and hope in this fallen world.

And I of course encourage you to get your own, or avail yourself of the many other goodies on the site. From the main page you can use a PayPal link to get yourself a signed copy of Griffith’s latest book, Three Rocks! Am I thinking really hard about doing so, even though I already have a copy? The answer is not “no.”

• • •

I want to note the passing of the great Bob Newhart, who escaped this world at the too-young age of 94. And I say “too young” because frankly, we could’ve used him around these parts for at least a couple more decades.

The comic book connection here is, of course, his short-lived sitcom Bob from the early ’90s, where he played a comic book artist. I watched most of these, and…well, Bob was always great even if the material wasn’t up to snuff. The one episode aimed directly at us nerds was the one where Bob’s character, “Bob McKay,” was accepting a comics award, with Jim Lee, Marc Silvestri, Jack Kirby, and for some reason Bob Kane, along with the always telegenic Sergio Aragones.

There was a six-issue run of Mad-Dog as a tie-in, supposedly the comic book McKay had worked on:

It was a flip book, featuring the “classic” version on one side (by Ty Templeton) and the “modern” dark, gritty version on the other (by Evan Dorkin and Gordon Purcell). The two different takes being a plot point on the show itself, you see. Haven’t read probably since it came out, couldn’t tell you a thing about it at this point, but…the creative teams give me at least some hope this is better than it should be.

So long, Bob.

I should do a mini explaining that one panel from All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder nobody gets.

§ July 17th, 2024 § Filed under gaming, pal plugging § 3 Comments

So I picked this up from Bluesky pal Dan Membiela. It’s a short, attractive mini-comic extolling the idea that old, grizzled (yet only my age, 55) Batman goes out of his way to take no lives in the books.

A sample page from within:

It’s more “illustrated essay” than “comic” but it’s a fun companion to tuck away inside the back cover of your Dark Knight trade paperback or hardcover. Pick it up from Dan’s store (and he’s got plenty more available there too!).

And speaking of Bluesky pals, Andy passed along a link to this forthcoming game:

Lots more details here, where you can create a Hot, Extreme, Cover Gimmick-Laden Comic Book and ride the wave of the 1990s boom…but can you cash out before the bust? Friends, this is called “microtargeting your pal Mike with a product.” Looks fun…though it could very well cause some flashbacks for me.

Bringing my evil there.

§ July 15th, 2024 § Filed under podcast, swamp thing § 1 Comment

Yes, at long last, despite public demand, I have returned to the internet airwaves by making another appearance on the Vintage Video podcast, this time discussing (what else?) the 1982 cinematic debut of Swamp Thing.

As I told Patrick, one of show’s hosts, prior to recording: “get ready for your first five-hour episode!” However, we did make it just barely under two hours. So, carve out some time during the day (or maybe even less, if you play it at Alvin-and-the-Chipmunks speed) and listen to me just go on and on and on everyone’s favorite swamp creature. Also, does Man-Thing get mentioned? Of course he does, and surprisingly, I didn’t bring him up!

Anyway, Patrick, Jesse, and Richard were all very kind to invite me once again onto their show, and hopefully I’ll be making a return visit sooner rather than later! Please give the episode a listen and let me (and them!) know what you think!

You can read a detailed account of my experience visiting the podcast the first time here, and you can listen to the recording that resulted (that time for 1981’s Heavy Metal) here.

I’ll probably write more about this latest visit, along with whatever behind-the-scenes explanations/secrets/apologies I can come up with, when I’m a little less pressed for time vis-à-vis my blogging schedule.

Again, thanks to the Vintage Video podcast crew for having me. It’s always a lot of fun.

Now if I can get a Nancy comic signed by the real Sluggo Smith, that’d be something.

§ July 12th, 2024 § Filed under spawn § 7 Comments

So I picked these up recently, not so much for the monetary value (as they’re in pretty crummy condition) but for the curiosity value…and of course for posting on here.

These are two Spawn comics, signed by the “real” Spawn, Al Simmons:

In case it’s hard to read, the inscriptions on both read “Al Simmons AKA Spawn ’97.”

Now, the seller told me he had attempted to sell them elsewhere and when he said “these were signed by Al Simmons,” he got a negative reaction. Like, the proposed buyer thought he was pulling something, or that he was maybe out of his mind faking signatures or whatever.

You see, Al Simmons is the secret identity of the character Spawn. Al Simmons was also a real-world employee and/or friend of Todd McFarlane, from whom McFarlane borrowed the name with permission to use for Spawn’s alter ego.

For quite a while, the real Al Simmons would make appearances at stores and conventions (in costume, sometimes) to sign comics. Like the ones above, which were signed at a sore up in Santa Barbara. You can see a very short clip of Simmons talking about Todd and the costume in this Xwitter post.

Eventually, Simmons wrote a book, The Art of Being Spawn, to which Todd took objection, particularly the bits where Simmons claimed to the inspiration for the character. Todd filed a lawsuit in 2012, which was eventually settled, and that pretty much put an end to signatures from the real Al Simmons on your Spawn comics.

So it’s been about a decade, apparently long enough for folks to forget that The Real Al Simmons signing Spawn comics was once a thing, like that attempted sale I described a few paragraphs back. I’ve even found a handful of threads like this one on those message boards more concerned with sealing comics away than actually reading them, wondering just who this “Al Simmons” guy is who scribbled on their valuable collectible. (Also, there’s a lot of discussion about whether the signature can be “verified” or “certified,” due to, I guess, that rash of counterfeit Al Simmons signatures plaguing our hobby.)

Anyway, given the condition of these particular copies I have on hand, I may be looking at about two or three bucks tops, and they’re only that much because of the novelty value of the signature. An odd souvenir of a peculiar time in comics.

• • •

Just to warn you guys, due to some early medical appointments running through next Wednesday, I may not have very long or in-depth posts for the next couple of entries. In fact, Monday’s post may just be a plug for a project I worked on a couple of weeks ago and should be released over the weekend…watch my social media for that announcement if you can’t wait ’til then.

I’ll be back up and running at full speed hopefully by next Friday. Thanks for reading, pals, and I’ll see you next week.

Yes, I know Marvel characters don’t smoke anymore, but I’m sure they’re doin’ it off-panel.

§ July 10th, 2024 § Filed under what § 14 Comments

From What If? #8 (1978) by Don Glut, Roy Thomas, Alan Kupperberg, and Jim Mooney):

That’s Marvel supervillain the Owl threatening Daredevil with a device specifically designed to overwhelm ol’ Hornhead’s extra-sensitive senses.

Now, the hooting, textually the Owl’s own hooting, has got to be annoying to everyone just on its own, whether you have super-hearing like Daredevil or not. But the odors…the odors. You generally don’t think about smells in a comic book, except when there’s a scratch-n-sniff cover (like this or this or God help us, even this).

But wondering what smells exactly the Owl is emitting from his marchine…I just picture people walking into this room, gettin’ a snootful, and crying out “oh Good Lord, it smells like an owl’s nest in here!” And by extension, one starts to think about what all these superheroes and villains smell like, runnin’ around and getting into scraps and building up the sweat in their fancy costumes. Aquaman smelling like salt water all the time. Wolverine smelling like stale cigar smoke. Man-Thing…okay, he doesn’t have a costume, but he’s a walking swamp, c’mon son. Swamp Thing at least can command flowers on him to emit pleasant scents, covering his filth with perfume like 18th century French royalty.

Anyway, superheroes — probably stinky.

Batman’s just swingin’ away there on an off-panel water tower or low-flying plane or something.

§ July 8th, 2024 § Filed under batman, byrne reboot, superman § 10 Comments

Continuing our look at the final pre-reboot Superman stories of the 1980s that aren’t by people named “Moore” or “Gerber,” we now come to World’s Finest #323, cover date January 1986:

It’s by Joey Cavalieri, José Delbo and Alfredo Alcala, and it’s pretty safe to say here Alcala is the star of the show, with his inks applying some heavy texture to the events within:

And check out this swell pic of ol’ Supes himself:

Here’s a close-up, and please, try to avoid swooning:

Anyway, the story has to do with a magical darkness enveloping Metropolis and both Superman and Batman work their separate angles trying to solve this mystery. Of most import to the purpose of this issue, Superman finds himself overwhelmed by the mystical menaces that lurk within the shadows:

But things work out in the end, the bad guy (and bad wolves, no relation) are defeated. However, Batman has some words for his partner:

I mean, it’s only that the cover has the words “THE END” in big, bold letters, and shows Bats and Supes waving goodbye to each other, that we read “oh no, has the World’s Finest team broken up for good?” into this. On the face of it this isn’t a “we’re breaking up” speech, but a “c’mon man, get your act together” one.

However, this is the last issue, and this version of Superman is going away forever (while Batman, with minor adjustments afforded by Frank Miller’s work on the character, is Eternal) and thus it’s time to put a cap on this comic that’s run continuously since 1941:

The story gets a tiny bit metatextual in specifically referencing the real world passage of time in regards to the length of the series’ run. And it’s not a happy ending, in that our heroes’ partnership, while not necessarily dissolved, now has some points of contention in the mix. Which of course sets the groundwork for the New Status Quo being brought in by John Byrne for his revamping of the Superman franchise.

If this all sounds just a little familiar, it should because I discussed this very thing, like, two months ago. I feel justified in repeating myself in that DC is repeating itself as well, in that it had introduced a breaking of the Superman/Batman team (with events surrounding Batman and the Outsiders) and resolved it in an extra-sized World’s Finest #300.

We don’t get that resolution for this later iteration. The issue comes to an uneasy conclusion, “the battle’s done, and we kind of won” if you’ll forgive the quote from the musical Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode. And that tone continues for quite some time, emphasized specifically in Byrne’s version of the relationship, and it takes several years before the two are canonically friends again in current DC Comics.

Outside the aforementioned Moore and Gerber stories, this may be the only “regular DC pre-Crisis continuity” story that actually tries to…well, not so much “wrap things up” as “straight up end” its particular piece of the shared universe. It’s a slightly sour note made the more-so in that it’s a precursor to how things are going to be vis-à-vis the Superman and Batman team, at least for a while.

I mean, I’d heed that warning.

§ July 5th, 2024 § Filed under howard the duck § 5 Comments

Was just looking for something quick and easy to post up here because 1) I’ve written a bit this week, and 2) it’s a holiday weekend, and 3) I found this image file in my back-ups:

Judging by the image’s date, I believe it was intended for use in this post I wrote about the Howard the Duck movie and its utilization of “quack-fu” versus the deeper satirical commentary of its usage in the comic.

As far as I can tell, I haven’t used that pic on the site. I have used it as a desktop wallpaper at one point, however. So here it is, sceen-captured by yours truly via VLC off my DVD and unseen except on my home computer until now. Let Lea Thompson’s warning of Howard’s fighting prowess warm your heart through this weekend.

The devil you say.

§ July 3rd, 2024 § Filed under byrne reboot, superman § 13 Comments

Time to continue my look at the next-to-last issues of the Superman books…of course, after Action #582 and Superman #422, the final issues before Alan Moore’s conclusions those series. After the main ongoings, there’s not a whole lot left, but there is the team-up title DC Comics Presents.

Written by Blue Devil’s cocreators Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn, and illustrated by an art team I’ve never seen in the combinatinon before: Joe Staton on pencils, Kurt Schaffenberger inking. The results do look nice:

.Also a nice touch is Superman just calling Blue Devil by his real name, Dan, which he does a couple of times through the book. It’s a friendly expression of the position the two hold in relation to each other, with Superman as the experienced pro and Blue Devil as the starry-eyed newbie.

The villain of the piece is Terra-Man:

…one of Superman’s somewhat…sillier members of his rogues gallery, who…well, I’ll let the comic explain:

I mean, I suppose when you get right down to it, “Space Cowboy” is no goofier than “Evil Toymaker” or “Magical Imp” as adversaries. But with his flying horse and his ray-gun six shooters and other Old West-themed sci-fi tech, he at least makes for a visially interesting bad guy.

And this is his last appearance, at least in this form. “Space Cowboy” doesn’t make the transition into the post-Byrne reboot milieu, with the new Terra-Man being a businessman using magical abilities with the goal of protecting the environment. Which sounds noble an’ all, but of course his methods run afoul of Supes and, well, it’s not quite as fun and silly as the classic version. Especially since the new Terra-Man is just straight up murdered by Black Adam, which isn’t fun at all and let’s get back to this story.

Anyway, Terra-Man has some scheme to divert a space train (which looks just like a regular terrestrial train, but it flies, because why not) to Earth to rob it, and there are lots of robots and space menaces and such that divide Blue Devil and Superman’s attention, and it’s all colorful and entertaining. Of note is this particular shot, when Blue Devil is on Terra-Man’s horse right behind him:

That’s a good pic, I think.

Everything works out in the end, natch, with Superman slightly uncharacteristically holding Terra-Man up so that ol’ BD can deliver a punch to his puss:

Now this was just an entertaining team-up, bringing together one of DC’s primary heroes with one of the publisher’s newest characters. There’s no real sense of…well, “import” isn’t quite the word I’m looking for, and “foreboding” carries a connotation that’s not really appropriate. Like the previous two stories I’ve discussed, there’s no sense of “well, this it is, this is the last time you’ll see Superman and his supporting cast in this form,” even though it is.

However, the last panel does end on this note:

“Riding off into the sunset” of course plays into the Old West-iness of it all given Terra-Man’s involvement, but in retrospect it’s hard to not read that as the Very Idea of What Superman Is at This Moment riding off as well.

The next, and last, issue is Steve Gerber and Rick Veitch’s conclusion to one specific section of the Superman legend, as they address the Phantom Zone in a sequel to Gerber and Gene Colan’s Phantom Zone mini from a few years prior. It’s a much more grim and nightmarish scenario than the wacky Blue Devil adventure, and seems to be the forgotten “Final Pre-Byrne Superman Story” as the focus is usually entirely on the Alan Moore/Curt Swan “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” two-parter.

It’s a good comic, but very dark in tone, so it’s probably only proper that Superman had that one last wild team-up with Blue Devil before closing the doors and putting up the chairs and making room for the new regime.

My own commission rates are still rock bottom.

§ July 1st, 2024 § Filed under commissions, Uncategorized § 16 Comments

Once again posting plans have been derailed due to Real Life stuff…I mean, last night, the blogging mind was willing, but the flesh was weak. Okay, to be fair, the mind’s pretty weak too, but hopefully I’ll be back in blogging shape later this week.

In the meantime, the buzz on the street right now is about DC Comics President/Publisher/Man About Town Jim Lee and his recently announced art commission prices:

“For the first time in over 15 years, Jim Lee will be taking commission requests to be delivered exclusively almost all shows he is appearing.

“This offer is an exclusive for show attendees only and won’t be shipped out. There is a limit to six per show so act fast to get yours.

“Penciled and inked by Jim Lee.

“11 by 17 inches, full figure one character with limited backgrounds for $20,000, if more than one character or extra backgrounds or recreation of other covers not drawn by Jim will be $25,000 to $35,000

“9 by 12 inches, waist on up figure with limited backgrounds is $9,000 to $15,000, will have backgrounds and more you pay can have other characters or scenes.

“small head shot, sample is shown, $1000. Size is 3.25 by 7 inches and side profile only.

“Blank cover comic, only bust shot with no background $8,000. And 12k if it a wraparound. Jim Lee will supply the blank cover comic but you can supply at the show if you like.

“Jim Lee will ultimately choose which commissions request he wants to fulfill. Once chosen, payment must be paid in full before the show. He may choose to live stream the creation of the commissions at his studio or at the show.”

There’s some online outrage at these rates, but, honestly…you get that money, Jim Lee. The dude is one of the Top Guys in comics, head of one of oldest and biggest comic book publishers in the country, and even though his output is usually limited to the occasional cover, still remains one of the industry’s superstars. He’ll get takers, no problem. In fact, as I’m writing this I’d be surprised if all slots weren’t already filled.

Is there anyone else in the business right now who could get this level of commission prices? I’d say probably just Todd McFarlane, someone with a similar background (rose to fame working for Marvel, split off to form Image Comics) and is held in similar regard by their fans. I suppose if Steve Ditko were still alive and were, well, an entirely different person, he could have opened up to commissions on this level.

Anyway, this is pretty wild news and has me wondering if other artists are suddenly going to reconsider their own rates. I mean, not up to Jim Lee levels (though I can picture a couple of former Huge Superstars who’d try to pull this off) but maybe thinking “…I can probably bump things up, like, 10% to 20%”). Worth keeping an eye on.

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