Wednesday, November 29, 2006

"Remembering: Jerry Bails and Dave Cockrum"

This past week, as most of you already know, we lost two important people connected with comic books and comic book fandom: Dr. Jerry Bails, and artist, Dave Cockrum.

The first time I ever heard of Jerry Bails was when I read his name in a letters column in a DC comic in the very early 1960's, but it really didn't mean anything to me as I read all such letter pages. It wasn't until I started buying fanzines until I saw his name again, first discovering that he and Roy Thomas were associated with the fanzine, Alter Ego; that he in fact, had begun said publication. Then I started reading his various 'zines on Golden Age characters.

I had a small amount of correspondence with him in the 1960's, but didn't renew our acquaintance again until the early 1980's, after which we would exchange a letter or two a year, and Christmas cards. Even though I never got to meet Jerry pesonally, I considered him a good correspondent friend, and I fully realized his importance in comic book history.

Jerry Bails opened the door for all of the super-hero related amateur publications that would follow in the steps of Alter Ego. Even though Roy Thomas took over the reins of its publication shortly after it began, it was Bails who began it all. He indeed deserved his title of "The Father of Comics Fandom". Without Jerry's initial contribution there would probably not have been a Rocket's Blast & Comicollector (which opened the door to people actually being able to sell comic books), or, a Comics Buyer's Guide. If for no other reason, millions of comic book dealers throughout the world should be eternally grateful for that fact.

Without the efforts of Jerry Bails (and Roy Thomas), there would have been either delayed revivals of various Golden Age DC heroes, or none at all in the
1960's. Both of them flooded DC's editorial staff with such requests, sometimes going to the effort of using pseunonyms and even mailing them from other cities just so the DC editors would think they were other fans.

We may have not had revivials of such great GA characters as "Dr. Fate, Hourman, The Spectre" and the rest of the cast of "The Justice Society of America" in those early days. Memorable issues such as Showcase #'s 55, 56, 60, The Flash #'s 123 & 137, Green Lantern #40, and many others, may have never been published with the great stories that they ended up containing.

I heard that Jerry died of a heart attack while in his sleep, so I would like to think he felt no pain in his passing. With the loss of Dr. Bails, we have indeed lost one of the founding Fathers of all that would come afterwards for the comic book collector.

Oddly enough, Dave Cockrum, I hear, also died in his sleep. I didn't know Dave at all, save through the great amount of his work that I've seen and enjoyed over the years.

I first saw his artwork in fanzines in the late 1960's, then the next time I saw his name he was the artist on Superboy & The Legion of Super-Heroes, a title that I pretty much followed religiously back then ,being a big Legion fan. While working on the LOSHs he redesigned several costumes for the characters; outfits that would define these characters for a long time afterwards.

Then next he was over at Marvel Comics and drawing The New X-Men, and, except for I suppose "Cyclops" and some of the other original team members, or "Wolverine", he designed the costumes for all of the additional cast, such as "Storm", "Colossus", "Nightcrawler", "Thunderbird", and "Phoenix". In those pre-Byrne days on this title, it was Dave Cockrum's artwork that carried this title and gave us the images that even now with the X-Men movies they attempt so hard to recapture.

I also remember his work on The Futurians, and many other of his projects. His work will be greatly missed.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

"Thanksgiving Day 2006"

Here's wishing everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving Day!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

"In 1963"

"Thinking about this, the 43rd. anniversary of the assasination of JFK, I always thought it was odd from Kennedy stating once in a speech that anyone who was around "back then" could remember exactly where they were when they heard the news that Franklin D. Roosevelt died, because now anyone who is old enough to remember JFK's death remembers exactly where they were when they heard that news.

And it's true that I remember "where" I was when he died. It, like certain other events in history: the space shuttle explosion, 9/11, will always be bruned into my memory. I was 12 years old and in the 7th. grade (Junior High, they called it back then), and around dinner everyone was called into the gym for an assembly and we were told President Kennedy had been shot. We were asked to take a few moments of silent prayer. Then shortly afterwards they came back and told us he was dead and dismissed classes. We stayed out of school until the following Monday.

Arriving home and turning on the tube it was all over the news, and in the next few days following we got to watch the scenario play out, from Ruby killing Oswald on national television, to the unforgetable funeral.

Seems like only yesterday, and seems like a lifetime ago. And I often still wonder how events in history would have been different had Kennedy not died? We can only speculate.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

"Nearly Thanksgiving"

In the mail today I got another comic for my Superman's Secret Weapon Collection: Jimmy Olsen #40. And in case you're not familiar with what I term this collection, it's app.'s of Supergirl that were in various DC Comic titles PRE Action 285 (2/62) in which Superman introduced his cousin to the world.

The Jimmy is, in fact, a very early app. of The Maid of Steel; perhaps her 5th. or 6th. as she debuted in Action 252 (2/59) and this issue is dated 5 months later at 10/59.

To my knowledge, there were 50 such pre-285 app.'s of Supergirl as follows: ACTION COMICS 252 thru 284, ADVENTURE COMICS #278, SUPERMAN 130,134,139,140,142,144,150, J.OLSEN 40,44 thru 46, 48,50,52, SUPERBOY 80, and LOIS LANE 14 (but I may have missed an app. in WORLD'S FINEST, there). I looked over on the "Grand Comics Data Base" at the covers from the above mentioned titles, and out of the 50 I could only state definately that there were 10 of those (or less) that I've never owned at one time or another. Early 1960's DC's were a stable in my house as a kid, and I was fortunate enough to read maybe 55-65% of anything published by them from '59 to '62 due to my late brother purchasing comics (something of which I'm forever grateful).

Another comic I received with the J.Olsen, was a copy of The Flash V1 #229 (from 1974) which is one of those early to mid 70's DC 100 Page Super-Spectaculars. What great Giants those are! Just chocked full of silver-age and golden-age reprints, plus some new material. For instance, this one had a new x-over of the GA Flash, then a couple of silver-age reprints with Kid Flash and Green Lantern, and finally a couple of golden-age reprints with the GA Flash and Johnny Quick. (The latter was especially impressive sporting Mort Meskin art.) And all for fifty cents! Whadda deal!

In other news, my mother had to have a skim removed from one of her eyes today. He had a cataract removed a month or so back and, as normal, a skim always grows back and must be taken off as well. Next month she'll go back to have the other eye worked on.

My father-in-law is recuppin' well after breaking his leg a couple weeks back. Currently he's in the rehab center across from the hospital.

I went down and emptied the leaves from my folks rain gutters today on my day off, then came home and did the same for mine. This concludes any "yard work" for the year. I also put some boards up covering the crawl-space under the house to keep out the oncoming low temperatures. Just getting things ready for the few cold months ahead.

Really glad to hear what's happening with the O.J. situation! What horribly bad taste all of that was to begin with! Tough hearing about the deal with Michael Richards, but hey! "You give a dance, you gotta pay the band", and I'm sure this will put the whompum on any soon proposed Seinfeld reunion show now (shame).

And, finally, click over on the "My Unpublished Work" link on the top right column for a NEW "Mike Stripe" adventure!

Here's wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

"Meet Mike Stripe!"

No. NOT the lead singer for the group REM, but a new comic strip character I've been working on. Here's a Preview of him, and if you'll click onto the "My Unpublished Work" link at the top of the righthand list, you can read one of his adventures!

And onto other things.

Last weekend my wife had a craft show in the town where my father-in-law lives, so we left at 6:30 AM or so to take her there and set up her booth. After unloading all of this, and loading up the empty boxes, I took the van over to visit with Bill since he had some work he needed doing.

You see, he has this garage that's literally crammed with all sorts'a "junk" he's collected over the years from yard sales and from working as a builder of houses. And upstairs in this one area that measured 8' by 8' or so, were 50+ wooden doors he'd saved just for that purpose.

Now they'd been fine just staying in that area had not the great weight of them pulling the support posts loose from the floor! In fact, he'd already put basement-jacks under that area just to keep it from falling in, so my job that day was to remove all of this weight. This encompassed my having to carry down each door, one at a time, down ten stair steps, walking over rolls of old carpet (like I was on a tightrope), and taking them not just outside, but around the back of his house to an open shed to stack there.

Needless to say, this took a long time to do. I started around 9:30 AM, and didn't have them all removed and stacked until 3:30 PM. In the meanwhile, I finally found those 20 odd door skins he was going to give me to cover the outside of my screened-in back porch. So I also had to carry them out, remove the empty craft boxes from the van, load all of those up to bring home, then REload those empty boxes BACK into the van.

I was so pooped from all of this that afterwards I didn't even feel like going by Waldenbooks to see what new comics were out or by the antique mall to look thru the "cheapie" boxes. Instead I just went back to the craft show to wait until it was time for it to be over for the day.

Arriving back there I discovered I still had about an hour to kill, so since the show was only about a block and a half from the town square, I decided to walk up there and around the square and back just to kill time. (I probably hadn't been on the town square there in a good 25 years just to look around.)

BIG mistake there. It was cold enuff last Saturday just working outside, but the road to the square and back was like a breezeway and I just about froze my nuggets off doing that. plus everything was closed for some reason that day. Not sure because it was Veterin's Day or what, but the square was deadsville, and I headed back to the show. I finally stopped at a Dairy Queen right across from it for a hot cuppa joe, only to have to wait 15 minutes in line due to some bunch of teenagers going to a ballgame somewhere, but at least I did get warmed back up.

Got back over to the show and still had about 20 minutes left till time to leave, so I walked around and looked at some of the other booths. Found one guy there set up with art prints he'd done. He had a great variety of subjects, but mostly they were of movie and t.v. western heroes. There was one of The Beatles that was pretty nice in an 8"x10" matted size, so I picked up that for $8. to add to my collection of such. It's titled: "Four Lads from Liverpool", and you can see it Here if you click onto the Gallery link and scroll down some. It's on the righthand side of that. the artist's name is Cecil Highley, and he told me he taught art in Louisville, KY. for 26 years. I think he's pretty good. In particular I liked his prints of "My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys", "The Lone Ranger Rides Again!", , and, "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance".

Anyway...getting back to my father-in-law...he keeps telling me he has an orange crate full of old newspapers from the 1930-40's in that garage and pretty much knows exactly "where" it's located, so next time I go up I'll dig those out. They might be a good find for me, as he said they have a lot of material regarding WWII. But the most interesting thing is that he mentioned some were from The Chicago Tribune, which might mean they contain The Spirit Sunday Sections (that'd sure be NICE!) He also has an antique ice chest he told me to take home (and would have last time had I room in the van).

Moving right along...I've won several interesting lots in the way of comics here lately, but none yet have arrived. They include such things as around 10 misc. early Bronze LOSH's app.'s in Superboy (pre-having the title change over), a few more Kirby "4th. World" titles, a dozen of so Captain Americas from the mid-1970's when Kirby was doing that run, and finally the other 8 issues I need to complete my run of the late 1980's DC Dr. Fate title. That gives me (except for any of the NEW series) a set of pretty much all of the modern Dr. Fate app.'s now, having sets already of both his 1985 and '87 series, plus several misc. app.'s in such titles as 1st. Issue Special, Amethyst, DC Comics Presents,(etc.). I'd like to concentrate on some of the Silver-Age app.'s of this character I still need, like a Showcase 56, or the Justice League issues where GA characters x'd-over. I wouldn't say that Dr. fate is my favorite mystical-hero; hard-pressed to decide between him and "Dr. Strange" (especially the Ditko issues of the latter), but definately one of my very favorite of the DC GA line-up.

In new books I have been enjoying issues of DC's 52 title (what issues I've read, which has only been #'s 22, 24 & 25). Wouldn't mind having a full set of those up-to-date, as well as the rest of that series.

In personal news...Raking this yard is finally about over with for the year, Thank Goodness! I have only one smaller tree in the back whose leaves haven't completely fallen, and all of those are in one spot, so maybe a half an hour of that will take care of it for good. Last time I raked I got the leaves from my good neighbor's side yard as well. He's always coming over and using his riding lawnmower to mow that big back yard of mine in the Summer, so that was the least I could do for him (also considering that all of the leaves he has are not "his" leaves, but MINE from MY trees! He doesn't even have trees in his yard anymore having cut them down back last Spring.). I was going to rake his front yard next time as well, but I see that he mowed that and those are gone now. I have to admit that I really hate doing "yard work". Seems a useless task mowing since you have to do it every week during the Summer. And I would wait until ALL of the leaves fall before I rake if it wasn't for the fact that they'd literally pile up four feet against the side of the house if I did...

We got a new mayor in this town; one that finally agrees that the old hotel (that's nothing but a burnt-out shell) needs to be demolished. The city tried to save that old building with federal grants, but never could get all of the money they needed to rebuild the thing, and it's just as well. Had they started doing that 25 years ago when it was still in fairly decent condition it could have been accomplished, but now they'd pretty much have to start from stratch. Myself, I think the bricks from it could be used to make a wall around a small park for the local children, and as for remembering what the old place looked like, a bronze plaque with it's engraved image would be nice. The whole thing has been a topic of discussion and arguement around these parts for years. The problem with those who wanted to save the place is that they remember it as it was when they were young, and therfore think that it would take "that much" to repair it. In reality, it'd take millions of $'s, which this town simply doesn't have, and could put towards more constructive projects to help the locals. We'll see what happens on down-the-road with all of that, as I'm sure the new mayor will have his hands full of opposition.

As usual, "Enjoy the typos."

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

"Election Day"

And it's Election Day, so, if you please, go out there and use your freedom to vote. But just remember that if you don't want to vote, you have that freedom as well. It's America, my friends, and that choice is entirely up to you.

Here in Southern, KY., the local t.v. channels have been flooding everyone with political ads, of course. They all promice something better than the other guy. It makes little difference. Come the next term up for the same office there'll be people bashing whoever go in that office in the first place.

People saying they'll submit an honorable way to end the war. No such animal. There is NO honorable way of getting out of this mess, and there is NO candidate with a grand plan or "magic bullet" to solve all of the problems our country faces. When it comes to voting, it's more of a matter of the lesser of the evils.

Next presidential election, everyone's saying that we'll have a Democrat in office; that's probably true. But it may not be any better. Their solutions to national problems are no more effective than the ones offered by The Republicans. In this country the office of the presidency takes turns every 4 or 8 years depending on how fed-up everyone is with the person in the oval office and his policies.

Who's to blaim? Why...WE are, of course. We only allow a two party system, really. We only allow those who are wealthy to become president. We go along with their policies because we don't pay any attention to what's actually going on in Washington. In general we allow just about any amount of power be given to a select few, just as long as it doesn't upset the applecart of our daily muldane existence, and then bitch about the consequences we have to face on down the line. And we loudly suggest corruption, and conspiracy, and grasp at sraws like a drowning man when the "other party" throws a dark horse up there suggesting we give him this land's highest political office, even if we know absolutely nothing about him, just because he's something different.

This would be laughable...if it wasn't so true.

It's Election Day. Think about your choices wisely.