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KING KIRBY: a play by Fred Van Lente & Crystal Skillman

6/01/2015

“The Midtown Comics Podcast has teamed up the husband and wife team of comic book writer Fred Van Lente and playwright Crystal Skillman to present their play, King Kirby. King Kirby was performed for a live audience this summer, but now it’s presented to you in audio format for the first time for free!”

Jack Kirby is my nameBrief review based on my personal knowledge of Jack:

Hits several (but not all) keynotes in Jack’s long and illustrious career as well as several (but again, far from all) of the most prominent abuses shoveled on him directly and indirectly by the comics industry.  Based on my first hand experience with them, gives an adequate but not altogether thorough idea of what Jack and Roz were like, and what Stan Lee is like; I wouldn’t say this is a grievous fault since it’s hard to sum up the wonderful complexity of any human being in just an hour’s time, much less four people (Joe Simon is the 4th major role in the piece; I have no first hand knowledge of him).

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The actors cast in the roles (Steven Rattazi and Amy Lee Pearsall) remind me of Jack and Roz as opposed to sounding like Jack and Roz, but they’re fine performers and their interpretations of Jack and Roz’ personalities are nice tributes to their memories (Nat Cassidy as Stan Lee comes much closer, but that’s because there is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to sound bytes by Stan).

The complexities of the various business deals and legal conflicts that marked both Jack’s personal career and the comics industry as a whole are streamlined but at least presented with enough detail to make the issues understandable to audiences unfamiliar with them.

In short:  I really, really enjoyed this and recommend it highly to everyone.

Jack Kirby and his creations

Thanx to Midtown Comics for staging and recording this live reading of comic book writer Fred Van Lente and playwright Crystal Skillman’s play:  When in Manhattan go visit Midtown Comics — it’s a helluva great store!

And a special thanx to Tom Spurgeon’s
The Comics Reporter for the tip off.

And yeah, I know some people are going to say the Spider-Man depicted here is Steve Ditko’s design; nonetheless, Jack took the first swing at designing the character and passed the job on to Ditko because he was so busy with other books.

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Pooh & Fancy

4/12/2014

Steve Gerber at work

Those were the names of the late great Steve Gerber’s two pit bulls:  As nice and as sweet and as gentle a pair of animals as you could hope to meet.

Steve took them in as full grown dogs when he found them abandoned in a park (Pooh) and on the street (Fancy).   He gave them food to eat, a warm dry place to stay, plenty of exercise, and love by the bushel full.

They were, and remained until their passing, pit bulls:  If you petted them it felt like petting a coil of steel wire wrapped in industrial carpet.  If you were within swinging room when Fancy wagged her tail, it felt like somebody was slapping you on the leg with a rubber hose.

Big dogs.  Strong dogs.

And despite their breed’s reputation, two of the loveliest, nicest animals I have ever known.

Now, all animals have the potential of being dangerous, and pit bulls by their size and strength need a little extra precaution, and I certainly won’t tell anybody who has ever had a negative experience with a pit bull that’s they’re wrong in their feelings.

However…

Pooh and Fancy were never treated with anything less that love and affection and kindness in Steve’s stewardship.  They reciprocated in turn:  Lovely, friendly animals who were always happy to see a friend of Steve’s drop in.  In all the time I knew them I never saw them acting aggressively, never heard them growl (they could bark — oy, how they could bark! — but that was usually from excitement and happiness).

I bring this up because of the nasty reputation the pit bull has (who was the comedian who said pit bulls were the dog for people too lazy to load a revolver?).  We hear stories of children and elderly people being killed by pit bulls, of adults being attacked seemingly without provocation.

Even the nicest tempered animal can lash out at someone who teases or torments it beyond endurance, and far too often young children don’t realize the dangers of antagonizing an animal, especially one as big as they are armed with strong jaws and sharp teeth.

But in the overwhelming majority of stories I’ve read on pit bull attacks and bitings, there always seems to be an element of human neglect and abuse involved:  The owner never properly trained the animal, often keeping it chained up or locked in a tiny yard, showing it no affection, teaching it to fear the owner but not to refrain from attacking other humans.

Nobody knows Pooh and Fancy’s histories;
as I said, Steve found them abandoned.

But because Steve showed them love, they responded with love.  And because Steve neither feared nor hated anyone in his circle of acquaintances, neither did Pooh nor Fancy fear or hate anybody them came in contact with.

I bring this up because of Michael Brown and Tamir Rice and literally hundreds of other young African-American men and women who have been killed by frightened citizens and overzealous cops.

It would be insulting to apply as simplistic an analogy as Pooh and Fancy to the problem of race relations in America, but there is something there we can learn from, a kernel of wisdom, as it were.  And just as African-Americans most explicitly are not animals nor are they obliged to be owned and control by others, there is none the less a reasonable lesson we can learn from Steve Gerber’s dogs.

When you treat people — and animals — the way you would like to be treated, they tend to treat you that way in return.

When you approach a citizen on the street and treat him in a suspicious and denigrating manner, you cannot feign surprise when you receive resistance and hostility in return.

“But they’re n[egroe]s!” some will say.  “They’re not like us!  They’re not law abiding citizens, they’re demonic animals who charged loaded guns and rape people and smoke dope and crank out babies that they expect white people to pay for!”

Un-huh.

And if Steve had treated Pooh and Fancy with rubber hoses,
how do you think they would have acted to any other human?

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On The Convention Trail…

2/10/2014

1950_04_cartier_gnomepresscalendar

I’ll be at the Dallas / Fort Worth GI Joe and Action Figure Show 2014 in Grapevine, Texas on Oct. 4 & 5 tap-dancing like a Nicholas brother discussing*my involvement with G.I. Joe, Transformers, Thundarr The Barbarian, and a host of other questions about my career in animation / comics / videos games.**

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*  Now that the statute of limitations is up…

** Besides the obvious one of “Who would hire you in the first place?”

 

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I Blather On And On…

23/07/2014

gijoe-heads

Alex, Andrew, Sam, and Steve over at Nerdversity 101 asked me a few questions regarding Thundarr, classic G.I. Joe, and my upcoming Kindle Worlds G.I. Joe project “The Most Dangerous Man In The World” based on the infamous “lost” Joe TV episode.

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A Real American Hero

14/04/2014

Hugh_Tompson_Jr

Hugh Thompson, Jr.
(April 15, 1943 – January 6, 2006)

…Thompson then flew over an irrigation ditch filled with dozens of bodies. Shocked at the sight, he radioed his accompanying gunships, knowing his transmission would be monitored by many on the radio net: “It looks to me like there’s an awful lot of unnecessary killing going on down there. Something ain’t right about this. There’s bodies everywhere. There’s a ditch full of bodies that we saw. There’s something wrong here.”

Movement from the ditch indicated to Thompson that there were still people alive in there. Thompson landed his helicopter and dismounted. David Mitchell, a sergeant and squad leader in 1st Platoon, C Company, walked over to him. When asked by Thompson whether any help could be provided to the people in the ditch, the sergeant replied that the only way to help them was to put them out of their misery. Second Lieutenant William Calley (commanding officer of the 1st Platoon, C Company) then came up, and the two had the following conversation:

Thompson: What’s going on here, Lieutenant?
Calley: This is my business.
Thompson: What is this? Who are these people?
Calley: Just following orders.
Thompson: Orders? Whose orders?
Calley: Just following…
Thompson: But, these are human beings, unarmed civilians, sir.
Calley: Look Thompson, this is my show. I’m in charge here. It ain’t your concern.
Thompson: Yeah, great job.
Calley: You better get back in that chopper and mind your own business.
Thompson: You ain’t heard the last of this!

Thompson took off again, and Andreotta reported that Mitchell was now executing the people in the ditch. Furious, Thompson flew over the northeast corner of the village and spotted a group of about ten civilians, including children, running toward a homemade bomb shelter. Pursuing them were soldiers from the 2nd Platoon, C Company. Realizing that the soldiers intended to murder the Vietnamese, Thompson landed his aircraft between them and the villagers. Thompson turned to Colburn and Andreotta and told them that if the Americans began shooting at the villagers or him, they should fire their M60 machine guns at the Americans: “Y’all cover me! If these bastards open up on me or these people, you open up on them. Promise me!”

VN course21

…Initially, commanders throughout the American chain of command were successful in covering up the My Lai Massacre. Thompson quickly received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions at My Lai. The citation for the award fabricated events, for example praising Thompson for taking to a hospital a Vietnamese child “caught in intense crossfire”. It also stated that his “sound judgment had greatly enhanced Vietnamese–American relations in the operational area.” Thompson threw away the citation.

above text and more on this
brave American found here

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The Living Dead vs The Vampire Kingdom

13/02/2014

vampirevszombiescaldwelleasley

Stan Lee Media is at it again…

art by Caldwell Easley

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The Next Time You Feel Like Having A Pity Party…

26/12/2013

…remember these kids.

School Under Bridge In India

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One Year Ago Today…

14/12/2013

sandy hook cartoon

Sandy Hook Final Report

The Unites States averages one mass shooting every day (i.e., 1 shooter, 4 or more victims).

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Meet Leslie B. Shotwell a.k.a DJ Victor Malice

10/12/2013

It takes too damn long for the sci-fi / comics / gamer / geek communities to recognize predators in their midst and do something about it.

Dragon-Con has only recently cut themselves free of a sexual predator who had helped found that show.

Now word is out of a new problem, this one associated with Aki Con, a cosplay / anime con operating out of Seattle.

Aki Con has regularly employed the services of Leslie B. Shotwell a.k.a. “DJ Victor Malice.”

DJ-Victor-Malice-screen-shot

Mr. Shotwell is a convicted sex offender.  He has served 4 years of a 6 year sentence for sexual conduct with a minor, attempt to commit a sexual act with a minor, and dangerous crimes against children.  He has been paroled and has been working since his release from prison.

People, even convicted sex offenders, have a right to rebuild their lives after they have paid their debt to society, but there are reasonable limits that should be placed on them to protect society at large.

Just as a person convicted of causing an accident while driving under the influence should not be employed as a commercial driver, neither should a person convicted of sexual crimes against children be put in a job that enables them to have access to young people.

Aki Con, despite being informed of Mr. Shotwell’s record,
has repeatedly hired him as a DJ for their costume raves.

Recently a young woman attending Aki Con awoke after the rave to find herself in Mr. Shotwell’s room and in a dazed and confused state.  She contacted Aki Con’s guest liaison who stayed with her until friends showed up.  The young woman then went to the police where she filed a report against Mr. Shotwell and had herself tested for drugs.

Flunitrazepam a.k.a. Rohypnol a.k.a. roofies a.k.a. the date rape drug was found in her system.

Now, it needs to be pointed out that Mr. Shotwell, despite refusing to register as a sex offender as required by law, has not been charged with any crime yet related to this incident at Aki Con.  And it needs to be pointed out that Mr. Shotwell is to be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

But it also needs to be pointed out that business and organizations that deal with the public should not put that public at risk by employing people who are known predators against that public.

Be aware if this.  Be aware of Mr. Shotwell and of the staff of Aki Con.

Spread the word around the campfire.

 

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Lou Scheimer (1928 – 2013)

19/10/2013

Lou Scheimer Creating the Filmation Generation cover-620_3Lou Scheimer deserves a longer & better obituary than I can provide at this time; I suggest those interested read this one or this one or wait for Mark Evanier’s post on Lou.

Lou, at the urging of the late Arthur Nadel Jr, was the first producer to hire me, the first one to put me on staff as a writer, and the first one to regret that decision, I’m sure.  At one time Lou had me, Sam Simon, and John Dorman working for him simultaneously.

A lesser man would have snapped.

But Lou was made of sterner stuff as a brief look at the history of Filmation Studios will tell you.  Filmation was my introduction to animation, my boot camp, my finishing school, my crucible.  Thanx to him & the wonderful, wonderful staff he recruited I learned more in 8 months about writing & creativity & film making than I could have learned in 48 months in a class room.

I’ve described Lou as a gent and a class act and he was.  He was also a mensch and when others were shipping jobs overseas to line their pockets, he was squeezing each nickel so hard the friggin’ buffalo would fart…but he kept those jobs in the US of A.

I’m glad I was able to tell him how much he meant to me and so many others, both employees and fans.

 

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