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“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!”
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).
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.
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.
My picks for the 10 funniest comic strips published/put on the Web in 2014.
#1 – Must be funny. (There were a lot of touching / poignant / inspiring / awesome strips this year but only the funny ones made the cut.)
#2 – Must be fresh. (Otherwise this list would consist of Peanuts re-runs.)
#3 – Must be family friendly. (Anything over the edge got cut even if it made me laugh.)
#4 – Must be fathomable. (i.e., punchlines that were the pay off of lengthy continuities, long-running gags, or required esoteric knowledge of the strip in question also got cut.)
Honorable Mention: Pooch Cafe
What can I say? Paul Gilligan’s alcoholic Easter bunny cracks me up…
Honorable Mention: WUMO
WUMO is a European strip that is slowly finding its audience on this side of the Atlantic. The gags tend to be basic, but writer Mikael Wulff and cartoonist Anders Morgenthaler always manage to find a fresh twist.
Honorable Mention: One Big Happy
Well, that got grim in a hurry. Rick Detorie always skates his family comic strip right up to the edge, usually winning his audience with charming familiarity but on occasion plunging them straight into the Twilight Zone by way of Edgar Allen Poe.
Honorable Mention: Dinette Set
Julie Larson gets nowhere near the mad love she richly deserves. Dinette Set on the surface looks like an insufferable send up of the nouveau lower middle class, but despite their flaws, foolishness, and foibles, her heart is with her characters.
Runner Up: Retail
Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the counter, Norm Feuti presents the workaday world of Retail in a combination of keen insight, expert knowledge of the field, sharp writing, and some of the best cartooning skills around.
Runner Up: Dilbert
Scott Adams strikes at the heart of the matter…
Runner Up: Cats With Hands
….while Joe Martin calls it like it is.
Third Place: Zits
A seasonal gag, but Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman manage to make it timeless.
Second Place: Willy ‘n’ Ethel
I think we can all relate to this…
Grand Prize Winner: Heavenly Nostrils
This will be the last time Heavenly Nostrils will make it into the finals: Starting next year Dana Simpson’s delightful comic strip is leaping from the Web to the printed news page as Phoebe And Her Unicorn, a title change brought about by editorial fiat.* In this Sunday strip, Marigold demonstrates magic, imagination, and reality are no so different after all.
* It was feared that the original title — which referred to the unicorn’s full name: Marigold Heavenly Nostrils — would be too confusing to new readers, and so the more explicit leave-nothing-to-the-imagination title of Phoebe And Her Unicorn is going to be slapped on. Ignore the fact that Heavenly Nostrils is unique and attention grabbing in much the same was as Donkey Kong was; people’s reaction would be one of puzzlement leading to curiosity leading to sampling the strip, not one of dismissing it purely on the title. It’s that kind of forward, innovative thinking that makes the publishing industry what it’s rapidly becoming.
If you aren’t reading Tatsuya Ishinda’s Sinfest web comic, you should. Here’s a recent continuity not featuring any of his main characters, but nonetheless very moving and important.
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.
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!”
And if Steve had treated Pooh and Fancy with rubber hoses,
how do you think they would have acted to any other human?
…until you start thinking about it…
…and then it breaks your heart.
Andrew Rowland has a new podcast and the extreme misfortune to have me as his first guest.
There has always been a rivalry between the Army and the Marine Corps. Here’s a WWII Marine’s take on the matter…