Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I recently went to the Baltimore/D.C. area and made a special trip to Geppi's Entertainment Museum. The museum is a treasure trove of key comic books, original comic strip art, vintage toys and more. The museum is owned by Steve Geppi, owner of Diamond Comic Distributors, the lone major comic book distribution company that services all of the comic book stores.

The starting point of your museum journey is a history of comics told in comics. As you enter, there is a display case with some of the biggies - Action Comics #1 (the first Superman, All-American Comics #1 (the first Green Lantern), Four Color #9 (the first Donald Duck in comics and the first appearance of Huey, Dewey and Louie), New York World's Fair #1, Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #1 and this gem, the first appearance of Batman in Detective Comics #27. All of the books were in top shape, but I was really amazed by the condition this book was in, as if it had just been pulled off the rack in 1939.

Three kiosks provide a fun introduction to the world of comics. Each kiosk has two comics that you can view digitally. They include Fantastic Four #1, Amazing Spider-Man #1, Superman #1, Detective Comics #27 and Four Color #9.

There is a large collection of comic strip art on the walls, which I'll talk about in a later post. There's not much in the way of original comic book art, but there are several original covers to the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide. Geppi also owns Gemstone Publishing, which prints the Guide. I went ga-ga over this early cover drawn by Joe Kubert.

The remaining rooms of the museum take you through different eras of popular culture as represented by the artifacts of the time, mostly toys. I bet only a handful of people have this complete mint set of Peanuts vinyl figures. They were made my Hungerford Plastics in 1958. The character you might not recognize is the clean version of Pig Pen.

This is a Mickey Mouse Record Player made by G.E. I had one as a kid and, to my wife's surprise, I no longer have it. I'll have to ask my brothers if it was theirs originally, because the ones I've seen online are all form the late '60s, and I would have played with it in the late '70s. In trying to find more info about it, I stumbled on an ultra-cool blog about Disneyland Records.

I didn't have this Donald Duck game, which was made in 1938. Like a lot of what I saw, I was taken aback by the like-new condition it's in. It's not just that it's complete and in beautiful shape, but that it's been that way for 70 years!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


HEINZ Edelmann, art director for the 'Yellow Submarine' animated film, is dead at 75. Edelman created the look of the psychedelic cartoon, including character designs for the Blue Meanies, Nowhere Man and the Beatles. Edelmann's name is not well-known, owing to a widespread belief that the art style was done by or based on the work of Peter Max. The impression has been aided by Max's own claims of involvement.

GORDOn Waller, one half of the hit duo Peter & Gordon, is died of a heart attack on July 17, 2009. Peter & Gordon had a debut #1 smash with the McCartney-penned "World Without Love" in 1964, leading to a string of hits before they broke up in 1968. Peter Asher left performing to become a record executive. Waller carried on with his solo album, cheekily titled 'and Gordon', but found no success. The duo reunited for a few select shows in recent years, reinvigorating Waller, who recorded a couple of solo albums.

MUSIC mogul and all-around villain Allen Klein died on July 4th. Klein took over as manager of the Beatles in 1969. Klein got them what was then the best royalty rate of any artist and brought order to their company, Apple, which was in chaotic shambles. Paul McCartney, though, never trusted Klein and a further rift was driven between McCartney and the other three, leading to McCartney's lawsuit to get out of the Beatles. Klein was managing George Harrison in 1971 when Harrison was accused of plagiarism of the song "He's So Fine" for his #1 hit "My Sweet Lord". After a falling out with Harrison, Klein bought the company that owned "He's So Fine" and continued the suit, which lasted until 1993 (Harrison eventually won).

ART Director and designer Tom Wilkes died June 28th. Wilkes was best known for his album cover designs, such as George Harrison's 'Concert for Bangladesh' and 'Starr Struck: the Best of Ringo Starr v.2'. His other designs include the Rolling Stones' 'Beggars Banquet', Neil Young's 'Harvest' and John Prine's debut.

PAUL McCartney was on Letterman last week to promote his short U.S. tour. He performed live for 20 minutes with his band on top of the marquee of the Ed Sullivan Theater. You can view the 22-minute video, most of it unaired, here.

WITH the death of Michael Jackson, the music industry was abuzz with speculation about the fate of the Beatles catalogue, including the rumor that he left them in his will to Paul McCartney. Jackson had purchased a controlling interest in the publishing rights in 1984 for $47.5 million. He sold half of that to Sony in 1995 for $95 million. Lawyers for Sony and for Jackson's estate have both stated that the song rights are not for sale. On a side note, it was McCartney himself who suggested music publishing to Jackson as a promising investment!

OF COurse, the biggest Beatle news to come out since my last report is the reissuing/remastering of the entire catalogue on 9/9/09. They will be released in both stereo and mono. The stereo mixes are the ones that the public is most familiar with. Those will be available individually and as a box set. For decades now, Beatlephiles have been stressing how much better the Beatles music was in mono, that mono is the 'true' Beatles. The first four albums were released in mono, albums #5-10 in mono and stereo, and the last three in stereo only (counting 'Magical Mystery Tour' as an album...quiet, Tom!). So, now was the regular fans chance to get them all in mono, right? WELL, you can, but they are only available as a box set, not individually, AND the box, at $240 on Amazon, is overpriced. There was some web anger over the Beatles' website announcement that the mono box would be limited to 10,000. Correspondence posted by some, if it's valid, from Amazon and EMI (the record company), have allayed these fears. I'm just hoping the price will come down, or I'll have to hope that Santa brings it!

THE Soundrack for the new Judd Apatow film, Funny People, has four Beatles connections. It leads off with "Great Day", the closing track to Paul McCartney's 'Flaming Pie' album from 1997. It contains an acoustic demo by John Lennon of "Watching the Wheels", which was unreleased until 1994's 'Acoustic' collection. It also includes "Photograph" by Ringo and the movie's star, Adam Sandler, doing a rendition of "Real Love".

'JOHN Lennon & Plastic Ono Band: Live in Toronto '69' was released on DVD this week. I've read some complaints about the audio quality being substandard to the 'Live Peace in Toronto 1969' CD, but the real turn-off might be Yoko's primal wailing. I don't have either, so I can't say if the good bits save it or not.

MY OVerview of George Harrison compilations made my all-time one day record for hits on this site. Thank you, readers! While I didn't buy the new CD (I did download two tracks from iTunes), a lot of you did. 'Let It Roll: Songs by George Harrison' peaked at #24 on Billboard.

THE Hollywood Chamber of Commerce recently announced who was getting a star on the Walk of Fame in 2010. It looks like Ringo Starr will finally get his star. John Lennon and George Harrison each received his star posthumously, in 1988 and earlier this year, respectively. Other musicians to be honored include Randy Newman and Roy Orbison.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


I almost didn't post this, but I'd like to eventually present the complete May 29, 1966 Sunday comics section we began here. 'Hi & Lois' has never been a favorite of mine, but it's usually good for a chuckle and has long been a comforting staple of the funny pages. The payoff in the strip above, however, only tepidly justifies the long build-up.

The strip is relatively young at this point, coming only twelve years after it's 1954 debut. The strip was created by Mort Walker, as writer, and Dik Browne, as artist. It was a spin-off of Walker's 'Beetle Bailey' strip, and if anyone can think of another comic strip spinoff, please let me know. The titular Lois is Beetle's sister. 'Hi & Lois' was more popular in it's early years, earning several peer awards from the National Cartoonist Society, including a Reuben for Browne. Despite it's popularity (it's syndicate website boats 1100 newspapers) it has never migrated much further from it's source, though it did have a short-lived comic series in 1970-71 and was part of the strip reprint paperback boom in the 1970s and early '80s.

The current strip is a true family legacy, as sons Greg and Brian Walker have stepped in for Mort and Chance Browne replaced his late father. I was tickled by this recent daily -

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


My son Noah and I visited the National Museum of the Air Force last week. One of the things I wanted him to see was the Milton Caniff display, which is tucked away on the second floor by some offices. I was disappointed to find that the exhibit was gone! Fortunately, better days are ahead for these formerly obscure Caniff items. Museum senior curator Terryl Aitken informs me that they are going to split the display, with the 'Terry & the Pirates' items going in the World War II area and the 'Steve Canyon items moving to the Cold War area, both on the main floor where they'll have more visibility. When they do, I'll have it covered for you!

The National Aviation Hall of Fame will induct its class of 2009 at an Enshrinement Ceremony on July 18th in Dayton, Ohio. The Milton Caniff Spirit of Flight Award will be presented to the Apollo astronaut crews on July 17th at the NAHF President's Reception and Dinner. Twelve of the surviving Apollo astronauts, including Buzz Aldrin and Gene Lovell, will be there to accept the award. Tickets to both events may still be available. July 20th will be the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

As I reported here, the 'Steve Canyon' reprint series from Checker BPG has changed to a new, square format with the strips reprinted at a larger size. This started with the '1955' volume, and you can see sample pages on Checker's website. The '1956' volume is late, according to, but due soon.

Alex Raymond was a fellow cartoonist and friend of Caniff (or, if you believe Dave Sim, his erstwhile rival. Raymond is best known for creating Flash Gordon, but his last strip was about a modern detective named Rip Kirby, which he drew after his return from military service in 1946 until his fatal car accident in 1956. Sim has raved about Raymond's brushwork on 'Kirby' in his Glamourpuss series, as well as lamenting that newspaper reproduction as well as the scarce reprint material have done a complete disservice to Raymond's level of detail. That should be rectified by new reprint volumes coming from IDW and the Library of American Comics, the same publisher who brought you The Complete Terry & the Pirates. 'Terry' series editor Dean Mullaney is helming the project, bringing to life a somewhat forgotten triumph of illustration.

The new Bringing Up Father reprint collection from NBM has a few Caniff connections. NBM publishing reprinted the entire run of 'Terry & the Pirates' in the 1980s/90s under their Flying Buttress imprint. Bill Blackbeard, who edited the 'Terry' series for NBM, is on hand to write the book's foreword. R.C. Harvey, author of theCaniff biography, writes the introduction. 'Bringing Up Father' is a classic comic strip by George MacManus that debuted in 1913. It features the exploits of Jiggs, a common made turned rich who misses the common life, and his wife, Maggie, who wants to climb the social ladder but his foiled by Jiggs' lack of decorum with society folk. This volume is one of three reprints under NBM's new Forever Nuts imprint, the other two being Mutt & Jeff and Happy Hooligan.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


This is the 'Doonesbury' Sunday strip from 6/21. Read the strip first, if you haven't already. I'd like to concentrate on the third panel, in which radio talk show host Mark Slackmeyer makes this historical reference - "and Teddy Roosevelt, perhaps mindful that both Washington and Lincoln forbade torture, ordered the court-martial of a U.S. general accused of waterboarding." It bugged me as not sounding right when I read it, but I didn't decide to write about it until a co-worker called the strip "a classic Doonesbury."

The general referred to in the panel is Brigadier General Jacob H. Smith, nicknamed "Hell-Roaring Jake". Smith, after several courts-martial, was mustered out in the 1880s, but later reinstated by President Cleveland. He was promoted to Brigadier General during the Philippine-American War. Smith was court-martialed in April, 1902, and ordered to retire by President Roosevelt in June.1 Trudeau would like you to read it as if waterboarding was the reason for the court-martial, which is misleading. I don't know the exact charges against Smith, or if he was even accused of waterboarding, but I'll take Trudeau at his leading assumption that waterboarding was one of them.

Smith was charged with taking the Samar province of the Philippines under control. This was to be done, Smith believed, by any means necessary. Smith issued an order "kill and burn and make a howling wilderness of Samar." Under his command, he burned villages and crops. Prisoners were tortured and executed without evidence. 2 Though Smith later denied it, subordinates testified that he ordered every Filipino who could bear arms to be killed, and set the age limit at 10 and older. My point, then, is that Smith's court-martial was due to his responsibility for mass murder and not waterboarding. His actions of 'take no prisoners' barbarism were condemned by Roosevelt and, while his punishment was mild, his exit was swift.

I also doubt Trudeau is a big fan of Roosevelt in this period, where much of the world saw him as an imperialist, such as in the cartoon at left (drawn by an unnamed progenitor of Trudeau). Roosevelt himself claimed he was not an imperialist, that he wanted to bring "peace and enlightenment and self-government" to the Philippines and then get out. This sounds similar to George W. Bush's defense of the war in Iraq. Trudeau portrayed Bush as a Roman military helmet.

Please don't interpret the above to mean that I'm all 'rah-rah' for waterboarding. I haven't been firmly convinced either way. But I don't think those who moralize or try to sway opinion should use their version of history to mislead the public.

[1] Silbey, David J., A War of Frontier and Empire: The Philippine-American War, 1899-1902, 2007, Hill and Wang, New York

[2] Bishop, Joseph Bucklin, Theodore Roosevelt and His Time, 1920, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York

Photo of Jacob Hurd Smith from the Portsmouth Public Library website

Cartoon of T.R. - Shaw, Albert (author, but not cartoonist), A Cartoon History of Roosevelt's Career, 1910, The Review of Reviews Company, New York.