Sunday, October 30, 2011


On 10/26, Comic Book Resources (CBR) posted an interview with Dean Mullaney of the Library of American Comics. Dean discussed his exciting upcoming projects, including Steve Canyon, as well as recent projects, such as the Caniff art book.

CBR also has a fun feature called Comic Book Legends Revealed. It clears up the rumors of comics' past in an entertaining way. This latest post gets to what never seemed strange to me, but may be strange to some. Was a "Terry & the Pirates" Sunday page read into the Congressional Record the next day? Find out!

In celebration of the bicentennial of Columbus, Ohio, the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum will show an exhibit dedicated to cartoonists associated with Ohio's capital. The exhibit will include artwork by Ireland, Milton Caniff and other luminaries, such as James Thurber. "Columbus Cartoonists: A Bicentennial Celebration" runs January 23rd through April 27th. More details here.

Caniff was the subject of a recent feature in the Columbus Dispatch - A Look Back by Jieun Kang. It's unclear what the motivation was for doing a Caniff article now, as it doesn't mention any of the several 2011 Caniff projects. It's nice to see them pay homage to someone who gave so much of himself to the Dispatch between 1925-32. Oddly, they didn't use any of his Dispatch art in the article. Fortunately, "CANIFF: A Visual Biography" has a copious amount.

Milton Caniff must be on the news brain, as he had another write-up in the Times Bulletin of Van Wert, Ohio. The article by Kay Sluterbeck is one of the few to note how important Caniff's theater training was to infusing "Terry & the Pirates" with drama, tension and suspense. You can read the article here.

And if you haven't already pre-ordered yours, volume 3 of STEVE CANYON ON DVD is due out November 14th!

Sunday, October 23, 2011


This was my 15th Mid-Ohio Con. Since I had such a great time at the '09 and '10 shows, I was concerned about what effect being bought by Wizard World would have on this home grown con. The trepidation started early, when I saw they were about doubling the prices for both convention goers, vendors and artists. At double the price, would it be double the fun. I had doubts.

First, the convention had moved within the Greater Columbus Convention Center from Exhibit Hall E to the smaller Battelle Grand ballroom. It seemed a strange choice for a con that promoted itself as being bigger and better than ever. While the Battelle is newly renovated, the con seemed very congested. Much time was spent just trying to make my way through bottlenecks. The Battelle has two floors and I'd heard a rumor that Wizard World had failed to sell out the upper floor, so then squeezed what they did sell into the main hall.

Aside from prices, the main fear about Wizard World taking over was that a comic book-centric show would now become a celebrity-centric show, the reputation that has been cultivated by Wizard World. True to form, the big guests were so-called media guests, that is, stars of TV and movies. Adam West and Burt Ward (Batman & Robin) were the marquee names, as well as Walter Koenig (Mr. Chekov), Gil Gerard (Buck Rogers) and Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian).

I was interested in meeting Williams, having met several other Star Wars actors at previous conventions. He did a Q&A session, showing himself to be as smooth and cool as his characters and Colt 45. A word about the programming. First of all, there was only one slate of programming. Previous shows have had two or three different programs running simultaneously. Second, to accomodate this programming was a smallish room that only seated 160 people. Now, if you are expecting, nay trumpeting, thousands of attendees, you should have a larger room for fans to interact with the guests you've sold them tickets to come see. I was part of a standing-room-only crowd for Williams. I didn't even attempt the chaos that was West and Ward's panel. And as I left the con I looked at the future disappointees waiting in a long, long line to see the costume contest.

Back to Williams. Ok, so when these celebrities do a show, it's a moneymaker for them. They sell photos, books, memorabilia, etc., but especially autographs. It's expected, and if you check Ebay you'll see that their signatures do have a street value. To me, it's always been a trade off. You get to meet them, you get something from them (a signed 8x10 glossy), you can snap your picture with them. You get a story out of it. "Hey, look at me, I met Lando Calrissian." Ok, it's nonsense, in a way, but fun nonsense. Saturday is when I learned about the odious practice of the Photo-Op. Mr. Williams signed my poster (a reproduction of a French poster for his 1974 B-movie "The Take"). I thanked him and said, "Can I get a quick photo with you?" "I'm sorry, I can't," he said. "He's under contract," his assistant told me. So, here's how it works. Wizard World (and maybe other conventions, it's new to me) have divorced the autograph and photo into two separate money-making schemes. To get a picture with the celebrity guest, you sign up for a Photo-Op. Billy Dee, let's say, was signing autographs from 1-3, but then doing Photo Ops from 3-4. What's the price for this photo? Why, the same as an autograph, if not more. So, let's say the celebrity charges $30 to sign something. Then you want your picture with said celebrity. Now you're in for $60. Adam West and Burt Ward charge a combined $100 for their autographs, and then an additional $125 for photos with the not-so dynamic duo. I may be a crier in emptiness, Wizard World, but you got your last celebrity autograph money out of this sucker.

Now back to comics, because they were there, as well as several artists/writers I wanted to meet or see again. This is Ron Frenz signing a copy of a Thor comic he drew. I've never been a Thor reader or much of a Frenz enthusiast, but he's always done a solid, dependable job (pal Ted describes him as a J. Buscema/Kirby hybrid).

I challenged artist Chris Sprouse with another Caniff creation. Sprouse has previously taken on Steve Canyon and Dragon Lady. This time it was Miss Lace, complete with flowers in her hair. I also enjoyed revisiting artists Dave Aikens, Michael Golden, Tom Batiuk and having a nice chat with Gary Kwapisz. Gary is in the midst of bringing historically accurate comics to the masses with Civil War Adventures. Common pal Beau Smith missed the show due to health. Get well soon, amigo.

There were some surprises at the show, such as a bona fide tattoo artists doing actual tattoos. Talk about your impulse buys. I had a real friendly talk with the artist who drew this amazing piece of work. Traveling buddy Jerry Smith introduced me to the work of up and coming phenom John Tyler Christopher.

So, was it worth it? I think so. It's so close and I had a good time this year. A big thanks to my loving and amazing wife, who minded the fort and our wild kids while I went off on a selfish Quixote excursion. I didn't have twice the good time of previous years, but enough to bring me back. Especially if these gals go again (just kidding, honey!!)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

(some of) The Making of 'CANIFF'

For the past year I've been hyping CANIFF: A Visual Biography from the Library of American Comics (LOAC). The book's not just essential reading for every Caniffite, it's also a point of pride for me. I played a small part in its creation as a contributing editor. I'd kept in touch LOAC honcho Dean Mullaney since we met back in 2008. When he told me that he was doing research for the Caniff book at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, I asked if he needed any help. The Cartoon Library is only a couple of hours from me, and it's one of my favorite places to go.
Dean met me at the library in late November. He was accompanied by Lorraine Turner, Art Director for the LOAC. The three of us couldn't wait to dive into the carts of research materials that were waiting for us.

We donned our white gloves and began going through the materials separately, consulting each other on different finds. Here Dean and Lorraine discuss a piece of artwork (or what to have for lunch. I can't really tell what Dean's holding).

When I came across something that might be good for the book, I would ask Dean for his opinion on what we should ask the library to scan or copy for us. After awhile, I started selecting things using my own judgment. Hope that was okay, Dean! The artwork I'm looking at here would be used for this page of the book -

Lorraine is looking through the original art that was used for the Steve Canyon Tru-Vue slides. Here's the page from the book -

One of my favorite pieces. The note I'm holding his cropped in this picture. It's a handwritten note from Caniff to Lucy Caswell. I'm paraphrasing, but it's a casual note saying 'Lucy - Here are the first sketches I did of Steve Canyon. Thought you could use them. - Milt.'

When Caniff made public appearances, he normally did a "chalk talk," that is, character sketches on an easel to delight the crowd. Dean asked the library to pull this one, not knowing the massive size of it. Here he is with the library's own Susan Liberator unrolling a portrait of Steve.
I remember thinking when Susan brought out this large package wrapped in paper that she was working on something else. As she meticulously unwrapped it, I don't think any of us knew it until we saw Steve's hair. We all had a laugh, but Dean still had to ask, "Do you have a scanner this big?"

I told Dean and Lorraine several times that this research day was like fantasy camp for me. For them, it seemed like more fun than work and sometimes like kids at Christmas. The book itself shows the love and dedication that Dean, Lorraine and writer Bruce Canwell have not only for Caniff and his art, but for the excellent standards they've established at the Library of American Comics. For me, this dazzling look at the work of my artistic hero means more for the memory of a day shared with friends.

Monday, October 3, 2011


Recent Releases of Note

  • George Harrison - Living in the Material World [official book]
  • John Hiatt - Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns
  • Indigo Girls - Beauty Queen Sister
  • Jayhawks - Mockingbird Time
  • Allison Krauss & Union Station - Paper Airplane
  • Julian Lennon - Everything Changes
  • The Lonely Island - Turtleneck & Chain
  • Nick Lowe - The Old Magic
  • Paul McCartney - McCartney [reissue; 2-CD or 2-CD/1-DVD w/book]
  • Paul McCartney - McCartney II [reissue; 2-CD or 3-CD/1-DVD w/book]
  • Paul McCartney - Run Devil Run [reissue, no bonus tracks]
  • Paul McCartney - Driving Rain [reissue, no bonus tracks]
  • Paul McCartney - Ocean's Kingdom [Macca composed ballet]
  • Mike + the Mechanics - The Road
  • Morgan/Tandy - Earthrise [reissue; Tandy was keyboardist for E.L.O]
  • Willie Nelson - The Scientist [iTunes single]
  • Randy Newman - Songbook volume 2
  • Stevie Nicks - In Your Dreams
  • Queen - first 5 albums remastered/reissued with bonus tracks
  • Roy Orbison - The Complete Sun Sessions
  • Paul Simon - So Beautiful or So What
  • Paul Simon - first 4 albums reissued; identical to 2004 box set reissues
  • Paul Simon - Live Rhymin' [reissue; remastered with bonus tracks]
  • Simon & Garfunkel - Bridge Over Troubled Water: 40th Anniversary Edition [CD/DVD]
  • They Might Be Giants - Join Us
  • KT Tunstall - Don't You (Forget About Me) [charity single]
  • Loudon Wainwright III - 40 Odd Years [4-CD/1-DVD box set]
  • Wilco - The Whole Love
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic - Alpocalypse
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic - The Alpocalypse Tour [DVD]
  • Neil Young - A Treasure
  • various [Jeff Lynne/Ringo Starr/Stevie Nicks/Brian Wilson] - Listen to Me: Buddy Holly
  • various [Bob Dylan] - The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams
  • various [Wilco/Elvis Costello/CSN] - MusiCares Tribute to Neil Young [DVD]
  • various - O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack [2-disc reissue]
  • various [Paul McCartney/Nick Lowe] - Rave On: Buddy Holly

Upcoming New Releases

  • Beach Boys - The Smile Sessions [11/1] [2-CD]
  • George Harrison - Living in the Material World [TBA] [DVD]
  • William Shatner - Seeking Major Tom [10/11]
  • Paul Simon - Songwriter [10/24]
  • Joe Walsh - TBA [early 2012]
  • various - The Bridge School Concerts 25th Anniversary Edition [10/24] [3-DVD or 2-CD]

On Tour in the Tri-State

  • Bangles - Indianapolis [10/9]
  • Adrian Belew - Covington [10/6]; Indianapolis [10/27]
  • Chicago - Louisville [12/7]
  • Iris Dement - Kent [1/6]
  • Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart - Madison [1/22]
  • Kathy Griffin - Cleveland [10/23]
  • Herman's Hermits - Newport [10/14]; Marion [1/13]
  • John Hiatt - Cincinnati [10/7]
  • Jayhawks - Athens [10/9]; Nelsonville [10/11]; Bloomington [10/12]; Louisville [10/14]
  • Huey Lewis & the News - Newark [10/23]
  • Manhattan Transfer - Carmel [12/3]
  • Willie Nelson - Akron [10/18]; Richmond, KY [10/19]
  • Maura O'Connell - Cleveland [10/14]
  • Chris Robinson Brotherhood - Bloomington [10/13]; Louisville [11/6]
  • Paul Simon - Columbus [11/19]; Bloomington [11/20]; Cincinnati [11/22]; Akron [11/23]
  • Franki Valli - Belterra [10/15]
  • Joe Walsh - Cleveland [10/26]; Cincinnati [10/27]


Randy Newman - The Randy Newman Songbook volume 2 - I'm a Randy Newman fan. This year I fulfilled a dream by seeing him live in concert. But I don't get the point of this project. I understand that he's showcasing his songwriting by just using voice and piano, but these versions aren't that different from the originals. In fact, I'd say Newman is most known for his voice and piano. It's not like his albums have been overproduced. A nice listen, but something of pointless exercise.

Join Us - They Might Be Giants - I'm a loyal fan. If I like an artist, I generally stick with them, buying their new releases sight unheard. I was like that with TMBG, but after 1996's "Factory Showroom", it's been touch and go. I've enjoyed their children's songs, but avoided their rock albums. This most recent was billed as something of a return to form, to their alt-rock heroics of the "Flood" era. That it may be. It might be good, but I'm having a hard time getting into it. Thus the birth of my pet theory that there may be a finite amount of They Might Be Giants to be enjoyed. That after the first 10 years, you kind of have all you need. I hope I'm wrong and there are surprises to come. They just don't come in "Join Us."

And now, guest reviewer Jim Bates -
Neil Young - A Treasure - One of the nice things about live Neil Young is that it will strip away the artifice of Neil’s current project and return to a sound that is just pure Neil. In his latest Archives release, Neil returns to his 1980s International Harvester days. While it could be argued that there isn’t that much of a difference between "Harvest" and "Old Ways," at times it seemed like Neil was just posing as a country singer. With "A Treasure," Neil sounds like country-rock Neil with a kickass country band backing him up. Yes, there is banjo. pedal steel and fiddle, but it is clearly Neil Young...not some guy who sounds like Neil Young trying to hang with Waylon Jennings.

The album opens with the unreleased “Amber Jean,” a simple paean to his daughter. Other songs appearing on an album for the first time include the slashing “Grey Riders,” “Nothing is Perfect,” a wild west song about telephones “Let Your Finger Do The Walking,” and the ‘80s live standard “Soul of a Woman.” Also included is a rare Neil Young cover of “It Might Have Been.” The only "Old Ways" entries are “Bound For Glory,” much better with a full Neil Young vocal, and “Get Back to the Country,” which features some tasty banjo work by Anthony Crawford. We also get, for the first time, Neil singing his Buffalo Springfield standard “Flying on the Ground is Wrong” and Harvest’s “Are You Ready For The Country.” Finally, how can you not love an album with not one, but two songs from "Re-ac-tor"? “Motor City” sounds a little silly today with its 'Buy Detroit' theme, but it's still big fun, and “South Pacific” sounds great in this arrangement.

Overall, this is a great album. While I have no idea what the general opinion was in the mid-'80s...and I guess not so great, as Geffen Records sued Neil over his "Old Ways" 2011 it sounds like just another brick in the wall of Neil Young.

P.S.: Please Neil, don’t make us buy this disc again when you get around to the 80s Archives box set! I’m still pissed and disappointed with Archives I for that reason.