Saturday, April 27, 2013


The latest Reel Stuff Film Festival of Aviation was held earlier this month at the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.  The Air Force Museum Theatre hosted three days of aviation flicks, along with special presenters.  While some went gaga for "Top Gun" in 3-D, I was excited for the screening of a "Steve Canyon" episode in the IMAX theater.  This was a different location for the festival than four years ago, the last time they screened a "Canyon" episode.  You can read about that event here.

The episode screened was Operation Diplomat, episode 11 of the 1958-59 series.  Steve is taking a U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan when Commies force his plane down in unfriendly territory.  Watch out, Steve!  This episode is available on Volume One of the DVD series.  They had planned a bonus episode, but we ran out of time.  The Reel Stuff organizer brought up the idea of having a "Steve Canyon" marathon or weekend sometime at the museum. 

John Ellis from the Milton Caniff Estate was on hand to present the film, show us behind the scenes photos from the making of the episode, and to answer questions.  This guy has been living and breathing the "Steve Canyon" series for eight years, so there's no greater authority on the show.

DVDs of the "Steve Canyon" TV series are now on sale in the gift shop of the USAF Museum.  

After the show, John and I talked Caniff.  He gave me a sneak peek at the long awaited Volume 3.  

Yes, readers, it exists and it looks great.  Pictured are the discs that are nearly the final version.  John is doing what he can to make Volume 3 the best package possible.  

One of the delays has been continually finding new things worth including, such as these "making of" photos.  It's amazing how much information he's uncovered for what was thought to be a "lost" TV series.  

Joined by fellow Caniffite Ted Haycraft, we managed to grab lunch and chat about comics, John's movie career and more Caniff! 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

S.P.A.C.E. 2013

photo by Ted Haycraft

It's April, the pear trees are in bloom and it's time for Bob Corby's annual Small Press Alternative Comics Expo (SPACE).  Joined by stalwart SPACE enthusiast Ted Haycraft, I journeyed to Columbus in search of undiscovered graphic treasures.  While lacking the marquee guest of the past Dave Sim years, SPACE draws me in with the promise of finding new work that doesn't typically reach the comic shops.  Here were the highlights for me:

All of the exhibitors hope you stop and check out their comics.  Some have a rehearsed pitch, which usually consists of "[familiar movie] meets [familiar movie]."  One guy had "Lord of the Rings" meets "Battlestar Galactica."  Not so Zarmina Sulaiman, editor for "Villains Galore" from King Ink Comics.  Her outgoing personality and straightforward pitch - 'a superhero comic from the point of view of the villains' - convinced me to part with $3.  It's a nice effort, but I was hoping for a self-contained story and not the beginning of a planned epic that introduces me to 10 characters in 32 pages.  Unless she's there next year with issue 2, I'm likely never to see it.

Sam Spina (above) does a daily web comic at Spinadoodles.  It's autobiographical, putting a little spin on the mundaneness of everyday life.  Kind of like Harvey Pekar, if he had been friendly and super easygoing.  He's currently in his 5th year of doing the comic, which you can read on his site.  I bought a collection of the 2nd year, which he is signing for me in the picture.

Lee Smith is filling quite a niche, a line of comics about the history of Ohio.  The goal of Smith's Ohio Chronicles is to use comics as a teaching tool.  The comic above focused on comic strip pioneer R. F. Outcault, creator of the Yellow Kid and Buster Brown.  Outcault was from Lancaster, Ohio.  His story is followed by one page tributes to other Ohio cartoonists, notably Hillsboro's Milton Caniff.       

I walked by this gentleman's table a couple of times before stopping.  Every time I walked by, he'd call out, "You got a dollar?"  His table was covered with his crudely drawn, four page comics.  On the third time, I thought, "Why not?"  His name is Parisel, and he writes about super heroes in Detroit.  Probably the main thing you need to know about Parisel is that he is not from the Detroit Tourism Board.  He has nothing good to say about Detroit.  "The fire hydrants don't work.  If you want the police, you have to make an appointment.  Our EMS people aren't even trained in CPR," he told me.  His comics were four for a dollar.  There were so many to choose from, I left it to him to pick them out for me.  In the comic above, the Joker has just robbed an armored car.  This panel is typical of Parisel's brand of art, humor and take on Detroit.  If you think I'm kidding, Sam Spina did this comic about him.  If you'd like to see more of Parisel, some of his comics are set to music on his YouTube channel

Here I am at the end of the show with pal Ted Haycraft.  I'm wearing a Milton Caniff Burma shirt, which got a lot of compliments.  Ted was wearing a Trotsky shirt, which got a lot of puzzlement.

While it's more of an artists show, there was one dealer there specializing in underground comix.  However, their disorganization and lack of pricing along with the yellowed, gritty plastic bags they shlep their comics in was a big turn off.  I don't know if this represents a plan to open up the show to more dealers in the future, or if that runs contrary to the spirit of SPACE.  To sum up, an eclectic mix of comics and creators which will keep us interested to come back in 2014.

Monday, April 15, 2013


Harvey Comics "America's Famous Comics Characters" Promotional Poster (Harvey, 1947).   This rare poster measures 22" x 15" and recently sold at auction for $165.  The poster was meant to entice advertisers by showcasing their high-profile licensed characters that millions of eyes saw every day.  The ad boasts about feature film plans for "these same famous comics characters," but only Joe Palooka would have any life on film in this period, with a series of 11 movies in the late 1940s.  The serial days for "Terry" and "Green Hornet" were behind them.  "Terry", "Palooka" and "Steve Canyon" would find life on TV in the '50s, and "Green Hornet in the '60s.  I guess the 4,000,000 circulation in the ad was monthly.   

I thought it would be interesting to look at those characters and the comic book covers shown in the ad. 

Joe Palooka had a long history in comic books.  Before he joined Harvey Comics, he had a long stint in Columbia's "Big Shot" anthology, as well as a brief 4-issue series of his own.  He had better luck at Harvey, running from 1945 until 1961, longer than any of the other books represented in the ad.

The comic pictured with Joe is the cover of issue 16 (dated 1/48).  Joe's image was the comic's logo from issues #1-29, until they switched to a logo of just Joe's head.  It was also used as the cover of issue 6.  

"Terry and the Pirates" had a long history of comics, primarily in the 12 year run of Dell's "Popular Comics" anthology.  It moved to Harvey Comics in 1947, and the cover in the ad is from issue 6 (dated 10/47).  By the time of this ad, and comic, George Wunder had been on the strip for almost a year after Caniff's departure.  The comic, however, would reprint old Caniff strips during its entire run, even though Wunder was producing the current newspaper strip.  The Terry figure in the ad is by Wunder, though I'm not sure of the source.

"Green Hornet" had a long life on radio, where the character was introduced in 1936.  There was no Green Hornet comic strip at this time, but his radio show had been popular for twenty years running.  I assume the title of "Green Hornet" was amended to add "Fights Crime" with issue #34 to join in on the popular crime genre of the time.  He got even more specific later, becoming "Green Hornet, Racket Buster" with issue #44.  It fell four issues later, either due to dimished sales or the growing furor of activist groups against crime comics.  After 1949, we wouldn't see him again in comic books until his late '60s TV series.  The comic pictured in the ad is #37, dated Dec. 1947-Jan. 1948.

"Kerry Drake" creator Alfred Andriola had been an assistant to Caniff in the late 1930s, before starting the "Charlie Chan" comic strip,  When that ended, he began the "Kerry Drake" strip, which lasted 40 years until his death.  The Drake figure is from the cover of issue 7 and the comic in the ad is the cover to issue 6.
"Steve Canyon" had only begun a year as a comic strip before his comic book debut.  The ad makes me think Harvey either rethought the cover or hadn't finalized it at the time of the ad.  The figure of Steve in the ad is at the center of the cover of issue #1.  The cover depicted in the ad is actually the upper-left panel of the montage behind the central figure.  I'm glad they changed it, as the cover from the ad would have been an inauspicious debut.  Steve being roughed up by some goons pictures him in a sympathetic light, when it should be heroic.  "Steve Canyon"  had the shortest comic book run of any of the comics in the ad, lasting six issues.  A new collection of these issues, and an unpublished 7th, had been planned for last year, but was never printed.  The publisher, Hermes Press, has stated it would be released digitally, but that has yet to materialize. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013


Recent Releases of Note

  • The Beach Boys - 12 catalog albums remastered/reissued (10 of them with both mono and stereo mixes)
  • The Beatles - Magical Mystery Tour [movie reissue, first time on BluRay]
  • The Beatles - Box set of the 2009 remasters on vinyl
  • Beck - Song Reader [new album released only in sheet music form]
  • Joe Brown - The Ukelele Album
  • Johnny Cash - The Complete Columbia Album Collection [63 CD box set]
  • Eric Clapton - Slowhand [2-CD 35th Anniversary reissue]
  • Eric Clapton - Old Sock
  • Crimson Projekct - Official Bootleg Live 2012
  • Donovan - The Sensual Donovan [unreleased 1970 album w/ modern overdubs]
  • The Eagles - The Studio Albums 1972-1979 [6-CD box set]
  • Dave Edmunds - Subtle as a Flying Mallet [reissue w/ 8 bonus tracks]
  • Fleetwood Mac - Rumours [3-CD reissue]
  • Justin Hayward - Spirits of the Western Sky
  • Billy Joel - She's Got a Way: Love Songs [compilation]
  • Led Zeppelin - Celebration Day
  • Jeff Lynne - Long Wave
  • Jeff Lynne - Mr. Blue Sky - The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra
  • Paul McCartney - Live Kisses [concert DVD]
  • Paul McCartney - Complete Kisses [reissue of 'Kisses on the Bottom' with bonus tracks]
  • Paul McCartney - Christmas Kisses [7" vinyl of "The Christmas Song" b/w "Wonderful Christmastime"
  • Willie Nelson - Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die [autobiography]
  • Rilo Kiley - Rkives [rare and unreleased tracks]
  • Son Volt - Honky Tonk
  • Ringo Starr - Ringo at the Ryman [concert DVD]
  • They Might Be Giants - Nanobots
  • Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Psychedelic Pill
  • various - Sound City: Real to Reel [includes Stevie Nicks, Paul McCartney & Jim Keltner]
  • various - Star Trek: The Original Series Soundtrack Collection [15-CD box set]
  • various - The Music is You: A Tribute to John Denver
  • various - 12-12-12: The Concert for Sandy Relief [includes Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Billy Joel & Paul McCartney]

Upcoming Releases
  • ELO - Electric Light Orchestra Live [4/23]
  • ELO - Zoom [reissue w/ bonus tracks] [4/23]
  • Tom Jones - Spirit in the Room [4/23]
  • Julian Lennon - Someday [single] [4/8]
  • Jeff Lynne - Armchair Theatre [reissue w/ bonus tracks] [4/23]
  • Paul McCartney - Wings Over America [reissue] [5/28]
  • Willie Nelson and Family - Let's Face the Music and Dance [4/14]
  • She & Him - Volume 3 [5/7]

On Tour in the Tri-State
  • Paul Anka - Indianapolis [5/11]; Louisville [5/12]
  • Aziz Ansari - Cleveland [5/12]
  • Iris Dement - Muncie [7/20]
  • Bob Dylan - Akron [4/19]; Louisville [4/28]
  • Eagles - Cleveland [7/9]
  • Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart - New Harmony [5/17]; Madison [5/18]
  • Fleetwood Mac - Louisville [4/11]; Cleveland [6/15]
  • Colin Hay - Indianapolis [9/8]
  • Herman's Hermits - Louisville [5/26]; Kokomo [7/20]; Columbus [8/10]
  • Elton John - Dayton [4/3]
  • B.B. King - Evansville [6/5]; Akron [6/7]
  • Huey Lewis & the News - Hoosier Park [6/8]; Cincinnati [6/9]
  • Gordon Lightfoot - Carmel [5/2]
  • Gary Louris - Valparaiso [4/23]
  • Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers - Indianapolis [7/27]; Dayton [7/28]
  • Dennis Miller - Louisville [4/27]
  • Steve Miller Band - Louisville [7/16]; Columbus [8/1]
  • Willie Nelson - Evansville [5/6]; Wabash [5/7]; Hoosier Park [7/12]; Sylvania [7/18]; Cincinnati [7/19]; Somerset [7/20]
  • Tom Petty - Evansville [5/16]; Noblesville [6/15]; Dreamville [7/14]
  • Son Volt - Indianapolis [6/8]; Newport [6/22]; Louisville [6/23]
  • Styx - Evansville [5/15]; Columbus [7/28]
  • They Might Be Giants - Indianapolis [5/30]
  • Brian Wilson w/ Al Jardine - Dayton [7/25]
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic - Sylvania [6/14]

Doubleheader - Dan Bern
review by Jim Bates

Sometimes it's hard to be a Cleveland Indians fan...blown World Series games, poor quality product on the field, and general apathy of ownership (hopefully all to change this year).  But then Dan Bern goes ahead and releases a baseball album and he leaves off “Bobby Feller.”  Damn.  I know Dan has always had issues with song selection and sequence, but this time it hurts us Indians fans more than usual (and no, the song “Rincon” is not about the Tribe’s former reliever).  

Outside of this fatal flaw, “Doubleheader” is a damn good album.  It is both about baseball and uses baseball as a metaphor for life, be it dislocation (“The Golden Voice of Vin Scully”), avoidance of mistakes in public (“When My Buckner Moment Comes”), missed opportunities (“Seven Miles An Hour”, and “This Side of the White Lines”), Carpe diem (“Sunday Never Comes”), and Mr. Bern’s usual twisted take on idols and mythology (“Johnny Sylvester Comes Back To Visit The Babe”).  In fact, I had no idea until I listened to the album that so many of the happenings in world history were because Merkle didn’t touch second base (“Merkle”).  If Merkle is responsible for Hitler, just what can be blamed on Buckner and the Billy Goat?  And if the zombie apocalypse happens, is that Rocky Colavito’s fault?

Highlights include the previously mentioned  “When My Buckner Moment Comes” and "The Golden Voice of Vin Scully" (both featuring members of the Common Rotation on vocals), a re-recorded version of “Gamblin' With My Love (Pete Rose)” (How can you not love a song with Bart Giamatti as a character?), the catchy country rock of “42”, and the vaguely gypsy sounding “Joyce and Gallarraga”  (ok, Dan didn’t leave out all Indians references).  I also appreciated the “and Christopher Columbus came looking for the spice isle” lyric in “Rincon” and, honestly, I can’t tell if “The Year-By-Year Home Run Totals of Barry Bonds” is either lazy songwriting or utter genius.

If I had to complain, and, well, I’m an Cleveland sports fan so, of course, I have to complain, Mr. Bern focuses too much on the Giants and Barry Bonds.  Though to be fair, I’m sure he thinks this review focuses too much on the Indians.  Not to mention I’m not over Pluto’s revoked planet status... (“Lou Gehrig's Disease”)  But I guess all is fair in love and war and a baseball game (“Love, War and a Baseball Game”).

A must listen for the folkie baseball fan, but it deserves an asterisk in the record book for overlooking “Bobby Feller,” not actually having a lyric about an asterisk, and there is no clear proof that Mr. Bern wasn’t on the juice when he recorded these songs.

Push the Sky Away - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
review by Lucas Hardwick

From the very start, Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds’ “Push The Sky Away” album quivers and trembles as if the whole thing would fall apart were it not for Cave’s baritone voice and haunting lyrics holding it all together. 

The group’s 15th studio effort is certainly a step in the opposite direction that the prior “Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!” left us with.  After Nick and the gang got all that cum-filled energy, cynicism and machismo out of their system, the group has mellowed and Mr. Cave is keen to simply observe the world around him via his high-windowed Brighton home (bedroom and wife featured on the cover art), “Googled curiosities,” and Wikipedia -- which gets name-dropped in the track “We Real Cool.”

“We No Who U R” -- the title texted to us it seems, commenting on current day communication -- is so simple one can easily over-complicate the message.  It is very simply expressing how things happen in the world around us without much regard to one another:  “Tree don’t care what the little bird sings / We go down with the dew in the morning light.”  And it perfectly sets the theme of observing that is laced throughout the album.

“Wide Lovely Eyes” is a swaying tribute to Cave’s wife as he watches her go down to the beach.  He catalogues and personifies her every move.  The tune is the most poppy and one of the most catchy songs on the entire album.

Other highlights include a prostitute classic in “Jubilee Street” and cryptic and apocalyptic “Higgs Boson Blues” -- a strange and macabre chronicle of mythical, historical, and speculated events (which may or may not suggest the death of Miley Cyrus) -- almost a “Sympathy For The Devil” in Bad Seeds’ style.

Cave goes meta with “Finishing Jubilee Street.”  Yes, it’s exactly what the title says, and the most haunting track on the album, as he searches for a child “bride called Mary Stanford” from a dream conjured after finishing the tune in question.

Mellow as it is, the entire album throbs with a chilling energy laid down by unconventional loops from Bad Seed Warren Ellis.  Most of said loops aren’t in regular time, which adds to the haunting nature of Cave’s lyrics (and provides for a challenging live performance).  The February release of the album seems appropriate given the overall chill of the music that very rarely includes guitar and only occasional light piano throughout.

Quick Hits from Matt

Justin Hayward - Spirits of the Western Sky - It doesn't feel like Justin Hayward has changed his musical style/taste in 25 years.  While some may call that stale, on this new album it feels welcome and comforting.  Easygoing pop from the aged Moodies front man who's still in great voice.

Jeff Lynne - Long Wave - After waiting two decades for a solo album, I'd hoped for more than a covers record.  However, Lynne enthusiasm and musicianship make this an infectious and fun, though too quick, trip through his childhood songbook.  A bright album that belies the dreary cover photo.

Jeff Lynne - Mr. Blue Sky - The Very Best of Electric LIght Orchestra - Why remake some of the greatest music of all time?  I'm still not sure, but it's a great listen.  Lynne takes advantage of modern technology to redo his classics as he hears them in his head.  Not quite Lucas mucking with the original Star Wars.  More like an exercise where he did one and was having too much fun to stop.  We benefit from his mania, and his voice sounds as good as it did 35 years ago!

Son Volt - Honky Tonk - Like the first couple of Son Volt albums, the songs sort of blend together and you feel like you're just getting into it only to be surprised that you're on song 8.  This is a very twangy set, with pedal steel dominating the sound.  Lazily chugging along is sometimes ok, but this threatens to put you to sleep.  I'm also disappointed in the pedestrian lyrics from the normally cryptic Jay Farrar.