Archive - April 2005
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April 30th, 2005
Here at the site, we have no permalinks, despite an aborted attempt prompted by a request from our German friend, Bjorn. I can honestly say we gave it our best shot, but when it later came time to archive our March page, I mistakenly linked things to the tryout, jerry-rigged, homemade permalink page we had concocted in the middle of that month--and almost lost an entire month's worth of blogging in the process!! It was only Lynn's timely reaction to my quiet whimpering in front of the lap-top that saved the day, as she quickly swooped in and used her formidable computer expertise to recover what had come far too close to being lost forever. So, knowing full well that scene could play itself out on a daily basis, should I have to post every entry individually, it was mutually decided to just table the permalink experiment, at least for the time being. Sorry, Bjorn....

Because of that, each month of "Fred Sez" is an entity unto itself, and at times, individual months take on distinctive identities of their own. For instance, this month featured...

The many moods of Henry Boltinoff...

The many corrections of Mark Evanier..

The many hours of "24"...

The many losses--and subsequent wins--of the New York Mets...

...and in an effort to come completely full circle, we end the month of April right back where we started, with THIS guy...
Yup, it's Karazee Charlie--ain't he darlin'? Put a hat on him, and y'know, he STILL don't look like no Kevin Federline!...

I was Best Man at this guy's wedding, remember, but clearly, NOT the Wackiest!..
April 29th, 2005
I've been working diligently today on my follow-up to last week's episode of The Fred Hembeck Show over at IGN because I know there's a lot of soul-draining yard work in my immediate future, and I didn't want to get caught in a time squeeze. Not to overplay things, but thanks to some fascinating outside input--from several diverse sources--it should be quite the little piece! Don't worry--I'll remind all about it you when the time comes...

Meanwhile, here's the third installment of Jim Salicrup's "Addicted To Comics", as well as some new (or new to me) official sites for three legendary cartoonists:

Dick Giordano
Alan Weiss
Ric Estrada

Thanks to Brian Sagar for sending along the latter two, and for This Is Pop! for providing the first one to pilfer! And yeah, I have even more links besides these to add to my Links page (thanks, Tom!), but I figured these might be able to hold you for just a bit while I try to clear our torn up front lawn of a veritable sea of rocks over the next several days!

So, excuse me as I rock on, begrudgingly...
April 28th, 2005
Earlier this month, the discussion (or--let's face it--my own personal obsession) turned briefly to the once ubiquitous cartoons that ran in DC Comics from the forties on up through the seventies by Henry Boltinoff.

For all practical purposes, though, his gag strips seemed to disappear entirely towards the end of the sixties, and I expressed mild surprise when I stumbled across a hipper Henry in a 1970 issue of SUPERBOY, scanned in under the April 14th entry. I then wondered aloud whether or not Boltinoff's work turned up in the many teen titles that DC suddenly began to churn out as the seventies kicked off, books I never quite got around to buying, either when they were fresh on the stands, or in recent years when they were taking up space in quarter bins.

Well, not surprisingly, the answer was "yes", and trusted correspondent, Kevin Greenlee, was nice enough to send along this scan, derived through electronically based magic from the pages of 1971's DATE WITH DEBBI 16...
Kevin went on to report that, in casually paging through several issues of the title, Boltinoff turns up multiple times, and always with strips featuring African-American characters! I can honestly say, until friend Greenlee sent this my way, I had no other memory of ever seeing a black individual in a Henry Boltinoff comic strip!

Better late than never, and I salute the Powers-That-Were at DC for showing us that not only could Boltinoff's fine cartooning service characters of ANY color, but that his punch-lines were just as cornball coming out of the mouths of an Afro wearing teen as they were spouted by a chubby white spelunker with the unlikely last name of "Puptent"!

Okay, so it wasn't exactly Richard Pryor, but you gotta give them points for trying!!

(And say, didn't Pryor wind up being associated with Superman somehow anyway?...)
April 27th, 2005
Two comics from two different companies, published 19 years apart, with one not-so-common denominator...
What is it?

Hey, for THAT little nugget of info, you're gonna have to go over to IGN Comics and read the trivia-laden seventh episode of "The Fred Hembeck Show"!

And while you're there, Peter Sanderson's 81st edition of his "Comics In Context" column picks up where the last one left off, continuing his recounting of the recent memorial service for Will Eisner.

For more comicsy fun, there's always Tony's Tips, Mike Sterling's Progressive Ruin, and a new blog dealing in an obsessively whimsical manner with DC Comics, The Absorbascon, which I plan to add to my Links page when I spruce it up a few days hence.

And yeah, do come back HERE, y'hear?
April 26th, 2005
As the star of ANOTHER Fox show might describe the newest Chief Executive on "24"...

"Charles Logan, worst president ever."

Well, sure--within ninety minutes of taking over for the incapacitated President Keeler, he's throwing a hissy-fit when he finds out Jack Bauer has exceeded his authority to get valuable information out of a suspect, and orders the Secret Service to arrest the CTU agent immediately--even though it ultimately allows the terrorist with the nuclear warhead to slip away, as the commotion the agents make attempting to follow their Presidential directive clumsily tips off the bad guys! Watergate looks pretty good compared to THIS boner!!...
At least our Nixon doppelganger has the good sense to want to step down after the implications of his hot-headed actions are made, um, perfectly clear to him--though Chief of Staff, Mike Novick, wisely won't let him. After all, three Presidents in as many hours during a day riddled with an even higher tote of terrorist attacks may not play well with the constituency. So instead, brought in on the Q.T. to provide REAL leadership, is our old pal, President David Palmer! I tell ya, it's like the cavalry riding to the rescue. I'm eagerly looking forward to seeing how his role develops over the last five hours of this dire day.

One thing I never expected to see, though, was computer analyst Chloe leaving the safety of the CTU building on an assignment, but as soon as this dubious situation presented itself, well, I pretty much knew it wasn't going to be smooth sailing for the reluctant keyboard whiz--but who could've ever predicted that final shot of the avenging Chloe, gun-a-blazing, riddling a homicidal hit man with rapid machine gun fire? Improbable--silly, even--yes, but somehow oddly satisfying. And perhaps giving many viewers hope that Chloe's Bickerson buddy, Edgar Stiles, might himself soon be in line for a similar assignment, one he may not, shall we say, survive? Ah, if only...

And by the way, just where do these CTU agents get their training in the fine art of keeping their charges covered--The Jack Ruby Institute of Protective Custody? For four seasons now, every time a couple of beefy agents are assigned to keep one of the leads--whether they be another agent, a relative, an informer, or even a bad guy--safe, they're quickly, quietly, and invariably taken out fatally by skilled assassins--who are then, in turn, generally dispatched by the likes of a desperate desk jockey such as Chloe!?! I tell ya, those poor saps who beamed down on those hostile alien planets with Kirk and McCoy stood a better chance of making it back to the Enterprise than any of these poorly prepared CTU stiffs do of turning in their time-cards at the end of the day once they leave the building!!

And I know the whole real-time aspect of "24"--even though that was the hook that attracted me to the program in the first place--has to be taken with a large, extremely tart grain of salt--and frequently--there are times when I just HAVE to complain, and one of those egregious instances occurred last night. At the end of the previous episode, y'see, Jack was using excessive--but, President Logan, necessary--force to compel a suspect to cough up information while he was sitting in the cab of his car at the CTU parking lot, with Bauer getting just what he needed as the hour dramatically ka-chunked to a conclusion.

Well, as we open last night, allegedly only seconds later, our maimed stoolie is lying in a hospital bed in the CTU infirmary, splints on his hands, tubes already running into various orifices. While I'm almost willing to believe they could've gotten him into the on-site medical facilities that quickly, having him all neatly trussed up like that stretches even my more than willing suspension of disbelief. But, if you think I'm gonna stop watching NOW over such piddling qualms, you're way off base!

Lastly, in response to my cornball quip found at the end of yesterday's entry, correspondent Richard Onley offered up THIS gem...

Incidentally, I wanted to write a book on the recent phenomenon in Sri Lanka--but no Oklahoma publisher would go near a book called "Weather Has Tsunamis"...

(...say it out loud...)

From "Ka-chunk, ka-chunk, ka-chunk" to "Ba-rump-bump"--I believe our work here is done!
April 25th, 2005
Jim Salicrup had an intriguing idea: he'd send me a copy of Papercutz' first NANCY DREW graphic novel ("The Demon of River Heights", written by Stefan Petrucha, drawn by Sho Murase, with 3D CG elements by Rachel Ito), and while he certainly welcomed any comments I may've had to contribute, he was even more curious what someone closer to the age of the book's actual target audience felt about it. So, he politely asked if my nearly 15 year old daughter, Julie, might consider reading it, and then consent to offer up any opinions, pro or con.

Well, Julie is notoriously disinterested in reading comic books--and yes, reading in general--but she agreed to give it a go.
Just like she agreed to work on her Cultural Anthropology thesis the majority of this past weekend, just like she agreed to clean up her room over the Christmas vacation, just like she agreed to help sell some of her Grandma's chatchki's on eBay...

When it comes to good intentions, my girlie can safely stroll deep down into the depths of Hell barefoot, as she's already paved herself a pretty comfortable path! But, in her defense, she IS a teenager after all, and these crimes barely even qualify as misdemeanors, so best I not work myself up into TOO large a lather, y'know? However, seeing as how the folks at the NY Times chose to honor the durable Ms. Drew's 75th Anniversary in this week's Sunday magazine, I figured it best to admit defeat, stop waiting for Julie, and offer up a few comments of my own.

I can honestly say this was the BEST "Nancy Drew" story I have EVER read!

Of course, the accompanying caveat would have to be, it's the ONLY "Nancy Drew" story I've ever read, but the folks who chose the blurbs for the back cover of upcoming editions might want to gloss over that little fact...

In all seriousness (or at least, most,,,), I felt the story worked well enough as a compact, all in one volume, mystery, with enough excitement generated by plausible means (i.e., a big ol' bear), that the scenario had a satisfying quota of thrills even without utilizing the over-the-top elements those of us who've been reading fantasy-filled comics for decades have come to expect. The first person narrative by Nancy herself works well enough, and while this is hardly the place to go seeking incisive characterization, each of the leads is given a subtly distinct personality. I've never been one with any ability to suss out mysteries, but this one plays out logically, and as long as I'm not screaming "Hey, THAT doesn't make sense!" when I come to the final page, things are mostly copacetic.

As far as the art goes, well, it just isn't my preferred style. However, I'm not closed-minded enough to pan it on those grounds alone. My main beef is that, although attractively drawn, there are plenty of areas where I would've welcomed more visual information. Perhaps the artist felt constrained by the small size of the product--the book is about the size of your standard Archie Comics digest, though on thick, slick paper as opposed to cheap newsprint--but a lot more seems to be suggested than is actually shown. I made special note of the 3D/CG effects when listing the credits above, as this aspect of the art added immensely to the mood, especially in those scenes taking place in mines and in a darkened forest. I was able to follow the story effortlessly, true enough, so maybe I shouldn't be complaining, y'know?

(And wife Lynn--who actually HAS read a "Nancy Drew Mystery" or two in her day--took a few minutes to sit down and read the Papercutz version, and, allowing for the more telescoped nature of the format, she approved of the story, feeling it caught the essence of the original nicely, and was a suitable read for younger readers--and she had no problem whatsoever with the artwork. So there!...)

Check it out--if this is something that might interest you in the first place, odds are you won't be disappointed with what Jim and crew have cooked up!

As for Julie, well if she DOES get to it before Nancy hits 80, I'll get right back to you with her pithy comments, promise. In the meantime, she's only got a week left to finish her thesis, and with an overnight Girl Scout camping trip looming this weekend, that means a lot of generally ineffective badgering from yours truly over the next few days. Hey, you've gotta know I'm always willing to help, but she's already nixed my suggestion for the paper's title.

For reasons still unclear to me, she didn't want her examination of the current phenomenon of gay parenting to be called "The Children of Adam and Steve"! Huh--can you imagine that?

Wish me luck--it's gonna be a LOOONG week...
April 24th, 2005
Joe Franklin had his own magazine--who knew?
Well, I knew. In fact, all eight issues that were published between March, 1990 and May, 1991 reside in the files downstairs, proving that, in the early nineties, I was a real easy mark at the newsstand!

Sorry--that's a cheap shot. The magazine is actually very elegantly put together, and I'm far happier to have it in my possession that that pile of now useless SCI-FI UNIVERSE magazines from the same era. Sigh...

As for Joe Franklin himself, it seems like he's been in my head forever--which, considering he had a talk show that ran from 1950 on up to 1990 on a local station (channel 9, WOR New York)--that's hardly a surprise. If nothing it else, even if he was only a peripheral presence in my consciousness while growing up--as a connoisseur of talk-shows, if there was ever one host that challenged that love, it was little Joe--it explains somewhat why, pre-1964 Beatlemania, I had the skewed notion that Al Jolson was still the greatest name in all of show business!

After Joe's show finally closed up shop (but before it did, check THIS clip out)--though word has it that the 79 year old Franklin is still going strong on the radio--he made a spate of comedic appearances on the fledgling "Late Night With Conan O' Brien" program, usually interrupting the proceedings mid-way through and holding court over a mini-version of his then freshly retired gab-fest. I remember these bits as being cleverly amusing, but one has to wonder if Franklin was in on the joke, or thought that this was just a way to somehow extend his record-setting career behind the desk (albeit, now a prop one)? Considering that he soon vanished from the O'Brien cast of recurring characters, never to return, my guess would be that he didn't originally have a clear idea as to WHY he was being asked to participate, and when he finally figured it out, well, he got out of there faster than a Jolson impersonator rushing off the stage at the Appollo Theater!...

One other thing--didja know Joe Franklin had his own Sunday funnies comic strip? No, he didn't draw it--that would've been long-time pro, Don Sherwood--and it's doubtful he even wrote it. But he did lend his name to the enterprise, and an ad, looking to hook in interested newspaper editors, appeared in the second issue of his mag (the one pictured above). Yup, for a brief second in time there, a burgeoning blast of Franklinmania was on the verge of sweeping an unsuspecting nation...
Can't you just imagine the conversation on the school yard the following Monday morning?...

"Hey, did you read what Garfield did yesterday, Billy? Man, that is one funny cat!"

"Yeah, I'll admit that was pretty good one, but I've always liked Beetle Bailey best, Johnny."

"How about YOU, Frankie--who's your favorite comics character?..."

"Well, there's this new one named Eddie Cantor who seems pretty darn cool..."
April 23rd, 2005
The above gag was taken from the back cover of the first issue of Dell's AROUND THE BLOCK WITH DUNC AND LOO
(October-December,1961), a wonderfully funny series written and laid out by the genius behind LITTLE LULU, John Stanley, and finished with an exuberant flourish courtesy of Bill Williams' animated cartooning.

In four short panels, Stanley not only delivers his readers a clever joke, but also clearly establishes Loo's personality as the local two-bit con-man. This overlooked gem lasted a mere eight issues--four of which I'm lucky enough to own--but thanks to a tip from the ever vigilant Tom Spurgeon over at The Comics Reporter, you don't have to merely listen to me blather on and on about friends Dunc and Loo, but instead can actually READ several of these cleverly constructed pieces of panelogical comedy! They can be found over at a site with the evocative name of "Last Of The Spinner Rack Junkies".

Host Chance Fiveash has MORE than Dunc and Loo up his sleeve, however. So far, he's posted a THIRTEEN story, also by Stanley, as well as lost treasures from the back pages of greats Alex Toth and Jack Cole, plus an interview with LITTLE ARCHIE'S Bob Bolling! Best of all, Chance promises to post more top-notch material, and soon! So, go take a look--I know that's one spinner rack I'LL be keeping my eye on!...

And speaking of masters of comics' comedy, earlier this month I clued you into The Ultimate Dennis the Menace Thread, but if you haven't checked back since the day I first mentioned it, you really should go investigate this latest intriguing development: towards the bottom of the 27th page, Jim Wiseman, son of the late Al Wiseman, joins in on the dialog, and as of the current 30th page, he's still there! So, you Wiseman fans out there--and I KNOW you're out there--you might want to get over there, and now!

Lastly, if you like Green Lantern, and you'd like to see nearly a dozen nicely done convention sketches of the Emerald Guardian, you'd do well to check out Jason Richards' "Comics Riot!" webpage here and here. Not only do you get to see Hall-of-Famers like Nick Cardy take a stab at Hal, but several up and coming alternative artists get their turn as well. Maybe my favorite interpretation is by a young fellow I had previously been totally unaware of, one Johnny Destructo. It's a great illo--I'm sure his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Destructo, must be SO very proud of their talented son!...

Beyond the pretty pictures, I also got a kick out of Jason's frank reminiscences of both the cartoonists and the circumstances under which each and every one of these illos were drawn. Hey--who knew it was even possible to do a decent con sketch while talking on your cell phone the entire time? Y'know, maybe I'LL try that myself sometime...

First, though, I'm gonna have to get me a cell phone!...
April 22nd, 2005
Yup, I made another boo-boo yesterday, but this time, it was Bob from the Jack Kirby Weblog who pointed out to me that there was actually a Ditko-Trapani story featured in STRANGE ADVENTURES #188, an entire issue before the one I mistakenly declared as containing Sturdy Steve's first DC work. Duly noted, Bob--thanks, and keep up the swell work over at your site!

My USUAL taskmaster checked in as well, but happily, on this occasion, the email subject line read, "I respect you again...", after which, good ol' Mark Evanierhad this to say...

That "Bertram Tilley" story in STRANGE ADVENTURES was almost certainly a case of Trapani getting the job and calling on Ditko to help. Somewhere in the files I have in storage, I have a letter Ditko sent me around 1969 in which he responds to a question I asked him about it. He said that the first CREEPER story was the first time he ever worked for DC, and that if he helped a friend out on some job, it was none of anyone's business.

By the way: Our correspondence, as reproduced on your site, prompted a couple of folks to write and ask me if Trapani followed Ramona Fradon on METAMORPHO. As you know but might want to mention, Joe Orlando followed Fradon. The Orlando METAMORPHO art actually looks like Orlando did it, whereas most of his other pencilling work for DC around this time was heavily assisted/ghosted by Jerry Grandenetti. Interestingly, John Romita -- who DC was then using only on romance comics -- says that he was offered METAMORPHO after Ramona left. I don't recall his explanation of why he didn't do it.

Yeah, I recall reading an interview with John the elder where he mentions the offer, though I too don't remember the actual circumstances. But I can't deal with that, cuz now you've got me thinking about Joe Orlando!...

Y'know, I initially encountered his work in the very first issue of MAD magazine I ever bought, number 72 (July 1962). It was in a three page piece entitled "MAD Visits A Charity Organization Meeting" (written by Larry Siegel)
Having absolutely NO clue regarding his tenure illustrating horror and science fiction stories for EC Comics a decade earlier, and subsequently finding him in most every issue of my first handful of MADs, I quickly labeled Joe Orlando in my mind as a humor artist, no ifs, ands, or buts. Which is why, when Stan Lee announced that Orlando had been engaged to take over for co-creator, Bill Everett, as the new DAREDEVIL penciller, beginning with the second issue, I was NOT at all happy.

He was a HUMOR artist, I sniffed--how could he POSSIBLY dole out the sort of excitement and thrills we readers were coming to expect from the emerging wonderment that was Marvel Comics back in 1964? Okay, sure, it wasn't like he was Don Martin or Antonio Phonias, but still, the whole notion of a MAD magazine cartoonist drawing one of my precious super-heroes (though only a single issue old, I was immediately taken with Matt Murdock's costumed identity), well, it left a bad taste in my mouth, is what it did. So, going in, I was pretty much prepared to hate DD's new artist.

(Did I mention I was eleven years old? Yeah--and I knew everything there was to know, too!...)

The artwork wasn't bad--not even close--but I was still looking for reasons to justify my close-minded intolerance, and while I couldn't find it on that evocative splash page, I felt I hit pay-dirt on page four. The four panel sequence up top looked more like it belonged in an issue of ARCHIE than it did in the midst of the deadly serious antics of a guy who put on a bright costume and took it upon himself to whack at thugs with his billy club! And that big panel below it--as impressive as it may've been--seemed to be manned with extras left over from one of Orlando's MAD jobs. At least, that's the way my clearly prejudiced eyes preferred to see it at the time...
In the end, Joe Orlando only pencilled three issues of DAREDEVIL in 1964--all of which were inked by Vinnie Colletta, marking, incidentally, the ubiquitous embellisher's first work on titles falling under the purview of the nascent Marvel Universe (and his pairing with Jack Kirby on the book's trio of covers launched the initial teaming of that long-running duo under those same circumstances). Fact is, Orlando never worked for Marvel again after that--though his old pal, Vinnie, sure did! Oy, did he ever...

Several years later, Joe O wound up over at DC, manning his drawing board for a while, but eventually assuming a position near the top of the editorial ladder. First, however, came Warren.

Late in 1964, the first issue of the first illustrated black and white horror magazine of the decade hit the stands--CREEPY--and the very first story in it--"Voodoo!"--was beautifully drawn by none other than Joe Orlando! After getting a gander at the gorgeous splash page below, well, I felt it was finally time to reassess my view of the man I'd once solely thought of as a "humor" artist...
I was particularly taken with the continuing adaptation of Eando Binder's "Adam Link--Robot" stories that Orlando illustrated over the next few years--though I DID notice his style begin to change as time wore on. with his layouts becoming wilder, looser, more free-form. Sorta like those of that OTHER Warren contributor, Jerry Grandenetti.

By the time time he made his debut at DC (or what I THOUGHT was his debut), pencilling SHOWCASE #62's "Inferior Five" introductory tale (cover dated June, 1966), I had a new-found respect for Joe Orlando that clearly I didn't have when he was assigned DAREDEVIL. Ironically, now that I had been impressed with his serious side, what was I getting excited about? Him doing a HUMOR strip!

And the OTHER new book he took on at his new home turf was SWING WITH SCOOTER, both of which were more in tune with his MAD work than with what he did during his brief stay at Marvel--and both of which, as Mark indicates, look to have a LOT of Grandenetti in them.

I didn't know it at the time, but Orlando's TRUE bow at DC came two months earlier in the April, 1966 issue of METAMORPHO, number five.
In fact, as you're all well aware by now if you've been reading the last few day's postings, I didn't even realize Orlando HAD pencilled that issue (and the next one) until just a few short days ago!?! D'oh!

Check out these panels. Yeah, I can see Orlando in there--especially those folks in the background...
Once he became a full fledged editor around 1970, Orlando did comparatively little artwork from that point on. Curiously, the majority that he DID have published during that decade wound up in the pages of NATIONAL LAMPOON magazine and not under the auspices of his weekday employer (and this also made him virtually the only significant dual MAD/NatLamp contributor).

If the truth be known, in the final analysis, I was never all that big a Joe Orlando fan, even of the EC work I belatedly got a look at. I judged the Marvel work too harshly at the time it came out, and conversely, got maybe a little too excited when he brought his pencil over to DC. As an editor, though, he had a pretty good track record, with SWAMP THING being his primary claim to fame.

Yeah, Joe Orlando: he was the second-ever DAREDEVIL artist, a bit of trivia I've carried around with me for four decades now. But, dig this--Joe Orlando, he was also the second-ever METAMORPHO artist, something I've known for, what? Four days now? Who SAYS you can't learn something new every day? Yeah--and that plus five dollars'll get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks--a SMALL cup...
A programming note: big comedy day on the Turner Classic Movie channel. Commencing at 6AM (Eastern time) and ending at 2PM, they're running six consecutive features starring the once-popular, but now mostly forgotten comedy team of Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey, the productions spanning the years 1930 through 1938. I know little or nothing about the pair, but reading a review of one of these flicks several months ago at Bill Sherman's Pop Culture Gadabout site (which, for reasons unknown, I can't seem to get to now, so no link, sorry) peaked my interest enough for me to put a tape in for the entire marathon. How many of these I'll actually be able to take, we'll just have to wait and see...

Follow that with a pair of Ritz Brothers comedies (which I'll skip--love the cracker, not nearly as crazy about the brothers...), and then, between 5PM and 2AM, fun is guaranteed for all. as Bob and Bing embark on the roads to (deep breath now) Singapore, Morocco, Zanzibar, Utopia, AND Bali! Luckily, I have TWO tapes available! Check 'em out people--they're comedy classics!

One last item: Chris "Lefty" Brown is looking for twenty bloggers to participate in a little Mixed Bag mix CD exchange, and he has nine folks lined up already, with a deadline looming. All the necessary info can be found here--and yes, I decided to jump aboard myself. Who ELSE would there be to represent Der Bingle in this little exercise anyway? More on this later in the month, including an annotated track-listing of my contribution.

More corrections tomorrow? Don't bet against it...
April 21st, 2005
Today, we harken back to some of the recent topics under discussion found here at "Fred Sez", additionally adding some aptly named addendums.

First up: the Silver Age gag cartoons of Henry Boltinoff.

Understand that in the fall of 1965, DC Comics undertook what I considered to be the coolest advertising campaign my young eyes had ever witnessed in their pages. The firm was on the verge of reintroducing their ghostly Golden Age character, the Spectre, in their SHOWCASE try-out title, but rather than just rely on typical house ads to promote his re-debut, they sprinkled the slogan, "The Spectre Is Coming!"--complete with an impeccably evocative logo--throughout the line for several months prior to the comic in question hitting the stands. running it mostly on the tops and bottoms of story pages, but occasionally slipping it into some rather unexpected nooks and crannies.

Such as...
From the last panel of a full page "Moolah the Mystic" gag found in STRANGE ADVENTURES #183 (December, 1965), friend Moolah was WAY lucky that this was the Gardner Fox-Murphy Anderson Spectre he was dealing with and NOT the later Michael Fleisher-Jim Aparo version, cuz we all know what HE did to phonies bearing crystal balls!

And while we're dipping into the STRANGE ADVENTURE's files, take a peek at this splash page from the 189th issue, and enjoy (nudge nudge, wink wink) the ever-morphing stylings of Sal Trapani...
Yup, it's yet another dazzling example of "The Far-Out Vouchering of Sal Trapani!"

To be fair, this story COULD very well have been assigned to glaringly obvious penciller Steve Ditko, but after what Mark Evanier said the other day, who's to know for sure WHICH artist actually garnered this job from editor Jack Schiff, Steve or Sal? Interestingly, this issue has a cover date of June, 1966, a full month earlier than that found on Ditko's last issue of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, number 38. However, bear in mind, Marvel and DC in those days didn't always have cover dates that matched up, so it may well've come out at virtually the same time as his Spidey swan song. It WAS however, to the best to off my knowledge, the artist's first work for Superman's caretaker's, even if there's every chance he got the job through Trapani.

(And by the way, I always LIKED Sal Trapani's inking, where ever it turned up, and found him preferable to many other embellishers who worked over Ditko during this time period. On that particular scale, let's just say he was closer to Wally Wood than he was to Vinnie Colletta...)

Moving on to Dennis the Menace and the Mystery Spot, this amusing anecdote came in from Mark Drummond...

One of my personal observations on the Mystery Spot story: I first saw this in one of the Pocket Full of Fun digests. Unfortunately, the reduced printing size made one particular line of dialogue look...questionable. When I got a copy of the original comic, I saw that the line actually ended with:

"No, I mean the spot on this guy's tie! Looks like EGG!"

The PFOF printing made "egg" look, more than anything, like "poo"...

Well, at least Dennis didn't say "snot"...

And from Craig Boldman--one of the few individuals in this world you can truthfully address with the following phrase, "Hey, I like your Jughead!" and NOT get yourself smacked immediately in the face--sends in his memories of the nation's apparently many Mystery Spots, and provided the associated links...

I'm wondering if your Dennis the Menace/Mystery Spot post has prompted others to write in about their visits to similar 'mystery spots.' My family visited a place called Mystery Hill while on vacation when I was a kid, and it had all the same gags as the place the Mitchells encountered in the story. I hadn't thought about it in a good long time though, so I did the inevitable web search. Apparently there's a rash of 'em around the country:

and the one I saw as a child was the Lake Erie variation:

I saw the Dennis story some time later and my pea-sized kiddie brain assumed it was the very same place. The Mystery Hill visit was OK, but the anticipation outstripped the reality -- ain't that always the way?

So the Mystery Spot the Mitchell's stopped by was only one in a series of tourist traps? Man, that's a bummer! If I can't trust what I read in a half-century old DENNIS THE MENACE comic, what CAN I believe?

Craig goes on to mention a few things about his really swell site..

Presently starting a new story in my webcomic, in coordination with the beginning of its second year and a website sprucing-up.

Go take a look, folks--Craig's stuff is always funny!

Not so funny--but well worth considering--is this link to a feminist review of "Sin City", passed along by reader Alan Plessinger. Interestingly enough, the writer purports to be not only familiar with Miller's comics work, but also to be a fan of it. Not so the movie, however. Uh uh--not by a LONG shot! And if you scroll on down and sample the comments her piece elicited from her audience, you'll find she's not alone. There's a lot of points here that make sense when you take the time to stop and ponder them, but--oops--are concepts that sometimes escape the attention of us fellas in our eagerness to enjoy our big ol' crash boom bam shoot 'em ups. Look, if you've read all the OTHER bloggers impressions of the film, you'd do well to check this one out, too.

Lastly, Tom Galloway alerts us all to this eerily--but not quite--prescient panel from JUSTICE LEAGUE AMERICA 35 (February, 1990), story by Keith Giffen and J, M. DeMatteis, pencils by Adam Hughes, inks by either Nichols, Rubenstein, or Marzan--you tell me! Multiple credits--bah. Reasonably sure Ramona Fradon wasn't involved, though...)
Ha! You should've been so lucky, Beetle boy!...
April 20th, 2005
Department of Corrections:

Last night, shortly after posting the yesterday's "Fred Sez" entry, a friendly note came in from Mark "One More Strike And You're Out" Evanier, pointing out that it was George Kashdan and not Murray Boltinoff who'd edited the METAMORPHO series from the outset. Going solely from an ever faltering memory, I'd thought that Murray launched the Element Man in his BRAVE AND THE BOLD try-out issues before turning it over to George, but sure enough, a quick check of the indicia of B&B 57 and 58 show only Kashdan's name.

The word "Oops" suddenly comes to mind.

Well, I suppose it's only logical that I get the two men mixed up--before the pair graduated to full-time editor-status, circa 1963, their names could be found together following the seasoned Jack Schiff's as associate editors of books like HOUSE OF MYSTERY and HOUSE OF SECRETS. And, as it was, Mark thought he had me on that ever looming third strike anyway, pointing out Kashdan edited BLACKHAWK as well--but he was thinking of a slightly later era when the Less Than Magnificent Seven unwisely donned some of the most inane super hero costumes ever--EVER!!--while I was referring to 1964's BLACKHAWK 196, 197, and 198, Boltinoff's sadly short but blissfully memorable tenure, a time in which the Schiff-less Dark Knights belatedly rediscovered their World War Two roots, had their origin faithfully retold, saw the advent of nifty new uniforms as well as a new logo--and most importantly, were blessed (for the first time in the three years I'd been following their adventures) with stories actually worth reading! Someday I'll rhapsodize at even greater length about this trio of issues, but for now, I'll simply acknowledge that George Kashdan indeed had a far longer run running things on Blackhawk Island, but that many of the most pivotal changes were instituted by Boltinoff during his brief but fertile stay in the Blackhawk's bunk house.

Moving on now to the Department of Plugs...

Remember how earlier this month I flat out declared that I had absolutely no interest whatsoever in COUNTDOWN TO INFINITE CRISIS, and there was just NO way I'd ever get around to reading it? Well, I guess you can't always believe everything you read here at "Fred Sez" (heck, Mark Evanier could've told you THAT!...), because much to my own surprise, I DID wind up reading it.

Well, so I could competently interview the recently deceased Blue Beetle for the sixth episode of my weekly IGN Comics feature, "The Fred Hembeck Show", of course.

But digging out copies of the old, late eighties DC version of the character to serve as reference for the handful of illos I did up to accompany my piece, I stumbled across an interesting little item: COUINTDOWN TO INFINITE CRISIS ain't the FIRST time a Beetle got the life squashed out of him within the pages of a DC publication, friends!

Just take a look at that cover of BLUE BEETLE #18 (November, 1987), a book written by Len Wein and drawn by Paris Cullins--based on his obviously demented demeanor, one of those gents could easily qualify as a full-fledged Beetlemaniac!..
You all probably know that our late friend, Ted Kord, saw his escapades originally published by Charlton Comics, but a few short years before Steve Ditko revitalized the long-running Blue Beetle concept once again, the tiny Derby, Connecticut firm had ANOTHER character running around bearing that much used moniker, one Dan Garrett to be precise.

The seeming conflict between having two fellas bearing the same name operating simultaneously was resolved in an early Ditko issue, apparently ending with Garrett's noble demise. But--hey, this is comics, after all--so, years later he miraculously winds up facing off again with Ted--and this time, as a full out baddieI

Of course, he was being controlled by an evil scarab at the time (it happens...), so we really SHOULD cut him a little slack, y'know? And just as this episode neared its inevitable conclusion, the sudden return of the memory of his Tony Tallarico days shocked him back to being his own good, Joe Gill-approved self...
Yup, you can all pretty much figure out what happens next--fighting off the evil that had controlled him also winds up killing him. Once again, Dan Garrett dies a noble death. And--here's the GOOD news--Maxwell Lord was nowhere in sight...
So, go on over to IGN and see what me and Ted Kord the Friendly Ghost have to talk about.

And while you're there, please don't fail to read Peter Sanderson's latest installment of "Comics In Context" for Peter's first hand report of the recent memorial gathering for the late, great Will Eisner.

And let's not overlook Jim Salicrup's second "Addicted to Comics", in which Jim offers Marvel Comics some more good solid advice (plus, here's a link to an article in USA Today dealing with the new NANCY DREW comic Jim edits for Papercutz).

And just because it's long overdue, let me point you toward Tony's Tips, voted year in and year out as "It, the Living Colossus's Favorite Website"--and who am I to argue with a mountain-sized, Tony Isabella-lovin' granite monster anyway?
Go! Be on your way! But y'all come back tomorrow, okay?

After all, don'tcha wanna find out just what sort of egregious error Mark Evanier has caught me in NOW?...
April 19th, 2005
Shortly after I blithely credited Ramona Fradon as the penciller of the panel I scanned into my April 16th "Fred Sez" entry, a piece of email arrived bearing the ominous subject line of "I've lost all respect for you..."

It was from none other than Mark Evanier...

METAMORPHO #7 drawn by Ramona Fradon? Nope. Wrong. Not by her. She was gone by then.

Actually, there's a bit of a mystery as to who did the pencilling. It's credited to Sal Trapani, and he's the guy who got paid. But on almost every assignment in the sixties where Trapani was hired to pencil and ink, he started by hiring someone else to ghost pencil for him: Ditko, Giordano, Jack Abel, Bill Molno, Charles Nicholas, Chic Stone, etc. I've always been curious as to whether Trapani actually pencilled those issues of METAMORPHO. There are a lot of Fradon swipes in them so perhaps he did those, at least. I suspect someone else is in there with him.

Upon closer examination, as I told Mark (
in a reply headed, "Join the club..."), he was absolutely right. That art appeared in the waning days of an era in which DC tried to maintain a specific look for each feature, and since Ms. Fradon had successfully launched the Element Man just a few short years earlier, that was apparently the way they wanted the book to look, no matter WHO was pencilling. Maintaining Charles Paris as the inker helped disguise the identities of the folks fooling fans as faux Frau Fradons!

Actually, I never paid all that much attention to METAMORPHO after the title's first few issues. (DC published 17 in all, but--after missing number 10--I bailed for good after the 11th issue, and pretty much never looked back). Starting strongly with a BRAVE AND THE BOLD tryout, the Metamorpho cast was another of several Murray Boltinoff edited ensembles that debuted so promisingly between 1963 and 1965 (Eclipso in HOUSE OF SECRETS, The Doom Patrol in MY GREATEST ADVENTURE, and the 1964 revamp of BLACKHAWK would be the others), but squandered their potential by late 1966 in a wrongheaded attempt to emulate not only the success of the campy "Batman" television show, but to combine that approach with that of the emerging Marvel Comics as well. The results were rarely pretty.

You think I'm exaggerating?

Well, even before Mark set me straight, I'd scanned in ANOTHER page from the METAMORPHO archives, this one pencilled by (your guess is as good as mine) from the 8th issue (October, 1966), and features our star, in his Rex Mason guise, stopping by the "Metamorpho A-Go-Go", the "newest, hottest discotheque in town" to do the latest dance: The Element Man...
That, friends, is one peculiar page, on any NUMBER of levels! I find panel three, in which our boogaloo buddy is feeding himself acid, to be particularly grotesque. Talk about your endsville...

Forty years later, it's easy to look back at this stuff and laugh at how blatantly goofy it is, but lemme tell ya, when you're thirteen years old and all your pals are telling you you're too old to be reading comics, stuff like this WASN'T offering you much of a defense! It's no wonder kids my age gravitated to Marvel Comics back in the mid-sixties, because with nonsense like this, I've gotta believe DC was actually driving readers AWAY!

Anyway, thanks for keeping me on my toes, Mark! And just so we're entirely clear hear, let me further add for the record, however belatedly, that the drawing I included in yesterday's posting was ALSO not the work of Ramona Fradon. (At least, I'm pretty sure it wasn't...)

Topic change: let's talk last night's "24"!

Pardon me for finding the producer's decision to cast in the role of their recently promoted--but transparently fearful, indecisive, and weaselly--Vice-President an actor who resembles good ol' Tricky Dick Nixon as closely as they could find without the benefit of additional makeup. Oh, the role isn't being played like Nixon--whatever you might think of him, he wasn't the coward this obviously over his head Head of State is, but it's dark humored fun nonetheless for those of us who lived through his administration. But hey, I thought we'd see the return of President Palmer tonight--wha hoppen? He'd better arrive on scene pretty quick--Jack can't do it ALL on his own!

If bringing in a Nixon doppelganger was giving the Right a noogie, the Left got theirs when the top terrorist maneuvered a lawyer from an organization with the strikingly familiar name of Amnesty Global to swoop in and keep one of his henchmen from talking (which on "24", basically means keeping the torture specialists at bay). Of course, agent Bauer--or, at least temporarily, ex-agent Bauer--cleverly figured a way around THAT little problem! He's a walking, talking Patriot Act, he is!

And again I ask, where's William Devane? I thought he was a major player in this story, but he been off screen for weeks (hours) now. Hey, do you think maybe--just maybe--the man is getting himself some SLEEP? After all, he WAS captured by terrorists earlier in the day. After such a stressful morning, I think he'd be forgiven a little nap time, don't you think?

One last observation--Edgar Stiles is gonna blow, mark my word. and when it happens, it AIN'T gonna be pretty.

Six more nail-biting hours to go! I'm definitely not gonna waste any money on manicures for at least another month and a half!
April 18th, 2005
It's been just over a week now since Julie and I went to see "Sin City", and I suppose I should say SOMETHING about it--at least, before it's released on DVD anyway...

In an attempt to insure that my thoughts are reliably my own and not subconsciously influenced by the conclusions of others, I've pretty much avoided reading what everyone else is saying about the movie, with a few specific exceptions. One thing I DO know, though, is that the response to the film has been generally positive from both folks familiar with the comics and from those who aren't--AND it's doing boffo box office! Plus, everyone seems to agree that there's never been a more faithful adaptation of comics material up onto the big screen as "Sin City", a point I would both agree AND disagree with...

A few days after seeing the movie, I was in a Borders book store, and out of idle curiosity, I picked up a copy of one of those new reformatted "Sin City" collections. Now, I bought each of the series as they came out in their old fashioned comic book format--with the staples, and all that?--and as much as I may've liked them--and I did, quite a bit--I never felt the need to re-buy them (though I must admit these new versions DO look quite attractive). So, this was the first time I'd taken a good look at any of them in years, and I was struck by how much the artwork resembled what I'd seen up there on the screen a few short days earlier--and yet how much they didn't.

Maybe there's some precedent that I'm not aware of, but Frank Miller's high contrast, mostly black and white approach to the illustrations in his "Sin City" series is unique to these eyes. Even more importantly, his pacing is an odd combination of broodingly static moments given to sudden wild bursts of activity, usually of the blood-letting variety. But rarely could the work be considered for what generally passes as cinematic in comics. There's too many full pagers, too many silhouetted scenes, and way too much first person narration to suggest, at first glance, a movie on paper. But it's a testament to Miller's considerable talent--and, dare I say, genius?-- that they WORK as graphic progressions, and they work unequivocally. But would they work up on the silver screen? People, I know, had their doubts--and I was one of them...

Amazingly, the characters look almost exactly like they did in the comics, and somehow, even as grotesque a creation as Marv somehow becomes believable in this stunningly unlikely transfer. Some of the other images--I'm thinking particularly of the Bruce Willis character sitting in his prison cell--capture the look of Miller's artwork to an astonishing degree. And of course, the dialog and the overall plotting is taken directly from the source material, insuring a degree of authenticity previously unheard in this latest cimematic sub-genre. So very, very true to its origins, there's only ONE key hurdle for the movie version to leap--the problem of movement.

Everyone moves in the filmed version, y'see (and aren't you glad I didn't lift THAT choice little nugget from someone else's earnest essay?). That's probably where the term "movies' came from, now that I think about it. And that could've been the cinematic "Sin City"s downfall. Given the understated, artsy approach the comics took to illustrating their shocking moments of unrestrained mayhem, somehow these otherwise distasteful sequences maintained a certain tawdry elegance. Somehow, these comics didn't seem all that violent, at least not compared to similar storylines published in the more standard full color format, drawn by artists more intent on shocking simply by showing the gore, not bothering to approach their subject matter from the more creative angles Miller invariably employed. But in any live-action version of these tales, all that blood, guts and mayhem was going to lose any and all understatement merely because it was MOVING. Making a version of "Sin City" that wasn't either the most objectionable splatter movie ever released, or a laughable shadow of its panelogical origins was going to be tough, REAL tough.

But somehow, Miller and his collaborators--co-directors, actors, and most especially the effects crew--managed the near impossible: a movie filled with some of the most vile images imaginable that is nonetheless neither particularly objectionable nor so blatantly cartoony as to be perceived merely as a bad joke, which is sure one tough line to tread. So yeah, it's a little disconcerting, all that extreme violence, but the fact that a card carrying wimp like myself didn't feel even the slightest need to turn my head away when a ravenous dog was unleashed on the four, freshly severed limb-stumps of a miraculously still alive character, well, that says a lot about their successful approach to the decidedly delicate material.

My admiration for Frank Miller has always been at a high level, and the fact that he's managed to pull this off--staying true to his vision, writing, co-directing, even cameoing in, AND keeping the rights to a box-office smash based on his own creation (just weeks after Marvel's sad attempt to sell a bad movie based on one of his work-for-hire brainstorms, "Elektra", tanked badly)--is nothing short of stunning. Still, to be entirely honest, the movie didn't snare my imagination in quite the same way the two Spider-Man flicks and the first Superman film did, primarily because of the substantial emotional investment I had in those characters before the lights had even dimmed, whereas my appreciation for the motley menagerie of"Sin City" players was more of an intellectual one. But wow, what an achievement! I'm glad I got off my butt and made it out to the theater last Sunday afternoon, quite the achievement for ME!

And as for daughter Julie, well, even though she has little interest in comics, I dragged her along knowing full well her taste for the outrageous (films viewed by my teenager in recent months include the "South Park" movie, "Team America", "Bad Santa", and--in a whole 'nother vein, "The Passion of The Christ"), and I thought this one might appeal to her. Well, aside from getting a little antsy towards the end--it IS a pretty long movie, and I DID promise her we'd go clothes shopping right afterwards--she seemed to like it well enough. And in fact, she seemed to like it even better after she went to school the next day and found out one of her best buddies held the flick in the highest of regards!

As for the extreme violence, I asked her afterwards if she found it at all disturbing. "Nah", she said. How did it stack up against "The Passion", a film I had no stomach for but which we rented on DVD after she repeatedly expressed interest in seeing it. "Oh, "The Passion" was way, WAY worse" as far as the manner in which the blood and gore content was presented, she told me, making me glad once again that I'd decided to take a pass on that OTHER literary adaptation.

So that's my take on "Sin City". Curiously, in putting this together, I was surprised to discover that I'd never actually read the last "Sin City" series, "Hell and Back", so I'm gonna try to find some time soon for that, and see how it measures up against my recent cinematic experience.

But that'll have to wait just a little bit longer--first, I've got me a whole LOTTA blog reviews to catch up on!...
April 17th, 2005
They blew a comfortable lead in the bottom of the ninth to lose their Opening Day game.

They never had a lead in their next four contests, and going into last Sunday, they were the only team in the majors without a victory.

But after starting the 2005 campaign 0-5, the New York Mets are suddenly 6-5, which should explain that second back page headline on the DAILY NEWS--the so-called "New" Mets of Carlos Beltran, Pedro Martinez, and manager Willie Randolph are currently in the midst of a six game winning steak.

Suddenly. it's fun to be a Mets fan again!

I really thought I'd finally gotten tired of baseball, as I had a hard time mustering much enthusiasm for it over the last few years, but now I realize what I had REALLY grown weary of was uninspired, losing baseball--when it's as exciting as most of the games have been from the past week, it still has the ability to thrill, lemme tell ya!

Of those six games, four saw the Mets pull ahead of their opponents in the late innings, with a pair--including the sixth and most recent--of the victories determined in the New Yorker's final at bat. But probably the most magical of ALL the W's was the game Friday night, as the Mets beat the Florida Marlins 4-0. That's because they had their number nine starter on the mound--and he threw a one-hit complete game shut-out!

"Number nine starter?", you ask--don't teams only use five? True, and the Mets had their five pretty much set going into spring training. Still, as always there were others in camp, vying for some sort of a job. When Steve Trachsel, their scheduled number five man, discovered he needed surgery that would shut him down for half the season--if not more--the Mets didn't just promote from within, they went out and got Ishii from the Dodgers (making him number six). Comfortable with their final roster, the Mets then traded Matt Ginter (number seven) just before Opening Day, only to wish they hadn't when their number three pitcher, Kris Benson, suddenly went down with an ailment that would keep him out of the rotation for at least several weeks. That meant that the Mets would have to rely on either Jae Seo--number eight, who'd had a decent rookie season two years ago, but regressed enough last year that he spent most of the summer in the minors--or Aaron Heilman, their once-vaunted, untouchable number one draft pick who, in part of two seasons, had compiled a disappointing 3-11 record in part-time duty in the majors, his stock slipping so badly, the team couldn't even unload him over the winter. Apparently, he won the coin toss over Seo, and so he was the one chosen to fill in for Benson.

It didn't start pretty for him. He allowed an early inning gland slam in Atlanta to give the team their fifth consecutive loss. Some wondered if he'd even get another chance. But instead of being history, he almost made history Friday night at Shea Stadium, allowing only one early inning infield hit over the course of the best nine innings he'd ever pitched. When he took the field for the ceremonial introductions on Monday's home opener with the 1-5 Mets, Heilman heard a chorus of boos, but when he walked off the mound for the 5-5 Mets, the packed house that evening gave him another sort of reception altogether!

That's one of the great appeals of baseball--it seems an unexpected Cinderella story is always just lurking around the corner.

Maybe this year, that's not only Heilman, but these New Mets as well.

Let's go New Mets!
April 16th, 2005
Hey look! A Silver Age Bob Haney in-joke!
From METAMORPHO #7 (July-August 1966), our hero and his two companions stumble across evidence that ANOTHER Haney-scripted adventurer had left his mark, fittingly, on the inside wall of a volcano--a small bit of vandalism that otherwise goes uncommented upon by our trio of explorers. (Art by Ramona Fradon and Charles Paris.)

Probably a good move, inasmuch as Cave Carson and his crew were afforded not one, not two, but three separate--and failed--multi-issue auditions in DC Comics tryout titles, BRAVE AND THE BOLD (numbers 30, 31, and 32 from 1960, and 40, 41 from a year later) and SHOWCASE (numbers 48, 49, and 52 from 1964). The "Inside the Earth" gang threw everything they had against the wall, but apparently the only thing that stuck was the boss man's signature...

On other matters, the nominations for the Eisner Awards were announced the other day, and inasmuch as the only category I feel at all qualified to make any comments on is the Hall Of Fame selection, let's take a look at the list of eligible candidates..

Judges’ Choices: Lou Fine; René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo

Four additional inductees will be voted on from the following group...:
Matt Baker
Wayne Boring
Nick Cardy
Yves Chaland
Gene Colan
Johnny Craig
Reed Crandall
Floyd Gottfredson
Frank Hampson
Graham Ingels
Robert Kanigher
William Moulton Marston
Hugo Pratt
Frank Robbins
Now, this WAS the place where I was planning to go into my impassioned plea promoting the long overdue enshrinement of perhaps the greatest crime and horror writer-artist of the fifties, the magnificently talented Johnny Craig--that is, until I read the following comment concerning the Eisner's Hall of Fame over at the always entertaining--and in this instance, downright insightful--Johnny Bacardi Show...

I'm wondering- since these are all legendary, outstanding creators, WHY is it necessary to have this baseball-like voting process? Don't they all DESERVE to be in? Haven't they all paid their dues and then some? And it's not even like baseball, where anybody who's been retired for five years is eligible, ensuring that there will be a bunch of second-stringers mixed in with the all-timers. Put 'em ALL in, I say! Then nominate another dozen to put in next year!

I couldn't have said it any better--so I didn't! Johnny, excuse the extensive quote, but when you're right, you're right! Surely the Hall has enough room to house all fourteen of these gents (in addition to the three chosen by the judges)--and if for some reason they don't, why put voters in the unseemly position of having to weed out two-thirds of the choices available, occasionally resulting in a situation where one of the very few surviving--but definitely worthy--candidates is overlooked in favor of an equally worthy, but deceased candidate. Look, like Johnny says, if they're good enough to make the finalists, then they're good enough to get in. Otherwise, it's hardly any better than the annual Academy Awards memorial segment where the audience determines the relative popularity of the recently departed with their tacky applause--only, in the Eisner's case, it's even worse, since some of the folks being rated by this judgmental popularity contest are still with us!

EVERYBODY in, I declare!

That said, I sure hope Johnny Craig makes the cut...
April 15th, 2005
A few weeks ago, I received an email from a reader by the name of Michael Ingrassia. Michael was trying to track down a very special Dennis The Menace story that appeared in one of those wonderful old Fred Toole/Al Wiseman comic books from the fifties, and knowing my unbridled admiration for that series, he thought perhaps I might be able to help him. Now, normally I'm not all that good at this sort of thing (translation: don't try this at home), but the tale in question was one that had always intrigued me.

It concerned the Mitchell's visit to The Mystery Spot...
Called "The Wrong Slant" and appearing in the 36th issue of DENNIS THE MENACE (July 1959), this seven-page episode dealt with Dennis and his parent's stop-over at an extremely odd--but bona fide--tourist attraction located near Santa Cruz in California. Correspondent Ingrassia had not only read this story when he was younger, but saw the story, carefully preserved under glass on a bulletin board, when he actually visited The Mystery Spot a few years back, and had been hoping to locate a copy of the proper issue ever since.

Well, a premise as peculiar as the one employed in this story--particularly since it was purported to be rooted in truth (which Michael in turn personally vouches for)--had stuck in my head, ever since I picked this issue up at a Con sometime during the late seventies.
So, I rooted through my DENNIS THE MENACE collection, soon found the issue, let Michael know which one it was, and then sat down and reread it. While by no means among the FUNNIEST of Dennis stories, I still figured it might be a nice one to focus on, if only to illustrate how wordsmith Toole could take such an offbeat subject as The Mystery Spot, and turn it into gist for a satisfyingly comedic short.

To that end, I scanned in four tiers of Wiseman art from the entry, and planned to write my own little recap of the Mitchell's unearthly escapades to fill in the gaps. But just before I sat down to prepare this piece, looking for some additional background, I Googled "The Mystery Spot", and promptly went to the first site that came up.

Guess what I found there?

Uh huh--the COMPLETE story. Just click the Dennis panel, and see for yourself! No need to hear MY version now (though I include these tasty Wiseman illos to help spark your interest...)!
In further news regarding our little blond buddy, Lee Nail recently was kind enough to tip me off to something called The Ultimate Dennis the Menace Thread, an ongoing series of rare art scans, valuable information, and just good ol' discussion about Ketcham's pulp paper spawn! It's part of The Collector's Society Message Board, and they've already gotten 24 jam-packed pages under their belts on the subject. If you're at all interested in ANY aspect of the pint-sized pest's past, present, or future, THIS is the place for you! (You'll always be able to access it from my links page, where I've placed "Dennis the Menace" under the "Characters" category of that sprawling list) It's a tremendous resource for fans of those great old comic books in particular, and I highly recommend you take a look!

(And hey, it just hit me--saying "I Googled The Mystery Spot" sounds downright OBSCENE! Oops...)
April 14th, 2005
During the late sixties, early seventies, there was a concerted effort by the editorial staff of DC Comics to encourage their many veteran artists to attempt drawing in livelier, more contemporary styles. Mostly, I recall the distinct transformations Mike Sekowsky, Curt Swan, Nick Cardy, Irv Novick--among many others--made in their work after this edict came down. One cartoonist's freshening, however, escaped me at the time, and only became apparent after I exhumed my collection of SUPERBOY comics recently. paging through them for the first time in multiple decades, simply out of idle curiosity.

Here, from the Teen Of Steel's 166th issue (June, 1970), allow me to present to you the hip, happening Henry Boltinoff!...
Who knew?

At the time, I never even considered the notion of Boltinoff vanishing with the changing tides. Fact is, though his little filler strips in my initial few Weisinger edited Superman Family purchases were the very first cartoons I ever attempted to copy, thus planting a very important seed in my still developing cranium, I'd lost interest in reading his strips by mid-decade when they suddenly morphed into "Cap's Hobby Hints", sort of a KATY KEENE type strip for little boys and their airplane glue. When the big upheaval came round abouts 1968, I just assumed he was ousted with many of the other displaced vets. And maybe he was, at least for the most part.

But, lo and behold, there he was, in a 1970 DC Comic! And he actually had TWO of these full page "It's The Scene" strips in that issue, but outside of an "Ollie" page exactly a year later in SUPERBOY#175 (one of his older characters, drawn in a more traditional manner, making me wonder whether it was a reprint or merely the artist going back to what he was more comfortable with), this was the only example of Boltinoff's handiwork I've come across during the era. Still, the new, groovier "Hank" Boltinoff looks like he could've easily fit his fillers into DC's seventies teen mags (SCOOTER, BINKY, DEBBIE'S DATES, et al), but as I didn't buy any of them at the time--and have only picked up a handful in quarter boxes over the subsequent decades--I really can't say for sure. Anybody know?

By 1970, SUPERBOY was no longer the responsibility of the man who utilized Henry's cartoons more than any other editor, Mort Weisinger. So how'd he wind up in this book? Well, perhaps the NEW editor had a little something to do with it.

His name?

Murray Boltinoff.

What was that big hit the Hollies had around then? "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother"?

Yup, it's the scene!
April 13th, 2005
Recently, although I've been incessantly blathering on about "24", the Fox cliffhanger isn't the ONLY action-adventure serial I've been consumed with lately. There was also the fifteen chapter 1949 "Batman and Robin" chapter play, released only a few weeks back as a double DVD.

If you want to read my keen insights into this cinematic mess-terpiece, you have but only to go over to the IGN Comics website, as it's the subject of the fifth smashing episode of "The Fred Hembeck Show"! (And kudos to IGNer Ken Plume for his expert job of yanking the stills I wanted off the DVD for the piece! Wow!!)

As Robin himself might say, "Holy self-promotion, Batman!"

And while you're there, you owe it to yourself to read Peter Sanderson's latest "Comics In Context" column.
The erudite Mr. S picks up where he left off the week before and further discusses "Sin City", the sorry fate that recently befell the Blue Beetle, and even the topic of my LAST column, Pete ("My lips are zipped") Ross!

And speaking of columns, this note came in from my old buddy, Jim Salicrup, earlier today...

I've been enjoying the column more than ever lately. Especially since I've been working on my own short weekly column, "Addicted To Comics", due to debut today on You'll find none of the warmth, humor, and personality that makes your stuff so great -- just me blathering on about how I think things should be run in the comics industry and such. Oh, well. If I keep doing 'em, maybe they'll get better eventually.

I think you'll do just fine, Jim--and beyond that, I couldn't disagree with you more. I read your initial outing, and I can honestly say I DID find some of the warmth, humor and personality that makes my stuff so great! Not MUCH, but some...

(As a canine puppet was once heard to remark, "I keed, I keed!!"...)

Check it out, folks--Jim's views are business savvy AND based on a sincere love for the medium, an all too rare combination these days.

And lastly, big, big thanks to Shane Bailey over at "Near Mint Heroes" for plugging last week's IGN column, and being so gosh darn complimentary in the process! I'm practically blushing, Shane--it's much appreciated! And if you think THIS blog entry is link-heavy, well, you ain't NOTHIN' til you've seen Shane work up a good head of steam! No wonder they call him "Sir Links-A-Lot"!!

Now GO! There's nothing more to see HERE!

(But come back tomorrow, okay?...)
April 12th, 2005
Now, HERE'S something you don't see every day...
..hints of bestiality in a Silver Age DC Comic!!

Actually, what I meant to point to was the unlikely but nonetheless natural pairing of famed filler cartoonist Henry Boltinoff's Super-Turtle character with his clear inspiration, Superboy, of whose likeness was drawn especially for this monumental meeting by his regular artist at the time (this originally ran in SUPERBOY #130, June 1966), George Papp. Yeah, that's what I MEANT to say!...

I stumbled across this while researching my column on Pete Ross for the IGN Comics website last week, and thought it was peculiar in an interesting enough way to share with you folks.

Y'know, of all the Weisinger Superman Family titles of the early sixties (primarily 1961-66), SUPERBOY was always clearly my least favorite. Over the years, I'd placed a fair amount of the blame for my low estimation of the title on Papp's unremarkable artwork, but I realize now that his cartooning was far from being the largest contributing factor. Truth is, I've recently seen some of the work the man did for DC in the fifties on various western and crime books, and it's pretty good. Like a lot of the other pencillers in Weisinger's stable, Papp apparently was encouraged to simplify his style to its bare bones, and while the two Curts--Swan and Schaffenberger--somehow maintained their high level of quality under this editorial edict, the rest of the crew wasn't nearly so fortunate (just look at how Jim Mooney blossomed after he left DC to work at Marvel, for example). No, its not the artwork...

And those early issues, the ones in 1961 and '62 that featured Pete Ross as an active member of the cast, those were actually a lot of fun. But, we see our last of Pete mid-way through 1962, and THAT'S when things go downhill fast . To differentiate the series from that of the Kryptonian Kid's elder self--and without the unique and intriguing element Pete's accidental discovery of friend Clark's double identity provides--the book wallows in the antic of Superbaby (the cover copy of the very issue the above cartoon appeared in: Thrills and Laughs Galore in..."Superbaby's Search For A Pet!" I guarantee you, there were NONE of the above...), meetings with super-powered teens from other worlds with names like "Supremo" and "Vidal", and--worst of all--far too many episodes featuring Krypto in a group called the S.C.P.A. (the..choke..Space Canine Patrol Agents), a sort of Legion of Super-Heroes FOR DOGS!!!

Now, I'm as big a Weisinger booster as you're likely to find--at least, for all the wrong reasons, as well a few of the right ones, too--and I'm well aware that there are whole web-sites devoted to this doggone organization, but I'd have to be paid a pretty hefty penny to even consider reading these tails--er, I mean, tales--again!! Yech. Oh sure, they seem adorably absurd NOW, but in 1966, when the first one appeared in SUPERBOY #131, the story made the Go-Go Checks on the cover seem sophisticated by comparison!! No, stories about a group of super-powered dogs, drawn ever so placidly by George Papp, published when I was 13 years old and also had access to Marvel Comics near their peak, THOSE stories just weren't gonna come out looking very good while in that sorta company.

SUPERBOY did become interesting again, however, with it's 150th issue in 1968, as it became the first Superman Family title editor Mort would relinquish (turning it over to Murray Boltinoff) before leaving the field--and the Man of Steel--entirely a few years later.

But that, as they say, is a story for another day...

And now, a few words about last night's fresh, 17th hour of "24" (you were expecting anything less?...)

They chickened out--the President is still alive (though not his sacrificial lamb of a son). However, he's totally incapacitated, elevating the squirrely eyed Vice President to the top job--and unexpectedly bringing back another character from the past, President Palmer's former Chief of Staff, Mike Novick. I know where this story is going, but I'm REAL curious to see how they plan to get there.

Meanwhile, the whole "Nuclear Football lost in the desert, found by innocent young couple who have to keep it away from the terrorists until Jack arrives" plot de jour made for one of the more pulse pounding episodes of the season. There was every chance that at least one of them wouldn't make it out alive--and even if they did, totally unscathed just wasn't an option. A little less CTU this week, a little more chasing around. But where's William Devane? That's at least two hours he's been gone. Best I can figure, there's only three characters who've been in all 17 shows: Jack, his girl-friend, Audrey--and Edgar Stiles!?!

One other question. The bad guys must've paid that renegade pilot a whole lot to take a pass at shooting down Air Force One--but CTU just casually mentions at the beginning of this episode that one of the President's guard jets shot him down! So much for all that money! Didn't this traitorous fella figure there'd be a good chance of that happening? And how about that woman who got the bona-fide pilot into bed so that they'd have access to his credentials? She got her big pay-off, but was back an hour later, looking for some missing computer disc, and--sure enough--she gets killed, too. Don't ANY of these people realize, on "24", bad money never gets the opportunity to be spent?

And now, just like the rest of you, I have to wait a whole week until I get to see the next episode! Arrgh--I don't wanna! I wanna see it NOW!

Sigh. I spoiled myself. Oh well, guess I'll go make a snack, try and drown my sorrow in food. A peanut and jelly sandwich sounds good right about now.

Smooth, you ask? Uh uh...

Ka-chunky, of course!...
April 11th, 2005
Well, piling up all those episodes of "24" FINALLY backfired on me last night when I reached hour 16.

While I had successfully avoided any specific details of what was to occur in that pivotal segment, I knew going in that swooping in and rescuing Air Force One at the last possible second DOESN'T merit an episode being run three times during the week, nor the appellation "gutsy" in newspaper headlines about a plot twist. Goodbye, President Keeler--we hardly knew ye.

And that was the problem...
Why, until that very last hour, the Chief Exec (played by TV vet, Geoff Pierson, pictured above back in his earlier, Senatorial days, apparently on casual Friday...) was never referred to by name, but simply as "the President". Unlike Dennis Haysbert's President Palmer, who was one of the stars--if not THE star--of the show's first three season's, Pierson's Prez was little more than a recurring plot device, showing up only to have the latest CTU doings run past him for approval. Then, in hour 16, he FINALLY gets a little personal time with a heretofore unseen and unmentioned son--and if I'd had ANY doubts up to that point, that little touchy-feely moment absolutely sealed his fate.

Yeah, it's a gutsy move alright, but the build-up to it was a bit on the shoddy side. And that fellow we got a quick glimpse of playing the Vice-President sure didn't do much to inspire confidence. Maybe that's why--according to what I read last night after completing my marathon--Palmer's coming back for the final six episodes.

Yes, I know I'm trying your patience here, but what's a few "Ka-chunk, ka-chunk, ka-chunks" between friends anyway?...
April 10th, 2005
Well, that whole storyline with Erin Driscoll's schizo daughter went in a direction I sure didn't see coming. Oh, I fully expected her to cease breathing before the day was over, but I figured she'd cause some sort of ruckus around the CTU headquarters that would throw everything into a tizzy. Instead, she quietly committed suicide, the main story point of which was apparently to facilitate the moving of Tony--and, not much later, ex-wife Michelle--into the catbird seat at the government agency.

Yeah, I saw four more episodes of "24" last night. Two more to go tonight, then the regularly scheduled broadcast tomorrow night, after which I'll be back on the standard seven day wait between telecasts for the final seven episodes. Begging your indulgence, non-"24" viewers, but this rash of posts will be over soon.

That said, let me just note that it was great to see the return of Michelle following Tony's reappearance, and I was happy to see Chloe returning to action as well.(And thanks to all of you who clued me into the identity and resume of "Sopranos" vet Louis Lombardi, a/k/a Edgar Stiles. Of course, I've never seen "The Sopranos", but he DID appear in an episode of the Kim Delaney vehicle, "Philly", so maybe THAT was the source of my familiarity...)

I was wrong yesterday about American businessman being behind everything--what we saw were collaborators, not masterminds--but I DID experience a rueful amusement from the hour that focused on the big corporation that did everything possible to hide the fact that they'd been complicit in helping the terrorists--if in actuality, totally ignorant of the situation until after the fact. That was the rare hour in which, if memory serves, NO ONE got killed! Of course, THAT didn't last long, as Jack and his girlfriend's estranged hubby soon took up arms in a gun store (along with a pair of token good-guy Arab-Americans) to fight off the nasty capitalists. Some fun!

Fourteen hours in, I'm impressed how well thought out this season's story is compared to the first three. Rather than restart the action midway through with a new baddie, it only makes sense that a master terrorist would set up a series of events in a single day, which is exactly what's happening. As for the "gutsy" plot twist due to occur in episode sixteen, I'm guessing it has something to do with the President, but I'll find out for sure later tonight...

And--oh yeah--Julie and I went to see "Sin City" this afternoon. Seems just about everyone else with a comics blog has seen this flick already, but I've GOTTA be the only one to've gone directly from watching this blood-soaked noir thriller at the cineplex and into Rave Girl, buying a darling little skirt for $7.99! Sure, it was for my daughter, but it still made for an unusual counterpoint to the way we'd spent our previous two hours! (Ironically enough, fishnet stockings were on her shopping list as well, but she didn't find any that suited her. Maybe the movie scared her off of THAT particular fashion statement...)

A more thorough examination of the film later in the week? Maybe. I don't really know what else I could add, but if I think of something, hey, you'll be the first to know. In the meantime, let me simply say that "Sin City" has got to be the most faithful adaptation of a comics-based property that I've EVER seen. Of course, I never DID catch Stallone as "Judge Dredd", so allow me a little wiggle room in that statement, if you will...

Whew. This has GOT to be the most relentlessly violence-saturated weekend of entertainment that I've (happily) endured within memory. So, just to give us ALL a little relief, here's a link to a nicely done article about a comic I cherish even MORE than Frank Miller's SIN CITY--John Stanley's LITTLE LULU, written with great love and admiration by Juachoerin.

Meanwhile, though we rarely see it being consumed, you know what the official food keeping the characters of "24" going during their long, long days is?

Campbell's Ka-Chunky Soup, natch!...
April 9th, 2005
Who is Edgar Stiles, and where have I seen him before?

He's the techno-geek character who joined the cast of "24" this season. Over the first ten episodes--yup, I settled in with another five hours of backed-up episodes last night (lights out at 2:39 AM)--Edgar's prevented almost one hundred nuclear power plants from melting down, flushed out the mole at CTU, and had a tearful scene with his elderly mother over the phone (seeing as how she had the bad luck to live in the area near one of the handful of reactors her son was unable to help the U.S. regain control of). If you don't watch the show, you may well be visualizing a hero nearly as staunch as Kiefer Sutherland's Jack Bauer.

But the exceedingly familiar actor who plays him--one, frustratingly enough, I'm unable to pin down--is a rather hefty specimen who speaks with a blatantly obvious New York accent. An interesting--even praiseworthy--casting choice. Except Edgar delivers almost every one of his lines in a flat monotone, his pitch rising slightly only when he gets excited. Combine that with the exaggerated accent, and he strikes me more as the perfect target for insulting gags in a bad sitcom than a crucial part of a thriller like "24". Odd, and occasionally distracting, but not enough to lessen my enjoyment of the show substantially.

And while we're talking about the cast, howabout that new lady heading up CTU? Is it just me, or does she look--and sound! AND act!!--all the world like the Vulcan woman from "Enterprise"--add, say, ten years and a couple of pounds? The eyes, the mouth, the emotionally modulated delivery--if I could only get a glimpse of her ears, I'd know for sure she isn't the "Star Trek" star somehow pulling double duty!

It was nice seeing Tony Almeda again. Wonder how long he'll last?...

So far, over the first ten episodes, the storyline seems to be better thought out than in previous years, and suffers from far less extraneous filler. The schizo daughter in the infirmary hasn't amounted to much yet, but I'm willing to wait a little bit longer for some movement there.

One beef, though--just before I turned the tape off last night, several new baddies had been revealed, and they look to be the same old evil American businessmen who've been behind virtually every nefarious scenario foisted on us by the "24" writers over each of the past few seasons.

Ah well, we'll see where all this leads later tonight.

So, as I may've said before, "Ka-chunk, ka-chunk, ka-chunk..."
April 8th, 2005
Last night I faced a choice: I could've been writing something (potentially? possibly? hopefully?) entertaining for you folks to read here, or I could've FINALLY gotten around to belatedly watching the opening episodes of this season's real-time action thriller, "24".

I watched "24".

As you might recall, the show debuted with two hours on a Sunday night, another two hours the next night, prompting me with the bright idea to pile up a few episodes before I eventually sat down to watch them. Well, THAT little brainstorm got WAY out of control! Suddenly I had 16 episodes--fully two-thirds of this year's storyline--on tape, unseen! I'd somehow managed to avoid almost all the loose chatter about this year's saga, too, but after noting that Fox was running this past Monday's pivotal episode three times this week--and seeing a headline at TV Tattle that hailed a "gutsy plot twist" after it aired, I knew my luck wouldn't hold much longer, so I figured it was well past time I got myself in front of the set. And I did...

Five hours. I watched the first five hours--which, even zipping through the commercials, is an awful LOT of TV at one time. And, y'know, I actually wanted to watch MORE, except by then it was 2AM, and I knew I'd have to get up at 7:30 this morning, so I reluctantly had to pull the plug just as Jack Bauer was about to attack the terrorist's compound, fully knowledgeable of the fact that the President had ordered an air strike that'd level the area in about ten minutes! Guess I'll have to wait until tonight to see how THAT breathtaking bit of business plays out ("24" is NOT daytime viewing, and it's best watched when there's little chance of my otherwise lovely family interrupting the palpable video-induced tension.)

Because, y'know, this is one show that literally gets my pulses pounding--my heartrate genuinely increases as I sit there, wondering, WHO'S gonna get killed next? Minor characters, sure--THEY drop like flies. But major ones, too--you just never know, which is part of the beauty of this show. I'm pretty sure William Devane and his daughter are gonna be around for at least a few more hours, but whether they make it to the end of the day, THAT I wouldn't venture a guess towards. It's no wonder it took me fully thirty minutes--approximately twenty-five more than usual--to drift off after turning the VCR off last night...

So far, my favorite sequence--one that made me laugh out loud at the sheer audacity of it when it became obvious what was going to happen--was when Agent Bauer determines that the ONLY way he can delay the suspect he's surreptitiously following long enough for the folks back at headquarters to get their satellite tracking in proper position was to stage a holdup in the convenience mart where the baddie had stopped to fill his car's gas tank! Naturally, Bauer pulls off the job perfectly, even if by episode's end, after escaping without incident, he's surrounded by the police and forced, face down onto the pavement, as a dozen cops have their guns drawn and pointed at his head! And--this is indicative of what makes this show so endearing to me--within ten minutes into the NEXT hour, Jack suddenly is given command of the very officers who had him on his belly just moments before, thanks to one quick phone call!! Improbable? You betcha--but entertaining as all get out!

So THAT'S why I didn't write up a post last night. And tonight? More "24". Maybe not all eleven hours , but since I don't have to get up early Saturday morning, hey, who knows?

I'm just--you should pardon the expression--dying to see what happens next! One thing I DO know--CTU's new head lady's idea of having her twentyish schizophrenic daughter brought on site during such an explosive day will prove to be an ill-advised decision, mark my word!

I can't WAIT!

Ka-chunk, ka-chunk, ka-chunk!..
April 7th, 2005
Long time readers may recall the inordinate fascination that I've expressed over the years with a man by the name of Leon Lazarus. The source of my curiosity has mostly to do with the fact that, when I was a kid, the aforementioned Mr. Lazarus was credited with scripting but a single tale for the early sixties trend-setting, recently reborn Marvel Comics Group, an unlikely face-off between the Atlantean Warlord, Attuma, and Hank Pym, that month wearing his really, really big Giant-Man uniform (TALES TO ASTONISH #64, February 1965). Who WAS this one-story wonder, I wondered? No one seemed to know...

Months later, part of the answer turned up in an ALTER EGO interview with Al Jaffee (conducted by the always well-informed and unabashed Jim Amash), and at one point, the cartoonist best known for his long tenure at MAD, spoke warmly of his earlier days toiling as a Timely Comics editor during the late forties, just casually mentioning the name of his valued assistant: Leon Lazarus!

He was REAL! It WASN'T just a pen-name. But beyond that--nothing. The discussion went off in other directions, having left the topic of Leon Lazarus for good. I managed to get in touch with Mr. Amash shortly thereafter, and, well aware of how expert he'd proven himself at interviewing many of the comics field's unheralded veterans, I urged him to try and track Mr. L down, and offer the gentleman an opportunity to share his memories with the rest of us. A fine idea, Jim agreed, save for one rather insurmountable problem: as best he knew, Leon Lazarus was no longer with us.

And that's where the story ended--until I received an email a few nights back from the man known as H, one of the co-proprietors of the fine Comic Treadmill site. Follow me here: they'd written an entry concerning my quest for Leon back in mid-2004, I in turn left a few words about our mutual interest in their comments section attached to the piece, and now, H informed me, an ADDITIONAL comment had recently been left there. Begging their combined indulgence (Hi, Mag!), here's what it said...

Hi Fred

My dad, Leon Lazarus, wrote for Stan Lee in the 50s and 60s. He wrote about 1,500 comic book stories during this time period. My uncles, Sid Lazarus and Harry Lazarus, did some of the illustrations during this period as well...some covers too. Thought you might find this interesting. I've been looking for some of my dad's comic stories (he threw them all out and I thought they would make a nice birthday present this summer when he will be 85 years old.

My best,
Sherry Lazarus Ross
editor for
The Art Renewal Center

Well, whaddaya know--Leon Lazarus LIVES! Given that moniker, we should be surprised?...

I do, in fact, recall seeing some artwork by a Harry Lazarus nestled in the back of several of the ACG comics of the early sixties, looking for all the world to be reprints of material from an earlier era, a long-held notion of mine that Ms. Ross pretty much just confirmed. Why I'd never connected Harry and Leon before, though, I'll never know...

And it turns out the apple doesn't fall far from the tree (or is "peach" preferable when dealing with a daughter?...), as a quick visit to Sherry Lazarus Ross's very own website will quickly attest. Like her father, she's an author as well, having written several well-received fantasy adventure novels for younger readers.

Now, I'm figuring, all that's left to do is for the estimable Mr. Amash to make the necessary arrangements, and take us all back in his time machine via Mr. Lazarus's reminiscences! (Jim, the sad truth is is that I've somehow mislaid your email, address--hopefully, you (or someone you know) is reading this, and the proper contacts can be made! )

So, thanks to H for passing along this intriguing nugget, and especially to Sherry Lazarus Ross for leaving that note in the first place! Y'know, it would sure be swell if we could all do our part to make her dad's upcoming birthday a memorable one!

More on this saga as it develops!
April 6th, 2005
"Superman is a WHAT?..."

Yeah, by now, we ALL know the latest Internet parlance for our ol' pal from the planet K, but the truth is, just about EVERYBODY in his large and rambling cast acted in a likewise manner nearly as often as he did. That is, MOST every one of them--Lois, Lana, Jimmy, Perry, even Krypto--except for maybe one.

Pete Ross.

And THAT, folks, is the subject of the fourth episode of "The Fred Hembeck Show" over at IGN Comics. Go on, trip the link fantastic and read the not-so-sordid saga of the Best Friend Superman EVER had--but never fully appreciated!
While you're over there, take a few minutes to digest Peter Sanderson's latest "Comics In Context" column. To be perfectly honest, I haven't read it yet (except for the part that editor Ken Plume tipped me off to regarding a suggestion Peter had for me), but that's only because it's about "Sin City", and inasmuch, seeing as how Ian, Tom, Dorian, and Mike are freshly back from a screening--heck, even Mark Evanier's seen it, and far as I can tell, neither Bob nor Ray appeared in the film--I'm likely the ONLY person left with even the slightest interest in comics who HASN'T seen it yet, and I'm waiting until after I do to read everyone's comments about it, including friend Peters!! (As for Mr S's idea I do up some "Sin City" redos, hmm--trendy AND provocative! And I won't even have to Photoshop 'em! (Okay, maybe a DASH of red here and there...))

I WANT to see the movie, honest, and actually meant to shortly after it opened, but just didn't get the chance. Lynn's gonna take a pass--best I can tell, it's NOT her type of entertainment. Look, I'm not too big on the violence thing myself, really. I've never seen a single Quentin Tarantino flick, for instance, and the last "Halloween" entry I caught was the first one--and that Krueger fellow is one namesake I've managed to avoid completely. But I admire Frank Miller's work immensely, and just the LOOK of the thing on the commercials instantly hooked me, so yeah, I wanna see it. Julie seems interested, so at least I'll have company (and those of you who might look askance at me taking my nearly 15 year old daughter to see "Sin City", well, you don't KNOW my daughter!...). Hopefully, we'll get out to it this coming weekend.

As for what I HAVE been watching, well, if all goes as planned, I'll be talking about that in NEXT week's IGN detour!...
April 5th, 2005
The "New" Mets--as free agent prize Carlos Beltran re-christened his new team after signing with them over the winter--had themselves a mighty impressive Opening Day yesterday.

For eight innings.

Pedro Martinez struck out 12 over 6 innings in his Mets' debut, and Beltran himself had three hits, including a two run homer to tie the game at three, and later knocked in the go-ahead fourth run as well. In fact, New York led the Cincinnati Reds 6-4 going into the bottom of the 9th when they turned the ball over to their closer, Braden Looper
As Looper was one of the few players who could legitimately claim to've had a good year wearing a Mets uniform in 2004--on this almost totally remade squad, only 7 of this year's 25 man opening day roster began last season similarly--we fans had to feel pretty darn good about our chances of notching an inaugural "W".

3 batters and 14 pitches later--a Cincy single, a 2 run homer to tie the game, and--BOOM!--one more to win it--THAT hope was dashed. Sigh. And naturally, all the NY tabloids are having themselves a field day with variations on the already tired theme of the "New" Mets reverting inexorably back to "Old" Mets form.

And the back page headline of the Post? "Looper Scooper".

I ain't giving up yet, no sir, There are 161 left to play, by my calculations. But still, sigh...

Onto other matters...

Comics' fever CAN be contagious, y'know! After we'd been together for several years, something prompted Lynn--curiosity? Boredom? Too much time on her hands?--to start reading some of my comics. She seemed to be most drawn to my Spider-Man books, and eventually wound up reading nearly the first 200 issues of AMAZING, and quiet a few SPECTACULARs, too. However, her interest in other my books was, at best, minimal. The end came in the mid-eighties with the advent of DC's CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, which I still maintained a bright shiny fan-boy like enthusiasm for. Each time I'd try to talk her into giving it a look-see--she'd pretty much stayed away from my DCs, gravitating instead to Marvel--saying it would change EVERYTHING!, (Translation: she might actually LIKE DC Comics now) she'd just roll her eyes, and spit out a single damning phrase:

"Crisis Schmisis."

Well, it may've taken me awhile to catch up with my prescient missus, but that's pretty much my attitude entirely towards DC's latest, CRISIS OF INFINITE SELL-THROUGHS (or whatever it's called...). No, I didn't read it, I didn't buy it, and I don't intend to do either, truthfully. Enjoy it if you will, but I'm pretty sure it's not for me, not anymore. Tom Spurgeon, over at The Comics Reporter, has an interesting, well-considered take on the whole nature of these event books, ones that that long ago CRISIS had no small part in launching. Along the way, he makes this terrific observation about the 1970s approach to comics, calling it...

... a bright child's attempt to stamp "logic" on an absurd fantasy to justify the fact he continues to find it emotionally appealing...

Which brings to my NEXT item: Steve Gerber has a blog!!

Steve was one of my very favorite of those bright children trying to make sense of what Stan and Jack had wrought, and yup, I continue to enjoy his work to this day. More about Steve here another day--but now we can all read him EVERY day!!. (Link courtesy of Heidi MacDonald's The Beat)

Remind me to tell you about the time I wrote a 19 page letter to him because he touched me with his GIANT-SIZE MAN-THING, okay?

(True story, cheap, overused gag--and, WHOOOSH!--I'm gone! Let's Go Mets!!)
April 4th, 2005
Warning: today's entry focuses on what may well be the the single most insignificant morsel of minutia to yet appear here at! Hey, it's a Monday--whaddaya want?...

The inevitable background story:

While paging through some old SUPERBOY comics for a (slightly) more weighty piece that you'll see later in the week, I was enjoying the attendant atmosphere surrounding those early sixties Sliver Age DC's, particularly the sub-line of Mort Weisinger edited Superman Family titles. One of my favorite things about those books--and well worthy of a longer, more lovingly expanded examination--were the "Coming Super-Attractions" house ads concocted by Mort and rendered by iconic cover letterer, Ira Schnapp.

Unique to Weisinger's magazine's, instead of reproducing covers of upcoming books as house ads, he'd use the same space to write tantalizing copy to entice potential purchasers, which was then masterfully lettered by Schnapp. However, by the mid-sixties, these once text-only come-ons were increasingly being diluted with illustrations siphoned off from the covers in question, producing a mix of art and calligraphy that meant that either the editor was tiring of thinking up punchy copy, or he saw the need to get more visual in his approach (or both). When art was included, always it was excerpted from the comic in question.

At least that's the way I'd always remembered things. Imagine my surprise, then, when I stumbled upon an ad for ACTION COMICS #314 (July 1964) that not only went outside the parameters of said comic for its illustrations, it ALSO went outside of Weisinger's editorial sphere to procure said illos!! THAT was the true shock here, as the DC Comics of 1964 was still a small series of almost totally closed-up editorial fiefdoms, existing warily under one unifying banner. But just because Julie Schwartz's Flash had been fighting side by side with Superman in the Schwartz edited JLA for a number of years at that point didn't mean the Scarlet Speedster had EVER appeared in one of Mort's book (save for a single panel cameo viewing the Man of Steel's body lying in state in the legendary Imaginary Story, "The Death Of Superman"), so when Weisnger came up with the idea for a episode that'd postulate various events having the Kryptonian grow up to instead mirror several fellow Justice League members in his thusly modified crime-fighting identity, Mort had no other art to draw from for the necessary vignettes, so instead, we're treated to a raided Carmine Infantino figure here, a Gil Kane paste-up there!
I had totally forgotten about this ad until I found it lurking in SUPERBOY #114 (also July 1964), but seeing two of my favorite artists--who'd never been anywhere NEAR a Superman story in my previous experience--apparently helped fuel my excitement for the eventual release of the tale of "The Day Superman Became The Flash!"!
How do I KNOW I was excited? Well, besides my fond but fuzzy memories, I have tangible--if dubious--proof. Remember how I signed my name at the bottom of that Thor splash page that I showed you the other day? Well, ACTION COMICS #314, of all the many comics I inscribed my name into (a practice that, thankfully, I finally put a halt to by 1968), it was the ONLY one where I signed it at the bottom of the page, at the top of the page, AND on both left and right of the splash panel! That's right--FOUR times!! No one was getting THIS special little number away from me, I made doggone sure of THAT!!

But you wanna know a funny thing?
The story was lousy.

And, maybe most disappointingly, it was drawn by probably my least favorite Superman artist of the era, Al Plastino. Had the same script been rendered by Curt Swan, it would've gotten points alone for giving us the first REAL chance to see Swan handle both The Atom and The Flash!.
But no.

If readers wanted to get a glimpse of Swan's fine handiwork, the only place to find it that issue was on the back cover! That was where you could find the ad for the Aurora Superman Model Kit, a nicely done comic strip plugging the nifty product that appeared throughout the DC line that summer.

And since it clearly could be found elsewhere, I suppose I chose the one here to take out my frustration, the frustration of getting my hopes way, way up for what turned out to be a tepid disappointment.

Either that, or I was planning the first stages of a tale tentatively titled "The Day Superman Became The Wolfman", REALLY working my trusty Bic overtime!...
April 3rd, 2005
Yup, it's that time again--opening day of the 2005 Major League Baseball season! Getcha peanuts, popcorn, steroids!!

But if you feel like harkening back to a time when CrackerJacks was still the third and final product in that luscious litany of delectable delights hawked by vendors in ballparks everywhere--AND you like comics--boy, have I got a treat for YOU!!

From the 1981 edition of the New York Yankees Yearbook, I've scanned in a full color, four-page comics retelling of Don Larsen's historic perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers during the 1956 World Series--as drawn by none other than John Romita (senior), colored by Stan Goldberg, and lettered by Irv Watanabe, Marvel Comics Legends, each and every one of them! (And truth to tell, I suspect Frank Springer's hand was involved in ghosting some of the pencilling, particularly several of the action shots.)

So, sports AND comics fans, go take a look at "The Greatest Game Ever Pitched" (which will take up permanent residence on the "More" contents page), and then begin the long arduous process of rooting your favorite team on to a shot--however long--at continuing to play into the waning weeks of October!

And y'know, maybe someone'll get the bright idea to hire JR Junior to recreate the 1986 Series on paper---and, in particular, Game 6--for a future New York METS Yearbook! Now, gang, THAT'S one story I could read over and over again!...
April 2nd, 2005
Back in 1990, not long after our daughter Julie was born, Lynn and I had the rare privilege of hosting Marvel Comics legend Joe Sinnott and his delightful wife, Betty, as they stopped by our home one afternoon to--as they'd say on "Seinfeld"--see the baby.

Can you just imagine how thrilled I was at THIS development? Nearly fifteen years later, whenever my kiddo has the occasion to do something to drive me perilously close to the edge--hey, it happens--I just stop for a moment, pause, remember the Sinnott's visit, and somehow it makes any of the many minor traumas she's inflicted upon us over the subsequent years all worthwhile!

Because yer comic book icons--they sure do love the babies!

And since I had fair warning that cartooning royalty was soon due to grace our presence, I hastily dug out a copy of a comic for Joe to sign, a very special comic.

FANTASTIC FOUR 51, "This Man, this Monster"? A chapter or two of the Galactus Trilogy? The second SUPERMAN/SPIDER-MAN tabloid? Good choices all, but nope. Instead, I pulled out my bought-off-the-stands copy of JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY 95 from way back in 1963, and, having proudly displayed the latest bouncing Hembeck to an appreciative audience of two, I got down to REALLY important business and politely asked Joe to sign the splash page for me.

Which, naturally, he did...
(If you take a close look at the bottom of the page, you might be able to make out the fading signature of yours truly, penned with a blue ball point at the tender age of ten. This was a practice I instituted specifically to keep from getting my books mixed up with my friends comics--and, of course, to LOWER any future resale value!...)
WHY this particular comic, you might well ask?

Well, simply because Joe's artwork--he provided both pencils and inks on this Robert Bernstein written tale--made an indelible impression on me mainly because it creeped me out so!!

Don't mistake me here--Joe's drawing was appealing, professional, and slick--but the way he drew the villain of the piece, a Professor Zaxton, well, he imbued this evil scientist with a deranged, maniacal glint in his eye, the likes of which I'd NEVER seen in any of the comics I'd ever read up to that point!
Okay, I realize now I wasn't exactly dealing with EC Comics here, and Joe "Ghastly" Sinnott doesn't have quite the same ring it has when it's associated instead with the name of Graham Ingels, but there's no denying that Joe's fevered interpretation of the lead baddie wormed its way into my noggin, and stayed there long after most of the other, pre-Lee/Kirby "Thor" episodes had been forgotten. The rather macabre ending didn't hurt, either--Zaxton uses his duplicating machine to make a copy of himself, hoping to confuse the Thunder God, only to instead shortly thereafter accidentally fall off a parapet to his death, leaving the world with only the good--and non-psychotic--copy. And you just KNEW the remaining Zaxton was a true sweetheart, even without the benefit of a single line of dialog, due to the tell-tale tranquil expression Joe gifted him with. Hey, how could I NOT want Joe to apply his John Hancock to this under-appreciated gem, I wanna know?

Yeah, it was surely a memorable afternoon. The Sinnotts--ALL of them--are among the nicest folks you're likely to meet, in comics or out. But if you happen to see Joe anytime soon, I'm afraid he's gonna have to turn down any and all autograph requests. It's not like he's belatedly developed an attitude--uh uh, no way--he's just following doctor's orders. Y'see, the esteemed embellisher took a fall on St. Patrick's Day (while on vacation, no less) and--here comes the bad news--Joe broke his shoulder.

The one connected to the arm that is, in turn, connected to the hand he draws with.


You can read the details--as provided by son Mark--over at Joe's website, and, to quote Mark directly, "Please feel free to e-mail him with get well wishes ( or send a card or letter to P.O. Box 406, Saugerties, NY 12477. I am sure that hearing from his fans will help ease his pain."

So c'mon folks--let Joe know you join me in wishing him a smooth and speedy recovery! He's one of the good guys, no doubt about it--and the sooner he's able to sign all those other copies of JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY 95, the better!!

A couple of additional points while I have your attention...
The ever amazing Roger Green, following up on our recent fixation with the "Whipped Cream and Other Delights" album cover, sent me this link to a splendid site with the self explanatory title of "Album Covers Spoofing Album Covers" , and I direct your initial attention to numbers 14-18 for goofs of the Herb Alpert classic.
Afterwards, go wild pouring over the myriad versions of not only every Beatles LP cover, but virtually every other memorable piece of disc art of the rock era. There's over 650 entries to peruse, so get yourself a tasty sandwich and settle in for awhile! Thanks, Rog--nice find!

Lastly, attention those of you who love the free merchandise--we got ourselves another contest! Logan Polk over at House of the Ded has two copies of the critically acclaimed BLUESMAN by Rob Vollmer and Pablo G. Callejo to give away, and you can utilize the link above to find out more details. Sounds like a pretty good prize, and the rules to enter seem simple enough--hey, maybe I'LL enter!

And y'know, maybe I should have a little contest my own self, too!

Anybody looking to win a specially compiled Andy Williams mix-CD, I wonder?...
April 1st, 2005
Would YOU trust a man who dresses up in a ridiculous outfit like this, just to make a few extra bucks on the weekend?
I should've known better...

That's my buddy, Charlie Johnson. We went to college together, and besides sharing art classes, we were like-minded in our mutual love of comics and popular music. Hey, I was even Best Man at Charlie's wedding--and I didn't even have to wear a penguin suit, much less a bunny one! I wrote about how our friendship developed at some small length during those halcyon days in a piece with the unlikely—but honestly descriptive—title of “The Flying Frog, the Disembodied Baby's Head, and OTHER Fond College Reminiscences”, complete with accompanying full-color, originally published by Marvel, comic strip. If you haven't already, I'd advise you to take a look at it—it'll no doubt shine a little more illumination on today's subject matter.

Which is, if you haven't figured it out as of yet, my pal Charlie. Y'see, it all started about a month and a half back...

We'd fallen out of touch for quite some time—nearly a decade, probably--but thanks to the launching of this site, eventually Charlie and I happily began communicating again. All well and good, and nothing particularly out of the ordinary—UNTIL the middle of this past February. Almost as an afterthought to a note he sent concerning whatever the heck I had been blathering on about on the blog that particular day he wrote, "Here's a lnk to my karaoke website, Karazee Karaoke. This is how my friend Sal and I amuse ourselves on weekends--we host karaoke night at a local bar."

You're familiar with the phrase, “bust a gut”, I assume? Hardly the most elegant of terms, granted, and one I generally refrain from using, but, man oh MAN, a more fitting description for my reaction upon visiting his site I couldn't POSSIBLY come up with!! Lynn and I sat in from of the computer screen as she clicked away, going from one outrageous image after outrageous image of the weekly posters the pair concocted to advertise their Karazee little enterprise. Charlie tells me it's colleague Sal Maisano who does the bulk of the design work, but it's my bunny-suited buddy who lends his crazed visage to the digitally manipulated blendings of the real and the surreal—there's Charlie, as Wacko Jacko on trial, as Frankenstein for Halloween, as a steroid laden Barry Bonds, as pop stars Elton John, Boy George, Flava Flav, Kid Rock , AND Madonna, and as a leprechaun for St. Patrick's Day, a pilgrim for Thanksgiving, a crazed Jason for the weekend that their Karaoke night just happened to fall on a Friday the thirteenth, as well as offering himself up as the most attractive third party candidate since Ross Perot in last November's ill-fated Presidential election—and a majority of these peculiar panoramas feature my old pal with his tongue extended fully OUT, to its maximum breach of mouth, which is almost enough to divert your attention from the clearly demented twinkle dancing around in his eyes.


(And I'm not even going to MENTION several of the subjects chosen by Charlie and Sal for the full Karazee treatment that might well be deemed to be in less than, um, good taste. You'll just have to go search out the offensive--yet usually funny--offenders for yourselves...)
Yeah, I'm given to hyperbole upon occasion, but I can in all honesty swear to you that my sides were sore by the time we'd plowed through the over thirty available posters, not to mention the scads and scads of photos snapped each and every week at these drunken—and most assuredly, off-key—revelries. I hadn't laughed that consistently hard in ages, and while I realize that a substantial portion of that over-the-top reaction came from the salient fact that I KNOW Karazee Charlie personally—after all, YOU weren't there that day back in college when I was with him and his girlfriend, innocently walking through the local mall on our lunch break, and he just spontaneously exited, stage right, running headlong into a tiny, single aisle shoe store, dived into a belly-flop and slid most of the length of the otherwise empty store, arriving at the feet of the lone—and most assuredly stunned—clerk, only to calmly get up, theatrically brush himself off, nod appreciably to the confused proprietor, quickly turn, briskly leave, and be on his way as if nothing particularly out of the ordinary had happened, the only evidence to the contrary being the unfortunate (and extensive) skid mark his belt buckle had unavoidably left for a majority of the length of the store's floor—YOU weren't there to see THAT, but I was, and lemme tell ya, it's not something one soon forgets! But even without experiencing Charlie Johnson Live, still I figured you folks out there might well get a chuckle or two from the sheer good-natured audacity my old pal was exhibiting in his current avocation, so I wrote back and politely queried if he'd mind perhaps a little extra publicity given him here abouts?...

Like I had to ASK??..

By that time, February was waning, and as I wanted Charlie to get maximum exposure for his wild and wacky weekend activities, I told him I'd be holding him over until early March. He was cool with that. But before I could get to working up this Profile In Karazeeness, our main computer died, several other obstacles deterred me from my self-appointed goal, and suddenly--WHOOSH--the days in March were wasting away as well. What to do?

Then--“Click” went the light-bulb over my head! This. I realized, would make the PERFECT subject for an April 1st entry! Not that I was gonna TELL Charlie what I was planning—uh uh--half the fun is in the surprise, y'know?

But then, I wound up being the one who got the surprise!

I hadn't visited the Karazee Karaoke page for several weeks, so I wasn't prepared for the news that met me when I went there earlier today in an effort to decide just which images to poach—right up on top of the screen (well above the animated bouncing Charlie heads on the BOTTOM) it read: “BREAKING NEWS!! Charlie is moving to California. This will be his last Friday—come down and wish him well!!”


I'd just gotten a note from him a few hours earlier—he's the one who provided me with the link to the Whipped Cream Lady's website, which I gratefully added to my Herb Alpert Birthday Salute (NOT “Albert”, as I'd originally misspelled it—thanks to Alan David Doane and Tom the Dog for the much needed correction), and there was absolutely NO hint from this life-long Long Island resident that he was planning to switch coasts anytime soon! Even though I couldn't honestly recall the last time we'd gotten together face to face (the last time we ALMOST did so was back just before Julie turned three and we were visiting my parents old house in Yaphank, with the plan being to stop off at Charlie's digs on our way back home upstate, but the trip was hastily truncated due to a miserably uncomfortable heat wave and the need to get our toddler back into familiar (and COOLER) surroundings, so it never quite came off—and now our daughter's almost 15, and she STILL hasn't met Charlie!), I nonetheless found myself getting bummed out at the very notion of him being way, way on the other side of the country, in an area where this flight-aphophic fella will most likely NEVER visit! At least, I'm thinking, if he's still somewhere on Long Island, there's always that chance we'd be able to get together—with him moving to California, well, game over.

So I wrote him a semi-frantic email, repeating the phrase “WHAAAT?” no less than three times, going on to explain how I was checking his site in order to put together this very entry (albeit, no longer surreptitiously), and anxiously awaited some sort of explanation. In the meantime, I went outside and spent close to an hour dragging off branches that had fallen during a recent late season snow storm back into the outer reaches of our yard, while the whole time my thoughts were preoccupied with this suddenly depressing prospect of my good buddy up and leaving us for the left coast! And WHAT, I wondered, what would this all mean for the future of the Karazee Karaoke website that I had been gearing up for days to tell you all about?...

While washing the excess pine sap off my hands afterwards, Lynn and I were discussing the situation, and almost simultaneously we both came to ANOTHER, but exceedingly likely, conclusion, and I quickly rinsed the soap off my still sticky fingers so that I could run over to the lap-top and send Charlie a second note, this one detailing our latest suspicions.

But it was too late. His reply to my FIRST missive had already come in.

To quote it in its entirety:


April Fools!!”

So yeah, THAT'S what I get for trusting the word of a man who hops into a bunny suit to warble with an inebriated clientele on Easter weekends! I get April Fooled, royally. Huh. Well, I guess I should've known better. After all, if Charlie HAD fled the length and breadth of this big ol' country of ours, what luck would poor abandoned partner Sal ever have in selling any of THESE?...
That's right, ladies, for a mere $12.99 you too can have a THONG with the crazed visage of my nutty ol' college chum right smack dab in the middle of a spot, with quotations lifted directly from "The Wit And Wisdom Of Sam The Sham" as icing on!!! Nice job--it's not quite Underoos, buddy boy, but its sure closer that I'VE ever got!! (And check out the clock with Charlie's face on its face, the mug with his mug, and the “European Tour 2005” men's tee-shirt that I could never BEGIN to muster enough nerve to wear out in public--and whose potential salability could very likely be about to take a sharp downturn. Sorry, fellas...)

Look, I've never participated in Karaoke in my entire life, and like I said, it's been over a decade since I've been anywhere on Long Island (save for a handful of trips to see the Mets play in Queens-based Shea Stadium), but you can bet that if I ever were to get ANYWHERE near Charlie and Sal's Karazee Karaoke, I'd be up on that stage in a New York minute!!

Say, you fellas have “Moon River” cued up on that thing by any chance?...

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