Archive for October 2009

Comic Art Friday: Witches and warlocks

October 30, 2009

Tomorrow is Hallowe’en — All Hallows’ Eve, if you don’t want want to get lazy about it — which makes today Hallowe’ene’en.

I’m not sure that designation will catch on, but I thought you’d want to know.

The Scarlet Witch and Adam Warlock, pencils by Ron Adrian, inks by Bob Almond

This being Hallowe’ene’en and all, what could be more appropriate than a Common Elements artwork featuring a witch and a warlock? Not just any witch and warlock, of course, but the Scarlet Witch and Adam Warlock — drawn here by the talented Brazilian penciler Ron Adrian and embellished by the man who puts the “king” in “inking,” Bob Almond.

The Scarlet Witch isn’t really a witch, of course, but a mutant with the power to alter probability. Nor is Adam Warlock really a warlock — that’s just his name. Much like Billy Warlock, who to the best of my knowledge is not an actual warlock either, just a soap opera actor.

Not being a real witch doesn’t make the Scarlet Witch any less cool. If anything, it makes her even more cool, because you have to be pretty cool to let people think you’re a witch when you’re really not. Sort of like Kristin Chenoweth, who, although famous for portraying a witch, is not an actual witch. Although she can sing an F above high C, and I’m fairly certain that you’d have to have supernatural powers to do that. So, she might be.

In similar fashion, not being an actual warlock doesn’t make Adam Warlock any less cool. Not being Billy Warlock, however, is pretty cool. Unless you’re Billy Warlock, in which case you’re stuck with it. Although Billy Warlock was married to Marcy Walker, which might have been kind of cool for a while. Then again, Marcy Walker has been married, like, five times, so it might not be all that cool after all.

A Common Elements commission starring the Scarlet Witch and Adam Warlock, however, is totally cool.

Even on Hallowe’ene’en.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

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Not unique

October 29, 2009

I would have written about this before now, except that I didn’t know about it until today, when a member of an online forum that I frequent brought it to my attention.

A couple of weeks ago, I surrendered a distinction that I’ve held all by my lonesome for the past 21 years.

Since June 1988 — actually since March of that year, but the feat wasn’t official until June, when the programs aired — I have been the only African-American five-game champion in the history of Jeopardy! (If you’re arriving late to the party, you can read about my career as a game show trivia wizard by following the link. And yes, you nitpicker, technically I’m “biracial” — but if it’s good enough for the President of these United States, it’s absolutely good enough for me.)

As of two weeks ago Friday, a gentleman from Plano, Texas named Terry Linwood muscled his way into my formerly one-man fraternity.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m as thrilled as all get-out for Terry, who’s a fantastic Jeopardy! player. (I saw a couple of Terry’s games, but not his game five — which he won — or his game six — which he lost — and thus I wasn’t aware of his accomplishment.)

Still, I’m sure you’ll excuse me for feeling just a tiny bit less… remarkable today.

Had you asked me 21 years ago whether I thought my dubious accomplishment would stand the test of more than two decades’ time, I’d have imagined you daft. I mean, who’d have thought Jeopardy! would even be on the air after 26 seasons? And, given the number of contestants who grace the Sony Pictures Studios stage every year, you’d have supposed that a couple of dozen people, maybe, would have smashed in the door to my solitary club by now.

It’s a funny old world, sometimes.

Now I know how Snoopy felt in this classic Peanuts strip:

Peanuts

Congratulations to Terry Linwood on becoming Jeopardy!‘s latest five-time champ. I’ll be pulling for him in next year’s Tournament of Champions.

If he does well, I’ll even teach him the secret handshake.

What’s Up With That? #82: Busted bridge

October 28, 2009

I’m not a structural engineer, but…

If the recently repaired chunk of the Bay Bridge can be taken out by a stiff wind, why should we have confidence that it could withstand a major earthquake — which is the reason they’re doing all of this work on the Bay Bridge in the first place?

Seems a mite iffy to me.

Side note: Don’t you just hate it when someone begins a critique with the disclaimer, “I’m not a [insert professional specialty here], but…”? Would you have you have mistaken me for a structural engineer if I hadn’t started this post by assuring you that I wasn’t?

Somehow, I think not.

The view from the Oracle

October 26, 2009

Some thoughts as I watched the Golden State Warriors’ open practice at Oracle Arena today, two days before the team’s NBA season opener against the Houston Rockets…

Disgruntled former captains aside, this team has potential. Anthony Morrow looks like he could make a serious impact in his sophomore season, and the rookie point guard, Stephen Curry, can ball.

Speaking of disgruntled former captains: Shut up and play, Stack Jack. You couldn’t buy a bucket — or remember to pass — today.

Teaming two relatively small guards in the backcourt doesn’t worry me. The tandem of Curry and Monta Ellis ought to be able to run and shoot half the teams in the Association out of the building. Plus, Curry’s already the best passer on the team.

Starting Corey Maggette does worry me. Not because Maggette isn’t a terrific player — he is, and right now, he looks terrific — but because he’s a physical guy who gets injured a lot. The Warriors are better off with Corey coming in gunning off the bench, keeping him fresh and relatively unbattered.

Three thousand-plus preadolescent schoolkids can raise quite a shriek when told to “Make Noise!” by a scoreboard graphic. Perhaps we shouldn’t encourage that.

Andris Biedrins and Anthony Randolph still appear to be nursing injuries. Both played at about half-speed today. Although the way Biedrins usually plays, it’s hard to tell.

Kelenna Azubuike looks to be over his ankle sprain. That was one killer dunk he threw down.

Having Mikki Moore alongside Ronny Turiaf could make for an exciting frontcourt when the starters are resting. Those two guys love to get after it. It’s good to have another big man who, like Turiaf, understands the meaning of “hustle.” Biedrins and Randolph are still wrestling with that concept.

Acie Law can play a little. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do.

Today is Monta’s 24th birthday. Curry the rookie was called upon to lead the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to him. This was a bad idea for two reasons: (1) Steph cannot sing; and (2) Steph does not appear to know the tune to “Happy Birthday.”

Don Nelson looks every day of his 69 years. Maui’s calling, Nellie.

Comic Art Friday: Wonder Woman Day is Sunday!

October 23, 2009

In addition to October being National Breast Cancer Awareness Month — a fact of which you, friend reader, have already been made aware — this is also National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Which means that Sunday is Wonder Woman Day.

Wonder Woman, pencils and inks by comics artist Michael Bair

For the past three years, the last Sunday in October has been celebrated as Wonder Woman Day as a symbolic way of empowering women to free themselves from violent relationships. The cities of Portland, Oregon and Flemington, New Jersey officially designate Wonder Woman Day as an opportunity to support local women’s and family shelters, and to promote awareness of domestic violence as a social issue.

Thanks to the encouragement of the event’s organizer, comics and pop culture author Andy Mangels, dozens of comic book artists each year donate Wonder Woman art for a silent auction, the proceeds of which benefit shelters in the two sponsoring cities.

Wonder Woman, pencils by Al Rio, inks by Bob Almond

Each of today’s featured artworks traces its origins back to a previous Wonder Woman Day auction. I acquired the first piece shown above — a stunning portrait by Michael Bair — on Wonder Woman Day II in 2007. The second drawing was originally a preliminary sketch drawn by Al Rio for his Wonder Woman Day contribution that same year. I later commissioned inker extraordinaire Bob Almond to embellish Al’s pencils.

If you’d like to check out the art available in this year’s auctions, simply follow the Wonder Woman Day link.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

Soup’s gone

October 22, 2009

So I come home tonight after a long day at the hospital with KJ, and the first thing I read on the news is that Soupy Sales died.

Go ahead, world… tear away another piece of my childhood.

Although I’m too young to have been around for his infamous kids’ shows from the 1950s and early 1960s — shame on you for thinking there’s nothing I’m too young to have been around for — Soupy was a big part of my nascent TV experience. Reruns of his mid-’60s variety show ran endlessly on Armed Forces Television, a staple of my military-brat youth.

More significantly, as a connoisseur of game shows, I watched Soupy on hundreds of episodes of programs like What’s My Line? (he was a regular panelist for seven seasons), Pyramid, To Tell the Truth, Match Game, and Hollywood Squares. In the ’70s, Soupy also hosted the juvenile version of the stunt game Almost Anything Goes, the forerunner of Nickelodeon’s Double Dare and its spinoffs.

Soupy’s legend in television was secured on New Year’s Day 1965, when as a gag he invited his young viewers to dig into their parents’ wallets and purses and mail him “those green pieces of paper with pictures of Presidents on them.” Contrary to popular belief, Sales wasn’t fired for this stunt — although he was suspended for a week — nor did his entreaty net a massive windfall. (Most of the mail submissions contained Monopoly money.) The incident, however, illustrates the unpredictable humor for which Soupy became famous, even when he was mostly known for entertaining kids.

Some years ago, TV comedy and comics writer Mark Evanier composed a detailed retrospective about Soupy’s career. In tonight’s blog post, Mark adds a few additional thoughts. Both articles are well worth a read.

Back when I was reviewing films for DVD Verdict, I penned a critique of a little-known “mockumentary” entitled …And God Spoke. It’s a pretty funny flick if you enjoy that Christopher Guest sort of thing, and one of its most hilarious bits is a cameo by Soupy Sales as himself, hired to portray Moses in a low-budget Biblical epic. Because if you couldn’t afford Charlton Heston, you’d definitely want the Soup Man.

Soupy Sales — whose birth name, incidentally, was Milton Supman — was 83. His two sons, Hunt and Tony Sales, are rock musicians who’ve worked as sidemen for such premier artists as David Bowie, Todd Rundgren, and Iggy Pop.

There. I didn’t mention pie once.

Comic Art Friday: RIP, George Tuska

October 16, 2009

Sad news this Comic Art Friday…

George Tuska, a comic artist whose career began in the earliest days of comic books, passed away last night at the age of 93.

Iron Man vs. the Hulk, pencils by comics artist George Tuska

Only a week or so ago, I received notice via the Comic Art collectors’ e-mail list that Tuska had decided to stop accepting new commissions. I’m reminded of our local hero, Charles Schulz, whose final Peanuts strip appeared in newspapers on the day of his death. It’s almost as though these gentlemen had been drawing for so long that when they decided to stop drawing, they had nothing left to live for.

Tuska’s life in comics began in 1939, when he began working for the legendary Will Eisner. Although Tuska would eventually draw every genre of comic known to humankind, his original specialty was crime stories, in particular the gritty sort that appeared in Lev Gleason’s infamous Crime Does Not Pay.

In the 1960s, Tuska became one of the busiest artists in the superhero genre. He was the regular penciler on Marvel’s The Invincible Iron Man for nearly a decade (September 1968-January 1978), and while he was by no means the first artist to draw Iron Man, Tuska’s depiction of the character was the seminal one for a generation of Marvelites. Even today, when I close my eyes and think “Iron Man,” it’s the George Tuska version I envision. Tuska had a knack for making Tony Stark’s armor come alive — in fact, he drew Shellhead’s supersuit in a way that made it seem almost as pliable as Batman’s cape, yet still metallic somehow. He was, I think, the first artist to subtly change the expression on Iron Man’s faceplate to reflect the emotions of the man inside. It wasn’t technically authentic, maybe, but it worked.

From my perspective, Tuska’s other key achievement at Marvel was his work on Luke Cage, Hero for Hire, the first mainstream comic book to bear the name of a black superhero in its title. Tuska illustrated the first three issues of the series, then returned to draw several more, beginning with issue #7. When the title of the book changed to Luke Cage, Power Man, Tuska once again came back to the character, adding another dozen or so issues to his credits. Again, as with Iron Man, when I think of Luke Cage, it’s Tuska’s depiction that I most associate with the character.

Perhaps because of his experience on the Cage title, Tuska was the artist Marvel chose to draw another series featuring an African-American hero, Black Goliath. Other Marvel titles to which Tuska contributed significantly included The Avengers, Sub-Mariner, X-Men, Ghost Rider, and the Western series Kid Colt, Outlaw. He also drew the first several issues of the Man-Wolf series in Marvel’s monster anthology, Creatures on the Loose.

Tuska was known in the industry as “King of the Fill-In” because his adaptable style and speedy production made him invaluable as a fill-in artist — drawing a single issue of a title when the regular artist took time off, or fell behind schedule. At Marvel, he drew dozens of fill-in issues throughout the ’60s and ’70s, touching practically every book Marvel published during that span at least once.

After leaving Marvel in 1978, Tuska assumed the art chores on DC’s World’s Greatest Superheroes newspaper strip, a job he held for 15 years. During this period, he also drew comic books for DC, mostly in the various Superman titles.

Tuska retired from comics in the mid-1990s. As noted earlier, however, he continued to draw commission projects until shortly before his death. Although I never was fortunate enough to commission him, the artwork shown above is a commissioned piece I picked up from another collector five years ago. It’s not dated, but I believe Tuska drew it sometime in the early part of this decade. It’s Tuska’s Iron Man in a classic action pose, doing battle with the Hulk. Everything you need to know about the artist’s style and approach to layout and character is right there on the page.

According to his friend and biographer, Dewey Cassell, Tuska is survived by his wife of 61 years, Dorothy, their three children, numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and friends, and a legion of fans.

Thanks for all of the wonderful art, Mr. Tuska. Those sure were some great times.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.