Monday, April 28, 2008
  Chester Gould's The Girl Friends (1931)
Click heading to hear Helen Kane sing.

In the years before he created Dick Tracy, Chester Gould (1900-1985) drew several other strips, the movie parody Fillum Fables (1924), the interview feature Why It's a Windy City and the Siamese cats of Radio Cats (1924). Although he had been earning $100 a week at the Evening American, he dropped Fillum Fables ("I wanted to get away from that because it was not my original idea") and moved over to the Chicago Daily News (taking a salary drop to $50 a week) in order to develop his own properties. While drawing ad art and editorial cartoons at the Daily News he was offered the opportunity to do another strip, The Girl Friends (1931), as he explained:

Well, while I was drawing rugs and canned corn and stuff for the regular daily ads, I was told to come into the office of the editor of the News. I didn't know if I was going to get fired or what. He said, "I understand you have some experience with the American." I said, "Yes!" "Well, we need a girl strip in the Daily News," and he asked if I could draw a girl strip. I said, "I sure can!" So he said, "Well, let me see a couple, and we might start using them right here in the News." That was the way I got into The Girl Friends."
Chester Gould! ©2008 Ed Piskor and Jay Lynch
Chester Gould!, a visual memoir of a real-life experience that happened in 1968, was originally drawn for a planned book of autobiographical comic strips titled Ink & Anguish. Jay Lynch wrote the scripts and roughed layouts for half the book, and Ed Piskor drew the finished pages. Although Ink & Anguish was eventually abandoned, the strips have recently been running in MineshaftPiskor illustrates for American Splendor, Philadelphia City Paper and other publications. Just published is his new book Wizzywig about hacker Kevin Phenicle. Click here for a cornucopia of comics and illustrations by Ed Piskor.

Jay created the characters of Nard 'n Pat decades ago for his Bijou Funnies, drew many installments of the syndicated alternative weekly strip Phoebe and the Pigeon People, devised humor products for Topps Chewing Gum and contributed to
Mad. His new children's book, Otto's Orange Day (illustrated by Frank Cammuso), was just published by Toon Books.

Want to visit the Chester Gould Dick Tracy Museum in Woodstock, Illinois? Better hurry! It closes June 1 due to financial problems. Meanwhile, those deluxe IDW hardcover reprints of Dick Tracy which began in 2006 keep rolling out with the fifth volume due in August. The first volume features the Plainclothes Tracy strips which got Gould the job.

Gould eventually began to identify with his character. He and his wife once checked into a hotel as "Mr. and Mrs. Dick Tracy." And I recall seeing many decades ago a newspaper photo showing Gould in his bizarre backyard cemetery with rows of gravestones indicating where each of Dick Tracy villains were buried. Did he actually put drawings of the villains in little coffins and bury the drawings? I don't remember.

Gould could draw Dick Tracy blindfolded!  

In the chaotic Cabbie (1987) the brilliant Barcelona artist Marti Riera unleashed a cast of depraved characters in a remarkable recreation of Chester Gould's art style.

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Friday, April 25, 2008
  Sky Masters of the Space Force

The first book (1958-59) of the three-volume Spanish edition of the Jack Kirby/Wally Wood Sky Masters was released last week at the Barcelona Con, Spain's largest comics convention. At this Barcelona bookstall, note silver ink in logo. With added material to expand beyond Pure Imagination's Sky Masters, the set is edited and designed by Ferran Delgado for Glénat.

Here's how the cover was created: Ferran began with a high-res scan of the comic strip's promotional art provided to him by Jim Warden, who owns that original art. A poster of this same image is included with the book.

Next Ferran used some parts of the drawing to create this new vertical image, redoing areas of the background covered by the logo in the original. Note how Ferran redid the logo for his final design in order to maintain the proper perspective. The cover was then digitally colored by Javi Rodriguez.

Click images for enlargements. Click heading to hear Katherine MacLean's "Pictures Don't Lie" on NBC's X Minus One (October 24, 1956), first published in Galaxy Science Fiction (August 1951).

Comparison of strip in progress with finished Wood inking.

Greg Theakston's cover design for Pure Imagination's Sky Masters (1991) was used by Ferran for reference, serving as a spin-off springboard.

For the Spanish edition, material from the original Pure Imagination book will be split into three volumes. Since the daily strips and the Sunday strips had independent storylines, the first and second volumes feature the dailies with the Sunday strips in the third volume. The third book will publish all the Sunday strips in color for the first time ever.

The first volume has half of the daily strips, Greg Theakston's original introduction, a new introduction by Jack Kirby expert Alvaro Pons, a section with various extras, two pages in support of the Jack Kirby Museum and a poster with a color reproduction of the promo art supplied by Warden. Volume two will be published next year, and the third volume is scheduled for publication in 2010.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008
  Quest for Black Patti

Joe Bussard, King of the 78s, talks about record collecting in clips below. Click heading above for 2003 NPR interview with Bussard playing some of his records. The founder of Fonotone Records, Bussard owns 25,000 78s. Fonotone was the last 78rpm label, in operation from 1956 to 1970 -- and recently revived  on Dust-to-Digital:

In 2005, Bussard contacted Dust-to-Digital, the record label he had worked with a few years earlier in compiling tracks for the Grammy-nominated gospel collection, Goodbye Babylon. What started as a conversation about Fonotone Records metamorphasized into a five-CD retrospective, for which no stone went unturned. Master reel-to-reel tapes, unplayed for decades but still pristine, were remastered; forgotten Kodak slides in old cigar boxes were dusted off and retouched; and musicians of all stripes who had disappeared more than 35 years earlier were tracked down. Their stories, and the story of Fonotone, the very last 78rpm record label, are told here with words, pictures and music... a rare portrait of a long-gone America.

Saturday, April 19, 2008
  Potrzebie bounces and Wood floats

This week marks the end of a year since I posted any Wally Wood art. We veered off in other directions. But to get back on track, here is a moody montage by Wood in this illustration for "The Creature Inside" by Jack Sharkey from Worlds of Tomorrow (December 1963). Click to see the enlarged details in the very controlled cross-hatching.

And click on the heading above to hear Robert A. Heinlein's Universe on X Minus One (May 5, 1955).

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bob Fosse as described in Hilton Als' memorable Chicago review, "Girls & Guns" (New York Review of Books):

Gwen Verdon had worked with the influential choreographer Jack Cole, who coached dancers at Columbia Pictures, and who incorporated "ethnic" styles of dance—Balinese hand movements, flamenco, African-inspired pelvic thrusts—into his own work. Fosse, on the other hand, had been, since the age of thirteen, a hoofer in various dives in his native Chicago. There was always something of a beer-hall stench in his work, a Runyonesque feeling for diamonds in the gutter. Fosse's choreographic style was based on the body turning in on itself, so that only isolated body parts—the pelvis, legs, knees, hands, arms, shoulders—articulated movement. What was articulated was rarely joy. Fosse's work was characterized by a grim sexuality and a fierceness that "explodes" in a shoulder shrug (don't care-ish). He used the black American dance vernacular, which vaudeville had grown out of—minstrelsy, jazz, and tap—and he crossed that vernacular over to a white mainstream audience. (In the way of popular culture, Fosse's style was made even more recognizable in music videos starring Michael Jackson.)

In Chicago Fosse exploited the blackness at the core of Roxie's and Velma's witty, angular style. In [Zora Neale] Hurston's essay, she might be describing Fosse's choreography and what it engendered in his audience when she wrote in the section called "Dancing":

Negro dancing is dynamic suggestion.... For example, the performer flexes one knee sharply, assumes a ferocious face mask, thrusts the upper part of the body forward with clenched fists, elbows taut as in hard running or grasping a thrusting blade.

What separated Fosse from his contemporaries—Jerome Robbins, Michael Kidd, and so on—was his desire for his dancers to project thinking, wit, above feeling. This made him the perfect choreographer and director for the grim post-Oklahoma age of theater.

Damn Yankees dance demo with Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon
on The Garry Moore Show (1962)

Bob Fosse and Tommy Rall in My Sister Eileen (1955)

All That Jazz: "Take Off with Us" (1979)

Fosse (1999)

Sweet Charity: "Rich Man's Frug" (1969)

Sunday, April 06, 2008
  Do Androids Dream of Philip K. Dick?

Control click above for 1977 PKD interview on Mike Hodel's Hour 25.

I met Philip K. Dick in 1969, and some months later, chance events interleaved so that I seemingly became a character in PKD's fiction. Or was it the reverse? Is the power and magic of a Dick novel so talismanic that it led me directly down causality corridors into his own past?

During a visit to Washington, D.C. in the summer of 1970, I had been reading the 1968 MacFadden-Bartell paperback edition of Now Wait For Last Year, Dick's tale of reconstructed pasts and time-travel via the JJ-180 drug. With me was Paula, and at my suggestion, she was also reading the book. She carried it with her as we traveled from museums to malls to restaurants, sometimes a planned route, sometimes drifting.

"What shall we do later today?" I asked.

"Well, I'm going to see my friend Margaret," said Paula, inviting me to join her. So later in the afternoon, we climbed into a cab. Unfamiliar with D.C. streets then, I had no notion of where we were headed -- only that I was to visit someone I'd never met at a house I'd never seen on a street where I'd never been. The taxi door closed, and I learned our destination for the first time when she said to the driver, "3039 Macomb Street."

But the address did sound familiar. Had I seen it before? Read it? I asked to see the novel in her purse and began idly flipping pages, dimly recalling that Dick might have used a similar address in his description of Wash-35, a “painstakingly elaborate reconstruction” of 1935 Washington, a "babyland'' where Virgil Ackerman entertains guests in a lifesize model of his own childhood world:

Here was Gammage's, a shop at which Virgil had bought Tip Top comics and penny candy. Next to it Eric made out the People's Drugstore; the old man during his childhood had bought a cigarette lighter here once and chemicals for his Gilbert Number Five glassblowing and chemistry set. "What's the Uptown Theater showing this week?"

As we rode down Connecticut Avenue, my eyes went to the paragraph on page 30 where "their ship coasted along Connecticut Avenue." We turned from Connecticut Avenue onto Macomb Street, and I noted the spelling discrepancy in this sentence:

The ship taxied from Connecticut Avenue onto McComb Street and soon was parking before 3039 with its black wrought-iron fence and tiny lawn.

The cab stopped. I looked up. There was the tiny lawn. There was the black wrought-iron fence. We were parked in front of 3039 Macomb. I held in my hands nothing more than ink on paper, an author's fantasy, but through the taxi windows I could see the sun shining through the trees and the "five-story brick apartment building where Virgil had lived as a boy." Past the fence, just as described on page 31, I could see the children playing at the doorway. In Dick's novel, these children are "robants in the shape of small boys," so I watched them closely as we walked past them, entering the doorway of 3039 Macomb for the first time, knowing I had walked through a Synchronicity Portal into PKD's version of reality.

In Dick's The Man In The High Castle, Mr. Tagomi, referring to the I Ching, says, "We ask it questions as if it were alive. It is alive. As is the Christian Bible; many books are actually alive. Not in metaphoric fashion. Spirit animates it. Do you see?" I see. Had I read Now Wait For Last Year the previous year, or even a month earlier or later, the address in the book would have slipped by unnoticed. It could have sat inanimate on my bookshelf for decades, and what was buried on pages 30 and 31 would have remained unseen. Skim milk masquerades as cream.

It occurred to me later that the address might have been used in the novel because Virgil's past was, perhaps, Phil Dick's past, so I wrote to him, asking why he had chosen to fictionalize this real location. He responded, "I used that building and address because I had lived there in the Thirties as a kid. So you visited it... my god, that is eerie. Really freaks me. The ghost of a little boy who is now a middle-aged SF author must still be playing there."

I first told this story in 1982 in The Comics Journal, and two years later, Paul Williams reprinted it in the PKDS Newsletter (April 1984). Paul prefaced it with a facsimile reproduction of hand-printed sentences written by PKD at the age of seven or eight. Phil was seven years old when he and his mother moved to 3039 Macomb in 1935, and they stayed there until 1938. The paragraph confirmed the address, previously unknown to PKD readers:

Once there was an ant. One day he went walking. Soon he came to a forest. It was an ant-mile long. Soon he came to a sidewalk. In the middle was a dead bumblebee. He pulled and he pulled. And he soon got it to a forest. He went on ahead leaving his bee on the ground. But he saw that it was hopeless. The grass was to thick. So he left his bee and went home. By Philip K. Dick. 3039 Macomb St. N.W. D.C. I killed the bumble bee.

A few footnotes: I made the screenshot of 3039 Macomb by stepping into the "mirror world" of EveryScape. "Mirror world" actually sounds like something PKD might have concocted 50 years ago, but now it actually exists. EveryScape just got $7 million in venture capital funding to compete with Google Street View. Oddly, using EveryScape to go around Washington seems very much like the Wash-35 of Now Wait for Last Year. How did PKD know the future so well?

In the novel excerpt above, PKD mentioned the Uptown Theater and the Peoples Drug Store (which has no apostrophe). Only months after PKD and his mother moved into the Macomb neighborhood, Warner Bros. opened the Uptown Theater in DC on October 29, 1936, just around the corner from Macomb at 3426 Connecticut Avenue NW. It's still there today, the last movie palace in Washington still playing first-run films. The Peoples Drug Store was right across the street from the theater. (The one in the above photo was three miles away at 7th Street NW and Massacusetts Avenue.)

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008
  d'Holbachie Yoko
Hi Fructose cover by d'Holbachie Yoko. See her gallery. Below is excerpt from her statement in Direct Art 12:

I often draw strange creatures. Some people may think they are grotesque and scary, but I do not intend to draw something grotesque. I feel they have been living in me for a long time, rather than I created them. And, they came out of me, using my paintings. So, it is difficult to answer when people ask, "What are they? What are they supposed to mean?" I wish someone would explain it for me...

Animals, insects, fish, and toys... These things used to be close to me when I was a child. I like to take these in my design. Maybe it is because my childhood memory is vivid, or I am still childish. I love long tentacle-like shapes with stripes or dappled patterns, such as octopus tentacles and tendrils of morning glory. They look as if they are presenting something gently, or as if they are looking for something.

I also love vivid colors. I imagine colors that only exist in my dreams. I also ruminate about the impact of colors that are combined like spices. A person who saw my work said to me, "I feel my head spinning and my heart beating rapidly." Maybe, it was because the new color, which I made, stimulated his brain. It is at such moments that I feel the emotion inside me is shared by someone else.

Flying Green and other d'Holbachie Yoko images are available in high quality Giclee prints on German etching paper in signed and numbered editions.

Flying Green ©2008 d'Holbachie Yoko
Masquerade of the albino axolotls

My Photo

is the editor of Against the Grain: Mad Artist Wallace Wood (2003), reviewed by Paul Gravett.

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