Monday, August 31, 2009
  Friese Brothers: "The Machine Stops"
This 2009 film by the Friese Brothers is adapted from the 1909 science fiction short story by E.M. Forster. It was satirized by Harvey Kurtzman and Wally Wood as "Blobs!" in the first issue of Mad (October-November, 1952). Go here to read "Blobs!" Possibly Kurtzman had encountered the story in Collected Short Stories of E.M. Forster, published in 1948.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, August 30, 2009
  Memories from the Fridge
©2009 Bhob Stewart and Russ Jones
This is the cover and one page from the comic book Russ Jones and I did in 1973. When I devised that title in 1973, I had never heard the phrase "tales from the fridge," but I just now typed it into Google and got more than 13,000 results, including even a blog with that name.

During the late 1960s, Russ lived at 127 West 79th Street, a huge apartment building called the Clifton House, and I would go over there to join him in inking pages for DC Comics. A few years later, Russ and I collaborated on a series of stories for Charlton Comics. I previously posted
"Truck Stop", published in Ghostly Tales #108 (November 1973). After "Truck Stop"was finished, Denis Kitchen took an interest in publishing Tales from the Fridge, and we began work.

The premise derived from a short
Time magazine article I had once read about a promoter responsible for finding Colonel Sanders. According to that article, the promoter intended to generate a burger chain around a guy from Brooklyn who supposedly made the world's best hamburgers. The character Global McBlimp was based on a Boston University student Russ knew, and Global's name was a homage to a Li'l Abner character. Scripting and art were done simultaneously. In other words, we were doing inked pages with no set plan of how the story developed and what the ending would be. This was somewhat risky and might explain why the book ends with several one-page fillers.

Some people have asked me how the front cover was created. One art director even asked me if we pasted up photostats! No, here's how it was done: I put a copy of
Tales from the Crypt #42 (see below) on an opaque projector, traced it off and made alterations. Russ then said to me, "Don't let me see that cover!" Russ, who had watched Jack Davis at work in New Rochelle, knew that Davis worked very fast, so he then began brush inking at a very fast pace, doing it like Davis but without any attempt to duplicate individual brush strokes. Thus, it really does look like Jack Davis art if you don't make a line-by-line comparison.

The Vault-Keeper became the Fridge-Keeper. Replacing one of the EC GhouLunatics, Russ drew in his own self-portrait as Rod Usher on the front cover. In the story, Russ embellished the character of Usher with occasional injections of self-satire.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, August 25, 2009
  Lovely Bones

What if we are all robots, only we don't know it?

Visit Eccerobot (Embodied Cognition in a Compliantly Engineered Robot), home of Cronos, the anthropomimetic robot. Also see the Cronos Project.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, August 23, 2009
  Death of Newspapers #7: Chicago Tribune cartoonists

January 5, 1936

January 12, 1936

May 16, 1948

November 4, 1928

This promotional film shows Chicago Tribune cartoonists at work: Walter Berndt (Smitty), Martin Branner (Winnie Winkle), Carl Ed (Harold Teen), Harold Gray (Little Orphan Annie), W.E. Hill, Frank King (Gasoline Alley), John T. McCutcheon, Carey Orr, Sidney Smith (The Gumps), Frank Willard (Moon Mullins) and Gaar Williams.

April 25, 1926

November 2, 1924

First Little Orphan Annie Sunday page

July 4, 1926

May 9, 1921
Gaar Williams' The Artist

John T. McCutcheon's Injun Summer

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, August 21, 2009
  At Long Last, Avatar

The CGI characters in the just released Avatar trailer are somewhat reminiscent of Edd Cartier's Astounding illustrations. The consciousness of crippled war vet Jake (Sam Worthington) is projected into a ten-foot tall creature, and he travels to the planet Pandora where he encounters the humanoid Nav'i.

For much better resolution, ignore below and instead watch the Avatar trailer at Apple .

Video Game - E3 2009 - Video Game Trailers

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Sunday, August 16, 2009
  By the time we got to Woodstock

We are stardust, we are golden,
We are billion year old carbon.
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.
By the time we got to Woodstock,
We were half a million strong
And everywhere was a song and a celebration.
And I dreamed I saw the bomber death planes
Riding shotgun in the sky,
Turning into butterflies
Above our nation.
We are stardust, we are golden,
We caught in the devil's bargain,
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.
                               --Joni Mitchell

What better way to observe the Woodstock anniversary than by reading artist Zina Saunders' memoir, "Woodstock Flashback," accompanied by several of Zina's digital memory paintings. Here's one, somewhat reminiscent of nude motorcyclist Gilda Texter in Vanishing Point (1971). Click to enlarge full-screen width and full throttle blur in the wind of memories. And click here to read "Woodstock Flashback" followed by a variety of comments.

Image © copyright Zina Saunders 2009, used with permission.

Zina captioned this "Woodstock Flashback #2: As we sped along, clinging to the back of that car, we were passed by the coolest girl I ever saw. She was driving a chopped motorcycle, wearing a miniskirt, looking tough and sexy and independent."

If you watch for it, in the movie Woodstock (1970) you can see a newspaper with a headline about the search for Manson. There was a raid at the Spahn Ranch on the second day of the festival. I remember walking through the Port Authority that week and seeing a long row of people who had left Woodstock and were now sleeping in a back hallway of the Port Authority.

I met Wavy Gravy in the Lower East Side that summer, but unlike his appearance in the film, he seemed totally down and exhausted. I tried to get him talk about his earlier life as the stand-up comedian Hugh Romney, having once heard a very funny recording some years earlier, but he seemed too wiped out to respond other than a few sentences.

To hear four minutes of Wavy Gravy as comedian Hugh Romney, click on the heading at top. This is from his LP Third Stream Humor (World Pacific), recorded at the Renaissance in Greenwich Village in 1962.  It's oddly evocative of Ken Nordine, Lenny Bruce, Jonathan Winters and Dennis Potter all rolled into one.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Thursday, August 13, 2009
  Death of Newspapers #6: Big Funny

In the previous installment, "Death of Newspapers #5: Barney Google" (7/26), I wrote:
Maybe years after all the newspapers are gone, someone will say, "Hey! Why don't we print a giant-size comics section and distribute it every Sunday? We could even put some news items on the last page."

Two weeks later, someone did. It's an oversized, 48-page paper called Big Funny featuring 45 artists. Go here for the inside scoop from Big Funny co-editor Steven Stwalley, who, I gather, wrote the front page copy seen below.

Big Funny sells for $10.95, available here. Here's a list of the artists and their websites. Here's how the International Cartoonist Conspiracy heralded Big Funny:


THE NEWSPAPER INDUSTRY IS COUGHING blood and gasping on its deathbed. Newspapers lost their relevance a long time ago, and with Internet media blossoming they can no longer compete. Readers and advertisers have moved on. Unfortunately, newspapers are taking their beautiful bastard child, the newspaper comic strip, with them. Today’s newspaper comics are much-maligned… and deservedly so. Today’s small strips, with mostly predictable, safe themes and bland characters are a pale shadow of what newspaper comics were in their wild and colorful youth. 110-or-so years from their birth, it’s been a good run. Let us not mourn the death of the newspaper comics… rather, let us have a wake to celebrate what they once were, and to build something new.

Before movies caught on, newspaper comics were the world’s first pop culture phenomenon. Happy Hooligan was a household name many years before anyone had heard of Charlie Chaplin. How many people have heard of Happy Hooligan today?

Now, as newspapers are going bankrupt on an almost daily basis, few readers are left who would buy a newspaper primarily for the funnies… this was not always the case. If the funnies had remained the vital cultural force they once were, would people today be so willing to give up their newspapers? The International Cartoonist Conspiracy, and Altered Esthetics gallery are collaborating to produce an oversized newspaper comics section like they would do it today if they still did it like they did it in the old days.

Here's just one sample, Jesse Gillespie's clever McCay modernization, Little Emo in Slumbaland. Go here to see Jesse's comments and photos re Big Funny and Little Emo, plus more of his artwork.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, August 09, 2009
  The Roots of Mandrake
Mandrake invents the Roomba in 1940.

"The Mirror World" story from 1944.

The origin of Mandrake the Magician seems blurred. Perhaps we can make a stab at clearing up the confusion. The St. Louis illustrator Phil Davis met Lee Falk in 1933, and their King Features strip began June 11, 1934, initially drawn by the 23-year-old Falk. Coulton Waugh, in The Comics, found the early art and continuity of the strip "very shaky and insecure."

Davis soon developed a crisp and clean approach to illustrating the strip, and the Sunday page was added in February 1935. According to Ron Goulart (in The Encyclopedia of American Comics from 1897 to the Present), since Falk and Davis "were dark-haired gentlemen with moustaches, King Features publicity suggested, at various times, that each was the model for the dapper wizard."

Falk said he got the name for his character from John Donne: "Goe, and catche a falling starre... Get with child a mandrake root." But what about the magician Leon Mandrake? While he was touring with his stage act, he met Phil Davis in St. Louis, and they became friends and corresponded for years. Leon Mandrake was married to his first wife, Narda Mandrake, from 1939 to 1946, and Narda was a character in the comic strip. His second wife, Velvet Mandrake, was also featured in the comic strip. Falk claimed that he invented the name Narda by adding the letter "a" to the acronym for the National Association of Retail Druggists, but note that the letters in Mandrake contain an anagram of Narda. (Another character with an anagramatic name is Nardraka.)

After Mandrake met Davis, a huge promotional opportunity loomed, and a handshake sealed the deal. Or perhaps they just gestured hypnotically at each other. Lon Mandrake, the son of Leon Mandrake, recalled, "Phil Davis, well, he had eventually seen my father and drew the cartoon to look just like him. They ended up with a kind of verbal agreement at that point, and together they participated in a cross-promotion. Falk and Davis had said that my father was the best promotion they could have."

For more on Leon Mandrake's family, go to Leon's Family. For dozens of Mandrake strips, gesture hypnotically. For the entire "Manduck the Magician" story from Mad #14, go here.

Leon and Velvet Mandrake performing the Enchanted Pagoda dollhouse illusion. When the pagoda was pierced, Velvet vanished.

June 8, 1941

January 18-20, 1937

April 29, 1945

Mad #14 (August 1954)

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, August 08, 2009
  H.M. Bateman

As is evident in these selections, the British cartoonist Henry Mayo Bateman (1887-1970) was a major influence on Harvey Kurtzman. Bateman was most famous for his "The Man Who..." series, such as "The Man Who Lit Up at the Snooker Table" (below) and "The Boy Who Breathed on the Glass at the British Museum." The cover of Bad Language (1992) reprinted Bateman's watercolor "The Man Who Asked for a Double Scotch in the Grand Pump Room at Bath" (1931).

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, August 01, 2009
  Last exit to Fiorillaville

Steve Fiorilla had a phantasmagoric imagination. His body was not as powerful as his imagination, and at age 48, he died last Wednesday in a Buffalo hospital. Steve's artwork ranged from pen-and-ink drawings to sculpture, but he had no interest in email or computers or creating digital art. Even so, he had a blog. This came about because his friend and sometimes collaborator, Jim McDermott, would upload Steve's drawings to the blog, and then I would write copy to fit, giving the art a narrative framework. Here's a link to Steve's blog, Fee Fie Foe... Fiorilla, featuring images he did over the years, plus a recent work, the Marginals.

The cityscape above these two paragraphs was the only piece he did directly for Fee Fie Foe... Fiorilla. As I began to write about the mythical Fiorillaville, I asked him to supply his vision of it. For a full list of Steve's many credits, see his Wikipedia page. To read his reviews, go to Flickhead, where he wrote under the pseudonym Jacques Corédor. (Get it?) Also on Flickhead, you can read Ray Young's memories of Steve. The Buffalo News ran this obituary.

Mask Maker is a five-minute video by Jon Gawne showing Steve creating a latex mask. (Takes a minute to load.)

In the architectonically askew drawing below, titled "Warphouses," let your eyes do the walking, and you'll soon find yourself lost in the Fiorillaville fog, surrounded by Steve's remarkable, oneiric visions.

Art copyright ©2009 by the Estate of Steve Fiorilla.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Masquerade of the albino axolotls

My Photo

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

October 2005 / November 2005 / December 2005 / January 2006 / February 2006 / March 2006 / April 2006 / May 2006 / June 2006 / July 2006 / August 2006 / September 2006 / October 2006 / November 2006 / December 2006 / January 2007 / February 2007 / March 2007 / April 2007 / May 2007 / June 2007 / July 2007 / August 2007 / September 2007 / October 2007 / November 2007 / December 2007 / January 2008 / February 2008 / March 2008 / April 2008 / May 2008 / June 2008 / July 2008 / August 2008 / September 2008 / October 2008 / November 2008 / December 2008 / January 2009 / February 2009 / March 2009 / April 2009 / May 2009 / June 2009 / July 2009 / August 2009 / September 2009 / October 2009 / November 2009 / December 2009 / January 2010 / February 2010 / March 2010 / April 2010 / May 2010 / June 2010 / July 2010 / August 2010 / September 2010 / October 2010 / November 2010 / December 2010 / January 2011 / February 2011 / March 2011 / April 2011 / May 2011 / June 2011 / July 2011 / August 2011 / September 2011 / October 2011 / November 2011 / December 2011 / January 2012 / February 2012 / March 2012 / April 2012 / May 2012 / June 2012 / July 2012 / September 2012 / October 2012 / November 2012 / December 2012 / January 2013 / February 2013 / March 2013 / April 2013 / May 2013 / June 2013 / July 2013 / August 2013 / September 2013 / October 2013 / December 2013 /

Powered by Blogger