Thursday, September 29, 2011
  More early Ebert
More early 1960s Roger Ebert poems from Dick Lupoff's Xero, thanks to Robert Lichtman. "Snippets" has lips I clipped, but why didn't I make them red? I don't know. Steve Stiles illustrated "Kreegh-Kill!", and I did the drawing for "Next-to-Last Statement". I can't identify the illustrator of "Protection". Kent Moomaw was a well-known science fiction fan who was 18 years old when he committed suicide in 1958. For more about Moomaw, go here.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Corentin Kopp's animated Rats Live on No Evil Star. The title is a palindrome. Very effective at full screen. For more on this Berlin band, see Discogs.

For more info, see Lallali and Pappy's Golden Age Comics.

Rats Live on No Evil Star
by Anne Sexton

A palindrome seen on the side of a barn in Ireland

After Adam broke his rib in two
and ate it for supper,
after Adam, from the waist up,
an old mother,
had begun to question the wonder
Eve was brought forth.
Eve came out of that rib like an angry bird.
She came forth like a bird that got loose
suddenly from its cage.
Out of the cage came Eve,
escaping, escaping.
She was clothed in her skin like the sun
and her ankles were not for sale.
God looked out through his tunnel
and was pleased.

Adam sat like a lawyer
and read the book of life.
Only his eyes were alive.
They did the work of a blast furnace.

Only later did Adam and Eve go galloping,
galloping into the apple.
They made the noise of the moon-chew
and let the juice fall down like tears.

Because of this same apple
Eve gave birth to the evilest of creatures
with its bellyful of dirt
and its hair seven inches long.
It had two eyes full of poison
and routine pointed teeth.
Thus Eve gave birth.
In this unnatural act
she gave birth to a rat.
It slid from her like a pearl.
It was ugly, of course,
but Eve did not know that
and when it died before its time
she placed its tiny body
on that piece of kindergarten called Star.

Now all us cursed ones falling out after
with our evil mouths and our worried eyes
die before our time
but do not go to some heaven, some hell
but are put on the Rat's Star
which is as wide as Asia
and as happy as a barbershop quartet.
We are put there beside the three thieves
for the lowest of us all
deserve to smile in eternity
like a watermelon.

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Sunday, September 25, 2011
  Early Ebert

Last week saw the publication of Roger Ebert's memoir, Life Itself, not to be confused with Elaine Dundy's memoir, Life Itself! (2001).

In the book, Ebert recalls his long ago interest in science fiction fanzines and writes, "I have always been convinced that the culture of fanzines contributed crucially to the formative culture of the early Web and generated models for websites and blogs. The very tone of the discourse is similar, and like fanzines, the Web took new word  coinages, turned them into acronyms, and ran with them."

Here are some of Ebert's fanzine contributions, the poems "Contention" and "My Last Annish", both from Dick Lupoff's Xero (1960-63), which won a Hugo Award in 1963.

"Contention" is illustrated by Sylvia White, then the wife of writer-editor Ted White. For Xero's articles on comic books, Sylvia skillfully transferred comic book artwork to mimeograph stencils. As art director of Xero, I described to Larry Ivie how I wanted a drawing of Ted White standing next to his mimeo machine. Larry quickly did a pencil sketch which I later inked and then transferred to mimeo stencil. (Several people are currently trying to locate Larry Ivie. Does anyone know his whereabouts? His last known address was in Millbrae, California. Someone who went to his house recently reported it was empty.)

Metropolitan Mimeo was the name of Ted's shop on West 10th Street, where he produced fanzines along with occasional jobs from Greenwich Village locals during the early 1960s.

The copy of "My Last Annish" here is courtesy of Trap Door editor Robert Lichtman, who writes, "Roger seems to have had a lot of poetry published in various fanzines over the years, especially in Yandro (but also more appearances in Xero). He was a book reviewer for my first fanzine, Psi-Psi, from 1959 to 1961. His first nostalgia essay about his childhood Princess Theater appeared there, too. He published two issues of a dittoed fanzine, Stymie, circa 1959-60. I have the second issue--most contributions are by him." Ebert mentions both Stymie and Yandro in Life Itself.

To read Lichtman's Trap Door, go here.

Larry Ivie also did science fiction illustrations. Here's one illustrating Fred Saberhagen's  "The Long Way Home" in Galaxy Science Fiction (June 1961).

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Friday, September 23, 2011

1933 Jerry Siegel/Joe Shuster fanzine

1935 newspaper strip proposal

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

I scripted "Fright Pattern" in 1973 (as Jack Younger), and it was published in Haunt of Horror #4 (November 1974). I dictated the story to someone who took notes while we were riding on Amtrak, and later I typed the script from those notes.

Wayne Howard inked Syd Shores' pencils. This had to be one of the last jobs Shores ever worked on because he died June 3, 1973. (I was introduced to Wayne Howard several years earlier by an enthusiastic Wally Wood, who expressed his appreciation of Wayne's remarkable ability to draw like Wally Wood.)

The scarecrow dream was inspired by "4-Sided Triangle" in Shock SuspenStories #17, illustrated by Jack Kamen with a George Evans cover. (See at bottom.) Except for the "Fright Pattern" opening panels, the tight realism doesn't work with the dream sequences, so the Krigstein-styled nightmare atmospherics I had visualized are absent.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

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Sunday, September 18, 2011
              Caricature ©2011 Jim McDermott

Here's my 2004 interview with Rodney Dangerfield, which was for Publishers Weekly. I'm not sure, but I think this was his last interview before his death.

Rodney Dangerfield Interview

Did you find writing this book, It's Not Easy Bein' Me, a different experience than writing your comedy routines and screenplays?

Rodney Dangerfield: Completely. It was something that I fell into accidentally, you know what I mean? I was interviewed by someone one day, and I mentioned the depressed years. After that I get a couple of thousand answers on my e-mail, all commenting, "I'm depressed, too, Rodney." I thought to myself, that's a good idea for a book, maybe. Take a hundred people with depressed letters, how to cure themselves, this and that—and sell it. So I took it around to one company. I was writing, and I started to throw in stuff about myself, when I was a kid. After I did that for a while, and they read that, they told me to forget all about the letters with the depression, you know what I mean? Just write about yourself. It took me three years. That's not consistently. I did other things, too, but the book took three years to put together. [Laughs.] I'm new at this business. I don't know about books, but it's exciting to write something, and everyone seems to think it will be a winner.

You did write some joke books in the past, I Don't Get No Respect (1982) and No Respect (1995).

RD: Yeah, one was ridiculous, and the other one was also ridiculous. Just jokes, it didn't mean anything.

In Roger Ebert's review of Back to School [1986], which you coscripted and starred in, he compared you to Groucho Marx and W.C. Fields: "There was the sense that they were getting even for hurts so deep that all they could do was laugh about them. It's the same with Dangerfield." Do you agree?

RD: I can't say. I don't agree with him, so I agree with him.

You write that television killed nightclubs. What happened?

RD: Well, New York area—New Jersey, Bronx, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Manhattan—they had about 300 nightclubs going. These 300 nightclubs all employed acts, all kinds of acts: dancers, fire-eaters, you know what I mean? Then television came, and people wanted to stay at home. The box, that's it. All of a sudden, the nightclubs all started dying. No business. People stayed home and just watched TV. It got stronger and stronger, and there was no more sense in having nightclubs, it just killed them all—which is okay, what do I care? My father experienced the same thing in vaudeville. He did a vaudeville act for years, and then when talking pictures came in, that was the end of vaudeville. They wanted to go to the movies. So I experienced the same thing my old man did.

Of the many specialty acts that played those clubs, which was the strangest you recall?

RD: There were plenty of acts, going back 40 years here. The strangest one? I did a show when I was a kid up in Boston. There was a vaudeville house there, and in the show, one of the acts was the Shooting Mansfields. The act consisted of the mother, the father and their two kids shooting things from the stage. Before the show, they'd be in the basement rehearsing, shooting their guns. Another act I worked with was named Martha and Her Cello; she played the cello. These are the kind of acts I worked with. I worked with plenty of—not just singers—animal acts, too.

Is life the biggest joke of them all?

RD: I think it is. I once said to my old man, "You've done everything. So tell me, what's life all about?" He twirled his cigar and said, "It's all bullshit." That's what it is, Charlie, I'm telling you.

Listen to Drew Friedman on The Leonard Lopate Show (September 16, 2011).

Above is Stewie Stone on the cover of Friedman's Even More Jewish Comedians, published this month by Fantagraphics. The third and final volume in the series includes Mae Questel, Jean Carroll, Gertrude Berg, Richard Belzer, Gabe Kaplan, Professor Irwin Corey, Mel Blanc, Marty Ingels, Fyvush Finkel, Gary Morton, Sam Levenson, Bobby Remsen, Max Patkin, Marvin Kaplan, Norm Crosby, Sammy Shore, Joey Adams, Lou Jacobi and Sid James. Introduction by Jeffrey Ross.

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Saturday, September 17, 2011
  Death of Newspapers #23: Stripped
Some of the 60 cartoonist interviews in Stripped discuss the end of newspapers.

This is the in-progress documentary by Dave Kellett and Fred Schroeder. For more clips, go here.

May 9, 1937

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Monday, September 12, 2011
  Death of Newspapers #22: Jan Eliot's Stone Soup

In June, Stone Soup cartoonist Jan Eliot and voiceover performer JoJo Jensen experimented to create an audio comic strip. To experience this, use control-click to enlarge the strip above in a new window and then read along while listening at the Stone Soup blog.

Sarah Wagner interviewed Jan Eliot in 2008 for viz. Eliot objects to strip reruns and she discusses strip shrinkage: "The smaller the space, the less interesting the art, the less interested the reader, the less the newspaper cares, the smaller the space."

Below is an excellent Oregon Art Beat video of Jan Eliot and her teenage assistant Olivia White working on Stone Soup. Watch full screen for close-ups of Eliot drawing. How come other cartoonists don't have informative videos with classy production values like this?

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Thursday, September 08, 2011
  Wroten on the Wind
For Alex Jay's blog on creating logos and lettering, go here.

I wrote the article below about the Wroten Lettering studio and its important contribution to EC Comics for Russ Cochran's hardcover reprint of EC's M.D. (1988). Here it is with a few minor changes. Margaret Wroten's quote in the next-to-last paragraph was a surprising revelation, since until then no one had ever mentioned the existence of a Manhattan studio where EC freelancers could do work.

                                     Wroten on the Wind

EC Comics used Leroy lettering by the husband-and-wife team of Jim and Margaret Wroten. On the Al Feldstein-edited titles the artists received pages minus layouts but with the Wrotens’ inked lettering already down on the boards.

Leroy lettering requires a collection of templates and a small handheld instrument, the scriber. An inked letter is produced by the penholder on one side of the scriber as the metal stylus on the other side follows the grooves in the template positioned an inch below.

EC’s extensive use of Leroy lettering, one suspects, derives as much from Bill Gaines‘ compulsion for neatness as it did from the reasons he offered in The Comics Journal #81 (May 1983): “My father, when he did Wonder Woman, and I have no idea why, used Leroy lettering… The older Wonder Womans were Leroy lettered by Jimmy Wroten, who started out as a salesman for Keuffel & Esser, who made, among other things, my slide rule. They were the big company for slide rules, for templates, for Leroy lettering. Leroy lettering mostly was used for lettering charts, engineering charts and so on, which it is beautiful for. How the hell it got involved in comics I don’t know, but it suited us very well because Al was a script-oriented person. Although he is an artist, and a pretty good one, when he started writing, he was more interested in the script than the art… Because Al used so many words, we found we could do it more clearly with Leroy lettering. If we had wanted a hand-letterer to work that small, to get all that copy in, it would have been very difficult for him. You’ll notice Kurtzman’s stuff has very light copy. He never liked Leroy lettering; he wanted the feel of the hand-lettering, so we used Ben Oda, a fine Japanese hand-letterer, who still works for DC and occasionally does something for us.”

While scripting directly on the boards used for the finished art, Feldstein penciled in the copy in a system advantageous for Wroten, as Gaines explained: “He would take his six, seven or eight sheets of paper, because we had a formula—it was either an eight, seven or six-page story. He’d take a ruler, rule out the panels, he’d letter right into the panels, he’d hold his lettering three lines down so the letterer could read what he was lettering, because he used Leroy lettering with templates, and he had to leave room for the template.”

Since all Feldstein-edited books, over a period of years, featured Leroy lettering, readers assumed Feldstein chose to use Leroy lettering as the ideal adjunct to his clean, crisp art technique, but in 1975, he told interviewer Ed Spiegel (Fanfare #1, Spring 1977) that this choice was not his preference: “I inherited that. When I joined Bill, they were already using it. I think it was a mistake. Harvey didn’t want any part of Leroy. But the fellow who did it for us, Jim Wroten, had this whole family arrangement, and we didn’t have the heart to take it away from them. Jim and his wife did it. We published all those years with it, and I think it made the books appear a bit static. But there’s another angle to examine, and that’s whether the heavy captions I did would have been harder to read without it. It’s not easy to sustain good lettering over a whole paragraph.”
M.D. #1: Joe Orlando art with Wroten lettering.
Jim and Margaret Wroten’s studio, Wroten Lettering, remained in operation for decades until Jim Wroten’s death in 1980. The couple, who first met in elementary school, grew up together in Baltimore. When I interviewed Margaret Wroten in 1986, she talked about the mid-1930s when Jim’s uncle helped him land a job at Keuffel & Esser in Morristown, New Jersey, leaving her in Baltimore. A year later, in 1937, they married. “Remember, it was the pit of the Depression,” she recalled. “You couldn’t get jobs. I had worked for the gas and electric company when he worked for Keuffel & Esser. I was just a housewife. He had been with them for about 18 months when we were married. Jim was about the best Leroy letterer around. He taught me how to do it. He demonstrated for Keuffel & Esser at different trade shows; that’s how he started doing it.”

He continued as a Keuffel & Esser salesman during World War II, exempt from military service because of his “confidential work for the government,” as she put it. Wroten Lettering began at the end of WWII when the couple, in 1945, joined William Moulton Marston (1893-1947) and others on the Wonder Woman team at 331 Madison Avenue.

“Jim quit Keuffel & Esser when we got our studio; he thought it would be a nice little business for the two of us to do together. Our studio was Doc Marston’s office. We were on the 12th floor. The art studio where Harry G. Peter worked was upstairs, right over us on the 13th floor. They had another artist, a girl named Arlene, who did backgrounds for him. Harry G. Peter was a nice old gentleman; he was just a nice person. We went out to Doc’s home several times, but after Doc died we never kept in touch with the rest of the family. He had an assistant who helped him write stories; her name was Joye Hummel. She married, and I think she’s down in Florida someplace.
Incredible Science Fiction #31: Wally Wood
“That’s how we started. We got started doing Wonder Woman, and through that we met Mr. Gaines [Max Gaines] and did work for him—because Doc Marston and Mr. Gaines were good friends. For Mr. Gaines we did Picture Stories from Science, the books on history and the story of The Bible. We worked on all of those.”

Wroten Lettering’s list of clients boomed in the post-WWII years. “We worked on EC Comics. We worked on Hillman Comics. And Victor Fox—we worked on some of his too. We did charts, and we did lettering on some romance magazines at 500 Fifth. At one time we had some help, but mostly it was just my husband and myself. I liked working with him, and I happened to like Leroy lettering. I think it’s a very fine kind of lettering."

In addition to the comic books, the Wrotens also lettered for comic strips—Bert Whitman’s syndicated Debbie Dean (1942-48) and Stan MacGovern’s antic angle on human behavior, Silly Milly (1939-50), which had little syndication but appeared in the featured slot at the top of the New York Post’s comics page. In Sinclair Lewis’ novel Bethel Merriday (1940) a character leaving New York remarks that they won’t miss the city except for Silly Milly. Once toasted in a “Stan MacGovern Night” at Leon & Eddie’s nightclub, the talented MacGovern became one of the more curiously neglected cartoonists of the 20th Century because his popular Silly Milly was never seen nationally. He abandoned cartooning in the 1950s, opened an unsuccessful East Rockaway, Long Island gift shop, and then worked at a Long Island furniture store. He was 72 when he committed suicide in 1975.

With the advent of EC’s New Trend, the Wrotens often worked evenings and weekends to keep pace with the ever-increasing number of words per page. “When we went into the horror comics, heck, the lettering on the horror comics practically took up half the panels. All you were getting was heads, a lot of heads. When we first got into the business, a survey was taken that said the concentration span of a child was very limited—and they said 35 to 40 words a page. Those you could turn out in 15 or 20 minutes. Bill Gaines was paying $2.50 a page. I’d count the words sometimes and find 400 to 500 words on a page. That’s a lot of words. The average way it used to be when comics were first done was with 35, 40 or 50 words a page, and you could do a page in 15 to 25 minutes or half an hour, depending on the words.; 400 to 500 words a page would take an hour or so. When it got so terribly heavy, I think we just reduced the size of the template. We had to go down to a #140 template, I think, because you couldn’t use a #175 with all those words on a page.

“We got it done. We always got it done. We worked night and day on those things. Many nights we stayed until nine o’clock to get something out that they needed the next day. We delivered and picked up our own work. This way we knew it got there; I don’t believe in that messenger stuff. Whenever they would finish the stories, they would give us a call; we would come down, pick up the work, do the lettering and take it back to them when it was done. We tried to proof everything before we sent it down. If Bill found a mistake or made a change, he would mark it off in blue in the margin, and then we would just correct it. Sometimes when there would be changes or he would want to do something else, we would put them on little strips, cut them to fit and put them on with rubber cement.” (This created a problem for reprints many years later when the rubber cement dried, and the tiny strips fell off.)

This exchange of pick-ups and deliveries kept the Wrotens actively involved with EC, since the procedure often necessitated traveling downtown to EC’s office three or four times a week. The Wrotens saw the EC artists not only at the annual EC Christmas parties but also in the course of their work, since the deadline pace occasionally required the artists to go to 331 Madison. “We just had one big room. It was a small office, but it was large enough for three boards. If they didn’t finish something, or if they wanted to make a last-minute correction, they could do that. Once in a while they would stop in and pick up work from us. If they needed to make a correction, we had pens and ink they could use. This didn’t go on all the time. This was just if they wanted to to do something quick or change something. Lots of time they would even bring up the work. Jack Davis used to come in, and Wood came in. We always had an extra drawing board, and they could sit down and do whatever they wanted to do.

“Bill had very good artists. We always got comic books. I had loads and loads of them. I gave them away. I shouldn’t have, should I? The last comic books we did were for EC, and then Jimmy just got out of it. He went into doing charts, badge cards, formulas for chemical houses and floor plans for trade shows all over the country. We sublet part of the studio during the 1960s. I gave up the studio after he passed on six years ago.”

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Wednesday, September 07, 2011
  Topps #12: Wacky Packages statue

A series of Wacky Packages statues was proposed three years ago, and this seven-inch Dr Popper statue, based on the 1974 Wacky Packages sticker, was created as a prototype. However, the licensing deal fell through, and the series never happened. Only three of these Dr Popper prototypes were made. The statue is quite faithful to the original sticker, capturing correct colors and such details as the teeth and wrinkles in the glove.

The name Dr Pepper is often written incorrectly with a period. During the 1950s, the soft drink's logo was redesigned with an italic. The slant caused the period in "Dr." to look like "Di:", so the period was dropped from the logo and eventually from all company documents. The 1970s logo can be seen on the bottle at left.

Click "topps" in label below to see earlier posts about Topps.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Here are two pages from Gothic Blimp Works #2 (1969). Above is an ad for an Allen Ginsberg LP on Douglas Records with artwork by John Thompson, who briefly lived in New York in 1969. Scroll to the bottom for Thompson's background on the creation of this ad.

Below is another of my Gothic Blimp collaborations with Larry Hama. Ron Haydock wrote the page, and I inked Larry's pencils. Haydock, screenwriter for Ray Dennis Steckler, also arrived in New York in 1969, and he wound up crashing at my West 12th Street apartment. He seemed in a near catatonic state. Since he had no money, no job and was incapable of contributing to the rent, I suggested he begin scripting. I would leave each morning to work in the Product Development department at Topps Chewing Gum in Brooklyn, and when I came back in the evening, Ron would show me what he had written. Two of these were scripts for stories I packaged as finished art and sold to Jim Warren for Creepy: "Valley of the Vampires" (#28) and "Spellbound" (#29).

Ron soon returned to the West Coast, and in 1977, after a failed attempt to raise some cash by selling a script to Steckler, he was killed by an 18-wheeler while hitchhiking back to LA from Vegas. Miriam Linna, who interviewed me about Ron in 1990, has written extensively about his career as a writer and rock musician in Sin-a-Rama and elsewhere. Her Norton Records label offers a CD compilation of his recordings, 99 Chicks: Ron Haydock and the Boppers.

John Thompson recalls: "In the Oxford University Press History of Berkeley in the Sixties, I'm mentioned as one of the two leading graphic artists in that Scene. In the Summer of Love 1967, at 21, I graduated in Art History from UC and found myself at the center of a countercultural whirlwind. Thus, I'm also mentioned in The History of the Haight Ashbury with those poster artists, though I was part of a group of aspiring poets in Berkeley.

"During the next couple of years, Ginsberg and his lover Peter were often a strong part of that scene. But my favorite poet/artist was Daniel Moore, who was close to Allen (to see his writing and art google danielmoorepoetry.com). So that's how I met Allen and saw him at EVO in 1968 and again when I lived near EVO in 1969. As much as I enjoyed 'some' of Allen's poetry, he was taking too many drugs at that time and was a sex addict. So because I was good looking with long, long hair, he often hit on Lin and I and tried to get us high. Aside from that aspect of his crazy persona, he was very kind to me.

"Allen and I knew record producer Alan Douglas (later Jimi Hendrix producer), so Allen sang some songs of William Blake's for me. I was a Blake scholar, so Allen's jubiliant over-the-top voice didnt really capture Blake's intentions. Nonetheless, Alan and Allen asked me to design, pencil and ink art to promote their album. They liked the compostion I penciled, but I inked Allen's profile that resemble his profile and beard and glasses but made his skin look older (because at my age Allen seemed like some old guy).

"Thus, Douglas liked it, but Allen was troubled that his profile didnt look younger and cuter. Douglas paid $100 to me to use it on the back page of EVO (or Gothic Blimp), and it would take several pages to decode the symbolism in that image."

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Masquerade of the albino axolotls

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