Monday, June 3, 2013



I've been pulling evenings and weekends lately at the job while working on a major project.  So unfortunately, I've got no time to write.  Hopefully, I'll get back to it in mid-June.


Friday, May 31, 2013

It Came in the Mail

You know that thing that I do?  Where internally I'm ultra-geeky, but to the external world I'm cool and suave and totally happening?

Something arrived in the mail today that may put a damper on my carefully crafted exterior persona.

I ordered it from Etsy.

It came from China.

Wrapped... like... this.

 The kids were a little surprised by this.  Especially by the little bow.

 But what could be inside?  Off went the lid.

 Off went the carefully cut and placed top padding.

Out came a totally cool hand-crafted Aquaman iPhone case.

That's right, now everyone might tumble to the fact that my passions lie in the less-than-mainstream.

Oh well.  The secret is out.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Brave and the Bold


I'm having a bit of trouble catching up with life at the moment. So here's one of my favorite stories I posted some years back on a writing website called Furball Factory. Please enjoy.


I remember very clearly my first issue of Brave and the Bold. Summer of 1977. I was seven.

That summer, the Air Force decided to move us from San Antonio, Texas to Plattsburgh Air Force Base in upstate New York. My parents made a long road trip of it, stopping to see every conceivable family friend and relative along the way. Mom was pregnant with my baby sister Robyn and not feeling too well. I remember her sitting at the kitchen table at Aunt Betty Knight's, holding her forehead in pain and keeping her eyes squeezed shut. Everyone was trying to leave her alone. I approached to offer her my latest issue of Swamp Thing to read. My logic was that comics always made me feel better when my tummy hurt, so she should give them a try. She quietly thanked me and refused the comic, preferring to handle the pain in her own way. To each their own.

That road trip will forever stick in my mind. My mother had bought enough comics to keep me quiet for the duration of the trip. If it's one thing my parents knew, it was that comics would keep me docile. My mother had a time schedule for 'trip happy' distribution. I would get a comic, my sister would get some puzzle book or picture book or some crappy thing. My sister could take them or leave them. Whatever. But my comics...ahhh what a trip.

At one point, the moment of 'trip happy' distribution came along and Mom was asleep. Curses! I was now counting on my father to remember. I stared intently at the back of his head, too respectful and fearful to mention anything to him. Would he miss the appointed moment? Most assuredly. I'm not even sure he was fully aware we were getting regular 'trip happies'. Although, he must have paid for them. When Mom woke up, she took entirely too long to fully come to her senses. Checking her watch, she turned to Dad and asked if he had given us our 'happies' yet. I answered for him.

My first issue of Brave and the Bold was given to me on this trip. We were entering North Carolina and a couple of hours away from my maternal grandmothers. It was issue 135, Batman meets the Metal Men. I had never heard of the Metal Men, and was eager to learn more. The issue was drawn by Jim Aparo and ended in a cliff hangar. The cliff hangar ending bothered me, but the artwork was fantastic. I believe that was my first Jim Aparo Batman, and he was so graceful and powerful under Mr. Aparo's pencils that I went on to judge other Batman appearances by that look. Beautiful. I was too young to associate an art style with an artists name, but I had long since learned to tell the different art styles apart. I could tell Jim Aparo from Neal Adams from Mike Grell from Dick Dillon when my closest friends couldn't even tell you who the Legion of Super Heroes were. I read the issue. Reread the issue. Flipped through admiring the artwork. Then read the issue again. This was standard operating procedure when I was seven. The issue was perfect.


That title. What in heaven's name did that title mean? "The Brave and the Bold". I sat quietly trying to figure it out. I had learned many new vocabulary words through comics, and 'Bold' was a new one on me. "Bold". The Brave and the "Bold". What did that word mean?

I finally broke down and asked my father. You can disturb my father when asking about a new vocabulary word. But asking him for new comics, those were waters better left untread.

"Dad, what does "Bold" mean?" I asked.

"Bold means brave." My father is famous for the brevity in his answers.

Oy! What an answer, though! 'Bold' means brave!!?!! This comic was entitled the "Brave and the Brave"?! What the heck did that even mean?

My seven year old brain just had to force this to make sense. What kind of comic company, my favorite no less, would name a comic something as silly as the Brave and the Brave? It just didn't make sense.

I sat thinking for awhile. Trying to prevent the thought that was floating around in my subconscious. Soon, the thought took over and I had to face a startling fact.

Maybe Dad was wrong.

It would make much more sense to title the comic "The Brave and the Cowardly". Meaning, of course, that the brave would beat up the cowardly. Or the brave would protect the cowardly. Anything but the brave would team up with other people who were brave. That just seemed silly! These people were professionals who had been putting out comics for years! I could picture their editors sitting in the conference room talking amongst themselves when suddenly: "Wait a minute, people, bold means brave! What have we done!"

So, maybe Dad was wrong.

I looked at my comic book, as if doing a last minute check of the facts. I looked up at the back of my father's head. I thought to myself: "It would be awfully BOLD of me to ask my father if he could be mistaken."

Naaah, that just didn't sound right.

So which need was greater, maintain the status quo and not question my father...ever. Or get my comic book research and understanding done in the meticulous manner that I had been practicing for the last five years.

"Bold." I said out loud.

"Bold. Bold. Bold." I said again.

I was just about to pounce the question when Mom announced we were nearing Grandmom's house. Eagerly using the distraction to chicken out of my question, I put the comic aside and promptly forgot about my quandary.

An addendum to this story is that it was this same comic that I chose to demonstrate my reading skills to my Grandmother. One of the characters, Tin of the Metal Men, stuttered a lot, and I thought this would be an excellent passage to use to prove how well I could read. All I succeeded in doing was upsetting my Grandmother, who worried that comics were creating a stuttering problem for me. Sigh. Nobody gets me.

A couple of days later, we hit the rode again. Destination? Washington, D.C. to spend July fourth in our nation's capital with the Robertsons. My first 'trip happy'? Aquaman #57. Jim Aparo artwork. Life was good!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Friday, May 24, 2013

Missed Legion Comic of 1982

It was August of 1982 when I made one of my first, clear, comic buying mistakes.

I didn't pick up this:

Which, as all Lifelong Loyal Legion fans know, is a MAJOR issue in which a MAJOR plot twist is revealed:

Instead I picked up this:

And this:

Back then, I only steadily collected four titles. Justice League of America, New Teen Titans, All-Star Squadron, and Legion of Super-Heroes.

My allowance was limited, I was twelve, about to turn thirteen. Steady trips to the comic racks were still a few years off. The two bucks I had clutched in my fist while staring at the comic rack in the Safeway while my mother shopped for groceries was simply not enough. I had to buy the Justice League, and then the All-Star Squadron because they crossed over. And I had to hope that I would get the chance to be back again with more money before the Legion issue sold out.

But then.. much to my chagrin, the next Legion book I saw on the stands was this:

Which blows the reveal from last issue right there on the cover. AND.. to add insult to injury, it was a full dollar! Way out of my price range. I couldn't get that one either.

It wasn't until some years later that I completed the holes in my collection... and my soul. To my great shame. I can only say I read MOST of the Great Darkness Saga off the newsstands when they came out.

Will other Legion fans forgive me?


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Jack Benny says Good-Bye to 1950

It's been four week since I've been able to go to the gym. Work has been more intense than normal, and the few hours I have each night on rough days are better spent with the family. But I do so love going to the gym. I love the way I feel afterwards, I love feeling like I'm physically more capable than I was ten years ago. And I love listening to Jack Benny on the treadmill.

Today's experience was another view of history through entertainment. Jack and crew had an annual tradition of putting on a play on New Year's Eve. Jack would play the outgoing year, they would get a child actor to play the incoming year, Don Wilson would play the World. Phil Harris would play Uncle Sam. Mary Livingston would play Columbia. And they would talk about the outgoing year and what they'd like to see in the incoming year. As you can imagine, it was current and topical when the enormously popular radio show would first air these episodes. Today, it's a lesson in learning history from the viewpoint of those actually living in it. Like a time machine.

The episode was from December 31st, 1950. And I found this exchange particularly interesting:

Columbia: "Say, World, you don't look too happy."

World: "Well,,, I haven't been feeling so well lately. You remember how sick I was from 1914 to 1918?"

Uncle Sam: "Uh huh."

World: "And then I had a relapse from 1939 to 1945."

1950: "Yup. I heard about it but I thought you were all over that."

World: "A few months ago I suddenly developed a big pain around my 38th parallel."


Columbia: "Well, why don't you go see a doctor?"

World: "I did and he knew what was wrong with me as soon as he took my blood count. Too many red cells."

(Laughter, applause)

From there, Jack and crew in their guises as the state of affairs at the end of 1950 take a peak into the U.N. and see the Russian dignitary addressing the assembly and seeming very foolish in his criticism of the American way of life.

The 38th Parallel line is, of course, a reference to the Korean War, which had started in June of 1950.

I've never really understood the red scare. I know the facts, but my mind always likens it to the Salem Witch hunts, McCarthyism, and Dr Wertham's war on comics. I'm annoyed at the thought that we have to denounce and vilify any other way of life that's different than the way of life we choose to live as Americans. We're the "reds" also denouncing and villifying the American way of life? I've read that they were. I know I'm oversimplifying things, and living here in 2013 will never give me the perspective of those living in 1950. But when I read about the red scare it just seems we were so pumped by defeating the obvious villain that Hitler presented that we were just looking for the next heroic act we could find to perform.

We were trying to make the Russians villains. The Russians were trying to make us villains. Where's James Bond to help clarify things?

Star Trek tries to teach us "IDIC". Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. And as a child of the seventies, Star Trek played a huge role in my moral development. Is it my perception that's skewed?

Here in 2013, America's enemies are performing acts of terror on us because they don't like our way of life and think we should live more like them. The very idea disgusts me.

And now things have gotten entirely too serious and my head hurts. I'm off to read a comic book from 1976.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Preserving the Past Part II; Christmas Photo Album from 1974

I've begun the nerve-wracking process of removing photos from my Grandmom's photo albums for scanning.  It's got me a little on edge.  The photos are stuck in there good.

Of the albums, what I've posted today has been my favorite so far.  It's so well commented out and reads more like a picture book than a photo album.  I don't know if it was my Grandmom who put it together, because a lot of this looks like my mother.  Including the hand drawn holly berry leaves at the top of page one.

We have some family movies from back during these days, but I haven't seen still pictures of this particular era in quite awhile.  And having the running commentary adds a new dimension to the whole thing.

What's interesting here is that I'm still just a normal guy.  No obsessive hobbies to awkwardly define my personality.  I'm a five year old who apparently loves Scooby-Doo, Star Trek, super-heroes, and Viewmaster.  But ultimately, just a five-year-old boy.

And I had long since forgotten all about that toy camping set.  The memories flooded back as soon as I saw it.