Friday, August 24, 2018

In Memorium: Russ Heath

Sadly another unparalleled industry veteran passed away yesterday as the great Russ Heath is gone at the age of 91. He was most recognized for his highly detailed war comics including All-American Men of War; Frontline Combat; Our Army at War; Star-Spangled War Stories; G.I. Combat and as the creator of The Haunted Tank and The Sea Devils.

Mark Evanier once recounted a great tale about Russ who had flown into Chicago to the Playboy Mansion and was given a room there, where he spent many days aiding Harvey Kurtzman and artist Will Elder in getting one installment done of their Little Annie Fanny strip. When it was completed, Kurtzman and Elder left...but Heath just stayed. And stayed. And stayed some more. He had a free room as well as free meals whenever he wanted them from Hef's 24-hour kitchen. He also had access to whatever young ladies were lounging about...so he thought, 'Why leave?' He decided to live there until someone told him to get out...and for months, no one did. Everyone just kind of assumed he belonged there. It took quite a while before someone realized he didn't and threw him and his drawing table out.
The Catacombs extends its sincerest condolences to his family, friends and fans worldwide.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

In Memorium: Steve Ditko

After hearing over the recent weekend that Hall of Fame legend Steve Ditko had passed away sometime in and around June 29, 2018 due to numerous health complications, I realized that over the past year or so a number of other comics industry luminaries had left us and I either never got around to featuring them in the Catacombs (or became too busy, and the opportunity passed).

So today in acknowledgement of the huge impact that Mr. Ditko made upon the comics art form, I want to back up and include a lengthy list of his contemporaries who have also left us since last year.

Steve Ditko
STEVE DITKO created numerous characters for several publishers including The Creeper; Hawk and Dove; Mr. A; The Question; Captain Atom; Shade the Changing Man and The "Silver Age" Blue Beetle (Ted Kord). It was of course his ground breaking work as co-creator of the Amazing Spider-Man and Doctor Strange that cemented his status as one of the cornerstones of the Marvel Universe, and like his contemporary, Jack "The King" Kirby, the importance of Ditko's role in the early days of Marvel can be clearly seen by how many of his actual creations have prominently been featured in those blockbuster Marvel Studios films we all love. Think about it! In the various Spider-Man and Hulk movies alone we have seen classic Ditko creations such as Betty Brant; Electro; Mac Gargan; J. Jonah Jameson; The Leader; The Lizard; Aunt May; Mysterio; Doctor Octopus; Harry & Norman Osborn; Gwen Stacy; Glenn Talbot; Flash Thompson; Uncle Ben; The Vulture; and Mary Jane Watson. In the single Doctor Strange film (plus indications from that movies upcoming sequel that have been floated) there were or likely will be versions of The Ancient One; Dormammu; Baron Mordo; Nightmare; and Wong.

That is an impressive amount of four-color content from a curmudgeon who famously spurned interviews by and large, and who had mostly been self-publishing small press material over the last couple of decades. Steve Ditko was an original, and again like Kirby certainly deserved far more remuneration from the company that has made so much money off of his famous properties. The Catacombs extends its sincerest condolences to his friends and fans worldwide.

In addendum: 2017 was a rough year that saw many industry veterans leave us including Dan Spiegle, artist (Dell Comics, DC Comics, Marvel Comics) at age 96. Dave Hunt, artist (DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Disney Comics, Hanna-Barbera) from cancer at age 74.  Underground comix artists Jay Lynch (Nard n' Pat, Bijou Funnies), and Skip Williamson (Snappy Sammy Smoot), both at the age of 72. Martin Greim, writer and artist (Thunderbunny) from heart failure at age 74. Rich Buckler, artist (Deathlok the Demolisher, All-Star Squadron) from cancer at the age of 68. Sam Glanzman, artist (Hercules, The Lonely War of Willy Schultz, U.S.S. Stevens) at the age of 92. Martin Landau, American film and TV actor and cartoonist (The Gumps) died at age 89. Flo Steinberg, American underground comics publisher (Big Apple Comix) and former secretary to Stan Lee at age 78 from a brain aneurysm and metastatic lung cancer. Len Wein, writer and co-creator of Wolverine and Swamp Thing at age 69 and syndicated strip artist Dick Locher (Dick Tracy).
2018 has also seen syndicated strip artist Mort Walker (Hi and Lois; Beetle Bailey) leave us along with Nick Meglin, writer and editor-in-chief (Mad Magazine, Superfan) from a heart attack at age 82.

Those few highlighted in boldface were great creators that I am terribly glad to have had an opportunity to meet and chat with over their incredible runs in comics or in the case of Mr. Landau, his television and film work. The Catacombs extends a big round of condolences to their families, friends and fans all over the world!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

I turned sadness into an Anthem!


Everything that we know so far about the open secret of Dragon Age 4, which Bioware is apparently still figuring out although it is reportedly “story and character focused” and contains some possibly controversial “live elements” which nobody who played the earlier entries in the series understands or no one affiliated with either Bioware or EA Games will clarify what that term means; but the sequel to the beloved gaming franchise is just around the corner (that is if you ignore the fact that Dragon Age: Inquisition was released in 2014, and the best case scenario for when Number 4 hits the shelves is likely to be 2021). That will be the longest dry spell in Dragon Age history: Dragon Age: Origins released in 2009 and Dragon Age 2 released in 2011. Yay for really big gaps in gaming franchises, whose last entry earned over 200 Game of the Year awards and subsequently ended on the most obvious cliffhanger for the next chapter? Seemingly increased tension among the remaining developers who stayed with Bioware after a mass exodus of so many others responsible for the creative heart of the previous entries (including the original men who founded the company) has prompted an existential crisis over what to do next with Dragon Age now that it has fallen into their laps??? Hmmm ….. weird …… but you just can’t make this type of shit up!

We are supposed to comfort ourselves with the knowledge that Casey Hudson has happily returned to the Bioware fold in the wake of their less than stellar release for Mass Effect Andromeda last year. Casey poured a lot into the earlier Mass Effect games, those were great by the way, and he even says that Mass Effect is his baby. Unfortunately, Hudson himself was one of the company reps who often extolled the many choices that gamers could potentially make in that popular franchise only to limit the final chapters selection to three bold color options for the confused hero, Commander Shepard? Maybe Hudson should have changed his baby’s diaper before sending the toddler out into the universe for its last hurrah? Let’s be nice and forget the fact that Bioware ran out of time while making ME3 and thus failed to provide proper closure over the fates of beloved franchise characters (or depending upon your perspective), showed a loyal crew acting in a manner that was significantly different than gamers expected based upon those decisions made over the course of three games and a dozen or so related dlcs?

Don’t agree?

Did you also forget about the huge customer backlash which leveraged the Extended Cut dlc by which Bioware managed a degree of damage control over such a hearty falling out with its customers too? No. I didn’t think that you had ignored that one.

Truly time will tell, but Bioware (owned by EA Games) has literally put all of its eggs in a single basket and currently suffers knuckle-popping damage given how tightly their fingers must be crossed over their upcoming new IP known as Anthem (due in February 2019). That game may or may not prove to be good and stand on its own; if it just didn’t look so similar to an already released game. That is probably Destiny to you.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Inkwell Awards .... Live ..... today in Charlotte, NC!!!

The annual Heroes Convention kicks off today in Charlotte, North Carolina with the usual slate of topnotch industry favorites, Indie standouts, cosplayers and more dealers than you will know what to do with. Grey panther that I am, it may come as no surprise that the guests who most draw my own interest include veterans such as newly announced Chris Claremont, plus Steve Epting; Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez; Keith Giffen; Klaus Janson; Al Milgrom; Rudy Nebres; Kevin Nowlan; Jerry Ordway; Tom Palmer; Mike Royer; Evan “Doc” Shaner; Jim Steranko; Larry Stroman and Roy Thomas.

Once you've dumped a ton of cash on a stack of back issues this afternoon be sure and head over to the Inkwell Awards ceremony at 5:00 pm in the Charlotte Convention Center. Bob Almond always brings the fun, top talents, and I have to say that his organization has been a great fit for the Heroes Convention over the years. 2018 denotes the tenth year of the Inkwell Awards too!
Kathy Denise Taylor

Hailey Skaza-Gagne
 The Inkwells have five categories: Favorite Inker, Most-Adaptable Inker, the “Props” award for under-recognized professionals, the S.P.A.M.I. for Small Press And Mainstream-Independent work, and the “All-in-One” for the artist who inks his/her own pencil art. Voters-–fans and professionals alike–all cast their ballots at the group’s website in April to show their support and choose their favorites.

Announced with the publicly-chosen award-winners will be the internally-voted two recipients of the yearly Joe Sinnott Hall of Fame Award and one winner of the annual Stacey Aragon Special Recognition Award. To celebrate their decade anniversary, the Inkwells have created the “Above & Beyond” Award for members, volunteers and others who have served beyond the call of duty to promote the artform of comic book inking and it’s ink artists.

Mike Royer will be their Guest of Honor this year with longtime Inkwell contributor Dan Panosian returning as presenter with industry veteran Pat Broderick presenting the life achievement awards. If those names don't sway you, maybe the fact that they are deploying a pair of Ms. Inkwell spokesmodels will earn your attention?

Like the convention hosting the awards, both Heroes and the Inkwells celebrate the comic book art form and without those great finishing artists adding depth, breadth and emotion to classic pencilling skills of many comic book legends those funny books would just not be the same. I'm not going to make it to the show until Saturday, but I always want to wish Bob Almond and the Inkwell Awards another big year in Charlotte. See you there!

Friday, September 15, 2017

In Memorium: Len Wein and Basil Gogos

Art of Basil Gogos
Len Wein
Well it has been a while .... but unfortunately it has been a tough week for genre fans with back to back losses of a pair of genre icons. Artist Basil Gogos was best known for his incredible portraits of movie monsters which had appeared on the covers of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine during the 1960s and 1970s.  His death was announced on September 14, although I’m not sure if that was his actually death or not. And  several days prior to his passing well known writer and editor Len Wein who was best known for having co-created DC Comics' Swamp Thing and Marvel Comics' Wolverine, for helping revive the Marvel superhero team the X-Men (including co-creation of Nightcrawler, Storm and Colossus) and additionally, he was the editor on writer Alan Moore and illustrator Dave Gibbons' influential DC miniseries Watchmen. Wein passed away on September 10, 2017. The Catacombs extends its sincerest condolences to the families, friends and fans of each of these fine men. I am very glad to have had an opportunity to meet each of them previously.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Star Trek Online

I had never played Star Trek Online on a computer before it became available for Xbox One or PS4 consoles back in September of 2016; however now I can't seem to stop playing it. There is simply a lot to do and with seven years of content, updates, etc. to catch up on ..... well, there is a lot to do! And that does not even include the ongoing addition of new story content and content alterations being regularly introduced by Cryptic Studios the game maker ("sheesh").


I think that my favorite aspect of this game was the Agents of Yesterday expansion which allowed you to create a new character set within the original series timeline of Captain Kirk and Mister Spock (although you won't permanently remain there). Also when starting an original era character, you are limited to males and females of the four founding Federation races (Human/Vulcan/Andorian/Tellarite). That is fine by me!


Be prepared for ample choices available to that entice you to spend real world currency to acquire ships, boosts, and all manner of elective costume options. Within the game there are other currencies that allow you to "buy" stuff too! Many fan favorite actors reprise their roles from various Star Trek television and film properties although a tiny portion of those are repurposed from their originals sources. Tim Russ in particular really shines as Tuvok (from Star Trek: Voyager). If you want to enjoy the thrill of playing the galaxy of Star Trek, give this
game a try!

Monday, March 20, 2017

In Memorium: Bernie Wrightson

One of the true leading lights of the old guard passed away on Saturday at the age of 68 after fighting a protracted battle against brain cancer. Bernie Wrightson was a legendary member of The Studio formed in 1975 alongside Jeffrey Catherine Jones, Michael Kaluta and Barry Windsor-Smith and all four of them produced singular work that helped change the illustrative form forever. Bernie was notable for his contributions to horror comics, although he worked with a variety of subject matter for numerous publishers. A lengthy list of his credits would take some time, but the highlights include House of Mystery; House of Secrets; Swamp Thing; Batman; Epic Illustrated; Master of the Macabre and of course his groundbreaking Frankenstein portfolio. Bernie's influence resonated into other media as well with his work on the "Captain Sternn" segment of the animated film Heavy Metal and collaborations with author Stephen King, beginning with Creepshow and Silver Bullet; plus select design work on Serenity in 2005.

Bernie Wrightson was always a pleasant creator to interact with and he made copious appearances at many convention over the years. I am very glad to have gotten a chance to speak with him on numerous occasions. Wrightson simply
can not be replaced. The Catacombs extends its sincerest condolences to his family, friends and fans.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Venting for the heck of it!


Thor is not a woman! Captain America’s best friend and long-time partner might change his costume to reflect his regard for Steve, but Sam is his own man (and would not cede his iconic identity over to do so)! Everyone in the Marvel Universe is NOT a member of the Avengers or the X-Men or the Fantastic Four (blending them all together only masks this conceit)! Captain Marvel died and Carol Danvers IS the new Captain Marvel (and although that was a long time in coming, Kelly Sue DeConnick did not create either version)! There are not a half dozen Spider-Men; or Women! Sidekicks and love interests aren’t potential replacements for their super-powered pals and lovers (doing this undermines the core concept and shows that the writer has run out of ideas of their own)! The Falcon, The Black Panther, Shang Chi, Blade, Storm, Bishop ( …… well seriously, the list of available non-caucasian heroes and characters goes on and on), so changing all of the blond & blue-eyed characters into an ethnic version seems pointless (unless you have a point on the top of your head)? Those massive cinematic versions rolling out successfully time and again based upon the recognized iconic versions scoff at the ridiculous print versions that try so hard to be something different? Hey editors and creators, hundreds of millions of movie ticket patrons might want to read the adventures of their heroes, maybe you should stop dicking around with your stupid bullshit and check your egos??



Friday, December 30, 2016

The Best Comics of 2016!!!

Hope that you all had a Merry Christmas and are due for a Happy New Year as well! 2016 was one hell of a year seeing celebrities and other notable figures dropping like flies, with Star Wars Carrie Fisher and her Hollywood icon mother, Debbie Reynolds passing within a day of each being the saddest icing on the cake. We also ushered a deplorable moron into the Oval Office this year, a well-heeled billionaire who managed to convince hundreds of millions of simpletons into believing that he would magically fix their sorry little lives (even as he almost immediately began to do exactly the opposite); and all of this nonsense was perpetrated under a campaign of heinous fear-mongering along with his pair-bonding with out and out racist neo-nazis; sheesh! What the religious right saw that made them also kiss his lying ass is something for saner historians to ruminate upon should we survive the administration of this asshole. On to other matters ......


There were not as many posts here this year as I may have preferred, but before we blow out the candles anyway, here are my personal selections for the very best pure comics experiences to be had in 2016. *You will note that in a couple of instances a single issue or two is all certain nominees fielded, but less is often more and virtually any of these issues are far superior to much of what stained the comic shop shelves from the major publishers otherwise.

Velvet - Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting and Elizabeth Breitweiser
Black Panther – Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze, Chris Sprouse and Laura Martin


Love and Rockets – The Hernandez Brothers


Black Hammer – Jeff Lemire, Dean Ormston and Dave Stewart


Seven to Eternity – Rick Remender and Jerome Opena
Black Science – Rick Remender, Matteo Scalera and Moreno Dinisio

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

In Memorium: Van Williams

I just haven't made the time to swing by the Catacombs recently and this is certainly not the kind of post that I would prefer prompted me to return, but what are you gonna do.

The Green Hornet and Kato have finally been reunited in the afterlife. Actor Van Williams familiar to old school fans from his days on Bourbon Street Beat and its television spinoff Surfside 6 passed away on November 28, 2016 at the age of eighty-two from renal failure. Williams is probably best known as the masked hero from the short run 1960s series where he starred opposite the late Bruce Lee.

Despite his hunkish good looks, Williams had only a modest impact in Hollywood with a couple of big screen roles and a minor string of appearances in many classic shows before hitting wider if brief fame as the Hornet. He later served as a reserve sheriffs deputy and he owned a communications company. He was described by friends as a great friend and mentor. The Catacombs extends its sincerest condolences to his family, friends and
fans.

Friday, August 5, 2016

In Memorium: Gaspar Saladino

Legendary letterer Gaspar Saladino passed away yesterday following a long illness (his age is believed to be somewhere in the 88 or 90 range).  Although he worked for a variety of publishers during his lengthy career, for well over five decades he was a staple of DC Comics responsible for so many of their iconic font designs. Gaspar designed hundreds of logos for the company and as time permitted, also worked on interiors particularly on Swamp Thing with Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson. The Catacombs extends its sincerest condolences to his family, friends and fans.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

In Memorium: Jack Davis

Legendary illustrator Jack Davis passed away yesterday in Georgia at the age of 91. His staggering volume of work for advertising, magazines, films, posters and album covers throughout his long life made him a popular cartoonist. Davis began his career at EC Comics doing horror and sci-fi stuff, but quickly became known for MAD magazine and the caricature art style that led to his wider fame. I met him at a National Cartoonist Society meeting in Asheville, NC a few years ago alonside his former MAD peers Duck Edwing and Nick Meglin. That was a terrific and truly once in a lifetime opportunity. He will be missed! The Catacombs extends its sincerest condolences to his family, friends and fans.