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

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.

Friday, July 15, 2016

"Gal" Friday! Elsa Bloodstone

Elsa Bloodstone first appeared in Marvel's 2001 Bloodstone mini-series written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. She is the daughter of the previously established Marvel Universe character Ulysses Bloodstone (first appearance in Marvel Presents #1; Oct.1975). She currently lives in Bloodstone Manor with her mother and her ally the Frankenstein Monster. She has also befriended Charles Barnabus, a pureblood vampire lawyer and the executor of the Bloodstone estate.

Elsa has been utilized in various Marvel publishing efforts such as Nextwave, the Initiative, The Fearless Defenders and Marvel Now; but she has seemingly returned to her monster-hunting adventures vowing solemnly to never have children on her own, since she feels the responsibility of being a Bloodstone too heavy to be forced upon another living being.
Elsa has exhibited superhuman strength, speed, durability and endurance and a regenerative ability. She appears to possess all of the abilities that her father previously had. In addition she has demonstrated immunity to vampire bites (her blood will actually kill a vampire if consumed and the original Bloodgem fragment itself is anathema to vampires).

In the Bloodstone mini-series, Elsa claimed that she had inherited at least some of this power genetically, but it has been shown that her powers of strength and invulnerability were bestowed upon her by the Bloodgem fragment she wears on a choker. She has also been portrayed as an expert marksman. Among a number of artifacts gathered by her father she has used a lamp which contains a genie whom Ulysses had enslaved years ago. This device serves as an early warning system, lighting up during times of supernatural crisis, and transporting her to said event.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

This here is a run-out-the-clock situation.

Dinosaurs are long gone and collectively we understand that their exit was prompted by the (K–T) extinction, a mass extinction of some three-quarters of plant and animal species on Earth—including all non-avian dinosaurs—that occurred over a geologically short period of time approximately 66 million years ago.

I've come to the conclusion that a portion of fandom, my own demographic, has been naturally going the same route within the comic book industry since the early 1990's. I have had comics around throughout my entire life from before I could even read in fact. Now in my mid-50's I increasingly feel either antipathy or indifference towards the wares of DC Comics and Marvel Comics. Each of these "big two" publishing powerhouses has made every effort imaginable to maintain what we all know to be a shrinking readership, but you would never know it looking at what is sitting upon the shelves in most comics specialty shops. It is a mind-numbing experience pondering what to purchase out of the hundreds of issues comprising the last several months worth of every single series, plus the often dozen or so related titles within each "family" grouping and then to also have to determine how a half dozen active "versions" of each major character are indistinguishable in their own right? I can recall when the monthly letters page chatter used to jockey around the Earth 1 or 2 JLA/JSA crossovers; and that was only a handful of characters. Back in the mid 1980s DC decided that enough was enough, and we got Crisis on Infinite Earths. Twelve isues, a linewide crossover and then a major reboot that settled things once and for all. At least until the sales figures came in, and well you get the picture. Crisis has continued annually ever since. Oh sure, they call each seasons marketing "event" by a different name, but its really all the same conceit.

Diversity too seems to have unfortunately become little more than the kitschy glamor vibe of the moment, with one established character identity after another perpetually getting remade as an ethnic variation or a gender swap, or to a same-sex gay option supposedly because of audience demand? I don't think so. Each company already had plenty of non-caucasian characters and some homosexual heroes or supporting characters, and some were featured regularly. Moving those to the forefront and increasing their prominence in the wider fictional universe has occurred, but the replacments just keep right on coming unabated. Another ebb tide is the routinely manifested white, blonde female superhero who soon finds her love interest in this politically correct climate to be the nearest black male superhero. Time and again we've seen this and while this reflects reality, it has been done to death largely by caucasian creators who must believe that they alone are introducing this idea for the very first time? We seem to have entirely skipped past any healthy presentations of black male/black female relationships, much less actually doing the hard part and creating a brand spanking new intellectual property to stand upon its own merits. We've gone straight to the default polarizing choice over and again, and face it Tiger; that is exactly what sells headlines once the "haters" begin spouting off at the next introduction or romance along these lines. It would be foolish to believe that the publishers don't expect and/or prefer the vitriolic backlash of these gimmicks. Alas, even my head canon fanboy choice can no longer stand the bombardment. Cacaphony rules the day. I'm baling out while I can retain some degree of appreciation for nostalgia if nothing else.
I have tried my best to get on board, to accept and tolerate, but the endlessness of these things has worn me completely out. I do however want to end on a high note praising current books that I am VERY much still enjoying and which all take me to my inner happy place as a reader: Velvet (Image Comics) by Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting, Elizabeth Breitweiser; Black Panther (Marvel Comics) by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze, Laura Martin; Future Quest (DC Comics) by Jeff Parker and Evan "Doc" Shaner and others. Creators whose work also thrills me include Fernando Pasarin, Jason Fabok, Jim Cheung, the Hernandez Brothers, Dan Clowes, Peter Bagge and I'm looking forward to Adam Hughes on Betty & Veronica and the Josie and the Pussycats relaunch later this years. Other than my own shit ton of back issues, this is gonna be about it for me.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Hot Mess: The Falcon

When it comes to the publishing endeavors of the current comic book industry, frequent reboots, relaunches and other spin the wheel antics are sadly now a very common thing, but they are actually little more than hot messes that can be appealing for a variety of reasons; most notably because they're generally unexpected, capricious, and/or agonizingly provocative in tone and content. Additionally, numerous contingent factors render these increasingly less rare and constantly repetitive cycles virtually inconsequential.

No one set of guidelines exists to determine what distinguishes each seasons "hot mess" from the previous effort that has now come to be considered the train wreck that it was. Fandom is mired in a case of “here we go again” as the same caustic social media frenzy kicks off another round of shout down the other side of the aisle. Regardless of the circumstances, you know it when you see it; because they are conspicuous and thus always heavily marketed slices of the moment.

The Falcon was one of my favorite bronze age heroes, although depending upon how you gauge when each comic book age began and ended, he probably counts as having squeeked in at the end of the silver age. Sam Wilson was an interesting character in his own right who quickly bonded with fans and moved to cover prominence headlining the series Captain America and The Falcon for many years. The two characters were partners and friends and remained that way until Steve Rogers succumbed to aberrant effects of his super-soldier formula aging out in short order. Sam was given the chance to succeed his pal in the patriotic role and name of CAPTAIN AMERICA. The thing is, this actually belittled the Falcon and weirdly, it is a half-assed attempt to seem diverse by pandering to a limited fan audience who just got familiar with The Falcon due to his inclusion in the blockbuster Captain America and Avengers film franchises. It makes fuck all sense, but it does give a couple of white creators a chance to seem with it. To which I say, "Sweet Christmas!"

Sam Wilson is The Falcon. He is not Captain America no matter how many issues that storyline ultimately runs. Strangely, having his costume altered as a tribute to his friend was a nice gesture, but robbing the character of his own unique identity that had beend established for decades stained the whole enterprise.