Thursday, June 30, 2011

Jungo the Man-Beast in "The Giant Jaguar" (Holyoke;1946)

Jungo the Man-Beast makes an overdue return visit to the Catacombs in this untitled story from Sparkling Stars #17 (Sept.1946); originally published by Holyoke. The writer and/or artist is also unknown. Phil Gant was famous for his movie serial role of "Jungo" until a blow on the head convinced him that he actually was the very jungle lord that he had been portraying. Previously Jungo and his girlfriend, Gloria Dean, were cast adrift in the hold of a cargo ship on the verge of sinking. Don't you just love those old cliffhanger endings that aren't really endings?

The Catacombs is grateful to Don "Zu-Gogo" Falkos for providing the scans for this story. Note: The copyright for this issue, its contents and artwork belong to the original publishers and/or the creators and is reproduced here solely for entertainment purposes.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Top 10 Defunct Comic Book Publishers: Kitchen Sink Press

For the next ten Wednesday's, I'm going to feature a series of posts that take a fond look back at my personal picks for the "Top 10 Defunct Comic Book Publishers" of all time. Given that Wednesday is the standard "new comics" day for incoming stuff in direct market shops around the USA, it seems like the exact day of the week in which to recall some of the great publishers of the past who helped carry the torch in days gone by.

As you'll see, some of these companies specialized in specific content or genres, some practiced the fine art of licensing properties from other media outlets for adaptation to the four-color world, and some simply marched to the beat of their own peculiar drummer. I do not intend to rank the publishers that will be spotlighted in any particular order, so without further ado, let's get down to business.

Kitchen Sink Press was founded by Denis Kitchen way back in 1969. Kitchen owned and operated the company for an impressive thirty years until it folded in 1999. Kitchen Sink Press was a pioneering publisher of underground comix including Bijou Funnies, Bizarre Sex, Cherry, Dope Comix, Grateful Dead Comix, Mom’s Homemade Comics and Snarf. Kitchen Sink Press also released numerous republications of classic comic strips in both hardcover and softcover volumes, reminding fans new and old of the joys of Alley Oop, Flash Gordon, Li’l Abner and Steve Canyon, among many others. One of Kitchen's greatest accomplishments was the first total reprinting of Will Eisner's The Spirit first in magazine format and later in color.
Taking full advantage of the rise of the direct market in the 1980's, Kitchen Sink Press introduced new characters, concepts and creators in such series as Atomic City Tales, Black Hole, Death Rattle, Megaton Man, Omaha the Cat Dancer and Xenozoic Tales.

A small sampling of industry legends and talents whose work appeared under the Kitchen Sink banner includes Howard Kruse, Kim Deitch, Will Eisner, Justin Green, Harvey Kurtzman, Scott McCloud, James O'Barr, Trina Robbins, Art Spiegelman, Reed Waller, S. Clay Wilson, Kate Worley and Denis Kitchen.
Denis Kitchen also ushered in The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which first began as a means to pay for the legal defense of Friendly Frank's comic shop manager Michael Correa, who was arrested in 1986 on charges of distributing obscenity (primarily titles published by Kitchen). Kitchen Sink Press carved its own niche in the world of undergrounds, independents and direct-only comics & "comix" over a three decade run that was highly entertaining and unique among its peers; it definitely deserves a place among the best comic book publishers of all time. Consider Kitchen Sink Press "gone, but not forgotten".

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ghanga the Elephant Boy in "The Free Folk" (Buster Brown Co.;1949)

This golden age story called “The Free Folk” starring Ghanga the Elephant Boy is taken from Buster Brown Comic Book #16 (Summer 1949); originally published the Buster Brown Shoe Co. and written by Hobart Donavan and beautifully illustrated by the great Dan Barry. In this tale, young Ghanga could certainly show Tarzan a thing or two about how to effectively tame the wild beasts of the jungle.

The Catacombs is grateful to Don "Zu-Gogo" Falkos for providing the scans for this story. Note: The copyright for this issue, its contents and artwork belong to the original publishers and/or the creators and is reproduced here solely for entertainment purposes.


Monday, June 27, 2011

1980's Flashback: Maus

Maus: A Survivor's Tale by Art Spiegelman, is a memoir of Art Spiegelman listening to his father, Vladek Spiegelman, a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor, retelling his story. The graphic novel alternates between portions of Vladek's life in Poland before and during the Second World War, and his later life in the Rego Park neighborhood of New York City. The entire work took thirteen years to complete, originally serialized in underground comics of the 1970s and then published in two volumes released in 1986 and 1991. It has since been integrated into a single volume.

The graphic narrative depicts Jews as mice, while Germans are depicted as cats. Other animals are used to represent other nationalities, religions, and races. Almost all the characters of a single "nationality" were drawn identically, with only clothing or other details helping to distinguish between them individually. It is the only comic book ever to have been awarded a Pulitzer Prize.

In particular, Art Spiegelman portrays Vladek's difficult personality and Art's attempt to make sense of it. He was exceedingly stingy and made life very difficult for both his first wife Anja (Art's mother, a concentration camp survivor who committed suicide) and his second wife Mala (also a concentration camp survivor). Art contrasts the contemporary Vladek with the historical Vladek, whom he only knows indirectly through his research. He comments about the difficulties of presenting Vladek's story accurately.

Maus is also the recipient of the Angoulême International Comics Festival Award, the Urhunden Prize, Eisner Award, Harvey Award and been nominated twice for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Profile Antics: A Chat with Bridgit Scheide!

Bridgit Scheide describes herself as a fidgety illustrator residing in Charlotte, NC. Her favorite activities include occasional aviation and frolicking astronautics, and she claims that she is mostly never caught burgling art supplies or small chocolates. I'll have to take her at her word on that, and also add that in addition to being a talented young lady, she's very easy on the eyes. Bridgit has been appearing at many of the regional comic shows that I attend and I'm grateful that she agreed to "sit" for this interview.

Q) As a blog, “Bridgit All Digital” [see my links section] looks like it might have style, but you don’t seem to stop by very often. Any chance your fans may see some regular art samples, personal opinions or con appearance news there anytime soon?

I always forget I have a blog! I have friends who remind me every now and then that it’s there. It’s true… I don’t post too often. For this reason, I linked my page and twitter to it, which I do use on a regular basis. My deviantart page has my entire portfolio on it, for the most part, and is updated frequently. It also has a link to my webcomic Brother Nash, which I’m finishing up right now. A blog to me is like a journal, and I just find that I don’t have much to say right now other than rambling on about projects I could just show you. Maybe once I figure out my internet voice I’ll be able to write interesting enough updates that make my blog worthwhile to read.

Q) Give me some insight into the kinds of stuff you personally like in comics and have those preferences changed from when you were younger – relatively speaking? Whose stuff did you gravitate towards as a fan?

As a kid X-Men - and the titles based off of it like Gen-X and Excaliber - was my hook into comic books. I loved, and still love, the characters… there seems infinite possibilities to their creation as long as the suspension of disbelief is managed efficiently. And the fact that the environment these powerful mutants live in consists of a society that hates them, the storylines were always about so much more than fighting the bad guys.

I was hooked into comics again in high school by Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus, a seriously amazing piece of non-fiction. Since then, my comic knowledge consists mostly of more recent work. Watchmen made me realize just how in-depth comic construction can go… Alan Moore’s writing is mind-blowing. I must’ve looked through Gabrielle del’Otto’s painterly work in Marvel’s 2006 Secret War series hundreds of times. Horror comics like Hellboy and 30 Days of Night satisfy my love for the horror genre while at the same time establishing Mignola and Templesmith as two major influences for me, though I’m not sure if it’s apparent at all in my work. I can look at Mark Brooks’ artwork, literally, for hours.

Doug TenNapel is most recently a new, huge favorite. The way he cranks out pages to his stories and the expressive use of his inks are all things I can learn from. There are also people who I’m lucky to be surrounded by in my daily life who are super talented, which I’m try not to take for granted… most of these friends are involved in Sketch Charlotte. I’m constantly learning from them. I’m also learning a lot about their own influences, I feel like everyday I’m getting yelled at for not know who someone is! Haha! But seriously, it’s all good. There is so much to discover… which is good.

Q) What was the inspiration behind your web comics, The Kindle Kind and Brother Nash? How has the online reception for these projects been?

The Kindle Kind didn’t start out being a webcomic. It was actually a single issue that I sold locally. Later, when I started making Brother Nash, I uploaded them all onto I’m not sure if the Kindle Kind is still there, I might have taken it off. Brother Nash is only a webcomic right now because I wanted viewers to be able to follow along with me as I created the story. Probably because I was trying to show my friends that I had a reason for being a recluse, that I really WAS making something! Haha. And, because of going to school and working last year, or working two jobs at different points this year, I’m not sure the webcomics format was ideal for people following the story, just because the rate at which I finished pages was a bit slower than the norm. But some people seem to be really into it, so that’s good! They’re just suffering a bit because they’re waiting longer than most webcomics readers for the next page.

Q) What’s the most daunting aspect of producing web comics?

I wouldn’t say there’s anything about webcomics that’s “daunting”. It actually might be the other way around. From the start, I’ve thought of Brother Nash in terms of being a single, 48-page story, printed as a one-shot issue. I didn’t really ever think of it as a webcomic until people started pointing out the obvious, “It’s a comic. It’s on the web. It’s a WEBCOMIC.” But if anything, I put it online to motivate me to complete it. When you’re writing, drawing, and coloring your own comic, you are the whole team. You are all you have, most of the time, to push YOURself towards YOUR goals. The accountability provided through the excitement of the readers is awesome, but they aren’t in charge of your work schedule or how many hours of sleep you’re getting each night. Seeing pages put together into a nearly completed format, to where I can view them and read them in sequence is motivating for sure, keeps my head thinking about the end goal. And it keeps the time it takes to get there from being too overwhelming… or daunting.

Q) Do you have any career goals in printed comics or do online web comics suit you better?

Like I said, I never really think of my comics as being webcomics. The intention is always for them to be in printed format. I would love to do comics for a living, though I’m not sure if that’s too lofty of a goal in my head right now. I know it’s possible, I’m just not sure where I’m heading… I’m just going to keep making comics, it’s what I love to do and what I feel natural doing. Whether I’m working as creator or as an artist collaborating with a writer… it’s pretty open I think. I’m going to SDCC this year to submit a lot of my work to different publishers, just to see if I can get linked up with anything. A lot of people told me it doesn’t work too well that way, but we’ll see. If anything does happen, I’ll just consider any propositions as I encounter them, I suppose!

Q) How does a lone “gal” manage to rein in a rowdy gang of dudes in something called “Sketch Charlotte”?

Oh man, I love Sketch Charlotte. Haha. I’m not the only girl in the group… I’m one of three I think? But yeah, Sketch Charlotte’s like a big family of comic dorks, I love it – it gets me through the week. We all meet up at a Shomars across from Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find, talking and munching and drawing together. It’s awesome because there are people interested in all different aspects of comics, who have completely unique comic backgrounds and influences. I learn so much from them, and they’re all really fun people. Tons of laughs… it’s a good kind of rowdy, haha!

Q) I’ve seen photos of you performing on stage and in what appears to be a recording studio. What kind of music skills have you got and do you stick with a specific kind of genre, folk, rock, country, blues, etc.?

I play guitar and sing, mostly, but I was in a pop/rock band in college where I played keys and did backing vocals. We toured a bit, and they got signed a little after I left. I’ve also been playing solo around Charlotte since 2007, just acoustic and earlier on with a little harmonica. I was in a folk/rock band about a year or so back called Pennies for Thieves, which was a lot of fun and focused mainly on vocal harmonies, but we didn’t do too much outside of the local scene. After that, I wouldn’t say I’ve stopped playing music, but I definitely don’t play out much anymore. It’s hard to find the time to even do comics when you’re already working full time, so trying to turn a hobby into a legit gig… I can just picture hours of practice cutting into my drawing time. Haha… so I guess performing music really is a guilty pleasure!

Q) You live in Charlotte now, but are you a native Tarheel?

I was born in Wheaton, Illinois… most of my extended family lives near there. We moved to Indiana before I started school and then moved back to Illinois when I was in first grade. Then I moved to Matthews, NC when I was in second grade, and it’s where I’ve been ever since!
Brother Nash art by Bridgit Scheide
Q) How does one effectively combine aviation and frolicking?

It’s occasional aviation and frolicking astronautics. I’d say as long as you don’t jump out of any given planet’s gravitational pull, frolicking astronautics is the most fun out of the two. You should try it.

Well, that was fun, and I hope that you all get an opportunity to visit with Bridgit at one of her convention appearances. She's full of energy, multi-talented, and no matter which path she takes, I wish her the very best in her budding career. Thanks for everything, Bridgit!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

In Memorium: Lew Sayre Schwartz

Sadly along with the passing of Gene Colan, comes news that Lew Sayre Schwartz has also died at the age of 84, and in a weird convergence, Schwartz too partially succumbed as the result of a head injury from a fall suffered last month.

Shortly after WWII, Lew Schwartz became one of the many talented folks working behind the scenes “ghosting” the Batman comic book stories that were solely credited publicly to Bob Kane (a list of talented creators that includes Dick Sprang, Jack Burnley, Stan Kaye, Sy Barry, Sid Greene, Joe Giella, Sheldon Moldoff, Win Mortimer, Jim Mooney, Charles Paris, Jerry Robinson, George Roussos, Chic Stone and writers Bill Finger and Gardner Fox). Schwartz himself penciled more than one-hundred and twenty Batman stories between 1947 and 1953; usually providing the entire art job plus lettering from the script, over which Kane might add certain touches to the main figures of Batman and Robin before sending it in. Lew Schwartz ghosted some other work on daily newspaper strips including several weeks on Secret Agent X-9 for Mel Graff, and The Saint. His own signature never appeared on any of this work, but he was well known among industry insiders. Lew left comics in the mid 1950s following a junket in Korea entertaining the troops, with a bunch of other cartoonists, including Irwin Hasen; after which he went into television advertising, at first drawing storyboards.
Schwartz co-founded a production company that worked on the Stanley Kubrick movie Dr. Strangelove, for which they brought an innovative style to the lettered credits and his long career in television includes segments for Sesame Street and directing a Barbara Streisand special.

In retirement he returned to the comic’s medium, collaborating with Dick Giordano on a short adaptation of Moby Dick for the kids’ market and a strip titled The Dinosaur Group that appeared for five years on the editorial page of the East Coast paper, The Standard Times. It was around 2002, that he was rediscovered by the world of comics. Lew Sayre Schwartz was a featured guest at the San Diego Comic-Con both that year and again in 2009.

The Catacombs extends its sincerest condolences to his family, friends and fans.

Friday, June 24, 2011

"Gal" Friday & Classic Cutie! Suzy Kendall

Sticking with blond “gals” again this week, and indulging a personal pick after seeing the 1967 film To Sir, with Love, for the umpteenth time yesterday on Turner Classic Movies.

British actress Suzy Kendall is best known for her film roles of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Her attractive blond looks got her many leading roles in some fairly prestigious productions, although she increasingly appeared in lower-profile films and television series later in the 1970s, before finally retiring to spend more time with her family.

From 1968 to 1972, she was married to comedic actor Dudley Moore, and despite their divorce they remained friends throughout the rest of their lives. She hosted a memorial service for Moore when he passed away in 2002. She currently lives in London with her second husband, and their daughter Elodie Harper, is a BBC journalist.

Besides To Sir, with Love, a selection of Suzy Kendall films includes The Liquidator, Thunderball, Circus of Fear, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Assault, Fear is the Key, Torso and Adventures of a Private Eye. Suzy was always a rockingly cool chick who didn't show up nearly enough for me and now she's also added to my private gallery as this weeks official "Gal" Friday selection.

In Memorium: Gene Colan

Gene Colan, one of Marvel Comics most prominent artists, passed away late last night following complications from liver disease and a broken hip received in a recent fall. He was eighty-four years old.

During his long career Colan regularly posted lengthy runs on series such as Daredevil, the cult-hit series Howard the Duck, and perhaps his best known title, The Tomb of Dracula, which he illustrated for its entire seventy issue run, and which is still considered one of the horror genres most classic series. While penciling Captain America, he co-created "The Falcon", one of the first African-American superheroes in mainstream comics. His other significant Marvel work includes The Avengers, Doctor Strange, Strange Tales, Tales of Suspense and Tales to Astonish.

Colan was no stranger to the "distinguished competition", having provided art for runs on DC Comics titles like Batman, Detective Comics, Wonder Woman and terrific work on several early to mid-1980’s mini-series: Jemm, Son of Saturn 1-12; Nathaniel Dusk 1-4 (plus a four-issue sequel); Night Force 1-14; Silverblade 1-12; and The Spectre 1-6.

His distinct art-style, instantly recognizable, made him one of the premier artists within the industry. I’m very glad that I at least got to meet him once at a convention appearance in Charlotte, NC several years back. The Catacombs extends its sincerest condolences to his family, friends and fans.

Portrait illustration (above) by Michael Netzer.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fantomah in "The Revenge of Zomax" (Fiction House;1941)

Fantomah, Mystery Woman of the Jungle, is such an interesting golden age character that I should really post her stories much more often. "The Revenge of Zomax" is from Jungle Comics #14 (Feb.1941); originally published by Fiction House. This story written and illustrated by Fletcher Hanks (as Barclay Flagg) shows how Fantomah prevents the evil Zomax from killing all of the jungle animals with a cool-looking tidal wave of his own creation. The neat cover art is by George Appel.

The Catacombs is grateful to Don "Zu-Gogo" Falkos for providing the scans for this story. Note: The copyright for this issue, its contents and artwork belong to the original publisher and/or creators and is reproduced here solely for entertainment purposes.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Comic art is just different. It's art on its own terms. - Joe Simon

I know that Wednesday is "new" comics day, but Mr. Simon's quote prompted me to clear out a few pieces of art that have been loitering around in the files. In descending order: "Aurora" by the late Dave Stevens; "Catwoman" by Paul Dini; an outstanding "Daredevil" by the legendary Neal Adams (I would love to see Neal tackle this character in a monthly series); "Jungle Girl & Lion" commission by Bob McLeod; "The Punisher" by sorely missed Mike Zeck (come back, Mike); and a full-color "Panther Wench" commission by Ernie Chan. As always, click on each image to embiggen. Tomorrows regular post will be a classic golden age jungle story. Thank you for being patient!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Oh my! Lions, Tigers and Bears

The award-winning Lions, Tigers and Bears was originally a breakout hit published by Image Comics. Now Hermes Press continues the further adventures of Joey Price and his furry pals of the Night Pride in graphic novel form, with an all-ages approach that is perfect for libraries and any kid's bookshelf. After reprinting the first two Lions, Tigers and Bears mini-series, Hermes launches a new adventure with Volume 3: Greybeard's Ghost!

As Greybeard's Ghost opens, young Joey meets his friend Courtney's obnoxious older cousin, Beth, and wishes for the Beasties to take her away. When Joey's wish comes true, he and Courtney must venture back to the Stuffed Animal Kingdom to save her, along with his brave animal friends Ares, Venus, Minerva, and Pallo, This exciting tale takes the crew aboard a Beasties-infested pirate ship and an encounter with the legendary Greybeard himself!

In the vein of other landmark all-ages fare such as Jeff Smith's Bone; Lions, Tigers and Bears is geared towards younger readers with wholesome stories in a large full-color graphic novel format. Greybeard's Ghost is written by series creator Mike Bullock with art by Michael Metcalf, and has a cover by Mike Ploog (Abadazabad), plus two original back-up stories with art by Dan Hipp and Adam van Wyck. Lions, Tigers and Bears won the 2007 Angouleme International Comics Festival Discovery Youth Prize, and will continue to deliver the same engaging stories through its new life at Hermes Press. Check it out!

Monday, June 20, 2011

At the Movies: Green Lantern

Blockbuster movies of every description are a dime a dozen during the highly desired summer film season. They arrive in mass quantities and tend to be thicker than flies. Not every large budget film is going to recoup its cost – at least at the box office – and fan expectations being what they are these days, every potential audience member isn’t going to enjoy each new Hollywood interpretation of an established property. So it has been with the big-screen debut of DC Comics' "Green Lantern" which despite earning the #1 position at the box-office over the weekend, has failed to earn as much moolah as was generated by earlier releases "Thor" and "X-Men: First Class".

The critics have hammered the film as well, citing some of the acting, clunky screenwriting and clueless direction. These aren’t necessarily wrongheaded remarks, but when these types of comments hit the web heaviest on the geek-centric sites, it definitely hurts early returns. I will avoid spoilers as much as possible, but certain points have to be addressed – so be advised – proceed with caution.

First of all let me say that Green Lantern is a really good comic book movie. It channels the established history and characterizations from the silver age series quite well. Geoff Johns may share a screenwriting credit, along with Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim and Michael Goldenberg, but the vast majority of the elements and featured characters were originally created by DC Comics writer John Broome and artist Gil Kane. Make no mistake about this! Any strength of this film is due to the wise decision to stick with the core concept built by those two fine, talented gentlemen who are no longer with us. Johns could lay claim to an interpretation of Parallax, but comic book writer Ron Marz originated even that concept.

I would offer as a constructive criticism that at 105 minutes, the film is simply not long enough to have adequately fit in much of what made it onto the screen, and it is this specific aspect that is ultimately behind most critics’ disappointment. We needed more of the GL Corps, more of Oa, more of the Guardians; most of which was very well done as far as I'm concerned and less of other elements (see below). The special effects are excellent.

Ryan Reynolds was topnotch as the cocky Hal Jordan, Blake Lively won me over as Carol Ferris, Mark Strong is "awesome" as Sinestro and the voice work of Michael Clarke Duncan (Kilowog), Clancy Brown (Parallax) and Geoffrey Rush (Tomar-Re) was really cool with me. The actors who played the supporting roles of Tom Kalmaku (Taika Waititi), Carl Ferris (Jay O. Sanders) and Martin Jordan (Jon Tenney) were also spot on, but three roles were utterly unnecessary to the overall film. Tim Robbins portrayed Sen. Hammond, Angela Bassett portrayed Amanda Waller and Peter Sarsgaard portrayed classic GL villain Hector Hammond (to good effect, but he belonged in a subsequent film) and while none were individually deal breakers, all felt heavily tacked on here. The movie as a whole would have worked far better without these characters being present. The Parallax entity did not need Hector Hammond as motivation to come to Earth, it could have simply followed Abin Sur (exceptionally well, albeit briefly, played by Temuera Morrison) to Earth or arrived just to knock off his chosen successor, Hal Jordan.

IMDB reveals that actor Kevin Kline was considered for the role of Senator Hammond, and if they just had to have this character, Kline would have at least appeared more age appropriate as Hammonds father, and with his perpetual mustache, even that visual cue would have nicely tied him to Sarsgaard's Hector. The original script had contained a cameo by Alan Scott, the first published Green Lantern (Jordan's golden age predecessor, whose powers were magical rather than cosmic). Scott was intended to be the United States President, and near the end would have revealed his own past as a Green Lantern to Jordan, and give him his blessing. Later drafts finally wrote him out of the film, and replaced him with Amanda Waller. At one point Clark Kent/Superman was also included in the script (he had a cameo as one of the candidates considered to receive a power ring), but he was cut out because the filmmakers didn't want to depend on another superhero for a success. These foolish behind the scenes decisions cost us some outstanding fanboy moments. A real shame, if you ask me!

Don't even get me started on the elimination of the classic silver age weakness built into the Green Lantern rings, anything yellow tailguns a Lantern in combat. This was retconned in recent years to be Parallax (a yellow, fear-based creature) being imprisoned within the central power battery on Oa. The film moves the prison to a Geoff Johns derived comic book story element, the planet Ryut, so there you go; he chipped in something. A bit stupid if you ask me, since having the action take place on Oa would have strengthened the "big" picture they were setting up. This negatively impacted the requisite post-credits scene for diehard fans too, and in my opinion this is an instance where they completely blew it. It involves Sinestro and again, all the pieces needed to have effectively arrived at this moment were present within the film, but the actual moment where the necessary motivation SHOULD have occurred, didn’t. Oh well, if there is any missed opportunity for critics to crow about, it is here and it happens after the credits roll anyway. I do hope that Reynolds gets another chance to don the CGI-suit and fly the space ways again. So if you are a fan of the classic Green Lantern, like me, go see the movie. Recommended!