Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Merry Christmas to All

Christmas 2012…and it would be easy to forget the spirit in light of what has happened this year. What with Sandy and the senseless shootings, especially the one this week in Sandy hook that snuffed out so many of our precious little children. They are irreplaceable and whether you knew them or not we are all so much poorer today than we were just a few days ago.

Yeah, the Christmas lights shine less brightly this year.

The music sounds kind of tinny.

It seems like it may never get warm again.

And that’s unacceptable.

Because the music WILL get sweeter, the lights brighter and our lives warmer.

Christmas is important.

Most especially when the world seems cruelest.

So let me tell you a story.

About a hero.

My hero.

My dad.

You know my father got me my very first comic book. I was maybe, seven. It was a very beat up copy of Superman Annual #1. He got it from the junk yard from a box of old comics at a penny a piece. He actually brought the whole box home, but that annual is the one I remember.




He did a lot of little things like that, my dad. He taught me how to throw a curve ball, how to fight, camp and change a tire. He taught me how to take care of my pets and how to cook.

My dad taught me that hand outs are what you give to strangers but a hand up is what you give to friends.

Oh and by the way he also taught me that strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet, so it’s ALWAYS a hand up you are giving.

My dad was also a hero. A real, honest to Captain America hero in fact. He was a paratrooper during the Korean War and won the Bronze Star for bravery under fire.
But he was a bigger hero at home.

My dad didn’t have a lot of education. He never made a ton of money or got famous. And he died way too soon at the age of 52.

But in the too brief time that I knew him, my father never let us miss a meal or want for anything. Even though he often worked three jobs, he was never to tired to spend a few moments playing with my brother, my sister or me.

And every Sunday morning I would wake to the smell of bacon frying. My father making breakfast for the family so my mother could sleep in. To this day I always feel a tug in my heart when I smell bacon frying.

Of course my dad would wave all of that off and say I was over sentimental…actually he’d call me a sap. But as tough as he was, my dad may have been the biggest sap of all of us. He claimed that Christmas was just for my mom and the kids…but how his eyes would light up when the tree was trimmed and lit. And it was my dad who played that Crosby Christmas album so often that we had to replace it every few years.

One Christmas when I was four he brought home my first dog. A mutt named Missy. I had that dog until I turned eighteen. For years he carped at how much trouble she was. But when got, old and sick and had to be put to sleep. It was my dad who went with me to take care of her. It was the only time I actually saw him cry. He loved that dog as much as I did.

What a sap he was.

As sons get older, we sometimes drift from our dads. I don’t recall ever having a real argument with my father but we did drift. As I reached my twenties I was determined to find my life in the arts as an actor or a singer while my dad who had been a truck driver, laborer and cook thought his son should be a doctor, lawyer or some other more practical thing. Still he supported every decision I ever made…and he never missed a show I did…and he never…ever forgot Christmas.

I don’t think it is a stretch when I say that if I never got to be half the man or half the father that MY father was. But even being only half of what he was…is pretty good.

I hope that you all have a wonderful Christmas. That you hold your friends and family very close. Remember that you see heroes everywhere you look…even when you are looking into your own mirror.

Yeah.. I’m a sap…but I come by it honestly.

Merry Christmas…Happy Holidays.

That’s 30!

Mitch


Are You Kidding Me?

Where do I start with this one? Well first let me just say that my regular column will be posted tonight or tomorrow, but something has come up that I really felt a need to comment on.

It seems that Dan Slott, the outstanding writer of Spider-Man has actually received death threats over the outcome of Spider-Man #700.

To those people I say....

Are you kidding me????

There are actually yahoos out there who are so divorced from reality that they would make threats of physical violence?

Oh and by the way, your freedom of speech does NOT extend to making death threats. So pease don't try to justify your arrogant stupidity by saying it's your right...it ain't your right chuckleheads.

And it is not a joke either. Take a look at the news and tell me that you would not take it very seriously if YOU had your life threatened.

Of course this is not the first time a creator has gotten hate mail and threats because "fans" think THEY own the characters they follow. But the stupidity of this mind set never fails to astound me. No one says you have to like a story arc or a development. Feel fret to criticize but if your criticism extends to an urge to commit violence...you really should seek out a good therapist.

Or more basically, to quote William Shatner ...."get a life"

Thus endeth my vent....non venting column to follow!

That's 30!

Mitch

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Dreamers

On November 30th at 11:59 PST the long running, highly successful MMORPG, City Of Heroes closed it’s doors and the lights went out for a legion of superheroes as the servers went off line. Paragon City went dark, not with a bang but with a key stroke. Since it’s inception in 2004 the critically acclaimed COH was home to many thousands of our fellow dreamers who’s great desire was to be a superhero.




And who among us hasn’t had that dream? I, myself am a legendary (in my own mind) figure in DC Universe Online! Marvel is set to release it’s own MMO and of course there is the long running Champions Online. There are literally millions of people, from the very young to the very old living out their own Superhero fantasy.
The desire to BE Superman resonates pretty deeply.

City of Heroes was not killed by apathy or a lack of ideas on the parts of players and developers. It was struck down after eight years by a villain more rancorous than The Red Skull, more insidious than Lex Luthor, more implacable than Galactus…yes…COH was defeated by the one unstoppable evil in all the multiverses….
Corporate restructuring.

There was no final great battle. No time for a proper send off for it’s huge player base. Just a player generated vigil and last one out turn off the lights.
I hope to see many of those players pop up on DCUO or marvel, or Champions. But I suspect that for a great number of my fellow virtual Superheroes there will be no replacing COH.

But the dream lives. And that got me to thinking. Superhero RPGS go back pretty far. Before computers and D&D dice. I was playing Superhero MMO’s back in the 1960’s. of course back then we had a different word for it. We called it… playing. And you had to actually (ugh!) be WITH the people you were playing with. It was analog…it was IN YOUR FACE…and a hell of a lot of fun.

Back in my ancestral land of Brooklyn , in the kingdom of 102nd Street and Flatlands Avenue during the summers of 1964-1968 the Legion Of Superheroes was alive and well and fighting the forces of evil…

Evil being Alan Baxter and his pimple faced organization known only as THRUSH (stolen liberally from The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) . Alan and his minions of terror were assigned their roles due to the fact that they lived around the block from my own virtuous crew!
I of course was Superboy. This was not because I was the strongest, fastest or best looking kid. (Though I humbly must admit to all of those virtues). It was because my cousin Cindy (the toughest kid on the block) was Supergirl and would pound anyone who wouldn’t let me be Superboy.

Eddie Shanker who was well known in the neighborhood for his chemistry set was Element Lad. Eddie could take any two chemicals and make something foul smelling enough to make a skunk puke. Eddie was very popular. The last I heard of Eddie he was working in the Department of Sanitation. Something poetic about that!

Of course there was yucky Margaret who got to be Saturn Girl because it was either that of Phantom Girl and Margaret liked astronomy. (Yucky Margaret also introduced most of the boys in the neighborhood to the wonder of girls by the time we turned 15 and by which time she was far less yucky. She still gets Christmas cards from most of us to this day).

Rounding out our intrepid band was Weird Victor. Victor was weird because his mother was his barber and always cut his bangs at a 45 degree angle. He was also weird because he would eat anything. Not just the usual bugs and dirt. We ALL did that. Weird Victor actually LIKED (yuck) FRIED LIVER! Naturally he was Matter Eater Lad. Only Matter Eater Lad could eat liver and live! That stuff had a smell that would do Eddie Shanker proud! Whilst Victor later solved his hair problem he never got over his unnatural love for fried liver and onions. We tried intervention and even Kentucky Fried Chicken to no avail. It was our greatest failure.

Of course we never actually FOUGHT with the pimply forces of Thrush. Our encounters consisted largely of one group chasing the other through alleys and back yards. When we finally cornered one another Alan would jut his chin and shout out a hearty…HA!
Which I would trump with an even heartier …ha…HA!

Pretty rough stuff I can tell you. But we were a tough breed. Our battles were the stuff of legend. And even though pimply Alan is now, and has been for many years FATHER Alan, part of me is convinced that it’s just a front. That he is biding his time until he can make the forces of Thrush rise again.

Well Father Alan, bring it on. You will find The Legion waiting…right after the AARP meeting.

That’s 30!

Mitch

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Batusi Anyone?

You really hadda be there…really.

1966….BATMANIA! It’s almost impossible to explain it to someone who was NOT there to experience the national obsession with ABC’s Batman TV series starring Adam West as The Caped Crusader and Burt Ward as Robin The Boy Wonder was beyond huge. In it’s initial season Batman and by extension Batmania was bigger than Elvis, Sinatra or the Beatles…it was bigger than (gasp) HARRY POTTER!



You could not go anywhere and not see the Batman logo plastered everywhere. It was used to merchandise everything from kid’s toys to bread and breakfast cereal. I myself saved my pennies until I had the $6.96 I needed for the Official Batman Kit which consisted of a plastic cowl (which would NEVER be sold to kids today), a batarang and cord, plastic cape and various small pieces that MUST have been designed for kids to swallow. BUT in 1966 we kids did not concern ourselves about lethal toys. We laughed in the face of such dangers. We were made of sterner stuff than the X-Box generation! And $6.99 was a LOT of bread back in the day. If I hadn’t been a died in the wool junior super hero I might have cracked my sister’s piggy bank for the dough….ok…I DID crack her piggy bank but it was all for the cause of justice. After all how could I be expected to fight crime without my official Batman Kit?
But I digress…( as I often do)


Batman was the height of camp. It lampooned everything from the politicians and establishments of the day to the biggest entertainers. It was also sexy with a capital “S”. Don’t believe me? Then let me just say Julie Newmar and we can move on! There was NOTHING serious about Batman.

But you couldn’t prove it to s 9 year old kid. I and my gang (muscled by my cousin Cindy, the toughest kid on the block) took Batman absolutely at face value. This was deadly serious stuff to us. I mean who could ignore the threat of King Tut? The villainous conundrums of The Riddler? Ot the Clown prince of Crime The Joker (not to mention Julie’s Catwoman who made us 9 year olds notice that girls might NOT be quite so yucky as we always believed). If only we could locate the Dynamic Duo. I was sure we would be invaluable in their battle against the bumbling forces of evil, and the Gotham City PD.

But since the Brooklyn line did not run to Gotham all we could do was provide moral support by NEVER missing an episode of Batman. We hung on every BAM! POW! And Gazonk! …and we never, NEVER asked why the bad guys didn’t simply shoot Batman when they had the chance. Well stupid Stevie did but he was stupid and we exiled him the first time he asked such a blasphemous question. (Stupid Stevie grew up to become a professor of advanced mathematics, but somehow never became a great comic book collector. To my knowledge to this day has never had a date!)



But I digress…

The other way in which I personally provided moral support was to get my hands on every single Batman comic I could lay my hands on. It wasn’t enough just to buy them from the local candy store. I canvassed every teenager in my neighborhood and got THEIR old Batman comics for a dime a piece. I must take a moment to point out that this was a sad exercise for me as said teens were eager to part with their comics for a mere pittance. I was convinced that senility hit at about age 14. Truly tragic.
There’s that wacky digression again!...comics!




I read Batman comics obsessively! Even putting aside my beloved Superman books for a time. And during that summer of 1967 after the first season, I had convinced my counselor at east New York Day Camp that not only could I NOT swim but that I was so afraid of the water that the only thing to do was let me sit in the stands and read my comics every day at swim time. In fact I was, and am, an excellent swimmer and take to the water like a duck. But such was my Batmania that no sacrifice was too great. The BAT must be fed after all.

And if you could travel back in time to those halcyon days of Batmania you might very well come across a 9 year old boy sitting by the pool at East New York Day Camp, plastic batcowl firmly on his head, reading ad re-reading Batman Annual #12. A determined look in the eye, a defiant curl to the lip. A true believer.
A Batmaniac….

Me.

That’s 30!

Mitch

Friday, November 16, 2012

Black Friday! - Friday, November 23rd


You all ask about it each and every year. Will you be doing it again? What day is it? HOW MUCH OF A DISCOUNT!? Well, your prayers have been answered. BLACK FRIDAY IS NEXT WEEK! On Friday, November 23rd starting at 7AM it all goes down! Here is the discount breakdown so there is absolutely no confusion:

7AM - 9AM = 40% OFF EVERYTHING!
9AM - 11AM = 30% OFF EVERYTHING!
11AM - 12PM = 25% OFF EVERYTHING!
12PM - 9PM = 20% OFF EVERYTHING!

It's an all day event but the earlier the better! And don't forget, if you physically enter the store during the times mentioned above, you will get a ticket that will give you that percentage off until you're ready to check out. We hope to see you then!


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Universal Horror

Every year as Halloween approaches I dig out my copies of the classic Universal Horror films and toss them in the DVD player. Frankenstein, the Wolfman, the Mummy, The Invisible Man, Bride of Frankenstein and, of course, Dracula. It is sort of like visiting with old friends. In fact I have seen those films so many times and know them SO well that, over the last decade or so I have barely paid attention to them when making my annual visit. They were more like background noise than films I was actually invested in watching.




That is until THIS year! Universal has invested in a massive restoration project in celebration of their 100th anniversary and the Universal Horror Films have gotten a complete work over and a release in an eight disk BluRay package.



Naturally, being the model of fiscal restraint that I am, I bought it immediately despite the fact that I already own every release of these films since VHS! This package is not just a reissue of the recent DVD collections scanned for High Def. Each film was given a complete restoration beginning with an emulsion bath that repaired scratches and other visual artifacts. The films were scanned a frame at a time and corrected for contrast, film grain properly adjusted, sound cleaned up and editing restored to as close to original as possible. The result are films that are in fact better looking than when first released. Universal took great pains to preserve the creative intent of the directors and have succeeded admirably. In addition to the eight iconic films there are over twelve hours of extras, including several previously unreleased documentaries. Add in a very slick booklet that is a rather long essay on the Universal Horror years and we get a must own package for any serious film buff.
The collection kicks off with the 1931 version of Tod Browning’s Dracula, starring (of course) Bela Lugosi. The restoration process has removed all of the distractions, such as sound hiss, choppy camera cuts and muddy frames and allows the viewer to actually WATCH the movie. And what a wonderful movie it is. Actually what a wonderful PERFORMANCE it is. Dracula as a film is a pretty static restaging of the Broadway play, and as such is not nearly as much of a visual treat as the subsequent Universal hit, “Frankenstein”.
But you can’t take your eyes off of Lugosi. The legendary Hungarian actor established every important trope of the film vampire in that one 85 minute film. It was Lugosi, who made the Vampire a seductive, sexual figure.
Stoker wrote him as a soldier in the novel. Morneau presented the Vampire as a rat like parasite in Nosferatu. Chaney played a faux vampire with a row of shark like teeth in the lost “London After Midnight”.
In fact Vampires were anything BUT romantic. Lugosi changed that for all time with his portrayal of an urbane, well dressed and sexually charged predator. Look at the women he seduces. After he bites them, they look awfully happy about it! This portrayal of the Vampire as seducer persists to this day in shows like Angel, Buffy, and True Blood.

Decades of familiarity and satire have rendered Lugosi’s performance revered and at the same time over looked. He is STILL the image most people see when they hear the word Dracula. Ask anyone to talk like Dracula and they invariably imitate Bela , even if they have never seen the movie. This was a mixed blessing for the wonderful character actor as it closed far more doors than it opened. Unlike Karloff who enjoyed a long career filled with starring roles, Lugosi’s star began to wane at the very moment of his greatest triumph. That is because he was SO recognizable as the Count that studios did not believe audiences would accept him in any other role BUT Dracula. Karloff had the makeup of the monster to save him from that fate. Lugosi was completely recognizable as Dracula.
The sad thing was that audiences were perfectly willing to accept Lugosi in other roles. It was Universal and other studios that were short sighted. Critics lauded his turns in Black Cat, as Igor in Son Of Frankenstein, the lawgiver in island of Lost Souls and even the smallish role of Bela the Fortuneteller in The Wolfman. And anyone who has ever seen White Zombie has the image of Lugosi as “Murder” Legrande forever burned into their memory. Lugosi was a wonderful actor who always gave his all to any role, no matter how demeaning to him as an actor, because he felt that he owed that to his audience.




And he DID give us many wonderful performances. But even if all he gave us was his performance as Dracula, it would have been more than enough.
Check out Universal Classic Monsters the Essential Collection on BluRay if you get a chance. It’s well worth your time. I for one am looking forward to reacquainting myself with Karloff’s Monster tonight!

That’s 30!

Mitch

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The First Comic

Ask most comic collectors about the “birth” of the medium and they will probably tell you it all started with the first issue of Action Comics with the cover date June 1938. This is about as true as the story that Abner Doubleday invented Baseball while on a trip to Cooperstown New York in 1839. In fact Doubleday was nowhere near Cooperstown that summer, he was at West Point and there is no evidence that e ever even SAW a baseball game, much less invented it. But myth often has longer legs than reality. So it is with Comics.

Action #1 was the first comic book to feature a “modern” superhero, but it missed being the first comic book by several decades. The credit for being the first publication that would be recognized as a “comic book” generally goes to Richard Outcault’s “Yellow Kid”, a series of comics published in Hearst’s New York World. These strips were published in a collected edition called “The Yellow Kid In McFadden’s Flats” in 1897. (Although Roudolphe Topffer’s “The Adventures of Obadiah Duck” was actually published in 1827, it was more an illustrated story or graphic novel than a comic book).




By 1905 Windsor McCay was creating “Little Nemo In Slumberland” for the New York Herald, another strip (lavishly illustrated) that would later be published in several collected editions. McCay was noted for his expressive drawing style and set Nemo’s world in a dreamscape. He is also noted for creating the very first animated cartoon featuring a character with a distinct personality, “Gertie The Dinasour” (1915).
In 1933 “Funnies On Parade”, another reprint collection made it’s debut as a giveaway promotional item and is later followed by the long running “Famous Funnies” which typically sold for a dime. This ten cent price, it’s size (5.5X8”) made “Funnies On Parade” the first “true” comic book.

In fact Action #1 was not even the first DC comic book! In 1934, National Allied Publications, under the ownership of the colorful Major Maclom Wheeler –Nicholson published “New Fun: The Big Comic Magazine” #1 and would follow up with “New Comics” #1 (also cover dated 1934) before launching Detective Comics planned for 1936 (cover dated March 1937). “New Comics” would later evolve into “Adventure Comics” which ran through issue #503 (1983).

Dc was well underway before it Harry Donnenfeld took over the company and launched a series of new titles featuring new content. Action #1 would make it’s debut with an untried concept created by two young men from Cleveland named Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster…Superman.

There you have it…myth or fact…nothing is ever as simple as it seems!

That’s 30!

Mitch



Friday, September 28, 2012

The “Keys” to collecting

With NYCC just around the corner it is possible that some of you will be making their first foray into the murky waters known as BACK ISSUE COLLECTING. With that in mind here are a few random thoughts.

• Before wandering onto a convention floor filled with dozens of dealers and thousands of books, none of which you are familiar with, check out your local comic shop! Chances are they already have some of the books you are looking for and will give you a great break. Even if they don’t, you can get some great tips AND a comic book price guide from your regular comic shop (which for the discerning comics connoisseur is of course COMICBOOK JONES!)

• Speaking of price guides, DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT ONE! While price guides are just that, GUIDES, the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide is the standard for most of the dealers you will meet at any show.

• Prepare a want list and a budget. Going in prepared will not only make your shopping more efficient, it will almost certainly save you money.

• If you see that book you MUST have but is outside your budget, my advice is to pass it up. Comics have a way of coming back around at your price sooner or later.

• Don’t be afraid to haggle. If you are polite and reasonable any good dealer will cut you a deal. Just don’t waste his time (and yours by offering $100 for a book worth $5,000).

• On any significant purchase it is perfectly acceptable to ask the dealer to remove the book from it’s bag so you can confirm to your satisfaction that the book meets the grade you are paying. Mylar bags can often make a book appear to be in a higher grade than it really is. And don’t forget, comics have BACK covers too!

• Bring along a box to protect those purchases. It can be a mailing box or anything comic book sized that you can then carry in your bag. A lot of books get damaged AFTER collectors buy them. IF you just slip the book, even a bagged and boarded book, into your bag it WILL get bent!
• If you are planning to buy CGC or “slabbed” books it pays to check out http://comics.gpanalysis.com/gpaforcomics_features.asp and www.cgc.com . Slabbed books often go for well over the prices in your comic book price guide. It pays to do some research before you overpay! Check out Ebay and search on closed auctions for that book you are looking for to see what the current market will bear.
And now a word about KEY issues

The “Keys” to collecting.

If you have been collecting for more than about 20 minutes some other collector, dealer or publication will refer to a certain issue of a certain comic as a “key” issue. A key issue can be:
1) A first appearance of a character (Superman, Spiderman etc.)

2) The first issue of a new book (Avengers #1, FF #1 etc.)

3) The death of a significant character (Gwen Stacy, Johnny storm etc.)

4) A significant change in the direction of a book, character or universe. (Crisis On Infinite Earths, Civil War etc.)

5) The beginning of a run for a creator or creators who make a big impact. (Neal Adams on Green Lantern or Frank Miller on Daredevil etc.)

Not all books that meet this criteria can be considered keys of course. While Daredevil #1 certainly IS a big time Marvel key, one could hardly say that about The Human Fly #1 . The “key’ word to keep in mind is SIGNIFICANT. If the event does not make a big change, it can’t be considered a key.

There are two compelling reasons to keep track of key issues. First, these are landmarks in the evolution of your favorite book/characters and generally have long term impact on the universe they “live” in. Second, keys tend to increase more in value as collectibles than non-keys.

To the second point, there has been a tendency over the last couple of decades to label marginal or obviously insignificant events “keys”. Why? Because it generates a short term spike in the “value” of that book on the back issue market.

My personal favorite of the non-key, keys is the numbering snafu. Every now and then a company will put a book on hiatus and then restart at #1. This is done to reignite interest in a given book or character and to bring new readers into the fold. Sound marketing strategy to be sure. But that does not make the new Iron Man #1 the actual Iron Man #1, especially when the company will, sooner or later revert to the original numbering. You will see dealers at shows bump those books up a few bucks. Beware. They almost always come back down in value. Renumbering does not generate keys.

Variants are not keys. While they are very nice and I collect a lot of them myself, variants are just a different cover. Even variants that are short printed only rarely hold elevated value, and in any event are more in demand because of low print runs. Not because they are keys.

So there you have it. Key issues are fun to collect and will broaden your appreciation of your comics and it’s history, but they are not nearly as plentiful as we have been lead to believe.

Now for something truly mind numbing!

Have you ever gone online to buy a back issue and seen the following…

“Action #242 – VG Solid Grade (CFO,CVR CRS, AD)” and said to yourself…HUH?

Well then you have been exposed to Comic Collector Abbreviation Hell! Few who enter can ever expect to come back alive…unless they have my handy dandy cheat sheet.

Now if that Action #242 ad had actually been written in English it would have said:

“Action #242, Very Good Solid Grade (Center Fold Out, Cover Crease, Arrival Date on Cover)”

That’s a lot clearer BUT also a lot more typing. However those facts might directly effect your decision to buy so you really need to know those abbreviations or it could cost you MONEY!!! With that in mind here are all the abbreviations you will ever need!

ad = Arrival date
bc = back cover
bndry = bindery
brc = bottom right corner
brttl = brittle
bttm = bottom
chew = chewed
chp = chip
cfo = center fold out
cl = cover loose
clr chp = color chip
coa = certificate of authenticity
ct or clr tch = color touch
cnr = corner
crs = crease
cvr = cover
cvrlss = coverless
dst shad = dust shadow
dtch = detached
ext = extra
fc = front cover
fd = faded
fxng = foxing
gl = glossy
grs pncl = grease pencil
int = interior
lft = left
lt = light
lt sub crs = light subs. crease
mnr = minor
mrvl chp = marvel chip
mssng = missing
owp = off white pages
pc = piece
pg = page
pll = pull
r = restored
reinf = reinforced
restpld = restapled
rll = roll
rstd = rusted
slvrfsh = silverfish damage
smll = small
splt = split
spn = spine
stckr = sticker
stmp = stamp
stn = stain
stpl = staple
sub crs = subscription crease
tn = tan
tny = tinny
tp = tape
tr = tear
wp = white paper
ws = water stain
wtr dmg = water damage

YIKES!

By the way – P=Poor, G=Good, VG=Very Good, F=Fine, VF=Fine, VF/NM=Very Fine/Near Mint, NM=Near Mint and M=Mint (good luck with that last one!)

That’s 30!

Mitch

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Superman's Godfather

Whether you realize it or not every single artist who draws Superman today is influenced by the late great Curt Swan, who was the lead artist on the character for nearly thirty years. But it was Wayne Boring who would define the look of Superman from the late 40’s and through the 1950s’ In fact it was Boring who created the look of the entire Superman galaxy, including Metropolis and Krypton as envisioned by Mort Weisenger (Editor and DC’s Keeper of The Superman Mythos). Boring’s work still influences artists today. Together Boring and Weisinger defined the Man of Steel through a renaissance that lasted for over a decade.




In 1937, he began "ghosting" (drawing for hire without credit) on such comic-book features as Slam Bradley for the Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster . In 1938, Siegel and Shuster's character Superman was published in Action #1 and Boring became a ghost on the soon spun off Superman newspaper strip eventually becoming the credited artist.
Boring became the primary Superman artist through the 1950s. Swan succeeded him the following decade, though Boring returned for sporadic guest appearances in the early 1960s and then again in late 1966 and early 1967.

Where Swan created a sleeker, more athletic, more realistic looking Superman, Boring’s man Of Steel was barrel chested, chiseled of jaw and bursting with power. During the Boring years Superman would regularly be seen knocking whole planets around like so many billiard balls. Superman was never more powerful than when drawn by Boring.
By the mid 60’s Wayne’s role with Superman was diminished and he was let go from DC in 1967. Though he did make the occasional guest appearances in the mid 1980’s .
Boring died of a heart attack in 1987 at age 81.

That’s 30!

Mitch

Thursday, August 30, 2012

NYCC 2012 Is Just Around The Corner!



Well it is just about that time! The 2012 New York Comic Con is upon us. Just a little bit over a month away and BOY am I excited!! Aside from the legendary San Diego affair, NYCC is the largest gathering of comic book collectors ( as well as sci-fi, movie, TV, game and Anime fans!) in the world. This year well over 100,000 fans will be attending the show which runs at the Javits Center from October 11th through the 14th. So here is my yearly guide for first timers and veterans alike!
Now you can go to the NYCC or you can go with a plan. Either way you will have a great time. But if you take a little bit of time to plan your days you will get the most out of the convention experience. With that in mind here are some tips and tools you may want to add to your NYCC Survival Kit:

1) Make use of the tools and schedule posted on the New York Comic Con Official Website. (www.newyorkcomiccon.com ). They have everything from floor maps to panel and show schedules, a list do’s and don’ts, booth locations for every dealer and show exclusives. This is all tied into an online show planner tool so you can print out your master plan! Trust me, you will NOT be able to attend every event at the Con. If you go in blind you will likely miss that ONE event you want to see most. So spending a few hours with the Show Planner is time well spent.

2) Arrive EARLY on the day of the Con. It is an absolute madhouse and it is very easy to find yourself still waiting to get in a good hour after the convention starts. Get into Manhattan early, have a BIG breakfast (you are going to need it! But more on food in a bit), and be among the first on line. One of the best times at the Con, for me, is chatting to people who are waiting to get into the show. It is a great opportunity to make new friends who share your passion for comics.

3) Bring a shopping “kit”. Believe me you don’t want to be walking around the floor with your swag dropping behind you. My kit consists of a good sized back pack with the following: two or three very sturdy shopping bags, a poster tube, bags and boards for any loose comics, Comic Book Price Guide, Folder with my show plan print outs, camera and extra batteries, and some snacks.

4) Ok, let’s talk food. You do NOT want to buy food inside the Javits Center. It is not bad by any means but it IS expensive and if you are like me, you have a limited budget. I for one would rather spend my dough on collectibles and not a $6 hot dog. Eat before you come in, slide a bag lunch or snack into your kit, and go OUT for dinner. There are several reasonably priced eating options outside the Javits Center. Believe me you ARE going to need to eat and refuel as NYCC will severely test your endurance!

5) We all know that one of the main reasons we attend the Con in the first place is to satisfy our UNBRIDLED AVARICE! When I look around at all that swag and all those dealers I feel like an Orange Lantern! Larfleeze Lives! MINEMINEMINE!!! BUT you can’t have everything so you need to maximize your bucks. Take the time to make a shopping list. What items are you aggressively hunting? Which are “nice to have” and which are low priority? Set a drop dead price for your items. Don’t over spend on a collectible. You may not get it at the Con but it WILL come your way down the road at your price if you are realistic in your expectations. Don’t go ANYWHERE without your trusty price guide. A CBG or Overstreet guide is a must in your kit. Second, shop around! Chances are that several dealers have the items you want. Don’t be afraid to bargain (just be polite and reasonable) and do your buying at the END of the day, preferably the end of the day on Sunday. Why? Dealers always give their best prices at the end of a show. Also anything you buy early, you are going to have to carry around for the rest of the day (unless you have a VIP pass and access to the VIP lounge).

6) FREE STUFF! Even if you don’t spend a DIME on a single comic or collectible you can go home with BAGS of free swag, from comics, to tee shirts, toys, posters…you name it. This should be your first hunter/gatherer activity because the best swag always goes FIRST. Hit the smaller companies first because they generally run out of give a ways before the big guys like Marvel and DC.

7) PACE YOURSELF. Especially if you are attending all three days you are going to need to take some breaks just to get away from the crowds. Breaks are the best time to find a quiet place and organize your swag/purchases to make sure they are not being damaged or lost. It is also a good idea to use breaks as a way to hook up with people you are attending the show with. Over the course of the day you WILL get separated so having a set time and place for a break will cut down on the “OMG!! I lost my little brother” syndrome.

8) Secure your personal electronics and your money. You are going to be sharing space with 100,000 people and on Saturday in particular you won’t be able to MOVE on the main floor. It is easy to lose your I-Pod, Cell phone or money if you don’t keep them secured properly. Plus, as much as we don’t like to think so, not everyone is honest. People WILL try to take your stuff if you tempt them by leaving it within easy reach. Keep your money in a front pocket and not in a wallet or purse. Think about living without your I-Pod (LEAVE IT HOME!)for the day and make sure your cell phone is secure on your person. Also, most of the transactions you will make will be in cash. While it is rare to find a dealer who will try to cheat you with change and such, they ARE handling so much money at the same time that it is EASY to make a mistake. It is ultimately YOUR responsibility to make sure you account for all of your change on purchases. COUNT it right there in front of the dealer before you leave the booth. A little vigilance will keep your weekend from being ruined by loss or theft.

9) One of my personal pet peeves is people dominating an autograph line. Nothing is more inconsiderate than bringing a BOX of items for a creator to sign. They have a limited amount of time to sign and if they burn up ten minutes of the hour on one person then other fellow collectors are going to go away disappointed. Don’t be a part of that problem. Three items or less is plenty and will help the line move along!

10) FINALLY make sure to tell everyone you meet that YOU shop at the very best comic shop in the world. Comic Book Jones! (Ok it’s a shameless plug but then I am a shameless guy !)

Have a great time at the con. See you there!

That’s 30!

Mitch

Thursday, August 16, 2012

This N That Reborn!

Ok…it’s official! Collecting comics has officially hit the 21st century! Last night I received a call from a comic auction house (that I will leave nameless) to tell me that a book I had inquired about TWO years ago was up for auction. It was an Archie #50 (CGC 5.0)

Clearly they had a record of that inquiry and when they posted this book (which I actually purchased some time ago from another seller) came up they generated a call list from their database and began making calls to get the bidding going! I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing but I WISH they had called me sooner because I might have actually bid on a second copy! Well, they are still working out the bugs. Comic telemarketing. Whoda thunk it?!


They released a great teaser trailer for next summer’s Superman flick “Man of Steel.” Let’s just say that it really pulled me in! Finally a Superman who doesn’t float! He FLIES, and powerfully! Check it out on You Tube!



DC Universe Online is set to release it’s next update pack (DLC5) in September. It’s big, its bad and it’s got Dr. Fate! I’ve been hooked since launch. DCUO is a great game. ALSO it’s free to play, so give it t try you gold brickin’ yahoos! www.dcuniverseonline.com

Let’s do a little math. Suppose you purchase ten comics a week at an average price of slightly over $2.99 each. Add your local discount (which is a nice fat 10% at CBJ each and every Wednesday…yet another unabashed plug!!!), allow for the occasional trade paperback or special issue and you can easily invest over $200 per year on your comic fix. And that is IF you only average TEN books a week. I average close to twenty and I know a lot of collectors who buy far more than that!

Obviously we make a pretty hefty investment, on an annual basis, in our hobby! So why would ANYONE not want to take proper care of their collection when it costs you LESS than 10% to properly care for your precious books???

Believe it or not, many if not MOST, collectors fail to do at least one of the big three.

The BIG THREE are
1) Bag and Board
2) Box
3) Inventory

Bagging and boarding your books is the single most basic and important step in maintaining your collection in top condition. Over time even modern books on high grade paper will degrade for any number of reasons. They become creased, water damage, tears, color fade etc. By putting your books in bags with acid free backing boards you can protect your comics from most, though not all, forms of degradation. There are many options for bagging and boarding your comics that can run you between 10 and 25 cents a comic. LESS than 10%! I prefer to put all of my books from Silver Age through Modern Age into SILVER AGE resealable bags with Silver Age Acid Free boards.

Why use the larger Silver Age Bag for smaller modern comics? Well, it is an individual choice but I find that Modern Age bags are a bit tight and with my fumble thumbs I am more likely to damage the book during the process of bagging and boarding. Using a Silver Age bag in conjunction with Silver Age boards gives me a nice tight fit BUT allows some wiggle room in bagging and then removing the comic for reading. I use resealable bags because I don’t like to fuss with the scotch tape but resealable are not better or worse than normal bags. I also tend to use the lighter gauge bags because I think the books LOOK better in them but again that is a personal choice and many collectors favor the heavier bag.

Of course I am describing bagging and boarding with standard bags and acid free boards. You can also opt to use Mylar or Mylite bags but they are more expensive and typically will push your cost to 25 cents a book, still a great deal. Mylar/Mylites have several advantages. Mylar is the heavier, less flexible of the two choices for archival storage.

Mylites 2 are made from 2-mil thick Mylar. The 2 mil sleeves are twice the thickness and 4 times the protection of 1 mil thick bags, and offer hundreds of times the archival storage protection of non-archival polypropylene and polyethylene bags. This means that you won’t have to rebag your comics every five years or so. I use this option for my more valuable and older books. Both Mylite and Mylar make your books look fantastic!

BIG NOTE HERE ON MYLAR AND MYLITE! When you go to shows bear in mind that the books you are looking at up on the wall all benefit in appearance from Mylar storage. They tend to look HIGHER in grade than they really are. Any reputable dealer will let you see the book OUTSIDE the bag if you are considering a purchase. If the dealer refuses to do so I always wonder what he/she is hiding and move on to the next table. Of course the etiquette goes both ways, never ask a dealer to remove a book from the Mylar unless you ARE seriously considering making a purchase.

The bottom line is that bagging and boarding your comics is a must for any serious collector. You never know, you MAY want to sell your books one day and they will always fetch a better price if they are in high grade.

Now let’s talk about boxes.

You COULD use any old box for your comics. Anything made of sturdy cardboard will do. However I use standard long and short comic boxes, specifically designed for my books.
The Comic Long Box is the highest quality, most competitively priced cardboard storage box on the market today. They are constructed of white corrugated paper and have a 200 lb. test strength. Use this box to store and protect all your valuable collectible comics.

The major advantage to using comic boxes designed to HOLD comics is that you can store your books standing up which makes them much easier to arrange and organize. In addition the heavy gauge boxes are somewhat stackable. I typically have no problem going three high myself. Another advantage is that you can get about 250 bagged and boarded comics into a single long box. As your collection grows storage DOES become a very real issue. I currently have over 30 long boxes filled with my “active” collection and at least that many more that I have archived away. If I tried to do that with non standard boxes, it would be a complete mess!

A note on boxing. If you box your comics UNBAGGED and UNBOARDED they tend to bend and suffer damage over time. Boxing your books in that state IS better than not boxing them at all but I highly recommend doing the two in conjunction.

ANOTHER NOTE ON BOXING. I keep different “flavors” of box.

1) First are my “Active boxes” these seven or eight boxes are for my current ongoing purchases of ongoing titles. (Superman, FF, Iron Man, current mini series etc)

2) Completed runs. In these boxes I store recent completed mini-series and canceled books. I can get at them easily but it leaves my Active Boxes free for filing new books.

3) Archive boxes – These are boxes that I use for multiples, books I want to sell, older books I am not going to read any time soon etc.

4) Current “Read me” box. This is a short box that I keep for my brand new, unread books. When I fill it after reading them, those books move down to my Active Boxes for filing.

Now to, what I consider the most overlooked aspect of maintaining a comic collection. INVENTORY.

“Why should I inventory my comics? I know what I have.” Tell me that when you own 1,000 comics, or 5,000 comics. They add up SO fast. Just go back to our original premise of 10 books a week and you add 520 comics to your collection EVERY year! There is no way anyone can know every single book they own unless they record them in an inventory. There are MANY advantages to maintaining an up to date and accurate inventory of your books.

1) On that day you consider selling your comics it will help to know what you own!

2) A good inventory also tells you what you NEED. Want to fill in that run of Amazing Spiderman? Keep an inventory and you can create a “want list” anytime.

3) I ALREADY buy doubles accidentally because I am chronically absent minded. If I did not keep an inventory I would probably buy two of everything!!

4) A good inventory allows you to properly organize your books so you can actually FIND a title when you want it. All you need to do is NUMBER your boxes and make a note of which box your inventoried book is in. You are not compelled to keep them in alphabetical order which is a pain to maintain.

5) A good inventory helps you in knowing when to archive a title or put it into a “non-active” box. For instance I have all of my Secret Invasion and Final Crisis runs in a single box. As they are completed runs I don’t need to keep them in my active boxes.

“OK, so HOW do I inventory my books?” you ask. Good question grasshopper! There are several ways depending on the size of your collection and how much detail you want to go in to. At one time or another I have used all of the following methods.

1) Writing the titles on the outside of the box. This is the MOST basic way to inventory your books. However the minute you consolidate your books the information is no longer correct. I gave this up almost as soon as I started the practice. NOT a good method at all.

2) The next method I used was to record my books into a notebook. I established 10-20 pages per title and entered the issue #, qty, condition, value and which box they were in. This IS a very accurate way to keep an inventory but it also has some drawbacks. Not the least of which is that you have to WRITE an awful lot and that you have to RE-write when you change the storage box, or the value changes. It is a nice ANALOG method though if you are computer phobic!

3) Computer Spreadsheet – Excel, Lotus, it makes no difference. Any spreadsheet program will work. You can easily update and edit your inventory and create reports and charts. I used this method for several years until I migrated to an Access database.

4) If you are a computer geek like me and know how to use Access, you can build a custom inventory program. This is the method I use today. This has advantages over a spreadsheet because data entry is easier, you have many more reporting options and your data can be imported/exported to a number of different formats. The disadvantage to this method is that, like the other methods, updates happen manually across the board and you must create a new record for every entry. There are a lot of keystrokes involved!

5) Third Party database – There are many over the counter programs designed for maintaining your inventory. I currently use ComicBase. (www.comicbase.com) This program automatically updates current values, adds new issues through weekly updates, and gives you an option to post books for sale at NO COST. The program has a robust reporting function and entry only requires me to enter the quantity and location. You no longer have to waste time entering title or story line information. AND ComicBase actually supports bar code scanning so all you have to do is scan the barcode on the cover! There are several good programs out there and most of them have a stripped down FREE version for you to try out to see what works best for you.

A note on inventorying your books. While it is a ton of work at the beginning, once you have caught up with your back stock, keeping your inventory up to date is just a matter of entering your new purchases so don’t be discouraged by the size of the task facing you. It really does pay off in the end!

So there you have it. Using these three steps, I have been able to keep my books in good shape, organized and accessible. I know what I have, what condition it is in, the current value and where all of my books are.
Make sure to ask the team at CBJ about the wide variety of comic book supplies that they carry!!

Is this for you? Well only YOU can answer that. Regardless of the methods you use to maintain your collection, the MOST important thing is to read and enjoy your comics!

That’s 30!
Mitch

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Journey’s End


I have heard it said that there are only ten plots in all of literature. With all respect to whomever said that I submit that there is only ONE plot. The Journey. Think about it. Every book, comic, movie etc. asks you to take a journey with a character or characters from where they are at the beginning of the story, to where they are at the end. How they get there are plot devices, or as Hitchcock loved to call them…Maguffins. The Maltese Falcon was a maguffin. The STORY was about the journey that Sam Spade took and the changes he went through in his pursuit of the Black Bird. He could have been chasing ANYTHING. The STORY wasn’t about the falcon, it was about Sam.
And so it is with Christopher Nolan’s final Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises.




Over the course of three films we have watched Bruce Wayne’s personal journey from an angry young man focused on revenge for his parents murder to someone whose dedication and conviction was so great that he would willingly die to protect his city. He went from (you’ll excuse the expression) avenger to PROTECTOR. It did not happen all at once, and it did not happen without consequence. And that is why the films in this trilogy, and DKR in particular work so well.

Nolan gave us a three dimensional protagonist. A real man who carried real scars. If Batman could exist in the real world, he would probably be very much as Nolan and Bale have envisioned him. We see a Bruce Wayne who feels his defeats both physically and mentally. A man who actually gave up on his alter ego after the events in Dark Knight and becomes a recluse for eight years. We see the physical toll that being Batman took on him and the rebirth he must go through for the Dark Knight to rise again.

Dark Knight Rises is not a great comic book movie. The Avengers is a great comic book movie. Dark Knight Rises is a great movie….period. The drama is very real. The tensions between Alfred and Bruce play intense and absolutely believable. This is not to demean the Avengers in any way. Avengers was a wonderful movie and perhaps the perfect comic book movie. But it was clearly comic book, specifically Silver Age, in it’s sensibilities. It was all primary colors and bright. The conflicts were superficial and the destruction was comic book destruction.

I LOVED the Avengers.


But by contrast, The Dark Knight Rises seems far more real. Nolan’s approach was to take a comic book character and put him in the real world (as much as you can ever put a comic book character in the real world). The color pallet of the film was almost sepia toned, relying far more on blacks, grays and browns. The images of destruction were far more disturbing than in the Avengers imagined and actually invoked memories of 9/11. The film had a gravitas that The Avengers did not because Nolan went out off his way to avoid CGC, 3D and primary colors. He went for grit…and got it in spades.
The Dark Knight Rises is not a movie I can say that I “love” in the same way as the Avengers. I admire it greatly. It moved me and completely invested me for the entire 165 minutes. It also disturbed me. It seemed…real.

Because of this, Bale’s reactions to the events of the film played more realistically his journey rang truer than it would have in a more comic book setting. Christian Bale has had his hits and missed in the first two films but he is spot on in the final chapter. Everything he says and does rings true.

One of the main reasons the film rings so true is the wonderful performance of Tom Hardy as Bane. I always thought of Bane as a second tier villain. Just a lot of muscle with a clich├ęd back story. He was no Joker! But, as played by Hardy, Bane combines the urbane evil of Goldfinger with the physical menace of Darth Vader. (I can almost hear him saying “No Mr. Wayne…I want you to die!”) Hardy’s Bane is an instant classic and is very much on par with Heath Ledger’s Joker.

For long time Batman fans it is easy to see that Nolan took elements from No Man’s Land, The Dark Knight Returns and Nightfall in crafting The Dark Knight Rises. But on the lighter side there was also a dash of James Bond, especially in the person of Bane and in the opening sequence of the film.

While there is a real tease for a sequel this film also, very satisfyingly, CLOSES Nolan’s story as well. Yes, Nolan COULD come back for a fourth film, but he doesn’t need to,

If there was ever a film based on a comic book character that should get Best Picture consideration from the Academy , it’s The Dark Knight Rises.

That’s 30!

Mitch


Thursday, July 12, 2012

When The West Was Really Wild

It may be hard to believe for anyone born in the Star Wars/Star Trek era but there was a time that the movies, TV, radio, and yes even COMICS were dominated by Westerns. In the movie theaters we had John Wayne, Roy Rogers, Randolph Scott and Allan “Rocky “ Lane. On radio and TV there was Gunsmoke, have Gun Will Travel , The Lone Ranger and Bonanza. Zane Grey who specialized in novels about the old west is, to this day, one of the best selling authors of all time.
The popularity of the Western was at it’s absolute peak from the late 30’s through the mid 60’s. And comic books would feature a plethora of horse operas with titles like, Firehair, Rocky Lane, Hoot Gibson, Lone Ranger and literally hundreds of others.
As the popularity of Superheroes in comic books began to wane after WWII other genres began to push their way on to the stands. Crime, horror, romance, humor, war and Western comics would dominate until the late 1950’s when the spandex set would once again flex their meta muscles.






Popular “B” Western stars of the day all had their own titles. Such Saturday Matinee stalwarts as Hoot Gibson, Gabby Hayes, Tex Ritter, Lash LaRue and of course Hopalong Cassidy all enjoyed long comic book runs.
Hoppy in particular was all over the comic book landscape. In 1942 he appeared in Fawcett’s “Master Comics”. In 1943 he got his own title and also appeared in Real Western Hero (#70-75). In 1950 Hoppy showed up in “Six Gun Heroes”, that does not even count the comics that Hopalong Cassidy actor Bill Boyd appeared in! Yes Bill had HIS title too! Bill Boyd Western ran for 23 issues from 1950-1952.

Allan “Rocky” Lane had a comic that ran the gamut from his won title to , Fawcett Movie Comics and even Red Ryder. Lane was a hugely popular B movie actor but is best remembered today as the voice ot TV’s “Mr. Ed”!

Major players in the Western comic genre were Fawcett and Dell, but nearly every publisher had entries. DC, Marvel, Fiction House and Famous Funnies among others all had western titles on the stands in the 40’s and 50’s.

While we still see western comics today featuring such characters as Jonah Hex and (perennial favorite) Lone Ranger. The days of western dominance are long over.
What replaced the Western?

In the Movies and TV it was the Viet Nam era that killed the western. In a more jaded age the simple morality plays that Westerns often were did not find a resonant audience. But there was a double stake through the heart of the movie western. The death of John Wayne and the opening of Star Wars which lead to the rise of the modern Science Fiction/Fantasy movie. Sci-fi and fantasy share a lot of common traits with westerns.

Star Wars in particular IS a Western. They just replaced horses with space ships, six guns with blasters and light sabers. In star wars the bad guy even wears black! In short the movie/TV producers found that audiences still wanted the same stories, they just wanted a setting that more sparked the post baby boom imagination.
Go back and read The Dark Knight returns and you will see many parallels between it and films like High Plains Drifter and Shane. In fact there is one great scene where batman rides into town LITERALLY on horseback!

Before Wolverine discovered his origins, he shared many similarities with Clint Eastwood’s iconic “Man With No Name” character from Leone’s “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” and “For A Few Dollars More”.

As Westerns lost their toe hold in the movies and on TV, their popularity in comic books naturally waned as well. This is not necessarily a bad thing for the Western in either venue because modern Western movies such as Unforgiven, Tombstone and Pale Rider and comics like the current Lone Ranger and All-Star Western tend to be outstanding efforts. Quantity may be down but quality is up!

That’s 30!

Mitch

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Are You In The MMMS?

I have to say that 1966 may have been the greatest year in history of TV for genre fans. That was the year that saw the debut of Star Trek, Dark Shadows, The Adventures Of Superman Animated Series, color broadcasts of the George Reeves Adventures Of Superman and of course

The Marvel Super Heroes

Most of us remember the series as “The Merry Marching Society” but that was actually the name of the marvel Comics Fan Club at the time. We remember the series under that name because of the catchy MMMS theme song that was played at the end of each half hour show.




The Marvel Super Heroes was a limited animation anthology show that stared five different Marvel characters and ran in syndication all across the country (WOR Channel 9 in NYC).




Monday – Captain America
Tuesday – The Hulk
Wednesday – Iron Man
Thursday – Thor
Friday – The Submariner


When I say that these cartoons were limited animation, I am talking EXTREMELY limited! The series was produced by xerography which consisted of scanning and manipulating actual comic book pages. Elements from a panel would be removed and moved whole across the screen. About the only things that were animated were lips. On occasion you might see a limb move but that was about it.


Each half hour show consisted of three 7 minute segments. Sixty- fi half hour shows were produced for a total of 195 segments. They were produced by Gantray –Lawrence Animation based in Canada, who actually subcontracted the Mighty Thor to Paramount Pictures Animation Division.


By any standards, even the animations standards of the time, this was crude work. What made the Marvel Super Heroes …well…MARVelous was the source material. We were actually seeing the 1960’s version of a digital comic book. The stories were lifted from the comics almost word for word. The art was the same as in the comics. Jack Kirby, Don Heck, Gene Colan, and even Steve Ditko art were featured on the show.
And then there were the wonderful and clever theme songs!


Who can forget such immortal lyrics as “Doc Bruce Banner belted by gamma rays turns into the Hulk…ain’t he unglamorous!” . IF only Sinatra had recorded THAT one!



The cast was largely unknown although those of us growing up in the 1960’s will surely remember Sandy Becker who voiced Captain America. Becker was a well known children’s show host in New York who had his own show (The Sandy Becker Show) and also hosted “Wonderama”. He is especially well remembered for how on November 22, 1963 he explained in a compassionate way to his audience of very young children what had happened in Dallas to President Kennedy.


Certainly the hardest working cast member of the cast was Peg Dixon who voiced ALL the female characters! The Wasp, Jane Foster, Pepper Potts, and Lady Dorma among others were all voiced by Dixon. I sure hope she got overtime pay!


Today you can find many of the episodes on DVD, VHS or even You Tube. The Marvel Super Heroes may not be Disney but for those of us who saw the cartoons when they were first made, they remain something wonderful and quirky. Just another reason why 1966 was a milestone year in comics history!


That’s 30!

Mitch

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Happy Birthday Star Wars

Let me get say this up front. I’m a Star Trek guy. Have been since 1966 and I suspect that my first act when I reach the pearly gates or other dimension, Valhalla or StovoKor will be to get the Star Trek DVDS with the correct region codes for the hereafter. Like any life long Trekker, Trekkie, or just plain Trek NUT, I believe Star trek is just plain BETTER than Star Wars. Kirk is cooler than Solo. Data is superior technology to C3PO, and the Enterprise can just plain kick Death Star ASS!


Now that I have hurled that gauntlet I also want to say that I LOVED the original three Star Wars films. I waited impatiently for the ever greedy Lucas Arts to suck every DVD dollar possible before they released the films on BluRay and immediately snatched them up. (My old Star Wars DVDS have an honored place in the Maglio Video Archives. NEVER would I dispose of those babies!). Star Wars is AT LEAST as big as Trek and they did not produce over 400 hours of TV and film to get there.


My point...besides my deliberate attempt to royally tork off both Star Wars AND Star Trek Fans???


(ALWAYS a worthwhile endeavor by the way!)
Star Wars just turned 35!





"Star Wars" launched in theaters May 25, 1977, introducing the world Luke, Darth Vader, Leia, Han Solo, R2-D2 and C-3PO.



The film, spawned two sequels, 1980's "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi,". (The less said about the second trilogy, the better). Empire Strikes Back was my own favorite. Not only was Empire one of the two greatest sequels ever made (Godfather 2 being the best in my opinion), it was one of the best MOVIES ever made...period.


That first film laid the groundwork for a multi-billion-dollar franchise now comprised of comics, games, novels, clothing, all sorts of collectibles, a TV series and of course the legendary Star Wars Christmas Special (you could look it up!). Today one of the most successful MMORPGS being played is Star Wars – The Old Republic. Star Wars is EVERYWHERE.


Star Wars, like Star Trek, has become part of our cultural identity. Who among us hasn’t said “May the Force be With You” at least once in our life? Darth Vader has become one of the most iconic symbols of villainy in popular fiction history. He’s right there with The Joker, Moriarity and even Dracula. Everyone knows what a light saber is, what a Death Star does (and how oddly easy they are to blow up), and what “The Dark Side” is (if not precisely WHERE it is).


But it wasn’t always that way. Many, if not most of those reading this cannot remember a time when there WASN’T a Star Wars. From the time you were little kids, you got Star Wars on a regular basis. I was lucky enough to be there at the very beginning. I was 20 on that magical opening day, when the little hyped Star Wars first hit the big screen. Once out of the bag though, Star Wars spread like Shatner’s belly midway through any given Star Trek season. Yes...it was THAT fast!


It’s hard to express just how ground breaking Star Wars was. You simply had to be there to appreciate the fact that nothing like it had ever come before and that nothing would ever be the same. Of course Star Wars was influenced by the likes of Flash Gordon, Forbidden planet, Saturday Afternoon Westerns and yes...even Star Trek...and yet...Star Wars was also a true original. It wasn’t just the revolutionary special effects. It wasn’t just the great score or the chemistry between the stars. Star Wars resonated with people in much the same way that Rocky did. It took elements from our collective culture and struck a perfect emotional chord with it’s audience. Also like Rocky, Star Wars (while beloved world wide) is resoundingly American. It is a Western writ large across the Galaxy. The good guys wear white and the bad guys wear black. Star Wars was created by the man who gave us American Graffiti, a quintessentially American film. Lucas is steeped in post World War II American values.

Never did he realize them more fully than in that first film.


Happy Birthday Star Wars. Here’s to another 35 years. And MAYBE Lucas Arts will come back from the Dark Side of merchandising and make some more GOOD Star Wars Films. (I can hope can’t I?!)

That’s 30!

Mitch


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Some Animated News!

There is no doubt that Marvel rules the live action Superhero film genre. Movies like The Avengers, Captain America, Iron Man etc. have all been consistently outstanding. DC is hit or miss on the live action front. For every Dark Knight there is a Green Lantern. For every Batman Returns there is a Watchmen. However in the ANIMATED arena DC has no peer. They prove this once again with the recent release of Superman Vs. The Elite. This film is based upon Action Comics #775 “What’s So Funny About truth, Justice And The American Way”. Originally written by Joe Kelly (who adapted his script for the film), Superman Vs. The Elite examines the question of what happens when heroes will go to any length, including murder, to stop the bad guy. The Elite, a group of super powered “heroes” bursts onto the scene and becomes instantly super-popular because their methods are more “Jack Bauer” than “Jack Webb”. This plays into the very human desire for instant revenge. But, as Alan Moore once asked, “who Watches The Watchmen”? In this case it’s none other than Superman. Unfortunately the public relates more to the more violent “Elite” forcing The Man Of Steel to wonder if his time has passed. Without spoiling the ending I will say that it is very well executed and faithful to the spirit of the source material. This is a must see for any Superman or DC animated fan! In other DC Animated news, the long anticipated release of the Dark Knight Returns, based on Frank miller’s ground breaking graphic novel, is just about upon us! I have often observed that the only drawback to DC animated features is that they are sometimes too short. Features generally run about 70 minutes or so which gave short shrift to such entires as Batman Year One and DC New Frontier. Well it looks as if Bruce Timm and company are going to change all that with The Dark knight Returns. The feature will be releasing in TWO parts . Directed by Jay Oliva and executive produced by Bruce Timm, The Dark Knight Returns stars Peter Weller as Batman, Ariel Winter as Robin, David Selby as Jim Gordon, Wade Williams as Harvey Dent and Michael McKean as Dr. Wolper. Part 1 debuts this fall, with Part 2 arriving in early 2013 Peter “Robocop” Weller voicing an aged batman is, in my opinion, an inspired casting choice and I am very much looking forward to seeing how he interprets the Caped Crusader when part one releases this Fall! That’s 30! Mitch

Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Thousand Faces

Lon Chaney The Man of A Thousand Faces More than 80 years since his last film, the name Lon Chaney still conjures up powerful images of the macabre even among fans who have never seen one of his films. Best known for his defining performances of Quasimodo in 1923’s Hunchback of Notre Dame and as Eric in the Phantom Of The Opera (1925), Chaney set a standard for film acting that has been approached, but never exceeded.
Chaney was born Leonidas Frank Chaney on April 1, 1883 and passed away at the age of 47 in 1930. Along the way he became one of the biggest stars of his era and the first actor to employ a more naturalistic (re: modern) style of film acting. He was the Bogart of his era. Both of Lon’s parents were deaf and mute. In order to communicate with his parents, Lon became skilled at the art of pantomime, a skill that would serve him well in the coming art form of Silent Film. Although remembered as a “horror” actor, Chaney was more of a character actor and his portrayals covered a huge range of subjects from classics such as Hunchback, to modern crime dramas like The Penalty (1920) and While the City Sleeps (1928). Even films like Phantom Of the Opera and Hunchback were not, strictly speaking “horror” films. In fact Chaney created characterizations that are still the template for their modern counterparts. His portrayal of 'Dan' Coghlan, the world weary and tough as nails detective in While The City Sleeps set the stage for Bogart’s Sam Spade through Telly Savalas’ Kojak. His turn as the demented crime lord “Blizzard” in the Penalty inspired every gangster protrayal from Edward G. Robinson in Little Cesar right up to Pachino’s Scarface. Tell It to the Marines is a 1926 movie starring Lon Chaney and directed by George W. Hill. The film follows a Marine recruit and the sergeant who trains him. It was the biggest box office success of Chaney's career and the second biggest moneymaker of 1926/1927. In this film Chaney plays the rough marine “Sarge” with a heart of gold. His turn as “Skeet” burns can be found in nearly every war film to come out of Hollywood in the last 85 years. This film was a special favorite of Chaney’s because of his love of the Marine Corps. In fact, his portrayal struck such a chord within the Corps, he would become the FIRST actor ever to be made an honorary Marine. A reviewer in Leatherneck Magazine wrote that "few of us who observed Chaney's portrayal of his role were not carried away to the memory of some sergeant we had known whose behavior matched that of the actor in every minute detail ... Such was the impact of Chaney the actor. In the area of the macabre, it was his pairing with legendary director Todd (Dracula) Browning that cemented Chaney’s reputation as a genre star. Lon did 10 films with browning including “The Unholy Three” and as Alonzo the armless knife thrower in “The Unknown” . Chaney did not so much play monsters as tragic, often deformed men outside of normal society. His portrayal of Pharso “dead legs” in the 1928 silent “West Of Zanzibar” is a perfect example of this “man as monster” portrayal. In the film Chaney is a cuckolded husband whose wife cannot tell him of her affair. Instead his wife’s lover, informs Phroso that he is taking Anna to Africa, shoving the distraught husband away so forcefully that he falls over a railing and is crippled, losing the use of his legs. After a year, Phroso learns that Anna has returned. He finds his wife dead in a church, with a baby beside her. He swears to avenge himself on both Crane and the child. Eighteen years later, Pharso has taken the child to a hellhole in Zanzabar where he makes her daily life a never ending torment. It is only when he chances upon his wife’s former lover that Chaney learns that the child is actually HIS daughter. Chaney’s reaction to the horror of what he himself has become is one of the most chilling moments in film history and a perfect example of Chaney the “horror” actor. Lon’s reputation as a horror actor was actually cemented by the late Forrest J. Ackerman who was the founder and editor of Famous Monsters Of Filmland Magazine which began publication in 1958. At that time silent films had largely disappeared from public view. And the generation of silent stars were mostly forgotten except by those who actually saw them. Ackerman had, like millions of other filmgoers, been deeply moved by Lon’s portrayals in Hunchback and Phantom . he published on a regular basis photos and articles about the great silent film star. He especially played on “the Man of A Thousand Faces” aspect of Chaney’s work, building a legend around the star among generations of fans who never saw his work. In fact, it was through FMF that I became fascinated with the life and work of Lon Chaney. My first exposure to Chaney came in a barely viewable, heavily edited, print of Phantom of the Opera that was aired on “The Joe Franklin Show” on WOR (Channel 9) back in the late 1960’s. Franklin had a long running TV and radio shows in the area that focused heavily on nostalgia and silent film. In fact it was just about the only venue outside of an art house where one could see any silent film. Even heavily edited and projected on modern equipment which under cranked the film, making it run at 24fps as opposed to the intended 18fps, the power of Chaney’s performance was undeniable. I was hooked. Of course in those days most of my exposure to Lon was only through Forry’s magazine and some grainy footage. There simply was not a lot of access to this locked off period of early cinema. Happily the advent of film preservation societies, DVD and digital video and TCM (Turner Classic Movies) has opened up a huge library of early film that has been remastered and can now be seen as originally intended. This includes a large cross section of Lon’s work. Today fans can see Phantom of the Opera as it was originally shot, including scenes that were filmed in an early two strip technicolor! Tell it To The Marines is available as are films like The Unknown, The Unholy Three, West Of Zanzibar and many more Chaney classics. Even the “lost” London After Midnight has been restored, after a fashion under the auspices of Turner Classic Movies. Chaney often said that “between pictures there IS no Lon Chaney”. Nothing could have been further from the truth. In his private life, Lon was a devoted husband and father. He was an avid sportsman who loved hunting and fishing. He was a wonderful dancer and loved to tinker with home movies. Lon was an all around average Joe! He also raised a son, Creighton, who would become known to the world as Lon Chaney Jr. and a film legend in his own right as The Wolfman. Lon was also a strong advocate for the men and women behind the scenes, always pushing for better pay and better hours for the cameramen, grips, and support crew that were so integral to his cinematic creations. Some years before another actor would find his own fame, Chaney gave some advice to a struggling young man who would become the great Karloff. He told him to find one thing he did better than anybody and stick to it. Obviously Karloff took that advice to heart. Lon passed away at the too young age of 47 from bronchial lung cancer in 1930. He left behind a rich legacy of film, many original characterizations that have become templates for actors to this very day, and a mystique. The mystique of “The Man Of A Thousand Faces”. Film lovers today are very lucky that they have the opportunity to experience that legacy first hand. For those of you who are going to see your very first Lon Chaney film, I envy you. Sit back, watch, and wonder. Lon Chaney…a thousand faces That’s 30! Mitch

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Finding Light In The Dark Age Of Comics

I thought I would ask the SECOND biggest comic geek I know to do a guest column this week. I am talking about none other than my own daughter Alyx who many of you call Sasha. I was going to say something pithy but I will just let her work speak for itself. I may be biased but i think it's good stuff! The world isgetting a little to dark and gritty for me. Not Liefeld gritty but definitely Millergritty. I won’t insult your intelligence by stating the obvious too often buthang on don’t stop reading I’m building up to something when I say that we livein a genuinely pessimistic age and our pop-culture is very reflective of that. . The end of the SilverAge showed that characters COULD die now and the Bronze Age took a darker bendto it as well, but never without plot relevant reasons. The Bronze Age endedwhen Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns hit the shelves and changedeverything. Art got darker, the plot lines got darker, and heroes were morelikely to be anti-heroes and sometimes downright unlikable (in the case ofUltimate Wolverine). This also became the height of Rob Liefeld’s career andwhile he certainly can’t draw his age left many new characters who are massivefan favorites today…after someone else started writing them, as was the casewith the ever lovable Deadpool. For most people myage who lack the education my father so kindly bestowed upon me (hey, someonehas to take up the shield) the idea of comics brings really only three thingsto mind: Batman, non-Euclidian body shapes, and convoluted stories. Eventalking to some of my friends who don’t read comics with the same enthusiasm Ido can be a challenge because when trying to explain that Thor’s Uru hammer Mjolniris a cane in that panel and no really this Donald Blake guy is totally Thor butisn’t really a secret identity but is a separate person and wait where are yougoing? Even trying to talk about Cable is impossible as you can imagine. Convincingpeople to pick up a comic these days becomes a pain when they’re under theimpression that either the stories are completely ridiculous or impossiblydark. For about twodecades it’s been hard to pick up an ongoing comic and not find a senselessdeath (A la Speedy’s daughter Lian in Cry for Justice), a flanderizedcharacter (Ultimate Captain America sticks out most in my mind), or heroesdoing stupidly, strangely evil and nonsensical things with no foreshadowing orgoing directly against previous canon (Maxwell Lord). The anti-hero characters thatget darker often become nigh unlikable, again in the case of the already dark Wolverine’sincarnation into the Ultimate universe. In Ultimates 3, he responds toHawkeye's comments that he used to be in the brotherhood with the comment"Yeah, and you used to be married with two kids"; a reference to hisfamily's murder in the previous story. I’m not sayingthat all dark, gritty, violent stories are bad and I have nothing against agood spot of the old ultra-violence. In fact, many of them are quite good,particularly Dennis O’Neil’s 1987 run on The Question which I hold to bethe greatest incarnations of the character and one of my favorite noir stylecomics, though I may be biased as he is my favorite superhero. What I am sayingis that in a lot of stories, these conventions tend to be a crutch for thewriter and the narrative arcs become bland only broken up by blood spatters onthe page. You don’t need tobuild up good suspense when you can have a wham death or startling gore on the smearingits way across panels. The issue isn’t violence; it is the lack of effectivelyused of violence within many stories in this day and age. When Gwen Stacy diedit was tragic and changed the face of comics forever, when Jason Todd died itwas shocking and changed Batman forever, and even when The Question died fromlung cancer in 52 it resonated with the reader. When Marvin gets killedby Wonder Dog in Teen Titans #66 or when the Wasp was cannibalized bythe Blob in Ultimates 3 it’s just shock horror with no lead up and noreal emotion attached. They stop being people and start being cannon fodder andas anyone who knows Star Trek well can tell you, you never get attachedto the red shirts. What makes thiseven sadder is that bright, genuinely well written comics like the pre-new 52 BlueBeetle run don’t last as long as they should have because the writers foundbetter ways to inject their stories with life and had a use for any violenceand gore they decided to use. The stories with a lighthearted bend are seen asbeing “kid’s stuff” and aren’t as well appreciated by older readers because ofthis. So the title ofthis article is about finding the light. What do I mean by that? Well it’spretty simple. Some heroes just plain refuse to be dragged down to this leveland I feel like they should be commended. For every story where someone isholding the idiot ball and is acting like a villain, there’s a Captain America(main continuity Cap) to plant himself like a tree beside the river of truthand refuse to move. For every morally questionable action Batman commits thatchips away at his three-dimensionality, there’s a Superman to talk a person downfrom suicide. And for every attempt to shoot the Hulk into space, there’s afriendly neighborhood Spider-man looking into the abyss and not blinking. There arearguments that Captain America and Superman are boring characters and a lot ofthat comes from this stubbornness to keep from becoming gritty. Superman isoften accused of not being three dimensional and Cap suffers from being seen asirrelevant to most casual comic fans who’d rather read about anyone else. Theyare examples of a bygone age where a city could be in a bottle and you couldsock Adolf Hitler in the jaw and no one would scoff but they are stillrelevant. One of the biggest things the writers of these dark, gritty storiesoften forget is that there needs to be hope. Light at the end of the darkMiller-esque tunnel. When a story is oppressively dark and violent, when no onecan come in and save the day or at least offer a helping hand, the story itselfloses three dimensionality and becomes boring. So what has beenthe point of my rambling? Simple. Give the lighthearted stories a chance anddon’t immediately assume that the dark stories are more complex and byextension better. Don’t be afraid to believe in Superman or Captain America.And be discerning, a good, dark story should make you feel something but shouldn’tbe oppressive and emotionally draining and a good lighthearted story should beuplifting but have the right amount of conflict. I recommendpicking up the paperback collections of The Question written by Dennis O’Nealand the Blue Beetle collections pre-reboot. They give a great spectrum. Andin the words of Batman about our big blue boy scout: “Flying out of the sky, heonce again shows us why he sets the standard for so many. Many see him as anaive boy scout whipped by his own selflessness. They will not, cannot, see himfor what he is, a hero.”

Forever Knight

Has anybody noticed the de-fanging of the American (or even NON American) Vampire? With shows, books and movies like Tru Blood, Vampire Diaries and Twilight, it seems the Vampire in the post Buffy/Angel era is more concerned with the soap opera state of their relationships with teenaged girls than they are with taking a bite out of humans. And Now Dark Shadows…DARK FREAKIN’SHADOWS is a COMEDY!!! STOP the madness! News flash….Vampires are NOT supposed to be all cuddly! …Monsters much??? Even Angel was good for the occasional homicidal rampage when his soul would go missing. Spike was good for a brawl even AFTER he got his soul back. Hell, even Angel knock off Mick St. John from Moonlight spent as much time throwing down as he did romancing the admittedly ravishing Sophia Miles (of Underworld fame). Now anyone who even remotely knows me, understands that I still mourn the passing of both my beloved Buffy and (in a manly way of course) beloved Angel. Both shows were able to make vampires compelling and even sympathetic without ever letting the audience forget that these creatures are inherently dangerous. Anne Rice gave us a plethora of Vampires who could out brood Angel himself BUT would regularly take time out from self reflection to rip out a neck or two. I grant you that Angel AND Spike were both obsessed with young Buffy Summers, but SHE could totally kick their asses! I realize that True blood in particular is very popular but the Vamps there seem as much obsessed by sex and drugs as by BLOOD. Which for most of them is synthetic!!!! What is THAT all about?? Faux Blood is like taking your sister to the Prom! Where is the carnage? Where is the murder?? Where is the mayhem??? Where is the FUN??!!! If not for Walking Dead we’d be surrounded by cuddly, angst ridden monsters! At least you can still count on Zombies. Ok…enough moaning on my part. Let’s talk about a TV series that may be before your time or have escaped your notice. It was part of the “Crime Time After PrimeTime” late night line up on CBS during the 1992-1996 seasons. It was about an 800 year old vampire turned Homicide Cop struggling, and eventually FAILING in his quest for redemption. I am talking about Forever Knight. The adventures of Nick Knight, an 800 year old Vampire struggling to find a place in the modern world was the grand daddy of Vampire TV Shows. The concept was borrowed from the Tomb Of Dracula Character, Hannibal King, created by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan some years earlier. (King was a private investigator rather than a Homicide Cop and he never actually drank HUMAN blood but he WAS also seeking redemption). FK was essentially TWO shows in one. The main plot thread would deal with the murder of the week, with a sub plot in flashback to one of nick’s previous “lives” spanning the eight centuries of his existence. These flash backs found Nick interacting with the likes of Joan Of Arc and Hitler. There are essentially two conflicts that cover the life of the series. Firs t is Nick’s struggle to regain his humanity and his evolving relationship with Natalie Lambert, the coroner who aids him in his cases. Unlike the defanged Vampires of more recent shows, Forever Knight never lets us forget that Nick is inherently dangerous and that he is perhaps MOST dangerous to the humans he cares for. Nick desperately wants to regain his humanity but is always struggling against his Vampiric nature. Because of this he keeps Natalie at arm’s length for as long as he can. Also unlike more modern Vampire Boy meets Human Girl stories, when Nick consummates his relationship with Natalie, he kills her. Nick’s story is ultimately a tragic one ending with him begging his sire, Lacroix, to end his existence. The final shot of the series is Nick on his knees, his back towards Lacroix with his Sire about to plunge a stake into his own “son”. The other on going conflict in the series is between Nick and his Vampire family. Lacroix and Jannette (his paramour for centuries) simply do not understand why Nick would want to abandon his Vampire nature, and by extension, them. Through the series flashbacks we see that the three spent centuries together and that it was only within the last hundred years or so that Nick set out on his quest for humanity. We see many times where Lacroix foils Nick’s plans. He considers Nick and Janette his children and will not suffer losing either of them. When Nick first comes across Lacroix in modern times, he believes he has killed his sire in a fight. Later Lacroix resurfaces to become Nick’s sometime ally. As for Janette, she now owns a night club for vampires and begins to rekindle her own relationship with Nick. While she does not understand his desire to become human, Janette does not actively try to stop him. In a delicious bit of irony it is Janette who becomes human through her love affair with a mortal. What Nick could never achieve no matter how hard he tried, came to his lover by accident. Through the length of the series, Nick begins to lose those humans who kept him tethered to the mortal world. Both of his partners (Schanke and Tracy) are killed. And when Natalie dies by his own hand, Nick sees the futility in his quest, realizing he was damned the first time he took an innocent life. His only chance for peace now lies in oblivion. What makes Forever Knight so special is the fact that the good guys ultimately lose. We spend three seasons rooting for Nick, who is essentially a good, though tortured person only to see him fail. He fails not only himself, but those he cares most for. In many ways this show is far more “adult” than any Vampire series that has come along in all the years after. Geraint Wyn Davies as Nick and Nigel Bennett as Lacroix are wonderful in their roles and perhaps the most believable Vampires ever put on film. They are individuals who are ALSO Vampires, not the other way around. They also understand the consequences of their actions. Even Lacroix is not merely evil but a multi layered personality who is, in fact capable of remarkable loyalty and love for his “children”. Bennett’s portrayal shows us a cynical man who has simply seen too much of the human condition over HIS 1500 year existence to ever embrace Nick’s idealism. Nonetheless he proves to be Nick’s best friend when the chips are down. FK is also a remarkably SEXY show. It does not get nearly as graphic as Tru Blood or even Buffy. It’s sexuality is suggested rather than depicted, leaving the viewer to fill in the blanks. This technique is always sexier than merely showing semi naked bodies. In Forever Knight the act of feeding is a deeply sexual act and the actors all convey this very strongly. While not widely viewed, Forever Knight has influenced every Vampire series that has followed. The best of them (Buffy and Angel) manage to actually expand on some of the themes of heroism and loss extant in FK. Angel and Spike are never QUITE defanged. The others are merely shadows of a great concept. Forever Knight is currently available (all three seasons) on DVD and I recommend it highly for any fan of Vampire fiction or just good TV. That’s 30! Mitch