Thursday, September 12, 2013

Comic Con Tips and Tricks

It’s that time of year again. The annual new York Comic-Con is just around the corner! Last year the con was attended by 105,000 fans over a four day period. This makes NYCC the second largest comic book and pop-culture gathering in the country. Second only to the San Diego con!

We WILL catch them sooner than later, just watch!

In fact , according to our friends ar NYCC, the con is the second largest annual event of ANY kind in all of New York. Impressive.
This year the con will take place from October 10th through the 13th at the Javits Center. If you don’t already have tickets you may just be shut out. As of this writing (September 10th) the ComicCon site has tickets for THURSDAY only. However, local comic shops may still have tickets. Be sure to check with CBJ on this as soon as possible if you are going to attend.
This year , as every year there will be a ton of guests including William Shatner, Stan The Man Lee, and even


Yes Rocky is going to be at the con! Are we looking at Expendables 3? Or are we looking at a Thunderlips rematch???
YES, the legendary HULK HOGAN is also going to be on hand for the festivities.

Of course there will be literally hundreds of comic book creators on hand. Artist’s Alley is always a highlight of the con.
Getting back to TICKETS. This year they are RFID, which means they have to be activated. You will be tapping sensors to gain entry. If you pick up your tickets onsite they will be active. If you have them mailed to your home you can activate them online. RFID should make enterint the event a much smoother experience for all.

Check out the NYCC website ( for this year’s mobile app. It is a great way to get up to the minute info. Last year there were a lot of announcements that hit the app over the four days. It’s free, making it a no-brainer.
There IS a coat check but it gets VERY crowded. Also you would NOT want to check any valuables, just jackets and coats.
ComicCon show hours are : Thursday 3:00PM to 9:00 PM, Friday and Saturday 10:00AM – 7:00 PM and Sunday 10:00AM – 5:00 PM. Artist Alley and screenings run well after ths show floor closes. Check out the con program or your mobile app for exact times on that.
A couple of tips:

1) BRING YOUR OWN FOOD or EAT OFF SITE. Food at the Javits Center is very expensive and will seriously cut into your comic buying goodness. There are a lot of more moderately priced choices in the area. Personally I bring a few sandwiches!
2) I recommend bringing a back pack or any bag that can be CLOSED to hold your purchases. While theft is pretty rare at ComicCon, the floor is SO crowded that keeping your belongings out in the open is not a good idea. Also watch your cash! Purses, in particular are not the place for cash. Keep it in your pockets. When you buy something take a few extra seconds to count out the money and count back the change.
3) When you are making a purchase from the comic vendors, always ask for their BEST price or make a reasonable offer. Only NOOBS pay full price! Seriously, bartering is all part of the game and your BEST deals will come on Sunday afternoon. Vendors hate hauling all that stuff back and will often give you a sweetheart deal!
4) Many of the screenings are going to be tough to get into. NYCC does NOT empty the theater after each event. If you want to attend that “can’t miss” panel or screening make sure to line up EARLY. Same thing with the panel rooms. There is limited space, so make sure to leave yourself a lot of time.
5) You won’t be able to see everything. That’s just the way it is. There are hundreds of events going on at the very same time. Make sure to hit the website, review the program, and check your app. You will need to make a plan in order to get to all the events that you don’t want to miss.
6) Take breaks. Especially on Saturday, when the floor is most crowded. You will be glad you did. Navigating through the huge crowds make this a physically challenging weekend. It’s easy to get hot, tired and…cranky. A few 20-30 minute breaks away from the crowds can make your entire day better.
7) The Javits Center is convenient to all forms of public transportation. Use it. Parking around the center is both difficult and expensive.
8) And finally…..HAVE FUN! It’s a great time!

OH and this JUST in! The world's yummiest FBI agent will be signing at ComicCon! Gillian Anderson is making her NYCC debut. She will be signing Friday, Saturday and Sunday and apearing in a panel as well! Could we be looking at some new X-Files news??!!

That’s 30!


Remembering 9/11

I wrote this twelve years ago a few days after 9/11. It showed up in some of the local papers. I thought I’d share it with you all. A lot has happened in the years since. Stay safe.

I took the Staten Island Ferry to NY this morning, as I have countless days from the time I was in high school, through my days at Hunter College, and for the past two decades working in the "city that never sleeps." In all respects, the trip was exactly the same as it has been every one of those thousands of days... except it wasn't.

As I came through the turnstiles on the Staten Island side, I found myself looking for faces. The familiar faces that we ignore everyday, but are so
much part of the background of our lives. I didn't see many. Perhaps I will see more tomorrow.

I stopped for my morning coffee at the Dunkin Doughnuts stand. The same Middle Eastern man who always serves my coffee with a smile and a good morning. Except he didn't smile today. He looked hurt. Maybe he'll smile tomorrow. I hope so.

I took the very same seat on the boat as I always do. Usually I open my coffee and bury my face in a book or read the sports pages. Today I didn't.

Today I took a minute to really taste my coffee. Funny... most days it has no taste at all. This morning it was the best cup I ever had. I hope it tastes
this good tomorrow.

I continued to look for familiar faces. People who also take the same seats every day. I did see one young lady that I "know." She usually travels with her friend. She wasn't there today. Maybe tomorrow. I hope so.

I stood out on the foredeck as we passed the Statue of Liberty. Funny how I never really noticed just how beautiful the old lady really is. Was she
standing just a bit straighter today? It must be my imagination... at least I think so.

The cloud reaches out over the water this morning and I could smell it while we were still five minutes from the dock. Everyone was looking at the naked skyline, now barren of its grandest symbol. The eyes of my fellow passengers became very hard. Not anger...not fear...something else. Something that told me that I wouldn't want to get into a fight with us. As for me, I glanced over to the Empire State Building. She dominates the skyline once more. How lonely she looks.

Walking up past Battery Park to Bowling Green Station, I saw every eye was turned up Lower Broadway. The Towers and the shade she cast downtown now gone. The acrid smoke brought coughs from many people. We wore the coughs somewhat proudly, I think. It was sort of like doing pennance. Perhaps the air will clear tomorrow.

On the train a pretty girl smiled and said “good morning” to me. Normally suspicion or shyness would have prevented that. Will she smile tomorrow? I hope so.

My shoes still have the dust that collected on them last Tuesday when I walked along South Street to the ferry. I noticed the shoeshine stand in Grand Central was back to normal. Several men were having their shoes shined. I'm not quite ready to part with my dust just yet.

Maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Crack Top and The Origin Of Mitch Maglio's Comic Collection

Why would a grown man allow himself to accumulate 17,000 comic books? Why would ANYONE for that matter bother to collect and collect and COLLECT a huge number of books that they will almost certainly never get the chance to re-read? Think about it. If I were to sit down and read every comic book that I own it would take me 236 days (given an average reading time of 20 minutes a comic)…IF I did not eat, sleep, bathe, raise a family, or (gasp) take a Star Trek break.

I love reading comics …but not THAT much!

So why the 17K? Value? Investment? Well sure my collection IS worth quite a bit, but MOST of the value resides in less than 10% of my books. In fact it costs me more to keep the vast majority of my comics than it would to just give them away. I have to bag them, board them, RE-BAG and board them every five years, and store them. It’s more costly than you might think!
Bottom line is that I keep them for sentimental reasons. I am lucky enough to have most of the comics books that I have ever bought in my life. MY mom was not one of those moms who tossed out all my old comics when I moved out.

Thanks Mom!

So, for me, my collection is sort of a time line of my life. I can go into any box, flip through books and create a flood of memories. Events from thirty or forty years ago, that I would certainly have forgotten become vivid memories once again when I happen upon a comic that I was reading at the time.

So let’s cue the fog effect and that wavy screen thingy as I take you back to the summer of 1966 …

THE YEAR OF THE GREAT COMIC BOOK COLLECTING QUEST!!!! (pat. pending, us.reg pat. off.)

An earth quaking (or even shaking) event that lead to my adding over 300 comics to my collection during the summer of 1966, in the mythical land known as Brooklyn N.Y. . This event was so world altering that even today, those who lived through it only speak of it in reverent whispers of awe (shucks) and wonder (bread). Even now the very fabric of space/time struggles to recover from the blows of these mind numbing confrontations.

(I give great hyperbole, don’t I?!)

It was of course was the epic CRACK TOP CONTEST. It was no holds barred. It was no quarter given. A fight to the death with riches untold for the winner and lifelong humiliation for the loser! The payout was to be (cue dramatic music cue please Waffle) THREE HUNDRED (Slightly read) Comics!

Like most of the world changing tests of skill held over the years on 102nd Street and Flatlands Avenue in the Canarsie section of my ancient homeland, this one was arranged by the neighborhood hustlers (each 12 years of age …making roughly 24 years of con artistry between them!) Howie and Henry…or as we knew them…”The Brothers”. (In fact they ARE brothers and as far as I know STILL con artists) As near as we could figure it The brothers had tons of everything. They were always on the look out for toys, games, candy, ice cream, and yes, comic books. No junk yard was safe from the prowling of Howie and Henry. They were the hustlers by which all hustlers are judged. The well spring!

Henry was the neighborhood genius (more on that at a later date) whilst Howie was the muscle. Or as much muscle as you could be after getting beaten up on a regular basis by my cousin Cindy (the toughest kid on the block).

Word of the pending Crack Top contest moved like wildfire through the neighborhood spreading as far as the distant land of 101st street! All the best players were shining up their spinning tops in preparation for the gladiatorial spectacle set for that Saturday! There was Jimmy “No teeth” Weaver, Bunko Bill Stevens, Mark “the Hammer” Levy and many others.

Inevitably though it would come down to a battle of will, skill and moxie between me and my nemesis, arch enemy, and all around pain in the nether regions, Alan “Hail Mary” Baker.

Many had been our confrontations with no clear winner. He was the leader of Thrush whilst *I* was the head of U.N.C.L.E.! Our gangs would square off and taunt each other relentlessly….Alan would save his most crushing taunt (BUGGA! BUGGA!) for the coup de gras! Few were those who could easily recover from a well placed *grr* Baker “Bugga! Bugga!”, but balance was maintained by the fact that my second in command was the aforementioned Toughest Kid On the Block. One glance at Cindy’s Clint Eastwood type stare would freeze the blood and quicken the pulse of any miscreant…and boy was Alan miscreanty! (Is that even a word?)

But I digress. The long and the short of it is that my ONLY real competition for the golden pile of four colored goodness was the aforementioned *grrrr* Baker.

(To this day I cannot say the word “Baker” without a mental *grrr*…which often confuses the people at my local bakery by the way).
We were the undisputed masters of the hallowed game of crack top.

You see, Crack Top is a game of skill, aggression, planning and plain blind luck. Masters of the game can stretch their lineage all the way back Ancient Times (also in Brooklyn) and the teachings of the greatest Crack Topper of them all , Harry Donnenfeld. (Actually I can’t back that up. There is no evidence that Harry Donnenfeld ever actually even handled a spinning top but I like to get his name into my stories whenever possible. Hi Harry!)

Crack Top involves the use of spinning tops. It was, is a toy that is shaped more or less like a triangle with a metal or plastic point on the narrow end. You wrap a string tightly around the body of the top and, with a flick of the wrist the top unravels and (theoretically) spins. It requires great technique and nuance to do well. If NOT done well the consequences can be…dire. (I would tell you about the great Spinning Top fatalities of 1898 but children may be reading this column. )

Contestants start their tops spinning in a circular arena drawn on the ground. The last one spinning has the opportunity to “CRACK” a top or tops out of the circle. The player, if he is particularly skilled, can even break a top right in half thus “cracking” the top. Said top destroyers are the best of the best.

Alan *grr*Baker was the best….

I was better.

(Another dramatic music cue…Come ON Waffle, wake up! You just can’t get good help these days!)
Back and forth we went, cracking tops. The low whine of the gyrating toys filled the air. Hands trembled.
Brows were furrowed with sweat.

(As an aside Alan could sweat like no other. He was clearly the neighborhood sweating champion. This has been attributed by experts to Alan’s unusually furrowy brow. What furrows that guy had! We could often hear his mother commenting on this as she hung out the wash. She would say to no one in particular, “That $#@#$ Boy can really sweat!”)

One by one the other players fell by the wayside. They lost their tops to Alan or myself. Even worse others suffered the humiliation of watching my nemesis or myself blast their tops to microscopic pieces. The day was hot…it was long. Popsicle sticks littered the concrete. Yoohoo cans lay in silent testament to the grueling battle. Even Saturday morning cartoons went unwatched as all eyes were riveted to the battle of the Top Titans. (It is said that the idea for the Superbowl sprung out of this particular Crack Top contest but I cannot verify that…yet.)

Finally the only men left standing were Alan and myself. It was a dead heat.

Now here is where the rules and etiquette of Crack Top get muddy. In a strict tie the players each spin their tops and the last one spinning wins. But for legendary players (and brutal enemies) like Alan and myself this would never be enough! There had to be more.
There had to be death.

We quickly huddled with Henry (Howie and Cindy keeping watch over the skittish crowd that could riot at any second! They would be our only protection if things got ugly.) and decided to use the dreaded Donnenfeld Protocols.

Even today , some four and a half decades later, I wonder how any of us survived the Donnenfeld Protocols. Clearly it was foolhardy on all our parts. We had no idea about the forces were about to release. All I can say is that we were young and foolish.

Anyway, the D.P. called for Alan and I in turn to lay our BEST top in the center of the ring, giving the other a chance to CRACK his prized weapon n half. The first to successfully destroy his opponent’s top would win and claim the prize comic books.

And so it began. The tie breaker. There was more at stake then mere bragging rights. More at stake than even the pile of pulp wonder gleaming in the sunshine. This was a battle for honor! Pride! If I could win…if I could emerge triumphant never again would the words “Bugga! Bugga!” strike fear into the hearts of the innocent. No Klingon Warrior had ever fought for a more noble cause! (well maybe the great Tribble Hunt, but I digress.)

Henry flipped a coin and all eyes were on the silver disk as it flew up, caught the sunlight and came back down into the hand of the neighborhood genius. Heads. Alan would get the first shot.

It is no easy thing to strike a top no bigger than a nine year old’s fist with the point of another top. So it was no surprise that he missed on his first attempt. So did I. back and forth we went. Just missing by a hair. The stress in the crowd was palpable. You could FEEL the thumping of hearts as *grr* Baker and I battled back and forth . Half an hour went by, then an hour! Wrists flicking….tops spinning. Near miss after near miss. Something had to give.

One of us would have to crack first. Then on Alan’s tenth attempt…time slowed as he brought his wrist down, freeing his deadly crusher of a top. I could actually see the point rotating as it plummeted towards my prized weapon. A top known to one and all as ”The Penetrator”. The point of Alan’s top scored a deep gash along one side of my top….a collective gasp went up!
Henry bent down and he examined The penetrator with the eyes of a surgeon.

“NO BREAK”!, he declared. I would get another chance but my top was badly damaged. The scoring would surely put the balance off and if I failed to get the top to spin I would lose by default. I could not style the spin even though I was KNOWN as a fineness player. The top would have to be POWERED into a spin. I was literally going to have to THROW it. This technique was almost unheard of. Only the Great Donnenfeld was said to have mastered it. But I had no choice.

I knew what Superman would do. I knew what Cap would do…and I knew what Harry would do.

I wound the top as tightly as I had ever done before. I would need the added torque! I called upon the Zen of Top spinning and focused my gaze to a single spot on the body of Alan’s evil toy. And then I heard the voice of Donnenfeld…
“Use the Force, Mitch”

Not really. This was 12 years before Star Wars came out but I couldn’t resist. What I actually “heard” was the “Bugga!Bugga!” I would get if I lost.

I brought my hand down like a sledge hammer and released the top. It was Ali against Liston. Mantle hitting a 500 foot drive. It was Kirk making out with a green chick!

My top hit the ground spinning serenely. On either side was precisely one half of Alan’s “top.

A collective roar went up. I had won. I had won for truth, Justice and The American Way. I had won for the little guy and Klingons everywhere. But mostly I had just won THREE HUNDRED COMICS!

I turned slowly to my opponent, humbled in defeat, his broken top in his hands .He looked , silently acknowledging his defeat…and I said

“Bugga! Bugga!

That’s 30!


Thursday, July 25, 2013

The best is yet to come!

There is so much going on in the area of animated and live action comic book character entertainment that it is hard to know where to begin. It was not so many years ago that the entertainment industry looked at comic related properties as “schlock” low budget fare.

Today those same properties are a pillar of the entertainment industry generating revenue in the BILLIONS of dollars.

This summer alone we have already had two tent pole films in Man of Steel and iron man. This week The Wolverine opens domestically and is sure to add to the tally. And still to come are Thor: The Dark World, Kick Ass 2, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For ( now held until 2014) and Red 2.

And the wave of comic related films shows no sign of cresting. Just this week it was announced at the San Diego ComicCon that in 2015 we are going to get a Superman/Batman cross over.

It doesn’t end with movies either. This past season the CW’s Arrow was a runaway hit. Premiering this fall the Joss Whedon created “Agents Of Shield” is slated to make it’s debut on ABC. And of course Walking Dead is arguably the biggest hit on TV (well maybe Game of Thrones but it’s CLOSE!)

DC Animated has released a new CGI series, “Beware The Batman”, a few weeks ago. Based on the first two episodes it has the potential to rival “Batman The Animated Series” In popularity.

It doesn’t end with 2013 either. The list of upcoming comic related films is impressive. Check out these confirmed projects which are at various stages of development:

X-men: Days of Future Past (20140, Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014), Black Panther (2014), Ant-Man (2015), The Flash (2016), and Guardians of The Galaxy (2014), just to name a few. Of course we know that a planned Avengers 2 : The Age of Ultron is slated for Summer 2015.

Amazing stuff. No genre has so dominated the box office since the golden age of Westerns back in the 1930’s and 1940’s.
We comic book “geeks” are no longer the oddballs. We are , dare I say it, mainstream.

…not sure how I feel about that. It might be time to shake things up!

That’s 30


Friday, June 28, 2013

Truth...Justice and The American Way

It may sound old fashioned, clichéd even. But…we need heroes.

Often the heroes that have a wide spread inspirational impact are fictional. But don’t hold that against them. Being fictional does NOT mean they are not “real” or that they do not impact the “real” world in a very meaningful way.

How many people became scientists, astronauts, NASA personnel because they were inspired by the fictional heroes in Star Trek and Star Wars?

How many people became policemen, firemen, EMT professionals etc because they were inspired by the likes of Sherlock Holmes or Batman?

In the Captain America movie, don’t you get a lump in your throat when Cap comes marching back with the soldiers he helped rescue? I know I do.

Didn’t Rocky inspire millions of people to understand that there is no shame in being knocked down as long as you give everything you have to get back up again?

We have a common need to be inspired by heroes. We aspire to be more like those exemplars. This common cultural need goes back all the way to the very first story tellers in ancient times. How many were inspired by Achilles, Agamemnon and Hercules? How many tried to be like them?


My old friend Ray and I were talking yesterday about how fictional heroes like Superman provide (even for adults) a symbol of something better. Ray and I are a pair of crotchety curmudgeons but we share a world view in which concepts like honor, duty and heroes are inspirations, not punch lines.

Heroes give us something to aspire to. It is why there has been such a hot debate over the ending of The Man of Steel. But it got me to thinking about one of the first mottoes if you will, that helped me define who I am at my core.

It inspired me to aspire…at age six.

Truth Justice and the American way.

It was the last line in the opening of the old Adventures Of Superman TV series.

It is such a well known slogan that it became trivialized over the years. Almost something to be embarrassed about. A punch line.

Then I see where the Supreme Court made two major rulings that go a long way in providing Truth Justice and The American way to a large portion of fellow Americans and I wonder how anyone could ever trivialize or be embarrassed about “The American way”.

I remember when students, black and white were killed on freedom rides. I remember when women were little more than chattel in the practical sense. I remember good men dying in Dallas, in Memphis and in LA.

It’s been nearly 50 years since we lost John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. They were men who believed in Truth Justice and the American way. They died believing in it.

Fast forward not SO many years and we have a man of color in the White House. Something I never thought I would see.

I am a white, heterosexual married man and I will say that without a doubt that the day that Barcak Obama was elected President was my proudest day as an American. It doesn’t matter what you think of the President as a politician, or even how he does his job. It is the FACT of Mr. Obama as our President that speaks to Truth Justice And The American Way.

What makes it even more uplifting is that he gets NO breaks for being a man of color. He is treated as The President, not The Black President. . He gets beat up in the press as much as any WHITE President! There’s equality for you!!A subtle distinction, I grant you but another example of truth Justice And The American Way

In a pair of major rulings on Wednesday the Supreme Court ruled that married same sex couples are entitled to the same rights and privileged as heterosexual couples. This ruling was appropriate, common sense and American. The very fact that we even have to legislate for equal rights of any segment of our citizens speaks to the fact that, for as far as we have traveled, there is a long way to go.

Freedom is an absolute. It does not, and cannot apply to one person or group of people. It must apply to everyone or none of us is really free. Lincoln once observed that when ONE person is denied freedom we are ALL in chains. He could not have been more correct. Mr. Lincoln would have loved “Adventures Of Superman”.

Here’s the bottom line. ALL Americans are entitled to equal rights under the law. No exceptions, no questions. Individual sensibilities are irrelevant. ALL Americans get equal rights.

Just my opinion? Sure. But it is also…

Truth Justice And The American Way.

I learned that when I was six… from Superman.

That’s 30!


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Man Of Steel

Man of Steel was a big thing for me. As you know if you have read my columns for like …ten minutes, I am an unabashed Superman fan. In a world with much “cooler” and “edgier’ heroes, Supes holds the number one spot in my pantheon of Superheroes.

Number two isn’t even close.

It’s Superman and all the rest.

So obviously I knew going in that I could NOT be unbiased about Man of Steel. I loved it before I saw a single frame of the film.
That was me going in. And for the most part, that was me coming out.

Man Of Steel IS an excellent film. It revitalized Superman for a modern audience and has re-launched a movie franchise that been dormant for far too long. Man of Steel is movie making on a HUGE scale. It made Avengers look like someone shot it in their back yard.

Henry Cavil looks someone lifted him off the comics page and brought Superman to life just to make the movie. He is the absolute embodiment of The Man Of Tomorrow.

Amy Adams is as close to a perfect Lois Lane as you could ever hope for. Plucky, dishy and tough as nails.

Russell Crowe, Kevin Kostner, Laurence Fishbourne and Diane Lane provide the same STAR power to the cast that Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman brought to Superman The Movie nearly four decades ago.

The movie set new June opening weekend box office records and has all but guaranteed that DC will be playing in the same live action sandbox as Marvel.

In every measurable way this film is a resounding success. I was not disappointed.

Are you sensing a “but” here?

Good…because there is a HUGE “but” coming.

You may want to stop right here because, while this has been all over the media, it IS a pretty big SPOILER.

Still with me? is the thing.

Superman kills.

I have a problem with that. And yes I am aware that Superman has killed in the comics. It was a mistake then too.
While I am perfectly fine with reinvention, making Starbuck a girl, a new time line for Star Trek, rebooting Bond and even “shudder” a male Slayer. I am less fine with taking a core aspect of a character and tossing it aside.

If Superman kills he ceased to BE Superman. He’s Wolverine or Cap, maybe even Jack Bauer. But he is no longer Superman.

This is the single aspect of Superman that cannot be changed if you are going to maintain that character AS Superman.

Superman killing is like Sherlock Holmes relying on instance rather than deduction to solve crimes.

Alex Ross in the seminal graphic novel “Kingdom Come” has Superman go into exile over this very issue. He cannot kill EVEN for Lois.

Alan Moore in “Whatever Became Of The Man Of Tomorrow” sums it up like this. Nobody has the right to kill. Not you and Not Superman. Especially not Superman. At which point Clark exposes himself to Gold K, wiping out his powers forever.

They got the essential nature of Superman.

Even as a piece of film making that scene was forced. It was a set piece specifically designed so that Superman would kill Zod . You could see it coming a mile away. The sequence was hundreds of frames too long. If Superman HAD to kill, as a film maker you need to set it up so that the audience never sees it coming.

(See the Red Wedding in the penultimate episode of this seasons Game Of Thrones)

Unfortunately Zack Snyder (while he does have a lot of talent) is about as subtle as a dock strike.

If you commit to making the choice that Superman must kill then there must be a life changing consequence to that act. What consequence was there for Superman?


Killed Zod? Betrayed all my beliefs? No biggie. Put on the glasses and cut to fade.

Not only did Snyder fail to maintain the integrity of the character, he did a piss poor job of bumping off Zod on the screen.
Does this destroy the film? Or Superman?

Nah. Far from it actually. Apparently this is the Superman a lot of people want. Just check out the box office.
Superman killing has spurred a LOT of debate.

Never a bad thing.

AND Superman killing has opened an opportunity for some compelling moments in the sequel IF the film makers decide to use it as a pivotal moment in Clark’s life that helps him to define himself going forward.

One thing’s for sure…this wasn’t your daddy’s Superman!

That’s 30!


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Requiem For Carmine

You may not know this but if it hadn’t been for a DC creator there might never have been a Fantastic Four, or Avengers…or X-men. In fact if it had not been for this particular DC creator there might never have been a Silver Age of Comics.
Carmine Infantino was that DC creator. He was born in Brooklyn on May 24, 1925 and spent most of his life as a comic book artist and editor. But he was much more than that. Carmine was an idea man, a creator.

He left us on April 4th of this year at the age of 87. He left behind a trove of over 60 years of wonderful comic book art dating back to 1942.

When I was a kid in the very same Brooklyn that had produced Carmine you would be hard pressed NOT to see his work on several covers a month. He had a slick, modern style that was his alone. He gave Batman his “new look” and introduced Batgirl (Detective # 359 in 1967), created Deadman in Strange Adventures #205 and was THE Adam Strange artist.
AND he gave us the Silver Age of Comics.

After the Second World War comic book superheroes had almost entirely faded from the comic book scene. The entire Timely stable (including The Torch, Submariner and Captain America) were retired in favor of horror, western, humor and romance comics. The same was happening at DC with the exception of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. In fact the only “new” superhero to get his own book during this period was Superboy…who wasn’t really a new character at all. Just Superman, pint sized.

This would change in 1956 when Julius Schwartz assigned writer Robert Kanigher and Infantino with the task of reviving the superhero genre. Schwartz had reasoned that enough time had passed that an entire new generation of comic book readers had come along who had never been exposed to the huge roster of superheroes so prevalent during the Golden Age of Comics.

He was right. And he picked the perfect artist to shake the dust off of the old characters.

Beginning with the October 1956 issue of Showcase (#4) Infantino began the process of reviving defunct Golden Age superheroes. He began with the Flash.

He gave the character a whole new look, slicker and more modern, along with a more science fiction style back story. Barry Allen was a police Scientist who is accidently doused in a chemical bath when a stray lightning bolt strikes his lab. A stretch, maybe but a heck of a lot more plausible than the golden age origin which had Jay Garrick becoming the Flash from consuming “Hard Water’ (ice???)
The fresh new look and tight story telling was an immediate hit. In short order Showcase launched the Silver Age careers of The Atom, Aquaman…and some guy called Green Lantern among others. The superhero boom was on.

Over in Brave And Bold a superhero team was born…The Justice League Of America. The JLA was such a huge hit that it gave the boys over at Marvel the impetus to create their own team of super heroes…The Fantastic Four.

And we all know what happened after that! The Marvel Age Of Comics was born!!!

All because of a DC creator.

Carmine was not done though. As an editorial director he was instrumental in bringing an entire generation of new talent into the comics industry including Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams. In 1070 Carmine landed the Legendary Jack Kirby who created the Fourth World in the pages of Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen.

Infantino eventually became DC’s publisher in 1971, though he always kept his hand in the creative side including the creation of The Human Target in 1972. He would remain active into the new century and became a fan favorite at comic conventions across the country.

When Infantino passed from the scene in April he left behind a legacy of joy, fun and wonder.

Thanks Carmine.

That’s 30!


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Quick Hits

Quick Hits

24: Live Another Day
Jack is seriously BACK! It hit the internet earlier this week that 24, the iconic action adventure series that takes place in (mostly) real time is going to be revived with a 12 episode “event” series in May of 2014. I for one am PUMPED about this one. Despite plot holes you could drive a truck through no TV series before or since has offered the sort of edge of your seat “Bourne” type action that we got from 24. Kieffer Sutherland returning to his best known role as the beaten up but never beaten down Jack Bauer is must see TV! You can read the press release below.

Fox Announces 24 Revival

It's official: Jack's back! Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly announced on a conference call Monday that the network is bringing back action series 24, with Kiefer Sutherland reprising his role as CTU agent Jack Bauer.
24: Live Another Day, which will likely premiere in May 2014 and run through the summer, according to Reilly, is being promoted as an event series and will consist of 12 episodes rather than the traditional 24.
"It will go in chronological order of the day, but it'll skip hours," Reilly told reporters.
When asked whether the new version could eventually morph into a full-fledged series, Reilly demurred. "It could be an annual event," he said. "There could be sequels. I don't know that they would be yearly."

Since 24 went off the air in May 2010, showrunner Howard Gordon (Homeland) has been mulling a movie based on the series, which never got off the ground. "As they got into the feature film, I think they all agreed 24 being compressed into two hours is not 24," Reilly said.
Aside from Sutherland reprising his role as Jack Bauer, no other casting announcements have been made.
"The response to 24 is unlike anything I have ever experienced as an actor before," Sutherland said in a statement. "To have the chance to reunite with the character, Jack Bauer, is like finding a lost friend. ... Make no mistake, my goal is to knock your socks off.

Trek Reviews are in!

Let me just say that I can NEVER be unbiased about Star Trek. For me BAD Star Trek is way better than NO Star Trek. I’m the guy who can actually sit through annual viewings of Star Trek The Motion picture and even SPOCK’S BRAIN!
But to tell the truth I was not getting swept up in the anticipation until I got hit with it in the most unlikely place…the boxing ring. I picked up the pay per view of Floyd Mayweather’s latest fight. For those of you who don’t know him, Mayweather is the pound for pound greatest active fighter on the planet). There…in the ring…on the canvas was the Star Trek : Into Darkness logo!
We have arrived! Star Trek made Vegas! PPV! A Championship Fight!
If that can’t get me stoked, nothing can.
Early reviews seem to be mostly positive, focusing on the non-stop action and the obvious chemistry between Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine (Spock and Kirk). So it looks like the sequel to the smash hit reboot, “Star Trek” will not disappoint.
Of course there HAVE been some negative reviews, notably in The Post.
I bet they won’t give Kieffer bad reviews! They may be dumb but they’re not STUPID ;)

DCUO is having a Crisis!

The successful MMO , DC Universe Online has just released their seventh DLC (expansion) Origin Crisis. As long time readers of DC comics know, the word “crisis” means EVENT. They are big, EPIC big. And the DCUO version is no different.
DC Origin Crisis is focused on a battle between Future Lex Luthor and future Batman across time with each character attempting to make changes to the time line that will greatly effect reality….well DC reality anyway.
Want to see an Evil Superman team up with Luthor? How about Bruce Wayne as Lex’s protégé? As a villain (yes you can eb a villain in DCUO) how do you stop changes to the time line that make Lex….GOOD???!!!
The new story line plays out in solo missions, four man operations and back breaking eight person raids. This is high end content but have no fear. New players to the game can quickly level up to this content by playing through the tier 1 through tier four raids and alerts.

PLUS DCUO is free to play!

DCUO is available on the PC and PS3.

So what are you waiting for??!!

Fair warning though. This game is seriously addictive and fun!

That’s 30!


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Remembering RFK

“My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it. Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world. As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him: 'Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not”

Ted Kennedy’s Eulogy for his brother Robert F. Kennedy

I gave some thought about not addressing the final issue of Before Watchmen - The Comedian. Anyone who has spoken to me over the years knows that I advocate artists taking chances and trying new things. Creators who play it too safe are generally not too interesting to me.

Having said that, Brian Azzaerello’s trivializing of the RFK assassination is not, in my opinion an artist taking chances. It is a cheap attempt to shock. It is in bad taste.

Robert Kennedy was perhaps more than any of his contemporaries a symbol of hope and promise to the generation that grew up in the 1960’s…my generation. Perhaps Mr. Azzarello thinks we have all died off or no longer read comics. Perhaps being only about six years old at the time, Brian is somewhat indifferent to Bobby’s meaning to so many people not a hell of a lot older.

Regardless of his motivation, it was a misstep on the part of a very gifted writer.

He portrays Bobby as corrupt and disloyal and uses his death as a plot device.

Not only was that in bad taste. It was a disservice to the character of the comedian. FAR too predictable. I had in fact guessed that he would be RFK’s assassin by issue #3.

Am I angry about this? You bet.

Just a few things Brian forgot to mention about Bobby...

Bobby was an outspoken pioneer for Civil Rights.

Bobby was one of the first politicians to devote himself to ending the war in Viet Nam.

Bobby was THE driving force in the resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis and almost singlehandedly averted a nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

He died too young, leaving behind family who may be aware of how shabbily he was treated by Mr. Azzarello.
Bobby deserved better.

That’s 30


Thursday, April 11, 2013

The FIRST Superman!

There have been many actors who have had the daunting task of portraying Superman since the iconic superhero first hit the stands in 1938.

Certainly no one has clocked more hours as The Man of Steel than Bud Collyer who portrayed Superman over 2000 times on the 1940’s radio program broadcast over the Mutual Network.

Kirk Alyn brought Superman to life in two very popular Columbia movie serials Superman (1948) and Atom Man Vs. Superman (1950)
The best known Superman for MY generation was none other than George Reeves who carried the torch for 104 episodes on Adventures OF Superman (1951-1958)

In 1966 there was Bob Holiday cavorting across the Broadway stage in the campy musical “It’s A Bird, it’s A Plane, It’s Superman”. The show was later made into a one night Late night special with David Wilson in the Role.

Perhaps the most familiar of ALL the Supermen is Christopher Reeve who created a standard for the Last Son OF Krypton that has yet to be equaled. Chris carried Superman through four feature films. One might EVEN say FIVE because Brandon Routh was nothing if not channeling Supes in Superman Returns.

Superboy was played at various times by John Haymes Newton, Gerard Christopher and Johnny Rockwell (in an unsold Superboy pilot).
Tom Welling enjoyed TEN years on television creating the most realistic and well developed Superman on Smallville.
…And in June we are set to see Henry Cavill in the new Blockbuster “The Man Of Steel”

But who was FIRST?

Who first donned the tights, jutted out his chest and thrilled children as the embodiment of Superman?
None of the above!
Superman was first brought to life by Ray Middleton, a well known character actor who’s career spanned four decades.

Middleton was hired to play Superman at the 1939 World’s Fair right here in New York. It may be easy to forget today but back in the late thrities the country was going through a full blown case of SUPERMANIA! The World’s Fair decided to capitalize on the new hero’s popularity by staging a “Superman Day” and tapped the square jawed Middleton for the role. He did this on July 3, 1940 soe even though the radio program made it’s debut in February 1940, Middleton is the first actor to play Superman in public in COSTUME.
Middelton appeared on Broadway in the original cast of Annie Get Your gun and Man of La Mancha. He was a guest on a wide variety of TV Shows including Ed Sullivan and MASH.

He passed away in 1984 at the age of 77. Middleton was certainly never a star. Just one of thousands of hard working actors who continue to carve out a career in a very tough field. But for a brief time, he was Superman! His place in the pantheon of actors who have given life to the Man Of Steel remains forever assured.

That’s 30!


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Broken Bat

To understand Batman as a character it is essential to grasp the fact that as a person Bruce Wayne is broken. His sanity is held together by force of will alone.

As a child he witnessed the graphic murder of his parents. The trauma of this event was so powerful that Bruce began , as a little boy, the single minded pursuit of avenging his parent’s death. He dedicated, and continues to dedicate his entire life towards this reckoning. It is not a reckoning with any individual. It is a reckoning with death itself.
Batman is at war with death. Always has been. Always will be. He KNOWS he is going to lose this battle. There is no way anyone could win it.

But he never wavers…never falters…never quits…and NEVER loses sight of the mission.
“No one dies on MY watch” is Batman’s mission statement.

That single mindedness is what saves him from insanity…it saved him from becoming the Punisher. Where Frank Castle seeks REVENGE, Batman seeks to AVENGE.

It saved him…it is also why he is broken.

Batman does some pretty INSANE things after all. He has no special powers and yet he dresses up like a bat, jumps off of buildings and hurls himself into battle night after night with the very worst psychopaths in Gotham.
It is also clearly insane to take children into his extremely dangerous battle, KNOWING that they could die. He knew it with Dick, with Jason and with Tim.

But the mission always comes first with Batman, so he did it anyway.

Damian, died as Robin.

Of course there was a difference with Damian. The boy was Bruce’s son.

I know Jason died as well …and came back. Dick and Tim survived to become heroes apart from the shadow of the bat.
But Damian was Bruce’s SON.

This is a trauma that must by it’s very nature be even more impactful than the death of his parents. Any parent I have ever known has a nightmare. It tickles the back of our minds. It is a constant whisper. We learn to live with it because we have to. It is the nightmare that someday , SOMETHING will happen to our children. An accident, an illness or a crime of violence. Something we cannot protect them from.

When a parent loses a child to death there is no word to describe how they feel. “Grief” does not even begin to describe it. Even the shadow of that emotion from the nightmare is almost crippling in the moment that we feel it.
Imagine how this must effect Bruce. As Batman, HE lead Damian down the path that ultimately culminated in the boy’s death. As a parent, how Bruce deals with this will drive the character for some time to come.

It is also a great opportunity for creators to take Batman down entirely new paths.

Will he bottom out? Will he quit? Will he rededicate himself?
Probably all three.

Will he finally come to the realization that there should NEVER be a Robin? Never again be a child in his life that he leads into danger?

Probably not.

It is often said, “Batman needs a Robin”

This is never really explained, just accepted.

Here is why Batman needs a Robin. Robin anchors Batman to life. Bruce has no ability to function as a balanced human being. Unlike Clark Kent who has friends, family and a love life, Bruce is almost completely isolated himself.
The only people he has true interaction with ate those he USES to assist the Batman’s agenda. All but TWO have proven to be disposable relationships.

The only two indispensible, irreplaceable people in his life are Alfred…and The Joker. BOTH are essential to Batman.
Alfred is the perfect assistant. A detective in his own right, field medic and man Friday. He is also completely devoted not only to Bruce Wayne but BATMAN’S MISSION.

The Joker defines the REASON for Batman. He is Batman’s polar opposite and reminds Batman as no other adversary does of the NEED for the Dark Knight.

It is also why Batman continues to allow the Joker to live. On some deep level “Batman also needs a Joker.”
Like I said, Batman is broken. He is going to need a Robin, and pretty soon.

What makes him a HERO is his ability to continue on DESPITE being broken. Bruce has gone to very dark places but he has never fallen down the hole that Frank Castle was happy to JUMP into.

Castle quit. Revenge is the act of a coward and The Punisher is nothing if not a coward. He is certainly no hero.
Bruce does not know HOW to quit. He looked into the abyss and the abyss blinked.

He is after all The Batman. A hero.

Make no mistake, this is the single worst blow Batman has ever suffered. I believe that Batman’s creative team recognizes this and will use this as a jumping off point to really examine the nature of The Bat for some time to come.

I’m looking forward to it.

That’s 30!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

By “George”, It’s Been 50 Years!

To be perfectly honest the only time my birthday enters my mind is when I turn the calendar to March. When I flipped my Marvel Comics 2013 wall calendar a few days ago, right after making note that this month is The Hulk, I realized that my 56th birthday hits on the 16th. Of course I ALREADY knew this, I just choose to ignore it most of the time.

But THIS birthday coincides with an anniversary that I DO want to reflect on. 2013 marks my 50th year as a comic collector!

And it all started with George.

When you visit my office…IF you visit my office the first thing you might notice (after you step over three years worth of paperwork, coffee cups and news papers) is a framed charcoal picture of MY generation’s Superman on the wall.

And then there is this…

Detect a theme?

How does a grown man (obviously well spoken, educated, erudite and of course modest to a fault) surround himself with images and statues of comic book figures? The very stuff of Saturday kiddie cartoon shows?

Blame George. Yup, George Reeves…actor…singer…raconteur , known to one and all as “Honest George The People’s Friend”…Superman.
As a VERY young boy…maybe as young as three years old my first exposure to the world of comics was The Adventures Of Superman which was on TV pretty much every day. Family lore holds that I was absolutely obsessed with all things Superman almost from the moment I could WATCH TV. In fact I drove my mom and dad SO crazy that Mom made me a homemade Superman costume using some red and blue pajamas and crepe paper and my DAD brought me my first comic BOOK when I was six. As long time readers of my column know that was a used copy of Superman Annual #1 (which I still have!)

In fact my first FIGHT was with a kid who had the NERVE to tell me that The Man of Steel was not REAL! What a fight! What a battle! It was epic! It left my Superman togs in tatters! I fought with grim determination. Never giving an inch. But in the end she was too tough for me. Weird Margaret beat me down but I still held fast to my belief in Superman. (Weird Margaret would make up for this transgression a decade later when we were 16 however by through another form of physical “combat” if you will. She was still weird but by then much more cuddly!)

THAT was 50 years ago and to this day I have never stopped reading , collecting, talking about , buying and selling comic books. Oh my interest has waxed and waned once or twice (most noticeably when I figured out that girls were not some weird alien life form but individuals that had certain advantages over your average comic book) but I have never stopped reading altogether.
How could this be? Aren’t comics for kids? Didn’t I outgrow them?

Well here’s the thing. Comics and I grew up together.

Back when I first started my comic odyssey stories were geared to the 6-10 year old set. They were short, simple and creative. The “villains” were either inept or not really all that evil. They TALKED about killing the hero but never actually did it. Those books exposed young readers to a very basic form of science fiction and fantasy AND to the heroic concept that reaches all the way back to Homer’s epic poems The Illyad and The Odyessy.

This was the height of the Silver Age of comics. And I was a boy growing towards adolescence right in it’s heyday. Batman and The Merry Marching Marvel Society were on TV. “It’s A Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman!” was on Broadway. And REAL LIFE heroes named Glenn, Sheppard, Grissom and Armstrong were blazing a trail to the Moon.

It was a great time for little boys to grow up!

But change was in the air almost to the day that I began reading Comics. JFK was killed in Dallas…and then Bobby and Martin. We became embroiled in Viet Nam and had a President resign in disgrace. I was growing up during these years. Simple stories and kiddie heroes were beginning to lose their hold on me. I was about to quit.

Then a funny thing happened. As I reached adolescence and young adulthood, so did comics.

A visionary young creative team, Neil Adams and Denny O’Neill would reinvent Green Lantern and Green Arrow and address all of the issues that were important to me. For two years they would guide the Emerald Heroes and talk about drug use, war, over population, sex, cults and racism. Batman was returned to his roots as a dark avenger, Spiderman’s best friend had a drug habit, the Comics Code Authority lost it’s teeth…

and Gwen Stacy died.

Suddenly comics were not so much for kids anymore. As I entered adulthood, comics entered the Bronze Age.

I was hooked once again

Horror and Science Fiction would dominate the Bronze Age landscape with the likes of “Tomb Of Dracula”, Werewolf By Night”, “Ghost Rider” and “Swamp Thing”. Killraven was leading a revolution against the Martian invaders in a dystopian future. Captain America was dealing with a crisis of faith that would lead him to drop his mantle and take on the identity of Nomad before returning as the defender of the American IDEAL. The new X-Men swept the comic book world…The Punisher made his debut….
And then there was Wolverine. Logan, a hero who also killed. We KNEW Punisher was a few cards short of a deck but Logan was always a hero…and yet he killed.

Compelling stuff.

1978 brought “Superman The Movie” and a wonderful new Man of Steel, Christopher Reeve. A new Superman was there as I was finally leaving my teens and entering manhood.

This happened to coincide with my first real love entering my life. One of the first things we did was see this movie. She belted me in the arm and wanted to know why *I* couldn’t fly her around Metropolis like that guy in the cape. I finally knew how CLARK felt all those years!

But as far as I was concerned, every time I looked at her I WAS flying. However, like most first loves, she eventually moved on. But Superman stayed, so did comic books.

But…I was nearing 30 by 1985 and the realities of life were making comics seem a bit trivial again. What had been cutting edge a few years earlier was just formulaic now. I was on my way out again…then a funny thing happened…

Frank Miller meets Daredevil and THEN he meets Batman.

Almost at the same time “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns” and “The Watchmen” usher in the Modern Age of Comics.

New themes are explored and more importantly new ways of telling stories. The Graphic Novel opens up a whole new platform for creating comics. Books like Maus , Road To Perdition and From Hell all made use of this broad new pallet by collecting comic series into a single volume or even creating whole new stories AS graphic novels.

Gaiman’s Sandman was almost too beautiful to describe and raised the art form to another level…

Comics had become literature.

The Modern Age continues to expand the storytelling pallet. New genres are opening and established genres being rebooted. There are Digital comic and motion comics. There has been a WAVE of Superhero movie.

Smallville and Arrow and Walking Dead have all been hit TV shows.

Oh and guess what? SUPERMAN is coming back to a theater near you!

I’m 56…but I’m also 6 and still looking forward to new comics every Wednesday!

Comics have grown up. Happily, they are STILL growing up…evolving and learning and staying young.

Just like me.

That’s 30!


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Guide or Bibe?

I want to start by saying that I LOVE the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide. It has been in publication since 1970 and has become an indispensible tool for any comic collector. Every year I buy both the hard cover and soft cover versions and when the BIG spiral bound guide comes out I get that one too! The Overstreet guide is THE ultimate reference tool. It lists nearly every mainstream comic published in, well….forever!

Though the Overstreet Guide largely passes on Underground comics it does have excellent sections covering Big Little Books, Promotional, Victorian and Platinum Age books. The book provides an overview of the previous year’s market as well as very well researched articles and an ongoing “Hall of Fame” section.

As a catalogue and living history, the Overstreet Guide is second to none!

But if you are looking for a 100% accurate reflection of comic book VALUES, I urge you to take another look at the title. Overstreet publishes a GUIDE to prices, not (as many collectors and dealers refer to it) a BIBLE. In fact, as time goes on and the vintage comic trade lives more and more in the online world the values used in the Price Guide are becoming a LESS accurate reflection of what is going on in the market place.

There are several reasons for this.

The Online market has changed forever, the way we do business on many levels. For one thing it is far more immediate than brick and mortar storefront sales. There are literally thousands of options for collectors online today, as opposed to the days when you had one or two comic shops and maybe a yearly convention to choose from. The increased options for buyers has resulted in resellers paying a lot more attention to supply and demand. In other words, they have SALES. I purchase back issues from many sources and every single one of the has a “Make An Offer” option. I have never been turned down when I have been within 25% of the asking price. (Always take a shot at the make an offer option!)

This has made the prices on comics much more volatile and subject to bigger peaks and valleys than in the past. Check out the auctions on Ebay for example and you will see what I mean. The impact of online sales is particularly true of comics that have been recently published.

For instance, the excellent Saga #1 is less than a year old. I have watched it go at auction/resale for prices ranging between $75 and $300 over the LAST MONTH ALONE! This will not be reflected in a Guide that only publishes on an annual basis. By the time they publish volume #43 the actual resale value of Saga #1 will likely be nowhere near what it is today. In other words, the Guide does not show price TRENDING.

Most books in the Guide are OVER priced. My guess would be that about 80% fall into this category. The books simply do not fetch the prices that are reflected in the Guide. SOME books ( 10%?) are actually UNDER priced. This is particularly true of golden Age Archie Comics. Try to buy a copy of Archie #50 at “Guide”,if you can even find one, and see how much luck you have.
CGC has had a huge impact on the values in the Overstreet Guide as well. “Slabbed” books in high grades typically go for many multiples of “guide”. This premium is not reflected in Overstreet. Nor is the very large number of CGC books that actually sell for LESS than Guide value due to being “locked” into a mid to low grade number. I suspect that future issues of the guide will actually incorporate a CGC category but that is just a guess on my part.

Variant covers of new comics are extremely volatile in terms of resale, going from cover price to hundreds of dollars and then right back down to cover price again. An annual guide simply cannot properly reflect the “true” value of these books.
Finally, one should never forget that the prices reflected in the guide are RESALE values. Meaning the price you might expect if you are selling to another collector. Many times a collector sells to a DEALER who cannot turn a profit by paying resale prices for his stock. Typically a dealer can only pay on average about 25-40% depending on demand for your books. This is also not, and should not, be reflected in the Comic Book Price Guide.

In point of fact the people at Overstreet are diligent about pointing out that the book is NOT a price bible, merely a guide. That tag has been applied by collectors and dealers.

By all means, ENJOY and USE the Overstreet Price Guide! I do and will continue to buy at least ONE copy every year. Just be careful about thinking of it as a “bible”.

That’s 30!


Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Hardest Working Robot In Show Business

He was not the first robot in film history, but he was the first anthropomorphized robot …the first with “human” qualities…the first with a heart.
R2-D2, C3PO, The B9 “lost In Space” Robot, The Terminator, Mr. Data…hell…even Steve Austin owe much of their existence to him.

He is the Godfather of Robot Soul.

The Sinatra of Cybernetics!

The hardest working robot in show business!

Of course I am referring to the one and only Robby The Robot who made his debut in the 1956 MGM Sci-Fi classic, “Forbidden Planet”

As I mentioned earlier, Robby was not the first cinematic robot. As early as 1907 in the one reel “The Mechanical Statue and The Ingenious Servant” an engineer builds a mechanical man that goes on a rampage and must be destroyed. In the classic (1926) “Metropolis” a robot is created to take the place of the rebel leader and undermine her revolution.

In “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (1951) the implacable Gort is the enforcement tool of the intergalactic peacemaker Klatu.

But it is Robby who endures. He endures because in many ways he is US. He has a distinct personality. He has a sense of humor (belching after he analyzes a sample of bad bourbon!). He has a strong sense of ethics, being unable to harm humans. Robby is friendly, calling the Captain “Skipper!” when he pilots the space ship C57-D at the end of the film.

Robby is actually 7 foot tall robot SUIT piloted by Frankie Darro and designed by Arnold Gillespie and illustrator Mentor Huebner. He was finally fabricated under mechanical designer Robert Kinoshita.( Kinoshita will celebrate his 99th birthday on February 24th!!!) Kinoshita also designed the robot Tobor from the 1954 film “Tobor the Great” and Lost In Space B9 Robot (“Danger Will Robinson!!) who was obviously the “Son of Robby”.

Robby’s voice in Forbidden Planet was provided by the late Marvin Miller best known as Michael Anthony on the CBS anthology series The Millionaire which ran from 1955-1960.

Robby , was at the time the most expensive single prop ever created for a science fiction film . But BOY was he worth it. He immediately stole every scene he was in. The late Anne Francis said more than once that the moment they saw Robby on the set, they knew who the real star of Forbidden Planet was.

He lent a cache to the film because Robby looked as if he might actually work. You could see the gyroscopes in his transparent head dome keeping him balanced, watch the relays click and snap as he went through a thought process, and external antenna rotated for some other unknown purpose. He wasn’t blocky and square. He wasn’t just a human in make up. Robby has a specific design that while humanoid, was not human. He was sleek. He was (for the time) futuristic. He was the Cadillac of Robots.
In short, Robby was COOL.

In fact Robby was SO cool that the folks at MGM kept him working . The very next year he was THE star in the MGM release “The Invisible Boy” . MGM knew a star when they had one. And when they did not have a production for him he was loaned out to other studios.

Over the years Robby ahs appeared in many TV Shows and films including The Twilight Zone, The Man From UNCLE, Lost In Space, The Adams Family, Columbo, Mork & Mindy, Cherry 2000, Wonder Woman and Earth girls Are Easy (among MANY others!). Robby is also a noted pitch man, hawking wares for AT&T and Mattel.
In fact Robby is still hard at work today, most recently appearing in a General Electric commercial with fellow cyber star Kitt from Knight Rider.

Over the years Robby has fallen into various states of disrepair, necessitating the creation of several ‘stunt doubles’ for the star. In the 1970’s noted robot historian Fred Barton restored Robby to his original 1956 state and today he shares a home with Writer/ Director William Malone. Malone was a natural choice for Robby’s roommate as he is the world’s foremost collector of Forbidden Planet memorabilia. It is also rumored that both individuals are Forty-niners fans so NFL Sundays are peaceful occurrences! (though it HAS been said that Robby tends to “bogart” the hot wings)

Yup…the hardest working robot in Show Business!

That’s 30!


Thursday, January 10, 2013

75 is Right Around The Corner

This June we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the first appearance of Superman in Action Comics #1. Yes, I know that the character existed for some time before that June 1938 date, languishing in various slush files. The tales of rejection are legendary. And we also know that comics hit the stands BEFORE their cover dates. For instance the current issue of The Flash (#15) is noted as the February issue. Having said all that Superman’s birthday is and forever will be June 1938.
And it is shaping up to be a banner year for the Man of Steel.

For instance, on January 27th the Superman at 75 Panel Discussion and one day exhibit is being held at the center for Jewish History ,15 West 16th Street at 1 PM. (Of COURSE he’s Jewish!). The panel will be hosted by the author of “Superman: The High Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero”. Also appearing will be Denny O’Neil, the legendary Jim Shooter and Jennette Kahn the former publisher of DC comics. The panel will explore Superman’s incredible longevity, how he has adapted to his times over the decades and what the future holds for the Last Son Of Krypton.
So why exactly DOES Superman endure?

If you were to go back to , say 1941, and visit any newsstand you would see literally hundreds of superhero characters who are completely forgotten today. There was a complete boom in the superhero genre and the market was flooded. By the early 1950’s however, superheroes were all but gone. Only Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman survived in their own titles for DC. Some few other characters survived as back up features (Green Arrow and Aquaman for example).

One reason that Superman endured those dark days was simple. The very popular TV show, Adventures Of Superman was sweeping the nation, making a star out of George Reeves and introducing a new generation of children to The Man of Steel. Never underestimate the power of Television!

But I think there is a more basic reason that Superman was able to endure and continues to thrive.

He is a remarkably flexible character. Superman has been adapted to reflect the society of the time from his earliest days right up to his 75th birthday. In the 1930’s during the Great Depression Superman was a social crusader. Most often he dealt with corrupt politicians, gangsters, wife beaters etc. His focus was on the problems of the days . He was the Warner Brothers of Superheroes.
During World War II he was a symbol of the strength of the Nation, eagle perched on his elbow, flag proudly waving. All of America’s might in a single package.

The 1950’s and 60’s saw UNCLE Superman. The Mort Weisinger Superman. A character firmly aimed at the 8-12 set. He was the “moral majority” incarnate.
From the 70’s through the 80’s Superman grew up along with his readership. Was re-imagined by John Byrne and Frank Miller and even had a tussle with Muhammad Ali. The old boy still had legs!

Then the just as we were all taking Superman for granted DC showed us what it might be like if her were gone. So they killed Kal-El in the now legendary Superman #75. And the response was dramatic and immediate.

Kill Superman??!!! Everyone from hard core fans to people who never read a comic book in their lives were as shocked as if a REAL person had been killed. And even though we knew…KNEW he wouldn’t stay dead, it was a relief when he was brought back. We’d never take him quite so for granted again.

Finally, today Superman is once again being re-imagined by DC in the New 52 line. A new feature film is due out this year and is already generating a lot of buzz among the fanbase.

The future looks very bright for The Man of Tomorrow.

Superman at 75? He sure doesn’t look it!

That’s 30!