Saturday, October 30, 2010

"A Barer" Blog Posts Collection Now Available

"A Barer: Blog Posts 2006-2009" -- a collection of excerpts from my dad's blog -- is available at:

We haven't put any markup on the book; is the only party making money on it. A hard copy of the book (perfect-bound trade paperback) is $9.02; an ebook version (pdf) will set you back the princely sum of 99 cents.

Obviously, I'm biased; but when I pick a copy up and read it, I find it hard to put down. It's filled with anecdotes about our family; about Dad growing up in Walla Walla, Washington; about the famous people Dad has known; about the various personalities who have worked at the family business; and about life in general, from someone who has lived it.

For samples, see Dad's blog at

The Mystery of Muscle

I'm a sucker for the COMIC BOOK LEGENDS REVEALED column on the Comic Book Resources Website, which inquires into the truth or falsity of various urban legends about comics. (Those do tend to proliferate in the age of the Internet.) The current installment at explores the legal fallout from Flex Mentallo, Man of Muscle Mystery, Grant Morrison's sly parody of the Charles Atlas ads which appeared in DC's Doom Patrol comic in the early '90's. It amused me when it came out. It did not amuse the Charles Atlas company.

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

My Father Makes (a) Book

In the benign sense of the phrase.

I've been working on compiling posts from my father's blog ( into a paperback book, published on An initial edition was not formatted to my tastes, and so I spent this afternoon reformatting the manuscript and uploading it.

If this edition is satisfactory, I'll post the URL for purchasing the book. We will be making it available at cost, with no markup.

Just a few years ago, putting together this sort of project would require paying hundreds or thousands of dollars to a publisher or "vanity press"; and the result would be an ungainly-looking pamphlet. Today, a service such as provides the software tools for putting together a professional-looking perfect-bound paperback, with a color cover, for no money upfront. Money is paid only when a book is ordered and printed.

In an era in which the entire traditional book publishing and distribution industry is in jeopardy, I'm glad that services such as this are available to help people preserve history via the written word.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Releasing the Unreleasable

Warner Communications is a conglomerate that certainly doesn't need my endorsement. But I do want to plug one of their little-publicized projects: Warner Archive.,default,sc.html

The Archive takes movies and TV series from the Warner Archives that have never been released on DVD (presumably due to lack of perceived interest) and offers them as print-on-demand DVDs, complete with professional packaging. So far I've obtained from them the 1975 Doc Savage movie ( which I had to watch to confirm my memories of how bad it was) and a complete collection of the Thundarr the Barbarian cartoon from the early '80's, which featured character designs by Alex Toth and Jack Kirby and scripting by Steve Gerber, Roy Thomas and other comics writers. A DVD of Hammer's version of SHE, with Ursula Andress, is on its way. Check it out and see if there's some half remembered treasure you'd like to own on DVD.

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Drawing Batman

As someone who has read and collected Batman comics for decades -- and who has read many Batman comics stories published before he was born -- I have to say that many current comics artists simply do not "get" Batman. The Batman is one of the best-designed superhero characters of all time. That's plain from the number of consumers who have never read a Batman comic, and perhaps have never seen the character's 1960's TV show or all of his various animated incarnations over the last 45 years, yet are drawn to T-shirts or toys or other merchandise bearing his image. Batman, when drawn right -- with the right balance of shadow and light, fluidity and solidity -- looks cool. No matter that a Dick Sprang Batman from the mid-fifties is drawn in a completely different style from a Marshall Rogers Batman from the mid-seventies, or that a Jerry Robinson Batman from 1942 does not look exactly like a Carmine Infantino Batman from 1967. When the artist gets it right, you know it's Batman.

Unfortunately, many artists these days don't get it right. They have the necessary costume elements there; but it's not Batman. It's a character in a Batman suit. That doesn't mean the art is necessarily bad. They just don't get the character right.

What a treat, therefore, that the week of October 7, 2010 brought two new comics from artists who know how to draw Batman -- artists who first became known for drawing the character around 40 years ago.

One of the comics was issue #4 of BATMAN ODYSSEY. ODYSSEY is an extraordinary monthly series written, pencilled, and in its first two issues inked by my favorite Batman artist, Neal Adams.

Adams intends ODYSSEY as his definitive take on the character. I take some issues with his vision of Batman: Chatty, somewhat smart-assed, and wearing his emotions on his sleeve. That's particularly true in this issue, in which he thinks a criminal has killed a little girl that he was protecting, and he proceeds to pound the guy into hamburger while Commissioner Gordon and his cops try to talk him out of killing the man. (And I won't get into Adams's mulleted Aquaman.) But I have no complaints about the art, which not only equals the work Adams did from the late '60's to the early '70's on Batman but surpasses it. Even more extraordinary -- both for Adams, given his track record, and for modern comics in general -- is that each monthly issue has come out on time.

The week also brought a nice presentation of an inventory story (from an unspecified year -- although, from the art style, I believe it would be the early '90's) by Bernie Wrightson, ably inked by Kevin Nowlan.

This treat is accompanied by a reprint of Wrightson's first Batman story, a 1973 issue of his and Len Wein's SWAMP THING series, with an appreciation by Wein at the end. In this case, the art in the earlier story is better, in my opinion, than in the later Wrightson tale. But that does not lessen the fun of reading a comic in which the artist gets Batman right.

Fans who have read the character only in recent years may take issue with my preferences. That's fine. Batman is a resilient enough character to accommodate many artistic visions. But I'm glad that I can occasionally see new comics featuring Batman.

Sunday, October 03, 2010


I've been enjoying Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series of steampunk novels quite a bit. I've read the first two entries in the series (SOULLESS, released in 2009, and CHANGELESS, released in 2010) and have the latest, BLAMELESS, sitting on my Nook ready to read. The books take the approach (interesting if done right) of analyzing a fantasy conceit through the science fiction lens, and conveying it all in a tongue in cheek, hyper-Jane-Austin style that is a lot of fun to read. So much so that I don't even mind that it incorporates one of the current fantasy cliches, vampires vs. werewolves (although here, the conflict is more in manners than in tooth vs. claw combat).

So I found the interview with "Ms. Carriger" in the current Locus magazine interesting. Not only did the author create Gail Carriger as a pseudonym (due to her involvement in academia when formulating the series), but she has created an entire persona around the nom de plume. When she makes appearances as Carriger, she dresses in more vintage clothes, and adopts a more Anglicized and mannered conversational style than normal. Her stated goal is to create Gail Carriger as a brand. And it is working. CHANGELESS debuted on the NY Times bestseller list, as did BLAMELESS last month.

It's no secret that an author's public persona can be an effective marketing tool, particularly when the author is an entertaining bon vivant or a fun curmudgeon. To what extent can a persona be created as an advertising tool -- particularly where, as here, the author's true identity and the persona's creation are open "secrets?"

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Stephen J. Cannell

Perhaps the most graceful way to deal with a death is to write with joy about that person's life. That is what my cousins Lee and Tod Goldberg have done to address the passing of Mr. Cannell.

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