Friday, August 16, 2019

John A. Wilcox is more famous than you!

I know John A. Wilcox, In fact, I know him quite well, some 40 years plus-or-minus he’s a multi-talented guy, and I count myself lucky to number him as one of my oldest friends.

Among other things, John is a cartoonist, and knows other cartoonists. One of these cartoonists that he knows is a guy named Bob Weber, Sr. Bob is the creator of Moose and Molly, a syndicated cartoon, and every once in a while for years now, Bob, (because he is a funny guy), likes to randomly insert John’s name into the Moose and Molly cartoon.

Personally, I think this is hilarious, and, well, so does John.

Here are just a few times that Bob has inserted John’s name into the strip (for reference, John himself has never appeared in the strip, just his name.







Right about now don’t you wish you were John?


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Scifies the 2019 Anthology

Okay, I want to take a little bit of time to talk about one of my favorite collaborators, Ramon Gil. Ramon is one of those Jack-of-all-Trade Entrepreneurs, he has his fingers in a number of pies. he is a writer, artist, publisher, teacher, and more.

Back in 2015, a short time after I met him, I was invited to write an introduction to his collection of short illustrated stories, Scifies Greatest Hits. the book was a collection of a number of Ramon’s previously-published stories. Given that I was already a fan of Ramon’s work, I was honored to be asked, and so I happily agreed. At the time, I wrote:

“It is an honest pleasure to find not only a science fiction title out there, but one produced by a writer who seems to understand that drama doesn't have to be all dramatic, and humor doesn't have to be all belly-laughs.” 

In 2018 Ramon invited me to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology Diversity Con in NYC (I’ll be attending again this year) which is a comic con that he organized. So yeah, Ramon is a very busy guy, and I wish I had half his energy.

Still, what I want to talk about here is the 2019 Scifies anthology that he put
together. This time, instead of writing the whole book himself, he assembled a very impressive array of talent to contribute stories. This edition features work from several rising stars as well as a number of seasoned veterans of the comicbook industry, including Nicolò Arcuti, Chase Bluestone, Paul Bradford, Allen Byrns, Claire Connelly, Macareña Cortes, Daniel Franco, Rob Jones, Matt Kelly, Dick Malmgren, Micah Myers, Jan Marc Quisumbing, Peder Riis, Derwin Roberson, Tue Sorensen, Marta Tanrikulu and Lynne Yoshii, and yes, even your humble blogger.

The 10 stories include the following eight new stories:

Tomorrow: A nightmarish, militaristic future might be more than it seems. By Claire Connelly.

Ocean of Emptiness: a vampire, the last of his kind, tries to survive in a world that's hunting him. By Paul Bradford, Allen Byrnes and Micah Myers. 

Name Day: a fantastical shopping trip for a young girl with her father. By Marta Tanrikulu, Daniel Franco and Robin Jones.

Spacegirl Speeda in Lazerville: a cosmic superheroine in the future makes an unusual friend. By Tue Sorensen and Peder Riis.

Lt. Yorick: As if the presence of a silent astronaut wasn't strange enough for this suburban family, ten-year-old Jude's nightmares hint at a catastrophic end for them all, in this otherworldly coming of age tale. By Matt Kelly and Nicolo Arcuti.

The Last Survivor: the story a lone soldier trying to make her last stand against an alien creature leads to a shocking twist. By Lynne Yoshii.

The ninth story is something of a unique oddity. When one of the original contributors pulled out of the project due to a conflict, Ramon found an old Sci-fi story that existed in the public domain, then — in the tradition of Woody Allen’s What’s up, Tiger Lily? he re-wrote the dialogue adding, well, a heaping helping of trademark Ramon humor, making it one of my favorite tales in the collection.

Emergency Landing: visitors from a one-gendered planet encounters a human female who will not be denied. By Dick Malmgren and Ramon Gil.

The 10th and final story is one written by, well, me, and then magnificently illustrated by Ramon.

The Long Event Horizon: a dangerous space expedition leads to an unforgettable conclusion! By Robert J. Sodaro and Ramon Gil.

All-in-all, this is a wonderful collection of sci-fi-themed stories rendered by an amazingly-talent crew to which I am grateful and honored to have been associated with for the project.

As I stated at the onset of this post, Ramon has the talent, ability and drive to assemble and produce some truly amazing projects, and I am always thrilled when he chooses to include me in whatever he is doing.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Captain Spider-Man


Given that today is Punch a Nazi Day…er, Independence Day we decided to pen a tale of two of our favorite iconic heroes; Spider-Man and Captain America.



In the beginning, there was the Hero, and the Hero was with man, and the Hero was man. This is the way it was in the beginning. There is a reason that we worship Heroes. We love and adore them, and we know that as much as we admire them, we will never be them, but still we not only aspire to be like them, we choose to emulate them. Then when they fail, we abandon them to the fates. As it turns out, every generation throws a Hero up the pop charts, only to wait to watch when they inevitably fall.

By this I mean that as a people, we aspire to work towards a greater good. We want to perceive the world as allegory, with a higher power or powers directing us, or even acting in concert with us. We want to believe that there are those among us who will rise up and lead or protect and rescue us in our hour of need (i.e.: The 7th Calvary, The Marines, A White Knight, if you will).

It is my contention that there are, and always have been, those who take up the mantle of patrón, those who are willing to put themselves in harm’s way to protect those of us who are weaker. Joseph Campbell talked about the Hero’s Journey; that path that an ordinary individual must take to become the person that are destined to become. I believe in destiny not so much as a force of nature, but more as a character — one of many actors on the scene — than as an immutable path that can never be altered.

So, yes, there are heroes, and yes, sometimes those heroes fail, but that doesn’t not stop us from either believing in them, or continuing to craft stories about them, whether real or fictional.
As for me, I am a member of the cult of Heroes. I am, at my core, a Heroist. That is to say that I, perceive myself to be a founding member of the cult of Heroes, because of this, I find that I must misquote Voltaire and say that I truly believe that if Heroes did not exist, then we would have been required to create them. Obviously, both sides of that last statement are true.

Captain America is one of those heroes. Created by Jack Kirby in 1940, Captain America has grown to become the living embodiment of America. A symbol of how we perceive ourselves. There is this great story about Kirby, when he was working at the Timely/Marvel offices, Jack took a phone call. The voice on the other end said, “There are three of us down here in the lobby. We want to see the guy who does this disgusting comicbook [Captain America] and show him what real Nazis would do to his Captain America.” To the horror of others in the office, Kirby rolled up his sleeves and headed downstairs. However, by the time he arrived in the building’s lobby, the callers were gone.


Cap is a one-of-a-kind hero who understands that he is more than just some guy in a suit who fights crime. He is an icon in that he is the embodiment of the very ideals upon which this country was founded. You want to talk Truth, Justice, and The American Way? Let’s talk about Captain America; a trans-generational hero who will stand his ground and “Do this all day” if need be. He is the guy who rushes into a building with an active shooter when everyone else is running out. A Hero’s hero. A rallying cry to the downtrodden and to those who will sacrifice everything for those without a voice.

And yet, he isn’t the only one.

It has long been my contention that Spider-Man is the Captain America of my generation (I came of age during Stan, Jack, and Steve’s launching of the Marvel Age of comics), and I wish to take a moment or two of your time to expound my theory. Like Steve Rogers before him, Peter Parker was born a skinny lad with a pure heart. As a young man, Steve trended towards the arts, while Peter was intoxicated by science. What links both of them is that each had a strong sense of obligation and duty to others.

While not much is known of Steve’s parents, the little we do know is that Steve was born July 4, 1922, to Sarah and Joseph Rogers, Irish Catholic immigrants. Rogers grew up a frail youth in New York City during the Great Depression. His father passed away when Steve was a child and his mother died from pneumonia when Steve was in his late teens. Other than these few facts — and that he had a strong sense of duty, honor, and humility instilled in him by his parents — precious little else is known about Rogers’ early life. Truth to tell, Steve’s real story began when he was injected with the Super Soldier formula and exposed to Vita rays, becoming Captain America.

Much more is known about Peter Parker’s formative years, he’s the son of Richard and Mary Parker. The Parkers were a pair of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who died on an assignment while fighting the Red Skull. Peter in turn, was raised by his uncle and aunt, Ben and May Parker. When Peter was 15, he was attending a science exhibit and was bitten by a radioactive spider which gave him his powers. Shortly thereafter his uncle was killed by a burglar that Peter later realized he could have stopped prior to the assault on his uncle, if only he acted. This incident transformed Peter into Spider-Man for real.

Like Steve before him, Peter was also instilled with a strong sense of duty, honor, and humility courtesy of his aunt and uncle. Perhaps the most well-known hero mantra in all of fiction are the words uttered by Peter’s Uncle Ben to him as a youth, “With great power must also come great responsibility.” It was these words that propelled Peter, as Spider-Man to help others in need.
We have long contended that the only real difference between Peter and Steve is that Steve had the unique and dubious advantage of having been wrapped in the flag and trained by the military. Peter, for his part had to figure out his powers on his own. It was then Peter’s ill fortune to inadvertently run afoul of Daily Bugle publisher, J. Jonah Jameson (when Spidey rescued Jameson’s son, astronaut John Jameson on an ill-fated space mission). It was this selfless act that caused the self-aggrandizing Jameson Sr. to decide that Spidey was a show-boating glory hound taking fame away from “real” heroes like his son John.

Had it not been for Jameson’s massive ego, and over-blown sense of self-importance Spider-Man wouldn’t have had to wait so long for acceptance and credibility among the general populace (heroes like Cap, Daredevil, and others tended to believe in his heroic nature from the start). Still, one can only wonder (and we have) how different would Peter’s life have been if he too had had the advantage of a military experience. Well (without going into too many specifics) consider the following, if Peter had acquired military training, coming to the attention of Col. Fury, who had just been installed as the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. recruits Peter as both a scientist and super-agent. Then when Steve steps down as Cap

(In Captain America #153 (1972) Steve Englehart determined to close the gap on the 1950s reboot of Cap as a commie smasher (something that Stan eradicated with Cap coming out of the ice direct from WWII into the then present in Avengers #4. This led to Steve’s disillusionment of maintaining the role of America’s hero, causing him to step down as Cap and taking up the role of Nomad. Steve eventually took up the role of Cap in Captain America #184).

During this interim period, Fury taps Peter to become the new Captain America. Having already established his Spider-Man persona, Peter determines to maintain a bit of his own history even as he steps into his new role as America’s Captain, and adapts the stars and stripes of Cap’s Iconic costume to his own Spider-sensibilities. Needless to say, when Steve determines to take up the shield once more, Peter becomes, well, Captain Spider-Man.

To be sure, as a life-long Spidey fan, I have thought long and hard about this particular incarnation of my webbed hero, but clearly I’m not the only one who has considered this version of Spidey-Cap, as the accompanying photo and article of an actual cosplay costume indicates.




Monday, July 01, 2019

The Kinder Avengers

Some years back (2000) a book I wrote about fast food toys and collectibles hit the book shelves. That book was entitled Kiddie Meal Collectibles. It was a fun book to write and I rather enjoyed not only doing the research, compiling the data, but actually writing. Over the years since them I've continued to write about and collect toys attached to food products, mostly superhero-related toys, to be sure, but still.

Recently I have become aware of the presence of Kinder Eggs here in the U.S. Now, they are not the same as the Kinder Eggs that are found in Canada, but that actually matters less to me than the toys themselves. Last year I found out that the U.S. Kinder Eggs started licensing the toys that are included (still not sure if the Canadian eggs do as well).

So far I have found Barbie, Star Wars, and Avengers. I scored just a single Barbie Kinder, and a few Star Wars figures, but my best find were complete sets of Avengers:Infinity Wars and Avengers: Endgame figures.

First up the Avengers:

Avengers Infinity War



In this set we have Iron Man (L),
(Back row) Captain America, Groot, Ant Man, Star Lord,
(front row) Black Panther, Wasp, and Spider-Man

 

























The second image is the front of the instructions to the left we have one of the Kinder Egg shells,and then to the right we have five of the assembly instructions.

Avengers Endgame


This set gave us (L) Spider-Man
(Way Back) Iron Man, Captain America, Groot, Ant Man,
(Middle) Black Panther, Thor (who seems to be laying down on the job),
(front & center) Hulk


Here we have the instructions for assembling the Black Panther as well as the front view of the full team (sadly, Wasp, Gamora, and Captain Marvel are pictured but don't appear in the toy set).


An Avengers: Endgame egg shell, and Iron Man


Spidey and Ant Man


Hulk & Groot

Star Wars: The Last Jedi



I don't recall how many characters were in this set, but here is R2D2, A Sith Lord, and an Imperial Trooper (If I remembered their names I'd certainly tell you).


One of the Star Wars egg shells

Barbie


Only picked up a single Barbie Kinder Egg

Candida Kinder Eggs


These are the Canadian Kinder Eggs I picked up (the difference is that in the Canadian eggs the toy is inside the chocolet egg, while in the American versions, the toy is in half the shell and the chocolate is in the other half with a scoop to get at the chocolate.


These are the two toys that I acquired from the Canadian eggs. 


I know that I have some other random Kinder eggs (Including some from Jurassic Park), but they will have to wait for another post (once I can find them). 



Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Flags Hung Backwards on Stranger Things

So, yeah, I'm a (one-time) Boy Scout, as well as a (former) Scout leader, and if there was one thing that I learned as a Scout, it was how to hang a flag. The fact that so many people simply don't know how to hang one, really bothers the living crap out of me. So whenever I see it these days, I call it out.

The most recent place that I've seen this, is on the Netflix streaming TV show Stranger Things.

In season two, episode three we have the first instance of a flag hung backwards:


Then in season two episode five we have the egregious error twice.




As you can see from the three photos above, there is an American Flag hung in a vertical (rather than a horizontal) position. The way these flags have been hung is wrong. According to the U.S. Flag Code when hung, the flag should always (ALWAYS) be displayed with the blue star field in the upper left corner.

When horizontal the flag should be hung like this:



When hung vertical, the flag should be hung like the image on the left, not the right.



It may seem like a rather small thing, but if you are going to to do something (show your patriotism), then it should be done correctly.