Sunday, January 13, 2019

Harlan Ellison Ruined My life

On June 28, 2018 we lost one of the true giants of speculative fiction, Harlan Ellison. What follows here is an essay that I have long been attempting to write — even before Harlan’s passing.

* * * *

I started writing professionally in 1981 (for the comicbook publication, Amazing Heroes); in ’83 I met the publisher of Video Gaming Illustrated, and he hired me to first write reviews for the publication, and later to become part of the editorial staff.

At some point between those two events (late ’82 or early ’83) I happened to have met Harlan. It was at a comicbook convention in New York City. Harlan was on the floor of the con expounding on something or other to a gaggle of thoroughly entranced fans. These fans were completely taken with the fact that someone as legendary as Harlan was talking to them (after all, he had written City on the Edge of Forever — for STTOS — as well as edited the two Dangerous Visions)

These kids (ha, “kids” they were probably my age or younger) were all “Mr. Ellison…” “Mr. Ellison…” and Harlan was thrilled with the attention and happy to indulge them. Being all of 27 or 28 and having published a couple of articles, as well as working as an assistant editor for Amazing Heroes and The Comics Journal, I was totally full of myself and so I walked right up to Harlan and addressed him.

“Harlan,” I said (somehow thinking myself on par with him). “My name is Bob Sodaro, and I just want you to know that you saved my life.”

“Of course I did.” He responded. “How?”

“You wrote [In Dangerous Visions] that a writer writes, and that if he can’t write, he should go out and work with his hands ‘til he can write, and then come back and show everyone that he can. Well I’m currently working with my hands at Remington Arms, and, like you, I also write for Gary (Groth; publisher of TCJ). What you said, (“A writer writes”) was so important to me that I wrote it down and taped it to my typewriter to remind myself.”

It was at this point that Harlan smiled and said, “That’s great, someday, when you get to my place you can have taped to your typewriter what I have tapped to mine.”

And all of a sudden — like the kids he was entertaining a moment ago — I too am a fan, and eager to know what this great bit of wisdom that Ellison has tapped to his typewriter.

“What?” I breathlessly asked.

“I’m a writer and I don’t have to take shit from anyone.”

It was at that very moment (even though I didn’t realize it for years to come) that Harlan Ellison ruined my life.

You see, what I heard was that — as a writer — I too didn’t have to take shit from anyone.

To be sure, I did, in fact, go home, type that line up, and tape it to my typewriter. And for years (and years) that followed, I totally bought into the mantra that I was a writer and didn’t have to take shit from anyone.

As I aged and maneuvered through the rest of my life, in the back of my head, whenever I was getting static from those around me, I remembered Harlan’s words, and conducted myself accordingly. Needless to say, the mere arrogance of living life like that most assuredly got me into (and perhaps even out of) numerous incidents.

Now I realize that I have not (and perhaps never will) achieve the mastery of Ellison, but I still believe that what he told me applies to not only me, but to all writers, as in an interview I read (in TCJ of all places) with Bill Gaines — the former publisher of EC Comics, and then publisher of Mad Magazine — stated that  writers were everything, and without writers we’d have…roller derby.

Further, I recalled something that Robert A. Heinlein (one of my favorite authors) said, that a writer writes, and gets his writing published. Over the years, I’ve written numerous ad spots, thousands of articles, contributed to dozens of books, and penned a number of short stories, as well as a play or two.

As a postscript to the above, I did once get the opportunity to interview Harlan, for Amazing Heroes (#44 April 1984) where we discussed his upcoming story in Daredevil #208, entitled The Deadliest Night in My Life, which was illustrated by David Mazzuchelli. A story which has been hailed as “One of the Best Daredevil Stories Ever [written]”

So, again, while I’m freely willing to admit that I’m not (and probably never will be) “Harlan Ellison Great” for better or worse, I am a writer, and I do believe that I have a way with words.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Hey look! I’m (apparently) wicked famous again!

So, back in March of this year (2018)  the folks over at the Grawlix Podcast spent some time reviewing a comic that I wrote for Red Anvil Comics, entitled Owlgirls. Well, Red Anvil co-publisher Joe Martino hard the podcast, and alerted me to its presence. So I checked it out.

So, after listening to that podcast where the hosts seemed to like (if not quite understand) the comic, I checked out a couple more of their podcasts and they seemed like nice enough blokes, so I reached out to them and indicated that I’d be more than happy to talk with them about Owlgirls, as it was really one of my personal favorite comicbook projects in which I have been involved.

I spoke about that original podcast here,

After a brief exchange, and a (relatively short) time period, we managed to get together, and record the podcast. That particular podcast was released a bout a week back, and is now up online (here).

I listened to the podcast and (even though I already knew what what it was all about) rather enjoyed it. So if you want to learn more about Owlgirls, Red Anvil, or some of the other (admittedly cool) stuff I’m doing, check out the ‘cast and then tell them how much you enjoyed it.

Then hang out and make the Grawlix Podcast a regular listening ‘cast of yours!

So Thanks Randy, Jessie, and Melanie for a fun Sunday afternoon, and all of the press, and ego-boo!

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Teen Titans Go (the Movie)

So, a week or so back I went to see Teen Titans Go! To the Movies with fellow comic aficionado (and former DC Comics scribe) Gary Cohn. The reason for this was that while Gary was at DC he (and Dan Mishkin) co-created Amethyst Princess of Gemworld who showed up in an (all too brief) cameo in the film.

Now (admittedly) neither Gary or I would normally attend the theatrical screening of such a film (no offense to the film itself nor to the creators, cast or crew of the film, it is just that an animated film targeted towards kids (even a comicbook-based film) just isn’t our cup of tea. We are both more the live-action funnybook film kind of guys (me more than Gary, but that’s another story).

If anyone is interested, a longer, more detailed review of mine will appear at a later date over on HubPages, where I’ve been posting my film reviews as of late. (Yeah, yeah, I know I’ve been absent from those pages for a while, but, you know, life and all that, and I do plan on returning to posting over there as soon as possible.)

Needless to say, both Gary and I thoroughly enjoyed the film (yeah, it was goofy, and hyper-kinetic, and yes, targeted for a (much) younger audience. Still, it was very entertaining, and all. Plus we not only got to see Amethyst herself, but we got to see Gary’s (and Dan’s) name(s) in the credits.

However, even more surprising, was that comicbook superstar, and Marvel’s own legendary Stan Lee also had a surprisingly unexpected Cameo in the film. Now how cool was that?


Sunday, July 15, 2018

Incredibles 2 @ McDonald’s!

So, a week or so back I watched Incredibles 2 and I want to report that it is every bit an entertaining film as was Incredibles. Quite literally picking up immediately at the end of the original film. it was a huge treat to watch this film and know that Director Brad Bird did an amazing job on maintaining the quality of the first film.

According to reports, Stan Lee remarked that the original film was the best Fantastic Four film that he never wrote; which is pretty high praise considering that there have been four live action films (including the first one in ‘94 that was never released theatrically) as well as two animated films (plus an animation TV show or two).

Further (and you may not know this part), there was a “stealth” cameo by “Mr. Excelsior” himself in the new film (seen below):

This scene appears like two-thirds through the film (I spotted it immediately, others didn’t, so I totally win here 😊).Oh, but to the point of this post. For the past few weeks, there have been Incredibles 2 toys at McDonald’s, and I’ve managed to acquire nine of the ten toys (I’m currently missing Mr. Incredible, but I hope to snag him in the next couple of days).

As regular readers of this blog know, I have something of an affinity towards fast food superheroes which wound up being a seed for an article I wrote about them that  — while it never wound up in print — ended up spring-boarding my book, Kiddie Meal Collectibles (Antique Trader Books March 2001).

Currently I have dozens of superhero fast food toys from numerous restaurant chains. Perhaps someday I’ll compile articles and images into a book specifically designed to delve into this very entertaining (to me at least) sub-set of fast food toys.

Meanwhile, my hunt for Mr. Incredible continues.


So, my delightfully lovely friend, Martha stopped at a MickyD’s in the great nutmeg state of CT and acquired for me a Mr. Incredible, thus completing my set. 

I’m so happy I could carry a book!

Martha is so sweet to not only put up with my excessive silliness, but to indulge me as well.

She’s the bestest! 

Monday, March 19, 2018

Owlgirls on Grawlix Podcast

Yeah, yeah, I know its been a while and all, but for those of you (both of you) who rather enjoyed Red Anvil Comics' Owlgirls, there is (apparently) still some interest in them. As evidenced by this recent Grawlix Podcast. The hosts talk about the book's two issues, and discuss what they liked and disliked about the book. Needless to say, they seemed to (mostly) enjoy it, and hoped that there were more issues coming.

As the writer of the series, I too hope that we can get back to this title and finish the (proposed) five-issue run of the initial story arc.

If you are interested in reading the first issue, it can be found on Amazon.

Friday, March 02, 2018

The Death of Captain Mar-Vell

So, we have just recently learned that Marvel’s film Captain Marvel — staring Brie Larson — is duethe seventh Captain Marvel (she was previously known as Ms. Marvel) in the comics, the film ignores all of that and puts Larson/Danvers as the first and only Captain.
to drop March 19, 2019.

This film deals with Captain Carol Danvers becomes Captain Marvel. Well, as we in the funnybook world know, while Carol Danvers was actually

Yes, yes, we totally understand that there are differences between the Marvel Comicbook Universe and the Marvel Cinematic Universe are different (oh Hell, we’ve been reading Marvel Comics for most of our life, and understand that there are differences in the comicbooks themselves.) Thing is, we know the original Captain Marvel, and we remember when he died.

In fact, we wrote about it at the time in the landmark issue of Comics Collector, at the time, and still to this day, feel that it was one of the most emotional and well-written graphic novels we ever read.

Here is the article that I wrote at that time. (the article was reprinted on Bleeding Cool back on November 17, 2013)

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Yes, this is another America Flag is Hung Wrong in a Funnybook Post

OK, so all’Ya’all know that as a (former) Boy Scout, I feel strongly about the way the American Flag (mostly because I’ve posted about it rather extensively in this blog), well, I don’t actually seek these things out, but they do tend to follow me around.

So here I was, catching up on my Free Comic Book Day (#FCBD) comics from last year (2017 — yeah, I just a tad behind on my funnybook reading) and I came across #KidSavage from #Image.

Towards the end of the comic the Kid Savage character stumbles into a space ship and discovers a poster of a woman he seems to remember. In that poster is a U.S. flag that is (you guessed it) hanging horizontally, and (once again) the artist has illustrated it with the blue star field in the upper right corner.

Once again, let me say that this is wrong. the blue star field is always (always) displayed in the upper left! Especially when the flag is horizontal.


When will artists learn to look stuff like this up? When will editors and writers also learn this and correct the image so it doesn’t appear in print backwards?


Free Comicbook Day is celebrated the first Saturday in May, this year it will be on Saturday May 5, 2018.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Steve Bissette's Taboo!

Back in 1988, I went to a comic convention in New Hampshire. There I met Steve Bissette. Steve had recently announced that he was launching a horror anthology entitled Taboo. As I was regularly contributing to Amazing Heroes (AH) at the time, I asked if I could interview him, and secured his contact info. After the con, I contacted my editor, Kim Thompson, at AH to pitch the article.

I was given the go-ahead and then reached out to Steve. Only, Steve told me that he wasn't quite ready to launch the series. So I got back to Kim, who told me to continue to pursue Steve, and when Steve was ready, and I got the interview, to let Kim know, and he would schedule the article.

Well, I wound up calling Steve once a month for a year, while he gathered material for the book in preparation for the launch. Well, when he was finally ready, I got to chat with him. Steve, if you didn’t already know, was a extraordinarily talented horror artist and writer. When I began the interview I confessed to him that I really wasn’t a big fan of horror.

We then spent the next four hours talking about all kinds of horror, from comics, to books, to TV to film, and of course about Taboo itself. As it turns out I — quite literally — knew of every horror reference he made. Which really surprised me as (as I told Steve)  I really didn’t like horror, mostly as it truly scared the living crap out of me.

Needless to say, I got the interview, wrote the article and had it published in issue #153 of AH.

Then, for some 10 years after it’s publication, whenever I would run into Steve at a con, he would be very nice to me, saying hello, introducing me to others around him, and chatting with me. I never really understood why Steve was always so nice. Then one time he said to the folks with him. “Bob was the first person who wrote about Taboo.”

It was then that it suddenly occurred to me that what to me was simply me chasing a story (calling him once a month for a year), was to him the tenacity of a reporter intent on promoting something that was something of a life passion for him.

I have since caught up with and frended Steve on Facebook as well as reviewed his book Teen Angels & New Mutants, which details Rick Veitch’s groundbreaking work on the series Brat Pack. Anyway, today I happened to come across AH #153, and thought I’d post the interview in its entirety here.

I honestly think that it is one of the best articles I’ve ever written,

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A (Writing) Blast from the Past

So, I was going through some old (file, not music) CDs of mine, and I came across one where I had archived an article I wrote back in 2006 for the premier issue of a magazine called Norwalkplus. As that particular article never quite made it to being posted online, I figured that I’d post those pages here now.

This turned out to be a pretty cool gig for me for a while, I even got to have a number of articles appear in not only Norwalkplus, but the mag’s sister publication Stamfordplus. While I don't have scans of those articles, I do have links to those online pages.

Super 7: Two sides of the same highway — this was an article for Norwalkplus about the proposed extension to Route 7

Artists in Residence — An article about The Silvermine Artists-in-Residence program. (Norwalkplus)

Engineering the 21st Century — A profile of the then newly-opened engineering high school AITE (Stamfordplus)

Stamford Today — about the Stamford Art Association (Stamfordplus)

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

A question of Suns

OK, so I was just watching the most recent episode of Supergirl on the CW (1/22/18 — Fort Rozz). In this episode she needs to travel to the Kryptonian prison, Fort Rozz, which is currently orbiting a blue sun.

Now, while I totally understand the concept of different colored suns (as well as the comicbook legacy that Kryptonians gain powers under yellow suns) it has always bothered me as to how Supergirl (man) is able to maintain her/his powers when out in space.

I'm sure that this must have been addressed in the comics over the years, only I don't actually recall.

I mean, is it that all Kryptonians actually have power, only the rays of a red sun somehow negate them? Do they only have powers under a yellow sun? (Do they have additional or alternate powers and/or abilities under different colored suns?)


Anyone want to weigh in on this?

I mean, it’s not like this is keeping me up at night, but I really do kinda want to know.