January 29, 2010

John Pound's "Ronald Rabbit"

If you think funny animals are just for kids, you may not be ready for "Ronald Rabbit," a twisted tale of revenge from the mind of John Pound. Later in his career, Pound would paint some of those outrageous "Wacky Packages" and "Garbage Pail Kids" cards that used to eat up my allowance money. This comic is from Death Rattle #1 (June 1972, Kitchen Sink). NSFW.

John Pound's website.

January 27, 2010

Art Clokey's "Mandala"

Art Clokey, who recently passed, made the short film Mandala in 1964. The goal of the film, according to Art, was to communicate "the idea of evolving our consciousness from primordial forms to human form, and then beyond the human to the spiritual and eternal. The theme was the evolution of consciousness: we begin in the mud and we just go out and up."

A rare treat from a true visionary. Enjoy.

Pernell Roberts' Death Activated My ESP

Actor Pernell Roberts passed away Sunday at the age of 81. He will be best remembered by most for his roles in Bonanza and Trapper John MD.

Yesterday afternoon, quite oblivious to the news of his passing, I got the theme song from the latter series stuck in my head.

That's a little spooky.

January 26, 2010

Ten By Thaves

I just found this little collection of Bob Thaves' Frank And Ernest. I clipped from the newspaper when I was 12. I had to give up clipping Sunday Comics. I couldn't stand seeing the strips on the reverse side of the page being totally mutilated. The sight of a decapitated Andy Capp creeped me out.

One doesn't hear nearly enough in comic strip discussions about Frank and Ernest. It's good-natured brand of subversion was a welcome relief from "sitcom" strips like Beetle Bailey and Marmaduke in 1985, the year these particular strips appeared. I also liked how the characters occasionally would break the fourth wall.

Just for the record ( and according to several sources), F&E was the first panel cartoon presented in strip format, the first to present it's protagonists in an ever-changing array of forms, and the first to utilize digital coloring for it's Sunday edition.

Conan, Jay, and Johnny

My flu didn't keep me from staying glued to the whole Conan/Jay train wreck. This was quite a spectacle. My thoughts:

It's hard for me to believe that Conan, in his contract negotiations in 2004, gave NBC the ultimatum: "Give me The Tonight Show in 5 years or I'm done with NBC." If Conan did do that, it was a serious, and unattractively egotistical, mistake on his part.

The decision for Jay to leave the show should have been made by Jay alone, given the fact that his Tonight Show had been successful. Johnny Carson hosted The Tonight Show for 30 years. 2009 marked Jay's 18th year hosting. If Jay desired to host until his 20th, 25th, or 30th Anniversary, as long as he was winning the time slot, he had earned the right to make that call. I don't think he would have wanted to try to make it to his 30th Anniversary, because that would make him 72 years old. Of course, I understand that Jay is quite the workaholic, so you never know...

NBC should have come to Jay and said " Is it possible that you can come to a conclusion about what year you want to step down?" Johnny was 66 when he retired. If Jay were to have retired on his 25th anniversary in 2017, he would be about the same age. If Conan was unwilling to wait an extra 8 years to land the most prestigious job in all of network television, then NBC should have let him go.

On the other hand, if Conan took over in 2017, he would have been 54 years old, and there's no chance that run could last 30 years, or 25, or even 15. But there is no law that states that every host of The Tonight Show gets 30 years, or 25, or even 15. The only "law" of tv is this: "If your show is successful and we're making money, you get to keep your show until you retire or stop being successful." Obviously, NBC forgot this rule in a greedy attempt to have the best of all possible worlds.

Why would NBC try so hard to appease Conan when Jay was winning his time slot against Letterman? Obviously, Jay had the numbers, ah, but the demographics...there's the rub. I'd bet anything Conan is more popular with that most desirable pie slice, the coveted 18-24 age group. They perhaps figured that putting the young guy in The Tonight Show would increase their ad revenues significantly. Not bad thinking, but they lacked the courage of their convictions. NBC had the cahones to eject Jay, but they couldn't stomach the unexpected ratings slide that they should have predicted would happen, at least in the short term, as Jay's loyalists tuned out.

Conan deserved at least 18 months to build his Tonight Show audience. And he deserved to be able to do it without having to follow Jay's 10 O'Clock Tonight Show. And let's face it, that's what it was. For 7 months, NBC tried to convince the public that two Tonight Shows were better than one. Guess what? Not so much.

Now, I must state at this point that I stopped watching The Tonight Show after Johnny retired. Jay puts on a decent show, but the vibe is totally different. Johnny was a master at all the components that made his Tonight Show popular. He made every guest feel special, his timing was impeccable, and he could draw laughter from a turnip, which many of his one-liners turned out to be. No matter what a shitty day I might have had, Johnny turned it upside down with a smile, a joke, and a turban. Johnny was a magician. I felt as if he was actively involved in making my life better. The bully would take my lunch money, I'd slip in a mud puddle, and my cat would die. Then Johnny would walk through a curtain and seem to say, "Forget all that crap, kid. Look, I've got a bird taking a dump on my head. Live a little. You're only here once." It's not Jay's fault that he never captured that essence of Johnny. No one could. Or so I thought.

During Conan's last two weeks, I saw a glimpse of that essence again. The way Conan was humorously slinging barbs at his bosses was exactly the kind of thing Johnny would do. Pull no punches, as long as it's funny. There is a fine line there, and Coco walked it with ease. On his last show, he stared straight at us and said "don't be cynical" and I again felt Johnny's presence, the humanity that colored all of his performances.

I wish Jay luck in trying to recapture his audience, but I don't think it's going to work. Too much has changed now. He is damaged goods, seen as somewhat of a villain though he's really not.

I predict great things from Conan if he continues to desire a late night show, as long as he remembers what he learned in the last few weeks. Show your humanity and don't be afraid to skewer sacred cows, the bigger the better. And stay humble.

NBC, what can I say? That peacock is looking like a turkey. Why don't you go back to basics? Go back and watch your 70's and 80's programming. Find your own humanity. Stop being so calculating. Have faith in the most promising talents. Stop cloning successful shows. Be original. Have integrity. Live a little. Every comedy doesn't have to be a snark fest. Every other show doesn't have to be a reality show. I'd rather watch faded vhs copies of Bloopers and Practical Jokes than almost anything you are showing me right now. Demographics can burn. Stop entertaining numbers on a flow chart and start entertaining real people.

And bring back Diff'rent Strokes. Coleman needs our help!

January 25, 2010

Sizzlin' Celery Sticks!

Great Caesar's Goat! Am I dreaming or has this humble blog been visited by the one and only Scott Shaw!? Let the gushing begin!

For those of you who have never heard of this man and his work, kindly lift up the rock you are living under and check out Scott's awesome resume! Kinda makes you drool, doesn't it?

With no offense meant to any of the creators whose work I spotlight here, my affection for Scott Shaw!'s art knows no bounds. It's a more personal connection than my reverence for the work of Sheldon Mayer , Walt Kelly, or practically any other artist, in any genre. Quite simply, Scott is the artist who made me want to be an artist too.

Like most children, I liked to draw and had been doing so long before I discovered Scott's work, but when I first laid eyes on Captain Carrot, drawing went from being rainy day fun to a driving passion. I can still remember with absolute clarity the day my third grade buddy Danny
reached into his backpack and showed me his copy of CCAHAZC# 1. Although the concept of "funny animal super-hero" was not new, it was new to me, and it thrilled and inspired me.

It wasn't very long before I created my own gang of funny animals, the not-so-cleverly-titled Animal Kids, with oh-so-corny names like Jack Rabbit, Beary Cub, and Mortimer Mouse. I had to have a funny animal super hero in this group. His name was Plastic Bunny.

Eventually, I transferred my creative passions to music and although I like to joke that I am the Emily Dickinson of songwriters (all of my songs will be discovered in an attic after my death), I have made a decent living as a musician. It's also worth noting that I met the future mother of my two amazing daughters while working a gig. If I had become a plumber or an architect, they would not exist.

Isn't it amazing how a cartoonist living in California can inspire a kid from North Carolina to use his imagination, leading him down a road of creativity that leads to him playing a gig at a piano bar where he meets a nurse from Alabama who will become the mother of his two incredible children? We're all connected, folks.

Scott, if you read this, thanks for stopping by, and if I'm ever in California, I hope you will let me take you to lunch.

Don't forget, Vanguardians, Scott is also the mastermind behind Oddball Comics, a weekly look at the weirdest funnies ever foisted on humankind.

January 24, 2010

Hunter S. Thompson Comix

Spending a week in bed due to the flu was not much fun, but it did give me a chance to watch some movies and documentaries, such as Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride: Hunter S. Thompson On Film, a 2006 film directed by Tom Thurman which mainly focused on big screen adaptations of Thompson and his relationships with celebrities like Bill Murray, Johnny Depp, and Sean Penn.

In 1977, Kitchen Sink published a one-shot comic called Fear and Laughter, a tribute of sorts to Hunter featuring a veritable who's who of comic talent. The three examples I want to share with you were drawn by William Stout (with Bill Wray inks!), Dave "Rocketeer" Stevens, and Carol Lay.

Love or loathe him, Hunter S. Thompson personified what used to be a defining characteristic of Americans, a tolerance and respect for individualists and the unique and often-illuminating perspectives they brought to the table. Yeah, let's bring that back.

Definitely NSFW.

Out, Out, Damned Flu!

The flu is like a lottery that everyone gets to win eventually, and this week I drew the unlucky numbers. It's not often that I miss an entire week's work due to illness, but this particular bug invaded my body like a party crasher, made itself nice and cozy, and dared me to attempt to do anything more strenuous than reaching for tissues in a mostly failed attempt to avoid spraying every wall in my domicile with snot.

I won't bore you with more details. You've all been through colds and flus, after all, and this is not a cold and flu blog. I guess I just wanted you to know that I wasn't slacking. I missed being able to share and, though I'm still under the weather, I optimistically predict a large increase in productivity this week.

On the other hand, it's taken me eleven hours to compose this entry, so we'll see.

January 18, 2010

The Monkees Talk About LSD and Other Hairy Things

It's "The New Monkey Times," a 13-page article that appeared in On The Scene Presents Freak Out, USA! #1 (Fall 1967, Warren), a short-lived Teen Beat imitation that tried to be a little more relevant. This same issue features articles about Frank Zappa and The Fugs, hardly teenybopper fare.

Within, Davy Jones reveals why he prefers his pet "pollywaug" to fooling around with LSD. On a more serious note, the boys react to a touching letter from an injured Vietnam soldier.

(Thanks to Jacque Nodell of Sequential Crush for suggesting I post this.)

January 10, 2010

"I Was An 88 Pound Weakling!"

From the fifth and final issue of Marvel's early Mad imitation Wild comes one of many "Charles Atlas" ad parodies that have been done over the years. The Grand Comic Database lists Sol Brodsky as the artist.

From Wild#5 (August 1954); art by Sol Brodsky?

January 8, 2010

Mighty Mouse Painted By Chad!

I bought Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures on dvd Tuesday and I'm enjoying seeing it again. I remember when it aired on Saturday mornings watching it and marvelling at the weirdness of it. It was truly a harbinger of excellent things to come, and I hope this dvd sells well enough to convince Viacom that it would be a very good idea to release the original Terrytoons shorts.

I recently chanced upon a 1953 storybook published by Treasure Books and featuring art by none other than the great Chad Grothkopf, or "Chad." After appreciating his work on Fawcett's Hoppy The Marvel Bunny for many years, it's interesting to see his take on MM. Enjoy!